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Not a Burden, but a Blessing. Reflections of 2020…

Something about a year that is both epic, terrible, dreadful, life changing, and memorable to the entire world, yet it became a year of forced reflection for me and so many others. I don’t always see that as a bad thing. I am going to list both for my future self and for anyone who might just need to hear it…My Top 10 Journal Entries for 2020. My brilliant and beautiful friend, Brandi, was photo journaling her girls throughout the quarantine and asked me if I was writing. I was indeed, but when someone asks you this like they expected it from you, you tend to kick up the commitment.  So, here are some excerpts from my Captain’s Log – Corona 2020. 

  1. I see how we all made both sacrifices and adjustments for each other now that we are doing all of our living from home. I see a compassion for finding spaces that are useful and meaningful. We attended ‘bedside baptist’ today as we have come to know it and Tate prayed for his friends in the foreign exchange programs. It is a burden on his heart. They may not be able to make it home when they had planned. It amazes me what our children will worry about and remember from this time. It is so important to support each other right now. 
  2. In February, before the Earth seemed to shift, I started my masters. I didn’t tell anyone. After the Spring Break shutdown, my boys just think I am always doing classwork for my teaching job. It is so much harder in that regard, as I am now attempting to keep 140 students engaged in an online platform they weren’t trained to be a part of, while motivating my own children to stay positive, and actually writing papers for my masters classes. LOL! I have bit off a lot here. Finding refuge in having nowhere to really go. Being home and pouring myself into all of this…oh, and housework…oh, and teaching someone to drive…oh, and I have a senior!
  3. Today was hard. I am not going to lie. Found out that a lady I work with has been dealing with this virus. Her mom has been admitted to St. Francis and it doesn’t look good. It makes me so nervous and scared for her and her family. For all of us. We also found out today that there will more than likely be no school the rest of the year. No prom. No graduation ceremony. No All-State game. No..No..No. It is a rough reality we are facing and yet it seems so selfish to even be upset about it. 
  4. It is becoming harder to feel productive and helpful in my own home. My boys are very independent and it can be lonely. Being a widow typically has zero advantages, but based on all of the griping about excessive togetherness and failed marriages during this year I guess I am supposed to count my lucky stars. Oy! 
  5. March 25…Randy, my best friend’s dad who has been battling cancer, is coming home today. This is both a good and a bad thing but was made possible by the compassion of the staff and therapists at his care facility. Heroes!!! The end is too near. Tate found out today that his high school season is officially over. He fields so many calls throughout the day and texts from his teammates and friends who are losing it. He hasn’t really had time to lose it himself. Kassidy came over and so I made chocolate chip cookies and banana bread. Comfort foods for kids who don’t really even eat sweets. We will get through it but it is so hard for these kids to feel like they got cheated. 
  6.  Wyatt and I attended a send off to honor a soldier who had fallen in Iraq. We grabbed breakfast (our first drive thru experience) and waited on the side of 46th street N by the base for him to come by. There were thousands of people. We waited for hours and didn’t care. He gave his life.
  7. Mandi texted me to tell me to come on out to see her dad if we wanted. Corona or no corona. I had a very urgent feeling all day about him. While I was there, his breathing almost stopped. Mandi, her mom, and Kendra gathered around the bed and were begging him to breathe. They hooked some oxygen back up and we physically lifted him up as high as we could in the bed. They asked me to call the hospice nurse back out and someone called Levi to tell him to hurry. Chloe teared up and climbed in my lap, then Savana took her outside. As soon as I knew the nurse was on her way and I checked on Chloe, I told Chris I was going so the driveway would be clear for everyone and they could have their time. I prayed that Levi would make it. I hadn’t been home 20 minutes and she let me know that he was gone. Levi made it and he went peacefully. I am left remembering just how he pushed his kids to be their best, they pushed him and loved him enough to coach him through breathing and waiting for Levi. I have witnessed something today that I will never forget. True Love.
  8. Started distance learning on a Monday, 46 texts to families I hadn’t heard from by Thursday. Being an elective teacher has really proven to seem insignificant during this time, but the students who love creating and bending their minds are keeping me going. I pray that teachers around the world know their worth. This situation is making this very hard. There is a very large number of people who love trying new things, having their students home, and supporting what their teachers are trying to accomplish from afar. Other parents are pulling their kids to other types of online platforms, calling teachers babysitters, criticizing the very lessons we plan because they hear us struggle to keep the entire class’s attention while online. This is a very good time for a facebook/social media break. My intentions are so pure with my students and I am pouring into them the best I know how at this very moment. Loving them where they are. Sending letters to their homes. Calling them. Whatever it takes to say hello, that I love them, and I’m thinking about them.
  9. In the last week, I have repaired a toilet seat, shower head, and planted a few flowers. We are having a step challenge with the 6th grade teachers and I have walked well over 100,000+ steps in two weeks time. Waving at my new neighbor friends that I have never met until now and that is a result of yelling across the streets to each other while we get our exercise. Wyatt got a new puppy finally. Her name is Annie and she brings a new life around here. Potty training, keeping Willow from treating her like a toy, and watching her grow. She’s a doll and as much as he wanted a dog to sleep with him, she sleeps with me so far. Lol. He wasn’t really into getting up in the middle of the night after all. We took a Covid road trip to Kansas to get her and she’s been worth every bit of the hype so far! 
  10.  We are coming so close to the anniversary date and I try not to dwell on it, but it is so hard not to. The days leading up to losing Shane were just so normal. Loving life on the little Farley Farm and enjoying Spring there. Getting in a real groove of happy, content life. I just can’t deal sometimes. Then, as if she read my mind, Elo shows up with a card and some distance hugs. She loves my boys and me and I am so grateful for friends who aren’t afraid to acknowledge the hurt. Yesterday, I had my first ORU parent meeting! NUTS! Shane would be flipping out! I loved it.

