Good Enough

My teenage daughter recently returned from church camp- the theme…”Enough.” God is enough. YOU are enough.

I am 41 years old. I’ve been through hell and out the other side, had a bazillion hours of counseling, read over 20 self help books and yet I still wrestle with the theme that was enveloped within a camp for teenagers…I AM ENOUGH.

I look good on paper. Employed, single mother of two kids (who are pretty great), a beautiful 2nd marriage on the horizon, 19 years of teaching, 3 college degrees, my house has not been shut down by the Health Department….

I sound like I’m enough. However, late in the night, early in the morning, in the shower and driving to and fro, I often don’t feel like I am.

It’s a constant questioning…can I raise these two kids properly after the loss of their father? Can I be a good wife for my chapter two? Can I be a great step mom to my soon to be bonus daughter? Can I balance all the change and adjustment and not let my OCD go into overdrive? Has gravity been working overtime on my face? What is wrong with me that I am so dang tired???

This inner dialogue is hurtful to me- those bazillion hours of counseling have taught me that- but it is still a constant battle. I’ve realized that self talk is an addiction for me. I hum along pretty well when life is peachy and then…BAM. Something goes wrong and my inner monologue starts in like one of those bullet trains.

I’ve realized that I have the ability to participate in a jovial, sarcastic interaction with a teacher friend on the outside while berating myself on the inside. I’ve realized that I can be preparing dinner and talking with my family while mentally kicking my own tail all over the kitchen. These are not skills I have on my resume or that I’m proud of. However, it’s a truth I have to acknowledge and fix because (as my soon-to-be husband just pointed out) sometimes it spills out and my children see it. OUCH.

So, for my children, for my family and most importantly for me, I am taking some steps to fix my inner monologue. In a premarital counseling session the other day, with the help of my counselor and my guy, I came up with a mantra. My go to statement to repeat when the negative self-talk begins…

“I am good enough. I can’t mess this up.” And yesterday I added “God has this.”

It may be cheesy but a couple of times these last few days it’s slammed the brakes on that darn bullet train of negativity.

I’m currently rereading the book Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I’m convinced that book is like a Stanley Kubrick film- you have to experience it more than once to REALLY get it. Anyway, Brene talks a lot about shame (unfortunately I like to shame myself) and what people with high “shame resilience” do…here is a quick paraphrase…

1. Understand and recognize what triggers shame (for me making perceived mistakes).

2. Reality check the message “being imperfect DOESN’T mean inadequate.”

3. Reach out and share (DON’T INTERNALIZE).

4. Talk about how you are feeling and ask for what you need.

This set of steps along with my mantra above seem to be helping so far. I realize it will take a long time and plenty of prayer to break the bondage of negative self talk. Bad habits are not broken in one day or even one month. Some battles last a lifetime. However, I owe it to my family, myself and the God who created me to fix this.


My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Grandma’s Table

I’m a kitchen table person. For me it’s a place for eating of course but also for work, for artwork, for projects. It’s a place to sit to work out the hard stuff- budgets, taxes, college funds. It’s a place for playing games and discussing rules and consequences. Its one of the places we laugh the most. It’s the heart of my home.

My kitchen table belonged to my paternal grandmother. This woman impacted me throughout my life. Grandma told me stories that I still retell today. Recited poems that made me want to write my own, loved her God so big and so hard that she inspires my faith daily. My Grandma made me laugh when she “found her voice” at age 80 and said what she thought the moment she thought it (some of you are laughing because I do that now at age 41.) Not a week goes by that I don’t hear her guiding me. Early on after Patrick died I heard her most everyday saying “This is the day that the Lord has made I will rejoice and be glad in it…now get up Heather.” And I got up and I got going. Her table is a link to her after all the many years since she left this earth.

Tomorrow however, this table will leave my home and begin it’s 4th residence at my cousin’s home. With his wife- a new family. It’s the right thing to do as my family grows, but I’m still a little misty tonight.

