January 20, 2009: Brad Weisbond, my then-husband, had a laminectomy, a surgery for back pain, at the University of Chicago to biopsy a growth between T6 – T9 in his spinal cord.
February 18, 2009: We scheduled a second-opinion appointment with an oncologist at Northwestern University Hospital. He confirmed that Brad had a rare, stage three brain tumor in his spinal cord. His prognosis was 18 months to live.
February 22, 2009: My mother died in an intensive care unit a day after collapsing at home.
September 25, 2010: Brad developed osteomyelitis from an open wound. A surgeon removed his sacrum and sent him to a rehab center to recover.
October 24, 2010: Brad died for a few minutes in our living room. He had a near-death experience. (More about that story later.) I grabbed my phone and called 911. Brad came back into his body right before a bunch of first responders arrived at our home to cart him off to the emergency room.
November 23, 2010: At 2 am, Brad woke up screaming at the top of his lungs. I called 911. The first responders arrived and took him to the hospital.
January 13, 2011: I held Brad in my arms when he passed away at Our Holy Family Hospital.
October 17, 2011: My dad passed away from myelodysplastic syndrome.
February 2012: I accepted a job offer and moved to Sunnyvale, California.
August 2012: I gained a lot of weight and was diagnosed with adrenal exhaustion from extreme emotional stress. I was extremely tired - too tired to be concerned about anything in my life - and it was difficult for me to concentrate on much of anything.
January 25, 2013: A friend invited me to a book signing for a healer. They said my connection to my past prevented me from moving forward. They suggested I do a mourning ritual to help me let go of my suffering and move forward with my life. I felt something needed to shift, so I did what they suggested. During the ritual, I said an affirmation three times a day and wrote a letter to Brad and tell him everything I ever wanted to say to him. The length of the letter was immaterial. I just had to make sure it had everything in it that I wanted to say. For the rest of the month, I did what the healer instructed me to do.
February 25, 2013: I stood near a frozen pond and read my letter to Brad aloud to my therapist and my sweet dog, Schmoopy, as a blustery, cold wind blew into our faces. I could feel my throat closing as I read my letter while sniffling and wiping away the tears falling down my face. I realized this was my last letter to Brad. I hated going through the process of letting go, but I knew I had to do it. After I finished reading my 15-page letter out loud, we wrapped it in a paper bag and burned it.
That very evening, I felt amazing! My energy had begun to return, and I wanted to go out and do something. At that moment, I wished my close friends would have been with me at my burning ceremony, and we could have celebrated together afterward.
May 2013: I found scientific evidence that rituals can help people alleviate grief and feel more in control of their lives. My experience supported those findings. On a personal level, my health improved, my energy gradually increased, and I became interested in my life again. I slowly started working out and became excited about creating my next happiness.
September 2013: I hired a branding agency to assist me in creating my first gift box, 'The Boyfriend Bonfire Box.'
We launched The Boyfriend Bonfire gift box.
April 2016: Created the prototype for a Parting Tails gift box.
Mid-2016: I was searching for my purpose in life.
Every day, I walked my dogs and noticed a lot of robins around us. An obnoxious amount of robins, so I looked up their meaning, and I discovered that:
"Robins symbolize the stimulation of new growth and renewal in many areas of life. They will teach you how to incorporate new beginnings with faith and trust. It is time to sing your song. A new period in your life is about to begin. The energy of this bird will teach you how to move forward with grace, tenacity, perseverance, and assertion."
When I reflected on that information, I realized that my gift boxes offer people hope, and an opportunity to process their grief, renew themselves, and move forward to the next chapter in their life. Consequently, robins became the perfect name for my business.
I needed to buy a domain name for it. Robins.com was unavailable, so I had to get creative. I played with the spelling for robins and chose the domain name: robiins.
March 2017: I attended the 2017 Global Pet Expo. I met the founder of the Purina Pet Care Innovation Prize. He encouraged me to apply for their innovation prize.
September 2017: I created a prototype for a Loss of a Loved One gift box for the New York Life Insurance Company.
Andrea applied for the Purina Pet Care Innovation Prize.
I started to collect stories for the Always in Our Hearts Gift Box.
May 2019: I partnered with Life After Fetch, a pet cremation business, and we shared a booth at the 2019 Chicago Vet Show.
April 19, 2020: Bought a new house in Wilmette, IL
August 15, 2020: Aaron Tam and I were married in our backyard.
November 2020: Completed the prototypes of an Always in Our Hearts and Loss of a Loved One gift boxes.
August 1, 2021: Joined 2ndGlantz, a venture studio, to help me refine my go-to-market strategies and raise capital for my business.
November 19, 2021: My beloved dog, Schmoopy, passed away from congestive heart failure.
May 2022: Finished the Always In Our Hearts and Loss of a Loved One gift boxes.
June 2022: I was running my Robiin business out of my home in Wilmette, IL. However, I needed more storage and office space. In late May, my husband, Aaron, my stepdaughters, and I looked at a house for sale in Lake Bluff, IL. After seeing it, I noticed a robin's egg near the sidewalk by the front door. I tapped Aaron on the shoulder and pointed at it. We both looked at each other in amazement. I said, "This is a sign!" And he replied, "Apparently, this is our new home!" At that magical moment, we knew this was our new home. We made an offer on it that evening. We moved into it on June 11, 2022, and sold our house in Wilmette two days later.