Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Visit to Diana's Pumpkin Patch in Canon City

Halloween was always a big deal for Holly. She loved it. When we lived in Bend we would go to the Central Oregon Pumpkin Patch (which is and probably always will be my favorite) every year. When we moved to Colorado we would make the drive up to Erie, CO to visit Anderson Farms. There were just too many memories to do that again this year. On the advice of a friend from work, we drove down to Diana's Pumpkin Patch in Canon City. A fine time was had by all.



It is far less commercial than other pumpkin patches we have been to. The corn maze is hand cut and has a Clue theme to it (at least this year) which includes a game card and "clues" scattered throughout the maze. Truth be told we only found about half of them before we were worn out and needed food. It is unique though and we had a lot of fun.



The overall operation of the pumpkin patch is somewhat small. There is a hay-ride that takes about 5 minutes. Just about perfect if you want to be able to check it off your list. It is just an out and back endeavor. It does not lead you to get your pumpkin, just a side trip of sorts in a hay-bale covered wagon pulled by a tractor.



There are some other activities as well. The one Sophie enjoyed the most was the giant barrel slide. She ran up the hay pyramid and slid down the slide probably 15 times. When we first got there, there was no line. She could just do a giant loop over and over. Later in the day the line would take about 10 minutes to make the whole loop. She made lots of friends in line and I don't think she minded having to wait at all.



The weather was fantastic. Probably too nice for my personal taste on a pumpkin getting expedition. They had a couple of large fire pits that would have been really cool to enjoy if the weather had not been so darn hot. In fact we all got a little sunburned and were dressed too warmly for the weather.



We had burgers and dogs for lunch and they were all pretty reasonably priced. In particular I liked the strawberry lemonade. They also had pie and other dessert like items. We passed on most of that as it was just too warm to eat something sweet.

Overall it was a lot of fun and something different that did not conjure up vivid memories of Holly. I miss those memories but I did not want to spend the day crying when I am trying to get Sophie out doing fun stuff and making positive memories of this year for her. It was a good alternative for this year for sure.

If you make the drive down from Colorado Springs (or over from Pueblo for that matter), make sure to drive through the small town (the actual town) of Florence. It was beautiful this time of year with the leaves changing colors. In fact, I wish I would have stopped and taken photos as we drove through. I will have to add that to the list for next year.




Friday, October 23, 2015

Music Spotlight - Mandolin Orange

With nothing important to say I thought I would share what I am currently listening to. Folksy. Bluegrassy. Awesome. Mandolin Orange.




Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The School Fundraising Conundrum

I did it. I became one of those parents. I posted a link on Facebook to a school fundraiser on behalf of my daughter's school.

Sophie goes to public school. It is a charter school but public none-the-less. We live in the district in which she goes to school. I pay taxes in Colorado. That should be good enough, right? Maybe.

I, like most parents with kids in public school, am inundated with flyers and emails and other propaganda trying to get Sophie (so me by proxy) to raise money for her school. They sell candles and books and any number of other items all in the name of fundraising. I could send Sophie to private school for less than it would cost me to buy from or donate to the school every time the opportunity presented itself (only a slight exaggeration).

It is a sad state of affairs when public schools are basically begging for additional funds to finance the education of the students in their care. The school Sophie attends is an upper middle class school that has good test scores and strong parental support. There are literally no multi-family homes within the school boundaries. Even within the artificially erected middle class socio-economic border of her school, there is not enough funding to educate the students.

My voter registration indicates Independent. I am an odd mixture. On morality, gun control, and fiscal issues, I fall mostly into the conservative camp. On environmental, educational, and healthcare issues I probably lean a little left of center. I try to see both sides of every story. Even so, it seems to me that schools are very often on the short end of the stick.

Back to the posting of the fundraiser to Facebook... When Holly died and I needed to make some changes regarding school for Sophie, the school was an immense help in making that happen. Above and beyond what I think would have been normal. I am grateful for what they did. Because of that I want to try and give back... something. I can't volunteer because I work. I don't want to sell my friends cookie dough or wrapping paper or anything else for that matter. So what did I do? I posted a link to sponsor Sophie in running laps for her school. It is a healthy endeavor and all of the money goes directly to the school.

Almost everyone I know has kids of their own. They have their own fundraisers and school funding issues to worry about. I didn't expect anyone to donate but I was moved that some did. Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to ask...