As I sit here writing this post I think about the countless meals that have been eaten around the table. First for 40+ years in my Grandma’s kitchen, then in the teeny tiny dining room of our starter home and for the last 11 years in the kitchen of this home- my safe place. I’ve eaten at the table right after coming home from the hospital with each child. I’ve eaten there when times were hard financially, when times were happy, when sadness crept in. I’ve sat at that table and labored over science projects and math homework with my eldest child and as my youngest child learned to write his name. I’ve celebrated each child’s birthday at that table. I’ve sat at that table with some of my closest friends and family and tried to open my mouth to chew- because when you are grieving sometimes you just can’t chew or swallow…or breathe. I sat at that table with just myself and my kids and pretended it was normal to have that empty 4th chair until one day- it actually was normal.

The last number of months I’ve sat at that table with my children, my fiancée and his daughter as we began the journey of becoming a new family. Just like all the other journeys in my life it is also full of ups, downs, twists and turns but I have solid faith in love, my chapter 2 and my future.

Tomorrow that table and its 4 chairs will leave for John and Lindsay’s- for new meals and new memories and a little piece of Grandma. Tonight though I will sit here and write, cry and remember. I Love You Grandma- I think you’d be proud of all of us!

The most treasured heirlooms are the sweet memories of family. ~Author Unknown

Frozen in Time

The last month of school brings a tide of several feelings- exhaustion being the most prominent of these. You know that exhaustion- the kind that sucks your soul out through your toenails until you think it’s Friday and it’s only…well Tuesday. It’s a VERY familiar feeling this time of year.

For me the final stretch of this school year has brought multiple emotional minefields and pitfalls as I navigate the end of April. While I may be functioning well out the outside on the inside I am just terribly sad.

Overall my life is pretty amazing. My kids are thriving, I’m getting remarried in two months to a wonderful man, my chapter 2 and my job is awesome. I’m handling the day to day of single parenthood within the insanity of two busy kids as well as one can. I laugh, I’m sarcastic as always but given 5 minutes of downtime- I’m terribly sad.

I realized today as I was running and crying (again apologies to my county neighbors) that my daughter, my first born is really going to high school next year. Like August. She’s really going- it’s not a test or a joke. This weekend brought her last Cotillion, Tuesday is her last band concert and she just made the high school dance team. She is moving forward, moving on to her next steps in life and it just seems like too much.

It seems like too much because, you see, when she started middle school, her Daddy was alive. Life was completely different. He was so excited about her going to middle school but still covering his face at the thought of his little girl doing middle school things. Liking boys, dances, ball games, drama/hormones. He was your typical 6th grade father. However, he didn’t live to see the end of this stage of life. He was there at the beginning but not the end of middle school.

When Patrick died, Morgan still looked like a young girl, dealt with tween problems and still seemed like a child. In a little less than two years she is registering for AP classes, wrapped up in a social world that is light years beyond where she once was and looks like a young woman. She has strong ideas, goals for the next 10 years and will be operating a motor vehicle in 17 months. (Now, let us pray.)

I’m so proud of this woman she is becoming. I’m proud of her heart, her faith, her drive, her determination. I’m proud of her adjustment to change and her ability to adapt.

I’m sad though, deeply sad. Her proud father didn’t get to see this metamorphosis, this mighty change. In pictures with him she is forever frozen in time as a child, no make up, slightly messy hair, whatever t-shirt and mismatched socks. He never got to see her dream of making the high school dance team come true, her straight A streak continue and her newly unwavering commitment to shoes and fashion. He never got to see her evolution into a confident woman unfold.

As we prep for end of middle school events and high school beginnings it is bitterly poignant for me. We are accustomed to him not being there but this month, today, I am terribly sad that Patrick doesn’t get to see our amazing girl. I look at a picture of the two of them laughing, Morgan with a messy ponytail and her Daddy gazing at her with immense love. That father/daughter bond frozen in time.

I’m thankful for all the time we shared and the precious memories too; for all these memories are a comfort when I lovingly remember you. ~Author unknown

Maybe In My Next Life…

I think I’ve started at least 10 sentences this week with the words “maybe in my next life.” You know “maybe in my next life I will be calm and not throw a toddler-like fit about all the broken stuff at my house.” Or “maybe in my next life I will not respond to teenage attitude with 40 year old sassy single mom attitude.” You know…stuff like that.