I only made it to May and my journaling slowed as we entered the end of school craziness. I will never share my journals from the beginning of the Fall semester when we found out we were back online. They mostly consist of trying to find a way to soften parent’s hearts toward our administration for making that choice and some include some not so nice things that were said to me in passing by parents. Words matter, people! Even when we are adults. So many other highlights…Tate was part of an amazing graduation commencement speech, Lane is a licensed driver, my little sister married a beautiful man on the side of a mountain in Arkansas, some epic moms pulled off a prom, my niece is pregnant with her 2nd, Lane tore his ACL and has battled out an epic suck of a year like a champ, Wyatt made the Jr. High golf team after deciding he was just going to go for it, my brother and family moved to Florida, my precious work son had his first child, I am now just a few classes away from having my masters and finally told the boys what the heck I was up to, Tate is living his dream and thriving with a 4.0 his first college semester and gearing up for soccer season number one as a college athlete, we had some amazing visitors when everyone thought it was safe, my nephew married a jewel of a gal, and we still managed to make it to Big Cedar once during this unprecedented time. We have fished, been to the museum as often as safe, hiked, biked, walked, kayaked, golfed, baked, tried new recipes, read amazing books!!! I survived my 20th wedding anniversary without my love and went out of town by myself to see some artwork in person just because I wanted to celebrate. I have a dream team of friends who will pray for the smallest of needs at a moment’s notice and together, we have made it! We have loved each other through it all and will continue to do the same. My prayer is that I never look back at this year like it was in any way a burden, because when I read back over pages of journaling I realized that it was the farthest thing from that. It was a blessing. 

Your Dad Would Just Be…

Your dad would just be…rolling his eyes, cracking up, slapping you silly, losing his mind, squeezing your neck, beaming with pride…this is an endless list. The amount of times I have said those words in this last year alone are countless and to some people, even annoying. I had someone tell me just yesterday that they don’t talk about their deceased relative the way we talk about Shane. It is hard not to when these boys are all still young and I am constantly channeling what we would have done together in any given situation, to solve a problem, to encourage, to discipline one of these boys when the times call for it. And, yes, if you are uncomfortable with hearing about my dead spouse…you might just be uncomfortable around me. No apologies for that. So, on what would have been our 21st wedding anniversary, I will break down the last year for my own records and in the hope that it will give someone a reason to smile today or a reason to realize that nothing is too big for God. He has equipped this family with the armor to hit just about anything head on and take what gets thrown our way in stride. 

June 3, 2000

This world has lost its ever-loving mind. The pandemic alone would have had him speechless. Masks, no masks. He would have fought wearing one on occasion but certainly done what needed to be done to work, shop, and do everyday life for his family. He indeed would have been rolling those green eyes at the amount of obstacles a group of people can face in a short period of time, or at the next hurdle that would come our way. It’s been a year for our family. A year of firsts for so many globally and just a full, at times difficult year for us. One of the almost year long, not so glamorous highlights was Lane tearing his ACL in the first official pre-season scrimmage of the year. In his full-length, pegleg brace, pre-MRI reading, pre-surgery, pre-leg bending machine for days on end, we had a neurology appointment that had been scheduled for months. We didn’t dare reschedule, as we had been awaiting any clues on how to manage some persistent migraines that Lane had been dealing with off and on for the past few years that had suddenly become very regular. Our pediatrician is the greatest! Super thorough and considers family history at every turn. We had done sugar testing, ekg and echos, blood pressure monitoring with and without and even during workouts, food journaling, allergy treatment, sinuses recauterized, the kid had been through it. None of these things were pointing in the right direction for any type of solution or cause. They took a look at his brain. It was still there (of course, a bad joke from his brothers and I) and showed no real issues. The neurologist drew a line straight back to his multiple concussions over the past few years. Sitting in this office with LJ, slated to be a varsity starter and breaking records left and right with pre-season lifting, yet about to have at minimum 6 months of rehab for his knee, has just been told he should never play football again.

These boys are surrounded by greatness.

The months that followed were dark. Could he still play and risk more permanent neurological damage? Yes, but this isn’t an ACL. You only get one brain and believe me when I say that a lot of well meaning people have had a lot of opinions on our decision. The lack of impact alone has improved his daily symptoms and that is enough for me. My friend recently finished a class on sports psychology and has a valid point. That starting in high school, there should be a sports psychologist on hand for students who have such devastating, career ending injuries. If you are a non-sports person reading this, that may sound extreme, but taking away someone’s ‘identity’ as an athlete and something they have loved since the 1st grade is no joke. They have to find themselves again. I am happy to say that I feel like we are finally getting there. The kid did virtual school, I was able to get him back with direct teacher instruction as soon as he was mobile, he fought COVID, quarantine from exposure, missing for physical therapy appointments, trying meds for migraines that backfired emotionally, and working through this loss of self that occurs when you lose a part of what you loved and enjoyed with your dad who is no longer here. Everything comes back to that. Shane would have known what to tell him, what to do, how to choose how far to push himself. Shane would also be proud of how he has handled it and how he has made new plans, new goals, and taken new opportunities in stride. There were bribes/rewards in the form of a new tattoo which was not my idea (Tate’s) but certainly motivated him to keep pushing through the first semester alone, and I know he will continue to break records. He has always been so mature and his calm spirit has gotten me through some rough days. I get so excited to see where God takes Lane and how he will use all he learned about life in this last year. He gets stronger every day, in every sense of the word.

