Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thank You

Two small words that are so easy to say yet so easy to overlook.

A phrase that sometimes is all you have to convey mass amounts of gratitude but just can't find anything else to say.

I say it now to those who came to the blood drive last night and helped us collect 24 units for the local Red Cross.

To everyone who supported and continue to support all we do to keep the memory of Jessica and Kelli alive with scholarships, blood drives, fundraisers, tree planting, education, advocacy, and whatever else I can do to make sure these young women are never forgotten.

To the officers who listen to me present my story in hopes of changing the way they approach responsive and pursuit driving.

To those who are working to rename a section of Interstate 64 for Jessica and Kelli.

To everyone who ever sent me a picture of Jessica and Kelli, or told me a story, a memory, a moment about them.

To those who have stood by me when I was my at my highest and at my lowest.

To those of you who take a few minutes of your day to read my ramblings.

Finally - to those who served our country, and continue to serve, and the families that have lost loved ones  who paid the ultimate price in protecting our freedom.

Thank you.  So much.

Monday, September 26, 2011

No, I Wasn't Abducted By Aliens

I last posted TWO months ago.  Where the hell did that time go? 

Well, let's see - I got a job.  After six months I came out of "retirement" to do a temp job at a law firm.  An original timeline of 4-6 weeks has turned into almost two months.  

Maddy made her school softball team.  The season ended last week, and now basketball tryouts are next week.  It never ends, I am beginning to realize.  She's loving school, loving sports, and doing really well adjusting to junior high. 

We still aren't completely finished with the legal rigamarole, but hopefully that will wrap up in the next week or two and some projects that have been on the back burner can come to a full boil.  I'm excited about getting Kelli's scholarship rolling and meeting the recipient of Jessica's scholarship.

I've got some speaking engagements lined up beginning next week, and I'm honored to have been asked to speak at Jessica's alma mater of SIUE. 

We're creeping up on four years since they were killed.  I read a quote today - "Everything will change when your desire to move on exceeds your desire to hold on." (Allen Cohen)

I just wonder if it's possible to do both. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Successful Fiesta!

Yesterday, I dropped off $4,030 at the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation.  That's a nice chunk of cheddar for the scholarship funds. 

I couldn't do it without the support and generosity of everyone who donated time, money and talent.  It was a great evening, and if you didn't make it this year, try to join us next year.  We always have a blast!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Final Preparations

Yesterday, Maddy and I ran all over getting the final bits and pieces for the fundraiser on Saturday.  We got the table covers, centerpieces, picked up donations, finalized our wardrobes and swiped my debit card until it screamed "no more!!" 

In my frantic running amok, I managed to leave a bag of picture frames at the store - luckily they were holding it for me.  I tore up my house and car looking for them last night.  My house is Fundraiser Central right now - the guest room and dining room currently house the donations, five boxes of tote bags are in the foyer, my living room chair has the centerpieces, and I'm using my couch as a printer stand.  It's a mess but it's a good mess. 

I was stressing for a few days over the food, but we got it worked out.  We'll be enjoying fabulous barbecue from Bully's Smokehouse - their garlic mashed potatoes are sooooo yummy.  The Brinley family is so awesome - please check them out next time you are in Columbia, IL or Edwardsville, IL.

We have over 35 separate silent auction items, ranging from Cardinals tickets, overnight stays at the Westin St. Louis, Hilton At The Ballpark, and Moonrise Hotel, an autographed hockey stick from Al MacInnis, gorgeous handmade floral arrangements, wine baskets, dog obedience classes, handyman services, Bath and Body Works products, haircare products, Yankee candles, photo sessions, sports memorabilia and an autographed photo of Tim McGraw.

I am really excited about Maddy's contribution.  She had the idea to frame some of her her botanical photographs and use them in the auction.  The kid has an eye for this stuff, I'm not even kidding.  The photos are fantastic in their color and detail.  She takes them with my Canon point and shoot, but somehow she manages to take better pictures than I do with the same camera.  It's a gift, I guess.  She wants to be a photographer when she grows up.  I think she's got a good start.

Here's one of my favorites:

The raffle tickets have been a HUGE success!  We don't have many left so if you want a chance to win a 40" flatscreen Hitachi HD TV, leave me a comment.  Tickets are $5 each or 5 for $20. 

Tickets are still available for the event on Saturday.  Just show up at the KC Hall in Collinsville IL and in exchange for a $20 admission, you get the aforementioned bbq dinner along with drinks, dancing, and a chance to bid on those fabulous silent auction items. 

If you can't make the event but want to donate, you can send a tax-deductible donation to the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation - just indicate "Jessica and Kelli Uhl Memorial Foundation" on the memo line of your check. 
All our proceeds benefit the Jessica and Kelli Uhl Memorial Foundation, which funds a scholarship in Jessica's name at SIU Edwardsville and a scholarship in Kelli's name through the Collinsville Education Scholarship Foundation.

On a daily basis, I am overwhelmed by the support and generosity of the community.  So many individuals and businesses have supported our efforts, and we are truly grateful. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

(Semi) Wordless Wednesday

I'm up to my elbows in fundraiser preparations (invitation here), so in the meantime, here's a few photos showing what Maddy has been up to during her summer vacation.  Sadly, school starts for her in about a month. 

She played softball

She rocked at basketball camp (with the proper shirt)

She went to Silver Dollar City

She went boating, tubing and jet-skiing

She went swimming

We've got some other fun stuff planned for the next month.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy Camper

Maddy has been at one camp or another three of the four weeks this month.  In order of appearance, she's had a school-sponsored basketball camp for a week, a week off, then a week of softball camp, basketball camp at SIUE, a local college. this week, and she will finish up the month with three final days of school basketball camp. 

