Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Final Word...

Hey Babe,

I bet you're wondering why I haven't written in a long while.

I can't. I can't seem to force myself because with every word, I am reminded of the pain, of the shock, of the way my hands shook uncontrollably and that I honestly did not know how my next breath was going to come in those first few weeks.  So, I think this post will be my final word here.

I have written our story. It will soon be in print for our son and for our grandchildren to always know how truly complete our love story has made me feel. Our son will hold that love in his hands as he flips the pages and reads the words that love and loss etched within its covers. Our story is written on my heart and in my soul for the rest of my life.  No one can or will ever take that away from me.

The thing is, I thought that we had forever on this Earth to live and love and laugh and grow and fall into each other over and over again. Turns out, we do have forever, but it'll just take me a while longer to make it to you so that our real forever can start. People say that I can live again. They say I can love one day as well. I hope they're right in saying that my heart can be shared again. You will now, forever and always times infinity be the other half of my soul. We created a beautiful life and a beautiful son from our souls' ache for each other. When we met, I no longer felt emptiness. I no longer felt fear of the unknown, insecurities in my looks, in my abilities to be a perfect wife, a constant lover, or a great mom.  I never once held doubt for my future. I felt important and wanted and loved beyond measure and without cease. I know that was because you were born to become the other half of my soul. It took us one lifetime, lots of heartache and failure to make it to each other, but we did. And once we had each other, I held on with every ounce of my being, as did you.

But I have to share my heart again, Michael. It is so empty and needs to be filled with the love of a handsome man, whose hands are rough and gentle all at once, who looks into my eyes and sees the me that I have become and loves me without fail. My heart needs love. It needs breath and laughter and sunshine and to beat again. I feel as if it has not beaten since you took your final breath.

Our son needs me to smile and laugh and dream and live again. He is not handling your absence very well. The teenage years are difficult enough, and with losses that seem to multiply with time, all of those secondary losses we all suffer with such tragedy as a death, surmount on his shoulders and in his heart with each passing day.

So, if I'm going to do this...to make life again, to embrace the me that I have become since you left, I have to focus fully on our boy. I have to let you go to do that. I can't sit around and cry onto my keyboard as my soul pours into the pages with each key stroke. I will always talk to you, but I have to talk less. I have to cry less, I have to refill myself so that I can refill our son.  You were so much of me; every vein ran with love for you. You were behind every decision I made, whether it was what clothes I wore, what meals I cooked, how my spare time was spent, literally every decision revolved around you.

For two years, five months, and 12 days, every decision has still revolved around you. Would Mike like this outfit? Would he think I look ok? Would Mike be proud of the blog? Of the book? Of how I'm parenting without him? Would Mike be ok with the farm deal? Would he be angry that I've let him down or proud that I've done my best to ensure both boys have at least some of his dream? Would Mike be ok with me going back to teaching? I wonder if Mike would like that new restaurant in town? I bet he'd like this meal. And so on... never ceasing is my desire to please you, to receive affirmation that I'm the woman you still love.

But you cannot answer me, so I have to stop asking for your affirmation and I have to give it to myself. I have to seek it continually through prayer and conversations with God.

I have to step. As difficult as it is to take that step, I have to. So much of me doesn't want to; so much of me wants to stay wrapped up with a ghost, talking only to you, loving only you...avoiding people, avoiding life. I haven't interacted with people any more than I'm forced to at work in almost 2 1/2 years. I have avoided family functions, declined invitations to fun activities with friends, refused to GET UP and DO SOMETHING. I have spent more hours in this stupid recliner, looking at your Marine Corps picture, your Flag, our family photo than I should. I have spent more hours curled up in bed because the depression won't relinquish its grip.

And you know what? Because of my selfish desires to continue grieving, our son has suffered. Both of us have gained unwanted and unhealthy weight. Both of us have become "hermits" as often as possible, or at least we have become people who do not care or try to include others in our world. I think that in our minds, since we took such a devastating blow of losing you--our hero, our love, our best friend, our perfect family--we are safest with only each other. As long as I know Conner is ok and as long as he knows momma is ok, then we don't need one other person in our lives and in our grief.

But this hasn't been life. This has been torture. This has been painful beyond measure, lonely without borders. I love you so much, Michael. I do. My gosh I wish this was all a dream because I would just pick right back up where we left off..."hey babe, I made cinnamon rolls if you wanna come by and get some. Whatcha want for dinner? Be careful today, I love you."

But, you are never coming back. You are never holding me again, kissing me good morning, wrapping me up in your arms at night, sharing dreams and a future with me. You are never coming back.

That sentence is the most difficult to exist, but it has to. I love you endlessly and hopelessly with my soul. But if God gives me the opportunity, I have to try to love someone else endlessly and hopelessly with my heart...and that's going to start with our son and myself. I'm going to pour all of me that is left into us. I know that I've written before that I have to make changes and that change is coming, but this time I feel it in my bones. I mean, huge changes ARE coming...the farm, my job, finances (yikes), our health...I'M changing them.

