Wednesday, August 9, 2017

14 Years Ago...

We were supposed to live happily ever after.
To grow old together.
We promised to love and honor, never to forsake, and to have and to hold...
Till death do us part.

14 years ago we stood on the green grass of Arkansas (Mike always made a joke wondering if we were legally married since we wed in Arkansas) and committed our forever to each other.
I got his forever.
Way sooner than either of us ever imagined.
He didn't get mine and I wanted more than anything to give it to him.

I wanted to give him forever.
I wanted to give him till death do us part in a way that meant we were old beyond numbers, wrinkled and gray but still holding on to each other.
I wanted our happily ever after to mean we became one of those old married couples who hold each other's hand as we slip off to forever, only minutes apart.
Having lived a life full of love and dreams.
Having raised our sons to become fine family men.
Having witnessed the birth of our grandchildren and for them to give us great-grandchildren.
That's what I wanted.
I wanted his forever.
I got it.

I just wish I hadn't gotten his forever end of the deal so soon.

The past two anniversaries without him, I have wept for days leading up to August 9.
I have had a pit in my stomach.
I have shaken and hidden away at home, no makeup, in my pajamas, ignoring that I am still alive. Ignoring that I have Mike's forever in our amazing little boy (who isn't so little anymore).
Not wanting to see anyone, talk to anyone, or acknowledge that life goes on.

On this third anniversary of a marriage that was supposed to stand the test of time, I am different.
Mike's untimely death changed me.
It broke so much of me that a new me had to emerge.
The new me had to claw her way to life.
So on this third anniversary of a marriage that was supposed to stand the test of time. I will not cry.
I will not wallow in the depths of grief.
I will not hide away with no makeup or still in my pajamas.

Because, I did get Mike's forever.
He loved me until his final breath.
And I still have his forever in the brown eyes, dark skin, and freckles of our son.

Marriage made me a wife.
Death made me a widow.
It robbed me of one of my most favorite titles.
But it cannot rob me of the rest--
I am Veronica.
I am Conner's Mom.
I am a teacher.
I am a Sister, an aunt, a daughter.
I am a writer.
I am a speaker.
I am a business owner.
I am a forgiver.
I am a friend.
I am worthy of happiness again.
I am worthy of love again.

YES, worthy and deserving and wanting of happiness and love again.

And YOU are too.
Don't let widowhood define you.
Let it empower you.
It takes a long time, I know.
Don't think I "got here" overnight or that I journeyed here too soon post-loss.
I have slept in this bed, this half empty bed, for two years, eight months, and nine days.
I have cried more tears than anyone knows; some out loud in thundering fashion, some secret and silent.
I have ached inside my soul and in every inch of my body.
I have felt the grips of loneliness like nobody's business.
I have prayed countless prayers for strength, grace and for The Lord's Will to be what comes my way.
I have grown new dreams inside my heart, only to see some of them come to fruition and some of them wither away.
I have lived in sorrow and regret.
I have lived in fear and anxiety.
I have lived in desperation.
But no more.

I want to live.
Just live.
With no more words on the end, like sorrow or fear.
I just want to live.
The best I can with Mike's forever growing more and more each day into a fine young man who makes his momma, and daddy, proud every day.

And I hope somewhere along the way that the man who God wants to fulfill my forever, realizes it, falls madly in love with me, sweeps me off my feet, and promises me his forever.
I will gladly give him mine.

Happy Anniversary in Heaven, Michael.
I hope the sunshine is warm on your face and the grass is cool beneath your feet.
Thank you for your forever.

Love,
Me

Sunday, July 30, 2017

No Comparison...



Since I became widowed more than 2 1/2 years ago, I have not dated much. I have very little experience dating at all actually, and especially now as a widow.

I mean, I went from "dating", aka passing notes with, my first husband when I was 13 years old to being a young wife. We were together off and on until I turned 18 and then we married just three months after my 18th birthday. After five years of marriage, well legally just two weeks shy of five years, we divorced.

Just weeks after leaving my home with my ex-husband, Mike called me. We began dating and fell in love literally within a week. We moved in together in February and we married two summers later, on August 9.

