Monday, April 11, 2016

The Life of a Widow: Just Trust; Six Months & a Wedding Anniversary

One evening this week I found myself scrubbing the kitchen floor after dinner with my phone shut off so I could disconnect for awhile. With no worries over the time I realized that I've come to being used to not watching the clock for 4:45pm to roll around waiting for your phone call after work. I realized I no longer worry about dinner being on the table before 5pm. I no longer wait for that back door to squeak open at 5:15pm. I no longer wait for the squeals of "DADDY!" when you walk through that door.

When did I become so used to this life? When dinner is on the table at 5pm and instead of waiting for you to walk through that door before we eat, we just eat. When having my phone shut off for a few hours of disconnect at the prime time of when you would be calling after work is no big deal because I've become accustomed to no longer receiving that after work phone call. When I no longer watch the clock and count the minutes to when you'd be home and we get you all to ourselves for the weekend. 

Somedays I still look down the driveway and I can see you walking down to check the mail. The pep in your step because it's a beautiful day and you're finally home to enjoy it. Sometimes I can see you filling the woodstove and I remember the way I would admire your hard working hands. Some nights I can still see you relaxing on the couch watching your favorite shows on TV. 

There are still moments when I look out the kitchen door and expect to see you walk through it. Or look out towards the barn and expect to see you walking out after feeding my horses while I'm inside feeding children. Or when I hear the floor squeak in our bedroom waking me up and I lay there wondering if I open my eyes, will I finally see you standing there in front of me with love in your eyes? 

The stage of denial has largely passed which I assume is why I've moved forward from waiting for phone calls, waiting for you to walk through that door or waiting for you to lay next to me after retreating upstairs for the night. But every now and then I get a sting of pain when I realize at this particular time or that particular time, I would have been getting a phone call or I would have been hearing that back door open up. 

Six months seems like a lifetime and it seems like yesterday, all in the same breath. Six months without you. Six long but also very short months. As I look at our 3 beautiful children and see how much they've changed, grown and adjusted, I can't help but wonder what life would be like had you not been called home that evening in October. 

I can't even look at mountains with adoring eyes any longer. Pictures, in a movie, paintings. Even the mere mention of Wyoming. It all sends chills down my spine and an anger, a frustration, a sense of sadness comes to my body. Those Wyoming Mountains took the most important person out of my life, physically, and I have not forgiven them. I don't know when or if I will ever be able to. 

We've survived for six whole months. But how? I have no idea. But somehow, someway, we have. I owe a lot to so many people for their generosity over the last six months. Phone calls, grief counseling, prayers, fellowship, surprise visits, meals, snacks, texts, shares of inspiration on FB, private messages, donations, gift cards, greeting cards, diapers, paper and plastic kitchen goods, bathroom essentials, babysitting, playdates, inspiration, pick-me-up gifts, gifts for the children, ... The list goes on. No amount of "thank you" will ever be sufficient enough for the amount of support we have received over the last six months. Without all of you, I fear for where we'd be today. So, thank you. Each and every one of you. 

I'm proud of how far we've come. We're not where I hope we will be one day but we're not where we were six months ago and for that, I'm simply grateful. It's not easy, being a single mother, but it takes a village and this village is something I'm proud of. So, again, THANK YOU. Each and every one of you who has shown love to our family. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

This week was particularly hard with so many anniversaries. The 10th was our engagement anniversary. I said "yes" six years ago April 10, 2010 in the Detroit Zoo while on our 4-year anniversary getaway. 

April 15, 2016 marks six months without you. A half a year. A whole half a year without my best friend, without my teammate, without my person. Six whole months since the kids climbed on their daddy after he finally arrived home from work. Six months since we've heard that voice and saw that smile.

And, the biggest one of them all... 5 years ago on April 16, 2011, we said "I Do" in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, until death... do us part. So much we had planned for our 5th wedded bliss anniversary. Things that just aren't possible without you physically here. 

They're just dates on the calendar. The sting of you no longer with us hurts Every day. We feel the lack of your presence every waking moment of every single day. But these dates on the calendar with a little more meaning, a little more sentimental value, they sting just a little bit deeper. 