And a teeny tiny part of me feels empowered by that. A new friend told me the other day "you are an independent woman, maybe some of that is by necessity but some is not. You get things done." He is right. I have HAD to learn how to bush-hog, to cube cattle and get them to move. I have HAD to pay bills I've never paid before. I have HAD to make arrangements for vehicle maintenance and foot the bill all by myself. I have HAD to mow and weed eat and power wash. I have HAD to get tough and cut some ties. I have HAD to learn to repair things on my own and learn to operate things on my own. I have HAD to rise from bed early, not stop the entire day between work, parenting, and housework, then go to bed exhausted beyond belief. I have HAD to breathe and to live without you.

But part of my newfound independence is not because of necessity, but because a part of it has fostered its own growth from all the necessary things I've had to do on my own. It has taken its own time in building within me.  So much of my independence now, at almost 2 1/2 years of suffering through grief, many things I do, say, think...are not from necessity.

My writing has not been from necessity but because it's me. The new me has become independent and I have actually grown quite accustomed to doing what I want, without making sure it's ok with you first. I am beginning to be ok with the new me, which is bringing back some parts of the old me before I became "Mike's wife and Conner's mom".

I am excited about singing again. I haven't sang in almost 2 1/2 years; I haven't found the joy in it and my voice is not as strong. I guess from the lack of communication and interaction with people has left my confidence lacking. But this week, I'm playing music again with some of our friends and I cannot wait to sing! I am excited to be back in that moment, in the lyrics and melodies and harmonies, to sing love songs about you. To sing songs about moving forward.

I'm excited that today we are going to the river with Jessica and Jeanna. We are going to laugh and have so much fun with them and I cannot wait to just go be with other people, with actual HUMAN INTERACTION!!!

We have joined the gym in town and I'm excited about it! I'm actually excited about a stupid rowing machine, a weight machine, a bike! I made a playlist and bought a new sports bra! Lol... I'm ready!

I'm excited about new foods to try, new places to visit, creating "my world" again in my new classroom. I'm excited about a widowed community meet and greet in July with my widow sister, Angie. I'm excited about traveling to Colorado this summer with our friends Melissa and Justin! I'm excited about bush hogging my dadgum hilltop!

I'm excited about returning to a ROUTINE with church! Pastor Dave and his wife Heidi are amazing--you would really love them! I've neglected my relationship with God lately, avoiding His house often because every visit brings tears and pain. But my visits will be about joy and excitement and hope from here on out!

I'm excited and proud that I have driven all over the place, to Chicago even! On my own! No shared driver! Whoop whoop!

I'm excited to watch Reagan and Alyssa turn into these amazing people right before my eyes. Alyssa is going to be a junior next year and wow, is she stunning. And Reagan, my goodness you'd have so much fun with this one! She is wild and sweet!

I'm excited about all the talks my sister and I have had over the past 2 1/2 years; the relationship those difficult and painful conversations have brought a closeness we now have that is never going to end. She has listened to me sob so many times and she never tells me to stop or to suck it up. She listens. She understands. She loves me through it.

I'm happy about and proud of the changes to our home that I've made on my own. Of course, they were all changes you wanted as well, but by golly I did them. I didn't just talk about them, I followed through with them and you'd love it.

I'm becoming more comfortable as an independent me. I can go out with friends at the drop of a hat if I so choose. The boy and I can take a quick overnight to Springfield or Cape just for fun if we want to. I have cleaned this house, I have mowed this yard, I have bush hogged this farm, I have power washed this house, I have moved and fed cows, I have fixed fence, I have cleaned and organized the shed, I have buried an old burn hole with the tractor, I have found small successes by myself, doing all the things you should be here to do. Part of me is sad about the necessity of those things but part of me is proud of the things I've accomplished on my own. And I hope you are proud too.

I have felt like I've been on trial each step of the way, almost as if others are watching, waiting in the sidelines for me to trip and fall. They may have seen me fall several thousand times over the past 2 1/2 years without you, but by God's Grace, they have also seen me get right back up, dust off, "pull my big girl panties on" and keep moving.

I love you, husband. I miss you. But I have to stop living in the pain, in the regret and loneliness. I have to continue growing into the new me. So I have chosen not to blog anymore, or at least that is the plan. I accomplished my goal with this blog. I told the world how much I love you. I told the world how painful your death has been. I told the world how grateful I am to The Lord for never giving up on me. I told the world that they too can survive such immeasurable loss, if they just hang on to hope. I'm not sure if I'll ever choose to come back to the blog or not, but I will choose to come back to life. And I'm excited about that.

Please don't ever forget that I now, forever and always times infinity love you. But it's time for me to go love myself and maybe if I'm lucky again, I'll love someone else along the way.
Love, Your Wife
#stillhis

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Our Boy is 13...

