Thanks be!

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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

Donuts With Dads

Yesterday was a professional development day for the teachers in our district. My sister and I taught something ‘google-y’ as we tend to like to do. It’s fun and usually well-received by our peers. It’s practical information that I pray teachers will use as soon as today when they get back to class. Some of these type of days are spent by teachers grumbling about needing to do any type of continuing education. I agree we have had some dud days but I appreciated the choices we had yesterday.
Since losing Shane, I have had at least one student (this year two) gifted to me who have lost a parent. I say gifted, because that is the way I feel about every child who is in my class. They are a gift and they are there for a reason. Because of this and obvious other reasons, I chose a class about grief. I remember the first year after loss that I had a grieving student who was pushing every limit. Late to class, not doing work…brilliant little guy, but he was using his loss as an excuse. I took him in the hallway and had a little tough love conversation with him. I reminded him that I had dropped off 3 boys just like him that morning who I expected to be sad at times but never disrespectful of the rules. That it would eventually make more worry for his mother if he didn’t straighten up. I remember crying with him and telling him I understood, but to a point. I wanted so badly to know that I had said all of the right things. I called his mom and told her about our conversation and she was grateful and told me that sometimes it takes someone else telling him. 
I agree with that! Tate would not eat and I called in reinforcements. A hip, amazing young dietician who was also a lover of running. She gave him the same calories in/calories out talk that I had, but he is still abiding by her advice today! Lane thought a rule was far-fetched and it took Uncle Robb and Chris to help him see the light. Sometimes one parent gets to play off the other in the whole good cop/bad cop scenario. Well, when there is only one you just need to have backup.  These are the same two men who coincidentally had to be called off duty when another parent questioned my parenting decisions. They’ve definitely got my back! Just like Shane would’ve expected them to! 
I wanted this class to help me see a different side of these few kids a year that I have. I am so close to this at home and often worry about what my boys look like in a classroom setting. Are they focused? Are their thoughts drifting? Do they feel scared, helpless, alone? I am basically just naming off all of my own daily feelings here. They can be miserable.
Here are my take-aways, and they apply to anyone who desires to better understand a friend or family member grieving:
  • 1 in 20 children will deal with a death loss by age 7, many more are dealing with a life loss. There is a difference. 
  • Life loss is when their mom/dad might be out there but chooses a different life. I find this very sad and whole other blog post. This was me growing up…do they love you? Why are they choosing another family? 
  • Children dealing with loss of a parent do not trust everyone around them to still be there in the future. That could be said for anyone, but can you imagine their uncertainty.
  • Kids tend to grieve in bursts. Don’t be surprised if they are ready to face the world moments after an outcry. 
  • Children of loss deal with new aspects developmentally. For example, a 3 year old who loses a parent may ask the living parent DAILY where that person is. When that same child is 5 or 6, it becomes concrete that they are not coming back. When they are 10, they learn there is bad and evil in the world and they may suffer all over again with other worries associated with death. Coincidentally, this is where I am with Wyatt. Bad dreams, locking the doors excessively…I mean, who wasn’t afraid to take the trash out in the dark at some point in your childhood. It is all normal, but may be escalated for these kiddos.  
  • They could relive the death at every major life event. Wishing they were there for all of the big moments. The big game…the concert. What is graduation going to feel like? Leaving for college?
  • Important for everyone to know: Not one single thing you do or say will take away someone’s grief experience. Just sit with them, don’t tell them ‘it will be ok’ or other ridiculous things we all say because to them it just won’t, and just be still. Help them normalize their feelings so they don’t think they are going crazy. 
The reason for the title of this post is that Donuts with Dads came up…why do we do these types of things? Well, because the majority of the population can enjoy it while others are forced to face their grief head-on. Rewind to my first DWD experience as an elementary teacher and you will know that I have been bitter about it from day one. We had a student whose father didn’t show. They were supposed to meet them there. It was a day ruined for this child. They will likely never forget it. The counselor yesterday explained that we can’t shield them from every hurt and if it gives them a chance to unpack some feelings, then so be it. I agree. I can’t believe I am agreeing but I do.
It’s the everyday sting that I wish would go away. My boys have had things bother them that I wouldn’t have dreamed would but each time it’s been a chance to talk. To cry. To let it out! I didn’t even make it through senior night at the football game for thinking about next year for Tate. I’m going to require some mighty prayer warriors for all of these life events!
Something I am very grateful for is Wyatt’s lunch bunch. He participates in this at school with his counselor and other children dealing with a loss of any kind. What I believe is the key is this, they just eat lunch. They play and act silly. They visit about nothing in particular, but they start each time with their club rules and the one that sticks with Wyatt:

Whatever happened to create this loss was not my fault.   