What's even more of a stab in the heart is when your children give little moments that make your heart shatter all over again. This week while buckling up in car seats after delivering our gravity wagon for some sawdust Bailey excitedly exclaimed, "there's daddy!" When I asked her, "where darlin'?" She responded with, "right behind you!" Then she moved her focus to the back of the truck and said, "there's daddy! Go see him momma, go see him!" My heart broke. Tears filled my eyes and a longing so intense filled my body. Oh, if only I *could* go see him my sweet baby girl. How much easier grieving would be if I could still see him. 

Thursday, after Ele's Place, I was told of the sweetest but most heart breaking moment while we were away... Shandra and I worked all day hanging pictures back up. Before bed Bailey had to kiss and "hug" each picture with daddy in it. Two tear-filled rounds of watching Bailey kiss and hug her daddy in a picture instead on seeing her wrap her arms around her daddy for real. 

As I sit here tonight watching the sunset, I'm nearly speechless. Though the fog is beginning to lift, I still cannot believe this is our life at times. So much of the last six months is nothing but a blur with only pictures, FB posts, blog posts and the faint memories to help remind me of where we've been, how far we've come and how far we have yet to go. So much uncertainty still, a lot of wondering, a lot of praying and a lot worry. But one things for sure, one thing I know for certain... My kids and I have come a long way. We are much closer today than we were six months ago. We are still a work in progress, we are still clearing the debri-ridden path, but we are finding our way; together. No one will stop us from finding our way as a family. With the support we do have, we will make it. 

So many changes over the last six months and many more changes to come in the next six months. As a family, we will walk hand-in-hand and muddle through the thickets while finding our way. As a family, we will make the changes ahead of us. As a family, we will choose what brings us joy, what makes us happy and what's right for us. With a lot of prayer we will make the right decisions, together, for the path that we're being called down.

Tonight I am plagued with so many emotions. Happiness for how far we've come, joy for the closeness we now have; the four of us, nervousness and excitement for the upcoming months to see what's in store for our family, exhilaration for chasing dreams, wonderment, amazement, sadness over celebrating anniversaries without my person. When I say this journey is a rollercoaster, I'm not exaggerating. It's more thrilling than anything you'll find at an amusement park. With twists, turns, upside downs, jerks, dark tunnels, bright lights; you name it, we've got it. At times we even add in, "It's a small world affffterallll!" just for a little more excitement. Ha. With all humor aside, it's a minute by minute rollercoaster and you cannot foresee where that track goes. You're riding this rollercoaster blindfolded and all you have to hold on to is your trust. Trusting that there's a plan for all of this. Trusting that good will come out of this. Trusting that strength will be found, paths will be cleared, prayers will be answered and answers will be revealed. Trust. One little word with such big meaning. 


So as I sit here reflecting on the last six months, I'm reminded to just trust. To follow the call. To serve where I am needed. To let go of the worry on how it will all work out. To set free the anxiety over the future. To live for today and just trust. He has a plan and it's better than mine. 

Happy Anniversary, Ben. 5 years ago today two paths joined as one trail. In thankful for the signs you've brought to us today. Our reception entrance song, Jason Aldean "My Kinda Party", the deer across the road all staring at me at the most perfect time and the feeling of your presence. Even though I have been preoccupied all day with battling lice discovered this morning that I haven't had time to sit and reflect, maybe it's a good thing. Maybe it's the distraction I needed to remember that some situations can only be met with humor and a "when we look back on this, we'll laugh at the situation as a whole." Today has been an absolute beautiful day... Much different than the last 4 years of April 16 where it has rained every year. I know you have a lot to do with that. My wonderful Ben, my person, even on the other side you continue to provide for us in so many ways. 

Until next time, friends 

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Life of a Widow: A Decade Together

10 years ago today there were straw bales surrounding a big bonfire out in the middle of a harvested corn field. 10 years ago today there were trucks covered in mud each with a mud covered 4-wheeler in the bed. 10 years ago today, you held my hand for the first time "in public" sitting on a straw bale. 

10 years ago today, we became, as you liked to say, "a unit." Back then everything was "a unit." That phrase seems like such a distant memory these days that I almost forget it used to be your signature phrase. 

January 2006, a freshly 17-year-old girl met a freshly 21-year-old boy at the ole Love Farm for the first time. Little did we know that fate was about to happen and we would spend the rest of your life together. Who would have thought that a random phone call from a mutual friend to come to a party would begin the journey of "Ben & Brandy." 

