Friday, November 30, 2018

Love After Loss

Blondie and I were just talking on Sunday about the power in truth and authenticity,  and I felt led to share some of my (our) story since March 22, 2018. Even though we don't know how the story ends - and we both say we would never do it again under these circumstances - our hearts met in a way I had always pictured it happening. Organically, and not through some contrived method of newfangled technology. Certainly, there are people wondering and would appreciate a window into this widower's life.

I met Blondie in her somewhat available but less-than-completely available state when picking Gracie up from a play date. I could tell by the look she gave. "Uh oh", I thought. And ... "No way. Bad timing. I'll monitor from a distance, thank you."

After a couple of deferred, "No thank yous" to Blondie's offers to grab a coffee (maybe a tea offer would have done it?), I was being wise by (admittedly, it was only briefly) keeping my distance.

Then Gracie had a sleepover a week later, and we met downtown so I could pick Gracie up after Mr Blue Eyes and I had some man time at breakfast. Blondie had her kids in tow and was on her way to do some work. I asked what she was going to do with the kids while she worked and offered to take them all to the park so she could focus. I meant nothing by it and was just thinking it was a kind thing to do and that it was a way to pay it forward for all the support I've received over the last couple of years.

She came to get the kids after and we talked a little bit. Something happened while we talked on that Saturday, March 31. I call it the "Spark in the Park". That does not just happen for me. I invited them all along for an impromptu fishing excursion, but she had plans.

I still tried to tread lightly and after talking several times and feeling out the things that I knew or thought to be issues, I was met with the right answers. But as I've come to learn and have told Blondie... she has an answer for everything. 😊  Well so do I... So after reflecting any implications, I decided it would be ok to go ahead and go on a date in mid-April.

Blondie. This woman that came out of nowhere. Kind, sweet, humble, funny, self-aware, beautiful soul.  I could not help but love this less-than-completely available woman.

Understandably, it has been a roller coaster of drama at times. Self judgment. Judgment of others. Perceived judgment of others (certainly more of a problem than actual judgement). Guilt. Shame. Fear. Confusion. Insecurities. The hearts of those close to us. Balance between self love and sacrificial love. How to navigate all of this in the midst of her fresh grief and my own latent layers of grief that I didn't know existed until now moving forward. There have been several periods of pause in this relationship and attempting to be wise and wait until everything settled to continue. Or not continue. It has certainly been messy. But our hearts. Our unwise hearts? Picking back up again and again and continuing to try to find that right balance for what is best for everyone. We probably haven't found it yet, but we'll keep working toward it.

In fact, isn't that growth? Is it commitment? Are the moments of pause lack of commitment or wisdom? I only hope to find out someday.

And while onlookers and those giving advice have wise thoughts as well, we are the ones in the midst of it and have to make the decisions that seem best for us at any given moment in time.

One outcome of many counseling sessions over the past couple of years has been a clear definition of what I want out of a partner, what I want for my partner, and what I want for a relationship:

- I want a partner to do life with.

- I want my partner to feel loved unconditionally.

- I want a relationship based on growth.

So while we don't know the outcome, all we can continue to do is try to navigate the best we can with a growth mindset and know we are giving it everything we can in exploring a romantic future. And if it doesn't work out, we will know we gave it everything and are mature enough and able to communicate effectively enough to know we can still be friends (after all, we are already have a strong friendship), work through the hurt and pain, and allow each other to go find deserved happiness and companionship.

So many topics to cover that I will hope to return to at some point. Unconditional love. Conscious loving. Things I feel I've applied more than I ever have. Proud of myself for that but equally ashamed feeling like I fell short in my marriage with Caroline. How much Caroline unknowingly taught me and prepared me for this through her own unconditional love. I hope she is proud of me in spite of any mistakes I may have made along the way.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Back to the Future


I've not written much since my first post months ago and have had several thoughts along the way that are in draft form, but the last couple of weeks have been particularly difficult for various reasons. As I thought about writing out my recent experience, I realized it didn't fit your original intent to capture family stories. After some more thought, I was able to tie in some recent and past events as well that include some of those funny stories.

I decided the "new" purpose would be to try to capture some stories for us to remember but also give the kids some insight into how I have been processing and dealing with the new life in the hopes it also helps them along the way. I hope to help them develop an emotional toolkit much earlier in life than I have.