Some other dumb highlights…we ALL had COVID. We were so short on subs when I had it that I would be teaching from home while teachers on their planning times monitored my class in session with me on the screens with the kids. Educators are amazing people. We all made it through by helping each other all year, every step of the way. Nervous about coverage and the state of the world, I then put off a surgery until summer that I should have had over Christmas break, only to drive myself to the ER during a snow day because I was convinced that my insides were falling out. The surgery could be put off no longer and with just a few weeks until Spring break, they scheduled a total hysterectomy. What is sometimes a 6 week recovery was negotiated down to 3 as long as I behaved. I needed to be with my students, as I only get them for such a short time and STEM is not conducive to subs, especially in short supply…it is a lot to ask of someone when it is project based and full of hammers, duct tape, hot glue, etc. Again, thanks to my sister and the help of countless teachers and our principals, handwritten notes from me were delivered to a student I was concerned about, dinners were brought from even the very substitute that was saving my year, and my household ran like clockwork thanks to grocery store trips by my teen drivers and our new favorite friend…Door Dash!

So collegiate!

Tate started college and had a successful year one. Upon moving in, we found out that his roommate had recently been diagnosed with diabetes. His mom went through a list of, if this happens…do this, and the final item was…’if none of that is working, start chest compressions and call 911’. Well, Aunt Ashley was helping us move him in and we left there with her beside herself. I was trying to process the actual drop off of my child at school and the fact that he was going to be very responsible for someone else all at once, plus try and train for soccer and make good grades. She was ready to call the dean of housing and get him a new assignment. I told her I would see how he was feeling about all of this later in the day. PTSD is a very real disorder. It is not just reserved for soldiers, but certainly makes the most sense when describing situations that a soldier or first responder might go through. Tate is the one who dialed 911 for his dad, he spoke with them and took their advice, he managed to call me and allow me to talk to Lane and Wyatt while he monitored the situation until the paramedics and I arrived at the house. Does he have PTSD? Certainly. Did he tell me that he was probably meant to be with his new roommate because he might be the one who could handle it best? Certainly did. All I could do was cry and tell him that he was more mature than his aunt and I put together and thanked him for being this type of example to me. You don’t know your own strength until it is tested. A student once told me that I handled emergencies well…our emergency at the time was a hedgehog getting stuck under the classroom sink. I explained that I had been through worse, so this seemed like a breeze. I am encouraged daily by the moments when I want to say…”Oh, hellllllllll naw” and my boys just say…”Bring it!”

Always thinking

Kids are cruel. So are adults, but thirteen year old boys in a group can be cruel. Wyatt had been acting a little off for a week or so and then finally broke it down for me. A few boys had been teasing him. And when kids tease, it’s like they don’t have a ceiling. Nothing is off limits. I won’t get into the details, aside from me visualizing the fight scene from Happy Gilmore with Bob Barker because that was what I was going to do with these kids. Again, grace wins. He was going to show them by working harder than ever and improving every day so there was no more room to talk. He is following his own path to greatness and it doesn’t include letting others define him or get in his way. He is both compassionate for others in need and passionate about what he wants. He is a sponge for knowledge and when he’s not wowing us with his knowledge of the hierarchy of other cultures, he is studying and perfecting his next endeavor. He is a little old man and a teenager all wrapped up in a package that is changing a little every day.

Fam!

This year has also brought hardships on several of my dearest friends. One lost her dad, another’s husband is a COVID survivor after weeks on the ventilator, another’s husband has bladder cancer and is fighting for his/their new normal. There is a helpless feeling as a friend when all you can do is pray, but I have learned to not look at it this way. There is no shame in that ‘all’ it is no small task. Prayer in itself is an action and a creation of movement and for years I am sure that many of my friends were worried that they were not doing enough for me, when they were doing everything by praying. I have continued to witness Christ move mountains through prayer. If you read the text thread alone from my group of close friends, you would read answered prayers at times almost daily. Tangible proof that there is a God who tends his sheep and that bringing your requests to him is not a small thing. Philippians 4:6 tells us to do that exact thing AND to not be anxious! 

Ride or Die

I recently read Dolly Parton’s autobiographical book My Life in Lyrics. She speaks about writing as her form of God-space. She feels closest to him when she is writing and in times of trouble and darkness she said, “I go to that God core inside me. Even when I feel like my little pilot light might have gone out, I know it’s still there. I just have to reignite it through prayer, faith, love, friends, and family.” After reading her book, I was inspired. I haven’t donated millions or started libraries. I haven’t written countless songs that tell stories, but I do think we could all relate to that pilot light. This year, a lot of people’s lights dimmed but I believe it is time to strengthen our faith and move forward like never before. I am grateful for the legacy that Shane left for his boys and I am thankful for the continual glimpses of him I get from these boys every day. I will never not be sad about his passing and I don’t believe there is an expiration date on grief. I believe that with each passing year, there is a deeper longing for his presence but also a deeper understanding of what life looks like without him physically in it.

Prayer from the start. Happy Anniversary, Babe!

Sticks, Stones, and Perspective

Quotes about Hearing his voice (29 quotes)

Last Monday marked our first day back to our physical school building since spring break and all I could think about was how every other year some of the teachers would meet to walk the building and pray. This is a public school and while I’m sure not every parent would agree that it is necessary, we consider it a privilege. So this time, instead of walking into classrooms and praying over desks, I walked into each teacher’s classroom and just listened. 