All her camps have been day camps.  Except for this week, all the camps have ended at noon.  Her camp this week runs from 9am to 4pm.  It's a long day but she's having a good time (so far, it's only Tuesday).  She said she's enjoyed them all, and I think her skill set has improved also. 

I didn't mean for her to be camped out for an entire month - they all just happened to fall that way.  She really enjoys playing softball and basketball, and she'll want to try out for the teams once she starts junior high in August (excuse me while I try to process that my baby is out of elementary school).  The more exposure she and her mad skillz have to the coaches of the teams the better she'll perform at her tryouts.  She's a kid who does well with a little bit of familiarity.

This week she was apprehensive about the SIUE camp.  It's held at the college, it has about 50 girls attending, and she wasn't going to know anyone there.  I told her at least she'd have something in common with the others - they all loved basketball, right?  I got the "yeah whatever, mom" look.  Ah, it starts - the end of my days as the smartest person she knows.

Sunday night she was planning her wardrobe.  I'm glad she's taking an interest in her appearance but I'm also thinking, it's basketball camp - shorts, t-shirt, socks, shoes - what's to plan?  She showed me her ensemble and I said "it's lovely.  Now go to bed, you have to get up at 7:30am." 

As we walked into the gym on Monday and crossed the floor, one of the coaches saw us, pointed at Maddy and said "ok, we're going to have a problem. . ."  Maddy's face turned ashen, I'm trying to think of what we could have possibly done in the 3.6 seconds we'd been there, and then the coach continued ". . . with your shirt."  I looked at Maddy and realized she was wearing her Saint Louis University t-shirt.  To a camp at Southern Illinois University -Edwardsville.  Epic. Parenting. Failure.  Luckily the coach laughed it off, and Maddy was immediately christened SLU Girl.  Hey, there are worse things to be called.  And she made an impression - no way she could hide in the crowd now.

I assured her that she would not be expelled from camp and promised to stop by the bookstore on my home and get her the proper collegiate apparel.  I even bought a shirt, just in case, and made a mental note to not wear my Texas Longhorns shirt.

Today Maddy wore her new SIUE shirt.  And she bought some SIUE shorts at the camp store also, just for good measure.  As she was paying, one of the other coaches came up to me and said that Maddy's wardrobe faux pas wasn't so bad - apparently a camper showed up in an SIU-Carbondale shirt today - SIUE's archrival.

Sartorial screw-ups aside, she's really enjoying these camps, and I'm so glad I'm able to be there to take her and pick her up and hear how her day went, what she learned, who she met, and how much fun she's having.  

Friday, June 17, 2011

We Put the FUN in Fundraiser!

The third annual Jessica and Kelli Uhl Memorial Fundraiser will be held on July 23, 2011, from 7pm to midnight at the KC Hall in Collinsville, Illinois.  A $20 donation gets you dinner, dancing, and access to silent auctions, raffles and other door prizes.  So far we've gotten donations of St. Louis Cardinal baseball tickets, autographed sports memorabilia, handmade quilts, wine baskets, overnight accomodations, and we hope to have more great prizes and services donated by local merchants. 

We are also selling raffle tickets for $5 per ticket or 5 tickets for $20 for a chance to win a 40" HDTV.  Leave me a comment if you'd like to purchase tickets - you do not need to be present to win, and I'm happy to mail tickets to you if you aren't in my local area. 

This event gives friends and family of Jessica and Kelli a chance to come together to celebrate their lives.  It also gives us a forum to raise awareness about safe pursuit and response driving, and the dangers of distracted driving.  We also have a lot laughter through tears, which is the best emotion.

Past events have raised thousands of dollars which in turn have funded the Jessica Uhl scholarship at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, and the Kelli Uhl Memorial Scholarship fund.  Jessica's scholarship has had two recipients, and Kelli's scholarship will be awarded to a graduate of the Class of 2012 from Collinsville High School, which would have been Kelli's graduating class. 

You can RSVP and purchase tickets online here.  If you'd like to donate items or services for our silent auction or raffle prizes, please either leave a comment or email me at kim @ jessicaandkelliuhl.com.   If you cannot attend,  you can still make a tax-deductible donation by mailing a check to the Jessica and Kelli Uhl Memorial Foundation in care of Kim Schlau, 9 Harvest Point, Collinsville IL 62234.

Hope to see you on July 23!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Today is the 22nd anniversary of Jessica's birth.  Can I still call it her birthday if she's not here?  

You know what sucks?  Trying to buy a birthday card for a young woman who will never read it.  Trying to find a birthday card that says, "I love you, I miss you, I'm sorry that your life was cut so short when it had such possibilities, oh, and yeah, it's your birthday but you aren't here."  Hallmark could make a mint if they had that card line.  Hell, I could write it.

I was holding on by a thread today in the store, trying to buy a card that I could take to her grave tomorrow.  I have tried to look at the birthday cards days, weeks, even months before her actual birthday week just so I don't have to try to not have a meltdown.  It doesn't work.  I never can find what I want, and I keep thinking I'll keep looking and find the perfect card.  Well, it didn't happen this year. 