The title seems appropriate as I think about the past and future a lot and how to apply past learning in a more forward/productive direction.

When I was a boy and someone said, "Hey", the canned response was, "Hay is for horses. And pigs like you." Recently, I imparted that knowledge to the kids... You'll certainly recall my tendency to do those things you may not approve of 100%... Mr. Blue Eyes apparently now uses that phrase regularly. I learned this recently because when I need to get the kids' attention, I simply say, "Hey." Mr. Blue Eyes recently responded, "Hay is for horses and..." and he stopped mid-response as he turned to look at me. I guess he thought better of saying that to dad.

That story reminded me of the time I let the kids watch "Back to the Future" against your advisement. That movie resulted in Carrie once asking you, "What are you looking at, butthead?" I, of course, could not contain my giggling. Disbelief. Thinking you were right about not letting them watch it... Thinking how I would just laugh it off and correct her if she had said it to me... Thinking your response would be exactly what it was and awaiting the impending punishment for Carrie (and me...). Apparently, Mr. Blue Eyes knows better about such things than Carrie did.

I have had two very vivid - and rare - dreams with you in them lately. In the first, you were smiling and waving from across a street. Although I woke up crying, it was refreshing to see you and your smile. In the second, you were back. You were here. Nothing else mattered as I ran up to you and picked you up and hugged and kissed you. Those dreams really took me back. The resulting powerful emotions. A lot of journaling and allowing the emotions and not being able to cry even though I felt like it and wanted to.

Those dreams come as I think and attempt to move into a new romantic future. Desiring to love and be loved like that again. But knowing it is not as "easy" as it was when we were 17. In fact, it wasn't easy for the 22 years we were together. Back then it seemed as simple as, "I like you and you like me, we share values, let's go out". But there was no way to know back then that either of us would make and maintain the commitment as long as we did and work through some difficult times to get to where we were. I have to remind myself that we didn't know back then, and I can't know now, how someone will handle a relationship. It seems like much more of a gamble at this stage of life - particularly with so many different factors to consider that didn't need consideration back then.

Ours was not a relationship of convenience, and I certainly don't want that now. It evolved into one of unexplainable depth and intimacy. But what is that elusive "recipe" now to achieve the depth of intimacy and relationship that we shared? How many  people even understand what that is like? Probably the bottom line questions I'm wrestling with: Am I worthy of experiencing unconditional love twice in my life and, if so, does the other person understand what it really takes? Will I remember what it really takes? Do I have the fortitude to do it again? How do I ratchet back that depth to some more surface level and develop that depth over time instead of delving right in? How do I let it develop naturally without trying to determine up front whether or not it has the ability to be developed?

After some responses and some text messages I've seen, I feel I should clarify a little... Questions also include whether or not I really want to give up the freedom I have doing whatever I want whenever I want to do it (such as letting the kids watch "Back to the Future"??? Ok maybe a lot more than that). My point being it's a lot to think about. I'm not desperate or depressed. I could easily jump into a wrong relationship but have guarded against that fairly well, I think.

It feels like I'm being a bit of a victim while I type this out... As my counselor rightfully points out from time to time.

It still seems unimaginable that you are gone. Just seeing rocking chairs this last week and remembering talking about the days when we are old and on our front porch in rocking chairs playing with grandchildren. That will never happen.

But we are still looking forward and trying to navigate our new lives the best way we can as we direct our attention "Back to the Future".

Always Yours,


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Your Smile

Dear Caroline,

I had a very vivid dream last night where you were standing across a street waving and smiling to me.

I miss your smile. I miss your laugh. I miss your presence. Such an amazing woman in every regard.

So intense at times. I'm thankful you don't have to endure this.

Thank you for the reminder in my dream last night. It was good to see your smile.

Always yours,


Monday, June 5, 2017

Legacy, Intentionality, and Bitterness


I've thought about continuing your blog.  So many things to write about over the last 15 months and continue your legacy of documenting stories for our family.

I get to choose the adventure, so why not just jump into last weekend?

Ma took Mary, Half-Pint, Carrie, Gracie, and Mr Blue Eyes to our hometown last Tuesday. I missed them all before they even left. When Ma reported that just before I called Wednesday night that Carrie had just said, "I like it here, but I miss dad," I knew that I wanted to make the long drive to see them over the weekend rather than wait another full week.

