Falling

I have a story that is near and dear to my heart, one that I really haven’t shared–other than with close friends and family. The reason for keeping it to myself? Honestly, I was afraid. I was terrified of what others would think of me. I was afraid that I would be judged for wanting to be happy again. I assumed that people would think that I must not have loved my husband enough, if I was willing to date and marry another man so quickly. Or that I must not have been truly broken hearted over his passing.

Over time I have come to find that while this sometimes is the case, the majority of people are happy to see me moving forward. And ultimately, I have come to accept the fact that, others may not always agree with my choices. But it really doesn’t matter. The only opinions that really count are mine and Gods. Besides, those who know me and love me really do want what is best for me.

And HE is what is best for me. So today I will share my favorite story. OUR story.

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I met Ryan (seriously guys…how crazy is it that his name is RYAN!) a few months after my husband passed away. He was in my small town visiting his sister, who had just moved from Alaska to Pocatello.

I was going through the hardest time in my life. I wasn’t eating–unless you count chocolate and Cherry Coke as an occasional meal. I couldn’t sleep, unless I medicated myself, and even then I would stay awake reliving the days in the hospital until the early morning. I threw up often, had panic attacks almost daily, had lost close to 15 pounds in a couple of months…lets just say, I was a complete and utter mess.

I told Ryan right away that I wasn’t interested in dating. When I explained what I was going through, and he heard my story, he was understanding and sympathetic.  He asked many questions about how the kids and I were coping, and offered to be a friend. I happily accepted.

Over the next few weeks, he became the person that I would talk to before going to bed. We would stay on the phone late into the night, until I could fall asleep. He would distract me, and I found myself smiling while he recounted stories of his travels and dates that had gone badly. I talked about my husband, my kids, and about my struggles as a single mom and a new widow.

After a month of texting and talking, he finally convinced me to hang out with him. I was adamant that we could not go do anything that even resembled a date. I gave him a verbal list of rules: he couldn’t pick me up, he couldn’t take me out to dinner, we couldn’t go to a movie, he couldn’t meet my kids, he wasn’t allowed to open my door, he couldn’t pay for anything… excessive I know. He agreed to all of my crazy demands, and we finally decided to get hot chocolate. At a Maverick gas station..because I had taken away pretty much every other option. I broke one of my rules however when I allowed him to pay the whole dollar that was owed for my drink.

He was in town for the entire weekend, and we had such a good time together that I eventually warmed up to the idea of sledding and Thai food. Both of which we did, but only as long as they were not considered dates.

And then he went home, and the guilt hit immediately.

I was still married. I still had a husband who I was very much in love with. I had been spending time alone with a single man. I felt as though I had been emotionally unfaithful to my RJ. And how could I even think of having FUN after what had happened. If anyone knew, they would think that I must not have loved my husband enough, or that I was already “over” his death…which of course could not be farther from the truth.

It took me a few days to convince myself that I had done nothing wrong. My loss was still very fresh, and my pain was oh so raw. And even then, I admitted our friendship to only a few of the people I was closest to.

As the months went on, we continued to talk. He really did become my best friend. He was there on my good days, but he also saw me at my very worst. He helped me through the days when my heart hurt more than I could bear. And when he could tell I was getting close to my breaking point, he would plan something fun to help distract me from the reality that was my life. He would fly out to visit me, or occasionally, would fly me to him. We went on so many fun adventures together! Hot springs, canoe trips, bonfires, snow shoeing, and Mexican food. We hiked through canyons, to the tops of mountains, and through Zion’s national park.

A part of me had died with my husband. But when I was with him, I felt new parts  awaken…parts that I hadn’t even known existed. I felt alive again.