As I'm perusing Hallmark for other cards (a couple of weddings and Father's Day), I'm reading all these cards that say best wishes, hope your dreams come true, you have a bright future, etc.  Yeah, not exactly the sentiment I'm looking to convey today, thanks.  Finally, I find a card with a picture of a young girl wearing oversized sunglasses outlined in rhinestones, and on the inside it says "you're too extraordinary to have an ordinary birthday."  That's the closest I'll find to the sentiment I'm trying to express.  I take it, and head to the register, knowing I've got about 25.7 seconds before I go into meltdown mode.

I hand over the cards and ask for a happy birthday balloon.  "Oh, those are in the back of the store, you can go back there and pick one out."  Fan-frakin-tastic.  Do you not see I'm teetering on the edge of a full-on crying jag?  So, I head to the back, find a balloon, and pray that the helium is on supercharge because I'm not sure how long I can last.  As I'm distracting myself from sitting down on the floor and sobbing, I hear the overhead music start playing Fergie's Big Girls Don't Cry.  I had to laugh - it's like she's just screwing with me sometimes, you know? 

Balloon in hand, I pay for everything, get to my car, and start it to cool down (it's 100 degrees here today, folks.)  I'm thinking of a song I can post for her birthday, and the radio starts playing Tupac's California Love.  I just have to laugh again, because we used to crank this song and just sing along - yeah, I know, we're white girls but dang it was fun. 

I manage to make it home with only a minor crying episode, and then when I got home I let it out.  Damn it, you'd think it would get easier but it just seems to get harder on certain days.  I can ignore it for a while but when it rears its ugly head it knocks me down so hard. 

As much I love Tupac, I think I'll share this song with you.  I have always loved this song, and now it reminds me of Jessica, in the line about being a bird and wishing you could fly fly fly.  When she was little she loved Forrest Gump and would do the Jenny line about "dear God please make me a bird so I can fly far far far from here."

Funny how you can look at song lyrics after something significant happens and think damn, that's exactly how I feel.  Especially the line about being a "troubled soul weighted to the ground - give me the strength to carry on until I can lay my burden down."

You've got your wings now, Jess - fly fly fly. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

I recently had the opportunity to write a sponsored post for Gatorade.  I had to participate in a conference call with Stephanie Hamm, then write a post about being the mom of a sporty kid.  I figured it was a good way to earn some money that I can put towards the upcoming fundraiser for Jessica and Kelli's scholarships (more on that this week!)
So, please click this link to read the sponsored post and leave a comment for a chance to win a $100 gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods!

Monday, May 23, 2011


This past weekend was graduation for our local high school. It made me remember Jessica's graduation four years ago. The night before, she was home because none of her friends were going out (she said it was so they could "rest" but I think it was because no one wanted to risk getting in trouble right before graduation). I was getting things ready for her party and she was following me around, asking to help, because she was so bored. She even played games with Maddy before she just couldn't take it anymore. "I need some excitement, I'm so boooooored!!"

I realized I'd forgotten to get cups, so I tossed her my car keys and told her to run to Walmart. As she drove off, I realized that she was driving with an expired license plate (I had the sticker in the glove box), a blown tailight (the bulb was in the glove box too) and all the beer was in the trunk. I called her and told her to drive carefully. As she started to yell at me I said hey, you're the one who wanted excitement. Luckily Walmart was pretty close, so she made it without going to jail.

Jessica would be graduating college this year, assuming she had all her credits and didn't switch majors halfway through. Would she have stayed in this area or would she have found a job in Chicago, New York, or halfway around the world?

Kelli would be finishing her junior year this year, and we'd be starting to research colleges and scholarships and all that fun stuff. Her scholarship fund will be ready to go soon for someone (hopefully more than one) from her graduating class to use for college. I wanted her class to be the first recipients.

I don't know what she'd want to be - would she still want to be a vet or would she have discovered some other path in life? Would she want to go to school close to home or would she have gone away?

Maddy says she's going to stay close to me, and when she graduates she's going to move back in with me. We'll see if she still feels that way in six years. I tease her that we're going to give her a U-Haul for a graduation present, but I know once she moves out I'll just cry.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ok, So Next Project!

I knew it had been a while since I posted, but I couldn't believe it was last on April 13. I have literally aged since then - I had a birthday. We also celebrated my husband's birthday, a wedding, a cutie-patootie's first birthday, and I went to Chicago and met the US Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood.

I also had my first Ikea experience while I was up there, and I got mousetrapped in the store. Seriously, I had to ask a worker how the hell to get out. And then I wound up walking through more fantastic stuff and found a galvanized steel lantern that was perfect for my patio table. So it wasn't all bad. I am planning a return trip and looking into U-Haul rentals. It's probably a good thing it's four hours away.

But I digress. It was great to attend the FocusDriven summit and meet Secretary LaHood along with members of the Illinois legislature, other families who have lost loved ones due to distracted driving, and the lovely Jennifer Smith, founder of FocusDriven. She and I have talked on the phone and emailed so much over the past year I kind of forgot we'd never met face to face. I am excited to begin working with her on law enforcement education.

My next big project is the upcoming fundraiser for Jessica and Kelli, which will be held Saturday, July 23 at the KC Hall in Collinsville, from 7pm to midnight. Maddy suggested the theme of Green Earth - to support Jessica and Kelli's belief in recycling, sustainability, and respecting the planet.

Mark your calendars!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


The State of Illinois now posts roadside memorial signs for victims of reckless driving. I applied for a sign for Jessica and Kelli in January. Just as I was finishing my post about leaving Springfield without their law being passed, I received a phone call from IDOT telling me their sign was up. Perfect timing.