So, legit that sums up my dating experience. Date a man, he sweeps me off my feet, marry said man, build a life, family, and home with said man, then I THINK I have happily ever after nailed down.

Dating epic fail #1 ended in divorce.
Dating epic fail #2 ended in death.

I'm batting 1,000.

So, with this newfound life of a widow, which sucks royally, I have found myself vulnerable but closed off. I want to date but am filled with insecurities and fear. I fall hard and fast, obviously. Lol... I mean I married the two men I've dated and loved in my life. Cheese and rice!

But lately I've been reading so much on dating a widowed person, falling in love, potentially marrying, much of which has come about since the engagement of Patton Oswalt, that all of these writings have my mind spinning with wonder.

So, I often wonder what it must be like to date a widowed person, to try and fall in love with her, possibly second guessing oneself the entire time. I wonder if insecurities rush to the surface leaving the "new" person brimming with fear of comparison, of rejection, of not being loved as much as "the other" was, and more. I have been able to put myself in Mike's shoes many times since his passing, writing words I know he would say to me, and I feel like I may be able to put myself in a "new" love's shoes as well.

Because see, when I love, I love with all that I am and will ever be. I give myself completely to the man I love. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually...all of me forever. And I CANNOT WAIT to do this again.

And when I do, here is exactly what I'll want to say:

New man, new love, worthy love,
whenever you walk into my life, here is what you will need to know.

I don't play around.
I don't dapple in "relationship roulette".
Because if and when we ever get to this point, and I'm so excited about the future possibilities of love again, know that I chose YOU.
I chose you from the moment we met.
I chose you for good reasons.
You are beyond worthy of my love or I would not be wasting what precious time I've been given.

But keep in mind, I'm worthy too.
I've fought so hard to become who I am, to become worthy of limitless love.

I have so much more to offer this time around.
And if you can't handle all the love I have to offer, then weak is your middle name and you need to step away and wipe your hands clean of anything to do with me.
Don't hurt me.
Don't you dare tread upon my heart and leave it broken.
I've just now gotten it healed enough to love again.
So you better respect me, appreciate me, spoil me, and love me endlessly.
I deserve it.
So much I deserve it.

Let me see if I can articulate just how important, loved, respected, appreciated, wanted and NOT compared you are.

NO to all of your insecurities. Just plain NO.

No comparison takes place.
I'm not comparing you to anyone.
That's not how this works.
Love is not compared.

When I am with you, in your arms, holding onto you...YOU are the forefront of my thoughts.
When I hear your voice on the other end of the line, when I see your name scroll across with a text nessage, YOU are the forefront of my thoughts.
When I wake in the mornings, I check my phone to see if maybe you started missing me in the middle of the night.
I smile and my heart melts when I get the "good morning, beautiful" text.
When I lay my head against my pillow at night, and the other half of the bed is empty, YOU are who I'm missing.
YOU are who I wish was filling that void.

I fell in love with you for YOU, not for who Mike was.
He was a good man.
But he is not here.
You are.
And I am so madly, deeply, and hopelessly in love with YOU.

I fell in love with you for the way you make me laugh.
For  the way you look at me.
For the way you hold my hand.
For the way you kiss me like you mean it.
For the way you treat my son.
For the sweet and kind things you say.
For the way my name rolls off your lips.
I fell in love with YOU. I am IN LOVE WITH YOU.

My heart beats for you, and it beats to a new rhythm.
The rhythm that I crave--the one that gives me butterflies all of the time.
My heart wants you. Craves you. Needs you. LOVES you.

Do I love Mike still? Absolutely and endlessly.
But do I love you as well? Unequivocally and endlessly, YES.
Do I love him more than I love you? NO. Absolutely not. There is no comparison.
I just love him DIFFERENTLY than I love you.

See the widowed heart grows after loss.
A widowed heart keeps a place for her late spouse.
The love the two of them shared stays with the widowed heart.
Their love was unfinished when he was taken.
But her heart, once it heals, balloons. Almost ready to explode because she is so ready to love.
So willing.
So ready to give all the love she was not able to give before.

