Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

We have a tradition at our Thanksgiving dinner. We go around the table and we say what we're thankful for. Last year, Kelli said "I'm thankful for Jessica." Jessica was sitting next to Kelli, and she was touched by Kelli's sentiment, so she leaned over, hugged her and said "Aw, I'm thankful for you too, you little cutie pie." I won't ever forget that.

This year, I am thankful for:

*My friends and family who have gotten me through this past year. No words will ever convey my gratitude.

*My Dad and Pat, for taking care of dinner this year, for planting trees, for coming to the benefit and vigil, and for raising me right.

*Maddy, for making me laugh, rubbing my back, and giving me a reason to get out of bed somedays.

*Craig, for loving me, standing by me, and hanging in there with me while I was going through hell.

*The Coast Guard, for deciding in their infinite wisdom, to station my brother at Kentucky Lake, so he can visit me and my dad more often. Woot!

What are you thankful for? Whatever it is, please take the time to say it.

Take nothing for granted.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Day After

We had over 200 people at the memorial last night. My box of 144 candles disappeared quickly, and the additional 24 someone brought me didn't last long either.

Again, we are overwhelmed by the support of the community. Although I saw many familiar faces, there were some I did not know. We were touched by how many people, friends and strangers, that came out to stand in the cold for Jessica and Kelli.

The policy amendments that the Illinois State Police are implementing are hopefully the first of many positive changes which result from their deaths. If they died so that others would be protected, then that's a great legacy that they leave for us.

Friday, November 21, 2008

One Year Later

These are posts written by Jessica and Kelli's dad, Brian, and stepmother, Wendy.

Where Were You When?

One Year

A Year Later

Jessica's last words to me were "I'm going to Jordan's." My last words to here were "Bye. Have fun, be young, drink Pepsi." She rolled her eyes, flashed me the peace sign. And she was gone.

Later Thanksgiving night, Maddy and I were watching Chicago in my bedroom. Kelli was upstairs, thumping around in Jessica's room to blow-dry and straighten her hair for the pictures the next day. Maddy was sending Kelli text message her on my phone, giggling at the responses. Kelli came downstairs, watched the Cell Block Tango scene, then said she was going to bed. I told her good night, and that her hair looked pretty.

I woke up early Friday morning to the sounds of Jessica and Kelli banging around in Jessica's room, which was above mine. I heard the two of them clatter down the stairs to go meet their dad for the family pictures. I didn't get up to say goodbye, I figured I'd talk to them when they got home.

I got up a little while later, and took my car to get my tire fixed. I came home, and turned on the TV. What Not to Wear was having a marathon, so I got sucked into that. I started getting out the Christmas decorations so we could start decorating when they got home that afternoon.

At 2:00 I started to wonder where they were. Jessica had to work at 3, so I expected them anytime. I figured they'd stopped by the mall for some after-Thanksgiving shopping.

At 2:30 I called her phone and left her a message. We'd had a bit of a tiff earlier in the week and I figured she was avoiding me, as a typical teenager would do.

At 3:30 I called Tan Rio but she wasn't there. They hadn't heard from her. I called her again, and left a message saying "call me please, I'm getting worried."

I called her dad and left him a message asking when they'd left.

At 4:00 I called again and told her to call me back, damn it.

At 4:45 Jordan called Kelli's phone. I ran upstairs to answer it, and he hadn't heard from them either. I told him to keep trying and once he got her to call me back.

At 5:15 the dogs started barking, and I went to the window expecting to see her car. I saw the police cars, the troopers with their serious faces, and the men in the green coroner's jackets.

The trooper asked if I owned a white Mazda 6 with license plate 147.... I interrupted, saying yes, I do, I don't know the plate number, what has happened?

He handed me Jessica's wallet, still intact, as if they'd just pulled it from her purse. He said there had been an accident.

He asked me who would have been in the car with her. I pointed to their pictures on my antique sewing machine and said "her sister, Kelli."

The look on his face told me they weren't coming back. Either of them.

I remember them asking if there was anyone they could call for me.

I remember telling Maddy that her sisters were dead.

