Thank you for visiting my blog today. Originally it was started in 2006 as a way to chronicle our overseas adventure, but it has turned into a place where I share my heart after my husband's untimely death at the age of 40. You can read more about his brief, but fierce battle with a rare cancer on his caring bridge site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/rob_murphy.
"On a winter Sunday I go To clear away the snow and green the ground below.
April all an ocean away
Is this the better way to spend the day?
Keeping the winter at bay
What were the words I meant to say before you left?
When I could see your breath lead where you were going to.
Maybe I should just "let it be"
and maybe it will all come back to me
Sing, Oh January, Oh
How I lived a childhood in snow
And all my teens in tow
Stuffed in strata of glow
Hail the winter days after dark
Wandering the gray memorial park
A fleeting beating of hearts
What were the words I meant to say before she left?
When I could see her breath lead where she was going to
Maybe I should just "let it be"
and maybe it will all come back to me
Sing, Oh January, Oh"
- the Decemberists, "January Hymn"
these pictures were taken this morning on the Great River State Trail that Phantom and I frequent
We've really settled in well and made this little corner of Wisconsin as much of a home as we could in the short months we've been here. We each have things we're looking forward to in the future and a lot of that has to do with living here, in our small corner of this great big world. We approached the holiday season with little expectation, as has been our mantra - to not expect things to look a certain way or plan for much. We slowly started to incorporate our old traditions with new ones. It was tough. More for me than the kids, and that seems reasonable. There are things about this time of year that Rob and I had done together - that I was now carrying alone. Two of the hardest things this year were:
- picking out the Hallmark ornaments for the stockings that we buy for the kids every year.
- we would be wrap the presents on Christmas Eve because (even though we swore we wouldn't wait until the last minute this year) we got too busy, so we'd open a bottle of wine, put on the Bill Murry classic, "Scrooged", and stay up way too late wrapping the presents.
There were new things we did this year that are sure to become traditions with the four of us, customs that mean we're moving on. We were all so excited for this, our first Christmas, in our new home, but with everything that was different I was painfully aware of how much further we were stepping away from that piece of our world. The piece that was him.
I was so grateful when My brother and his lovely Suzy chose to come and spend Christmas Eve and Day with us - then when Sarah's boyfriend, Evan, was able to make plans to come up during his school break it was a complete reunion of last year. They filled the house with laughter, games, good food, and activity.
I was so pleased when a few close families' who knew us in Germany (and some that I least expected it from) sent little care packages and small gifts to let us know they were thinking of us. It brings tears to my eyes even now, because it means a lot that some of you remember and know how hard it is for me to try and carry on.
I was recently telling a friend that anytime I get sad or frustrated with things, I try to list all the obvious doors, windows, nudges, and blaring sirens that God has put in our path to let us sternly, but lovingly, know that this is exactly where He wants us. It's hard to argue with that. I get impatient sometimes for things to seem normal again. To feel whole. Then I think, though, that part of feeling those things will come at the cost of not missing Rob so terribly much, and as painful as it is to so desperately long for him, I don't exactly want to move on from there. And so I start reciting the list in my head again.......
We traveled to Waukesha to celebrate Christmas with Ann & Lee (Rob's Mom and step-Dad) and were treated to 6" of snow! The kids had never seen so much snow and enjoyed a little time outside being goofy, throwing snowballs, and figuring out what it tastes like.
In the transient life that is the military you come along friends that you know will be with your for a season, neighbors and coworkers that you enjoy during your time (or theirs) at different bases around the globe. Every so often you come across a friend that you know will be around despite the different time zones. It doesn't happen very often for kids - especially young kids - as they just kind of move on, but for these 4 boys they just connected in a way that makes them friends for life. Our families also became friends and we were so blessed when they decided to make a trip happen to visit us. Just the moms and the boys, this time, but it was such a welcome reminder of times-past and reaffirmation for a future with friendships that last.
The boys spent most of the time in the house enjoying all their favorite things. I ended up with a nasty cold and so my dear friends took care of me and we enjoyed good food, wine, and endless laughs and conversation.
We have found a great new teacher for the boys and enjoyed being a part of her annual Christmas Recital. She teaches a lot of talented kids. After the recital we came home for some hot chocolate (it is COLD in Wisconsin)
We spent Thanksgiving with Bob, Elaine, and Jaime & Adrian and their crew. It was the first Thanksgiving in a long, long, long time that we were with family and not Air Force family. It was a bittersweet reminder of how much we miss that military life, but also how wonderful it is to be living near family again. It was also the first time in over 15 years that I didn't have to make the turkey! I was only responsible for desserts. The meal was fantastic and my kids had an amazing time getting to spend hours with their cousins. Sarah was smitten with the newest addition, Joshua, and I suspect he appreciated the "nap buddy" too.
