TL/dr: may2018-present sucked. Some good things, some horrible things. But I survived.
If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting my sparkling face (by sparkling, I mean sweaty and panting from exhaustion from chasing kids and/or animals), then you will probably know that I am utterly in love with my husband, my family, and my life. I love telling the stories of our adventures, and have used this blog and facebook as a way to keep in touch with you all. But I’ve been MIA the past few months. No blogs, seldom fb posts, and even fewer texts or phone calls to my close friends and family.
And for this, I must apologize. I’ve been absent. I’ve been here, but… not.
My last post was some time ago… in May of 2018 to be exact. 3 seasons have come and gone. Just 3 months shy of an entire year. Compared to right now, life was nice and easy. I had a few sweet goats, a smattering of chickens, a couple of baby rabbits, 3 children running amuck, and one holed up in his room glued to an iPad. But best of all, I had a doting husband that encouraged me to do all the crazy things that popped into my head. Athe time, my biggest worry was if I had coffee creamer in the fridge for my next life-giving, magic bean potion.
That was until my life was flipped, turned upside down.
HE LEFT ME.
Well, he kind of left me. Let me paint a picture…
The sun is shining down on our little piece of heaven. It was a simple, relaxed, and easy going day in early May. The kids are frolicking with the animals across the dandelion ridden lawn, as my sweet husband and I share a moment together, reflecting on how calm and quiet life out of the city has been. And then, like a child pouring their own cereal, all the pieces hit the floor in a cacophony of chaos.
My husband was notified that he had been accepted into a 4 month training for the Army, and he had to leave in just a few weeks. For Texas. 1,300 miles away.
F O U R M O N T H S.
My mother, aunt, cousin and 2 little kids were due to arrive for a week long visit. We had planned to build an addition to our house that upcoming summer. I had 4 kids. We milked a goat twice a day (I say we, but he did it for the most part). Not to mention the dogs, cats, other goats, chickens, rabbits, and horse that reside on our little farm… How was I supposed to do all the work by myself? FOR FOUR MONTHS?!
My husband’s parents live within walking distance, so I knew that there would be support, but they had their own full schedules and lives to live. I wouldn’t ask them to be my crutch through it, even though I knew that they wouldn’t hesitate to lend a hand.
So, the husband got moving and busted out the addition. He built an entire room in a week with the help of his father (and occasionally one of our kids… if you call running away with tools and various hardware ‘help’). And of course, I ran around trying to tie up as many loose ends as I could, and started making a honey-do list about a mile long. My list included planting the largest garden I have ever had–You name it, we were growing it, or at least HOPING to.
As we ran around trying to pull ourselves together, my family came from both coasts to visit, and truth be told, it was a disaster. Our youngest, once a tiny newborn baby turned 1. We held a party for him, and as we celebrated, a feeling of dread overcame me. I had been fighting with my mother for most of the visit, and there was so much tension in the air that no one was truly comfortable. I allowed my fears of being alone stilt my ability to relax and enjoy myself.
As I gritted my teeth through an uncomfortable afternoon of idle banter with my family, my anchor through the storm began to pack his things. It became real. He was really leaving. The last days of their visit, I was, to say the least, distracted. Looking back, I feel terrible for being such a non-existant host. I could have been taking them around to see the beauty that this vara holds, but instead I was allowing that dread to take over. To control my actions and attitude.
The day came for him to leave, and after a tearful curbside goodbye at the airport, I was on my own. And I didn’t know what the crap I was doing.
My family’s visit ended with the tension lingering, and I frittered away at my new role in the home as best as I could. When something needed to be fixed, I fixed it. When the kids wanted to do something that needed an adult’s assistance, I was there. I milked the goat, and fed the animals. I did the dishes, and swept the floors. But mostly, I missed him.
Fast forward a few weeks, a long paper chain hung across my living room to count down the days until his return. The summer’s long days were filled with tending the growing garden, swimming in our little pool, and playing host to friends passing by who wanted to visit. As it was summer, we had several people come visit and stay for a few days here and there. On one such occassion, my brother-in-law, his girlfriend and their new baby drove up from Texas. The moment I met that little baby, I felt a tug at my heart that I couldn’t yet explain. The new young family hung out, played around on the farm, and we showed them the sights, as I should have done with the previous guests.
One afternoon, on our way to do some shopping in a nearby town, I had 2 of my kids, my mother-in-law, the girlfriend and little baby all loaded up in my minivan, and as I reversed, I felt the worst thing a pet owner can imagine. The THUMP of my rear wheels over something that should not have been behind my car. I lept out of my van, as I saw my 9-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Olive, hobble painfully across the lawn. She was making a sound that I had never heard, and one that I will never forget. I scooped her up, ran to the passenger side of the van as my mother-in-law took over at the wheel, and we sped to the nearest vet. A grueling 30 minute drive.
My heart sank as I held her, knowing that even though I could see no blood, she was bleeding internally, it was all my fault. I held her as the vet delivered news that there was nothing that she cold do other than permanently relieve her of the pain. I called my husband, and he listened as I said goodbye to our sweet girl. I whispered in her ear that she was my girl, and that she was such a good girl. Such a good girl.