Loving Mike does NOT by any stretch of the imagination hinder my love for you.
See, there is a difference between being IN LOVE and LOVING someone.
When Mike was here, I was more in love with him than I could ever imagine being with someone. Until YOU.

You are here, in the present, in my arms, on my mind, in my heart.
You wrap your arms around me and I can FEEL your love. I want you to feel mine too.
I WANT you.
Leave no room for doubt.

You are so important to me, to my life.
I want to make you happy.
I want to spoil you until I'm all you want or need.
I want to share a life with you.
I want to make happiness with you by my side, in my son's life, as part of our family. I want you to become our family.

I respect you and who you have become to my son and me.
I respect all of your dreams and hopes for the future.
I respect your questions you may want to ask about Mike, about who I used to be.
I respect all of your curiosities and will answer to all of them without hesitation.
I respect what you do for a career and think you are extremely smart.
If I didn't respect you and all that you are, I would not put forth the effort I do.

I appreciate you and all that you do for me, for us.
I appreciate the sacrifices you make to come see me.
I appreciate the jokes you tell my son.
I appreciate the sweet and romantic gestures you make.
I appreciate that you take me out to dinner and I love being seen wth you.
I appreciate all that you are and all that you enjoy.
If I didn't appreciate you and everything you do, I wouldn't be here.

Remember that I chose you. YOU.
And only you.
And I will choose you again and again, every day for as long as you let me.
Can I live without you? Absolutely.
Do I want to? Unequivocally, NO.

So, take this heart, with all of its intricately woven and beautiful scars, and cherish it.
Love it.
Be gentle with it.
Don't be afraid to hold onto it tightly.
Allow it to love you more fully than you could ever imagine being loved.

I LOVE YOU.
Only YOU.
Endlessly and hopelessly YOU.

Love,
Me

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My 39th Without Him...

39 years.
Today.
My third birthday alone.
My third birthday since my husband died.
Left me alone to raise our son.
Left me alone to handle debt, cows, a farm, life.

Wow.
Who would have thought 39 years ago when this new tiny baby came into the world, that she would have to survive such heartache?
She would have to die, a part of her anyway.
She would have to sink to depths unimaginable.
She would have to wallow in the pits of depression, loneliness, grief and fear for so long.

But then she would have to crawl.
Dig.
Claw.
Slip.
Kick.
Scream.
Climb.
Fall again.
Only to rise from the ashes.

Who would have thought 39 years ago when this new tiny baby came into the world, that she would become so powerful?
And she didn't even know it.
She didn't know she had it in her.
She didn't know what she was capable of until she was forced to try.
On her own.
Alone.

Sure, her weaknesses still exist.
They are powerful.
Creatures of the night, stealing her smiles when she sits alone in the darkness.
Her weaknesses grow sometimes to epic proportions.
She cannot contain them.
She cannot extinguish their flames.
So instead, she gives her weaknesses to God.

She fails at that sometimes too, as we all do when worry, self-doubt, and anxiety are just part of human nature.
She fails to hand Him all of her troubles every day.
She wants to. She really does.
But the pain is so big.
The loss is so big.
The love remaining is so big.

But so is God.
Actually He is bigger.
His pain was much bigger.
His loss was much bigger.
His love remains endlessly on an epic scale.

So she knows she will be ok.
She knows she will continue growing, learning, loving, laughing, and living.
He has her.
And she is beyond grateful and blessed.

I feel Mike talking to me again.
So I decided to write a letter from him to me.
Yeah, it may be crazy, but there's so much of that intertwined with the life of a widow, so who cares. It's what I feel and it's what I KNOW he would say.

Hey Babe,

Happy Birthday.
I'm sorry I'm not there today. Wish I could have gotten you a candle, McDs for breakfast, and a card from me and the boys.
I always loved seeing your face light up when you walked in the kitchen and there sat your spread of goodies from us.

My gosh, I loved you.
I loved you so hard.
Harder than I ever thought I could.
I still do.
I know how quick we started. I know how scared we both were, and neither of us lookin' for anything.
You took me by surprise.