The sign is actually posted on Illinois Highway 158, not on the interstate. If you take I-64 east to the Highway 158 exit, the sign is posted just before the I-64 Westbound exit. This is the overpass where they were killed. The sign couldn't be placed on I-64 as it's a federal roadway, so the State put it as close on a state highway as they could.

Next goal - renaming the interstate between Mascoutah and Highway 158 after them. It just so happens I'm going to meet with the Secretary of Transportation next week in Chicago, so I'll ask him how I go about getting the highway named for them.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Has Sprung

Certain things say "Spring" like no others - daylight lingers past 6pm, the smell of fresh cut grass, pops of yellow, pink and purple as the flowers start to bloom, sleeping with the windows open, and trading in the boots and loafers for sandals and flip flops. Another event that means Spring to me is the start of the baseball season. This year, Craig and I went to Dallas for the Rangers opening day. My Uncle Tony lives there, and he's been asking me for years to come partake in the festivities. And it was festive, let me tell you. When you start at 9am for a 3pm game, you can't help but have a good time.

(From left: my cuz's wife Rhonda, cuz Brent, Uncle Tony, Craig and me!)

I enjoyed our lovely spring weather yesterday as I took a road trip to Springfield for the House version of the workers' compensation legislation. The Senate passed their version last week, and now the House is working on their version. I toyed with the idea of wearing a skirt, but it was a little windy yesterday and I didn't need it flying over my head, so I wore pants with a more trustworthy zipper.

(The view from the Gallery. Gorgeous chandeliers.)

I met with my Representative and he gave me a brief rundown of the process. I headed up to the gallery to watch Government In Action. About five minutes later, my Rep came back and told me that he had been asked to pull the bill for further amendments, and asked me if I was okay with that. He said he could go ahead and present it, but chances were good it would be voted down. I was disappointed but I want this bill to be done right, so I agreed that it be delayed.

I was in a bit of a funk as I headed home. I popped in my Purple Rain soundtrack, opened the sunroof and windows, put on my new sunglasses and sang along. Jessica always said when she was in a bad mood she would let the wind blow through the car and it would blow her troubles away. It was pretty good advice, because I was in a better mood when I got home. However, I have been able to move forward on another front...tune in tomorrow for the story on that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Class and Poise

I had lunch with a good friend recently. We have been friends for over fifteen years. We've worked together and we've played together, and suffice it to say we've had our share of laughs over the years. I won't go into great detail, but I will say that we used to bowl together, and beer was our dinner on those nights. We also ran up a close-to-three-digit bar tab, just the two of us, for my birthday, and a sombrero was nearly killed that evening. Ah, good times.

During our lunch, she told me that she was proud of the work I'm doing, and that I show class and poise in my interviews. I was touched and flattered, and then we both burst out laughing, because we both knew the real me, the one who drops her bowling ball, trips over sidewalk cracks, and is usually a klutz, even before alcohol is imbibed. I had to tell her that while I was in Reno, as I was leaving the podium after my presentation, I walked out of my shoe and almost fell on my face. In front of several big-wigs, of course. But that's how I roll, usually right down to the floor.

Remember when I told you about the workers' comp amendments I was working on? Well, I got a call last week, asking me to offer testimony before the Senate Executive Committee hearing held today. Then this morning, I got a phone call asking me if the provision could be called The Uhl Act. Of course I agreed, and then I hung up and cried.

As I was getting ready, I flipped on the TV and caught the last few minutees of The Birdcage - Robin Williams, Gene Hackman and drag queens. Get it on Netflix if you haven't seen it. Anyway, at the end, they all dance to We Are Family, and of course, that made me cry again, but it was a happy cry. I took that as a sign that my girls were with me, just like they were last year.

After getting to Springfield and through security without incident (shocking, I know, given my brush with airport jail), I met with the senator, and we headed up to the senate chambers. He explained that when our bill was called for discussion, we would sit at a table up at the front of the room, in full view of the spectators and senators, and after he introduced the bill, he told me I could say "whatever I wanted." Oh sir, if only I could, if only. But I decided to be a lady and not say something that would end in a trip to Legislative Jail. Look at me, with the class and poise.

Our bill is called, and we stand up and walk up to the aforementioned table. Fortunately, it's a short walk because as I sit down, my pants feel a bit loose, as if I have might lost a few pounds in the last few minutes, but no, nothing that amazing, my damn suit pants have come unzipped. I mentally slap myself upside the head, try like hell not to laugh, and send up a prayer of thanks that I didn't split the backside of my pants and that I can give the testimony sitting down. Class and poise - that's me all over.

After the bill was introduced and I gave my testimony, the amendment passed unanimously, and I managed to stand up, discreetly insure that my jacket covered my zipper, and exit the chambers without anyone pointing and laughing at me, without falling off my shoes, and without any other articles of clothing coming undone - a major victory.

I ducked into the ladies room and put myself back together, giggling to myself and remembering my friend's comment about class and poise, and knew I'd have to email her when I got home and share my stupidity. Funny thing - I had an email from her waiting for me. It's like she knew I'd have a story for her.

Here is the story in our local paper, without the wardrobe malfunction.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Luck O'The Irish

On this gorgeous St. Paddy's Day (sunny with a high of 75 today!), I consider myself very lucky in so many ways.

I get to wake up my little red-headed Irish girl in the mornings, and then instead of rushing off to beat the traffic, I can make her a yummy hot breakfast and enjoy it with her.

