Happy Birthday in Heaven

It’s been three years that we’ve been celebrating you from so very far away and it seems surreal.

We all came together for lunch again and to decorate your tree on the porch. Amelia picked out a “HUNT” ornament because it had a black lab on it. Gabriel…well, I’m slacking this year and need to find one from him. Sometimes it’s still hard to believe I have two children because this time last year, we were all anxiously awaiting his arrival!

It’s always something unexplainable when your family and I get together in honor of you. We do it mostly for the kids but for ourselves too. We all put on our brave face in hopes to not be the first one to break down. We see the pain in each others eyes and just simply know and hurt for eachother.

I tend to get quiet when I’m struggling and frustration comes to the forefront. Today, I gave up on an outlet cover. Simple twist of a screw but when the screw dropped, I walked away. I later saw your dad pick it up and put it back for me so I know, they see me struggling. I hope they know how much I appreciate them. I tell them all the time but it runs so deep there aren’t enough words.

Grief is really the conflicting group of human emotions caused by an end to or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.

How familiar I had grown to being your wife and biggest supporter. Someone to shower you with love and encourage you in all aspects of life. Now here I am with all this love to give but instead of spending it on someone, I hold it close and fear noone will see past my pain to reach it.

There continues to be rollercoasters as we keep your memory alive. Most days are good but today was tough.

Our last family photo with you before diagnosis

Nothing will ever fix grief and we have to take responsibility in our efforts to recover from it even though it will never go away. It’s all about taking small steps in order to process and work within your grief. So we will continue to celebrate you every year in hopes to teach ourselves and the kids that it’s ok to grieve and celebrate simultaneously.

I’ve always focused on the little things because they are truly what matter in the end and I hope the kids grow up knowing that you are a person worth celebrating. While our time with you wasn’t nearly long enough, it was long enough for us all to experience a deep level of love we may have missed had you never been born.

I hope doing all these “little things” that allow us to speak your name freely, will be the big things that they remember you by. They wont have hugs, inside jokes, or hand written cards but they will have the memories of celebrations and stories from those of us who were blessed to have you.

Happy Birthday in Heaven Josh. We miss you and love you.


This years Thanksgiving was no different than last. There is still an empty seat, still a hurt in our hearts yet gratitude continues to overflow.

This year, much like last, we hosted the local law enforcement alongside our family. We had a few troopers and cop show up! Thank you to Anita, Miah, Russell, and James for making it a point to stop by even if just for pie!

It not only warms our hearts to give back, but it also makes us feel closer to Josh.

To be honest, if Josh were here, I’d still host. I appreciate Law Enforcement and all they do for our community. They are our extended family.

So, this year much like last, we celebrated together and provided for those working and unable to be with their families.

Amelia got to see Frozen 2 in theatre with her Aunt, we actually watched the Thanksgiving parade followed by the dog show and overall it was a pretty good day! Bulldog won Best in Show and by the look on Emmy’s face, you can tell she’s thrilled…

We still lit our 5 candles, and said our poem in Josh’s honor and then celebrated with laughs, love and gratitude.

Blue Rose

As someone who writes often, I can take an ordinary conversation and turn it into inspiration…. the last two days I have struggled to put into words all of the emotions. As many of you know, I am a member of the non-profit Backing the Blue Line. It’s 100% volunteer run. We are there for all occasions, good, bad, sad and otherwise. We are the women behind the badge and hold strong to our values and support of all uniformed officers. Two and half years ago, women came together to spray blue roses and hand them out at Josh’s funeral. Little did they know, those roses have brought us so much peace and gratitude. I had the honor of being apart of that team the last two days. I am in awe of the work and attention to detail that goes into every single rose. It made me appreciate them that much more.

Today, as I stood with my feet planted and knees slightly bent, I gracefully reached out to give a blue rose to two children without their dad and a grieving widow. A simple blue rose to show our support in hopes it will bring some sense of peace in the hardest of times.

I’ve said it before; it’s the little things. The little things become big things after you lose someone. A small rose can bring about so many emotions that remind you to be proud and that you have an Army of women in your peripheral waiting for you should the white flag be drawn.

To my BTBL gals, you are appreciated beyond all measure!

It is never fun being on the receiving end of the roses but what an honor it was to provide that support back.

“You need to get out more”

More recently, people ask of all the things I do for myself. When they find out how little I get away, I get the old “you need to get out more”. I will admit, it’s true. I do need to get out more however, there’s a certain amount of comfort that comes from routine.

I am routinely focused on my kids, my studies, my work and pretty much everything that doesn’t involve putting myself first. I’ve always lived a life of helping others and putting myself first feels unnatural.

