Kentucky Mom to Twins and More

Friday, April 27, 2018

Closing a chapter on a crappy book


You know when you are reading a really good book and you don't want the book to end?
The kind where you can't wait to get to each chapter? But then sometimes the book has a really crappy ending and you are left sitting there saying, "Seriously? That can't be it."
I suppose sometimes if the book has a sequel, it can redeem itself. Maybe.

This is how I'm feeling as I pack up the last box to leave this home. We're at the end of our chapter here. We're closing this book. The kids and I are moving from a house my husband and I bought five years ago, with the promise of "never moving again." It was supposed to be our "forever home." We had four kids under the age of 6 when we moved in. We were so happy to have found a home in my husband's childhood neighborhood and only a mile from the school we wanted our children to attend.

The yard here was huge, perfect for kids to run around in. Countless shoes lost a battle to the dirt and mud in the creek and woods behind us. The well-worn wooden playset and sandbox here saw action every single day - or at least every day that it wasn't raining, snowing or 30 degrees out. The kids drove me nuts chasing the dog up and down these stairs, scratching up all the hardwood floors along the way. Daddy riled up and wrestled with the kids on these carpets (precisely at bedtime, of course). Lots of diapers here. Lots of Band-Aids. Lots of Legos probably lost and buried in the bowels of this home (as the new owners will soon find out). Memories of bare feet, sidewalk chalk and popsicles in the summer and snow angels and snowball fights in the winter here.

The dark cherry kitchen cabinets and outdated tile backsplash here were going to get an HGTV-style facelift, too. I was hoping to one day channel my inner Joanna Gaines to make this a gourmet kitchen for cooking, baking and entertaining (actually, since I suck at cooking and baking, it was probably just going to be an entertaining kitchen). We were going to add another bathroom upstairs so the girls wouldn't have to share one sink as teenagers. That stupid swingset was supposed to one day be the very spot where we'd put in a pool for the kids to splash around in with friends for the rest of our summers in life.

But if I've learned anything in 42 years, it's that you shouldn't get your hopes up and make too many plans in life. Because life doesn't let you make plans. The chapters aren't written by you.

This chapter here ends with the reality that no more kids need diapering. No more children will be learning to ride a bike. Santa Claus is just a fairy tale now to (at least all but one of) them. Someone else will get to decide whether to put a pool in here. My kids' father isn't here to see his daughters at the top of this staircase banister all dressed up for prom night in 10 years.

We're at the end of this chapter. It seems like a crappy book, doesn't it? Her husband f*ing dies and her kids don't have a father anymore, she's got to move 800 boxes out alone and she never even got to swap out that hideous tile backsplash. This can't be the ending.

I don't know the next chapter. I don't know if it will be happy or sad. I don't know how many more moves we will make or if this one will be the last. I'm sure wherever we go there will be Band-Aids and Legos and scratched hardwoods and infinite memories of the best daddy there ever was.

But I hope, my friends, that I get a sequel. I hope I can find a way to redeem this crappy ending. I'm not going to try and control it. We're going to do our best to live out a best-seller from here on out. Thanks for reading along though, as our chapters write themselves.

This post was also published May 17, 2018 here at Scarymommy.com.
This post was also published Oct. 2, 2018 here at The Widow Wears Pink.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

See you in my dreams

I had a good dream last night. I'm surprised I even remember it because I never seem to sleep well enough to even dream most nights anymore.

I found my husband there in the dream. He was alive. He was healthy. He could talk again. We were in some sort of warehouse or empty place. He was on a dock surrounded by water and he was talking to me but I don't know about what. I was only listening to the sound of his voice and the expressions on his face. He was smiling.

I hadn't seen that smile in so long. I was hugging him and I wouldn't let go. I felt his strong arms around me again and I know I was breathless— silly I know—because it was a dream, but it felt possible. Cancer wasn't here this night. Cancer hadn't touched him. It hadn't taken anything yet, his speech, his smile, his body and strength. I was yelling, hello! and asking if he was OK, was everything OK? I can't remember if he answered me, I only remember the hellos and the hugging.
This is one of those dreams that you absolutely don't want to wake up from. That kind that when you do open your eyes, reality slaps you across the face and leaves you defeated to start another day. My husband and I left so many things unsaid when he passed away nearly five months ago. There were so many feelings unexpressed, words unspoken and countless sorries that never made it out of our mouths. There was never a proper goodbye.

I flounder around most days getting the kids where they need to be, acting like I have it all together, trying to smile and joke with friends or elicit a laugh from my son before he goes to bed. But between it all, I'm only looking for him. I stare at cardinals in the trees way too long, stupidly wondering if it's him chirping a message at me. I study the sun rays and clouds to make sure nothing meaningful is spelled out in them. I went to his office a couple weeks back. It was cleaned out and empty because new ownership is downsizing and soon the building will close. Sitting behind a desk where a once powerful, vibrant, healthy husband and father spent his days for the past 15 years— I sobbed. I grabbed all the leftover pencils in his drawer, if only to have something concrete he once touched. I took a Kleenex box from his window sill, knowing it was something he probably stared at from this desk not so long ago.

None of this will bring him back though. None of it brings any closure. None of this is a goodbye.
I clutch a rosary in bed at night—probably one of the many that came to this house while he was sick over the past two years. But not really to pray it. I guess I'm just hoping there's some magical way that out of all the billions of people out there, that some spirit or some force will descend here and get my message to him. To get him to me. To bring him to me again.

I never got a goodbye. I didn't say things I should have. I never apologized for so many things and I didn't offer forgiveness or ask for any either. I never got a goodbye.

I suppose this is why I look for him in my dreams. It's why I keep my eyes shut a little longer every morning. So I don't have to do the goodbye. I can just have that hug again. I can see the smile again. So I can just endure here with only those hellos again.