The first time I visited Ryan in Las Vegas, he asked if I would be willing to do something scary.  I am terrified of heights, and he had planned a flying trapeze lesson. Although I agreed that I would do it, I was beyond nervous and stressed about it for days. I remember finally climbing up to the top of the ladder (which looks much less high in pictures than it actually was). My legs felt like rubber, my hands were shaking, and my heart was pounding out of my chest. I seriously considered climbing back down to safety. But something about taking that first leap was so appealing. I stepped off the ledge, and swung high above the ground. The fall was terrifying, and exhilarating all at the same time. Something about being with him made me feel brave. I felt capable and comfortable, and did something I never would have even tried doing at any other time in my life. img_6577

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To be honest, I have been falling ever since. Although I didn’t admit that we were dating until almost five months after we began our friendship. Every step along the way has felt like a leap to me. A step into the unknown. Dating again was wonderful and hard.

I had to allow myself to feel vulnerable, and put myself in a position where I could have my heart broken again.

I had to dissect the feelings of guilt and self doubt that I felt every time I would say goodbye to him.

I had to come to the realization that things really do turn out well sometimes. My skeptical  and damaged side couldn’t believe that things might actually work out.

I had to be ok with feeling happy again. It’s such a strange thing to admit, but true. I had to decide that I was allowed to find joy, even after the death of my spouse.

I had to accept the fact that I was in love with more than one person…a confusing thing for my brain to understand.

I had to deal with the unknown. I am sealed to my first husband, and I can’t be sealed again. This was something difficult for me to accept, but I have come to understand that  God will have everything figured out in the end. We will be happy with the way things turn out in the eternities.

I had to learn to trust myself. After you lose a spouse, your emotions are all over the place, and I needed to know that what I was feeling was real, and that I was making rational decisions. Because they were HUGE decisions that I refused to get wrong.

I had to be willing to pray for answers to my questions, and then to act on them.

Thankfully Ryan is the most patient and unselfish person I have ever met. He never pushed me to move faster than I was ready to go. He made it clear that he was in love with me, and that he wasn’t going anywhere unless I asked him to leave. He was supportive and remained steady through all of my emotional breakdowns and fears. Loving him was the easiest thing I have ever done, although I doubted myself all along the way.

Thankfully his patience paid off! After eight months, I was ready for more. I was ready to take the ultimate leap of faith. I wanted to start a new chapter in my life, and I wanted it to be with him. Although it was difficult, I was ready to move my kids to a new home in a new state, to leave my friends and family, and to leave the life I had built with my first husband.

I was ready to be his wife.

We were engaged September 19,  at the top a mountain, and were married November 11 in the desert. I feel so incredibly blessed to have Ryan in my life. I feel like God and my sweet RJ pushed us together, because he is exactly who my children and I need. He has picked up the broken pieces of my heart, and he loves me through and despite it all. I keep falling for him, again and again, and look forward to falling for the rest of forever.

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“When you find yourself tipped over by the gusts of life; when you fall to the floor and shatter. There are those who will walk around your pieces, lest they cut themselves upon the scatter. But others will pick up your broken bits, they’ll cherish all they can gather. These are the ones to whom you must hold on forever–not those who forsook you–but the ones who glued you back together.” Shakieb Orgunwall

Perfection and Grace

Here is a quick look into my cluttered mind. My life has changed drastically in less than a year and a half. My mind and heart struggle to keep up at times.

I am three people, all fighting to coexist as one. Now, before you go thinking I have some type of split personality disorder, let me explain.

I am the girl I was before.

Before I lost my husband, I was happy. I had been through other hard things, but was overall  fairly carefree. I was also naive. I knew I was blessed, but didn’t fully understand or appreciate what I had until it was gone. I was impatient and stubborn. I was and am a perfectionist by nature, and I get frustrated when things don’t go according to my plan. I would get overwhelmed by silly things like a messy house, or a dinner that doesn’t turn out the way that I anticipated. I would often become so caught up in my to do list, that I would forget to stop and just be. I didn’t absorb those truly happy moments as much as I wish I would have, because I was constantly looking for the next thing to perfect. My hugest regret, is that I didn’t allow myself to truly feel. I didn’t even know how happy I had been, until I was completely and utterly broken.