I remember calling Mike, and him saying "I'm on my" and the phone disconnecting before he could say "way."

I remember calling my dad, and telling him. How his voice broke as he asked "both of them?"

I remember calling Lynn, telling her husband Brian, and her in the background screaming "NO! NO! NO!"

I remember feeling disconnected from myself, as if I was watching a movie.

I remember offering the troopers something to drink, and asking them to sit down. They were all very tall and I was feeling towered over.

I remember calling Jordan and telling him to come over. I hugged him and told him and held him as he cried.

I remember people coming over as the news spread. I remember getting sick of hearing the phone ring.

I remember the details of that day quite vividly. The days after are sometimes blurry, sometimes crystal clear.

I remember their laughs, their voices, the smell of their shampoo and perfume. I remember them as babies, as toddlers, graduating kindergarten, losing their teeth, growing up into beautiful young women. I remember bandaging scraped knees, putting the boo-boo bunny on bruises, nursing them through colic, upset tummies, earaches and broken hearts.

I look at their pictures every day and smile back, because I can't help it. They had such fabulous faces. Their pictures are on my desk at work, on my walls at home, on the shelves by the computer desk, in my room.

I miss them every day. My heart is healing, slowly. Time will help it heal, but I'll never be whole again.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In the News

I will be on tonight's KMOV 10:00pm news broadcast talking about the candlelight memorial this Sunday. There will also be an article in the Sunday Belleville News-Democrat about Jessica and Kelli and the one-year anniversary.

KSDK and KTVI will probably have camera crews on Sunday at the park as well.

I can't believe it's three days away.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rewind - Part Deux

I remember thinking about this day about a week later, thanking God that I'd had a chance to talk to Kelli for several hours that night. I hope she remembers what I told her that night, especially the part about loving her.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


This week is going to be a little hard on me, I hope you understand. I may post something original, but in the meantime, I am posting links to my blogs from this time last year.

Here you go. Please to enjoy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Candlelight Memorial Update

Just a reminder - the candlelight memorial is November 23, 2008, at 6:00 pm at Woodland Park in Collinsville. I was briefly worried when the park district decided to start closing the parks at 6:00, but we have a permit, so we're good. That would be a nice headline, wouldn't it? "Mother of Uhl Sisters Arrested for Trespassing and Playing with Fire." I know they'd be up there, shaking their heads, saying "That's our mom. We're so proud." Then roll their eyes.

The candles have been ordered, they are pink, of course. No plain white boring candles for my girls, no sir. Mental note - put lighters on the list. That would be my luck, get all the way out there and have no fire. Again, they'd be shaking their heads.

This year, I am sponsoring a Christmas tree in their memory. The Collinsville Festival of Trees is a fundraiser for different beneficiaries in Collinsville. This year's recipient is the Miner's Theater. The trees are decorated by groups of individuals, or business, and are usually themed. Some of these, I've heard, go all out and spend LOTS of money. There are prizes awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd, and all the trees are auctioned off. I'm not in this to win prizes, I just want to do something in their memory. Our theme is pink, of course, and we decided to decorate it with ornaments given by friends and family that remind them of Jessica and Kelli. I'm going to find pink disco ball ornaments, because they both loved to dance, and loved to make fun of me when I'd play my disco CDs.

If you'd like to add to the decorations, please drop off your ornament at the memorial, or you can mail it to me (email me at lakegal180 at yahoo and I'll send you my mailing address).

Jessica and Kelli loved Christmas, and not just the presents. Decorating the tree was a huge deal for them. We usually did it the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving. I would haul all the boxes up from the basement, and then we'd put A Charlie Brown Christmas on the TV and start sorting out their individual ornaments. They each had a Baby's 1st through 5th Christmas series. They each hung the ornaments they made in school, and hung their ornaments they'd received as presents through the years. Once those were on the tree, we filled in the blanks with the glass ball ornaments I got from my mom.

We would frame the front windows in lights, and the girls would take lights to hang in their bedroom windows. Sometimes we'd put lights on the deck.