I used to attend church with the sweetest lady. She was the preacher’s wife but not your typical preacher’s wife from when I was a kid. She was humble, a servant, yet vocal and not at all untouchable. She was very, very real. She would voice a prayer and then wait. In a room full of teens. Just sit in silence. Shane and I helped with the youth group at the time and I remember peeking my eye open and looking over to him wondering if we shouldn’t jump in and finish the prayer, but all she was doing was waiting for an answer. She would quietly resume her prayer when she felt like she heard what she needed to hear and sometimes it wasn’t what she wanted to hear. I know that in those moments it taught those kids and me so much about the power of Christ, the power of prayer, and so much about the power of faith. I can honestly say that in all of my years reaching out to God, I have seen signs and watched people swoop in and take care of my family during our worst nightmare, but he has never called an audible quite like I was hearing last Monday morning.

Teachers are hurting right now because not only are we serving students but we feel strongly that we serve our communities. Some of our community members are not on board with the decisions that have been made at the state department level, the health department guidelines, and that obviously trickles down to our public schools. The uncertainty of these times does not change the desire of a teacher to create an environment where students have the freedom to safely learn and discover. Teachers will do that no matter where they are. They want to be a part of the solution for families everywhere. They want to present their material and they will work day and night to make it happen.

I am taking an online class from Yale University. Teachers are learners and when I saw a free class from Yale, I wanted in! #1 because I could then add to my wall of fame a certificate from YALE!!! #2 Free!!! Yes, please! The professor is unbelievable and our principal, who introduced me to the course, now calls this professor her Budda. “The lesson of much contemporary research in judgment and decision-making is that knowledge— at least in the form of our consciously accessible representation of a situation—is rarely the central factor controlling our behavior,” Santos & Gendler (2014). In my terms, this reads that when you react outwardly and socially to an issue that you see as a problem, you aren’t reacting on the knowledge but rather on your own feelings. Let’s all check ourselves for a moment. We all do this. We are probably all guilty of assessing our feelings first and knowledge second when presented with an issue, but we don’t all share our frustrations so publicly. I know opinions are free and that is a beautiful thing, but exactly how much of the negative/victim level emotions are being gifted to our own children. Their burdens are heavy right now, too. I want to teach mine to overcome…anything. To tuck and roll. To seat, roll, and come up chopping (one football coach’s advice for life based on an old drill…yet no one should be seated during this time). To adjust. To be bendy/flexible. To put egos aside. To recognize your blessings. To think through other’s needs and what they might look like vs. your own. To imagine yourself helping someone accept this and to not contribute to the negative pools that are forming everywhere.  

Stop Being A Victim Quotes | Quotable quotes, Words, Life quotes

I walked into the building last Monday morning nervous, lonely knowing that the students would not be with us, anxious for some of my school family who I knew would struggle learning new technology, and overwhelmed by the thoughts of my own children not getting to be face to face in the nurturing environment of the classroom. Some teachers have even described their feelings as feelings of grief. I would say that overall as a nation we could probably all describe the last 6 months in that way, but when you consider yourself a professional griever you know the difference. After a simple walk around the building, I could feel that there would be hope. I can take you through the grieving process and tell you there will be ups and downs, that every day will be different, and that the process is as unique as the person experiencing it. I can also tell you that grieving people can’t ‘fix’ what they are grieving about, so this is where I believe there is a light. Although the global pandemic is still very much present, history would tell us that eventually it will be exactly that…a part of our history. We do have the opportunity to fix our mindsets on the task at hand, which should be offering the next generation the ability to see adults who are problem solvers, strong, positive thinkers, people who refuse to respond as a victim, and who support others despite their own opinions. 

I could go on all day about the amount of work that was accomplished in one week of preparations for our ‘pivot to home’ program to start this year. It was astounding! This week, we will make sure all of our new friends have a personal  device to get started and are greeted, wide-eyed with a smile behind our masks while we hand them out in a well-organized, yet hot parking lot pickup. I will leave you with some of the words that came to me loud and clear last week as I entered different classrooms:

Warrior

Over comer

Worship

Speak Revival

Glory to God

Fresh

Renewal

Freedom

Power

Jesus, by the power of your spirit and the truth in your word, help us. Cover us. Claim our community as your own and comfort the parents, comfort the children, comfort the leaders who are tired, comfort the educators who are weary, and provoke a fire in us as we accept the challenge to rise above our own desires for simpler times. Help us to appreciate the gifts of others and recognize the needs we can serve in your name. And, Jesus, thank you for showing your face to me last week when my heart was broken by the words of others who had lost hope and needed someone to blame. Jesus, thank you for replacing the sadness in my heart with the words you spoke to me about my coworkers. Wow, just wow. More of you, less of me. Everyday. Amen.

G.I. Joe Fallacy Santos & Gendler (2014). Knowing is half the battle? Edge.

The Power of a Handwritten Note

My middle had Flu B. In that week, I managed to only miss ½ a day of school while he missed 5 days. He’s old enough to rest on his own and I can check on him throughout the day. Plenty of willing family and friends to come to his rescue if needed. Only one me to get up in the middle of the night, so sleep was at a minimum. My neck hurts, back hurts, and I’ve done more yoga stretches in the last week than in a year. All for the price of love.