The Navigation of Grief

So many things come to mind when someone asks me how my summer is going. I want to say it’s good. We have spent some time relaxing, which we actually stink at, and some time doing our normal summer ‘list of things you can’t get accomplished during the school year’. I also want to say that it has been enlightening. My boys are growing up. I am their cruise director, their camp counselor, their principal, their mechanic, and sometimes we are friends. There is an important balance there with teens and a 10 year old. They are amazing humans and they are my purpose. They are learning to live again with no reservation and they are reaching high for goals that even the most traditional of family units would think were lofty. They complete me.
I have had a few things on my mind. The unthinkable happened and another precious man left the Earth too soon. This is the second of Tate’s teammates who has lost their dad since we lost Shane. I had the pleasure of teaching 2/3 of this sweet man’s children and getting to visit occasionally with he and his wife at soccer games. He was like this rare jewel full of compliments toward his children’s teachers and coaches. Always put a smile on my face. After attending the service with my oldest, and standing off to the side with him when it was over, I realized what he was doing. He was watching his teammate and just waiting. Waiting to see if he would need him. When the crowd began to clear, I could see his friend slowly eyeing Tate to make sure he was still there. There were no words exchanged until he waded through the last few people and just came to Tate and gave him a hug and then it was time to go. It was a long time. Longer than I know my son realized. So long, that the funeral director who is a friend of mine and the same person who handled Shane’s service, came and whispered, ‘you know it’s over, right?’ He’s a joker. You would somewhat have to be in that business.
I have since reached out to the grieving widow. I have been able to help with things that other people would not talk about over coffee. Death certificates, etc. It has been both therapeutic and awful. It was the moment that I told her that nothing would seem strange to me if it helped her to heal, that I knew I was healing as well. You want to go sleep by your man at the cemetery? I will bring the blankets and stand watch. You want to scream and cry and tell me it’s not fair? I will agree and bring you some boxing gloves. You want to relive your first date? I will set the table. You want to type a blog post at 5am in his softest, most favorite green t-shirt that has been cried into many, many times when you can’t sleep? Let’s do this! Most importantly, I will pray for your family. Every single day.
Tate added the song that they played at the service to one of our playlists. I listen to it every time I go for a walk and pray. Often times through tears, I ask the Lord to protect that family as he has my own. To surround them with people who truly care and have no expectations for their process. To allow them to embrace life in a way that their man would have wanted them to. I usually realize that my prayers are for my family as well. We don’t know how to celebrate anymore. We struggle through birthdays and some holidays. Everything could just be so much funnier, happier, sillier, more carefree…if he were here. Games would be more exciting, trophies and medals more appreciated. Easier. Yes, easier for me and for my boys. Sunsets would be more beautiful, flowers would smell better…you get my point?! We are still learning.
Part of my learning to cope has been to write when my thoughts get too loud. I was gifted a new traveler’s notebook from my school this last year as my Teacher of the Year gift. Some people choose jewelry, and I chose more school supplies. Ha! I’m super fancy like that. I kid…it is deliciously leather and beautiful! I am in love with the way it opens and the paper inside. I am a total nerd and proud. It has helped me through some rough times to write with a purpose. To list troubles and then see just how troublesome they are once written. Most of the time, they are minor. If something that seems so small can help me, maybe it can help you too. I have also tried to take opportunities as they come to me with my friends. I went to a Christmas party this year for the first time in probably 5 years. Yes, I had 4 events in a row this week on my ‘social’ calendar. I only made one of them and I was late, but hey, I went to one! I didn’t skip because I wanted to, it took two other adults for me to make the one that I did. Three kids in sports is no joke, and I would rather be with them. Someone said that you only get 18 summers with your kids, so make them count! ugh! Sad!
Part of navigating grief is to make some split second decisions that you would never think were important before this journey. Things that seem simple to some people. Introductions. The one event I made it to this week was our new Book Club!! Super fun and right up nerd alley for me. An exciting new tribe of readers!! But how do I introduce myself to a group of ladies, half of whom I do not yet know? Is it better to say: Hi, I’m Jen. I have 3 fabulous boys, I lost my husband suddenly 3 years ago, I enjoy gardening and decoupage, travel and long walks. OR Hi, I’m Jen and I have 3 fabulous boys who are the light of my life and now let me ramble on about how amazing they are because I am super good at that!
I chose option 2. The trouble with that option is that at our next meeting, someone will casually ask where my husband works or something equivalent. I will then have to make them feel uncomfortable by saying that he passed away. There will then be the side eyes as that person tells her friend who she is closest to and so on so that they won’t be in her same position. It is all very understandable, yet I am unsure which is worse for those around me.
There are problems with option 1 as well. Talk about putting a damper on the evening. Some people just can’t. It basically negates anything that anyone else says in an introduction. It’s oddly show stopping. I just can’t.
This is not reserved for only book clubs. This is every new season of sports, every new school year and new teachers, every new class that I teach, every new friend that I make. I am happy to say that I did fill out some forms recently without tears. I can now check boxes and complete enrollments without breaking down. I almost have talking about it down with my students. Seventh graders want to know your life story, so it’s going to come up!

