I have no idea why, but today I had the compelling urge to listen to Chicago—something I did often as a preteen but haven’t done in years. For some reason, as I sit here nursing a shattered heart and navigating adulting minefields and intense family drama, I decided I needed to listen to Chicago. Because that’s just what I need right now, more feels.
The first song to come through my earbuds, I realized it’s all their fault. Maybe not the minefields and family drama, but the broken heart is on that danged sappy group.
Couldn't stand to be kept away, just for the day, from your body. Wouldn't want to be swept away, far away, from the one that I love.
That. I want someone who feels that. I grew up listening to music like that, writing books about it. My heart yearns for something that feels impossible right now. I’m not sure if he ever felt that, the one who made me smile, the guy who brought me back to life. Maybe he did and just didn’t let himself show it. Or maybe he just didn’t. As much as my romantic heart rebels at the notion, it happens.
I know he loved me. There was a time when anyone in the room with us could see how much we adored each other, but somewhere along the way, he stopped enjoying me. Our relationship became more work than not. Not because I was a diva or he was a jerk. It was life, mostly. Life and outside influences. People with their own selfish interests putting up roadblocks. Neither of us handled it as well as we could have, but we tried. I genuinely believe we both did.
After we broke up, I reposted sage words of internet wisdom on my Facebook wall. He wasn’t speaking to me and part of me wished—naively, I know—that he’d see it and some sort of light bulb would go off in his head. (Which would give me the added bonus of being the first person ever to change someone’s mind via a Facebook post.)
Instead, what I got was a comment from an old colleague: All you need is love.
I think it would have hurt less if he’d physically punched me in the gut. I know I’m a romance novelist who has built her entire platform on hope and love and all kinds of sunshiney stuff, but I firmly believe that statement is absolute crap. Like it was my fault for not loving him enough.
I’ve seen people who were loved dearly drink themselves to death. I’ve seen women love their husbands but leave because they couldn’t take the emotional or physical abuse anymore. And sometimes you can love someone, immensely, and still say “no more” because their actions hurt you and keep hurting you and at some point, your heart (and sanity) just can’t take anymore.
I loved that man, deeply, and I believe he loved me. But here I sit, alone. Listening to Chicago and wishing things were somehow different. Because it takes more than love. It takes work, and a choice. Maybe even a daily choice.
I believe that relationships (of all kinds) are not static; they’re fluid and ever-evolving. Either we move toward people or away from them, but we never run completely parallel to them.
When you first learn to drive, you realize that it’s not as simple of a process as it seems—there’s a lot of counter-correcting involved. If your wheels are aligned and the driver is good, you don’t notice it, but it’s still happening. I think maybe relationships are kind of like that. And somewhere along the way, the counter-correcting happening in mine was reminiscent of a 15-year-old behind the wheel for the first time. We meant well, but we were giving each other whiplash.
There is so much in my life that is good right now. I love my new town. My children have turned into ah-mazing men and are flourishing. My dogs are at me feet. I am safe; I am comfortable.
I am sad.
I mourn my family, tattered and torn remnants are all that remains of what was once a big, bustling family full of love and laughter (and craziness, but there was a lot that was good). Childhood wounds lie gaping at the surface, the scars that covered them ripped open by alcohol and dementia and so much brokenness.
I worry about money, cars, work, and my irritating landlord.
And I grieve the loss of the man I love.
The Facebook gods have been serving me all kinds of self-help ads. Recently, they showed me a TED Talk on grief. I felt guilty, identifying with that widow. It feels wrong to compare a breakup to death. But what she said resonated with me: that person you loved is always a part of you. You don’t move on from that. But you do have to move forward.
And so I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and move forward.
Maybe someday he’ll show up on my doorstep and leave no room for doubt in my mind and we’ll have that life together we’d been building.
Or maybe I will cry a little less each day. I’ll grow a little stronger each week. I’ll find my feet again. Learn to hope and love again.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll even write.
It’s only 10 days old, and already 2019 has proven to be a year of change for my family. So much so, I don’t even know where to begin. (Which says something, considering the number of changes we’ve undergone since that fateful day in March 2011.)
