Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful – The Horrible, Beautiful Gift

To this day, almost twenty-three months after Rob’s suicide, I still can’t fathom the horror of it. It’s unimaginable yet I re-imagine it regularly. It’s unspeakable but I want to talk about it. It’s unthinkable yet here I am…

In 2003 one of my employees killed himself. He chose to end his life by carbon monoxide poisoning in his parents’ garage the Friday before Mother’s Day. His coworkers and friends were devastated. I worked with this incredibly talented, thoughtful artist for years so I felt like I knew him, but I wouldn’t say that I knew him well. He was much younger and much cooler than I was, and I was his boss, so I’m sure he had some strong opinions of me that varied from one day to the next. But I was wrecked by his death. It was months of grieving the loss of him, the sadness over his final act. At the time I remember thinking, If I’m this affected, I cannot imagine how obliterated his parents, his sister, his girlfriend, his close friends are.

Rob’s horrific death feels surreal. And it feels a million miles away. My life has moved on. My life will continue to distance itself from that life that I had with him, and away from his memory. It is what it is; I can’t hold on to him and move forward at the same time. It doesn’t diminish his life, our marriage, our love for each other, or his great big heart. It just allows me to continue living, which is what he wanted. And it’s what I want.

20140426_171257-1I knew even right after he died that I wasn’t going to stay in my grief forever. I knew that I couldn’t allow his death to be the end of my story, or serve as the downward catalyst for my life. It had to make me better. My life had to get better. I had to do whatever I could to make it true. I had to stuff my grief deep down inside; thanks to an incredible therapist I was able to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Sounds simple. It really was, but that’s not to say that I wasn’t a wreck or hell to deal with. I’m me after all…

I call his illness and ultimately his death a horrible, beautiful gift that I’ve been given. It’s a gift I never, ever wanted and one that I wouldn’t choose for me or wish upon anyone else. The gift is that I know what’s important now. For the most part, I no longer am affected by the mundane irritations of life. He taught me some of that when we were together, but when he got sick and I only wanted him well and happy and home with me, everything else melted away. No one’s opinions mattered, none of the disagreements with others mattered, and I knew without reservation that relationships were important, people were important.

I feel free in some respects. To repeat, I would NEVER choose this path. I would bring him back in an instant and go back to sweating the small stuff if it meant he’d still be walking among us, sharing his incredible humor and intellect. But I’ve got to leave the past behind. I can’t think about what I would do if I could. I have to think about what I will do, what I can do.

But of course I miss him. I always will. The way he kissed me at every stoplight, the way he held my car door open for me, the way he knew what I was hungry for without me having to tell him, the way he called me “babydoll,” the way he tucked me in every night, just the way he loved me.

He was my biggest cheerleader. He knew I could do anything. And I believe it too.


Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful – Love Lessons Learned

*NOTE: I wrote this several months ago but chose not to publish it. Now, seven months later, and in an even better head space, I feel free to share. It’s been edited slightly from its original form but the meat is the same: love that is anything but unconditional is not love. Be good to each other, friends.

I’ve been asked to write about what’s happening as the first-year anniversary of my husband’s death approaches. I think I would have anyway, but finding a pathway to rational or non-whiny thoughts doesn’t come easily since Rob left my side.

As November 7th approaches I am reminded of how life changed in an instant and how, even though I hate it, I have somehow managed to move forward when all I wanted to do was to stand still AKA lie down and die. Don’t misunderstand me, I never thought of “joining” Rob in death, but it took a hot moment to remember that he wasn’t the only reason I have for living. And as a non-religious person, I am acutely aware that he’s gone. Gone-gone, not waiting for me in another life. He’s ceased to exist, turned to ash and sitting in a box on the table next to me. The only parts of him that still remain are what we all remember of him, what we choose to share in an effort to keep his memory alive and physical items that I continue to sift through.

People ask me if I can “feel” him around me. And even though I do speak to him as if he’s still here from time to time, the answer is always a quick and decisive “No.” Rob died on November 7, 2017. He put a gun to his head and ended his pain, his life, his existence.

In his medicated stupor, he believed that he had done irreparable harm to me and my life and he wanted to spare me any more pain. I still remember the look of despair he displayed when his parents told him that I was no longer a welcome member of their family. The blow-up between his mother and me had occurred while Rob was experiencing a psychotic break. It wasn’t until Rob returned home that he became aware of the drama they had caused by attempting to control his medical situation from a half-dozen states away. The additional stress, pain and accusations they served up while I was doing my level best to care for him in his most dire time of need would have been unbearable had it not been for my focus on him, and the support of my family and friends. And at the end of it all, when they told him that they would not “help” him if he continued to be married to me, Rob cried. And I was dumbfounded, exhausted and further heartbroken on his behalf. NOTHING that he or I ever did was good enough to satiate their desire to judge, to berate, to belittle, to shittify and to generally pour pissiness on our lives.

It was all done with the “best intentions” you know. They would pose their questions about our lives from a position of genuine care or concern, but then turn any information we gave them around after they added their own ignorant spin on things. For example, Rob was a consultant. His work life before meeting me was one where he worked six months out of the year and took the other six off; his income allowed it and his lifestyle as a confirmed bachelor worked well in that realm. And then he met me and wanted to stay put, didn’t want to be on the road six months of the year. So he tried to work “regular” jobs with a salary and two weeks off a year and set office hours on-site. He tried time and again but it didn’t suit him. So he would leave a “regular” job for another contract and hit the road over and over. Their position? “You can’t hold a job.” I knew he was struggling to figure out how to work his career in our new life. I knew the pain he felt at knowing his parents would consider him a failure yet again.