I want to make it a meaningful topic and that’s hard to do on the spot. So maybe introductions come with time as well? For now, I will just do my best with making that choice on the spot and depending on the circumstance. I will keep journaling and keep praying! I read a book this summer by Rachel Hollis and my take away from her is that you can only really control two things: Your attitude and Your effort. So I will continue to try and keep both of those things positive and centered in Christ.

And All That That Implies

Here it is, my view on Mother’s Day morning. I am having my coffee and sobbing. I can’t quit. This day tears me up every year. Since becoming a mother, it always has. It has nothing to do with my own mother. She is great and deserves a parade in her honor. She single-handedly raised 4 kids who are now successful adults. We used to even celebrate her on Father’s Day. She was just that good! A survival parenting style that left us all tougher around the edges than we may even need to be. We will celebrate her today!

This day is heart wrenching now because I can’t go to church and lean into my husband’s strong shoulder and cry while we worship. I can, on the other hand, have my coffee and stare at the very gift he gave me when Tate wasn’t quite one. My first year as a mother on Mother’s Day, he gave me this birdbath. I will cherish it forever.

Why all the tears? I am a blessed momma of 3 magnificent beings. Three boys who would do anything for me. Three boys who are respectful and kind, who I now lean on for strength, and who I pray over and ask for guidance to try and make them the best they can be.

I cry for my friend who never knew his mom as anything but an addict. For my friend’s girls who are without her today because she took her own life. For the teenage mom we know who wasn’t sure what to do and gave her baby up for a better life for the child. I weep for my friend who lost her mom to cancer and my other friend whose mom is losing her battle now. For the mom and dad who made the decision to donate their dying child’s organs for another family to have life. For all of the confused students I have had over the years that haven’t known the kind of mother that I feel they should. For my own stepmom, my dad’s third wife, who has kept my dad sober for decades, and for my half siblings who I wish I could see more often.

Shane and I both had moms who had been through their own loss. Husbands who decided that another woman was better. I now have many friends who have gone through the same, leaving them with no husband to help celebrate them today! Cherishing even the smallest gesture of acknowledgment from their kiddos on a day like today. For these women who put on a brave face at every ballgame, every parent night, every family function alone…you didn’t ask for this and you are better than you will ever think you are! Do not let it define you or make you bitter. There are men out there in this same situation and I applaud the ones I know who are killing this mom job! We have two in our family. They are there for their kids every day, without fail.

When Shane and I told his dad and his dad’s wife that we were expecting, we were so very excited to take them to dinner and let them know. They were not outwardly excited and we later found out that it was because they were trying to conceive and had bad news along the way. A baby lost. We had no idea. They then had success and my sweet brother-in-law was born just 4 months after Tate. Motherhood is a battle that some have to fight harder to be a part of than others. It’s a miracle.