That one ½ day produced a 1 page long letter from the substitute. My class doesn’t logistically work great with a sub because it is a very busy, noisy inquiry-based environment. They are creating, building, and problem solving. I had set up the day with 30 minutes each hour for group meetings and 30 minutes for quiet individual work. Preparing for a sub is one of my least favorite parts of teaching because I am very nervous for them to never want to come back. There is a shortage of these precious humans in our area and the pennies on the dollar we can offer them is not the only reason why. Kids can be hard on a sub. Remember that? “At 9:22, everyone get up and go to the pencil sharpener at the same time! It will be hilarious!” That is a direct quote from a note written by Jeremy in my 5th grade class who passed it quietly while we all tried to contain our church giggles. Same now, only the notes come more quickly on sneaky texts under the desks.

Upon receiving the sub’s note, I was both shocked and then dumbfounded at my naivety. But in half a day?? Really guys? After dealing with the specific names left and chatting with each class, I realize that it’s not the end of the world but when you are going on a few hours rest you are already feeling defeated. 

That evening, I received a text from my colleague asking if I had gotten a note from a certain student. She sent me a picture of her’s and I swooned.  All the heart eyes! I told her that I didn’t believe us to be at this stage of appreciation yet. That he must just really love her class. I even reminded her that I just switched to a semester format so I haven’t had him long and we are still getting used to each other. Why would she give me this heads up? Because we teach 7th grade and the art of a handwritten thank you note is mostly lost…especially on a 12 or 13 year old. Our reactions are everything to them about most things, so I was happy to know it wouldn’t be a hidden camera joke or I wasn’t being punked if he handed me one, too.

The next morning (and keep in mind, he didn’t know how bad I needed this as he is not in the ½ day that had a substitute) I was handed the sweetest 3×5 notecard I ever did see. Not only was it written carefully in his best penmanship, but it was so specific and sincere. I took attendance and got the class started and so not to embarrass him, I waited until the rush of group work began and quietly told him it may just be the nicest thing that has happened to me in a long time. His response made me even happier. 

He said, “Remember the first day of class when you told us that school is the only place that you looked forward to when you were our age? Well, my house can get kind of crazy and I decided to thank the people who are there. I got kind of sad and this made me happy.”

Write someone a note today. Like now. Just stop and do it. Even if it’s short. Even if you have to go get stamps and mail it. Have fun with it. Decorate with stickers or markers or paint even. Just write it. There are a lot of people who would love an old fashioned Valentine this time of year. Some of my favorite, but most painful, reminders of Shane are when I unexpectedly find a note he had written me. Priceless. Do it! If you don’t have time to write it, text it. Email it. But writing it will be so fun and fulfilling and might even make you happy.IMG_0308

What if I Woke Up One Day and You Were Here

11232124_10206779485742555_3702054989733990430_nI have dreamed about this moment. What Heaven will be like. I picture you around a fire pit with a dozen or so of your closest friends. It is for some reason a very diverse group. A collection, if you will, of the many people and cultures we grew to love together through sports families, church, work, and music. You look amazing! Happily praising…guitar in hand! I am always a bit envious if I’m being honest.

If you were to come back into our lives now on Earth, it would be seamless. We would do most everything the same, but you would be here for me. To listen to my school stories and to encourage me on rough days. To take me on dates when the leaves start to fall and remind me to not get too excited about my birthday coming up because I wasn’t getting anything. Lol, you always overdid it and made sure the boys made a big deal. I know this is where they get their great gift ideas for friends and family.

We would cheer on our kids through life in general. You would do all of the math homework and I would pretend to help with the English, even though we all know you read more and faster than me, were a great writer, and loved the classics. Your high school teacher wouldn’t believe that one. We would grill and enjoy the dogs together, and you would just love this new Walmart grocery pickup because that would mean more time at home. It’s the everyday that gets me sometimes. 

I need your help. I need to know what to tell these boys in their worst, most self-doubtful hours. I need help that only you can offer. There are so many well-meaning people around us, but none of them could answer these big questions from your boys. I know you see us. I know you hear us. I know you love us. And, I know where to find these answers, but it would just be a lot easier if you were here.

16195496_10211706101504870_1513920554970759937_n (1)

Say Yes to Yearning

Say Yes to Yearning…a Widow’s guide to Valentine’s

**Happy to contribute to Tulsa Moms!

A few weeks ago my friend sent me these texts:

So, yes, I have the greatest friends in the world. They know me. They know that while this could be potentially upsetting, it is what I want to hear. Say his name! Tell me more!! Every time I am around certain men who he spent a lot of time with, glimpses of him are so evident. Mannerisms that friends share and jokes that were originated when he was here. A Shane sighting! Have I seen him in my dreams? Yes, many times. Have I seen him lately? Sadly, no.

There are a family of cardinals that live behind my school. Last year, on the day that my school celebrated my teacher of the year breakfast, they were playing in the grass in a big group. I hadn’t seen them for probably a month before that very morning. I told my friends that I really only think Shane had two regrets in our married years. First, not dancing with me at my sister’s wedding (there just wasn’t time) and missing my teacher of the year celebration when I taught elementary (he had a meeting at work). He didn’t miss this last one. The trees where the cardinals lived were trimmed this fall by the power company. I haven’t seen them since.

To say that I have learned the true meaning of the word, yearn, is an understatement. An extreme longing for something or someone lost. People yearn for the remote when it’s missing, a favorite shoe that’s gone AWOL as you need to walk out the door, that one shin guard, baseball glove, the nail clippers, a sock…but a person? A huge personality like Shane’s leaves a void that not many people can fill. But is he lost like a sock? No. He is very much whole, healed, and living beyond his best life.