When I would try to bridge the gap between their judgment and his hurt, I was met with hateful nastiness. They scoffed when I would tear up. They flat-out refused to discuss anything other than why they were disappointed in his career, me, his weight, his day-to-day decisions, his everything. He told me in the beginning, “I always knew my mother would behave this way,” referring to her attitude towards me. “It has nothing to do with you, babydoll,” he’d say.

I grew up with both sets of my parents’ parents holding court at every family event. They attended each others’ holiday gatherings, and they genuinely loved and cared about my parents. Both of them.

I just always thought that’s the way it was; you join a family and you love them and they love you. Considering I had done nothing but love Rob since the day we met, I just couldn’t understand what else they thought was important to expect of me.

Over the course of Rob’s and my marriage, I tried on several occasions to take the high road, go the extra mile, communicate with them more, etc. But none of it made a difference in the end. When Rob got sick and I pleaded with his mom to get on a plane to be with him, she said she wouldn’t be taking advice from me because I was no “mother of the year.” I remember her saying that as clear as day and at that exact moment I thought, “Good God, she doesn’t even know me.” Aside from loving Rob, if there’s one thing in this world I’m great at it is being a mom. Her ignorant comment was a gift to me; it freed me from feeling any more need to be accepted or understood by her.

I told his mother that day that I felt sorry for Rob. Her response was, “So do I, because he has to be married to you.”

So where does that leave me now that Rob’s gone? One year on, what does any of this mean? In hindsight, what can be learned from this relative to his parents?

Well, I guess it means that none of it means anything. It means that parents are without a son, a wife is without her husband, a young man is without his step-father and many people are left without a friend. And all for what? Because he couldn’t be controlled? Because he represented their failure to parent? Because he didn’t represent their values? (Ironic but I might talk about that another day.)

I’m reminded of a conversation Rob had with the intake professionals at Tri-County Health here in Kansas City right after his breakdown. When asked about what he wanted from his parents that he didn’t feel like he got, he responded, “Acceptance.”

So in continuing my life, I will take the knowledge that to love someone is to accept them. No conditions, no expectations.

Many of my friends have asked, begged, demanded, pleaded for Rob’s parents’ contact information in the wake of his death. God love them, they want to stick up for Rob, for me, for Jesse, for all of us who loved him and knew him. But I won’t give in. The last thing I’ve wanted to do is to add to their grief even though I love the idea of someone championing us. The fact is that the McNeeces would never listen. As much as I think a normal parent would feel guilt and shame, I don’t think they’re capable.

You know, they didn’t even attend Rob’s celebration of life here. So many people came to show their love for him and support for me; they missed out on so much by skipping it. They chose instead to have their own “family-only” ceremony on the East Coast and they didn’t invite me. I arranged to have some of his ashes sent to them because I felt it was the right thing to do but…

Isn’t it all so sad?

UPDATE TO Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful – Exposing Twitter Trolls and Class-A A-holes

When my husband died, I felt like my brain died too.

Rob had a photographic memory, and vast capacity for storing it all.

Since his death, I’ve been in a fog. They say it could last a year, two years, who knows. I just know that my brainpower isn’t what it once was, even before Rob came into my life almost 14 years ago.

I’ve kept his computer on and his tabs up, basically as he had them the day he killed himself. As a matter of fact, I’ve kept much of his office the same. I can’t bear to change it completely for fear that the memories associated with the layout will leave me. Isn’t that strange?

But I digress. The point is that I’m not quite there yet, and I would guess that I can look forward to a lifetime of stumbling upon tidbits of Rob, thankful for the reminders but also sad for what was lost.

I came across one such item last week that sparked my interest.

This was a conversation he and I had on August 28, 2017. I had completely forgotten about it.

Louise Mensch was duped, my husband called her out on it and she attacked him.

everything just came together btw. i love you It did? i do believe so the sources feeding info to louise and her crew – which was driving a whole bunch of trumprussia – were driven by – get this – a hoaxer. Hell yeah. And you brought it to her attention? i figured out it was a hoax a while back and she attacked me yeah (thumbs up) i have tweets of her accusing me of being an active agent of russian intelligence

So now I know why she was so vicious towards him. He called her on bad intel. Isn’t that ironic, considering her “intel” after Rob died? You know, the bit about everyone else being to blame for his suicide but her?

What a world.



Chapter III: Life After Mr. Wonderful: Reflecting on What I Couldn’t Make Up For (His Parents)

It’s been over seven months. My Mr. Wonderful exited this world on November 7, 2017 and I have been in a semi-productive, semi-coherent, semi-realistic state since. I wish I could explain my thought process and where I’m at in my grief, but I really just can’t. I simply exist.

I remember. I continue. I grieve.

Almost nothing about my life since my husband killed himself is the same. There are moments, moments when I recognize my actions as those uniquely mine, when I remember who I was before I met him. And there are moments when I reflect upon who I’ve become, who is very different from the person I was when he and I first met.