Dear Conner,

Today is your day, Bub. The big 13!!!! I can't believe it!! Momma cannot believe that you are so grown up!  The day you were born every dream I had ever had came true. I held your tiny little body in my hands and whispered how much I had longed for you. I had prayed for you. I had wanted nothing more in life than to be a mom, to be your mom.

You have grown so much in the past 13 years and even more in the last two years, four months, and 19 days since we lost your daddy. I am so incredibly proud of you. You are a wild, ornery, silly little boy who has the wisdom beyond any measure of age. You have learned to accept loss. You have learned to move forward in small steps even if you take a few steps back after. You have learned to never give up on me.

Conner, you have carried more on your young shoulders than anyone should have to. You have held your momma's hand while we prayed, held her close while we cried, and promised her things will get better over and over again. You have been momma's saving grace. I am more proud of you and of the young man you are becoming, and of the man I know you will one day be. You have so much of your father in you and I smile with memories every time I see or hear another little glimmer.

You are so creative, son, just like your daddy. Your artwork is phenomenal and I love that it is your therapy, like writing is for me. You are so funny, in that subtle and witty way that I crack up at every time you just come up with something on the fly. Your love of music comes from us both. Your smile is a mix of each of our dimples and that makes your smile stellar.

Your gentle heart that breaks when you watch a sad movie, hurts when someone you love is sick or hurting, that misses your daddy so much...is the most powerful piece of you. It is what will help you continue in your path of healing. On your path toward manhood. You make me so in resibly proud that my heart could burst!!!!

I am SO beyond blessed to be your mom and I love you MORE THAN WORDS!!!!

Happy 13th Birthday my baby boy. Daddy and I love you and hope your day is amazing, just like you!

Love, Mom







Thursday, April 20, 2017

Grateful...

Last week I accepted a position to leave administration and return to teaching.
I made this decision after much deliberation and prayer.

For weeks, no months, I prayed to The Lord, "God, whatever is Your Will for our lives, whether that is a new job, a new house, a new town, whatever...please slap us in the face with it. If that is what we need for Conner to start doing better and healing, then we want to know.

I prayed that I could not do this on my own anymore. I can't make these tough decisions anymore all by myself, so I asked that I be slapped in the face, kicked in the throat, whatever method He needed to use, to let me know what the heck I'm supposed to do!!!

The reason I began this prayer and kept with it for months is because our son, our perfect little boy, is still so completely broken. His anxiety and depression has worsened in year two. His grades have slipped. His social interactions are very limited and almost completely nonexistent many days. He freaks out every time I have to leave for work, whether that is a game to travel to, a meeting off campus, or even sometimes a meeting on the opposite end of campus. His separation anxiety has increased a thousand fold this second year.

So, I feel that with leaving administration with its demands of my time, mental and emotional availability, and energy level, I can be more PRESENT for my son. He needs me. I don't think he will begin to heal until I can help him heal.

This decision has not been taken lightly.
I have shed many tears over it.
I have talked to my husband's stone many times about it.
I have discussed it with my family for months and sought advice; didn't follow all of it (sorry Mer).

But I know in my heart that God placed this decision upon me because He knows it's the right move, no matter how much I'll miss being the first female principal of my high school.

I have built so many meaningful relationships in my time at a East Carter.
I have worked diligently to try being the best principal my staff, my students, my building has ever seen.
I have tried my best.

I have laughed about work more times than I can't count!
I have cried about work more often that I wish I had.
I have talked to my husband about work, and wished so much he was here to talk me off the ledge many times!

But through it all, I have felt nothing but grateful and blessed. It's just that even though I felt blessed, Conner has not. He has regressed and so I must make this change for his well-being. God placed me there for a reason.
He helped me build my confidence in my abilities to lead a building.
He helped me influence a few kids along the way. (MOSTLY positive...lol)
He helped me build lifelong friendships with people who have become family.
He brought me people who grew to love me, even if they doubted my abilities in the beginning of this journey.
He brought me people who care about me and my son, who have cried with us and laughed with us.
He brought me experience as a leader so I know when I'm ready, when my son is ready, I can return to administration knowing I have what it takes.
He brought me so many blessings these past two years that I will never be able to recount them all.

So, this decision has been so difficult to make, knowing that I will miss my role as principal.
I will miss my staff.

I'll miss picking on Levi about being a Greek god and also his support for my son, and also his sass back to me and his lunch he sometimes eats in my office. Also his stories about his girlfriend. I think he's smitten.

I'll miss harassing  Jordan about always saying fat jokes or no date jokes around me, and his hard work to make the athletic programs rock. Also his OCD is as bad as mine so that's cool.

I'll miss Ed's farm stories and basketball stories. I'll miss ghis sense of humor and his excitement about having the same student three hours in one year.

I'll miss Kim's support and sense of humor (she helps me fight with Jordan and Levi), and absolutely everything she has done for that office and the entire building!