‘Heaven will be the perfection we’ve always longed for. All the things that made Earth unlovely and tragic will be absent in heaven.’ – Billy Graham

 

This week brings Valentine’s Day and our church started a 4 part message series yesterday on Relationship Goals. What is in that for a widow? My oldest son was up and ready for the 8:30am service. I told him that I had considered watching from home today due to the content. He was ok with that but I felt like a jerk! He is in his dating years! I need to get over my cheap self. We went and I prayed that I would see it through his eyes. I prayed that there would be something in that sensitive content that would not amplify my current yearning but aid in the foundation in which my sons’ future love should be built upon.

The Lord delivered…big time! Shane and I had it. We weren’t perfect. We fussed over laundry, bills, and discipline for our boys. We loved big right back. We enjoyed each other and made a great pair. We had lofty goals that probably haunt me the most. Giant retirement plans that included hitting up every bluegrass festival from coast to coast in our dreamy RV. We were going to stop along the way to visit the kids, bringing the grand kids back home with us only to ship them back to their parents in due time. My fellow widow friend and I are always talking about how sweet, older couples create the most triggers for us. Yesterday’s message was full of reminders. I sat and cried through the end of it, not because I was upset but because I was so darn proud of what we had.

So, if you are fortunate to have your special someone near you, pray with them. Find that spiritual intimacy for Valentine’s Day. I may just light a candle and pray with Shane. My forever Valentine. The yearning will never end, but sometimes it is way worse than others. Shane will ‘show up’ for me when God knows I need him most. Show up for each other both in ways that are expected and least expected. All of you beautiful singles, pray for what’s next. I grew up a child of divorce and that is a very special kind of grieving. Get your friends together for a Gal-entine’s Day lunch and know you are here for a very special reason!! The important thing for us to remember is that even in the never-ending winters of our lives, when it seems like the warmth of the sun will never grace our skin again, Jesus is there cheering us on and all we have to do is know where to lean.

*If you NEVER wanted to be a part of this club but find yourself a widow raising children and needing a group of virtual friends to chat with, might I suggest the Widow Mama Collective.

*Life Church is hosting the 4 part series on Relationship Goals if you want to check that out!

Jennifer Farley

jen 2017

https://ifarleyblog.home.blog/

 

Grief’s Broken Compass

Proud to have been asked to contribute to Tulsa Moms!

Grief’s Broken Compass by Jen Farley

 

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC Lighting a candle for dad.

 

Nothing will make you more grateful for technology than a teen driver in your family. From plugging in an address to maps to tracking their locations, mom is just a call away…while sitting still in a safe, well-lit location, of course. Grief is not this simple. If I could find a magic piece of technology to show me the way, my last several years would have gone much more smoothly. You see, my husband is gone, my boys are staggering at times, and my compass has just been spinning.

 

Shane was the most hilarious part of my day. He was the coach of all coaches for each of the boys’ endeavors, a true kid magnet, the fixer of all wrongs, the less serious of the pair of us, and our very fearless family leader. He passed away on a rainy night in April of 2015, and the truth for us in feeling lost is that I was usually the driver if we were in a hurry. He refused to drive over the speed limit but he was always the designated navigator. We made an amazing team on our travels through the day to day!IMG_20150613_203946

We have three handsome little men that are mine to raise. How am I supposed to know how to do all of this? The first answer is that I, alone, am not. Number one best decision I have made in this journey has been accepting help. My family, all of whom are not blood related, have saved me from many a mom blunder. I sent my youngest son’s skating money and bingo basket money yesterday in an envelope that I found on the floorboard of my car with no forms attached, just some chicken scratch in a pink marker that also happened to be in the car. I emailed the teacher and apologized later. I once called a friend while at a wrestling tournament and asked her to completely outfit my oldest in one of her husband’s suit coats and a tie because I had no idea that the dinner he’d been invited to required a jacket and I was 45 minutes away. Shane’s best friend taught my big boys to shave. My sister has given the last few years of her life to as many practices, games, and state to state travel as I have. I would like to say I’m better than all of that, but the real answer is that I want my boys to still experience everything that is part of being a kid and we can’t do that alone! This journey has made me less judgmental and more eyes up for other moms and dads in need. I know that a teacher will help me out when I am not on top of my game, a friend will rescue me at a moment’s notice, and I will be looking to do the same for other busy parents out there when I get the opportunity.

 

Some of our most healing moments have come from serving others. I decided the first summer that we needed to honor Shane’s birthday in a special way instead of dreading it’s approach. I let the boys decide what we were doing. His birthday is the 26th and so they wanted to make 26 sack lunches for the homeless in downtown Tulsa and deliver them. You see, Shane used to sing at the chapel service at John 3:16 Mission. Our oldest was just a baby and we would sit and listen and then visit with the families while they had dinner. Shane used to randomly give money to strangers because he felt led to do so. He purchased numerous soccer jerseys for other kiddos, paid for coaches hotel stays, and gave willingly to so many. I was raised with almost zero money extra and learned so much from him about giving. Since that first birthday, we have done so many fun and meaningful things in his honor. My favorite was helping the boys tie scarves to the stop signs downtown in the winter and driving around later to find some of our homeless friends wearing them.

 

Luke 6:38 Give, it will come back to you.