Monday, October 19, 2015

Advice for Those Living in or Visiting Colorado

Never. I repeat, never open anything that is packaged at low altitude while it is facing toward you. This goes for coffee creamer packs, ink toner, yogurt, beverage cans and just about any other pressurized item. It will splooge all over you. Every. Time. Your shirts will thank you for heeding this warning.

Almost 4 years living here and I still make this mistake.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy Birthday Holly

Today you would have been 31. You would have been so excited because your birthday was on a Friday. I know what kind of cake you wanted. You had already told me this year. Strawberry cheesecake ice cream. I would have Veuve Clicquot waiting in the fridge for you. You probably would have told me you wanted some new Kendra Scott earrings as one of your birthday presents. I would have gotten you roses. As I do, I would have looked for the perfect card for you and tried to put into words how much I love you. That was always your favorite gift. I wish you were still here so I could do all those things for you one last time.

You always loved your birthday. You would remind me that no matter how old you got I would still be 11 years older than you. That was one of your favorite things to give me grief about but we both always thought it was so funny.

I told Sophie it was your birthday this morning and she was so excited. She asked if we could sing the birthday song when we got home tonight. I of course said yes. She misses you. I miss you. You are still so loved.

Happy Birthday sweet wife.

All my love,

Sean
xxoo



Our first year celebrating your birthday together (2009).


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What I Know About Losing a Wife and Becoming a Single Dad

This post has been rattling around in my head for awhile now. I make life and parenting mistakes everyday. I have, however, learned a few things in the last 5 months. Some of them are small. Some of them are pretty darn big. All of them are important at some level.

1) Be present

I think this is the most important thing I have learned as part of our whole life transition. When Sophie is around I do my best to be there for all of her emotional, physical, and whatever other needs she may have. That means listening to what she has to say. Discussing things with her rather than "yesing" her. Being available to her when she needs me. The last thing in the world I want her to feel is alienated. Just like that old EF Hutton commercial, when Sophie talks, daddy listens.

2) Put the phone/pad/game down

I am still working on this one. We are so consumed by our technology that we miss the world that is right in front of our faces. Do we really want our kids to grow up with one of their most poignant memories of dad (or mom) being him spending endless hours staring into his phone? Put the phone down. Have conversations with your child. Do a puzzle with your child. Read with your child. I think this is particularly important for kids that have lost a parent. They already have half the parenting attention as two parent children.

This goes for your child too. I have gradually cut back Sophie's screen time to get her engaged with other things. No longer does she get her iPad near bed time. No longer does she get her pad when we are driving around town for any reason. I want her using her brain to play and think and reflect. Sure there are exceptions to this but overall this has been a massive change at our house.

3) Ask for help (or at least be smart enough to accept it)

I am terrible at asking for help. It always makes me feel guilty. I have made it this far because I have had friends and family who insisted on helping me and being there for me. Simple as that. When Holly passed I had to make a lot of decisions quickly that had to do with Sophie. I was fortunate to have two friends in Chuck and Zenia who basically walked me through the whole process of getting Sophie enrolled in a new school near them. They offered to have their kids walk Sophie home after school and watch her for me until I got off work. Reflecting back on that, I am not sure what I would be doing now if they had not led me down that path. Accept help when it is offered. You will need it.

4) Change as little as possible

When a child loses a parent their whole world goes into a tail-spin. Everything they have ever known about their family structure changes in a heart beat. The last thing you want to do is continue to change the other things in their life that are familiar to them. At times it seems like *everything* has changed for me. The reality is not much has changed in our house (if anything). We still spend a lot of our weekend outside. We are planning on going to the pumpkin patch this weekend. We read the same books and watch the same movies. What she knew before she lost her mother is very much the same thing she knows now.

5) Talk openly about the parent they lost

This has probably been the hardest thing for me, but also probably the thing I have done the best. The evening Holly died, I sat down with Sophie and had a conversation with her about mommy going to heaven and that she would not be coming back. It was the hardest conversation I will ever have in my entire life. No question. Since that day I have never shied away from talking about Holly and using her name. Her death is not some great secret to be hushed up in fear of upsetting Sophie. Holly's memory will live on in stories and jokes and oral history.

Kids are smart. Communicate with them. Don't think you are doing them any good by not talking about their lost parent. You aren't. You don't want them to feel like they cannot talk to you about it. Encourage it (it is hard, trust me). Talk about them. Let your child know it is okay to talk about them. Do your best to celebrate the memory of that person. In the end it will only help your child learn to reflect on the parent they lost in a healthy way.