I wasn’t supposed to have to do anything hard while he was away.
I was numb. I sank into myself, and didn’t allow my grief to show, because if i did, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to be strong enough to do what I HAD to do. The rest of that week flew by in a blur. I was able to snuggle that little baby a few more days, but naturally, our visitors left, andI felt like a part of my heart was pulling away as they drove away back to their own lives in Texas. The place that held the missing piece of my heart.
My days became routine. Nothing ever changed.
Wake up, feed kids, milk goat, collect eggs, feed animals, tend garden, move sprinklers, drink coffee, swim lessons, drink coffee, do laundry, wash dishes, bake bread, move sprinklers, fold laundry, make dinner, put kids to bed, milk goat, attempt to talk to husband on the phone, lather, rinse, repeat
I was the definition of a Mombie. And on top of all that, out of guilt, I brought home a puppy to be a companion to our other, now sad and mopey dog. A beautiful Great Pyrenees that we named Gandalf the White, because as a guardian dog, he wolud tell unwanted visitors “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!” Unfortunately, he’s the sweetest thing and licks everyone he meets. Fail.
One of my new baby goats came to me sick, and passed shortly after I brought her home. We didn’t really know her long, but losing an animal is never easy. RIP Tabby.
Y’all, I was exhausted, and it had only been 4 weeks.
And then tragedy struck again. Our almost 2 year old dog Millie just stopped doing. Like, everything. Eating, playing, barking, everything. She just stopped. She was a Doberman mix /something funky mix, but looked like a Weimaraner, even the vets thought so. She was running a temperature of 105.3, so I rushed her to the vet. Another ride that left me feeling helpless. After a blood test, the vet determined that she had liver dysfunction disorder that was most likely cancerous. And that we could get her into a doggie chemo treatment, which would run us into the 10’s of thousands of dollars by the end of the year, or we could assist her and allow her to move on.
It has been said that on rare occasions, life long partners often die one right after another. They allow the sadness to overcome them, and their bodies just… give in to whatever ailments had been hiding under the surface. Yeah, that’s a thing. He explained that losing her best(dog)friend, most likely caused a spurt of something to change, and broke down Millie’s immune system and allowed this pre-existing condition just take over. Yes, she had a new friend, but he wasn’t HERS.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
My heart wasn’t even broken. It was shattered.
Another tearful phone call to my person who was 1300 miles away, and a sobbing goodbye as I cradled Millie’s puppy dog head and told her she was a good girl, just as I did with Olive only 6 weeks before. She wasn’t even 2 years old.
We chose to bury them side by side out in our pasture, and marked their graves with large rocks.
I. Was. Broken.
So, I lost myself deeper into the monotony of routine.
Wake. Feed. Milk. Drink. Water. Swim. Feed. Bake. Fold. Drink. Cook. Water. Wash. Milk. Sleep.
August passed by. I’m not even sure that I was here for it. Except that the kids and animals were alive, so I must have been doing something right. I guess?
September brought an unforeseen opportunity for me one day as I visited the tiny local library with my 3 littles (ages 4, 3, & 1). Out of nowhere, the librarian asked me to apply as a part time librarian’s assistant. It was 19 hours a week., I would be in charge of the preschool programs, and allow the current librarian (her) to move along on projects that she had been unable to do while working alone. Ok, let me back-up, this isn’t just a tiny library, it’s a TINY one. One person staff, open only 4 hours a day, 5 days a week. Itty-bitty-small-and-squarey, kinda-dusty, quaint library. And they asked ME to apply.
You want to know the most ridiculous part? I SAID I WOULD. Talk about a martyr.
On the day of the interview, one of my kids needed to go to the ER because her mouth was rotting from the inside out. No joke. My 4 year old had her first filling 2 days before, and had bitten her cheek to the point of infection, and of course we had to wait until Tuesday to be seen at the dentist again. NOPE. I took her Monday morning to the ER, waited for 23432 hours in the waiting room, because that’s just how it works. My interview time came and went. I felt like this was God telling me to slow down, but did I listen? Of course not. I walked into the library 2 hours late and started to apologize my head off knowing full well that I would be passed up for this job. But I still wanted to use the facility, and wouldn’t be able to show my face there if I didn’t at least explain how sorry I was.
But they showed me grace and hired me anyway. The job wasn’t set to start until October, so I had a few weeks to get all my ducks in a row. Umm. Well, at least get all my ducks in the same area. No, that’s not true. Ducks scare me, so I’ll never have ducks. Goats. Get my goats in a row, that’s better.
And then, of course, Life decided to shake things up… again…
4 days later I was on a plane to Texas! Not to see my beloved. Nope. I was flying out to pick up that little baby that I mentioned before. He was coming to live with me for an undetermined amount of time. Wait, what did I just say? Yeah, I was gaining another child. What’s one more? Can you say un poco loco?
This 5 month old baby was in dire need of love, hugs, food, and family. He was malnourished at 10lbs and behind on all milestones. I got him onto an aggressive feeding schedule, and in 2 weeks he gained 2 pounds and grew 2 inches. That tiny piece of my heart that I watched drive away a few months prior was had been stitched back into place.