My sister was pregnant when I was expecting Wyatt. We were going to have babies at the same time!!! She lost her babies, four in total. Why is this even a thing? Why are mothers teased in this way? Why is it that my brother and I are blessed with these perfect babies and our two sisters can’t have that same maternal gift? I have a lot of questions surrounding this, and then I am reminded how much bigger God is than any of my questions.

My oldest sister told me once about a year after we lost Shane that she was at peace with no longer putting her body through the abuse of trying to conceive. She felt at peace that God had given her so many jobs here. First, her stepchildren. She is their S’mommy and has done a darn good job of raising them as her very own. They are adults now and she felt that God knew I would need her. She is my extra set of wheels to deliver children, my extra set of brains when mine is in a fog of grief, and my extra set of ears when the boys seem down or when I need to vent. She rescues me. Often! And, selfless is her middle name.

I feel for my own mother-in-law who wishes to get one more hug from her son today. One more teasing remark about how she would like him to help her do some ‘moving things around’ for Mother’s Day. I remember one year she wanted a bench for her backyard. We spent hours at the statuary place in Skiatook with her. Trying to be patient as she didn’t just pick out a bench, but many other very heavy items that he delivered back to her house and set up for her. LOL!! I can just hear his choice words now…but he would have done it again and again.

So, can we just celebrate this as a beautiful Sunday? Another day that the Lord has made for us to enjoy. That’s what we will do! Moms, Stepmoms, Girlfriends helping raise little ones, Dads doing mom jobs, ex-wives, new wives, aunts, uncles, moms and grandmas in Heaven, teachers influencing and loving on kids who don’t feel that love at home, pastors who are trying to say the right things this morning, moms with graduates, perfectly traditional family units, moms with military children, moms of fur babies, dads who stepped up for someone else’s children, coaches who love kids unconditionally, neighbors who bless others…have the best day you can!! Enjoy the blessings from every angle! Embrace your family tree, flow chart, bullet point list, or multilevel pyramid that may at times seems like a scam. Own your dysfunction. Love on those God gave you and those he took too soon. Happy Mother’s Day, and all that that implies.

More, Please…

More…
  • anniversaries, at least 30 or so
  • birthday parties planned and executed with probably more flair than necessary
  • friends over for dinner and fishing
  • fight nights where the girls never even know the fight is on
  • date nights to buy every Christmas gift on the list in one night
  • being teased about basically everything
  • vacations…lots more
  • problems solved together
  • advice given to our boys that only a dad can deliver with such certainty 
Many more…
  • plans for retirement RVing to every Bluegrass festival we could find
  • teams to coach
  • boats to captain
  • eye rolls when I had a new project in mind or it was my turn to host bunco, which were basically one in the same
  • conversations about our work days over an early dinner before leaving for practices
  • weddings to attend where he was singing
  • ballgames where we sat apart because of his ‘passion’
  • plans to be the coolest grandparents some day
  • plans to never be apart so our kids wouldn’t have to know what that feels like
Man, what I wouldn’t give for more…
  • laughs
  • inside jokes
  • looks
  • trips around the dance floor
  • memories
  • hugs…bear hugs
  • encouragement
  • unconditional love
Three years gone is too long to still have a lifetime of unfulfilled plans. Contentment is a hard concept when you lose someone. I am always praying this over my boys. For them to find peace. I don’t allow myself to go through this list often, but I did write it down and it basically sums up a tiny fraction of what I am missing without him. I could probably add details daily.

Three was our signature number. We dated 3 times, therefore chose June 3rd as our wedding date, and we went on to have 3 boys basically 3 years apart…Wyatt being a bit of surprise. So, I think I knew that this year’s date would be hard. I have come farther than to try and think it isn’t my life now. It is. But I will allow myself to wish for things today that I do not have. I don’t feel like this makes me a bitter person. I am not. I have accepted that it makes me normal. I am human. I can occasionally yell, “This is NOT FAIR!” because, frankly, it isn’t. I just can’t stay there.  I am living daily under the protection of my Savior. There is no other explanation for how we get from point A to point B.

I couldn’t be more proud of my boys and who they are becoming. Tate had an assignment in his psychology class and he text me to ask what was a stressful event for him in the last few months. Neither of us could think of anything. We were naming the most random things that to some people would have seemed huge. I text him back and said…I think our definition of stress is so different than some people’s. His words were, “I know mom, everything seems minor.” I am sorry they know this truth due to something so unthinkable, but I am glad they are warriors. They make me stronger.