I am the grieving widow.

I feel sad, numb, heartbroken, and anxious. Not constantly, like I did initially, but often. I am forever changed by tragedy. I miss him, and I always will. There hasn’t been a day or hour since he passed that my daily thoughts and actions haven’t been hugely impacted by the trauma and loss that I have experienced. I am still mourning the loss of my best friend, father of my children, and the life that we had planned. I still grieve the loss of my own identity.

I am the hopeful wife.

Losing my husband forced me to reevaluate my beliefs and values. I have gone through experiences that most people my age don’t even think of.  I feel like my experiences, although difficult, have blessed me insight I wouldn’t have gained otherwise. I know what is most important in this life. I see the things that have eternal value, and things that really are just distractions. I know that God is in control. I have a greater appreciation for the things that I have been blessed with. I know exactly how it feels to lose the one I love most, so I treasure my days with my new husband, and never want to take him for granted. I want to soak up every ounce of joy that I can. I have felt the regrets of things done or not done, and want to make every single moment we have together count.

These three parts all exist within me, all very different, but all very real. They all take up space in my being.

But they don’t always coexist effortlessly. My true values, and my weaknesses, create an internal battle that I struggle with daily.

Even though I KNOW just how fragile life is, I still struggle to always be patient and kind to my children. I still take loved ones for granted at times.

Even though I see how eternally insignificant things like a perfectly clean kitchen are, I still let the perfectionist in me have a mini panic attack when things are left undone.

Even though I know that God is in control, I still struggle to give my will over to him. At times, I allow fear to get in the way of faith.

At times, I truly hate the parts of me that obsess over things that, when it comes down to it, just aren’t of any long term importance. I feel like I should know better and be better because of what I have learned and experienced. I refuse to allow myself to forget the insight and growth that was so painfully gained. I put a lot of pressure on myself, to be more than I used to be.

But I am still human. And I still have selfish tendencies to overcome.

It is difficult to believe just how much change has happened in my life in less than a year and a half. The struggle I face today, is learning how to take the good from different parts of my life, to create a new identity for myself. To find the balance between being carefree and not taking things for granted. To allow myself to grieve, but to also have hope and to find joy in my new chapter of life. To allow joy and pain to coexist. To miss my late husband, but to still allow myself to feel every ounce of joy that I can with the new life I am creating with my husband now.

And most of all, to give myself grace when I am not perfect—even when I know better. Because perfection will never be achieved in this life, but I can be better than I was yesterday, and I can give myself credit for how far I have come.

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Ten Years.

We all have moments. Those small, seemingly insignificant seconds of time that change everything. Meeting you was one of them for me. You were like no one I had ever known before. You were the kind of person that everybody loved to be around. You had a way of making people feel important. You had a zest for life, and a smile that would liven a room. 

Ten years ago I changed my name, and the course of my life when I married you. It was a beautiful, cold day. We were young, happy, and thought we knew everything about being in love.

But as the years passed, I came to understand that love isn’t just that fluttery feeling in your stomach, or the dizzying infatuation that we felt for each other in the beginning. Real love is so much more.

Love is cleaning the kitchen so I could take a bubble bath.

Love is tickle monster, hide and seek, and bedtime stories after a long day of work.

Love is the way you would look at me from across the room.

Love is donating plasma, and using the money you earned to surprise me a new Bosch mixer.

Love is leaving a cup of water on my side of the bed every night for months, so that I wouldn’t be thirsty while I fed our newborn baby.

Love is Nutella toast and donuts when you were in charge of breakfast.

Love is grocery shopping late at night so that I wouldn’t have to take the kids in the morning.

Love is the smell of freshly cut wood and paint, and beautiful handmade furniture. 

Love is letting me yell at you after I lost our babies. You knew I needed to get it out, and you just listened and cried because it hurt for you too.

Love is watching you take our girls out on Daddy daughter dates, and seeing you come back with flowers in hand for me.