I’ve spoken with a few people and asked what they think is the amount of times you should “get out”. Once a week was the common answer. However, sometimes that once a week isn’t necessarily “getting out” it can be a night in where you dedicate time to yourself and forget about your to-do list. I always think of how nice a night off would be!

I have a hard time putting my brain to rest whether it be chores, homework, or overthinking basically every thing in my life…I worry a lot. Sometimes, I think so hard, my words come out in an awkward fashion or I just simply state how awkward I am being to make situations that much more awkward… which is interesting to me considering how eloquently I write. Maybe I just need to word vomit on paper when I feel the mind going crazy….

There is one person who stands out to me in all of this. Her name is Christi. She doesn’t know it yet (but will if she ever reads this) that her actions have helped more than she could know. I can remember a time when she said, “you need to get out more girl” but instead of just telling me, she made me.

It was just a few weeks after Gabriel was born and I was out on the town with her and a few others. That particular night has brought up many memories that turn my face red with embarrassment. Luckily for me, they are the no-judgment zone team! Then I was again invited out for her birthday and she even swung by just for coffee once. It may seem little but it really meant the world.

Then when it came to my birthday, someone else convinced me to do at least something and again, Christi and friends came together for a fun night.

Sometimes I won’t go out because I am afraid. I’ll find an excuse but when you carpool, it holds you accountable so there’s no backing out! And even when I say, “I can only have one because I need to get home and mop my floors” (cue odd looks and laughter) they prove it’s ok to have two… or a few and that floors can be mopped anytime!

It would be nice to get out once a week but sometimes, that’s also just not feasible so I try to find other things to fill my time that simultaneously fill my cup.

In the last couple of months, I have found myself getting out more and let me tell you, what a blessing it has been! I dedicated Thursdays as self care days and sometimes it’s just errands but it always has music class.

I have met some pretty great people in these months and enjoy spending time with them; be it for coffee talks, painting, or beer.

It has been an interesting growth process this past year. I spent 8 months dating someone who inevitably chose to walk away. With every failure, whether relationship, adventure, or idea, you learn something about yourself and you grow from it.

Every failure leads me to a deep breath, open mind, and a heart fueled with a deeper passion.

I have found that following my passions really does bring great joy and I cannot put myself on the back burner or I will (and have) gotten burnt out.

I have also found that more recently, I am singing more. Not just in the shower, or in the car, but literally everywhere! I haven’t done that in a long while. Music speaks to me on so many different levels and lately, it’s given me hope that I am worthy and good ones exist. Something optimistic is going on around here and I like it.

Going into the third year without Josh feels, dare I say it, good. Not because I miss him less but because I know myself more and have grown exponentially.

I will get out more this year. I am choosing to surround myself with some pretty awesome people and work a plan so that I can get out more.

By “this year” I mean 2020… that will give me two more months to prepare my anxiety for the adventures that await!

I have faith that 2020 will bring great things because I am more open to adventure. Maybe I’ll go ice fishing or learn to skate? Maybe I’ll go to more than one WILD game and maybe, I’ll do an audition. Who knows where 2020 will go but I am optimistic in God’s plan.

My faith in Him far outweighs my fear to put myself first.

My Birthday

Despite initially not being very excited about this day, it turned around rather quickly. The night prior, I offered to help paint and made no mention that I’d be painting on my birthday….

Good ol’ facebook gave it away and at lunch, I was surprised with a carrot cake! I had planned on just working through lunch but was ever so smoothly swayed to eat lunch with everyone else. And by “smoothly” I mean being told to come eat with everyone else!

I will admit, I was incredibly embarrassed to get recognized for it being my birthday however, I was so grateful. I haven’t been surprised in years so although I was red to the face, I felt warmth in my heart. It was extremely wonderful and gave me hope that a good one must exist….

Some think, ” I can’t believe you offered to help paint on your birthday” but it was so much more than that. I wanted to be surrounded by good people. I wanted even more to help because I am always happiest when I am doing for others. Let’s be real, I am pretty “artsy fartsy” as they say so I can paint a pretty nice edge in a home!

I was able to spend my day listening to music, making painting progress, and talking about everything from my favorite flower to my time in the Army.

I apparently get really into my work because I somehow got paint on my face but, I’m just glad my boobs didn’t smudge the wall!

After leaving painting, I came home to change and found 2 bouquets of flowers! I hadn’t had time to get myself any yet so it was pretty great to walk in and see! My mother-in-law gets us flowers for our birthdays every year and this year the bouquet was perfection! All things orange and my favorite orange lilies! A former neighbor and friend also sent flowers which was unexpected and so heart warming!