I spent most of 2018 burning up the pavement between Columbia and Buffalo since my beloved lives in Columbia. It was a fluke we even met—we both happened to be in the same area for Thanksgiving in 2017. But once we did meet, neither of us wanted to let the distance keep us from something we could tell was worth the effort.
It was a tough way to start a relationship, but it was also good—we learned what we were made of early on.
The discussion of which city we would consolidate to was a long one with many twists and turns. We involved the boys in the process; their lives would be impacted by the decision we landed on. In the end, it was apparent that no matter how much we loved the beautiful farm we were leasing, Columbia held our future.
So I stuck my toe in the water, just to see if I’d even be able to find a job. It feels like I blinked and had my pick of positions to choose from—good jobs that would further my career.
There was a time I couldn’t fathom leaving Buffalo. It was a safe place for my children and I to find our feet again after our world was shattered. Last year, I wrote that I felt like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, ready to spread my wings and fly. Now I realize that spreading my wings means leaving the chrysalis, leaving Buffalo.
It’s been a terrifying and thrilling couple of months. It felt so unreal, like we were going through the motions but nothing would really change. The rhythm that had become our world would go on.
But now we’re at the doorway. Today is my last day with the sleep company. Tomorrow, I make the journey to my new home. Monday, our new lives begin. We are leaving behind the quiet cocoon of small town life and trading it for an adventure in the city. It’s not exactly Manhattan, but it’s a big change for us.
Dylan, my oldest son, will be spreading his own wings as he stays behind to finish out the lease on the farm before setting off to find his path. He’s a smart and resourceful man. I know great things are in store for him. But lately, I look at him and I picture the chubby toddler in jeans and a flannel and a grin that could light up a city block. And I get a little teary because I know that once he steps out on his own, it’ll never quite be the same again. These are my last precious few moments to have all of my chickens under the same roof in this way. From now on, it will be different.
There are still a lot of unknowns with this next chapter. Horses need to be sold or boarded. Dogs will be divvied up among family. I think I knew—we all knew—that our time on the farm had come to an end. I just wasn’t quite ready to face it. Still, what lies ahead is where we’re supposed to be, and I have to keep trusting that, even through the unknown.
Thankfully, my guy is there for me through this emotional roller coaster I’m on, solid and steady and reassuring me that we’re going to be okay. That I’m not alone anymore; whatever comes up over these next few weeks, he has my back. I suspect he’s going to have to work especially hard to keep me sane the first week or so I’m away from Dylan, but we will get through that, too.
The other exciting thing that happened was that I cracked open a manuscript for the first time in nearly a year. I can’t say the words tumbled out, but progress was made. I think, maybe, I’m ready to write again. I’m hoping that all of the changes I’m making in my world will trim away the distractions and leave me with more head space to create new worlds.
It’s also been bothering me that I’d moved away from helping the fight against human trafficking. My world has become about me, about survival. There is so much darkness out there, I don’t think any of us has the luxury to stop fighting for light. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what that means for me, how I can best keep fighting to make the world a better place.
Happily, I think that piece of the puzzle is taking shape in the form of a new venture with some of my favorite people. I’m not quite ready to share the details yet, but I will say to keep an eye out for some unabashed Sass coming from me this spring…
And until then, wish me luck.
Sometimes people ask me how I got through Blake’s accident. My answer is simple: one step at a time. I went on autopilot, placing one foot in front of the other until we were through it. It wasn’t until later, after the danger had passed, that I was able to begin to process all that had happened or how close we came to losing him.
I’ve been more easily stressed out this week, more emotional than I usually am. I was walking through the grocery store parking lot when the reason why hit me like a lightning bolt.
For nearly 20 years, I have placed one foot in front of the other. I have raised children and dealt with crises and survived. Now, for the first time, I have tasted something more. I’ve found peace. I’ve felt the comfort of another’s arms. I have jobs I love. My children are happy. Over the past year, my life has grown into something wonderful, and I have a glimpse of something richer than I ever could have imagined.
And just like the wave of emotion I had to contend with after the danger of Blake’s accident had passed, I am grappling with a tsunami of emotion and functioning like a normal human being has become a monumental feat. What I really want to do is curl up and cry it all out, to wash away all the years of hurt and stress and badness. And maybe I will.