Bob is Rob's Dad, Elaine is his wife and Jaime is her daughter.
when our time in Germany was nearing its end and we knew we were heading stateside, before Rob was sick, one of the things we were most excited about was being able to buy a real piano for our musicians. After Rob got sick everything went fuzzy because all plans were upside down for a long, long time. Time went by, and I still had it in my mind to find a piano. I was halfheartedly shopping and keeping my ears open, but everything was out of our price range or not worth owning. It kind of set on the back burner.....
...... and then through an amazing set of circumstances this beautiful 1927 Chickering Grand Piano found us. Though it's worth more, the owner sold it to us for exactly what I had budgeted.
It was delivered today and is waiting, patiently, for Noah to get home from school.
The boys and I ran in the 19th annual race today! It was COLD out there, baby - a chilly 12degrees and windy. Noah was feeling a little off the night before and when we came home from the race we discovered he was running a fever, but he still pressed on and ran the whole way. Micah had to walk a few times to breath through some side aches, and his legs were getting a little sore toward the end, but he made it the whole way and finished strong. Sarah didn't run the race, so instead she acted as our chauffeur. She ended up parking on a side street along the campus, unbeknown to her, that the racer were going to use - so when the runner's started filtering by she took a short video and caught and took a screen cap of a shot with all four of us in the frame - ain't technology great?
We'll do it again next year - but plan to train a little more so Micah can run the whole way and MAYBE get Sarah out on the trail?
Today Rob's Dad and I spent the better part of the morning sorting through piles and piles of papers.It was a job I'd been putting off, yet there was no particular reason that we had to do it now, it just worked out in our schedules to be able to do it together. I also didn't want wait too much longer because knowing the task was waiting for me was building it up to be almost worse than it was. almost. it was several gut wrenching hours of painstakingly going through things, sorting out what to keep, what needed to be shredded, and what could just be thrown away. Bob did most of the work, I was so thankful for him today, and sorted it into piles for me to go through. We came across papers from his original enlistment into the Air Force, orders to his assignments in Missouri, Kuwait, Korea, and Germany. There were also certificates from classes he completed or awards he had won. Ham radio licenses, manuals, and gadgets. We'd come across notebooks full of his handwriting or things he had saved that were sentimental to him. The task is far from over, there are some things that I'm just not ready to face yet and many things that we set aside that I'm not willing to let go. But there is a big pile of things to get rid of and 2 bags full of shredded documents - and make no mistake - come Friday, trash day, it will still be nearly impossible to carry those out to the curb. But I have this picture, and it serves as proof. Records of a life (albeit too short by my standards) lived, testament of a man who meticulously cared and provided for his family and enjoyed the things on this earth that God gave him talents in. Evidence of a life well-lived.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation.
Alice replied, rather shyly, “I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
”What do you mean by that?” said the Caterpillar sternly. “Explain yourself!”
' 'I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir” said Alice, “because I'm not myself, you see.'”
“I don't see,” said the Caterpillar.
"I'm afraid I can't put it more clearly,” Alice replied very politely, “for I can't understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.”
- Lewis Carroll (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)
I don’t cry everyday.
I am sure I could.
But most days are spent just pushing on.Getting through.Figuring out the next thing.
But then there are those darn rabbit holes.
That phrase to me
has always meant to follow a trail down impossible-to-navigate tunnels and soon
become lost in the chaos and confusion, not remembering how a turn of events
led you there. In reality, it is certain
injury for a trail runner like me.
Both of those are true.
A week ago I was
searching for an email I KNOW I have somewhere in the 5,000+ emails that
currently sit in my inbox I became distracted by correspondence between Rob and
me in 2009. 2010, 2011….etc. Emails like
a request to pick up a kid from dance, having to stay late at work, something
funny that the dog did, what bases were on the EQUAL listing as possible next
assignments – and I clicked until I was immersed in those mundane, everyday
emails while my heart was breaking.
Watching the news
feed on Facebook today as the thanks to veteran’s and pictures appear I am down
another rabbit hole of grief. This came
after I got an email from one of Micah’s teacher’s letting me know that he was
quite sad at the Veteran’s Day student assembly this morning, which he chose
not to participate in (with my blessing).