God’s got this! The THIRD chapter of Ephesians even says that God has more in store for us than we can even imagine. Thank you for your promises! They cover and carry me.

Do you want to punch me?

Do You Want to PuNcH mE??

My sister, Ashley, often asks me this very questions. Like multiple times a week. Here’s when:
  • When we are at the salon and a sweet older gentleman is playing solitaire on his huge laptop while waiting for his dear wife to finish getting her nails done. He is carefully choosing each move, patiently waiting for her to be pampered.
  • When running through Walmart shopping for classroom supplies and I stop in my tracks in front of the sporting goods because it seems like we were just there buying a fishing license. 
  • When I take my oldest suit shopping and it doesn’t go smoothly the first time and we get home and he doesn’t know what’s wrong with him until we both realize we wish it wasn’t just our job.
  • When someone is griping about their sorry, no good husband for not helping them with something that seems suddenly trivial to me.
  • When someone wants to get in an ‘I’m so busy’ contest with another mom in front of me and I just sit and listen and try not to laugh (or cry…scream, maybe).
  • When my back door keeps sticking and I fix it myself.
  • When I have car trouble…even the slightest thing.
  • When it’s time for family or group pictures.
  • When I have to tell a hostess how many to seat at a restaurant.
  • When we are celebrating anniversaries. 
  • When my boys have a big win and most kids are taking pics with the dads/coaches.
  • When it’s almost Valentine’s day.
  • When I have to call her for reinforcements after I found an old picture and immediately forget something I wanted to tell him.
  • When I don’t have the right advice to solve a boy problem.
I could do this all day, but I won’t because Dolly said it best right after this scene…LAUGHTER THROUGH TEARS IS MY FAVORITE EMOTION. My sister knows how to break it down for me every time. Have I ever punched her? No, but she would take it! We are in a lifelong recovery process that I know gets easier every day…then some days you feel like you took a giant leap back too many steps. We know our way around things now that trigger tough emotions, but it’s the sneak attacks that are so hard. My desire is to see the good in every season. To seek and find favor in the Lord’s provisions. He is so faithful! To allow my boys to grieve naturally, and that it’s perfectly healthy for them to see me struggle. I can’t tell you how true this clip is for me. I have the GREATEST group of girlfriends anyone could ever ask for! They would each let me punch them square in the jaw if I needed to and I can think of some men who would allow it as well! Thank you from the bottom of my broken heart for seeing the needs when they arise and being willing to be there in a moment’s notice. My village is strong and mighty! We are blessed because of it!

Sissy, no Bud…Monica, no Chandler…

Here we are, year three of Christmas decorating…Joseph is still MIA. When we unpacked our Christmas tubs after moving to our new home, the boys and I went on a man hunt. We had not touched this Christmas gear since that last December in Skiatook. Why was he gone? Ironically, we had been asking ourselves this since April when we lost our main man. Now Mary is without, and life continues to be severely unfair.
Strange things happen after loss. You feel like they are all happening in slow motion. I remember asking the boys to help me look, as Mary just could not go on with just the camel, all 3 wise men, the cow, the sheep, and no Joseph. She already had that whole virgin thing hanging over her head, and so many haters not seeing the big picture. We looked in every dern plastic tub…even what I would have considered the ‘junk drawer’ of all tubs that had become my catch all when we made the move. Shane had even repaired the angel’s wing the year before…the slight overage of glue still showing. She made it in the designated Nativity tub.

But, no Joe!! Did Shane hide him? Will I see Joseph again this side of  Heaven? Will I find him like I do other hilarious Shane objects around the house? An empty can of chew in his bedside table drawer (ew, but I’m leaving it right there). Guitar picks. His own tub of shoes that I can’t get rid of. His overalls in my closet. The doodles on my recipe cards from when he helped me cook Thanksgiving dinner several years in a row.

I recently decided that I was going to try and stop the spiraling thoughts that happen to me almost daily. I have asked the Lord to rebuke, remove, relieve, and denounce all of these irrational flashes from my very loud mind. This tends to happen about 2 or 3 a.m. If I listed all of my worries anywhere but in my own journal, I would likely be committed. Maybe we all would? I recently read John Green’s new book. Much like every book I seem to choose for pleasure, there are not one but two characters who have lost a parent. The young girl’s father passed suddenly, her widowed mother is a teacher at her school (insert eye roll, head shake, or sweet warm fuzzy, you choose). This young lady has obsessive thoughts. He is such a genius writer. He quotes the greats at just the right times in a novel.