I like to think, and believe it to be true, that the person Rob fell in love with back in 2004 is more closely aligned with who I am today, more so than the person I was after we met and up until his death. This truth makes me sad and proud at the same time because it reminds me of what I’m capable of but also what I lost for so many years.

I am and always have been comfortable with the idea that my situation is largely dependent upon me. I never could and would not rely on someone else to make my future. Hence, when I was a single mother at 24 I went back to college and busted my ass to make sure that a) I met my own criteria for success and b) my young son saw me do it.

After college I had a great career, one I earned with hard work and brain power. I had moved away from my hometown, which allowed me to earn my reputation (good or bad) on  my own merit instead of my family name. In my new surroundings and in my position I had risen to a role many would envy. It was at this point I decided that I was ready to meet my match.

And within a month I met Rob.

“From 35,000 feet I see a woman who  made her own way and is raising a great kid,” I remember Rob saying soon after we met. Full of confidence, I knew he was right. And I knew I was worthy of him.

And then life happened. I married him. I loved him without end. He traveled. I wanted to prove that his needs were paramount (something not easy when raising a son who deserved everything I had to give), and I made it work. When my son spent every other weekend at his dad’s house, I devoted my time to my husband, who traveled for work almost exclusively. Eventually I left my job, because (and I remember saying this time and again to friends who were curious), “When it comes to my career or my marriage, I choose my marriage.”

Conversely, I remember my mother reminding me that my future was my responsibility. “Take care of yourself, honey,” she said, “Make sure you’re protected.” I scoffed. “His future is my future,” I remember thinking.

Aside from my undying love and devotion, I felt like I could give Rob a sense of family, which was something he never had. His mother had lost her parents early and she didn’t get along with her mother-in-law. Their relationship was so contentious that Rob didn’t see his father’s mother for many years preceding her death in 2003. As a matter of fact, Rob nor Rob’s mother attended the funeral. This rift was fallout from Rob’s parents’ split and eventual reconciliation. His father’s mother was critical of his mother and when his parents got back together, she was out. Rob assumed it was a condition of their reconciliation. His father was an alcoholic and his mother put her foot down on many things. She’s been in charge ever since and God help us all for it.

So Rob never had the warm and cuddly grandmother figure that I was blessed with. And he never grew up with the understanding that family, even when they make you insanely crazy with hurt, are always there. At least in my case, I could always count on them, even if I was a giant shit (which I was on occasion). When he and I got together, I thought I could provide this kind of love and acceptance to Rob, but what I didn’t understand was that because of how he was raised, and by the people he was raised by, he wasn’t equipped to understand that level of love and understanding. In his world, if someone, even family, hurt you or made you uncomfortable, you excised them.

It always perplexed me, how Rob was so great at loving me and being an unconditional support for me, but he was unable to accept my family in the same way. This doesn’t apply to my son; Rob was so proud of him and never let an opportunity pass to brag about him. I loved him for that. But beyond my son and me (and our dogs), Rob couldn’t conceive of unconditional love.

Sadly enough, he never felt like he had that from his own parents.

I tried to discuss this with them on Rob’s and my last visit to their home a year before he died. They would hear nothing of it.

As a matter of fact, Rob’s mother used my emotional/teary state during that conversation as a means to berate me some time later. “Oh yeah, boo hoo,” she said, remembering my attempt at a conversation gone awry. I guess she thought my emotions relative to her son’s pain was a reason she could make fun of me. It broke my heart many times over. Her poor son.

In reviewing just what I’ve laid out here I am reminded of what allowing negativity into your life can do to even the most grateful soul. It stings. It infects. It remains.

I love my husband. I always will. But when I think about the negativity his parents brought into our lives, even from thousands of miles away, I am grateful to never have to see or hear from their sad and bitter asses again. Rob would be happy for me. He knew his parents were shitty people; we discussed it more times than either of us would have cared to admit. He tried so hard to distance himself but felt a sense of responsibility to continue trying to be the son they wanted. It was never going to happen.

When his parents told him, just weeks before he killed himself, that they wanted him to move “home” with them and that he wouldn’t ever have to work again or have any responsibilities BUT NOT IF HE CONTINUED TO BE MARRIED TO ME, it broke him to his core. He cried like I’ve never seen him cry before.

And we only ever loved each other. Without measure.

Never, in a million years, did I ever expect that when I found the love of my life – my first and only love at 34 years old – that his parents would hate me so completely and mercilessly. Why? When I only ever loved their son?

Did they expect me to fix him?


Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful – Exposing Twitter Trolls and Class-A A-holes

Rob had a lot of online friends. As a man who spent most of his adult career traveling from state to state, even country to country, never landing in one place too long, there were few elements in his life that were constant. But his online activities were. He was online meeting new people back before most of us had personal computers. In short, he was comfortable online. He was well-spoken, smart and polite, so friends were always easy to come by this way.

Rob Russia Revealed towel

Rob shows off his Chris Nethery’s Russia Revealed design on a beach towel in September 2017.

Not too many years ago, Rob decided to look into Twitter as a means to expand his audience. See, what he really wanted to do was to write. He wanted to share his life with the world, from his three dogs to his recipes to his travels to his politics… So he checked out Twitter in an effort to increase his reach. His handle was meaningful to him and a variation of his long-time screen name: akula_51. In looking over the following screenshots of conversations, you will see this handle when he is being addressed or spoken about.