I’ve grappled with the tumult, the sea of emotions, for a few days now. I’ve tried to hide my crazy, to keep up with life, even though it’s coming at me rapid fire these days. And then tonight, something in me snapped. I’d had enough of myself. Only it wasn’t a wave of tears that washed it all away.
Instead, I put in my earbuds, turned on my favorite playlist, and be-bopped my way through the night. I got caught up on work; I cleaned my house. I danced like nobody was watching - which was a little more likely the case once I remembered to close the blinds.
The music and the movement washed away all the things plaguing me: insecurity and doubt over this new relationship, uncertainty over my job and finances and parents, sadness for friends and students who are dealing with some truly big things. It was as cleansing and cathartic as any tears. More so even.
And while I’m sure my personal growth isn’t complete - I certainly hope not, anyway - last night was a turning point for me. Whatever metamorphosis I’ve been going through this year, I’m ready to move on. To live my life, to write my stories, to embrace my own ever after, whatever that looks like.
So I will write “The End” on this book knowing that in truth, it’s only the beginning.
How is possible that I haven’t posted an update in nearly four months? Oh yeah, life. This morning alone, my house looks like a war zone. Our only toilet is broken. I had to run one kid through the ATM on our way to school to get $10 for a choir shirt. The other had to go in late because we all forgot to put the clothes in the dryer last night and it was go in late or go in underwear. I’m still trying to crowbar the oldest out of bed before he’s due at work. I am hovering on the edge of sick. It will take an act of God for my budget to work out this month. I am behind in freelancing, writing, and pretty much every other area of life because I took a weekend off. And I got stopped by a marching band not once but twice this morning because they practice in my neighborhood and the Christmas parade is this weekend.
And you know what? I’ve never been happier in my life. So much has happened and changed since summer. I don’t even know where to begin, really.
And let's be honest: Everyone needs a marching band to usher in their Monday.
The romance writer in me wants to start with “I met a guy…” but it’s too soon to say more than that, other than it’s nice to smile when my phone buzzes at me. Something about the possibility of having someone who makes me smile has made me realize that the gap in my publication schedule had very little to do with my hectic life. The silence had much more to do with the fact that the girl who loved love stories had gone away. She’d forgotten what it felt like to be attracted to someone, to flirt. To feel special. It’s hard to write with any authenticity about warmth and hope and love when your soul hasn’t felt any of those things in so long they’d become no more than a distant memory.
But with everything going on, everything that’s transpired in the last four months, the fact that I want to lead with that makes me roll my eyes at myself.
Last summer, my sister was diagnosed with cancer and we still had a lot of unanswered questions. In the months since, she’s had surgery and undergone radiation. There’s a lot they don’t tell you as you’re heading into treatment, like that your skin can peel off in reaction to it. That and other side effects have put my sweet, sweet angel of a sister through more pain than any human should have to bear. But she has borne it, with strength and grace. Because that’s who she is. Just last week, she got to ring the bell indicating that her treatments were finished. Now begins the road to recovery, but at least she has started down that path.
This year has also seen my father diagnosed with dementia, his greatest fear realized. His health in general has been failing for a while, though I suspect it’s at least partly in response to the diagnosis. Then, in October, he was hospitalized for a week. We came very close to losing him and the doctors still can’t tell us why. They stabilized and released him, but he continues to waste away while we can do little besides watch. Watch and soak up every moment we can while our family remains intact.
He’d probably be angry with me for saying anything, so I hesitate to include this. But wrestling with the notion of losing him has been difficult not just for me, but for my children. He’s been a strong force in their lives, and he’s played a major role in teaching my boys what it means to be a man. As a child, my relationship with my father was tumultuous at best. But I've also adored him since infancy, and he's shaped who I am today. He and I have long since found healing. We’ve found the closeness I craved in my younger years.
In the everyday, I press on. I look at what needs to be done and help where I can. But as I write this, tears fill my eyes. Because I mourn not only what is to come, but what's already passed. For an all-too-brief window we had a family that was strong and close. Now that dynamic has changed. We're scattered. There is uncertainty. Life and circumstance have changed us. Still, I cling to the strength of my sisters, no matter the distance between us. And I am thankful for the base my parents gave us.