(To be clear, I don’t believe in reincarnation personally, although I find the whole concept interesting.)

I watch those “zen like” women who calmly go through life seemingly non reactive while carrying a nice purse that matches their outfit. I truly have the upmost admiration for those women. How does one get to that point at this stage of life? Was there a class I missed? Am I lacking a gene of some sort? Should I do more yoga and not just wear the pants?

You see I’m just not wired in that calm, zen way. I’m wired more like Big Thunder Mountain at Disney World- twisty, turning, hills and valleys, sheer joy all wrapped up in one wild (read crazy) ride. I feel things strongly- joy, pain, sadness, peace, injustice and oh yeah- irritation. I am passionate about the people and causes I care about and one never has to question where I stand. (If my lips aren’t moving just read my face. It’ll be right there.) I tend to insert my foot into my mouth entirely too often and SOMETIMES bad words sneak out, a little (or a lot).

I really try to be better. I do several devotions, read self help books, pray daily and still see my grief counselor (I’m fairly certain he entertains his other counselor friends with my bizarre, emotionally charged stories.) Despite all the intervention and attempts at being better- I’m still me- messy, talks to much, listens to little, me.

Joyce Meyer (who knows how to hit me right where it stings most mornings) says that we are all cracked pots. If you put light (God’s love) in a pot without cracks, no light shines through. However, as a cracked pot (oh how many, many cracks there are in this pot) I have a lot of opportunities to let God’s love shine. After my attitude adjustment, I can apologize to my teenager and model repentance and grace. After my hissy fit about heaters and garage doors I can push forward and get stuff done modeling perseverance and confidence in a better day. I can pray to be better, share my struggles and walk forward in faith.

I don’t get a next life, only this one and sadly I’m INCREDIBLY aware how short this life is. I am trying to embrace who I am, how God made me and be the best version of myself. I have come to accept that I’ll never be matchy purse, calm lady…I don’t think I have it in me. However, I can be messy me all the while trying to smooth out a couple of my rough edges.

“No better you than the you that you are” ~Alessia Cara

This IS My Family Now

Recently there was a post on one of the Widow/Widower Facebook groups I belong to about Christmas cards. The person was asking if anyone else despised receiving “happy family” cards this time of year when his/her family wasn’t happy due to the loss of a parent. I read and reread the post and I’ve thought a lot about that topic lately. Here is what I know for sure.

This IS my family now, the three of us, a mom and 2 crazy kids. It is not the family situation I thought I was signing up for- not even a little bit-but it is the one God has blessed me with and I’m proud of us.

Last fall (2016) at the urging of my teenager, the three of us took family pictures. We were 2.5 months out from the loss of Patrick and to say it was hard would be a MASSIVE understatement. However, we took those pictures and they were beautiful (thank you Sarah). The beauty in the photos had zero to do with how we looked and everything to do with what the pictures represented. They represented the reset of our family. The beginning of us as a unit of 3. The initiation of single parenthood and all it brings to the table. (You single or former single parents are giving an Amen right now…I hear you).

I have my favorite picture from that photo session blown up in black and white above our mantel and I look at it daily. In it, I see a little boy who is 3 and has his fingers laced through mine. He is still too little to truly understand the depth and breadth of what happened to him. However, he knows his Mommy and sister love him fiercely and would do anything possible to love him through his pain. This boy will become so funny and learn so many new things in his upcoming year. He will lighten and brighten the days of his mother and sister. He will remind them to not get too bogged down in life’s messes.

I see my amazing daughter in that photograph. She will take the loss of her Daddy and model grace and strength that will amaze me. This girl will use dance to channel her grief and will test her mother while at the same time sharing the responsibility that will come her way due to the enormous shift in her life. A girl who will push through a tough schedule with amazing grades and a wicked sense of humor. A girl who is moving through the difficult stages of becoming a woman yet will lead her mother to more than a few late night belly laughs.

I look into the eyes of that broken 39 year old woman. Her face is smiling but her eyes are still so sad. She is wearing a bracelet- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” She has done all those things (many of them not well but they happened) and a few things she never dreamed she’d do. This broken woman in that picture will fall apart and put herself back together so many times in the upcoming year that some people won’t recognize the person she will become. She will change and grow and evolve.