Eventually, he found some folks who had some of the same interests that he did, and he became a part of their “community” so to speak. His was a voice among many, but a voice to be remembered just the same. When people in that “community” speak of him today, they say things like, “Rob was always so accepting of other points of view,” or “Rob made me a better American, because he made me see the issues for what they were.”

Early- or mid-last year, Rob went to work on a website for Chris Nethery, a specialist in Russian Active Measures. Chris Nethery’s Russia Revealed ( website was built by Rob and he was proud of it.

Rob felt like that site and its successes at reaching the masses was just another great lesson and proof-of-concept that spoke to his ability to drive good website traffic (Rob’s specialty). It was all just a formula for Rob, but he saw things so many of us couldn’t. Anyway…

I called Chris a day after Rob died. In speaking with him, I understood immediately why he and Rob got along. Chris is quick to laugh, smart as a tack and passionate about his work.

Veritas AkulaThe buzz on Twitter surrounding Rob’s death was immediate after speaking with Chris. The news was shocking and not everyone was kind. My friends did a great job of deterring me from interacting with anyone there. It was a good thing; I wasn’t thinking clearly enough to even consider engaging these virtual strangers. And at the time, I felt like many comments were attempting to bait me into giving information that I wasn’t ready to share just yet.

What I didn’t understand at the time of Rob’s death (and soon after) was that there were two distinct groups that Rob rubbed shoulders with on Twitter: The Resistance and Team Patriot. According to this website belonging to a member of the team, “#TeamPatriot is comprised of dedicated & hardworking Patriots of every political ideology researching, reporting & exposing the #Truth about all things #TrumpRussia. We are #United in fighting all things #TrumpRussia & the corrupt #TrumpRegime.”

Louise doubling down

When Rob died, members of the Resistance and Team Patriot pointed to the other, assessing blame for trolling him to suicide. Both were guilty as sin.

I’m told and readily believe that Rob was friendly with folks on either side. But Rob also had critics on either side. I can only assume that insecure people didn’t care for the fact that he was outwardly balanced, well-informed and kind. So those people, and the people who “serve” them treated him in some not-so-nice ways.

I’ll start with the Resistance first.

It’s been hard to determine who leads this group on Twitter, as the most vocal of them is a lunatic who has managed to alienate some of her most ardent supporters of late. It seems her methods of opposing Twitter critics or those who would dare disagree with her are less-than-ethical. Some would call them downright evil.

Robin Brenizer had some indirect contact with Rob by allegedly creating a site that mimicked the site he built for Chris. The fake one was, and it was meant to “troll” (her word, see above screenshot) the people supposedly opposing the Resistance, Chris Nethery in particular. It has also been asserted that she and her affiliates also created a fake Twitter account meant to look like Rob’s. I haven’t been able to verify that claim.

Rob bio RRR

11/10/17 capture of published/trolling RussiaRevealedRevealed website bio.

Fake bios of Team Patriot, and those connected with them, like Rob, were created and featured on a page of “contributors” on the spoof website. (See image left, dated Nov 10, 2017.) Taking the time to build the site and then make fun of people affiliated with it was a nasty little thing to do and Rob mentioned it to me at the time it happened.

We both marveled at how petty people must be to take the time to do something so stupid. What small lives they must have. Sad, sad, sad.  So many people have turned their backs on Brenizer and her closest cohorts for their distasteful behavior and proof of their villainy, acts which lack creativity and are seemingly never-ending. This transgression seems to be one of her lesser misdeeds, but that’s a post for another day, if I can even stomach the information I’m bound to uncover. I doubt I’ll be up for that. Ever.

She was kind enough to pepper me with messages one fine day (see screenshot) when I was at work, apparently not getting that not everyone is on Twitter 24 hours a day. None of those messages received a response. Apparently it’s against the law not to call someone back when they demand it. Who knew?

My suggestions for her: get in therapy or get a new therapist and get off social media. Life is too short to be that miserable. It takes a toll and not everyone has the constitution for it.

Unfortunately, people still seem to follow her, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Perhaps they’re paid; it’s the only explanation that makes any sense. But what do I know?

As easy as it is to believe that many people claimed Rob as a “friend” after his death, it has not escaped me that many of the same people expressing their condolences and sorrow were pretty awful to him in the past. I’ve been told that much of the proof of online harassing was wiped out when news of Rob’s death spread. As a friend says, “light scatters the roaches.” And the showboating is and has been epic on Twitter; everyone is a star these days, you know? Not. <Yawn.> Below are just few examples of the nasty things people say. My favorite has to be the Jumbo Sandberg guy saying that he and his crew are the only ones speaking the truth about Rob. The cojones on that guy. It’s clearly a sock account (secondary account, fake name), so it’s not even someone who’s using his real name, expecting folks to accept his (anonymous) word because…? Uh, helloo! Wife over here – with Rob’s life story, theories, passwords, last words & wishes, everything – right here, folks. No need to look to others at this point because others have proven they don’t have the ability to tell the truth if it is in conflict with what their objectives are. My objectives are pretty clear: Rob asked me to tell his story, so here I am.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The same Jumbo Sandberg was also keenly interested in my BFF, who dared ask questions and speak her mind on Twitter. This veiled threat got my attention and received a swift response. What a coward.Tundra Jumbo Amy MJTeam Patriot now claims Rob as one of their own, but not so long ago, their public (and unfortunately, incredibly vocal) face quashed that idea with extreme prejudice. I am posting the conversation as it still appears on Twitter today.