I miss the early morning talks in bed, before getting up for coffee to start our day.
I miss layin' there talking and laughing, flirting with each other like we were teenagers.
I miss holdin' your hand. I know I didn't hold it enough. I mean, in public anyway. Haha.

Thank you for always spoilin' me.
Thank you for loving me back with all of your heart and soul.
I know I was a hard man to love.
I know I hurt you sometimes and I was selfish with some things.
I'm sorry I didn't tell you everything.
I'm sorry.

I'm sorry I left you with all I did.
I should've listened.
I should've stopped.
Know I had good intentions.
I mean, I know you know that, but I just really need you to keep remembering that.

I'm proud of you.
Do you know that?
How proud I am of you?
Look at you.
Look at what you've handled since I left.
Look at HOW you've handled it.
You amaze me.

Remember your dream the other morning?
The one that woke you up crying?
I was there.
It was me.
I just had to see you.
I had to bring you that memory.
That touch.
That closeness.
I miss you.

I'm so proud of you though.
Thank you for taking your time with things.
I want you to be careful.
I want you to be happy.
I want you to be loved, baby.
That may sound crazy comin' from me, but I do.
Remember how we talked about it some?
Time to move on if something should happen to one of us?
I know, I know, it's not movin' ON. I get it. I do.
But you know what I mean.

I remember us talkin' about it.
I told you 6 months max.
You slapped me on the arm when I said it because you knew that meant that was the longest I'd wait. Haha.
But 6 months. Remember?
Well babe, it's been a lot longer than 6 months.

I want you to love again.
And I want you to be loved again.
So hard.
Just as hard as I loved you.
Even harder.
Better.
Stronger.
Longer.

I want him to make you happy.
I want him to make our son happy.
I want him to wrap you up so tight you don't have room for tears anymore.
I want him to give you all that I couldn't; all that I can't.
I want him to know how special you are.
How much you give of yourself every single second of the day.
I want him to realize what treasure he has if he has you.

I'll always be here.
Always.
But baby, you gotta let me go.
You gotta let me live in your heart but not be the center of attention anymore.
It's not good.
It's not healthy.
I'm here.
I'm not goin' anywhere, but you need to.
You have to.
You have to go forward.
Love.
Be loved.
Make me smile.
It would make me smile so big to know you and Con Man are taken care of.
Are happy.
Are healing.

I'm so proud of you, babe.
So proud of you.

Happy Birthday, my beautiful wife.
I'll see you when you get here, but until then, you gotta kick the shit outta 39!!! Ok?!?!

NFAxI
Your husband





Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Requested Post...

Widows.
Widowers.
A special group of people who immediately form a bond even if living a million miles and lifetimes apart.
A family who supports each other in all endeavors from what outfit looks good for a first date, to parenting concerns when our children are struggling with their grief, to matters of the heart trying to fall in love again, to writing our raw feelings on a page...feelings that we ALL get!
That's what we do.



I have recently received several encouraging and requesting messages from widows and widowers, some of whom I've met in person and some of whom I have only connected via social media. Because of all of these messages I decided to write a new post to address them.

One widow, in her early stages of this crappy club, reached out to me in desperation. Her heart is so badly broken, like all of ours. She does not understand how life can go on at this point. She does not understand or want to accept that it eventually will. We have ALL been there. Here is what I told her, in hopes that she will accept that in time, and that may unfortunately be a long time, she will smile again.

--Dear sweet wister, I know. I get it.
In the beginning, you feel nothing but pain like you have never felt before, sorrow that rips through your soul, regret that eats at your heart every minute, fear of the unknown future that now lays before you, uncertainty of every.single.move. you make, confusion that is warranted with so many things like life insurance, estate laws, and just how in the world you ended up a widow, and an emptiness more vast than the oceans.