I'll miss Kendra's eagerness to build a music program and kids' self esteem, and her awesome dance moves. Also her helpful personality for all staff.

I'll miss Mary Jo's super cool art projects that she lets me be a part of. I'll also miss her excitement when it comes to talking about ideas for art.

I'll miss Julie's calm demeanor and pleasant smile that makes everyone feel welcome, and her desire to work hard at making the math program better.

I'll miss Beth's laugh and her incredible work ethic to bring the best to our kids. Also her mom's cookies will be missed even though Brett only brought them to me once. And I'll miss her running away from Katy's hugs.

I'll miss Jamie's super fun and loving personality and her laughter and fun loving attitude. I'll miss her support and listening to me talk about my husband.

I'll miss Daniel's support when he comes in and listens to my stories and listens while I cry. I'll miss his constant reminders that I've done a good job.

I'll miss Kelly's sass and her mispronunciation of words (debacle), and her excitement for Science. I will not miss the thought of dead pigs for dissection or the AIMS trip discussions. I'll also miss her stories and her support.

I'll miss Deana's amazing ability to bring life and so much awesomeness to the library for our kids. I'll miss her thoroughness in making sure she's doing a good job.

I'll miss Rae Jean's willingness to always lend a helping hand to anyone and everyone, to cover when needed without one complaint. Also her sense of humor about pregnancies.

I'll miss Sean's epic weird music playing loudly in the mornings to get kids energized, and also his willingness to "babysit" my son while I've dealt with discipline or something. Also for flying drone sounds with my son.

I'll miss Tony's sass and his fights with Brooke over leaving each other out of tags on Facebook. Also his desire to learn and do a good job for our kids. Also his meatball lunch he brings is pretty Eli's (thanks you Tony's

I'll miss Brooke's eyes and hair (mostly for my sister) and her seeet personality and work ethic. I'll miss her laughter and super fun attitude, also her support and love.

I'll miss Suzi's stories of fiddling and her desire to advocate for her kids through every step. I'll miss her quirky emails that crack us up...she always finds the best memes!

I'll miss Sara's support and sweet smile and attitude, and her eagerness to grow as a teacher. I'll also miss her baby belly but can't wait to hold that sweet baby girl!

I'll miss Katy's epic dance moves and her hugs and her kisses and her songs and her signs in the hall. Also her morning sass and her creative activities she does that make or kids love reading.

I'll miss Kris' humor that sneaks in at the last minute and gets everyone laughing so hard. Also all of his hard work for anybody who needs a job done somewhere on campus.

I'll miss Laura's drive to fight for what her kids need, And her knowledge in so many areas of shook from credits to online classes and more. Also her advocating and working hard to help my little boy survive the year.

I'll miss Pride's politeness and his drive to build the music program to its full potential. Also his sense of humor and willingness to help out any way he can.

I'll miss Kevin's laughter, quirky smile (Elvis), his support, his awesomeness as a counselor, his test organization skills (no debacle...lol) and his help in getting my little boy through the year.

I'll miss Dave's and Susie's positive attitudes and willingness to be "fix everything when it needs fixed" kinda folks! They both always smile when I see them and they make our buildings run!

I'll miss the sweetest breakfast and lunch crew around!!! You ladies always make our staff and our kids feel loved! I'll miss Leanna and Vickie and the support you give every student and staff member!

I'll miss my admin team. The ladies of the group--Danielle, Kacie, and Theresa...I have learned SO MUCH from the three of you that I'll never be able to retell it all. Thank you for welcoming me into your team and helping me grow as an educational leader. I love you! We are "Dr S' Angels"! Always!

So, the decision has been difficult because I'm leaving behind so many things and people I love. But I have to give all of myself for my son until he can heal through his grief. I know my staff understands, but their sweet messages, cries, and words of encouragement sure making leaving hard to do.

I love you all SO SO SO SO much and will forever be Grateful for the two years I served as your leader.

And to my kids...you'll ALWAYS be my kids. Each and every one of you. I'll miss yelling from the end of the hall for you to go to class! I'll miss watching you play ball. I'll miss tutoring those who I can (no math!). I'll miss watching you "get it" and take a step toward your future. I'll miss the laughs we share in the hallways. I'll miss the high fives you give me, the candy you earn when you tell me something new you've learned, and so much more.

YOU ARE INCREDIBLE AND STRONG AND SMART AND CREATIVE AND FUN AND AMAZING AND GOOD. I am proud of EVERY.SINGLE.ONE of you!!! Remember that a mistake is just a mistake and a test score is just a test score, and neither define YOU. Your smile, your soul, your heart, your drive...those define you.


I love you #EastSide and am proud to have been your Principal. Now, let's finish the year strong!!!!

**disclaimer--if I've missed someone, PLEASE know it is only because I am crying through this post and this my brain is not working fully** and I hope everything is spelled correctly because it's hard to see it all through tears 😭😭😭😭

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Reflections on the Water...