Why would they claim him if he wasn’t really a part of their efforts/team? What would be gained by doing that? Even those truly close to Rob will say that Rob was not a part of the team, but suggest that had he lived, he might have eventually been accepted into the fold.

Louise Mensch RIS AkulaSome suggest that Team Patriot wanted to deflect attention from their leader, Louise Mensch, who clearly had a bone to pick with my husband and whose followers joined her in harassing him. It was well-known her distaste for him, and her followers were quick to jump on the bashing bandwagon time and time again.

Louise calling Rob “Vlad”, a stupid way of suggesting he’s with the Russians. And her super-charming follower piling on.

If you’re like me, your next question is, “Who is Louise Mensch?” Well, in short, a former politician with a penchant for way-out-there conspiracy theories and f-bombs. I guess she was a former member of Parliament? I could look her up but I really don’t care who she is. She has upwards of 250,000 Twitter followers and Tweets roughly 50 times per hour. In short, she has too much time on her hands apparently. And, boy, does she hate the Russians.

Were her followers afraid she could be named in a lawsuit? Is that why they laid the blame for his suicide on anyone but her? They’re not telling. Having become acquainted with several of her underlings, I hope that this theory is false, but there seems to be no other explanation. In short, their work means more than my husband’s life or suffering. What a sad display of humanity from a group so publicly complimentary of their friend, not to mention, a group so vocal about their pursuit of truth. Blinded by allegiance, knowingly choosing the wrong path. Doesn’t sound like a group Rob would have ended up siding with. I’m now confident of that.

Unfortunately for their “leader” (and those associated with her), she was misinformed when he died and made a most ignorant statement regarding Rob’s harassers and death (below).


“After he died (from trolling and not from my opposition; he left a note, per his friends, saying so); mutual friends told me his pro stance was NOC for research. In which case, he wouldn’t mind, and would expect patriot opposition.” – Louise Mensch on Twitter, 19 Nov 2017.

Basically, she’s suggesting that 1) yes, he did kill himself as a result of being harassed online, 2) he had it coming, and 3) her Twitter enemies were to blame for his suicide. Doubling down on bad information is such a sad situation for someone with the kind of following and resume she has. I sure hope this isn’t a blemish on her reputation, but I fear it has the potential to be.

The fact is that Rob DID, in his 3-page suicide note, mention the accusation that he was a Russian spy. And that was the only SPECIFIC claim he mentioned. As of yet, no one can produce any evidence that anyone not associated with/following Ms. Mensch also made that accusation.

Not everyone will understand the devastation that a true patriot like my husband would have felt at being accused of being the one thing he detests the most. No one loved their country more. The mere suggestion in a hugely public forum by someone of her political position is a blow. And depending on one’s state of mind, it can be a fatal one.

The “You’re RIS!” finger-pointing to anyone in disagreement with her is a ridiculous and common course for her to make, I’m told, which we all know diminishes its meaning every time she’s wrong. I can only imagine how often that is.

Louise Thump Thump Deaf2cheka tundra

The meaning of this can only be guessed at. Many suggest it’s a celebration. Others, a threat.

RIS LOUISE VLADY FLAD DENNIS HERRINGOne Twitter screenshot shows Mensch referencing her accusation to Rob that he’s “RIS”  two months after the initial conflict. She summons someone unrelated to the conversation, presumably to jump in on and restart the conversation/pile on further.

Not many would argue that this would be considered harassment. Why double back to a brief conversation months later? Unless you intend to further humiliate them or berate them publicly? But now that I think of it, after you’ve harassed a man who commits suicide, is it (legally) possible to still be “harassing”? In any event, it’s petty and it’s indicative of someone with an obsessive personality, at best. Gosh, what would our world be like if people focused those kinds of energies on sharing love and happiness instead? Where people were lifted up instead of metaphorically smacked around?

Louise cookie RIS

Louise deserves more than a cookie. I would recommend 3 squares per day courtesy of the Commonwealth of New York.

But it gets even uglier. Check out this tweet, where she awards herself a “cookie” for identifying Rob as RIS two days after he died. Celebrating the death of my husband? Could I possibly be reading that right? Or, if we give her the benefit of the doubt, at best she’s harassing him further and doesn’t know he’s dead? The time after his death is all kind of a blur, but I do remember wanting to vomit when I saw this right after he died. Again, kudos to my friends for keeping me away from Twitter until I was strong enough to deal with the information appropriately and intelligently. I still have a physical reaction to this particular declaration.

And guess what? No apology. Nothing. Just smug statements that further highlight rampant insecurities.

Tundra Widow Tapping OutAnd I can’t write this entire article and NOT include this clown’s suggestion that he’s fought some battle on Rob’s behalf and will come to my rescue with proceeds from those efforts. I’ve never spoken to this person. I know nothing of his efforts. This, too, was enough to make me cringe. The nerve. The bloody nerve. And please note the 75 comments of of gratitude (some fighting tears), the 540 people who “loved” this, and the other 109 unsuspecting saps who actually re-shared this information. Best case scenario: 724 people bought this shit. And people wonder why our world is so fucked up. <Gag!> (Tweet thread here.)