I am able to travel to law enforcement departments to tell them about Jessica and Kelli in hopes of saving lives in the future. Although Maddy wasn't able to go to Nevada with us, she did get to go to a conference that was held closer to home. We had actually stayed at that hotel before when Kelli did cheerleading competitions, and Maddy loved the pool.

But these are my three greatest lucky charms of all.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Making Change

Last September, the trooper who killed Jessica and Kelli decided that he would file for workers' compensation. Apparently the Illinois workers' comp laws did not specifically preclude a person from collecting compensation even if the injuries received were caused by negligence on the part of the injured person. Isn't that a kick in the head?

I decided to call bullshnicky on that, and after doing a little digging on the State's website, I discovered that my local senator, William Haine, was on a special commission to reform the workers' compensation laws. I emailed him, told him who I was and why I was taking this personally, and asked him to amend the laws so that those who cause their own injuries not be allowed to collect benefits.

In the meantime, our local newspaper began reporting about potentially fraudulent workers' compensation filings. Apparently 389 employees at a local prison, 230 of which were guards, were all claiming injuries stemming from "repetitive trauma," and the State has paid over $10 million dollars on these claims. No wonder this State is in financial turmoil - apparently it never occurred to anyone to say "hmm, perhaps we should fix the problem causing this 'repetitive trauma.'"

Thankfully the paper was investigating the workers' comp process, because otherwise we would have never known that the trooper's hearing, (which is public, by the way) had been secretly rescheduled. Of course, by the time I was notified of the date and time, it was too late for me to attend, or anyone from the public.

During the investigation by the reporters, numerous emails sent by the arbitrator in charge of the trooper's case were discovered. The arbitrator was communicating with the trooper's attorney to move the trooper's hearing to a "special setting and an unknown place and time!" and then emailed her court reporter to say the hearing would be held "on the sly, with no press." The arbitrator also emailed her supervisor and said that "the media frenzy" was an "overwhelming thought" and had no idea "this guy's worker's comp case would draw such attention." Oh really? Let me tell you about "media frenzy" and "overwhelming" attention.

After I read that article, I again emailed Sen. Haine, and also emailed the Chairman of the Workers' Comp Commission, and included the link to the article. I also wrote a letter to my local representative, Dwight Kay, who was spearheading a resolution calling for a full forensic audit of the workers' compensation division.

My letter to Rep. Kay read, in part:

"I have also written to Chairman Mitch Weisz to express my extreme displeasure in the way that Arbitrator Teague has handled this case, specifically hiding the hearing from the public. If she was uncomfortable with the case and the "media frenzy", she should have recused herself instead of holding a hearing "on the sly." The family of Jessica and Kelli Uhl did not have a choice to avoid the "media frenzy" and all court hearings involving the civil and criminal matters were available to the public and to the media. I further implored him to take the necessary steps to ensure that this does not happen in the future, and that disciplinary action be taken against Arbitrator Teague...As a taxpayer of the State of Illinois as well as someone who has been personally affected by the actions of the IWCC employees, I hope that you are
successful in overhauling this system."

Chairman Weisz responded to me within 24 hours and assured me his office was investigating the claims. Sen. Haine's office thanked me for the article and told me they had passed along the information to the senator.

Ultimately the trooper's workers' comp claim was denied by the arbitrator, coincidentally on the same day that she was placed on administrative leave. The trooper has the option to appeal the ruling within 30 days, but so far we haven't heard if he has done so. The deadline is March 21.

Earlier this week, I was thinking that I hadn't heard anything further from the senator or representative, so I was going to follow up. Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from Rep. Kay today letting me know that his resolution calling for an audit was being presented to the Illinois legislature today. He was disappointed that due to the late notice I would be unable to attend the hearing. He was hoping it would be heard next week, but it was moved up at the last minute. He did ask if he could read my letter into the record during the hearing, and I said "uh, hell yeah!" (Not really but my "of course" was said in a "hell yeah!" tone). He also stated that he hoped to begin work soon to amend the law, and he agreed with me that negligence should not be compensated, and assured me that I would have notice so that I could attend that hearing. The resolution passed 111-0.

Although I wasn't present for the hearing today, I hope to be when the laws are amended, and I can witness another positive result from my daughters' deaths.

Here is a list of all the articles the Belleville paper has written on this investigation.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

I had a conversation with Maddy just before her birthday in January. She was talking about how she would be turning 12 the following week, and I was teasing her and said now that she was getting older, she needed to start looking for a job. Then she said to me, “Kelli was 13 when she died, and I’ll be 13 in a year.” I said, “Yes, that’s true” and wondered where she was going with this. “And Jessica was 18, and was in college to do that PR thing.” “That’s right,” and then I said nothing more, waiting for her to take the lead.

After a few beats of silence, she stated “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. Jessica knew what she wanted to do, and Kelli wanted to be a vet. I don’t know.” I said, “Mad, there’s no deadline. What you want to do now may not be what you want to do later. Who knows if Kelli would still want to be a vet.” We talked a little more about it, then I said “I mean, look at me, I’m 42 years old and I still don’t know what I want to do.” “But you have a job,” she said, and I replied “Yes, I have a job, but that pays the bills and buys us groceries. It’s not what I want to do with my life.” Then she asked, “What do you want to do?” and I said, “I don’t know. I used to want to be a lawyer so I went to work for them. Then I had babies and stayed home for a while, but I had to go back to work, and I just never got the time to go back to school.”

She thought for a bit, then she said “Mom, I think when you can quit your job, you should do more of that speaking thing that you do with the police. I think it’s important that they hear you, and you’re good at it. That’s what you should do.” Taken aback, I said “you think?” She replied, “Yes, I do. And if you quit soon you can stay home with me this summer, and I can go with you when you talk to them.”