The ocean quiets my soul long enough to sit and think about my Mike uninterrupted. He was such a good man, rough around the edges and sometimes difficult to live with, but gentle enough on the inside that he made me fall in love harder and harder as the years went by.

Mike and I fought sometimes, most definitely, and some of those fights were scary enough that I wasn't sure our marriage would stand the test of time. But we amazed each other over the years and our resilience and pure commitment to each other made us who we were. What did stand was our love for each other and our desire to fight through the rough waves to get to the smooth waters.

Widowhood is like that huge wave that you don't expect. The one that knocks your legs from under you, no matter how stable you think your footing is. See, if you've never been to the ocean, I'll paint you a picture.

It is pure rawness. It is beauty at its highest, with the sound of the waves crashing; the softness of the white sand beneath your feet. It is warmth and a breeze that tickles your skin the entire time. It is the sun reflecting its power off the water and nothing but blue beyond the horizon.

And then sometimes it is scary. When the rip tide comes or the waters are choppy beyond the shoreline, it can be a very intimidating place to be. Those days cause me to watch my son like a hawk while he's out in the water. We've only visited the ocean theee times, but all three times have brought both the beautiful and the scary parts of this force God has created on our earth. The waves are powerful many days and they knock people down left and right.

Widowhood is much like the ocean in its hateful determination to knock you down,  and in its raw power.

Sometimes, when the waves are high and powerful, I can't catch my breath when the grief comes washing over my firm footing. Just when I think I'm doing better and I may be healing, I'm knocked down again and the sadness, loneliness, guilt and fear wash over me while I struggle to stand again.

And while some days the ocean and the waves make me smile and laugh, other times I shudder at the magnitude of its effect on its visitors. It is sometimes a love-hate relationship. It will change you if you let it. In more than just a figurative way. It can change you literally, whether your skin becomes burned, your leg becomes pained from a jellyfish sting, or something more. And it can change you internally from an ocean hater to an ocean lover, or vice-versa. Widowhood is similar, in that it changes us. Definitely on the literal front.

I have definitely become an ocean lover from my three visits these past two years. But widowhood brings no love. We definitely have a full on hate relationship.

I hate being a widow.
I hate being alone and lonely.
I hate the ache that persists in the pit of my stomach every single day.
I hate that some people look at my pictures and I'm smiling and laughing so they think I'm "ok" and happy all the time.
I hate the huge bills he left me to pay alone, fearful of never being able to get away from them, just like Mike couldn't get away from them.
I hate solo parenting and always second guessing myself, never having someone to bounce ideas off of.
I hate the struggles my son faces every single day, whether it's the anger, the sadness, the loneliness, the guilt, the disbelief, or the fear.
I hate that I can't fix it.
I hate that others want to judge many widows' decisions or life moves.
I hate that my son and I take these trips alone...and I don't mean completely alone but even with a crowd, we feel alone without Mike.
I hate that I fear I'll never know love again.
I hate that I don't know the best move sometimes and that I feel like a failure.
I hate that I cry in the middle of anywhere, anything, and with anyone.
I hate being a widow.

But I sure do love the ocean. I just wish he was here beside me, watching this beautiful creation wash over the sand.

I miss you and love you now, forever, and always times infinity, Michael Richard. You were stronger than the waves crashing around me, and could have helped me stand when one came washing over. We need your strength.
We need you.
But since God was ready for you to go Home, we'll fight through the waves that knock us down, until we get to smoother waters.
Until then...
#stillhis
Love, Veronica

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Letting Go is SO Hard to do...

Today was an excruciating day.

Conner and I spent much of the day riding around the farm, taking picture of all of our favorite places and saying "goodbye".  My heart broke so many times over and over today; we had to stop riding a few times for me to cry, as the tears were blinding me.  We are selling much of the farm and no one in this world realizes the pain I am struggling with.

I feel sorrow...
loss...
sadness...
desperation...
anger...
betrayal...
cheated...
like a failure...
inadequate...
lonely...
scared...
unsure...

When Mike and I first began he was living on a 182 acre farm. I loved that farm.  We began there. We began our family there.  We had our first date there.

I loved that farm.  We chased cows on that farm, watched baby calves come into the world, talked about our future, and built our dreams.  We laughed until we cried, survived a few health scares, made more love fill that small single-wide trailer than the walls could hold.  We cried and fought and learned we would have our own baby while living on that farm.  Tristan told me he loved me for the first time at that farm, and that was huge for me as a stepmom.

But Mike wanted more.  He always wanted more.  He complained to me that I was the one who had to "keep up with the Jones'" for wanting nice vehicles, nice clothes, vacations, etc...  But he never saw it that way with his farm dream.  So, after a few years together, he purchased this huge 1200 acre farm from his cousin.  For a couple of years he drove about 40 minutes one-way twice a day to check cows, especially during the winter and flooding months.  I wanted him to sell, to give up on this place.  It was too big.  He was never home.  But, he wanted it and there was no telling my husband, the former Marine who still had the "I'm always right AND invincible" concept drilled into his brain, no.  If I said no, he pushed harder.