Those three people in the photograph hanging over my mantle are my family now. I sent them out on Christmas cards last year and this Christmas I sent cards with pictures of the three of us from our summer Disney Cruise. You know why? Because I’m proud of us- proud of of our messes, melodramas, mayhem and missteps. I’m proud of the laughter, love and lessons. I’m proud of the miles driven, meals eaten, events planned and new traditions we’ve made.

I responded to that post on my Facebook group very simply. “I choose to smile at all the cards I receive because someone cared enough to send them. I too sent cards both years post loss because this IS my family and I’m darn proud of us. We are pretty amazing.”

~I dedicate this post to my blessings- Morgan and Parker. May God continue to bless our family and wrap his loving arms around you as you grow. ~

Grace, Gratitude and Being Overwhelmed

Ahhh November- a time for giving thanks and counting your blessings. In addition (at least for me) it’s a time for being overwhelmed, over tired, over stressed and overly worn. The past couple of weeks I’ve looked up a couple of times to see if there was a camera crew filming me. You know, to see if and when I would finally crack. (I did, it wasn’t pretty and I think I’ve apologized to everyone who got a piece of that mess…again…so sorry.)

I’m definitely a work in progress. Someone I love dearly told me recently that I’ve “come so far” in the way I handle my solo parent/working Mom life without “falling apart” like I used to. I’ve thought about that a lot and I truly struggle to see this progress. I know I’m my own worst critic and as I’ve written before, giving myself grace and understanding is a mighty struggle.

There is a pressure that comes with this life that is hard for some to understand. It’s not just the sheer exhaustion that comes from being 100% responsible for the care, food, clothing, shelter and transportation for two other lives. It’s the overwhelming pressure of being responsible for raising both of my children to be kind, loving, independent, socially responsible, free thinking humans who show God’s love in how they live their lives. It’s ALL ON ME and many days it’s a mighty weight on my small frame.

I don’t suppose that heaviness will ever truly go away. This is my life and I accept that it was and is part of a plan I can’t truly understand this side of heaven. My only option is to continue to do the work to manage the pressure. To pray and read and be still (so very hard for me). To take care of myself. To ask God to give me enough light to see the path ahead of me and to make the next decision the best I can.

I am striving to be overwhelmed with gratitude rather than stress when things go haywire and life takes an ugly turn. To be thankful for the journey I’ve been on and the one still ahead of me. I’m thankful for the past, for the battles, for the slivers of hope and for the rebirth of me. I’m thankful I get to breathe in and out and raise my kids. I’m thankful for a multitude of family and friends who build me up and encourage me. I’m thankful for second chances and my Chapter 2. Finally, I’m overwhelmingly thankful for the peace, grace, provision and unconditional love of my Heavenly Father.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. ~Melody Beattie

Wash Out Your Heart

Dear Patrick, 

It’s November 5 which is not a significant day or so I thought this morning.  Birthdays have passed for this year.  Holidays are just beginning to loom.  Today shouldn’t matter at all- except it did. 

Today was All Saints Day at our church.  You know that day every year where they show all the names of the members who died the previous year.  Your name wasn’t there.  It was there last year- but not this year. It’s been 15 months it wasn’t supposed to be there- I know this in my head.  My heart felt differently. 

Strangely enough this All Saints Day was more painful, more gut wrenching and heart breaking than seeing your name on the screen last year.  Today, the tears exploded out of my eyes the minute the names came up on the screen and by the time they were done I literally could not see.  The ball of sadness, the chains of overwhelming grief and the  heaviness overtook me in sheer seconds.  

I could hear you telling me that I’ve been through the hard part, I’ve learned to live this life, I’ve climbed out of the darkness and am so much better than I was this time last year.  I could hear you telling me that I’m doing a good job with the kids, that you’re proud of me for what I’ve accomplished professionally and you’re happy that love, laughter and Jesus continue to permeate our home.  

None of that mattered today.  As I dissolved into a mess of tears, as Mollie reached back and squeezed my hand I only thought of you.  I thought of your 41 years- so well lived and full of love yet so damn short.  The unfairness of it all came back to me in deep, powerful waves that made me so weary I could hardly move when the service was over.  