At that moment I was schooled by an 11-almost-12-year-old. She was right – I miss out on a lot of time with her because I have to work, and now more than ever I am so appreciative of the time I have with my family. I also love speaking to the police cadets and field officers because I feel that it is important for them to hear about Jessica and Kelli, and it makes me feel like I’m doing what I wanted to do all along – make sure they aren’t forgotten and make sure that their deaths weren’t in vain and that I hopefully change an officer’s mind about how they drive and perhaps save a life because of that change in perception.

Maddy went with me last week to the Southwestern Illinois Criminal Justice Summit and saw me give my presentation to over 250 officers, my largest audience to date. Then she stood next to me as dozens of officers came up to us to express their condolences and to tell me thank you for sharing my story with them. I exchanged contact info with several of them and will be speaking to their departments as well. I thought it was important that Maddy see exactly what I did, and also to see that the majority of the police officers are not like the one bad example she’s had to hear about for three years.

On the way home, I said “thank you for going with me.” She said “thanks for taking me, I learned a lot. I cried a little but I don’t know if it was because of what you said or because I was thinking about them while you were talking. But I liked what you said.” “So this is what you think I should do with myself,” I asked her and she said “yep, I do.”

So, at the ripe old age of 42-almost-43, I know what I want to do with my life. This Friday is my last day of work, and then I will be home with Maddy, and also be available to speak to police departments about Jessica and Kelli. I have four sessions lined up already and am working on scheduling more. Maddy and I also have made a list of things to do this summer.

I am thankful that I have the opportunity to do this, and I am also very aware that it comes at a high price. However, I think Jessica and Kelli would be proud of me and the work that I do in their honor. At least I hope so. I know Maddy is.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pics or It Didn't Happen

**I have sooooo much to report but between being sick, other developments and that work thing, I haven't had a chance to put it all together in a coherent manner. Stay tuned!**

On Monday we went out for a family Valentine's Day dinner. Since the weather was finally decent, and because it was a special occasion, I asked Maddy to wear her skirt. You know, the one she last wore on the first day of school back in August? Six months ago?

Even though we were on the phone I could hear her rolling her eyes. I swear, getting that kid to wear something other than t-shirts and running pants is like pulling teeth. I know, I know, it could be worse - she could be wearing skirts that show her whooda-whadda and tight shirts that show the outline of her belly button. But honestly, is it too much to ask that she wear one of the non-sports-related pieces of apparel that we bought, with her approval? Please???

As I was getting ready, she came in to show me that she had deigned to do as I asked and was indeed clad in her adorable denim skirt. "Cute! What shoes are you going to wear?" I asked. "My black Adidas with purple stripes." "Why don't you wear your Uggs?" (I know - I despise them and rail against them but she's a) 12 and b) not wearing them with shorts). She says, "really? That would be okay? You hate Uggs." "Maddy, they look cute on you, just try it," happy that she's even considering something other than an athletic shoe.

She put them on and then exclaimed, "I need tights!!" and ran off to her room. I proceeded to do the happy dance right then and there.

As we were leaving, she put on her Reebok jacket (of course!), so I went to the closet and pulled Jessica's peacoat from the closet. I swear when she put it on she became taller, older and more beautiful. And I thought to myself "here's your future, dumbass. Dress her up and give the boys a reason to follow her home." Those Nike pants and t-shirts are looking pretty good.
And so, for one night, Sporty Spice became Posh Spice.

After dinner, she put on jeans and went sledding. When she came in she told me she loved wearing tights because they kept her butt warm and dry while sledding. Ah, there's my Sporty Spice - glad you're back, kid.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What a Difference

Three years ago (!!) I wrote this post about Maddy's 9th birthday. There was a picture of her wearing one of her presents, a pink polka dot bathrobe.

Last week, she came in my room after her bath, wearing the same robe. Not surprisingly, it was considerably smaller on her than when we first bought it. I also happened to be going back through my blog, and had just re-read that birthday post. I showed her the picture and she laughed.

I had to take a picture just to see the side-by-side comparison of just how much she's changed in three years.


I see her everyday, but it's times like this that I realize just how much she has changed in such a short amount of time, and how much more we are in for in the coming years.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Turn The Page

Last night I was finally able to sit down and read my book that I last laid eyes on over a week ago. After last week's bombshell, it was a merry-go-round of spreading the news to family and friends, holding a press conference* to give our reaction, and also managing to fit in the day to day business of going to work, doing laundry, getting Maddy to basketball practice, and shovelling out from under a foot of snow.

The past few days have been pretty damn hectic but in a good way. I'm still in a bit of a shock that it's Really Almost Over. The huge hurdle of getting the decision has been cleared, and now we have to wait, again, but this time we have a better timeline by which things should end.

Of course, I am still using the words "wait," "should" and "timeline" since there is no specific date I can circle on the calendar in hot pink as something to look forward to. We've been told the paperwork to appropriate the award has been submitted to the legislature for their Spring 2011 session, and that it is usually paid out in late summer/early fall. But after almost a year of having no deadline whatsoever, vague generalities are a refreshing change.

In the meantime, I'm making my lists. All the ideas and plans I've been kicking around for the past three-plus years will finally have a chance to become reality. The scholarships, the foundation, the crusade to raise public awareness, the ability to tell my story to officers and first-responders from around the country - I can do this now.