6) Circle the wagons

What I mean by this is bring your family together. Let your child know that there is a group (large or small) of family members out there that love and support them. In our case that means we are still making trips to Texas to spend time with Gee and Paw Paw whenever we can. We Facetime with them as frequently as possible (which is not always easy!) My dad moved from Oregon to Colorado to be close to us. Bryna and Ross came to stay with us this summer so Torin and Sophie could spend cousin time (and the parents could drink). Sophie went with Mike and Sharon to the Fahey family summer beach cabin trip. Spend time with family.

In our case it also means spending time with Chuck and Zen and their family. Their kids treat Sophie like she is another sibling. She is loved in their home and loves being in their home. They aren't blood but they are every bit as much family as we have.

These are just my random thoughts on the whole thing. I am still learning as I go and trying to find a new baseline in our life.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I Am Not a Good Facebook Friend

The truth of the matter is I am not a good Facebook friend. I rarely comment on the posts of others. I don't wish people happy birthday or congratulate them on their latest successes. I rarely respond to instant messages. I am just a bad Facebook friend.

It's not that I do not care. I do. I think about the things people write. I care when people are happy or hurting. I like to read what is going on in your life. I am simply not one of those people who chime in or respond (at least with any frequency) to posts. Odd I know since I write a blog and post it to FB.

So if you don't see a comment from me or I am slow (sometimes super-slow) to respond to a message, don't take it personally. I just stink at being a Facebook friend.

Monday, October 12, 2015

It's the Small Things

Fall has slowly been making its way into Colorado over the last couple of weeks. It was always our favorite time of year. I miss you switching the candles to spicy scents. I miss watching the new fall TV shows with you for the first time. I miss our excitement for the first episode of The Walking Dead to come on. I miss you decorating the house for Halloween. What I miss most about not having you here is our annual trip to the pumpkin patch with Sophie. The thought of making that trip this coming weekend is hard for me. Every year we made a big deal out of it. We would take a family photo and you would make some great collage including the pictures from each previous year. I miss every single thing about you.

Your 31st birthday is on Friday. You always loved your birthday. I always tried to surprise you with a new place to eat. A new event that we had not been to. This year we will be home missing you instead. I pray daily for a miracle that can never come. You are not coming back. Your life was cut short and now your photos and memories are all that survive. I know you are in a better place. I know you are blessed in the grace of God. Selfishly I just want you back home with Sophie and I. We still needed you. You had such strength. With you anything was possible. I miss that feeling.

This weekend I am going to attempt to pack your clothing and personal items up. I have kept everything exactly where it was when you died. The bedroom is a mess. The bathroom and closet are worse. I bought some of those space saver bags so I can carefully pack your things and store them for Sophie someday. It is going to be an emotionally brutal task but one that I need to do. Everything of yours that had special meaning is locked away in the safe. I am doing my best to preserve your memory as much as I can. I need to do that for Sophie.

None of this is easy without you. It never will be. I can only continue to pray for you, pray for our family, and live a life focused on Sophie and raising her to be a kind and intelligent woman who is full of grace.




Single Dad Bloggers

When I started writing this blog it was an outlet to say things that I had bottled up inside that were hard for me to talk about. It has sort of transitioned into being a memory depository for all things Holly. Maybe someday it will be something Sophie will find understanding in. Maybe it will just make her sad. Who knows. For now though it is something I do for me.

I started looking for other single dad bloggers out there and I didn't find much. Maybe the truth is Facebook and Twitter have killed blogging as it's own entity. I was looking for advice, tips, the story of someone who has been there before. Aside from a few (which have become grossly over-commercialized) blogs that irritated me, I did not find what I was looking for. A lot of the ones I did find were started and eventually just forgotten.

I have no idea how long I will write here. I did choose Blogger because it is free and hosted by Google. For posterities sake I think it was the best choice.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

5 Months

How can it possibly be 5 months? It feels like yesterday. I am sitting here trying to think of what to say and the words simply aren't coming. It isn't any easier. Life still feels monumentally full of upheaval. I can't decide if I wish things were easier. I can't decide if I want to continue to hurt as bad as I do. I don't want to be a martyr to your death. I also don't want to let go of that connection to you regardless of how painful it is.