Love is dancing in the kitchen. Sometimes wildly spinning with our daughters, and sometimes slowly swaying with me.

Love is killing spiders, taking out the garbage, and tethering down the trampoline in the middle of a windy night—things I hated doing.

Love is changing that especially stinky diaper, and watching me giggle.

Love is eating the mushy meal I cooked, and pretending that you liked it. I had a cheeseburger.

Love is using most of your vacation time to take me home to my family in Canada.

Love is yoga. You hated it, but you liked when I wore yoga pants so you would play along.

Love is telling me that I looked beautiful, when even my maternity clothes couldn’t contain my watermelon belly anymore.

Love is fighting to be your best self, and being willing to change.

Love is using your final words to tell me you want me to be happy, and that you want me to find someone else. Someone to take care of me, and to be there when you knew you wouldn’t be able to anymore.

Love.

It’s wishing with every piece of my being, that I could have gone with you, but knowing that I will see you again.

It’s visiting your special place in the cemetery with our kids, spraying your cologne, and wearing your hats with tears streaming down my face.

It’s picking up the pieces of my life, and knowing that you would be proud of me.

It’s remembering you, loving you, and missing you. And then living my life to the fullest for you.

Looking back, I have tried to single out the moments that have had the hugest impact on my life so far. I have found that the small, seemingly mundane moments, are really what make a beautiful life.

Happy ten year anniversary to my sweetest RJ. In losing you, I have experienced so much heartbreak. But because of you, I’ve learned how to truly love. For that, I will be forever grateful. I miss you with all I’ve got. 

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Goodbye.

Today has been a struggle. Being a stay at home mom is such a blessing, but it also gives me a lot of time to think. Today my mind is consumed with October nineteenth, and the week that followed.

I remember riding in the back of my parent’s car on the way home from the University of Utah. Rain streamed down the windshield like the tears that I so wished I could cry. My body and mind were numb with grief. So numb, that even the tears that had been previously impossible to contain, refused to fall. I felt like I was wandering through an awful dream. I just wanted to wake up. I had watched my husband slip quietly away only hours before. My mind refused to accept that he was truly gone. I wanted to yell for my Dad to turn the car around. We needed to bring him home too. I forced myself to keep control. My daughters were sitting next to me, they had just said goodbye to their Daddy. They needed normalcy (if that even existed anymore). They needed me. So I took deep breaths and looked out at the rain.

Family, friends, neighbors, and members of our church were waiting for my family back in Idaho. My house had been cleaned, meals were flooding in, flowers and plants filled my countertops, and the monetary donations were overwhelming. So many wonderful people, and service abundantly given. I was so thankful.

In the days immediately following, I planned my husband’s funeral. A musical number by his younger brothers, a life sketch by his older brother and sister, a talk given by his Dad, a song sung by his uncles, prayers given, and obituary written. I chose the flowers, the wooden casket, the place, and the program. I went to the mall with my parents to buy myself a dress.

As I walked through stores I remember being so frustrated with the shoppers around me. How could they be so happy? How could they be so naive? How were they living their lives so blissfully unaware that my life had just shattered?  I could have cared less what I wore to the funeral. Nothing mattered. My husband had died, and nothing else had any importance. A song came on the radio….one of our songs. I broke into tears. We left the mall. We drove to another store not far away, and my sweet parents helped me pick out a black and white dress for the viewing, and a blue dress with a pink necklace for the funeral.

The morning of the viewing I went to the funeral home. I had invited Ryan’s brothers and parents to help me dress him for the funeral. I asked if I could have a bit of time alone with him first. I was led into a small room. My husband was there on the table. He looked so much better than he had in the hospital. He looked like himself, like he was just taking a nap.

I touched his face. The reality that he truly was gone hit me. His body was cold. I bent over his chest, and laid my head on his shoulder. Broken doesn’t even come close to describing that moment. I wanted to go with him. I didn’t want to live without him. The pain was more than I could bare.