Speaking of speaking - my first opportunity to address officers outside my metropolitan area will be next month. I was contacted by the Nevada Department of Public Safety shortly after my Today Show appearance, and I'll be travelling to Reno in February to address not only recruits, but also career officers. I was also recently contacted by an officer in Dallas, and hopefully I can work with their organization in the near future.

I'm starting a new chapter in my book of living, and I'm pretty damn excited about it.

*If you would like to watch my 2-minute press conference, click here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Light At The End of the Tunnel

For many people, November 23, 2007 was just another day. To me it was the day that delineates my life into Before and After. Before Jessica and Kelli were killed. Before our lives were upended. Before we were thrust into a role that no parent ever wants to play. Before we embarked upon this journey through a dark tunnel of sadness and despair, knowing that our beautiful daughters were forever gone.

For many people, January 18, 1999, was just another day. To me it was the day that my daughter Maddy came into this world, all 9 pounds 8 ounces of squalling little girl with spiky red hair.

And yesterday might have been like any other day for many, but for me it was not only Maddy’s 12th birthday, but the day that we finally got some light at the end of our tunnel. Today I got the phone call from my attorney that I’ve been waiting for since May 3, 2010. Today we received word that the Court had finally, after eight months and fifteen days of deliberation, reached a decision.

And just like I did on November 23, I experienced myriad emotions at once – shock, disbelief, sadness, and anger. Shock and disbelief that it could finally be over, sadness that the two of the people I want to call to tell my new won’t answer, and anger that we even had to do this in the first place.

But today I added a few emotions that I didn’t have on November 23 – relief, and a feeling that a bit of this weight is starting to lift off me. When I heard the news, I cried, but I think it was more along the lines of a release valve letting off pressure.

We still have a few hoops left to navigate, but now I feel like I’m holding the hoop instead of being the one to jump through it.

Nothing will ever make us whole again, but this decision gives us the ability to continue to fund the scholarships, to speak to officers and first responders about my daughters, to raise public awareness about pursuit safety, and to continue the good that I do in their memories.

To everyone who has attended the fundraisers, donated blood, conveyed their sympathy, thoughts and prayers, whether in person or through this blog, I am forever grateful for your support.

People ask me how I do it, and I usually reply “Vodka.” But that’s just my inappropriate humor at work – I get through this because I have such strong support from my family and from my friends, whether we’ve ever met face to face or not.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Any Excuse for New Shoes

On January 1, like millions of others, I decided that this year would be different. I was going to lose weight, eat better and exercise more often.

However, I can’t just say that to myself and expect to be successful. I need to be held accountable. I need someone (or several someones) to encourage me and push me. The last time I went public with my fitness goal was the Met Square stairclimb in March 2009. I trained with a friend and walked all 42 flights of stairs in a respectable time of 11 minutes. That’s also the last point I remember where I’ve really felt good about my body and my level of health. I’ve gained 20 pounds since then.

When I was younger, I hated running. When we had to run in gym class, I’d usually forge a note from my mom that I should be excused because I had malaria or something exotic. No, not really, but I wanted to.

Now I find myself, dare I say it, enjoying my time on the treadmill. I like watching the display show me how long I’ve ran and how far I’ve gone. I like setting the incline up high and working my badonkadonk. I know there are running purists who say running on a dreadmill isn’t the same as running outside, enjoying the fresh air, etc. Well, to you I say baby steps, people. I’m currently working on running for 15 minutes without slowing my pace to walk, and upping my pace from a 22 minute mile. Hell, I can walk a mile faster than that. Besides, there is snow on the ground and it’s cold outside now. Let me get to a point that I don’t embarrass myself before I go public with this running thing.

And so, because I can’t just run in my basement alone, oh no, I committed myself to running the St. Patrick’s Day 5 mile run in March. Oy. Vey. I was hoping for a 5K to start but as my running buddies pointed out, it’s just 1.8 miles more, piece of cake. Mmm, cake…

So! I have running buddies, I have a training sheet and I have two months from tomorrow to work up to this. I can do it. I want to do it. I feel good about it. Here I go!

Friday, January 7, 2011

If It Makes You Happy

After yesterday’s disappointment, I wanted to do something to shake off the bad and make me happy again. My first thought would normally be shoe therapy, but my wallet is pretty thin after Christmas, and a certain red-headed child has a birthday in a couple of weeks, so I have to fund her party, AND a present or two. The things I do for her, I tell ya.

Cooking makes me happy, so I decided to make a nice dinner, complete with dessert. I decided on chicken marsala, fettuccine alfredo, garlic bread and red velvet cake for dessert. From start to finish it took about 45 minutes, including the cake, but it was a mix. Yeah, I went quick and easy, but it was still delish. But if you want the recipes for the chicken and past, pop over here to that cooking blog I started, oh, about a year ago. You can even be jealous of my pasta pot that I got for Christmas.

Another thing that makes me happy is my little red-headed girl, because she says the funniest things sometimes, generally when she’s not trying to be amusing. As I was watching Reality Bites, she happened to wander through the living room. She watched for a bit then asked “when was this movie made?” I said “in the 90s, why?” Incredulously she asked, “Wow, they had Pringles back then?” I said “it was the 1990s, not the 1890s!” She replied “well, I didn’t know when they were invented!” Yes, Maddy, Pringle technology is cutting edge stuff.

Later, were talking about Star Wars, and she said “you know where the guy says ‘Luke, I am your faaaaaaather?’ Well, for a long time I thought he was saying ‘Look, I am your faaaaaather.’ I never understood why that was a big deal. Then last year I got it. ” Oh honey, you are so precious. Please never stop making me laugh.