This post was originally published April 12, 2018 here at Cure Magazine.




Wednesday, April 11, 2018

When dreams take a backseat to reality


When I was a little girl, I dreamed of being a jockey.

Like any other 8-year-old girl, I obsessed over horses. I read books about them, I drew pictures of them, I wrote stories about them. My favorite book was Black Beauty. I watched the movie The Black Stallion over and over and imagined that I was Alec the shipwrecked boy stranded on that island with a beautiful racehorse. I even lied to my fourth grade pen pal and told her I had a pet horse in my backyard (sorry to "Julie from Colorado," but I'm a big, fat liar).

The only time I was ever on a horse was during a trip to Disneyland in third grade when my sisters and I stood in line for the pony rides. It was probably the most thrilling five minutes of my childhood. But when your eyes itch and your face feels like it might explode in a barn because you are allergic to horses, it is probably time to find a new dream.

So I took the reins instead of what my mom told me I was good at. I was going to be a writer. I spent many nights in my bunk bed writing stories, drawing illustrations and coming up with silly characters. I won't lie, a lot of the stories had the word "fart" in them and usually involved a main character running away from home on her horse, but at least my imagination was always running with them.


I loved writing essays in school. I filled countless diaries. I craved spelling and grammar tests. I soaked up every Beverly Cleary book in the public library and cherished my paperback collection of Anne of Green Gables. I took all the writing courses they'd allow in college and got an internship at a newspaper. I loved hearing stories and telling them. I grew up in a small Indiana town, but I dreamed of going to a big city, living amongst the skyscrapers, walking to a high-rise office building where I'd bury myself in books and a pen would forever be in my hand. I was going to be a writer in a big city somewhere, someday.

But we all know dreams have a way of slipping through your fingers.


Just before college graduation, I bought a one-way plane ticket to Seattle. I was headed to a beautiful, Pacific Coast city to find myself a job no matter the cost. The ink on my rejection letter from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz still fresh after I had requested an interview to come join his PR team. "He doesn't know what he's passing up," I told myself. "I'll find something better."

But I never got on that plane. I met a boy from Kentucky not a couple weeks after who was headed to New Jersey for a job offer there. I didn't think we'd make it long distance, living 50 states away from each other. In hindsight, I probably should have just gone with him, but we only knew each other a short time and I had less than $100 in my bank account, which probably wouldn't even get me cab fare anywhere. So I stayed in the Midwest, where I landed a small newspaper job and after a few years, we got married and both moved into a two-bedroom farmhouse in the Bluegrass State. Long story short-- it's been 20 years, four kids and one unimaginable loss later and I still wonder about that dream I had all that time ago.

I found that plane ticket the other day in a box of keepsakes in the basement. It reminds me of the choices we make and how impactful they are at every chapter in our lives. If I had taken that flight, I tell myself, I probably would have found a great job. I would have met someone there and started a different life. We probably would have walked our kids to the Pike Place Market every weekend and I'd probably have learned to snow ski. My office would be in one of those skyscrapers overlooking the Space Needle, I think.

There's sadness that comes with envisioning that dream ever could have been reality. There would have never been a love story with a boy from Kentucky-- that boy who turned into the husband who adored me for 20 years (except for that time I lost the car on Valentine's Day weekend in '99 - he didn't adore me that night). I would never have experienced a laughter so intense that night he and I went to Drake's bar with our friends that night in August 2014-- the night I got kicked out for doing cartwheels and splits on the dancefloor, wet my pants and almost broke my ankle. That was a night for the books.

I wouldn't have had these four brown-eyed children who drive me crazy in love every day and wake me in bed at 5:30 a.m. with knock-knock jokes. I wouldn't have learned how to ride a tractor and bale hay on a hazy summer afternoon. I wouldn't have learned how to pull up and anchor a speedboat onto a houseboat (albeit not very well though). It means I probably never would have held a gun or learned to shoot one, nor would I have realized what an excellent shot I am at hitting a bull's-eye from 100 yards away.

It means I wouldn't have met the close friends I have here who join me every month for Monday night martinis after our kids go to bed. It's hard to think about a life without those friendships and the laughter we share. How could I ever have been happy without them?

Sometimes the chances at a dream can just pass you by.

I accept that now. I can't uproot four kids from everything they know here in Kentucky to plunk them down in Chicago or Atlanta. It would be about as likely as Channing Tatum knocking on my door tomorrow to whisk me away to L.A. (but hey, a girl can still dream, right?)



So I have spent a good chunk of the last decade pondering the what ifs - reassuring myself and rationalizing the choices I made. Despite the fact I don't live in a high-rise or get paid to write about celebrities or take my laptop to Central Park to muse, my job here is just as important. Maybe even more important.

My priorities now are my children and making sure they grow up to be decent human beings. I read them books and tell them stories and listen to their (never-ending) ones. I taxi them to and from swim lessons and gymnastics, knowing these things make them happy. I keep myself just content enough by watching my twins (from outside the barn) take horseback lessons. I jot funny things down for them to read someday when I'm gone, because I don't know if they'll know who I really was outside all the yelling and nagging for them to clean up or to get along. The reward for all this won't be in a plaque on the wall or recognition at some fancy dinner – but I hope in the smiles of four happy kids who will be four amazing adults someday.

My son said his dream is to be a football player. He wants to be the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. I keep telling him he'll have to work hard, but he shouldn't ever give up if that's what he wants. In my head, I know what he's chasing could be an impossible dream, but it's my job to tell him it's attainable. I hope to the heavens above that he can do it.

Because you see, that's when he's going to buy his momma a penthouse apartment in New York, where she's going to write books about a little girl and her horse.

This post was published on April 11, 2018 here at Scarymommy.com.