This “bobs_house” guy (right) even suggests I’m pretending to be Rob’s widow in order to divide the Resistance? Gosh. Don’t people realize that some of us actually have real lives?

I have made attempts to relay the correct information to Ms. Mensch through a bewildered but steadfast team, to no avail. I would like to assume that the information was not relayed and she is still IGNORANTLY going on the bad information she quoted ten days after his death. To consider the alternative – that she knows the truth and that she’s just an evil person who gives not one shit about the words and subsequent untruths she spoke and feels justified because, after all, Rob deserved her wrath due to his opinions – is unfathomable. And uncomfortable. To internalize that my Rob, a good guy with a heart of gold and an enviable moral compass, is gone from our world yet she remains makes our world seem a little sadder, a little scarier. I guess I’m used to the movies, where the good guys win. We lost a good one, folks. There’s no telling what more Rob could have done for our world. God, I miss him. My love…

GFM ss 2018 02 02In the days since his death, I have worked with a lot of incredible friends and supporters who agree that mental healthcare is no laughing matter and needs our help. I continue to speak out on Twitter, where I honor my husband’s memory and legacy by taking a measured approach, and exercise kindness. The leveled-out approach is not always my knee-jerk/natural response so this has been an exercise in grace and patience. There’s a certain strength in maintaining composure when everyone around you behaves like banshees though. I feel like he would be so proud of my restraint.

And I can’t overstate that I hope others, in the wake of Rob’s story, take a more measured, balanced and appreciative approach to discourse. Our world is ugly enough; I’m tired of the nastiness people seem to think they’re entitled to. They’re not. And the ends don’t justify the means. Ever. If you’re breaking rules to make your point, your adversaries aren’t the problem, you are.

MJRobDrunkishRob told me, in his last note, that he knew I’d go on and accomplish many things in my life without him. He said such lovely things that I will take with me the rest of my life. I hate that he’s right about life moving on, but I just can’t let him be wrong.

Its ok to not be ok morning day cafe mental health mondayI believe that the kinder, gentler approach has helped me to bring positive attention from many directions, including members of the Resistance and TeamPatriot, to the fund set up in his name. We are on tap to help at least four individuals get the mental health oversight and therapy that they need through a local facility. AND we continue with a monthly event (Mental Health Monday) that Rob’s favorite local restaurant, Morning Day Cafe, holds for those needing a mental health break/recharge. Collectively, contributors have raised over $7,000 so far, and that wouldn’t have been possible without the Twitter community. So I know that there is good there, but so often it’s overshadowed by the bad: the paranoid, the deviant, the bots, the infighting and the showboating. New Twitter friends who genuinely want the truth exposed at any cost have been incredibly helpful in bringing this information to light and I owe them a huge debt. I feel lucky to have come across such good folks. But I know, just like Rob did, that if you look for or expect goodness, you’re bound to find it.

I just hope his harassers find their way back to the “good” too. Because we can definitely agree that it’s never too late to do the right thing. 🙂

*The information contained in this feature include screenshots chiefly from conversations conducted on Twitter. I cannot verify the legitimacy of all of them, although I personally screenshot/collected several from live pages and current tweets and believe all provided images to be authentic. I implore you to do your own research if you’re so inclined.

*Side note. I’ve been informed that Ms. Brenizer is a nobody in the #Resistance, a vast effort. I don’t disagree with that, but for the purposes of this conversation, we can agree that these two people are the chief drivers of bad conduct towards my husband from either direction as outlined above.

The Illustrious Football Career of Jim Cates – Kansas Koyotes Arena Football

I would love to give this a better introduction but my son really wants to show this video to his friends and I’m working to get it done for him quickly. (I’m that good of a mom, yes.)

My dad, Jim Cates, has a big mouth, and apparently a good kicking leg.

This is an opportunity borne of those two talents.

My dad is a hoot. Enjoy.

Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful – Ground Zero AKA “AR00”

I share the following details not because I think people are interested in them. Rather, I need to document this day for my own sanity. When I started writing today, I had planned on a completely different focus. But this is where my mind ended up. So we’ll just let it ride.

The day the unspeakable happened, I was running a few minutes late in getting out of work. My boss and I had a meeting that butted right up to the end of my work day. At 4:29 pm I sent a text to my husband, expecting that he was already waiting for my exit from the building. “Few mins” was my message. No reply was needed but not receiving one was not the usual. I didn’t think too much of it. At 4:41 I walked out of my building and Rob was not in his usual pick-up spot, right up front. A few more messages went out with nary a reply.

I kept it cool at first. It wasn’t until I learned that he hadn’t shown up for work that day that I panicked.

Upon learning this, I called my mother, 10 miles up the road, and she was in her car and headed towards me within seconds. We both knew something was horribly, horribly wrong. I paced outside in the 35-degree cold until she got to me. She picked me up in a whirlwind and we made a beeline to my home, where Rob’s and my shared truck was parked out front. Before mom even put her car in park, I jumped out and ran towards the house. Finding the door unlocked, I hurried in yelling for Rob.

From room to room I went, more frightened after discovering each one empty. After searching the entire house, I finally sat down in his desk chair and toggled his computer’s mouse. A document appeared before me where the words were incomprehensible but the meaning was clear.