At least four times during the past 20 years, I have toed up to the notion of being an English teacher. Every time, I chicken out. As I was deciding what to do with my struggling business and how best to keep a roof over our heads, it hit me that it was time to stop resisting. I think I just wanted to be a rebel - after all, both of my sisters are teachers. Perhaps I relished being the oddball, no matter how much I lamented it as a child.
Once the decision was made, things moved so quickly I can only believe it was Divine intervention. To make a long story short, I've been substitute teaching in the Buffalo schools for a little over a month now while I study for my certification test through ABCTE. At first, my boys were hesitant. The conversation went something like this.
"I don't know mom…"
"Don't you want me in your school?" I was wounded.
"It's not that. These kids. They aren't like us. They're pretty wild."
"You don't think I can handle it?"
"It's not the kids I'm worried about."
I forged ahead, nervous but determined. I rarely like to admit I'm afraid of anything, but I was seriously afraid of those first few days in the classroom. It was not only a new job, but one utterly different from anything I'd done before. Sure, I'd taught adults. I guess a room full of disgruntled IT guys compares to rebellious 5th graders in some ways, but it was still pretty foreign.
To my profound relief, I survived. Not only did I survive, I enjoyed it. And I only had one conversation get out of hand.
I'd written "Ms. Huffman" on the board. I'm too old to be a Miss and I'm not a Mrs. This was apparently a new concept for these 5th graders.
"You left a letter out of your name," one of them informed me.
"No, I didn't. I meant to write Ms."
"Because it doesn't matter if I'm married or not. You can use Ms either way."
"You're not married?" a girl asked.
"That's not the point."
At this juncture, another young man joined the conversation. "Do you have a boyfriend?"
That elicited a chorus of "oohs" from the class. They had interpreted the question as this kid’s way of volunteering for the position.
"No. I have three sons, one just at the other end of the hall. But we're not talking about that right now, we should be doing our bell work."
"How do you have kids if you're not married?"
This is when I thought Really? I'm the only unmarried mother in this town? Instead, I replied "I used to be married. Now I'm not, and we're done talking about this."
The boy who started it all gasped. "You got fired from being married?"
I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. I'm super proud that I didn't retort that I'd fired him. Instead, I managed to get the conversation back on track. Lord only knows how.
Since that day, I've taught everywhere from 1st grade through high school seniors. I've covered for the Special Education classroom and the middle school band teacher. I find myself increasingly impressed with the kind of person who chooses to educate children for a living. And I am increasingly proud to be joining their ranks. The kids have come to know me. Whichever school I’m at, I have kiddos coming up to me and hugging me or saying hi. I'm crazy about them. And my boys have even decided they like having me in their schools.
Despite all of the proverbial frolicking in the sunshine, I'm exhausted. Every day is a bit of a whirlwind as I learn this new world and study for the test that will give me my full-fledged teaching certificate. I feel the time crunch as my window closes before hiring for next year begins - I'm trying desperately to have everything in order to be one of the candidates for any jobs that might open.
Another pretty big event for me was taking advantage of the open mic nights at my beloved coffee shop. A dear friend and I worked like crazy to prepare four songs for our 15 minutes on stage, only to arrive and find out we were the only ones signed up. We wound up singing more like 7 songs, a couple of which we’d never even sung together before. I know I’m a far cry from a professional, but we weren’t half bad and I loved every single second of it. It was so incredibly freeing to sing in front of a room full of people, not worried about how it sounded, only thrilling in the song.
The old Heather wouldn’t have done that.
I also am pleased to report that I’ve lost over half of the weight I’d gained with the ankle debacle from a few years back. I still have a bit to go, but I feel so much better already. Dylan and I have taken to hiking with our dogs, exploring whatever trails strike our fancy whenever we can squirrel away an afternoon. I love it. Hiking days are some of my favorite days; they make me feel gloriously alive.
There was a moment when I began to worry that my horses would be the price I had to pay for my freedom. Every time I thought I had something lined up for them, the sands would shift and plans would change. And just when I was desperate enough to consider selling my darlings, friends stepped up, things fell into place, and the horses were moved on the day the land changed hands. One more day and they’d have been homeless.