5 kids, farm, no husband, a new job… and still a month to go before he came home.
On September 23rd, 2018 I finally released the beast. It was the day our little dragonfly stretched her wings and flew to Heaven. Stark RaeLee should have celebrated her 2nd birthday with us that afternoon. There should have been cake, and balloons, and piles of presents wrapped in pink paper. But there wasn’t. I woke up that morning to chores, and diapers, and dishes, and a routine that was eating away at me. Life had gone on, and I was just surviving. I was not thriving.
I cried that day. I sobbed. I stood under the shower and let my tears mingle with the hot water as it pounded down over my shaking shoulders. I had FINALLY admitted to myself that I was tired, and that I didn’t want to pretend to be strong anymore. I needed my husband. My rock. My other half. My best friend. But I still had another 3 weeks, so I finally became motivated to make a plan. I refused to allow the seeds of doubt cloud my mind any longer.
After my emotional breakthrough/breakdown, I finished my chores, and sat down with a prayer, a pen, and a plan. I was a woman on a mission, there was no stopping me.
There is a lot to be said about writing things down. Not only does it allow us to organize our thoughts, but it is also a powerful way to communicate with ourselves and to pinpoint where our weaknesses lie. I’m a believer in lists, because once it’s written down, I don’t have the excuse of forgetting. So, I got on it. By the time I was finished I had at least a dozen lists sitting in front of me. I made a decision to dry out the goat. One less chore could give me the time I needed to breathe. I planned to have dinner ready at 5pm, have the kids in bed at 7pm, and made a vow to be more intentional with my kids. To actually TEACH them something. To enjoy and capture the moments that I had been coasting past. I cleaned to house from top to bottom, and made a promise to myself to take time for ME every morning. Guys, I did yoga… I felt like a hippo trying to balance on one foot while defusing a bomb, but hey, I was doing something.
The days felt better. There were still only 24 hours in each day, but at the end, instead of feeling exhausted and defeated, I had a sense of accomplishment because I could check off the boxes on my list. I had visual proof that I did something that day, and I was also able to see what had been missed so I could make up for it on the next day’s list. I began my job at the library, while the kids enjoyed some time in a new environment with a great sitter. It freed up so much of my time, and I felt less and less like a character on The Walking Dead.
I could breathe.
The day finally came, and what’s his face’s homecoming was a bittersweet moment. He had only expected me to pick him up since, t was a late night arrival. Instead, I tossed the bedtimes out the window, loaded all 5 kids and my mother- in- law into the van, and called our best friend to meet us at the airport. We had the kids make one of those candy bar signs with goofy and cheesy saying all over it, and I headed up the stairs to receive my better half while the kids stayed hidden down below with the other adults.
I was a nervous wreck. I’m sure the people waiting for their loved ones thought I was going mad, watching mey as I nervously bounced and vigorously tapped my hand against my leg. The passengers from his flight meandered through the doors to be reunited with friends and family, but most casually walked past with their heads down gazing at their phones, probably being picked up at baggage claim by an Uber…
WHERE WAS HE? This was killing me. Was he the last person off the plane?
And then I saw his face. My lip began to quiver, and I started whispering, “walk faster, walk faster, walk faster,” urging him to lessen the still looming gap between us. I’m not sure at what point, but I eventually stopped whispering and began saying my mantra quite loudly, and as soon as he stepped past the security doors, I RAN to him. I threw my body against his with the force of 4 months and the greatest love that I had ever felt. I sobbed against his shoulder as I had,not too long ago in the shower, and kissed him with a passion that I hadn’t expected. I was whole again.
He told me, “We are okay now,” and I believed him with my entire being.
He was quite surprised to see all of the kids, his mom, and our dear friend at the bottom of the stairs. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. It was as if a beam of light was back in my life where only darkness had been.
This is where the mushy stuff ends, don’t worry…
I cannot give enough credit and appreciation to those people who have to parent on their own. I raised my son for 5 year on my own, but life was more simple back then. No animals, just the two of us. And even then, it was rough. It’s not a job for the weak, for reals. There is nothing easy about parenting, especially when you are the one who has to be everyone and everything at all times.
I may have smiled, and sounded like I was doing all right. I might have told you that everything was great, and you may have read a facebook post where I told a snippet of something funny from my day, but I was struggling. I can see that now. Here is where I stop telling my story and urge you to look into your own.
If you are just existing, just gliding through, are you really living? THRIVE, don’t just live
I challenge you to pick up a pencil, a crayon, open the notepad on your phone, whatever works for you, and write this down:
What can I do today that I didn’t do yesterday?
Who made me smile today?
Did I return the kindness?
When did I last take time for myself?
What did I do?
Am I happy?
And I thriving?
Your answers might surprise you, and I hope they do. Because sometimes you need to face that person in the mirror and remember that you are not alone.
Y’all, I pray that you find happiness in your life. We all have dark places that we get lost in, but there is a promise of a better day. Push through. Ask for help. Talk to someone. Find your light. And take care of yourself.