Those first few days, weeks, and months there is nothing positive in your life, even as much as you wish there was, even as much as you try your best to look for it. It does not exist. Even when you look into your children's eyes, your joy has been tainted. You've been robbed of happiness, hope, and security. Every single thing brings pain. Lack of want is gone. All you want is to stay in bed, avoid everyone and everything, give up on life because life without your soulmate is not worth living.
Your body aches from the grief. Your heart literally hurts. Your hands shake, your eyes burn, your stomach churns, and your soul withers away into nothingness.

Your thoughts fixate on how it happened. Were you forced to watch your soulmate suffer through a terrible disease, trying your best to hang on as long and as tightly as possible, knowing that death was impending but not willing to accept it? Or did you receive a phone call one normal day only to learn a terrible accident had taken him/her unexpectedly? Or did you come home to find that this person with whom you shared all of yourself decided life with you was not enough and so chose to end it by his/her own hand? It does not matter how we lost; we all suffer the same. And you relive every single detail down to the seconds. Your mind replays it like an old subtitle movie, silently and in painstakingly slow motion, the details etched in words you cannot form yourself.

Your mind wanders to the future. What future? You cannot see one without your husband/wife. You cannot fathom how a smile or a laugh will ever grace your lips. You cannot imagine how your children will ever lead a "normal" or "happy" life, especially if they are young at the time. You become angry that you are alone now. How dare he/she die? How dare he/she leave us when life is what we had always imagined and worked for? When things are so good? In the prime of our lives with a beautiful home, beautiful children, beautiful plans of growing old together! HOW in the world did this just happens???? And why us?

I promise that we all get it. Every bit of it.

But I also promise that your grief WILL become easier to handle. Will it ever go away? No. It won't. But what grief will do is find a space inside you to live. See, grief and love go hand in hand. Without the love, grief would not exist. It exists because we had a love so powerful and pure and perfect here on Earth and though that love will never end, it is no longer tangible and that creates grief.

Grief comes when we can no longer experience first hand the love of our soulmate. So, the love stays alive inside us and the grief becomes its roommate. They nestle together side by side in our hearts and souls, each one breathing with every heartbeat.

Grief is strong. She is powerful and mighty and cares not about what damage she does to us in the beginning. Grief takes pride in trying to swallow us whole those first few days, weeks and months. She doesn't care that she rips through every wall we've ever built, every dream we ever shared, every ounce of love we ever poured out. She does not care. Pardon the language, but Grief is a bitch. She does her absolute best to rob us of ever feeling joy and happiness again. She is relentless in her quest to break us.

But I PROMISE you that Love is stronger. Love is gentle but packs a good punch to Grief's ugly mug. Love begins to infiltrate Grief's defenses after a while. She brings with her sweet memories. She brings with her hope and a desire to breathe again. Love tells us we are worthy of life, that we are more than the damage Grief has done to us, that we are more than our loss. Love tells us that we MUST do something good. She puts on our hearts a desire to help others like us, to pour our stories out onto pages and pages, hoping and praying that our stories help others just like us. Love gives us purpose. Purpose to continue raising our children with grit and grace, teaching them to love hard and forgive often. Love forces us to get up from that bed, take hold of what days we have been given, and tell Grief to simmer down.

Love caresses Grief into gentle submission, telling her to grow smaller so that our hearts can heal. She becomes Grief's roommate, the kind of roommate who says, "ok, you can stay here as long as you don't get too wild with your grief parties. I know every once in a while you have to let it out and that's ok, but then you better clean up after yourself and chill for a while after. This is NOT your domain. We live here together and you will not tear this heart down. You will not bulldoze it and create an empty space where I once lived. I still live here and I will forever."

And once Love and Grief work out their issues, you begin to feel a change. You learn truly and deeply within yourself that Love is stronger than Grief, no matter how different that seemed a year before. You smile more often. You laugh a genuine laugh. You pull on your "big girl panties" and you go and do and learn and create and work toward a new normal. Of course, since Grief is never moving out, she is stronger some days more than others. Big dates, like birthdays, anniversaries, and such, usually mean Grief is home and Love is resting in her room, too tried to deal with Grief's shenanigans. But Love has discussed with Grief enough that the shenanigans are short lived. And then you wipe off the dust and take a deep breath as you put one foot in front of the other.