 

There are so many suggested ways to cope, but they are not the answer for everyone and there is no cure for the motion sickness that grief causes. There is so much research out there about the waves that you will ride. I would like to take some dramamine just thinking about it. The sleeplessness, the fatigue that follows, and the initial shock to your body will indeed get better. Someday. There may not be a timeline. But someday. I lost about half of my hair within 6 months and I know looking back that it was stress and poor nutrition. My oldest son would run for relief. Too many miles at the beginning, but he manages it now along with good protein intake for balance. My precious, gentle giant middle child would need to occasionally just yell into his pillow. He once broke every trophy in his room. He told me that they didn’t matter anymore because he won those with dad’s help. He and I glued them all back together and they are now a reminder of how we will all put our lives back together despite our emotional brokenness. My littlest has definite moments of realization about the absence of his father.  You can certainly not underestimate the power of developmental thinking. A child’s brain can only handle so much at a time, and just like with learning to walk, talk, or read, they will all deal according to what their minds can handle at each stage. Being patient with each of them has been essential. They are so patient with me. We forgive each other for bad days, and we have come to realize that we are 4 individuals all dealing with the same sadness in our very own way.

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Isaiah 40:29 He gives strength to the weary…

 

I could write all day of examples of our daily life and how much we wish he were still here to help us find our way. The hard fact is that he isn’t. I recently found a letter that I wrote him just one year after his passing. There is only one good way to take a successful trip and that is with a compass that never breaks.

I love you so much that it physically hurts. I know it is time for me to get strong again. To realize that you have equipped these boys with a love of the Lord who is the only real source of strength. How many times did you marvel at their prayers? I still do and am so grateful that the foundation was laid by your example of faith.’

Each of the boys has a specific verse that they feel  fits their needs and we all agree that this one fits our whole family, offering us confidence in knowing we are protected while we continue this journey. Our journey has been imperfect, but is made manageable by faith, family, and love.

Psalms 91:4 He will cover you with his feathers,

   and under his wings you will find refuge.

Jennifer Farleyjen 2017

 

 

Warning Bell, The Wonder of a Legacy

38750930_10216581989079012_1621763849784918016_oMy little sister reached out to me in July of 2017 and told me to just listen to this guy, Ryan Montbleau, and tell her it doesn’t sound like Shane. She said she had this one particular song on repeat for the last week. I am going to urge you all to go listen and tell me it’s not true. I emailed the artist the very next day and explained my situation…that my husband’s voice was sprinkled in his like the best seasoning you could ever add to a dish. He wrote me back, thanked me for reaching out and told me to let him know if the boys and I ever needed anything. He’s one of Tate and I’s favorites still! 

Here is his website and the song she found. Just read these words:

Strangers I see

Only tell me you’re not ready

They say surely you got one or two miles you just can’t tell

But tell me

Of the people you’ve known

How many passed on were ready

How many heard the shot,

How many got a warning bell?

I will never know if Shane felt ready or felt a warning in his soul. I vividly remember working in the garden the very week before and talking about how he would go before me. He was mostly joking, but was he feeling something? My heart tells me maybe he was. 29249226_10215507641901004_1040768342161358848_o

How do I know that his life still makes a difference? When people assure me that my boys are doing great. When I see a little Shane in their decisions…whether that is an ornery one or a great one. When I see the life we built in almost 15 married years and realize how much we experienced together. It’s really hard when you can’t talk to someone you are used to talking to any time you want to just see how they think things are going. I just wish that not only could I feel reassurance in the wreck of decisions that have come my way since losing him, but I so desperately want my boys to know their dad as I did. Someone with a heart of giving. Someone who spoke his mind in love and loved deeply. Someone who was loyal. Someone who wasn’t done making a difference and wanted to leave a mark for them to follow.16195496_10211706101504870_1513920554970759937_n

Well, last week, a sweet lady called from Life Share. Vicki has been with me for a while now. She knows that while some people don’t want/need to know every detail, I do. I have asked where every part of Shane has gone. She will read me a list any time I want to hear it. Everything from 2 adults regaining their sight, to multiple skin grafts for burn victims. She explained to me that not many tissue recipients reach out to donors, but that if we ever receive a letter she would let me know right away. 

We got a letter. All we know is the man’s first name. I get it. He has no idea who we are, but had the tender compassion to reach out and help us heal. If I could write him back, this is how it would go.

Steve,   

We love you for letting us know Shane’s impact on your life. I am so proud to know that you are a life long athlete. I am raising three amazing athletes myself. Shane was an athlete and one of the best coaches I’ve ever seen. The kids loved him! He was tough, but they knew he loved them back.  While we don’t know what college or professional team you were a part of, we are most excited that your spinal fusion was a success and that a little part of Shane can now assist you in continuing an active, healthy lifestyle. 

I am most excited that you find a true blessing in now being able to play with your little granddaughter. She will never forget it! Shane was a baby magnet and we had just purchased our forever home and had many back porch chats about how our grandchildren would run and play on the land. He would teach them to fish and appreciate a beautiful sunrise and a sky full of stars. Please think of him if you get the chance to do these things with her. 

May your family know how much your letter has helped us and will continue to impact the stories my boys will tell about their dad for the rest of their lives. 

Much love,

The Farley Family

If you had a warning, would you change anything? I have learned a lot in this process, but most of all that the power of our impact on those around us is priceless! Shane is still impacting others! Thank you, sweet Savior, for the gift of music, for the gift of this letter, and for having our back every day! Psalms 91:4

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He covers me with his feathers and under His wings we find refuge. Psalms 91:4

An opportunity to share comes along once in a while. Mostly just with my students or a friend who is hurting. Well, a year ago, my longtime friend Londa asked me to share at a women’s event at her church. I guess for a solid year I was picturing a fellowship hall with some donuts and maybe 50 ladies, 1/2 of whom I more than likely was related to or worked with.