Some things are changing. Slowly. Sophie no longer panics when I walk out of the room for any period of time. She still comes looking for me but she is no longer consumed with fear when I am not in sight. She still sleeps in bed with me. She has however settled into sleeping (mostly) in your old spot. No longer is she pinned up against me all night long. She still cries for you. Often. Some days are better than others. Some mornings her sadness is so overwhelming that I just cannot leave her side. Those days are becoming more infrequent and that brings me some comfort. We look at photos of you almost every night. Your photos still surround us at home. With familiarity they do not always catch my eye. Occasionally though I will just stop and look at you and feel a deep aching inside. I miss the way your voice always filled the house. Seeing the joy you found in so many things. You being you.

I am sick. Actual sick. Not sure if I picked up a bug in Texas or am having a reaction to the flu shot I got this week. All I know is I feel like crap. You were always so good to me when I did not feel well. You would get out your essential oils and mix something up and rub me with it. Your oils are still on your nightstand. I can't bring myself to open them. They are another vivid reminder of you.

My dad finally arrived 2 weeks ago. He made the long journey from Oregon driving the same route that you and I did just a few short years ago. It made me think of the places we stopped, what we ate, where we stayed. How much we missed Bend but knew that everything would be okay because we had each other. Never did I think I would be living in Colorado without you. That was never in the plan.

We will be okay. Sophie will be okay. I will be okay. Nothing will ever be the same but the only thing I can do is pick-up the pieces and make the best life for us that I can. Sophie has more good days than bad. I am not sure if I have tipped the scales in that direction for myself yet but I am trying. Life is a gift not to be fettered in sadness and pain. I will continue to love and miss you and cherish our life and marriage. You will always be my sweet Hollybear. Always.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Bare Patch

Dearest Holly,

Today (well technically yesterday since it is after midnight) I spent several hours visiting your grave. It is still covered in flowers.  Bordered on the edge around the whole plot are additional flowers. I think you would like how much your life is still being celebrated by friends and family who still love and miss you a great deal. I brought roses. You use to tell me what you wish I sent you flowers more often. If I could do it all over again I would buy you flowers every day. Alas that is no longer an option. The only thing I can do now is bring you flowers when I visit your grave. It is a pale comparison but it gives some small amount of symbolism of my undying love and devotion to you.

As I sat on your grave today I listened to some Jack Johnson and thought about all of the fun times we had in our backyard while we listened to him. As I sat there I began to pluck the grass and weeds that covered your grave. I eventually cleared a spot that was just dirt. This bare patch of earth is where I sat and cried and prayed, and ached for you. Tears dripped from my face and moistened the earth below me. Somehow that bare patch of dirt helped me feel closer to you. I rubbed the dirt between my hands. I rubbed dirt into my wedding band. The dirt brought me comfort. When you look down from Heaven and see the bare earth spot on your grave, that is where I sit when I am with you. That is the spot I feel closest to you.

I know you did not want to be buried in Texas. I hope you understand why I did it and that you know I made a decision based on a reality we did not expect to ever come true. Your plot is nice. I feel comfort there. The cemetery is well-kept and scenic. There was a gentle breeze today that kept me cool. Dragonflies flitted back and forth and provided me the kind of silent company I needed. It really is beautiful out there. I think you would understand and see the peace and beauty you are surrounded by. I think you would be happy.

I finally picked out your headstone this trip as well. It should be in place by the time we are down for Christmas. I kept it simple and elegant. I think you would like it. I had been dreading doing it because it makes everything have a level of finality I was not ready for. Selfish of me I know. I think it will also help Sophie identify your spot and be able to understand the purpose of going out to visit you.

I still miss you terribly. I still cannot talk about you without tears filling my eyes until they feel like they will burst. Not one day has gotten easier for me. Some days I can hide it better than others but the feelings that are inside me are as raw as ever. You did not deserve this. Sophie did not deserve this. I did not deserve this. You were our whole world. Nothing is the same without you. You were so much bigger than life. You impacted so many people in your short time here on Earth. I love hearing stories about your friendships with others and how much you truly cared about so many people. You were the greatest blessing I could have ever hoped for. You were my best friend. You gave me Sophie who is so sweet and kind and full of love. You did everything for her and she is such an unbelievably amazing young girl. You would be so proud of her. I am so proud of her.

Always remember the bare dirt patch and how that is my spot when I come see you. When we come down in December I will be there again. Watering the dirt with my tears and running the earth through my hands. Until that day I will miss you and hold your memory close to my heart. You are my one and only.

All my love,

Sean
xxoo