For a few months we talked on the phone, met up at the weekend parties, you would come over to my house after work and be there until my grandma kicked you out because, "Brandy, it's a school night. Get to bed." There were long "see you later's" out at your blue F-250 parked in my driveway and watching you pull out until I couldn't see you anymore. Then, going to bed wondering where all this was going when you're only 17 and he's 21. 

That night out in the corn field surrounded by trucks, 4-wheelers and a big bonfire. You grabbed my hand. I still remember the butterflies in my stomach from the night. Going home that night I wondered "are we a thing? Is he my boyfriend?" Ohhhhhh the innocence of a 17-year-old girl. That week I remember having my cousin answer your phone call after work and ask, "is this Brandy's boyfriend?" just so I could know for sure... Your answer without hesitation, "yes!" 

Looking back on the past 10 years and I'm still in complete shock how everything worked out. How a 17-year-old immature girl could meet, fall madly in love and build a life with a 21-year-old boy. There were rocky times and rock solid times. A 3 month break-up in 2008 that did nothing but strengthen our relationship. A house in 2009. A baby and engagement in 2010. A wedding in 2011. A loss of a baby in 2012. The birth of a rainbow baby in 2013. A homebirth of our 3rd beautiful child and ultimately, your unexpected death that we never truly saw coming, in 2015. 

10 years ago I would have never thought we would be here today. 10 years ago I thought you were just another guy and our relationship wouldn't last. How could a 21-year-old guy with his shit together fall in love with an immature, horse crazy 17-year-old and want to spend the rest of his life with her?

But it happened and I'm so lucky; I'm forever grateful.

10 years ago, April 8, 2006, our story began and what a beautiful story it was.

As I sit here and reflect on everything over the last 10 years, I can't help but feel incredibly lucky. But, in the same breath, I feel cheated. As our youngest child begins to walk just 2 days before we would celebrate our 10th anniversary together, these little moments of joy are overshadowed with grief. As I clap for our Baby Buck learning how to walk I can't help but fight back the tears wishing you were physically here to see it. Wishing I could see your face light up with happiness while cheering him on. Hearing your voice say, "good job, Bubba!" and watching our Baby Buck's face light up with his knockout smile. I'm more sad for our young children having to grow up without their wonderful daddy than I am for me. I was given nearly 10 years, they were not given near enough time with their daddy...

These "dates on a calendar" are proving tougher than I prepared for. I knew April would be tough but I didn't realize that these moments brought out to bring a smile to my face would simultaneously make me fight back the tears.

I can't help but wonder what life would be like if you were still here. What would we be doing to celebrate the month of April with all our anniversaries? We had so many ideas for our 5 year wedding anniversary. Things we wanted to do but they're things we can't do at all because you're not here with us. Would we be enjoying our new home? What would life look like? But, being the person I am I remind myself that there's a plan and God will bring about blessings I would have never imagined possible. There will be good brought about due to this loss. But, in the meantime, we ride the waves the best we can keeping our heads above water every step of the way trying our best to trust in the plan. 

Happy 10th anniversary, babe. I'm so lucky to have built this life with you. I'm so lucky to have shared the love we shared that many go a lifetime without experiencing. I may have only gotten a short blip of time, but I'll forever be grateful for the time I got and I'll continue to cherish that time and use it to keep you alive in my heart and the hearts of our children; your legacy. 

Until next time, friends

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Life of a Widow: Please Forgive Me

Here we are, another April. What used to be my absolute favorite month of the entire year has now become a month of dread. So many anniversaries, a birthday, so many memories of good times passed and so many hopes for the future that are now gone. 

April used to mark a new year of "us" and make us reminisce on the last year that had passed. April also meant another year of being together (April 8th; 10 years), another year since I said "yes" (April 10th; 6 years) and another year of blissful marriage (April 16th; 5 years). Last April began the life earthside for our sweet Baby Buck (April 30th) and this April marks 6 entire months (April 15th) since my beautiful husband took his last earthly breath and took his first heavenly breath. 

It's hard for me to put this in writing. Most of the time the words just flow from my head, down my arms and straight out of my fingertips with very little effort. But tonight? I'm just at a loss for the right words and the eloquence to adequately express what I'm feeling in this very moment. 