I kept my visit a surprise, and we all enjoyed the surprise and our time together. From taking Mary on a "date" to the farm store to swimming to dinner from one of our favorite restaurants. There were plenty of hugs and kisses as we loved on one another.

Half-Pint had made a trip to our other former hometown to see friends, and I surprised her Saturday by showing up at the halfway point to pick her up.

I was able to talk to one of your friends about some of the events over the last year. She commented that the kids all seem to be full of Joy and that I don't seem to be harboring bitterness. I don't think I ever felt or thought "why me". I kept repeating a phrase to myself that a mentor had used years before about work. "Better get into reality." It didn't really matter how much I wanted things to be different. I have to get into reality.

I do remember thinking at one point that it should have been me instead of you. But I quickly realized I would not have wished this pain on you.

My problem has been thinking too much about where I failed. But I can choose to dwell or learn. I think I'm better at choosing to learn. That is the only productive thing I can do with it. Or wondering how you could love me the way you did. Sadly, your unconditional love didn't seem quite as clear to me until after you were gone.

Recently, I have been feeling like I'm hitting a good new groove (after extensive "emotional heavy lifting" as I call it) and was excited to go see the kids. But on my way to our home state, the emptiness and emotional waves began to strike.

A widower I met told me that year two is worse than year one. I am not sure about worse - just different. I experienced some very powerful - sometimes incapacitating - emotional waves in year one. Year one seemed to be about survival and having to do this. Year two seems to be more of, "OK, now who are we" without you here. I don't know where I would be without the kids. I told someone this and they remarked, "Where would the kids be without you." Wow.

We all learned what unconditional love is from you and will do our best to continue your legacy. I pray that our children will choose to live as intentionally as you did after the loss of your father at a young age.

Love Always,


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

At the Root

My first piece of glitter
          A beautiful piece of glitter first made its appearance in my hair last October (when I turned the ripe old granny age of 39). When I finally noticed it, it was about one inch long and sticking straight up in the air Dennis the Menace style...very flattering. I've anticipated this arrival for a long time (my mom started getting gray hair in her mid-twenties), but now that my grays are coming out, my thoughts and ideas are being challenged. My mom has always been a great example of embracing her age; but with her full head of gray hair, she has also looked much older than her peers. Is looking old bad? No...unless I listen to everything I think others are saying...if I watch their eagerness to rid of themselves of unwanted grays. Is getting rid of my under eye circles with concealer any different? How do you age gracefully minus frump? I think this answer is different for every woman. My hubby has always been pro-gray and anti-dye. I've known this since we starting dating decades ago. I don't have a problem with being natural (but don't take away my concealer). It actually fits me. Even being counter-cultural, fits me. Not feeling beautiful when I'm officially "old", does not fit me (or any other woman that I'm aware of). I'd like our kids to be at peace with when they grow glitter from their head as well, but I don't want them to feel judged if they want dye like I want concealer.
          My hair's not the only root that's been changing. I now have some mineral trioxide deep down in one of my teeth. Just before  my birthday, I had a deep cavity filled for the second time, while being told that I'd probably need a root canal sooner than later. Since my tooth began giving me fits on the weekend when no endodontist is available, I decided to try essential oils. There were all kinds of testimonials about avoiding root canals, but that wasn’t my case.  The melaleuca and clove oil helped me from having a full blown face-swelling infection, but my infected root still died and irritated my other roots.  I did end up finding a biological dentist that does things a little differently than mainstream dentists.  He didn’t stare at me like I had two heads when I told him about the essential oils (or even when I admitted to trying oregano oil—which burned my mouth) or oil pulling.  If he had suggested  giving up my concealer for the sake of my teeth, I’m not sure I would.  Fortunately, he suggested I see a holistic M.D. to look at my calcium metabolism (since I’ve had a few cavities in the past couple of years).  My tooth has been fixed and the root is gone. Hopefully, seeing a holistic doctor while help me get to the root of my teeth issues.
                                As I age, I’m no longer satisfied at just looking at my issues.  I want to know why I have issues (one of my issues is depression).  I was allowed to preview a new book by Jill Savage about friendship (the name of the book is “Better Together”), and I’ve really enjoyed it.  I’ve read a lot of books on marriage and parenting in the past five years, but this is the first book that I can remember reading about friendship in as long as I can remember.  It has lots of helpful advice on what is normal in friendships and how to be a better friend, but the part I really liked was the challenges at the end of each chapter.  One challenge was to write a handwritten note to a friend.  My letter ended up arriving same day that my friend was preparing to attend a funeral for her loved one, and it really meant a lot to her.   I love it when God uses us to minister to others, especially when we have no idea how perfect the timing is.  The past few weeks when I’ve read this book, I’ve felt lighter and less burdened.  I can’t help by wonder if reaching out to other women isn’t a big way of combating my blues.  It kind of makes sense if one of the greatest commandments that Jesus leaves us with is to love others (see Matt. 22:39).  God only asks us to do what works out best for us in the end (even if it’s not easy).  It’s funny that showing love actually made me feel loved. I know it made my friend feel loved too. Sometimes I just need a different perspective to look at what’s underneath it all. That’s what I felt like this book provided for me.
 This past winter, we had some water issues in our basement.  We had a downpour of rain while my hubby Charles wasn’t at home, so I called him to find out when he could come home.  Mary was using the wet vacuum in the basement, while Half-Pint was managing the kiddos, and I was trying to figure out a way to prevent the water from entering in the basement in the first place. I called Charles to ask him if I could use a different wet vacuum outdoors.  Clearly, I wasn’t thinking about the risk of electrocution. Charles let me know the best way to prevent the water from coming in was to clean out the gutters that were overflowing.  Shortly after they were cleaned, the water stopped coming in the basement.  I admit that sometimes I'm short-sighted. I’m praying that God would show me what the root of my issues are.  In the meantime, I’m going to keep loving others and using my concealer while I let my glitter shine.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oh, Snap!