So, he bought it and worked it for a few years.

Finally, we were able to move to the big farm.  We moved in the cold winter month of February one year.  He just decided it was a day to move, even with snow on the ground.  So we did.  Me, him, and Conner.

Mike worked so hard on this farm.  When we took it over, it was grown up in many places.  Fences were old and ragged; bush hogging had not been done regularly; lots of wooded areas needed cleared to create more pasture for the cattle; and more.  So Mike worked.  And he worked and worked and worked some more.  I helped with what I could; the boys worked alongside their dad as often as they could.  I made bologna sandwiches for the workers, cooked too many meals to count when the sun had set and the farm hands were still going strong beside Michael.  I made so many jugs of sweet tea that I lost count.  I drove a tractor when he asked me to and sometimes showed up just to surprise him with a kiss and an "I love you and am proud of you."

When Mike died, the debt left behind was too much for me to handle.  I knew the big farm was still indebted but did not register that the payment was more than I was making at the time...like 2 times more than what I was making.  It is a little more than what as a high school principal I now make in a year.  A couple of weeks after he passed, and I learned that even more was indebted elsewhere, literally every inch of ground, every piece of equipment, cow...literally there was not one thing for which I didn't owe.

I knew then and I know now that I cannot handle it.  Plus, it was not deeded properly for me and the boys to "be ok", so we have been in Probate Court for almost the full two years he has been gone.  So knowing that I could not swing a payment of this size, I made a deal in court to sell it, or much of it.

So, today, with the sickening realization (really hit me like a ton of bricks at school the other day when my lawyer called saying we are close to finalizing and finishing up in court) that most of the farm will no longer be ours, Conner and I rode around to many of our favorite places to say goodbye. And let me tell you, it hurt.  In every ounce of me the ache radiated. A finalization washed over me and I shook as I drove.  My heart literally hurt.

Hot tears streamed down my face all day.
I cried so hard I couldn't catch my breath many times.
I took pictures and tried to pull in every last ounce of love that my husband left here for me.
I drove to all of our most favorite and memorable places and every turn brought a torrent of memories.

No one realizes the absolute desperation I had to get to in order to agree to sell.

I wanted to keep it.
I wanted to work it.
I wanted to maintain its beauty.

I did for a while.  Had cattle, worked them myself, moved them myself, fed them and made sure they were good at least twice a day.  I mowed fence rows, worked on everything I could myself.  Asked for help when I had to have it, and didn't when I could swing it on my own.

And then a vet bill came.  Another vet bill.  A gas bill for fuel tanks, a bush hogging bill, the fence stopped working (it's electric), cows got out...and out again...and again...and again...and so on...  So, with complete despair in my fingers, I typed an email to my lawyer and said I don't have a choice.  I can't pay the payment and I can't manage it on my own.  I am a solo mom, a full time principal, and haven't all the skills and time I need to do it.

If I did, I would have to work like my husband did...which meant I would go to school, work more than full-time (that's what principals do), and then come home, change clothes, and work until 10:00 p.m. just to make a dent.  Then I would have to dedicate my weekends to the farm and would never get to spend time with my son.  I would have to take on another job just to help pay a farm hand just to work a small amount of time to help when I was otherwise engaged for school.

I would never see my son.
I would never have a moment's rest.
I would never be able to stop...

Just like him.

He never saw us.
He never rested.
He never stopped.

Until it killed him.

So, with that email, I made a decision that was against every fiber of my being.  My soul, my gut, my heart ached with the stroke of the keys.

So, yes, for those of you who are wondering, I have sold most of the farm.  I was encountered by someone a month ago at a basketball game who said, "heard you sold the farm...that's good."

NO.
No it's not good.
Not one bit of it.
So, don't tell me it's good.
Don't tell me you're glad for me.
Don't tell me that things will be easier and better now.
No to all of it.
I didn't do this because I wanted to, or because it will make things better or easier.
I did it because I didn't have a choice.

Mike didn't leave me with one.

So, today we went to say goodbye and I captured pictures of some of our favorite places that soon we will no longer be able to visit.  There will literally be a fence cutting through the farm, through my husband's dream.  And I can't do a damn thing about it.

Each picture I'm sharing has a story.  A memory.  A piece of my heart and soul.


This one is of a stack of rock I remember Conner, me and his dad climbing when Mike had bought me my very first digital camera.  We climbed to the top and somewhere I have a picture of Mike and Conner on the edge, smiling form ear to ear.  


Here is our boy about to climb through the narrow passageway to get to the rocks from where he and his daddy sat for pictures.
  

 He made it to the top! :)


Many deer seasons have been spent atop this hillside. 
  

I remember searching these woods for Mike's cousin's deer one year; it was windy and warm that day.