Grief and Love co-exist. And that's OK!!! It takes a while for them to get along, but I promise with every ounce of my being that they will. It will take time. It will take tears. It will take prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. But you'll get there. I promise.

Another message I received was from a widow, of whose husband I was an acquaintance through the administration world. She reached out after I sent her a Still His tee from our store. She thanked me for writing words that seemed to be exactly what words were in her heart. She thanked me for the shirt and for reaching out. She thanked me for being a voice to so many widows and widowers. Her message meant so much to me and it is messages like hers that let me know I'm doing what God wants me to do--help others.

 A widower also messaged me shortly after attending our first widowers only Still His Dinner Party (www.thedinnerparty.org). He thanked me for hosting and inviting him. He told me that for the first time since he lost his wife, he felt ALIVE again!! He said that his children noticed a change as soon as he returned home. He was able to laugh, cry, and share stories with like-minded people, all without faking it. He was so grateful and for that I am so grateful. We all have to learn to grow and live anew. It's so difficult, but when we support each other, nothing can stop us.

For example, blogger Erica Roman at ericaroman.me, recently wrote a blog post in defense of Patton Oswalt and his recent angagement. The support that our widowed community has shown Erica is phenomenal! And why? Because she wrote every word that we all felt!!! We all became instantly enraged when Mr. Oswalt became engaged, almost a year and a half after entering this ridiculous club, only to receive criticism and judgment from NON WIDOWS!!! Erica is so right and hit the nail on the head with shouting through her words that unless you are one of us, BACK OFF!!! How dare we allow our hearts to love again?! How dare we cherish every day we spent with our husband/wife but be willing to put ourselves out there, so vulnerable and broken, yet so in need of love again! We dare. We dare to live and love and laugh through the pain and by golly we deserve happiness!!!  Bravo Erica! And bravo Mr. Oswalt!! Best wishes for a beautiful life for you, your daughter and Ms. Salenger.

Widows.
Widowers.
A special family who lifts each other, supports each other, encourages each other, and never forsakes each other.

We get it.

I promise.

When I first lost Mike, I could not function. It was so difficult (like described above) to ever fathom life with a purpose. But I prayed every single day for strength to come. Every single day, multiple times a day. And little by little God sent it, until one day I began typing on my laptop, tears streaming down my face with every stroke. I poured myself out. I poured Grief and Love onto the keys in hopes that SOMEONE, ANYONE, would read it and know what I meant! That someone would read it and GET IT! Not judge me, not shun me, not act like I was bat-crap crazy! I hoped so much that I was not the only one to feel all that I felt. And I wasn't!!!! Immediately Love began pouring into me from messages, texts, social media shares, and my heart began to fill.

And then the business came. I met a beautiful soul, Kimberly, who was inspired by me. BY ME! She read my words and fell in love with my #stillhis because SHE GOT IT. She understood and appreciated the rawness of my writing and so together, we began this amazing little thing. And it felt so good to mean so much to someone on this same terrible journey. And together we have worked hard to make sure Love overpowers Grief as often as possible. We speak, we write, we create LOVE for other widows/widowers. Kimberly writes so many powerfully beautiful pieces at her blog, www.myrawemotion.com. She inspires me every day.

We have a mission in common: do our best to never allow another widow/widower to feel alone, isolated, or desperate. I could not ask for more than to be a worker for The Lord in reaching out to everyone I can. I will speak as often as asked, write when the words need to flow, and host widowed events for as long as I can. I now have a purpose to my pain and I'll not ever let that go.

And now, I work every day toward living life again. I am excited about the future. About falling in love again. About spending more quality time with my son. About spending more time with my family. About having less stress at work. About a future painted with more Love and less Grief. And all of you, all of my widow family, helped me get here!!!

So. Thank you sweet widowed family for reaching out. Thank you for encouraging me. You inspire me to be a better human, mother, wister, widow advocate, daughter, sister, friend, and soul. I thank you from the depths of my being. Sending so much love and light your way! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

#stillhis
Love, Roni

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 😭😭😭😭