Part of me wishes I could just go to sleep tonight and wake up on May 1st, completely skipping the month of April all together. But that's not possible and it doesn't help the grieving process in the slightest. 

So for the month of April if you see me distant, quiet, disconnected, with tearful eyes and a heavy heart, please forgive me. This is another wave that will probably hit the hardest and stick around the longest since the early days of this widowhood journey. Another step among the year of firsts in this first year without my Ben. 

I am doing the best I can and will continue doing so. But sometimes you can only appear strong for so long before you need to break. This may be my month to break and I ask for grace, forgiveness and kindness as I learn how to navigate these significant dates the best I can. 

Until next time, friends

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

World Doula Week

I hear it is World Doula Week so of course I am going to take a moment and brag on my Doula! 

Jenni was absolutely a God-send for Barrett's pregnancy and birth journey! After several frustrating OBGYN visits she never faltered in telling me "it's never too late to make your homebirth dreams come true!" and at 30 weeks, that's just what we did! 

During my 22 hour labor, she helped me in so many ways. Talking over the phone during contractions, encouraging me over text and then my first birth team member to arrive when I said "I need you now, contractions are 3-5 minutes apart... Not 10 minutes like I thought!" 

With essential oils providing calming aroma's, peaceful music to fill the air, a gentle touch to help distract through the intense contractions and a relaxed voice to encourage me. Jenni provided that much-needed atmosphere to keep adrenaline at bay and keep the peace heightened. Even through a hose mishap in the living room while filling the birth tub, she never wavered in keeping me focused on the task at hand; birthing this baby peacefully. 

Without Jenni, I know our homebirth would not have been possible. In hindsight, I am beyond grateful for Jenni giving us that gentle push we needed to follow the homebirth calling. We got the exact birth we had been dreaming of. With Ben's death just 5.5 months after Barrett's birth, I'm incredibly thankful we followed our hearts and prepared for a peaceful, calming, empowered birth at home. Ben and I worked together as a team flawlessly throughout my entire pregnancy and our birth team knitted together carefully to provide the atmosphere we needed to pull this off.

Whether you want to homebirth, have a hospital birth, go drug-free, plan to get an epidural, or plan to even get induced or have a c-section. No matter what kind of birth you have, get a doula! Doula's are angels walking this earth to empower women to take charge in their pregnancy and births!


Until next time, friends

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Cowgirls Don't Cry

Just at a loss for words tonight. 5 months after my beautiful husband passed away, my grandpa was called home. 

Tonight; tonight the emotions run high as I sit here replaying the emotions and my reaction after learning of my husband's demise because he can't be here to comfort me in this time of sadness. 

My grandpa was my rock growing up. The one who instilled the love and confidence of horses in me. The one who let me "buy" my first horse by giving my grandma a dollar, asking me if I wanted Flame to be mine and instructing me to give the dollar to my grandma. I still remember that day like it happened yesterday... 

Grandpa was the one who schooled me on the hay we fed, grain we fed, saddle parts, horse parts, you name it; he was the walking quiz giver. 

Grandpa taught me chin up, heels down and smile. "Act like you're having fun, Bird Legs. Riding horses is supposed to be a pleasure." All those nights spent feeding and watering horses then tacking up for my nightly lesson. All the "br... Bra... Brooooock! Your chicken wing is showing!" to remind me to keep my elbows in. 

My grandpa made quite the impact on my life even though we didn't always see eye-to-eye and we argued a lot. Sometimes I thought he was completely full of crap and didn't possibly know what he was talking about... But isn't that how a lot of parent-child relationships go?

Tonight, as memories flood my mind and tears fill my eyes, I go back to the scene in Secretariat where Penny is walking down the hall to her dad's office after her mom passed away; and as she walks, little snippets of her childhood growing up on the thoroughbred farm with her daddy replay through her mind. Except it's memories of my childhood growing up on the farm with my grandpa. 

My grandpa hasn't been himself in quite a few years. His brain injuries from a car wreck many, many years ago had really caught up with him... I've mourned the grandpa I grew up with for a few years now but, I still had him. I could still look him in the eyes and see the grandpa I cherished so much growing up. 