Rob was preparing me for his exit. The phrase at the end that I recognized through the dread told me he was gone: “inevitable outcome.” It was then that I called the police.

While waiting for them, I called my son across the state, Rob’s parents in Florida, my dad 60 miles away, and several close friends scattered throughout the US. “I don’t know where he is but he’s done something,” I repeated again and again, “He could have stepped in front of a train for all I know.” The news was met with horror and surprise. How could this be happening?

After 20 or 30 minutes, I called the police department again. They said someone was on their way.

Sgt. Smithmeier showed up and asked the usual questions: When was the last time I saw him? Had he ever done anything like this before? What makes me think he’s done something drastic? Did he leave a note? – All easy questions. The hard one was: “Where is he?”

He walked throughout the house with me and after a few more casual questions asked me if I had a shed out back. Unbeknownst to me, my mother had mouthed that question to him behind my back, as she knew it was the only place I hadn’t looked on the property. According to her, she had been hopeful that I wouldn’t go look out there; she panicked at every door I flung open as it was. But back to the question. “Um, yes,” I remember barely saying aloud, “there’s a shed.” “Is there a lock and key or would it be open?” Sgt. Smithmeier asked. “Huh? Oh, yeah…,” I said as I moved toward my grandmother’s oak buffet, “there’s a key to the lock in here.” I opened the top left drawer and looked in the front of the right side, where the shed key, attached to one of those cheap aluminum bottle openers, was always found. But the key wasn’t there. “Oh,” I said dreamily, “it’s usually right here…” And I tried to play it cool. But I knew.

Sgt. Smithmeier headed out the back door, suggesting politely but firmly that I stay behind. I stayed seated in my living room. I couldn’t see him as he approached the back door again, but I could see my mother’s face, at first hopeful and then crestfallen. Sgt. Smithmeier came in, not meeting my gaze, and asked me what clothing Rob would have been wearing. “Gosh, ummm,” I recalled, “Something dark, a dark t-shirt and dark sweatpants maybe, maybe his leather coat?”

And the news followed from out of the mouth of Sgt. Smithmeier: “Then I am so sorry to have to inform you, but your husband is deceased. He’s out there.” I don’t remember the exact words he spoke. I just knew that my Mr. Wonderful was gone forever. And I remember nodding as I stared at Sgt. Smithmeier’s mouth speaking the words to me. Somehow that made it easier to focus on what he was saying? I don’t know…

At this point, my mother and I got on our phones and called family and friends. My son was driving on the highway when I told him that Rob had killed himself. I had to tell him to pull over; I was afraid he was going to get in a wreck. I’ve never heard him cry like that. He and his girlfriend were quickly on the way from St. Louis. They would arrive four hours later.

I had called Rob’s parents when he was missing but when my mother offered to call them with the news of his death, I agreed. They had recently placed an ultimatum before Rob: their help and their money or me, so at the very moment I learned of his death I had no intention of speaking to them ever again. Their actions suggest that they agree with that plan, but that’s a story for another day.

Several more police officers filtered through the house in the coming hours, and by that time my dad had arrived. I sat somewhat catatonic throughout further questioning from the Coroner’s office, answering but kind of floating above everything mentally. I stayed in that floaty state for several weeks.

To be continued…

Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful – Grandma’s Reminder

I’ve been told that journaling might be a good outlet for me. Because this blog already exists for me to vent, I’ll just park those rants right here. My husband built this blog (and many other websites) for me. Thanks, baby, for giving me an audience.

My husband committed suicide on November 7 of last year and although I appear to be functioning, I feel as far from that statement as is possible.

I go to work, I take care of my dogs, I pay the bills, I return some phone calls. I make my bed, I brush my teeth, I fuel the car, I cook, I clean… But I’m not really here.

Sleep is elusive. Connections with people are difficult. I desperately want attention but don’t want people fawning over the widow.

In short, I’m a little lost.

I’m going to start off this blog series, Chapter III: Life Beyond Mr. Wonderful, with an article I wrote about my grandmother back in late 2004 or 2005. I wrote it when I was with a small publishing company in St. Louis.

It serves to provide me with a reminder of what my role is in life going forward. (I hope.)

2004 will go down in the story of my life as the year that I sat up and took notice of the little things.

My grandmother died this past Spring. My mother’s mother, she was 75, and had battled cancer for almost 20 years. She was opinionated, sweet, wise, and always upbeat and fun. She took pleasure in the little things, and never asked for approval from anyone. She approved of herself, and people respected her for that.

Up until two weeks before her death, she traveled extensively. Her last trip was with a group from her church and I remember talking to her about whether or not she should go. She said she just didn’t think she was up to it. We all knew she was dying; she had been in poor shape for months. But I encouraged her to take the trip. “Grandma, if you’re going to feel icky, do it somewhere with a view.”

She relented, and went on that trip with her friends. At her funeral, her church friends remembered aloud how much fun they had with her on that and other trips, and they shared stories about her fearlessness. They all knew that she didn’t feel well on that last trip, and admired her for smiling and laughing with them nonetheless. She would never dream of complaining; she would say that she was lucky to get to go at all. At her funeral, someone asked my mother if there were any of grandma’s grandchildren who were “like her”. I almost burst into tears when my mother replied that I was took after grandma most. What a compliment, and what an incredible legacy.