Dinner with the family and gifts led to me getting necessities for my vehicle, a new coffee mug, figurine, and my very own set of princess socks picked out by Miss Amelia herself! While the gifts were great, the greatest gifts were the people I was surrounded by from start to finish of my day.

It was a pretty spectacular day that made me look forward to my 32nd year.

I am trusting God’s plan and hoping that maybe for once, we might be on the same page…

Escape Fire

Sometimes, this world gives us more than we can handle. Sometimes, this world sends in a hero. Sometimes, it doesn’t. What do you do when your world is on fire and you feel like you might be fully engulfed….you set fire in ahead of the incoming one.

Burn whats behind you and the rising flames coming forward have nowhere to go because there’s nothing left. Escape fire.

Today is a down day and it’s hard to explain. Especially considering I just returned from a weekend retreat with many women and had a blast! It was so nice to relax, be silly and play dominos. However, when I woke up this morning, I felt the weight of the world again. Maybe it’s because I am dreading my upcoming birthday. Some days I am excited for it and others I’d rather just sleep until November.

Sometimes it seems my heart is on fire and the smoke makes it hard to breathe. All I need is something to hold onto to get me through it.

Change is hard. Maintaining forward motion is hard.

I am halfway through my next (and final) degree and I am gearing up for my volunteer efforts in a non-profit. I am still working (but seldom), still spending time to myself (but it’s tough), and juggling everything that comes with being a mom. Sometimes it seems I have lit a perimeter fire to protect myself and those I love so the incoming flames have no chance to overtake us.

Standing in that circle I can see the flames and hear the roar but the smoke clouds my view of anything in the distance. I hold strong and wait patiently for the flames to die down before I make my next move.

In the circle, I have time to think of whats next.

The truth is, I have no idea. The only thing I’ve ever known to do it fight fire with fire. When I get burned, it ignites my flame higher and I rise.

Small fires or big, I’ll always have my escape fire to protect all I have built. I’ll continue building even under great heat. In the end I know, I am bound to be rewarded.

But on down days like today, it’s hard to envision a life outside of my perimeter.

I don’t want to celebrate by birthday today but maybe tomorrow I will.

In the meantime, I’ll fight the poor feelings with love and buy myself some flowers because even if a girl says she doesn’t want flowers for her birthday, she does. Even when she says she doesn’t want to celebrate; she does in some capacity and even when the fire is too close, she wants to fight back…and win.

When I needed a hand, I found a paw.


Numbers. They are everywhere and they mean different things to different people. Sometimes you have a lucky number, sometimes you mistype a number, and sometimes number turn into connections you never saw coming.

Today started like every day before, I woke up multiple times, looked at the numbers on the clock and groaned at how early it was. I was (and am) exhausted but alas, got up let the dog out, got Gabriel up and fed, got Amelia up and dressed and we all headed out the door for daycare and school drop offs. It’s like everyday before except today was different.

On this day 8 years ago, I said “YES” to my person. I was so excited for forever. All I got was another 6 years. It’s been 2 years since he’s been gone but I still remember 10/8/2011 like it was yesterday. Josh, typically a quiet guy, was unusually quiet on our hike up to Mount Tom. It was weird so I thought , “maybe he’s going to propose?!!!” I picked up the pace to the top… He continued to be weird while I continued to basically throw myself at him to set up the “perfect moment” but he was having none of that. I finally gave up and started walking back down and that’s when he got on one knee! I asked, “are you serious?!” followed by a “YES!”. Even now, I go to Mount Tom on our wedding anniversary. I take the kids for a picnic where daddy proposed. It’s a small and sweet gesture to remember our anniversary and the day he (finally) put a ring on it!

Today was hard though. I cried. A lot. Not just because the number on the calendar broke my heart but because I looked at grades and whats left to do and feel overwhelmed. How do I do it all? Why am I doing it all? And alone at that? I literally did the math to see how many assignments I could avoid and still pass the class but again, it’s not me to just skate by so off to shoot for another 100% I go. Then things began spiraling because why does God think I can handle this on my own? Why should I have to? I know I don’t deserve to be alone so how many more years will pass until I find that one person to take me as I am? 1 year? 2 years? 20? I am not desperate by any means. I am fully capable of doing things on my own but it does get overwhelming at times and I can’t help but think of what it would be like to be loved again; truly loved.

As the numbers on the clock keep passing into the next hour and the days keep flying by, I am reminded of good and bad times but also how blessed I am. One of the biggest numbers to stand out to me are the kids weights. Amelia was 7 pounds and 14 ounces when she was born. It took us 2 years to get pregnant with her and she was not breathing when she was born. She was our first miracle baby. We were married 7.14. How cool is that to have your first borns weight be your anniversary? I always thought it was neat.