I’m sure a smarter person would sell them. Heaven knows we can’t really afford them. But I am clinging to the hope that someday soon I’ll have my world rebuilt enough that I can once again buy a little patch of land for me and my girls. (I guess I’ll let the human children come too…) That’s a dream I’m not willing to walk away from just yet.
There was no last minute miracle for my little company, though. It went quietly into the night, leaving behind memories and a handful of clients who I continue to freelance for. I thought I was ready to completely walk away from marketing for a while, but it seems that world isn’t through with me yet. It makes answering the question “What do you do for a living” all kinds of fun. I’m a writer, teacher, and marketer. Maybe that last one will drop off the list someday; maybe not. I enjoy each aspect of my career. Each reflects something of me.
Oh, and I joined forces with some amazing authors to launch a website and Facebook group by and for women. It's a judgment-free zone on the internet where we celebrate all the many facets of being a woman today. It's going to be so much more - we have big plans - and it deserves so much more than a paragraph mention, but a paragraph is all I have in me at the moment.
I feel like there’s more to say, more to share, but the thoughts and feelings are swirling through me, as elusive to catch as the clouds. All I know is that 2017 has been a year of profound change for me and my children. It’s only now that I’ve shed the chains of my past that I begin to realize how heavy a burden they were.
And today, in this moment, while the weather is warm and my heart is happy and full, I feel like I can finally spread my wings and fly.
It's football season, which for us - like so many families - means our schedule is packed now through October, and the vast majority of the dates blocked out have something to do with the gridiron. No need to guess where we'll be on Friday nights, either. We'll don our black and red to sit on metal seats where we'll stomp and clap and cheer ourselves hoarse. Well, I will. My sons will spend quit a bit of that time walking around with their respective herd of teenagers.
I've watched many of these boys play since their 7th grade year. I've watched them mature, as young men and as players. We've been the underdogs in these parts for a long time. The glory days are something I hear whisperings of but, having only lived here for 5 years, I wasn't around to witness. And while I acknowledge that the surrounding towns might not think much of us, our football team has heart. They have a spunk, a grit, that I admire.
If you talk to any of the players or go to many games, you'll hear the rumblings that the refs don't like us much. Calls seldom seem fair and the opposing teams often blatantly cheat and aren't called on it. (For reals - my son was bitten once on the field. I've seen kids kicked while down, after the play had stopped. It's not cool.)
But, from the relative comfort of the stands, I can also see that point when our boys give up. They come so close to victory and then you can see them decide the odds are stacked too much against them, and they stop giving it their all. Sure, some of them hang on until the bitter end, but enough of them check out that the crowd starts to check out, and the inevitable end comes.
And, in all of my bleacher wisdom, I know that until they decide they have a chance to win, they have no chance to win.
My oldest son only played football with this team for two years. A broken arm ended his second season and he opted to homeschool after that because he was eager to finish early and find his great adventure. Blake, number two son, couldn't play football because of his head injury. And, in truth, I think he doesn't mind so much. He only would have played because it was the thing to do, not because he loved the sport.
My number three son, though. That boy lives and breathes football and now that he's in 7th grade, his time has come. He graduates from Mighty Mites to being part of the football team. I watch him on the field with the other boys and I know they're beginning a journey together, just as his brother began a journey before him.
Last night, after the game was done, I listened as Number Three told me every bad or unfair call he'd seen. As I replied, I realized that I needed to heed my own words.
You see, the last time I was a football mom, I didn't feel as keenly how alone I was because my other two children were still young enough to always sit with me. Now they're off and gone with their friends and I can't hide from my solitude. For me, only part of my mind was on the game last night.
I have to admit that I spent most of it feeling very much isolated - from the moms whose sons stayed on the team to play all six years together; from the moms who are married; from the younger, single crowd; from the people who've lived here all their lives... you get the picture. I sat there, painfully aware of how alone I was and the weight of every terrible thing from the past week just kept getting heavier and heavier until I slunk home, drank two glasses of wine, and watched an episode of Outlander while wishing I'd get sucked back in time. Only--let's be real--I wouldn't end up in Sam Heughan's lap, no matter how much I wish I would.