          There is a breaking point for everything and everyone...when you've had it up to here...and you just...snap! Some moments are overwhelming and more than I can handle. If I was made of gingerbread, I would've been a pile of cookie crumbs a week ago. Three different people were texting me while two of the cats were having a fur-flying brawl on the porch, and I was desperately trying to get four kids ready to take overdue books back to library in time for story time. This was my third day off of sugar and caffeine (the first few days can find me a bit snappy). I shared with the kids a little all too freely about feeling overwhelmed.  Half-pint quickly organized the kids getting their shoes on while I arranged a separate dwelling place for the attacked cat. I responded to one text, got creative with the other one, and ignored the last one for a few minutes.  I love having such accessibility to others through my phone; but occasionally,  I'd just like to chuck the whole thing out the window and let the chickens peck it to death.
            The whole day was a bit complicated because my hubby was still waiting for the final word on a potential change of jobs. You know how my word last year was patience, well, that would also be an appropriate way to describe Charles' year.  My hubby began interviewing back in September for a position and was able to finally give his two weeks notice in Mid-January.  It felt like it took a really long time, which was rather frustrating.  It had become clear to both of us over the past year that it was time to look for something different for employment.  I'm excited for the new opportunity and the new challenges it will bring...and grateful that it does not call for relocation.
           In the moment,  life seems overwhelming; but looking back at it all just a few hours later makes it seems so trivial. Maybe perspective should be my word of the year for 2016. Instead, the word that I heard resoundingly on January 1st was "sacrifice". I was currently reading through Leviticus,  which lists out all the rules on sacrifice (along with all the different offerings), so I had a little inner groaning when I heard that word. I was hoping for a more encouraging word. Can I just say that had I lived back in those times, I'm pretty sure we'd be all out of lambs and resorting to turtle doves after a year or two of sacrificing? I can think of half a dozen reasons that I'd have to make a sacrifice just for the past couple of days. As I asked God what He meant about the word, an old song came to my head about bringing the "sacrifice of praise". I did a search and found the scripture behind the song: Hebrews 13:5, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name." Now that doesn't sound awful, and it won't put us in the poor house. It's a simple exhortation to thank God for the good things. I had never really noticed the next verse either until that day, but it talks about sacrifices too. Hebrews 13:16 says, "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." Nothing...nothing...nothing makes me happier than giving to someone else. It's part of why I love being a wife, a mother and a friend. If this is what this year is all about, it's easy to say that I'm all in.
          Already this year, Charles gave me the gift of a new treadmill (which quickly showed me how ineffective my outdoor running had been...I had been stopping to pet the cats one too many times). Charles has a new job, which is definitely a blessing to him and us. Mary has found a new routine that seems to be helping her teenage blemishes (involving Apple Cider Vinegar). Missy has gone a whole month without a sore throat (but started one shortly after I started writing this post). The cats are all alive (although still fighting at times). My phone still hasn't been tossed to the chickens yet. I'm going to praise God for the good in our lives and share with others this year. That kind of sacrifice will be a snap.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Roses and Thorns