It wasn’t until recently I noticed the incredible connection to Gabriels weight. Gabriel, our second miracle baby born via IVF after Josh passed away… I prayed and prayed for it to work and then prayed some more that I’d get a boy and viola! The power of prayer! Gabriel was 8 pounds 2 ounces. Slightly bigger than his sister but just as precious. We buried Josh on 8.2.

If that doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will.

All these numbers and anniversaries. Many people remember Josh by his badge number 462. Even bible verses have numbers attached. Psalm 22:2, “Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.”

Numbers are so important. Sometimes they are the difference between just another day or another memory that brings you back to a time when your smile wasn’t forced. And sometimes they are your hope, a new understanding, and your light for a better future.

One day He will answer my prayers. Until then, I will raise my two blessings and find further strength in numbers as those who continue to love us, continue to pray for us.

Soldier 6 and Alexis

It’s interesting to me how easy it is to talk about Josh, everything we went through, and everything I’ve gone through without him but to talk about stuff I’ve gone through before cancer is tough. I was asked for a bio from Soldier 6 as they prepare to gift me my service dog and lets just say it’s fairly vague (for the sake of my mother and because well, I just really don’t want to talk about the details). We are one week away from bringing Alexis home. Below, is what they posted on their site:

Help me welcome our newest member to the Soldiers 6 family, Natasha Orbeck. She and K9 Alexis will join forces one week from today. Below is her bio and pictures that she chose to share. They are beautiful and show her journey in joy and sorrow. We truly believe better days are ahead Natasha. Welcome❤️🐾 you are never alone. #evenheroesneedbackup

I was born in California and moved to Minnesota when I was 4 years old. My childhood was not easy and before my senior year of high school, I moved into my own apartment and joined the military. I worked as a waitress and bartender my entire senior year and often closed the place down. Needless to say, my grades took a dive. I did graduate and then quickly shipped off to my final phase of training known as AIT where I became a Combat Medic. I spent 1 year with a medevac unit stateside before volunteering to deploy with a separate unit.
We were stationed in Balad however I was one of the “lucky” medics that got to travel to other bases. I visited Tahlil, Basrah, Baghdad and Camp Warhorse to name a few. I received an ARCOM for my work as a medic which is something to be proud of however, I came home a different person.
I was skittish, angry, impatient, nervous, hyper vigilant and exhausted all of the time. I denied any issues as I continued to move forward in life by doing the things society expected. I went back to my job, bought a house and continued living despite the overwhelming thoughts of what if I just drove off this cliff or if I took all these pills at once…..
Then it happened, I met someone. A police officer in fact! He encouraged me to seek help and I reluctantly registered at the Minneapolis VA Post Traumatic Stress Recovery Clinic. Together with the PTSR clinic and my new boyfriend, I grew to enjoy life much more, be more confident and feel like I was in a good place. This boyfriend eventually became my husband and our lives became a never-ending story of goal seeking chaos mixed with an everlasting love.
I started college (again) and earned a degree before my husband decided to switch up his career a bit. He went from Police Officer to State Trooper so again our world had a little bit more chaos than order.
Then it happened, we’ got pregnant! In the midst of his academy and halfway through my second college degree! There was a lot of uncertainty with how we would make it work but we did. We lived separate until just before we had the baby. Our baby girl was born and we were excited to finally be parents!
Eventually, his work brought us full circle and we were able to move back to where we started. By this point, I realized the degree I had earned would not transfer so easily into jobs that I could work within an hour of home. I was not willing to live separate again so I offered myself up for college again… I began nursing school in 2015.
Then it happened, cancer. In the midst of our lives finally settling down and halfway through my third degree, my rock, my person was diagnosed with cancer. I stayed strong and positive as best as I could, and he did too. We had built a foundation of faith and love and knew that with everything we had been through, supported each other on, and been victorious in, that this fight would be no different.
Except it was. On July 27, 2017 just 13 months after diagnoses, my husband went to be with Jesus. Now I was there alone to fight my demons who were being stirred up in record fashion except I’m a mom now so I can’t just throw in the towel. Suppress, ignore and carry on is what I did. I’m a soldier after all; I can do this.
Many people saw me struggling but I assured them I would do no harm. Mentally that was hard, but my heart could not fathom leaving our daughter without both parents. I was offered a service dog before, but I denied it and said, “give it to someone who needs it more”.
After 10 months of being a single mom of one, I decided to become a single mom of two. Prior to Josh’s chemotherapy treatments, we banked specimens to continue our family. I made the gut-wrenching decision to follow through with our dream. I knew I wouldn’t get my fairytale ending but I felt compelled to live out what plans I could, and I am proud to say God gave us a boy!
It’s so easy to smile on the outside and occupy yourself with the demands of your days especially when kids are involved however, at night when they sleep and you’re up alone, your mind gets going again and it’s a fight to get back up after the spiral down to the demons.
I thought being a medic and seeing what I’d seen, helping those I could and failing others was the hardest thing I’d ever endure and it still pretty high up there but nothing can prepare you or come close to the pain of losing your person. The one man who didn’t turn away when I “wasn’t okay”. Now I talk to a stone and shake my fists at the sky and simply wonder why I have been asked with carrying so much. What does God see in me that this weight continues to rise?
Then in September of 2018, my battle committed suicide. Suddenly the grief over losing my Josh and everything prior became impossible to hide behind a smile. I knew I needed something, and I reluctantly agreed to have a service dog. I was met with a “finally!” as Dana could see all too well the need but could not move forward without my go ahead.
I am both anxious and excited to receive my dog as many have told me what a difference it makes. The one piece of humor I continue to find in it all is that she’s a lab. My husband Josh convinced me to get a lab once because “they only shed twice a year” I never questioned this but quickly realized that their “shedding seasons” lasted 6 months at a time.
I’d like to believe my husband is looking down and proud of the steps I have made for myself and our children and I am almost certain he is laughing over the fact that Alexis is a lab!
I am realizing that not only is it ok to be broken, it’s ok to ask for help and I pray Alexis helps me get back to the me I once was instead of this shattered soul who wears a mask.