He was the grandpa he didn't have to be. 

miss him so much already. I know he will still be with me at every horse show, every ride, every step of the way. I will continue to hear his voice each time I swing a leg over a horse, "Now Bird Legs, you gotta ride him every step of the way. Put some more leg on him and drive him forward. Keep his head ahead of the vertical and his shoulder lifted. Don't let him get lazy now. Nice deep hock and flat knee. There ya go, Bird Legs. Just like that. That was a good ride." 

I'll continue to hear his voice every time I leave the show ring without a placing, "But did you have a good ride? Because that's all that matters. It doesn't matter what the judge thinks, it's what you think. You're out there to have fun." 

So much loss in the last 7 years. So many tears, so many people so close to my heart. 

Tonight as I drove home after Bible Study, I saw a heart in the clouds... My sign from Ben that he's with me and my sign from Grandpa Cowboy that he's happy and restored to health again, home with the Lord. 

I knew this day was coming sooner rather than later, but just 5 short months after the loss of a lifetime is proving much  more difficult as I no longer have my best friend to lean on tonight. 

Until next time, friends

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Life of a Widow: This is the After Life... 5 Months Later

As I look at the calendar and the 15th is showing, another month has gone by without you. I realize how much I've regressed into disbelief over the last couple of weeks. 

Sitting outside, here on the swing as we always loved to do, visions of you walking down the drive to get the mail, or your "Hi Buddy!" greeting when you walked through the door, or your "Good job, Sissy!" whenever Bailey did something cool at some point in the day and I finally got to tell you about it when you arrived home for the day after work; those visions go cascading through my mind.

Missing you feels like drowning. It hurts physically, not just emotionally. The realization that time is going by just as fast with you gone, if not faster, as it did with you here. 

I know I speak for a few when I say there is a love-hate relationship with time flying. The hate part is I'm getting farther and farther away from the last time I saw your face, kissed those lips, stared into those blue-green eyes, held those hands and heard that voice. But the "love" side is with the passing time the hurt is dealt with differently, the waves space themselves out and aren't as high, ducks line up more smoothly and we are slowly figuring things out. 

This is the "after" of life. 

Some days I wonder if I'm making this look all too easy. Some days I wonder if people think I don't cry, or scream, or kick a bucket in the barn anymore. 

Truth is; I cry a lot. I scream a lot. I've kicked a lot of buckets. Grief is a process and while we, as humans, wish the process wasn't such a rollercoaster with the worst up's, down's, twists and turns... But it is. Grief is a two steps forward, three steps back kind of process. 

Some days are great and wonderful and beautiful. Other days are downright evil. Some days you laugh, smile and enjoy life. Other days you wallow in anger and despair, crying out in a stage 6 ugly cry begging for this all to be a horrible, drawn-out nightmare. 

When you're raising 3 kids on your own and only 5 months into your widowhood journey; there are more down days than up days. Some days you find yourself yelling a lot. Other days you find yourself lazing it out on the couch because there is just not enough motivation in the world to get you off that couch. Some days you are so busy you don't know if you've found a rope or you've lost your horse. 

The grief monster sneaks up on me in the most inappropriate times. While I'm driving, in the grocery store, while out with friends, reading a book with the kids, in the shower, while filling the woodstove; you get the point. Truth is, no one but God, Ben and I know how much I break down these days. 

It's been 5 months and life is such a rollercoaster. Some days I think I've got it figured out and other days I'm merely surviving to the next minute grasping at any straw I can grab for some comfort. Some days I am at total grips with reality and other days, well, I'm not. I find myself in complete disbelief that this is my reality. That this actually happened to me... That MY husband passed away. Something very, very tragic happened to us. To my very young children. 

I cry for my children the most. The dad they have to miss out on. The dad they won't remember a lot of, or at all. I know it is my job to keep Ben alive for his children and I will... But somedays I am caught up in the unfairness of it all. That my children have to grow up without their daddy. Their wonderful, involved, loving, amazing daddy. 

It's no secret that we miss him to the moon and back but we are finding our way. We are choosing joy and happiness along the way and choosing to move *forward* with life as Ben wants us to. 

As I walk down memory lane tonight, I leave you with some maternity family pictures from this time last year as we were waiting on the arrival of our 3rd beautiful baby, our Team Green Baby Buck.

Until next time, friends