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.

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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

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!