Grief never ends.  It’s never over.  It’s never easy.  I wrote these words to you today with tears still flowing as I try to find some sort of understanding in this mess of emotion.  I don’t know that there is an answer, a meaning, a reason.  I’m not even sure why I’m writing this today- I just know my words needed to flow along with my tears.  

Happy All Saints Day in Heaven honey, 


“Have a good cry, wash out your heart.  If you keep it inside it will tear you apart.”

You Just Get Better

I love marquee signs. You know the one outside of a church that says “Live so fully that Westboro Baptist Church will picket your funeral.” Or outside a DQ that says “Scream until your dad stops the car.” Signs add laughter to my day or sometimes, a little inspriration like yesterday outside of of a school.  

“It doesn’t get easier you just get better.”

Well isn’t that the truth!  When it comes to life’s blistering, brutal changes and curveballs it doesn’t really ever get easier. 

I’ve been doing this full time, single mother shuffle for nearly 15 months now.  Nothing about my life is any easier than it was a year ago.  This life, like that of many parents, can be hard, exhausting and overwhelming at times.  It’s still painful to read articles about the importance of fathers in their children’s lives and know that your kids don’t have that anymore.  It sucks to be so proud of your kids you could burst but instead you get teary because their Daddy can’t see what amazing little people they are.   

It isn’t any easier to work full time, parent full time, take care of a household full time and still have something left at the end of the day.  To not be so tired and worn that you are useless to everyone. 

It’s still a beast to figure out schedules, homework, errands and how to cook a meal when you’re only home for 27 minutes on Tuesday night in between carpools.   It isn’t any easier to keep the grass mowed, the laundry “done”, the field mice at bay and the oil changed in the car when said car always needs to be in motion.  None of this is easier.  Not one single thing.  But that sign was 100% spot on- I’ve gotten better.  

I’ve gotten better at absolving myself of guilt.  I didn’t chose this, Patrick didn’t chose this.  My kids are thriving, happy and strong.  I’ve gotten better at praying to my Heavenly Father and asking him to be a continued, glorious presence in their lives and to help me be a little better every day.  

I’ve gotten better at the day to day of our crazy, hectic life.  The management of work and home, of parenting and a personal life, of fear and faith.  I’m better at finding moments for quiet, moments to run, moments to be a little nutty and moments just for me.  

There are still stumbles, rough patches, hard days and nights when my chest gets so tight I don’t think I can breathe.  There are moments I still blink in disbelief that this is where my life is at age 40.  There are times when I am so physically exhausted that I hurt.  There are times I just go in the laundry room, close the door and cry.  (OF COURSE  I start a load of clothes when I’m in there-we widows have to multitask.) 

I know that I will continue to get better at managing it all- my job, our house, the schedules and the pain. I only have to look at how far I’ve come from this time last year to know that I WILL continue to get better.  That better will include a lifetime of prayer, work, an open heart and acceptance.  To quote Tim McGraw “I ain’t as good as I’m gonna get but I’m better than I used to be.”  

So CHEERS to all you barely broken, slightly struggling YET still smiling works in progress out there…may we all strive for better!  

The Days I Hate Lilly Pulitzer 

Like any 40 year old woman worth her salt- I have a planner.  Like any over scheduled, crazy busy mother of 2- I have a big planner.  It’s a Lilly Pulitzer planner- the JUMBO size….and its full.  Every box for the foreseeable future is full (actually more like overflowing). 

Like any full time single mother of multiple children who also has a full time job to “bring home to bacon”, I often feel like I should work for UPS.  My life is logistics.  Seriously, there are days I don’t drive outside of a 20 mile radius and manage to burn out a 1/2 a tank of gas, feed a meal and 2 snacks in the car while one child is changing clothes and another is taking a quick power nap.  I haul my dancer, other dancers, band gear, soccer stuff, our latest Kroger Clicklist and enough old Cherrios to fill the Super Dome. I trade off carpools and even hire college students to help me drive my teenager or sit with a sleeping child because no matter how good I am- I can’t be two places at once.  I return work emails and texts while in car rider lines or in between halves of a soccer game.  It. Never. Stops.