And today this made me happy - THE BEST NEWS EVAH!!- the Star Wars movies are coming out on Blu-Ray DVD in September! Wheeeee!! I cannot wait and yes, I have preordered mine on Amazon (but only the originals – I don’t get into the prequels), and yes I am a geek. Just ask my husband – he tells me all the time. For example, we were talking about Star Trek and how the futuristic technology on the TV show has actually inspired a lot of our current gadgetry. I was getting into the conversation and I started to talk about how warp worked and whether we could ever experience it, and he interrupted and said “are you really explaining that to me?” “Yes, I thought you wanted to know.” He said “no, not really. You’re such a geek.” And then I hit him. But he still makes me happy, even though he thinks I’m weird.

Of course, you know shoes make me happy. Today I am featured on Jodifur’s Shoe Friday. These are the only flats that I own. I looked forever for flats that didn’t have bows or tassels on them. I figured if I was going to wear flats, they better be bad-ass, because that’s what I am – a bad-ass. ::commence all 10 of my readers to burst into hysterical laughter::

And now I’ve made you happy. My work here is done.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Different Approach

Over the past months, I have written several posts expressing my feelings about the lack of a decision in our court case. Generally I have written those posts mere minutes after I receive the news that there will be no news. Generally I am very angry at that time. Generally it takes me a day or two to rebound from the news, even though I know in my heart of hearts that I shouldn't let it get to me, I'm strong, I can survive another month of waiting, I've got a great support group, I've got vodka, I'll be okay. Eventually.

Today I'm writing before I hear the news. Maybe doing something different will help us get a different answer today.

The last time the court failed to come to a decision was December 6. We were told the next meeting was January 6. That's today.

After being devasted in December, I made a decision. I was not going to waste the next month worrying about it. I told myself that I could worry when I woke up this morning, and not a minute sooner. I even envisioned seven men and women in black judicial robes sitting in a room, and I imagined myself closing the door on that room and walking away. (Whether or not I stuck my tongue out at the door and made immature gestures as I left is between me and my brain).

The holidays helped to distract me, but it was harder to keep centered this week. However, when I found my thoughts wandering toward that door, I pictured it closed, double locked and barricaded. And I mentally walked away (calmly, with dignity and class. Kinda.) Amazingly enough, my chest pains ended up being fewer and far between over the past month. Survey says - Stress!! For the win!!

This morning, I allowed myself to open that door. I was nervous at first, but it quickly went away. I felt calmer this time. I had a few chest twinges, but by the time I left for work, I felt okay. I won't lie, I'm a little edgy. But nothing I can't deal with.

Famous last words, right? OMG! while writing this just now, my cell phone rang. I always take it out when I get to work, and put it on my desk on vibrate and of course today I forgot and it's playing Linus and Lucy at top volume and I know it's in here SOMEWHERE!!! AHA!- wait, who the hell is this - a frakin telemarketer. Are you kidding me? Great, I just dumped my purse on the floor under my desk for a sales call. So much for the do-no-call list - thanks a lot, Bin Laden.

I emailed my (incredibly patient, supportive and understanding) husband today and told him that I had been nervous but would probably wind up being pissed off by the end of the day. I also said I kind of wished I just started off pissed, because that's probably where I was headed. He replied that he didn't know if it was because he's getting used to the situation, but he wasn't expecting to be upset, that if anything he would be surprised when they made their decision.

And maybe that's where I am too. And it scares me, because as much as I'd like to say "whatever, court dudes, call me when you're ready," it makes me wonder if I don't care anymore. And I don't want to not care, because I do care, and I don't want to do my kids a disservice by becoming complacent about this. As much as I know it's not personal and tell myself not to take it as a personal attack when the court doesn't rule, I'm sorry but I do. It hurts, and it makes me angry that they are disrepecting my children by putzing around. It makes me angry that the trooper will probably get a ruling on his worker's comp case before we do. It makes me angry that we even have to go through this hell, and every month we're discovering a new and exciting circle of hell while we wait.

The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. I don't want to be indifferent to this. I hate this waiting.

ETA - just got word. No decision again. Next meeting is February 10.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


'Tis the season to neglect, apparently, since I intepreted the term "holiday" to mean "eat an entire bag of peanut brittle in one sitting," or "forget to include vegetables in your diet," or "put on your exercise pants because your jeans are too tight."

I'm an equal opportunity neglector. I didn't just neglect my health, oh no. My furniture is currently being protected from winter's harsh cold by an nice layer of dust. I think my carpets are being shielded in the same fashion by dog hair.

With the cold and snow, I've been wearing boots and closed-toed shoes. When I get home, I wear some of my new fuzzy socks*. Therefore, if I don't see my woefully chipped toenails, they don't exist, right?

I see epic house cleaning and a pedicure on the horizon.

Last night I realized that my rubber plant is down to one leaf. One. I overwatered it last month, and then as I let it dry out, I forgot to water the other 8 plants in my house. After I remedied that situation, I heard them sigh with relief, and then they thanked me and asked if I could kindly remember to give them a drink more often, to hell with the drowning rubber plant. I am a bad plant mommy.

So, like millions of other people, I resolved to eat better and exercise more. So far so good. But it's only Wednesday. Baby steps, folks. However, I already feel 100% better than I did during the last few weeks, but maybe it's because I got over my cold or maybe because I survived another Christmas, another birthday for Kelli, another month without my two blondies. I start another year, hoping that we will get a resolution sooner than later.