Since her death, I have been decidedly free-wheeling. I’ve traveled more, I’ve laughed more, I’ve loved more, I’ve lived more. It didn’t necessarily take losing her to make me re-think my life, but I have re-evaluated how I view things. If she were here she’d say how that’s “just part of it.” She’d smile at me in her knowing way, and I’d feel silly for questioning an experience that has made me a better person.

Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding day, 1947

I’ve met someone, and it makes me sad that she will never get to meet him. She and I used to compare notes about dating, as she was widowed more than ten years ago. She and I had a decidedly similar view of dealings with the opposite sex: stay around till I get sick of you, then go away till I tell you to come back. Her stories about the man who tried to bully her into a relationship with him made me laugh and laugh. As I listened to her recount yet another way he had aggravated her, I could relate, and we would giggle about it together. Bullying me has never worked either.

If she were here now, I would tell her, “I’ve finally met him.” She’d smile, like she always did when she expected she knew what she was going to hear, and then she’d say, “Tell me all about him.” She’d then sit, lean in, and ask all the cutely worded questions like, “How dreamy is he?” It was times like these that she would tell me stories about my grandpa, like what a great kisser she thought he was. I imagine I have that same dreamy look in my eyes when I talk about my “him” just like she did when she talked about hers.

I rest in the knowledge that she’s “looking at me from the clouds,” like she explained to my 10-year-old son that she would. Although I’ll never get to tell her, she knows, and she’s giving me her trademark, knowing smile, like she expected it all along.

Midget-Century Nightstand Fix-Up

Tiny rooms bring big problems!

Rustic Nightstand by Moxy Liberty

Thrift store mid-century nightstand with original wooden drawer pull, as I found it.

I’d been looking for awhile. See, we live in a smaller house than we’ve ever lived in before, with tinier rooms, tinier closets, tinier storage… You get the idea.

Which brings us to our bedroom. It’s, well, tiny. And we have a king-sized bed. So the room is basically “bed”. Our ordinary nightstands, bought for much larger rooms, won’t fit. So I’ve been on the hunt for small nightstands that are just the right look, feel and price. I’ve been looking for a few years now. The criteria: small, mid-century, paintable and cheap. We live in a mid-century house, so I have this new appreciation for appropriately timed pieces.

So I saw this little guy. I wish there were two but I’m glad I found one at all. It was $5 and just needed a scrubbing and a paint job and voila! I used paint I already had, so no extra cost there. I decided to keep the drawer unpainted as a nod to its original state. I feel like its honoring it somehow; my husband says that look is now distinctly “mine”, where you paint most of a piece but leave a part of it “original”. I guess that’s me.

Rustic Nightstand by Moxy Liberty

Before and after of a $5 mid century nightstand. Painted and drawer lining applied.

I added some shelf paper I also had lying around just for a little zing. I think it turned out cute. Just what we needed.

On to the next cheap piece made fabulous!

Would you have taken this troll home?

I admit I was caught up in the moment. An estate sale in my very own town, in a mid-century home whose inhabitants had lived here for at least 50 years. The house was packed with great stuff and the basement was dank, dingy and dirty. In other words, perfect. After a cursory tour, I sniffed out a beautiful old mirror that I was able to negotiate for a tenth of its value. I paid quickly and was headed out the garage door with the mirror under my arm. And then I saw this table. Filthy and long-unappreciated, I casually asked what they wanted for it.

They had to have thought I was crazy. The thing was filthy with car grease and smoke and God knows what else over the years. Both the top and the lower shelf had been covered with a speckled yellow linoleum, secured around the edges with chrome trim, but the bottom shelf had lost most of its trim, so the linoleum piece was barely hanging on. I knew it was old, and I knew no one had monkeyed with it in so long that it would be a good candidate for a makeover.

I handed over the $5 and away I went.

The project took months, and mostly because I was lazy.

My first task was to get rid of the linoleum and chrome and finally discover what was hiding underneath. The top surface was just as I’d hoped: protected for 50 years. Rough and begging for an upgrade. And anything would have been an upgrade.

I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned it. I really didn’t think the dirt would come off. When the paint turned out to be a cream color, I couldn’t believe it. I honestly thought the stuff was cooked on, it just looked so roached and black.

After cleaning, I scraped paint off. The bottom shelf was a really pretty dark stained wood, which suggested the idea of highlighting the natural wood on the shelves.

Then I sanded. And sanded some more. I was lucky enough to have found the perfectly beautiful and breezy day to do it on; it was no chore at all.

I grabbed whatever stain we happened to have in our workshop and I got down to staining the shelves. The color for the legs and such was also an easy decision; it’s elephant gray, a color we have a ton of. After staining and painting, I put two coats of poly on it and almost called it done.

Somewhere along the way, my husband suggested I make the drawer knob white. He thought it would give it a little “umph” and I think he was right. I didn’t actually paint the drawer pull; it is just how I found it, only scrubbed clean.

I think it turned out gorgeous! And now I use it as my printer stand/ an extension of my desk.

Of note: The table is identified on the underside of the drawer as “Davidson’s Furn. Co., Kansas City, MO.” Davidson’s was a high-end furniture store that opened in Kansas City in around 1918. At one time, they had a 20,000 square foot show room. And, of particular interest to me, in the late 1950s they acquired the remaining furniture stock of the local Abernathy Furniture Company, which had closed up shop in the 1950s.