But anyway, back to my reply. I told him, "Life never fights fair and there will be many times when it seems like the ref isn't calling the game like He should. But you keep fighting until it's over. As long as you're fighting, there's a chance you'll win. Stop fighting and your chances go to zero. If you want to be a football player, then wrap your head around it now - the refs will not call fair games, the other teams won't like you, and it will be hard. But you still gotta fight."
So enough moping. I am alone and it is not the end of the world. There is a lot of scary/awful stuff happening in my world right now, but it won't last forever. Because I choose to fight.
Today is my 40th birthday and the 3-month anniversary of moving into my new home. I still haven’t tired of the feel of my toes in between my sheets, of having a bed that is mine. And so, even though the coffee shop and a birthday latte beckon me, I lie here a bit longer, relishing the sheets on my skin. The kitten we rescued is nestled at the juncture of my neck and shoulder, purring. My Holly dog lies alongside me, her ears alert as she watches the parakeets chatter happily and flit about their new, expanded cage. My windows are flung open and an unseasonably cool breeze chills what little skin peeks out from the covers. Yes, even the coffee shop can wait on mornings like this.
If I emerged from a cocoon three months ago, a new and more beautiful creature than I had been before, this house has been the branch where I’ve basked in the sun, allowing my wings to dry while I figured out what to do with them.
We moved in with very little--the clothes on our backs, a smattering of dishes and furniture, and camping chairs for the living room. It’s a bit mind-boggling how quickly that changed, through the grace of God and the kindness of others. One old gentleman in particular is a good example of that kindness. For a month straight, things would mysteriously appear on our front porch. I’d see him at Bible study and ask if he new anything about it and he would blush, duck his head and smile.
Bit by bit, the empty spaces were filled until it was our home, comfortable and full of peace. It’s a peace others notice right away, often commenting as much when they cross the threshold.
The past three months have not been without their trials. There have been money woes, there always are, but we’ve met them with faith and the need is always met just in time.
My beloved 16 Hand Marketing has undergone so many changes that I sometimes wonder if it will survive and I know that if it does, it’ll be forever changed. But that’s okay, because maybe it’s already served its purpose. It reminded me I’m alive with dreams left to dream. They don’t all have to come true to make them worth having.
I have two family members who’ve received terrifying diagnoses this summer. One will be okay, one will not. The face of my family is changing and I’m grieving it. Most days, it feels like I’m inching my way along, trying to find my way through a dark and unfamiliar room.
There has been uncertainty in the past months - with my job, my horses, next steps… But there is hope. There is peace. And I am keenly aware that those two things were the cry of my heart leading up to my decision to leave my husband.
I am learning each day to let go of fears of failure, of being in trouble, of being too much, of being not enough. As I watch my children shift and grow in response to their changed environment, I’ve realized that I’m not the only one who has been unfettered, who is learning to navigate our new normal. Still, they are thriving in their new worlds and it does this mama’s heart good to see, even if I miss them now with their new social lives and space to spread out.
This week, we’ve been blessed with glorious weather. I’m telling myself it’s God’s birthday gift to me (I mean, seriously, how often does Missouri see jacket weather in early August?) I have spent my evenings on a football field, watching my youngest carve out a space for himself in a world his oldest brother once dominated and I treasure this moment.
Yes, there is ugliness swirling about my world. There is uncertainty. There are times when I feel my loneliness more keenly. But more than anything, life is good.
If I ever begin to question God’s timing again—scratch that—the next time I begin to question God’s timing, I need to remember this chapter, this moment in my life. I felt compelled to write my story last fall. I ignored the prompting in my spirit to write all winter long. Late winter, I finally put fingers to keyboard. It wasn’t until I decided to release it on my blog each week that I truly began to make progress. That was 12 weeks ago. At the time, I knew my marriage was over, but I didn’t know where I was headed, where this story was headed.
As I sit to (belatedly) write this final chapter, I am listening to my Charlie-dog snore contentedly on my bed. In the other room, I can hear my boys watching a movie as they wind down from their day. Beside me, my budgies are chattering my ear off, presumably telling me all about their day. What’s special about this moment is that it’s happening in my new house. My new home.
We thought we’d found the perfect house to rent, but it fell through. Another house seemed okay—we were all a little meh about it but figured it would do—but it had six people competing for it. Houses for rent in this town are scarce at the moment. So, at Dylan’s prompting, I called on a house that we’d seen for sale in town. I thought it would be too small. I thought there was no way I could buy a house. I thought a lot of things.