Septembers have always been hard for me in relation to dealing with PTSD and anxiety. There is so much to be said for someone who can stand by your side when you’re hurting and make you feel like it’s ok to not be okay.

There are always hills and valleys in life and when you can find someone to talk through it all with, suddenly the downs don’t seem so deep and the highs are in the clouds.

Unfortunately, Brad was not that person. When things got rough for me, he deemed it too much to handle and left.

You don’t get to hill jump and avoid the valleys. You have to take one with the other and work through it. Grow through it.

Often I hear of couples growing apart and I get it, it happens. But what about those that choose to grow together?

Relationships are never perfect. I try to be patient and understanding in every new relationship because I know it’s all new for me and for the other person. How often do you find a 30 year old widow? (actually more often then you’d think but that besides the point)

Long story short, I was blindsided and while I wish him well, there will be no lasting friendship from it.

I will continue to keep an open mind because I’m not one to write off a chance at love again. I want to love and be loved but again, I am in no rush. I will no longer be outwardly seeking via online. I am over it. Love is such a beautiful thing when you can share it with someone who appreciates it. Here’s to hoping and keeping the faith that God’s plan has love in it.

I will admit I’d like to find love sooner than later but good things come to those who wait so I will simply put on my big girl panties and forge fires like I always do. I have got no time to dwell on something that didn’t work. Instead, I’ll spend my energy on things that do work while continuing to make forward progress in my studies, self care, and ability to be the best mom to these kids.

As big as the universe

The end of August and beginning of September are jam packed. Cole Joshua turns two and Amelia begins school! How can that be? It’s so incredible to watch kids grow and learn! I wish Josh was here to see it in person but I know he is beaming down with pride at all of us.

I am Cole’s favorite aunt and Amelia loves me more than I love her… or so she thinks anyway. Gabriel continues to be along for the ride and he hardly ever cries!

When we begin to talk about school, Amelia is excited. I know she is ready because she is bored at daycare. I am still a bit of a nervous nelly over all of it and I am really hurting knowing that Josh doesn’t get to walk her to class. I just know I am going to encounter dads walking their daughters and as happy as I am to see her begin this new adventure, I am going to be equally heartbroken.

I guess thats just how it goes in this life. Watching her walk down the hall as if she owned the place was quite the sight. She has so much confidence and the sweetest heart.

She is going to move mountains this one. She loves gymnastics, singing, dancing, barbies and the color pink…. yup, despite my greatest efforts, pink is still her favorite color. She is sensitive yet tough and amazingly patient with me unless she’s hungry! Come to think of it, this sounds pretty similar to me! Maybe she does have more of me than I thought! I cannot wait to watch her learn and grow. I am so grateful I get to be her mom!

She is so smart and she has recently started saying I love you more than…. and picking things that are big…

“Mommy, I love you as big as the world!”

She may love me as big as the world but it is so clear that I love her and her brother much much more than that….

“I love you as big as the universe little ones”

As big as the universe.