When we were done, we'd turn off the overhead lights and turn on the tree lights and admire our handiwork. We'd then go outside, stand on the sidewalk, and look at how pretty our house was all lit up. One year we put the big old fashioned glass bulbs on the outside of the house and it looked like a gingerbread house.

Last year, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I brought up the tree box and the ornament boxes. I also brought up the lights for the porch, but I didn't hang them. It was supposed to be reasonably nice that weekend, so I wanted to let Kelli help me with the outside. We were going to decorate the tree that night, after Jessica got home from work.

I finally pulled myself together long enough to put the tree up with Maddy the week before Christmas. We split Jessica and Kelli's ornaments between us and hung them up. We watched Charlie Brown, and we did the best we could. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have put one up.

We will be moving into our new house this December, so I'm trying to talk Craig into putting lights on the outside of the house. We will definitely put the tree up before Christmas, for Maddy.

I hope to see you next Sunday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Should Buy Stock in Kleenex

I have been sneezing and otherwise feeling yucky for the past few days now. It's that time of year when allergies and colds converge upon me to make me feel miserable.

The person who came up with the idea to put lotion in tissues should be given a medal. Why can't I think of these things?

When I get home after work, all I want to do is put on my flannel jammie pants and curl up on my couch under my fuzzy pink blanket that Maddy made me last Christmas. However, pending deadlines prevent me from doing this. Boo.

The upside is that our new house has a fireplace. I cannot wait to fire that sucker up (literally), to chase away the cold and dark that permeates this time of year. It's starting to wear me down. I will also have a garage, oh joy. I haven't had my car in a garage for, wow, ten years. The thought of not having to warm up my car or scrape my windows makes me giddy.

Now if I could just breathe, things would be just dandy.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kickin' It Old School

Check this out. Actual Olan Mills (and other studios) photographs from the good ol' days I call the 70s and 80s. Pretty funny stuff.

So in that spirit, I give you my family's contributions to this retrospective. Didn't we look good?

A few notes about this montage - my mom's sweater was green, but it turned out beige in the pictures. I look stupid because I'm trying to smile and keep my eyes from squinting. My dad has the same pose in three of the four pictures. My parents did take the third picture and had it blown up into a 16x24 portrait. It hung in their bedroom until my dad sold that house. I have no idea where it went.

This is my brother and me. My mom was heavily into Dorothy Hamill haircuts, as were all my friends. Check out my brother's checked suit and collar-you-could-serve-drinks-on shirt. I have no words for the fashion faux pas I've got going on. My mom was generally pretty fashion-forward.

Go back through your family photographs this weekend and laugh at how goofy you look, and remember the fun times with your family.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Have you Seen My Happy Place?

I can't find it anymore. I try casting my mind to places where houses aren't for sale, where mortgages and paperwork don't exist, where my sit-so-close-we-can-touch-each-other co-workers stop whinging about things that happened yesterday now deal and shut up, where lawsuits and looming trials don't overshadow me, where everyone is alive and well, and things go along just swimmingly, where it's sunshine and roses and life is good.

If you find it, send me the Mapquest link. I'll meet you there.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Democracy In Action

At O'Dark30 this morning, I woke up Maddy and we went to vote. She isn't easy to get out of bed, but this was like Christmas morning to her. She has been so into the election and candidates this year, which I'm happy to encourage. She may be 9 but it's not too early to learn about democracy.

Proof that it is dark at 5:49 am.

When we arrived at the polling place at 5:50, there were already about 15 people in line. I later saw on the news some polling places had lines 3-4 blocks long. A benefit to living in a smaller town - shorter lines.

Maddy had a good time, considering the early morning hour. She watched the sign-in process, waited patiently with me for a voting carrel to open up, then asked questions about the ballot, like why we have to mark the space for candidates who don't have opposition.

We took the ballot over to the reader, and she fed it in. (My phone doesn't do good action shots). We got our "I Voted" stickers, and headed out to the see the sunrise brightening the sky.

If a nine-year old can get out of bed at 5:45 am, you can stand in line for a little while. Vote.

That is all.