This is the spot I took some of my favorite senior pictures: those of my stepson, Tristan.


Mike and I sat here one day watching the boys ride the four wheeler down the hill.  We loved watching Tristan and Conner together. 


I remember when Conner was tiny and we were in the truck with Mike; Conner was scared to go down this hill. He would hang on to Mike's arm and say, "be careful Dad...I don't like thee rocks."


He sure does look like his daddy in that MRWA coat and sock cap...Mike's normal attire in winter.



Across the huge hay field sits a stack of tarp-covered hay bales.  I remember watching Mike and his workers cover them with tarps and hang tires from them.  I hated when he bought those tarps.  They were so expensive!


We had to stop and smile a while.  I'm wearing Mike's jacket and deer hunting sock cap; the boy is wearing daddy's coat and black sock cap.  


Me and the boy sitting atop the same rocks he and his dad sat atop years ago for pictures. 


I have always had a love/hate relationship with this creek bed.  Some summer it has been deep enough for us to use as a river.  Other times it is bone-dry.  One summer we had such a terrible flood that I pulled up to it to find it raging like the Mississippi and Mike's truck was parked right at the edge of the flood. I remember being scared to death to find his truck and not him that time.  I thought we had lost him then.  I cried such tears of relief after he called and said he had swam across several times to try and save some calves and he was at his cousin's house.  He was soaking wet when we got to him, tired from fighting flooded waters, and needed a beer and dry clothes. 


One summer this was deep enough that Mike dug out a little more with the backhoe to allow Conner and some of his buddies to swim.  We love the Spring Branch.


Here he is smiling at the memories.  


Conner has always loved finding cool rocks in the dry bed.



Gosh he is handsome and we will miss these rocks.  That may sound stupid, but we will.


A "stove" Conner and our old farmhand Matt built one day not too long after we lost Mike.  Matt and our other farmhand Kevin were God sends for me and Conner those first few months.  They stepped in to be big brothers when Conner needed them the most.  They played cards with him, roamed the farm with him, slept in his bed while he slept with me, and more.  


We call this spot the "Hole in the Rock" Field.  It isn't quite a cave, but Conner and his daddy sure did like to pretend it was big when he was little.  He stood in it today and could almost reach the top.  He has grown so much.


Mike always loved this old rock wall.  He admired the amount of work that had to have gone into it hundreds of years ago.  This rock wall runs from one point of the creek to a barn we call the Kinnard Barn. It stands beside an old two story farm house filled with small stairs, beautiful old windows, and stories we will never know. 


Ice formed at the base of the Spring Branch.  


This cave is the last spot we had family pictures. My sister and her family came to the farm and we took turns taking each other's family photos.  I have a picture of the four of us, back when we were whole, kneeling in front of the cave opening.


On this rock is where my husband sat, and wrapped his arms around me for a picture.  The boys sat on either side of us.  It was a beautiful fall day and I will cherish our photos forever. We didn't get many family ones taken, so it was nice to have a couple framed.  They are still on our walls.


We ended our trip with a smile today.  It was difficult to muster our smiles through our tears today but we did.  Letting go is so hard to do and neither of us wants to.  It is almost like letting go of much of the farm means letting go of Mike, letting go of our dreams we shared.  And it kills me.

Today was a difficult day.  The farm deal isn't final yet, as we haven't had a court date.  But it will be soon. Mike's dream will be mostly out of my hands.  We will have some acreage left, don't worry, but it will be so small in comparison and getting my son to realize he will no longer be able to wander wherever he wants has been difficult to do.  He doesn't want to accept it.  I don't want to accept it.  

Many more memories exist on this farm, in pictures in our hearts, not the ones I can take with a camera.  Not the ones I can post for the world to see.  But the real memories are ones that you can't photograph. 

They are the smiles, the wrinkles, the laughs, the stars, the stories shared in the seat of a pickup truck. They are the calloused hand that rested on the window sill and the warm summer air that blew through the cab of a truck.  
They are the sun baked skin on the back of his neck from hours spent driving the tractor through the hay field.  
They are squeals of delight from my niece as she touched the cold water of the creek the one summer we used it as our river.  
They are the screams of my oldest niece and son as they jumped from the cliff above the Spring Branch, and the sounds of splashes made when they landed.  
They are the winds that blew through my hair on a summer evening as my husband brushed it from my face long enough to tell me how beautiful he thought I was and to kiss me and thank me for being his wife and for loving him.  
They are the grins and smiles that adorned our son's face whenever he was "mudding" in the field on the four wheeler.  
They are in the sounds of family that spent every Fourth of July here. 
They are the sounds of cows bawling to their babies and the babies bawling back.
They are the old country songs that played through the radio in the truck for the hours we rode around.
They are in the secret moments a husband and wife shared, in the dreams we shared, in the life we built, and in the love we made and grew.  

My gosh I miss him.  