‘In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.’ – Robert Frost


Unwrapping the Nativity adoring help from little Schoolcraft and Anna Sok.

I am slowly coming to grips with this. It does go on. It might be without Joseph, but it’s not without Jesus. Wyatt loves to unpack baby Jesus. One year, he had been in a slight bit of trouble and I saw him talking with baby Jesus at the Nativity about it. Precious! If we all could do the same. I find myself seeking His face more often than not. I need to see you in my life. I need a sign. A tangible reminder that there is more than worry here on Earth. I ask forgiveness for my selfish anxiety, but now realize that my body has had a real reaction to it’s current situation. My children are in the same boat. One more than the others. It is heart wrenching as a parent to not be able to fix it. You want nothing more to help them turn off their thoughts for just even a moment. Anxiety is a real demon and if you suffer, you are by no means alone. 

So, as the season of hurry is now here. I vow to slow down my mind and body and enjoy my precious Nativity that was carefully chosen for Shane and I by a glorious couple in our church. It was a wedding gift in June of 2000 that has never meant more to me than it does now. 

Not Every Day is Pretty

I was recently reminded that I can’t do it all. Who am I kidding…I get this reminder daily, but this was a biggy. Both of my older boys were sort of over me trying to just get them to shave with the electric neck trimmer that we use in between haircuts. They really needed to start the year with a fresh, real SHAVE. What’s a mom to do?
I could have youtubed it, much like when we were trying to tie a bowtie for my niece’s wedding but this was stressing me out just a little. I kept putting it off all summer and with just one day to spare, we had our shave lesson…compliments of Shane’s best friend, Chris.
Much like he is with kids on the soccer or football field, he was patient and kind with just the right amount of ‘just do it, you wussy’. I am not so sure that this wasn’t a moment that Shane took over his vocabulary, but I am always mindful that they were around each other so much that they shared the same harassment tendencies.
Wyatt looked on with wonder. Lane kept a safe distance, but I could tell he was taking mental notes. Yes, he is a man child. A new 13 year old with more facial hair than his big brother. They have both had successful solo shaves and we are practically packing for college. It’s a lot to take in.
After a week of school, I am finally writing about this because I have not looked at this picture without weeping since it happened. Shane should just be here. I know it’s unfair for me to say that out loud, but it’s the way I feel all of the time. The fact is, he’s not. We are still learning to deal with that reality.
With each new school year, I feel more and more like I am on an island. I don’t fit a lot of categories anymore. It’s hard to have conversations with my married friends about the day to day and I certainly don’t consider myself a single. I have a hard time feeling sorry for people who consider themselves to be sooooo busy, and my compassion for every day complaints is very minimal. The only things I know are these:
I will continue to strive to be better, not bitter.
I love my job.
I care deeply for the students that God places in my care each year.
God is in control and I am not.
Some days are pretty good.
Some days are still not pretty at all.
I am in love with my boys and have no idea what I did to deserve them.
My heart aches for moments when he should be here for them.
I am and will always be eternally grateful for my true friends, coworkers, the boys’ coaches and teachers, and for my family.
God doesn’t expect us to put a nice face on an ugly thing, so I will work to continue to be honest in my feelings and keep living under His protection. Psalms 91:4 
Happy Shaving!