          Back when Mary and Half-pint were youngin's, we started sharing our high point and low point for the day at supper time. What began as a simple way of understanding what we loved and hated about our day has become a happy little tradition around our little house on the prairie.  Every once in a while we put a little twist on it. For a couple of years on every Sunday, we would share what we were proud of about every other family member and skip the highs and lows. About a year ago, we started taking turns being in charge during our evening meal-each member gets a different day of the week. (When you have seven members in your family,  it works out nicely.) My day is Wednesday. I get to choose who prays for the evening meal and ask everyone their high points and low points (and direct the conversation after that, too). Even Mr. Blue Eyes loves the evening recollections. He still gets some words confused and never says "high point", but talks about his "low point" and "low point". (We just interpret his first recollection as his happiest memory). Recently, he shared that his highpoint was..."pooping".  This must be what I would've missed out on had I only had girls, huh? 
         There are lots of ways to label your highs and lows. Lowlights and highlights are another way of saying it. Half-pint loves to ask for our "roses" and "thorns", and she shot the picture for this post. I thought today I'd share some of mine from 2015. Here are a few roses:
1. I was in my first theatrical play, and I really loved it. Acting with two of the girls was just the icing on the cake.
2. I completed four knitting projects. (One that I had been working on for over seven years, ahem.)
3. Mary discovered that she loved theatre more than anything, as she had to save 83% of her weekly allowance in order to perform in a second CYT play (we paid for her first).
4.  Half-pint volunteers every week at a local animal hospital. She found that she truly does want to be a veterinarian. Earlier in 2015, she confessed that she wasn't really sure that that's what she wanted to do; but after a month volunteering,  she said that each time she went it just affirmed in her mind that being a veterinarian is exactly what she wants to do. I can't say how satisfying it is to see her happy face glow when she is done at the hospital (much like Mary after her play rehearsals). I felt super blessed to find a place that allowed this just seventeen minutes away from us. Even Wal-mart is 33 minutes from our house.
5. We had two vacations this year. One was with the kids and one was just for Charles and I. Our last vacation as a family (when we did something other than visit family) was in the Fall of 2012. The last time Charles and I went on a vacation  was April of 2007.
6. Testing of Mary and Half-pint revealed that I haven't messed up their home education (which means I can go back to sleeping at night, instead of obsessing over what they're missing).

And now my thorns:
1. Our treadmill broke right before my birthday, so my love/hate relationship with running has moved outside to our 26 acres (which works great in good weather, but not so awesome with snow/rain or sub-zero wind chills). The part of me that cannot stand running wants to put this on my roses list...and give up running completely.
2. This year we had two surgeries: bilateral tubes in Mary's ears in  August and Missie's tonselectomy in December.  I'm so glad to be past that.
3. I drove through flooding on the road. Ugh! That was not smart. As a result of that I do now have a van with AWD (that I will not be driving through flooded water, just over the snow covered roads).
4. I've struggled more with feelings of hopelessness and depression this past year than any other year that I can remember before. It has been serious work to remember the good things and focus on them. My mood is the number one thing that keeps from blogging. It makes me feel like I don't have anything useful to say, and generally feel like doing absolutely nothing. That's the honest truth.

          There were lots of great moments in 2015 and some that were truly awful. I went to a Joyce Meyer conference in September with my mom, and Darlene Zschech shared a song that comforted her during her battle with cancer: "Good Good Father" by Chris Tomlin. It is a declaration of truth, and I found myself singing the chorus many times this fall when I felt overwhelmed. I couldn't help smiling when they played it in church for the first time this past Sunday. Darlene never shared the verses of the song, but they are truly beautiful. Hopefully, your day is all roses; but if it isn't, have a listen to "Good Good Father" and sing along.