Fast forward to a chilly Thursday evening in November, 320+ women, a lovely sanctuary filled with the most amazing fall décor that you would have thought Joanna Gaines had been there, a meal to share, games and door prizes, worship, and you will have a night that I won’t soon forget.

When you step on stage with that many faces staring back at you, you quickly realize you may just be better at the written word than the spoken. I could feel the prayers of my many friends who knew just how real I wanted to be. The devil had tried to convince me a few weeks before that I was not worthy to be in front of a group. He didn’t win and I am not perfect but God gave me a story to tell. It’s not a pretty one but I got through it.

Londa and I had spoken after Shane’s service about practical ways the church can better serve a widow or widower from the very start and she decided she would like for all women to hear about it at the event.  I tried to spit the truth about my ups and downs with the process so far. I do not mince words with God. He knows how much I have hated many things that have happened, but if I could help even one lady to know that it is possible to survive even the unthinkable then it was worth it!

I had the opportunity to tell about the most horrific night of my life and I had rehearsed it in my head so many times that it went fairly well. What I had not prepared myself for was walking into the same sanctuary that we used for Shane’s service. It was graciously offered to us by First Baptist Owasso because we go to Life Church and we just were not sure there would be room. We packed the place that beautiful Spring day. I walked in to find my seat that evening and was punched right in the gut with those undeniable feelings of grief. I could picture the boys and I walking across the front. I went back into the hallway and my phone was ringing. It was my friend Lindsey assuring me that she was praying and might be a little late but would be there. Perfect timing. I told her what was happening and was able to talk through it.

It was my turn. Londa asked me some questions after I shared the initial reason I was qualified to be there as a woman who had survived trauma. There was laughter, a fist pump from Sarah at the back of the room that I could see from the stage, and there was another table of my family right up front. I know that Shane was honored and the reality of life as a solo parent was brought to light to many. My biggest advice: DON’T JUDGE. We all grieve differently and none of us are perfect parents! Be there for people no matter what they are going through. Be still. Listen. Offer a kind word through text when someone falls on your heart.

One of the other women who spoke talked about keeping your circle small. I almost thought that was contradictory at first considering we were in a room of hundreds of women, but I GET IT!! I have had a few hard relationship realizations since losing Shane. Some people want to keep you close to know your business and not because they want to help you. It’s ok to be choosy. I loved the whole thing! I would probably even do it again. I actually had more to say but I believe I am a little more organized in my written thoughts. LOL! #rambleon

Since then I have had so many questions about my notebooks. I carried them with me like a security blanket. They are dear to my heart, as they hold many secrets! They keep me organized and sane.

I decided to reach out to the companies that created such amazing products and see if I could offer my friends any discounts because I wanted to share the details of their goodness!! THEY ALL RESPONDED and I felt like a real mom blogger all of the sudden!!

So, just in time for Christmas wish lists to your hubbies, whomever drew your name, secret santas, or just buy something for yourself! You won’t be disappointed!!!

Chic Sparrow – My delicious Mr. Darcy in Buttered Rum. He has been a true friend in times of trouble and inspired moments. The leather is divine!! I can’t thank my friend Jenny enough for introducing this company to me! She is a devoted customer and does the coolest thing which is to have several notebooks for a variety of reasons, such as a quick daily diary for her son to have when he’s grown tucked away in one of their smaller notebooks. The sizes and insert descriptions are best viewed here. Please go to their website and admire their work! “Jennifer Harvey, the owner,  is happy to offer a 10% discount code on your behalf to share on your blog. The code will be valid for 1 year starting today and can be used one-time per customer.” – Olga, Chic Sparrow customer service. Please enjoy the code: Luv10 

May Designs –  I have enjoyed this site so much for many years. Again, my paper loving friend, Jenny got me my first May Book ever for Christmas one year. I enjoy so many things, but mostly the easy customization of these beauties!! I LOVE the Prayer and Gratitude Journal, the calendar choices, a notebook with dotted pages, a notebook with graphed lined pages…y’all, I love them all!! There are so many other great gift ideas from pregnancy journals to meal planners. My favorite is the quality and design choices (even for the Holidays)! This company has been featured on Good Morning American, in Real Simple, and is in Birch Boxes nationwide…even one of Oprah’s Favorite Things!!!  ‘It makes my heart happy that some simple little notebooks helped you through some difficult times.’ -Mica May, CEO
They have an amazing 40% off!! deal going on site wide for Black Friday through 11/27. After that expires, you can use the code: JUSTMEANDMYBOYS from 11/27-12/10 for 25% off on Notebooks! *you cannot stack discounts

Little Mountain Bindery – I am a little newer to the LMB fan club, as I was gifted one last spring for my teacher of the year gift from my school. My colleagues thought it hilarious that some people choose jewelry as their gift and I got more school supplies. It is yummy!! The soft leather and beautiful detail is rich. I love that it is made right across the Okie border in Arkansas. A small bindery that repairs bibles and vintage books. I have the Classic Brown Fillion with red cord. ‘It makes me so happy to hear that you love your Fillion and that it helps you in day-to-day life.’ – Lesha Shaver                                      By using this link, you can get 20% off any order from now through December 31, 2018. Or just use FARLEY20 at checkout!!

Ok, I was FANGIRLING over and over receiving these emails! I always tell my students to never be afraid to tell someone how much you love a product! It is important for us to appreciate the businesses that make us happy and more efficient citizens. My heart is full this Thanksgiving and I know Shane is grinning from ear to ear in delight at my joy!46283520_10218319475200239_1406282518751084544_o

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