But then, there was peace. A warmness that filled my chest, and eventually my entire body. A comfort that encompassed me, and allowed my breaths to come evenly again. The assurance to my soul that I was part of something greater. God had not forgotten me. I was reminded again in my heart the things that I had been taught as a young child. Even though I didn’t know what I was going to do without him, or how I would take care of my family alone, God still had a plan for me. Although the separation would be excruciating for a time, my family would be whole again one day.

People filed through the line at the viewing for hours. I felt so much love and support.

The funeral was beautiful. A wonderful tribute to the man that I loved oh so much.

It was difficult to watch the casket close that final time. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see or touch my husband again in this life. Even now I wish I could relive it all, just so I could see him again.

But even on days like today, when the memories are consuming, and it hurts to breathe, I still rely on the same source of comfort. The only true source of comfort. When I pray for His peace, He gives it freely. Even while I feel angry, alone, or when I have pushed him away. There hasn’t been a single day or lonely night when I have sincerely knelt and prayed for Heavenly comfort that it hasn’t filled my heart, just as it did that day when I had to say goodbye.

I know that God loves me. I know that he loves you too. He wants more than anything to help us through life’s challenges. If we will let him.

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I am a widow.

The shower is my safe place. With a little planning (a movie, snack, and coloring pages for my kids) I can have close to half an hour of uninterrupted time to myself. The shower is the place where I allow myself to think, and when I need to, it is where I allow myself to completely fall apart.

I was mid shampoo this morning, when a wave of grief hit hard. My anniversary is a week away. We would have been celebrating ten years next Wednesday. I miss him fiercely every day, but my heart breaks when I think of celebrating our marriage without him again. It is by far the the hardest holiday of the year for me. As I remembered this, my heart immediately sunk. I found myself sitting on the shower floor with tears streaming down my face.

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I lost a lot of myself when I lost my husband. It hurts to have someone that was such a huge part of your heart, be so abruptly taken. I have had to not only grieve the loss of my best friend, but the loss of my children’s father, the loss of our future together, the loss of the life we had created, and the loss of much of my identity as well.

Widowhood was a title that I hated in the beginning stages of this journey. I remember the first time I went to grief therapy, they asked me to fill out a health history form. A line read “Marital status: single, married, divorced, widow/widower, other” I remember the breath being knocked out of me when I read the word “widow.” I hated it so much, and couldn’t even bring myself to check the box. It was an ominous sounding dark word. I wanted nothing to do with it.

Over the past year though, my attitude about widowhood has changed, probably mostly because I have changed. I have been through a lot over the past sixteen months, and have grown into so much more than I was before.

I watched my capable husband struggle to even be able to form words. I held him and told him I loved him, then saw him fade as he was intubated and his condition progressed. I cuddled up with him and listened to his machine induced breathing, and the beeps and dripping noises of the medical equipment that was prolonging his life. I collapsed in a hospital conference room when the news was just too much for me to bear. I made the decision to end life support for the man I loved more than my own life. I had to endure the experience of sitting my children down and telling them the worst news imaginable. I held them as they said goodbye to their father. I planned a funeral and buried my husband. I dealt with the incredible amount of shock that my body plunged into immediately following his passing. I lost my appetite completely, and threw up often. I obsessed for months, went to meetings, filled out paperwork, sat on the phone for hours, until I finally learned how to financially take care of my family. I breathed through intense panic attacks, and massaged my hands when the anxiety made them completely numb. I participated in family events, even though my husband’s absence was unbearable. I went to church every week in the building that had so many memories of my happy family, and then a closing casket. I got up and lived life when honestly I wished I could just give up. I sat alone in my bed and endured the dark, lonely nights with only my thoughts, and a framed picture by my bed to keep me company. I got up at two in the morning and cleaned vomit out of my carpet. I learned how to take care of my children on my own, and though it was exhausting and incredibly difficult, I was a solo parent. I wiped the tears off of their sweet faces as they struggled to make sense of the loss of their father. I held them and sobbed myself, as I tried to comfort them, all the while feeling too overwhelmed to even be able to help myself.