The Eyes Have It

When we dated, I knew I loved his eyes. I quickly realized they were identical to mine. Mine, my own eye color that had once led me to believe I had been adopted. The only Kight without sea blue eyes and the only person I knew with hazel.
When he coached his very first team as a dad, a soccer team no doubt, we realized what came to be a very comical thing about those eyes. After a long season of youtube tutorials and online soccer drill ideas, the football/baseball star was the Pirates biggest fan and best leader. He had never played the sport that would become his oldest son’s passion and reason for getting up every morning. The end of season party is one that we still talk about today. Shane leaned over to ask a little boy if he would like some ketchup on that victory hotdog he was about to consume and the sweet thing looked over his shoulder to see just exactly who coach was talking to. Shane had a lazy eye.
After glasses with prisms so thick that you would have thought he was blind had been added to his weak prescription and many test run to see if his diabetes was causing permanent retinal damage, it all came down to a tired muscle at his back of his eye. He became quite attached to his glasses. Never forgetting them for work meetings and always wearing shades when coaching.
He became quite accustomed to the jokes that followed. Most of the time, he made fun of himself. My brother liked to remind him that there is ‘no lazy eye in team’. He would often make fun of the fact that he had been talking to someone and they didn’t respond, saying, ‘They didn’t know who the hell I was talking to.’ Our life was full of laughter and I know my kids learned that it is ok to laugh at your own shortcomings, but to love yourself all the same.
It was just two weeks after his passing that we got a letter from Life Share stating that not just one, but two people had regained their sight with the help of Shane’s corneas. I will never forget sitting in my driveway going through the mail and reading this. The boys had already gone in the house and I sat in my car, having hardly cracked a smile in weeks, and laughed until I cried. I then cried because I had laughed. The kind of emotional roller coaster that was best portrayed by the cast of Steel Magnolias post funeral (another reason I knew I was supposed to marry Shane…his favorite movie). I was so overwhelmed with the fact that this had brought me nothing but joy that I had instant guilt, then realized that I would never see that green-eyed smile again in this lifetime, then started laughing all over again because of the irony of the eyes.
I calmed myself down and went into the house. I sat the boys down to straightfaced read them the letter. As I calmly, carefully pronounced each word, I glanced up to see them fighting off the smiles. I kept reading and heard snickers from Wyatt and as I finished reading I saw Tate glance over at Lane and then they all erupted apologetically. Wyatt cautiously asked if the recipients would have lazy eyes as well. I explained that they would not, and admitted to sharing the same reaction in the car. I assured them that I knew we were indeed making their daddy so proud by our lighthearted approach to the news.
I have just today had the pleasure of hugging a daddy’s neck who just lost his daughter. She has saved 5 lives so far through organ and tissue donations. While he cried, he told us just how excruciating this process has been and the varied emotions he has felt as the doctors planned and pieced his daughter’s blessings to those who will continue to live because of her. He spoke of the private jet and limo rides for the families. He spoke of the babies, teenagers, and children who will no longer suffer because of her and how he had no doubt that they were getting the best and the strongest that this world has to offer. He was running right toward the roar today, as Levi Lusko speaks about in his book, ‘Through the Eyes of a Lion’. Cueing the Eagle just like in Isaiah 40:31.
Through his inspiration, I was reminded that those hazel green eyes that I miss are right here with me. Three sets of them. Each of my boys sharing the same shade as their daddy and I. I am reminded that two people were gifted the view of life through his eyes. May they see things a little sassier than they ever dreamed they would, a little more vibrant, a little more loving, and a lot more focused.