#stillhis
Love,
Veronica









Sunday, February 19, 2017

All That We Were...

Man, I miss him.
I miss all that we were for 13 years.
I am sitting on my front deck with the warmth radiating across me, but sadness still riddles my heart.

Used to on days like today I would be with him. Conner and I would find Mike wherever he was.
We would ride with him to check cows, the windows down and old country songs playing.
We would take a rare Ranger ride to the top of a hill somewhere on the farm and look across what he was trying to build for us.
We would pack a lunch and take it to him at a concrete job or at that God forsaken concrete plant.

I used to be happy. Back when we were all that we were.

My son used to be happy.

He is experiencing a ton of aggression lately. He is angry about so many things.
The loss of much of the farm builds anger inside Conner partly at his dad for leaving us unable to handle it, and partly at me for being unable to handle it.
The absence of his hero and best friend rips his guts open on an hourly basis. I'm not his dad. I'm not that rough and tough "let's go fix fence" kinda parent for him. Can I fix fence? Well yeah, but I only did it when my husband was here.
I'm not his dad. I can't be his dad and do Guy things with him all the time.
I'm not his dad. I can't tell him manly things or share those guy jokes he and his dad used to share.
I'm not his dad.
I'll never be.
And I'll never understand what it's like for my son.
I'll never know the amount of hurt he feels on a daily basis, but I do know it's excruciating.

He used to be happy.
He used to laugh and be carefree and play.
He used to love the farm and he still does, but he also hates it sometimes too because it's just not the same anymore.

All that we were was a family.

We no longer are whole.
We very rarely get to see or talk to Conner's brother. It is terribly difficult and sad. But we can't force it. So we don't. A relationship has to come naturally and I pray to God that one day it will. We love him. We miss him.

Without Mike we fell apart.

We all still fall apart.

Grief still visits like a thief in the night. It bashes us over the heart with a club and robs us of peace. It happens all the time.

I didn't know grief would still be our constant companion two years later. How naive I have been.
Grief has robbed my son of his childhood.
It has robbed both of us of a family and of happiness.

And even the simplest of moments are filled with pain and loneliness.

All that we were is gone.
And as hard as we try, we will never be the same.
We will never go back.
We will never be whole.

I miss love.
I miss being loved.
I miss romance.
I miss safety.
I miss happiness.
I miss my son's happiness.
I miss my family.

I miss all that we were.

#stillhis

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Widow's Role(S)...

Do what YOU want.
Become who YOU want to be.

It's so easy for outsiders to say.

Did you forget who you were before you were his wife? Did you lose yourself in being his wife and/or a mom? Did you fall right into your roles so happily and fully that they engulfed and became you?

Well I did all of that. I forgot about being Veronica because I was so insanely good at and happy with being Mike's Wife and Conner's Mom.

At 23, I was a divorced first-year teacher. I soon became a girlfriend.

Within two years I fell into the role of Farmer's Wife and made the best jugs of sweet tea and packages of bologna sandwiches you'd ever see. I fell into the role of Mike's Wife with grace and ease, after a few years of hard work. Everything ran like a well-oiled machine and I was happy doing it all. I fell into the role of Conner's Mom the day I learned I was pregnant with him. This role has made me the happiest of all.

So here I am all of a sudden no longer Mike's Wife. I'm no longer a Farmer's Wife. And I miss being those SO SO SO SO much.

But ladies, I can't change that. And neither can you.

We have to find our new roles, our new selves. We may have to redefine our meaning of happiness. And it's just so freaking HARD.

I don't want any of my new roles. I want my old ones back. I don't want a new man. I want mine back.

And taking on these new roles or finding yourself in these new roles is excruciating. It's like trying on a pair of leather pants, three sizes too small. Ya know, where you have to lay on the bed and have your sister use pliers to zip them?? I mean, I've never done that but have watched my mom and aunts help each other plenty of times! No leather was involved. Lol...

But it's just all so dadgum hard!

And I don't want a new man, but I also don't want to be alone forever. But you know what? The ones I've dealt with so far sure have burst my bubble pretty dang quick and easy! I get my feelings hurt so easily. I like people so easily. I am just so vulnerable and ready to feel loved and appreciated and wanted just like my husband did for me, but I just feel like what if it's not in my cards??

What if I'm SUPPOSED to stay Mike's Wife? What if I'm supposed to be his widow forever? What if he WAS my one true love and soulmate and God gave us 13 years and now I'm done? Just what if?

Ugh. Just having a little "widow whine Wednesday" I guess. I'm tired. This is all so hard and I have to buck up, grit my teeth, and clench my fists to get through because if I fall apart every time I feel like it and want to, my son suffers.

So, I will plow through until I find me. I will trudge through the hard turns God throws my way until I find my new role(S). Just know that I was blissfully happy with all my roles before. And I wish I had them still.

Much love to you...
Find YOU...I'm hoping I find ME soon.



#stillhis
Love,
Veronica