I am amazed some days that I have made it this far. That first year was excruciating especially. But as I look back at how far I have come, and how much I have learned, I feel so empowered. I feel capable. I feel so completely broken, and so incredibly strong, all at the same time.

Being a widow has taken on a new meaning for me. It is a club I never wanted to join, but now that I am here, I see so much good.

My story is far from the worst that I have heard. There are women out there that truly have endured more that any one person ever should. Over the past sixteen months, I have met others, widows like me: some online friends, some over the phone conversations, and a couple of dinner dates with other young moms in my same situation. It is a beautiful thing to see how grief has shaped these women into loving, self sufficient, compassionate souls. They have been through incredible pain, and have felt the overwhelming darkness that surrounds the loss of a spouse, but they choose every day to look for the good. They have endured so much, but are more lovely because of it. Widowhood is a sisterhood of love, loss, pain, perseverance, and the ability to dig deep when you feel like you are suffocating.

Through losing my own sweet husband, I have found new parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed. Becoming a widow was the most pivotal, life changing event for me. I am who I am today, because of the painful growth that I have experienced through my trials.

I have had a few well meaning people ask, “aren’t you so happy you aren’t a widow anymore?”

Let me clarify.

I am SO incredibly grateful for my new husband. He has opened a whole new chapter in my life, and I am incredibly in love with him. I feel so blessed to have found such an understanding, sweet man. He really is perfect for me. He’s my person, and I plan on spending every day of the rest of forever loving him.

So yes, when I go to the doctor, I can happily check the married box. I am beyond thrilled to be Mrs. Little. But, I am still a widow.

Saying “I do” doesn’t change the fact that I have a husband that is in heaven. It didn’t make me forget his presence in my life. I don’t miss him any less. It doesn’t erase the past year, or the pain that I feel when I remember him taking his final breath.

And I still have days when I am rinsing my hair, and then I find myself sobbing on the floor of my shower. I still love him. I always will.

The best part is that I don’t have to choose. I can be a widow and a wife. I can love both of my sweet husbands. I can be happy and sad simultaneously. There are no rules when it comes to grieving. I feel incredibly blessed to have found a husband who understands this, and is so supportive of me. I can (and do) feel a full spectrum of emotion all at once.

I trust that God knows my heart, and he will have it all figured out when it is said and done. I know that right now, I have a very limited vision. I know that it is impossible to know all of the reasons and answers why at this point in my mortality. One day, when I get to see the entire picture, it will all make sense. But for now, I am taking things a day at a time, and embracing all of the good that I can. I am in love with two men, and I’m OK with being a widow and a wife at the same time.

“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.” ― L.R. Knost

Pink Donuts

“I WANT PINK DONUTS!!!” Gracie shouted. “Nobody ever buys them for me, and I am mad that nobody even remembers that they are my favorite! Everyone always gets me brownies, cake, cinnamon rolls, or cookies, but NOBODY ever gets me pink donuts.” Tantrums aren’t rare in my house. With 3 young children, they are probably even a daily occurrence. But this tantrum was truly epic: Tears streaming, foot stomping, and a look of pure disgust on my five year old’s face.

My first thought was of how I must be spoiling my kids too much. I refuse to raise entitled kids, and that was quite the list of baked goods that she had just stuck her nose up at (insert eye roll here). In fact, Ryan had taken her on a date just this Saturday. They went out for some indulgent cookie dough cinnamon rolls, and I was about to remind her of just that.

But then I really looked at her. Something stopped me when I saw the broken hearted look on her face. I quietly sat on the floor of her bedroom.

“Tell me about pink donuts. Why are they your favorite?”