Dear Lady at Walmart,

I’m not sure I would consider you a friend. I may have shared a sideline with you once in a blue moon…on one team…6 years ago…when they didn’t even keep score. Not that I am so competitive a person that the score matters, it’s just a timeline reminder that you and I both have probably come a LONG way since.
If we talked on a daily basis, I may not have thought your line of questioning was rude. I may not have made a beeline to the other side of the giant store to avoid you or anyone remotely close to your demeanor. I may not have contemplated leaving my basket full of items and running for the hills. I was forced to stick it out with my sweet Wyatt and meander through the garden center…sweating and crying. My first trip to the store ‘since’ was becoming a joke…a bust.
You see, my amazing, handsome, strong, loving, hilarious husband left this world April 27, 2015. He was not supposed to go so soon. My boys and I were not ready for him to leave. We have a lot of plans to fulfill…a lot.
Oh, so you say you ‘heard that we HAD to move?’ Well, no. We didn’t have to move. We chose to move from our 6 acres that we had just purchased not even 2 years prior. Many people and experts say not to make such changes so suddenly, but when you watch your dear boys not be able to go into the room where daddy fell down and couldn’t wake back up you tend to consider it. When you have sat up on the couch one too many nights in a row just hoping that their brains are resting and not reliving the Monday over and over. I actually knew we could make it there, but honestly wanted a more manageable existence. We all 4 went and sat in my bedroom floor, right where it happened and prayed. We thanked Jesus for taking good care of daddy now. We prayed that our decision to sell was not about being scared, but about being smart. The first time that a volunteer didn’t make their assigned mowing date and the grass was a little harrier than Shane or I would have liked it, I jumped on the tractor between school and practices and tried to knock out as much as I could. It was an emotional ride. Something that used to be my ‘summer job’ as Shane would jokingly say. Me and my headphones and my Colbie Caillat Pandora station would have normally been a joy, was a chore. A teary, miserable reminder that he was gone and certainly not going to be sweeping in behind me with the weed eater to do the part of my summer job that I hated, all the while he would be teasing me from the ditch that I wasn’t going to be on the American Idol tour any time soon. No, we didn’t HAVE to move.
You asked ‘So where did you HAVE to go?’ Well, since you asked like that I will tell you that not all widows are destitute, dumb, mindless, sewer dwellers who no longer seek what is best for their children. We didn’t settle for a one bedroom apartment so that I didn’t have to mow. We searched and found the greatest house that not only the boys would be proud of, but Shane would have totally lived here. He would not have loved the closeness of the neighbors, the 4th of July bicycle parade would have cracked him up, but I am CERTAIN he loves it for us! He has always been a tad bossy and such a leader. I have said more than once and completely believe that he is putting his two sense in to the man upstairs. Our home where we fully intended to host our grandchildren’s summer camps sold in just 3 days. Multiple full price offers. Done. Sold. It had stayed on the market almost 2 years when we purchased it. Thank you, Jesus, for taking care of my sweet family. May the owners of that property enjoy the pond, the newly built barn where our middle son was going to raise baby lambs with my husband’s help, where our oldest played on his own full-sized soccer field, and where our youngest learned a between the legs dribble on his own NBA court. When we prayed in our bedroom floor, my oldest asked that the new owners would know the love that was there. I will probably never remember that without crying. That is exactly what I want them to remember about that home. So, where did we have to go. Again, we didn’t have to, but we chose to go somewhere manageable and safe. Somewhere that new memories could be made and the yard could get mowed. Co-dependent living is not something my husband would be proud of for us. He would be proud that I have accepted the help that I have, but I can mow my own yard. He would bear hug all of his buddies who have supported us and helped us move.
‘So, like WHAT happened to him?’ you so rudely continue to ask these pointed questions while cornering me on the chip aisle. We suspect he had a heart attack. ‘What? You don’t KNOW?’ No, we don’t. He was 41. He was diabetic. He chewed tobacco. He didn’t always eat right. He exercised somewhat irregularly. He worked is tail end off for his family. He was probably too stressed. He coached a sport every season. He may not have had enough down time. He loved without ceasing. He made crude jokes. He popped me with towels in the kitchen. He teased his boys about girls and zits. He was a musician. He probably didn’t get to play enough. He was the master of math homework. He drank beer on occasion. We traditionally both drank one when we grilled burgers on the back patio. He liked to play golf. He liked to watch college football, college softball, well…basically any sport. He loved his job. He was ornery. He was loved by everyone he met…even if he kept them guessing. He loved to go hunting with his work buddies. He loved a good surprise, even though he would tell you he didn’t. He gave the best hugs. He loved me more than I have ever been loved. He always knew what to say to the boys. He was a born coach and encourager for kids. He loved his momma. He loved his daddy. His grandpa was his hero. He could roll with the punches. I could do this all day, but I didn’t do this on the chip aisle. I had reached my limit with her in 3 questions. She wanted more, but I walked away. I hope she got the hint, but I am guessing not.
I have always been ‘too nice’. My husband handled all buffering of uncomfortable situations. He could shut down a bugger in one word, one look, one movement. He hated going to the store with me since I had lived and taught in this town my whole life. It was too much. I have learned a lot about myself in the last 11 weeks. I am stronger that I thought I was and with divine intervention all around us, we will make it. My boys and I will keep moving forward, riding the waves of grief one day at a time. We will honor our memories and pray that new ones will become sweet again. We are not there yet. All of the sweet memories include dad. Right now, it feels like we are just moving through the daily motions. Staying busy and relying on family and friends to remind us that we are making it. We will continue to make it and continue to strive to honor God in all things. I will just avoid the chip aisle at all cost.