My planner is my brain, the center of our school year universe.  It holds all the dates, times, events, lists, appointments and snack schedules.  I haul my Lilly planner everywhere and wouldn’t dare schedule anything without her.  Lilly is basically an appendage to my body and necessary to the mechanics of our family.  But some days, I hate that planner. 

There are days I look at Lilly with her cheery little pink and blue island pattern and cry.  I cry for how overwhelmed I am with my big, overscheduled life.  I cry because that stupid pink planner full of plans and dates is solely on MY shoulders.  I have no one else to shoulder that load or carry that burden.  EVER.  Every activity, appointment, check to be written, form to be filled out, waiver to sign and outfit to buy- it’s all on me.  I get mad at Lilly, at God for doing this to me and then at myself for being a baby.   I pray for peace, patience, humility, grace, calm, rest and for the stress that seems to have permanent residence in my neck and shoulders to leave- just for a bit.  I ask God to help me quit being a whiny, soggy, broken ball of stress and just trust him more.  (I spend a lot of time on my knees.)

I’ve now had this life for almost 14 months.  It’s not new,  I’m in my second season, but I’ve noticed it’s different right now.  The fog of immediate grief has lifted.  That fog- the body’s way of allowing us to go on after tragedy-is gone.  The grief fog last year was like grease to the gears of my life.  What is left this year is the reality of aloneness.  Of being the sole captain of a ship I don’t ever feel 100% qualified to drive.  It’s sometimes so raw and scary and heavy that I struggle to make it through a Wednesday or a Thursday without completely falling apart by 8pm.  

I don’t have a happy, hopeful ending to this blog because the gears of my life are still grinding together, squeaking in pain on more days than I’d like. It is Saturday.  My kitchen floor is crummy, the laundry is half done and the remains from last night’s slumber party are still scattered through my house.  Cheery old Lilly is laying open in my kitchen awaiting me to study her.  To plot out the next 7 days of transportation, appointments, practices, meetings, games, field trip lunches, dance classes and giving another birthday party.  However, today I’ve enjoyed a Jeep ride, a grown up lunch and am now sitting on my porch swing.  The sun is shining on my face and I’m letting it ALL go (at least for now).  Someone who is very wise reminded me this week to take care of myself because if I fall apart at the seams then so does this whole operation.  My kids need more than a whiny, soggy, stress ball Mommy.  So I’m going to sit, swing and read my junky magazine from February.  Somebody tell stupid Lilly I’ll be with her later on.  

I Ran a Race 

August 26, 2017    9:44pm

I ran a race tonight.  Strangely enough it was 13 months to the day since I lost my husband but that wasn’t what I focused on.  Instead I noticed the beauty of my adopted hometown, the common cause, the community, the love.  The course snaked through my college, the place where I met my husband but only happy memories greeted me.   It was a race of conversation, of happiness and not worrying about time. It was about the beauty of small moments, hope for the future,  kind cheers and hellos from so many people I care about.  

I’ve run a race this month.  We are back to school- a new position for me, 8th grade for my daughter and daycare for my son.  We are getting back in the swing of schedules, homework, early morning mad dashes and evening exhaustion.  Life is again pushed by the synchronization of schedules, meals, chores and the packing of bags.  The hectic pace of happy, busy kids and a single mom who can actually perform under pressure with a tiny bit of grace. 

I ran a race this summer.  It was a race of becoming “normal” again, of finding my voice and spreading my wings.  A race of loving my kids even more than I thought I ever could because my head was finally clear and my heart was wide open.  A race of taking chances and finding out that God continues to fulfill his promises and bless me in ways I never imagined.  

I ran a race this past year.  A race of unimaginable heartbreak, of horrid fog and a million stumbles.   A race that involved months of treading water and gasping for air.  A race of learning, pain and a renaissance where I saw that deep inside, Heather was still there and she had something to offer the world. 

As I sit on my back swing and stare at evening sky, I am overwhelmed once again by God’s beauty and healing.  We can never know what the future holds- what our race may look like.  We can only continue moving forward with our eyes focused on the many blessings around us.  Thank you God for all my races- they’ve made me better.  

…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.  Hebrews 12:1