Gracelyn sat on the ground with her arms folded angrily across her chest. “They are my favorite because they have sprinkles. They are my favorite color. They taste so yummy. And…….Daddy used to always surprise me with pink donuts.” There it was. Daddy used to buy her pink donuts. And then he was gone, and so were the pink donuts. I asked her if maybe she wasn’t actually mad about not getting pink donuts, but maybe she was really mad about her Daddy dying. Her eyes immediately filled with tears and she sobbed into my shoulder.

“I miss my Daddy.”

She poured her sweet little heart out to me. She told me how afraid she is of forgetting things about her Dad. She told me how she misses her Daddy all of the time…especially at night. She admitted that after Ryan and I tuck her in at night, she opens her window coverings and looks up into the dark sky. She prays every night for her Daddy to come back, and is surprised every time he isn’t there when her eyes open.

I have no doubt that Ry sits there on the edge of the bed with her, watching her little heart break. I’m sure he wishes he could take away her pain as much as I do. He misses her too. I told her this, and then turned on one of her favorite “Daddy Songs.”

Lullaby (Gentri)

Gently close your eyes so gently

See the dancing starlight worlds away

Softly angels whisper softly

Hear their lullaby sing drift away

Sailing through the sky you’re sailing

Chase the moon til sunrise wakes the day

And I will guard you while you’re sleeping

And I will be here waiting when you wake

Let this peace set you free

And sweetly rest

We spent the next hour sitting in front of the computer. I turned on a slideshow of all of the pictures I have of Gracie with her Dad. We wore his baseball caps, and sprayed his cologne on our shirts. We both cried, smiled, and remembered. When the slideshow ended, and there were no more pictures left to see, Gracie folded her arms. She said a short but powerful little prayer. She asked to feel her Daddy near, and asked for help to feel happy again. Then she bounced up and ran to play with her toys.

Sweet Gracie, I hope you always know how loved you are. Even though you have endured more than any little girl should ever have to go through, you still have your innocence and your sweetness. You teach me every day what it means to have the “faith of a child.” If you can get through this, one of the hardest things you will ever face in your life, you can do anything. Sometimes you just have to take life a day at a time, or when it is hard just a moment at a time is ok too.

As for today, at this moment, we are choosing joy.

We are eating Pink Donuts.

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The mom she likes most.

(December 23, 2016)

Reality check. This was a hard one for me.

Yesterday, we took the kids skating for the first time. I was holding hands with Gracie, laughing, and glide/shuffling around the rink. She looked up at me and said, “I really like THIS Mommy.” I asked her what she meant, and she said, “The Mommy that smiles. The mommy that isn’t frustrated and sad.”

An insane amount of guilt hit me immediately, and I apologized for not always being the mom that she liked the most. She smiled up at me, and said, “Mom, it’s ok. I know you are just having a hard time because you miss Daddy. But he’s always in your heart you know?” Tears filled my eyes and I gave her a hug.

Kids are just so perceptive. And she was spot on. I haven’t been the Mom she loves the most for a long time now. Instead, I’m the Mom that made macaroni/chicken nuggets/pizza for dinner every night for 6 months. I’m the mom who put my kids in front of the TV when I could feel myself slipping into despair, so I could break down alone in my room. I’m the mom that gets overwhelmed/frustrated/anxiety over things that I used to handle with ease. I’m the mom who still, even a year later, has to fake a smile and fight back tears when a “Daddy song” comes on the radio and my kids want to belt it out.

I cried later that day when I told Ryan what she had said. His reply was so incredibly kind, and really hit home. I’ve been doing the best I can in the hardest circumstances. And he’s right.

I definitely wasn’t a gourmet chef for almost a year after Ry passed away, but my kids got to eat their favorite foods, and they never went to bed hungry. They watched more tv than normal, but they didn’t have to watch their mom sob and scream into her bed. They may not see it now, but later I hope that they realize that even though I wasn’t always the most patient, I was getting out of bed. I was getting up and doing life…changing diapers, refereeing arguments, and folding laundry. I was doing all of it, even when all I wanted to do was throw my hands up in the air and “give up.” (Whatever that really even means). I was forcing myself to take deep breaths and to power through the anxiety that was triggered so easily, and that could be so debilitating. And when they wanted to look at pictures, listen to old voicemails, or hear songs that reminded them of their sweet Daddy, though it broke every piece of my heart, I would turn it up loud and sing along.