But I prayed that God would lead us home, and then I did my very best to truly leave it in his hands. The first time I saw this house, I wasn’t sure. I walked through it a second time and thought, this just might work. By the third walk-through, I was falling in love. Chris, like me, had to walk through it a couple of times to be sold. Blake was cool from the get-go. Dylan, from the moment he saw it, knew this was the one. Whenever I started to doubt, he reminded me this was the one.
There is a part of me that is tempted to sit and write out the details from that moment to this one because they are too perfectly, intricately timed to be coincidence. But I think the telling might get a bit convoluted, the details mean more to me than they would to another. Still, I am convinced to the very fiber of my being that God did, in fact, lead us home.
The house might not look like much to someone else. It’s a little white house with a green roof. It was built in 1900, which we think is terribly cool but does come with its own set of challenges. It’s officially a two bed, one bath, but it has a screened in porch on the back that I’m turning into my room. The first bedroom is massive, so two of the boys easily divided it to accommodate both of them. We actually wound up with quite a bit more space. The house is adorable and we’re even more in love than we were before. It’s in easy walking distance of anywhere we truly need to be, so not having a car is survivable.
Of course, our little haven isn’t without its share of trouble. At first, the water heater didn’t work. A tip from a friend at church help solve that problem, so we had hot water by our second full day. About the time the tank filled and got good and hot, Dylan was tightening the hot water hose on the washing machine when the pipe it connected to snapped, effectively creating a volcano of hot water shooting into my kitchen. I was trying to hold the pipes together, screaming “Make it stop. Somebody make it stop.” Teenage boys, some not even my own, were scrambling like mad to comply, even though they had no idea what to do.
By the time we got it shut off, we had a good 50 gallons of hot water in my kitchen and Dylan and I were soaked to the bone. My drywall, well, I kinda wanted to try wood paneling in that spot anyway. A friend and former neighbor, God bless him, came out and taught Dylan how to fix the pipe, offering to walk him through anything else that arose after this. The entire weekend, the entire move process, was a testament to the amazing people we have in our lives. We are blessed beyond measure.
Now that I don’t have hot water spraying me in the face, I can laugh about the incident. But I think, on some level, it was a sobering moment for Dylan. Right, wrong, or indifferent, he’s been the de facto second adult in the house since he was, I don’t know, ten. In that moment, I think he realized that he was stepping into a whole new level of adulthood. I want to reassure him that he’s still a teenager. The burden to support us, to fix the broken pipes and fill the pantry, falls on me. But the reality is that he will accept more of that burden than he should. He always has. It’s in his nature.
To their credit, his brothers are stepping up. They’re mowing lawns for extra money rather than asking me for it. They’re helping around the house, being more responsible for their own schedules. Whatever the road ahead holds, we’re in this thing together. We’ve got each other’s back.
It’s been not quite a week since we loaded our meager belongings on my daddy’s trailer and hauled them to our new house. Already, a friend commented that I look like a new woman. I certainly feel like a new woman. I look back at the creature I had become and I don’t recognize her. She feels foreign to me.
So many people, when they hear about the divorce, express their sympathy. I feel bad, but I’m not sad. I miss my horses, my land. But even that isn’t as deep of an ache as I’d anticipated. There is such peace in our new home—even the dogs are calmer, happier. But I think it’s because I did my mourning a decade ago. There was a time when I wept for the passing of my marriage. But that time isn’t now.
My finances are no more certain than they were a week ago. There are still mountains in my path. But for the first time in a long time, I feel as if I can find joy even in the climb.
I don’t know what the future holds for me. I have no clue what my own ever after will look like. I told a friend recently that I feel like I’m staring at a blank canvas, wondering what to paint. Maybe the picture will include a love story of my own, maybe not. As lonely as I’ve been, I do know that I have to show myself at least as much respect as I expect others to show me. I hope I’ve learned my lesson to never again allow another to devalue my place in humanity. I have to be the kind of woman I write books about if I ever hope to meet the kind of man I write books about, if I ever hope to raise the kind of men I want my boys to be.
Whatever my ever after looks like, it’s out there. And I intend to find it.
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.