Because I’m a good mom.

If you are struggling as a mom, or have only enough energy for Netflix and Leftovers, be kind to yourself. We are all fighting battles. Some are very visible like mine, but most moms are in the trenches of their own homes, without anyone knowing the struggles they are facing. If you love your kids, truly want what is best for them, and are doing your very best, that is enough. You are enough. I. Am. Enough.

And I will try to let “the mom she loves most” out more often…because I like her the most too.

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The Beginning of Chapter 2

You weren’t my plan.

As a young girl/woman, I made my life plan (I’m a real list maker). I would go to University. I would get married. I would have three kids all exactly two years apart. I would stay home with them until they were grown, and then I would have a fulfilling career. I would travel, build a home, serve a mission, and retire with my husband. I had a plan, one that I agonized over, and prayed about.

To be honest, that was pretty much my life. I met my husband Ryan on my very first day at BYU-Idaho. We married only 6 months later. We started out as poor college students, then went through the nervous new parent stage as we welcomed our first baby into the world. Our beautiful red haired daughter changed everything for us. We grew from a couple into a family. We were blessed with two more babies through our years together: a sweet blond little girl, and a smiling baby boy that looked just like his Dad. We created a beautiful life that was truly everything that I had ever wanted. That isn’t to say that things were always ideal. Our marriage endured struggles with anxiety, loss of trust, two miscarriages, stress over career/ finances…and other challenges that are not unique to just our marriage, but that were difficult for us. Thankfully, we held on through the good and the bad, and overall we grew a lot. We weren’t perfect, but we learned to communicate, forgive, and to truly love. In our short time together, we had it…that best friend love that I had dreamed about as a girl. He was my everything, and I was his. My plan was to grow old with my best friend.

And then it happened. And then he was gone. It’s so ironic that something only an inch long could completely alter the course of my life. The person I loved more than anyone was fine one moment, and then fighting for his life the next. The aneurism and stroke took his ability to breathe, to speak, to move, and in the end I had no choice but to let him go.

It was excruciating. My plan was gone. My life felt like a puzzle that had been tossed in the air, but when I tried to piece it back together, the pieces didn’t fit anymore. I was a widow at twenty seven. I was a single mom trying to console three devastated children. I was broken, and was painfully aware of how little control I truly had ever had.

And then came you.

I met you at the darkest time in my life. You were kind, understanding, and genuine. You became the person I talked to when nights were long, and the pain was overwhelming. You distracted my troubled mind with stories of your travels, dates that had gone badly, and dreams for the future. You became a dear friend. And then, after some time, you became the person I would spend time with when I needed to escape. When I was with you, I could get away from it all. When I was with you, I smiled again. And on the days that I couldn’t smile, you were there for me. You bought my kids balloons to send up to their Daddy in heaven. You drove me to the cemetery and asked to hear stories about him when my heart was heavy. You listened to my pain. You were there when my shoulders shook with sobs. You were patient, you gave me space when I needed it, but you were always there. You were gentle with my heart.

And then one September day I realized it: God still had a plan for me, and maybe somehow it was meant to be all along. I had written my first Chapter, and it was beautiful. But at 27, a large part of my story was still unwritten. Although my husband was too young to die, I was too young to not truly LIVE. It is exactly what my RJ would have wanted for me, and for our Children. It was hard to be vulnerable. To love is to risk a broken heart, something I knew all too well. But it was right, so I took the leap of faith that it required to have the chance of being truly be happy again.  I married you. You are exactly what I need and want. You are my chapter two. This chapter will be full of healing, love, adventure, and growth. I can’t wait to see what the rest of our story brings.

I have found that allowing God to fill in the blanks when the pages of life seem bleak, is the way to have a best selling novel anyways.

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