The teacher wrote that she asked Micah if he was sure he would not like
to get up there to honor his Dad, and Micah replied that we honor dad everyday
by how we act and the things we say – I think about how strong my kids have
been, but I am reminded of what that “rest-of-their-life” without their Dad
looks like .
I am sure there
are rabbit holes waiting for me everyday, but God is gracious and most of the
time I make it through the day without tripping. Today is not one of those, though.
There’s a game called castle
spotting that you play if you’ve ever traveled in Europe, especially in the
great wooded hills or mountains along rivers.
Because we lived in the Rheinland-Pfalz area, our most traveled roads
often led us along the Rhine or the Mosel rivers. No matter how many times we would drive these
roads, we would always find a new castle, or be astounded by the beauty of one
we’ve passed 100 times. Spotting castles
is a pastime that becomes almost second nature; when you see the land begin to
rise, your eyes automatically search for the outline of ruins.
We’ve moved to a
region of the Midwest known as the Paleozoic Plateau famous for its deeply carved river
valleys. Placed along the Mississippi
River it is scenic and beautiful with bluffs rising out of the horizon like
mountains. And it’s been more than once
that each of us, in turn, have caught ourselves searching. We’re still looking for castles.
The region has its own charm,
though no castles. Right now the hills and bluffs are lit up with the brilliant
colors of autumn. As the roads become
more traveled and the landmarks more familiar, less and less do we expect to
see a great looming structure on a distant point in the horizon.
Routines are becoming
established. Friends are being
made. Futures are being thought about,
decisions are being made. We joined a
church and bought a house. We found
scout troops; Sarah got her license.
Everyday the house feels more like home and the community feels more like
ours. Yet, with every step forward it
still feels like this is still somewhere he should be, too. Some mornings when the alarm goes off I still
think I hear him breathing next to me. I
still want there to be a castle on that hill.
I recently had a chance to have a
conversation with my closest friend, whose company I’ve been missing
badly. I was sharing some of my grief
and frustrations and she quoted the 23rd Psalm to me.
Though she knew it’s been quoted
to me 1,000 times, she wanted to remind me of something her daughter had
brought to her attention (her very wise daughter is, I’m proud to admit, my
daughter’s best friend). It says, “He
makes me lie down in green pastures. He
leads me beside still waters.” It does
not say that God is with you when you decide to be still, or are bored, or
frustrated by things that aren’t happening.
It says that it is GOD who led you to those waters, sat you there, and
said, “Lie down”.
I want to post things on this
blog – the good along with the bad - To share some of the fun everyday things
we’ve been able to enjoy, or some of the huge milestones we’ve crossed, but
it’s hard. It’s hard to tell you why
it’s hard, too. I’m struggling to figure
out the identity I have now. The
different and unique dynamic I have with my kids. Sometimes I am terribly bored and frustrated
by loneliness. I hate when people I
never hear from randomly like or comment on my Facebook activity, and I know
that it’s just because you want me to be “okay” and you want us to be doing
well – and that you wish you might’ve done something more. And, sometimes we are doing pretty great, and
almost always there’s the same, small circle rushing to surround us– but it
needs to be “okay” that sometime we aren’t, that I am not okay. Because, mostly I just want that breathing in
the bed next to me to be real. For there still to be a castle up on that
If you asked me what the hardest part of this past year was, I would have to answer "waking up. every day." That moment between being fully consciousness and blissfully unaware. every single day.
In August we participated in Muckfest - a mud run with proceeds benefitting MS research. It was a good time, but there were a few obstacles that proved challenging. One in particular comes to mind - you had to grab unto this carousel of hanging ropes when it came to the start area and then the rope spun around over an enormous puddle of mud to the other side where you could drop down on a dirt path. I don't know if it was the running start, my arm strength, or what the deal was, but I was not able to hoist myself up onto the knot tied to the end of the rope. After three attempts I just had to jump into the puddle of mud and trudge/be dragged through the mud while holding on to the bottom of the rope.P It has been a year, today, since Rob died - almost 2 years since the chaos of the diagnosis began. The kids and I left Germany on June 17th and started our new chapter. Everyday since then has been like being stuck in a never ending circle of sludge. Leaving the military community/life and learning to navigate all the challenges. There have been ups - and there have been downs. There were some really bad days. But, for whatever it's worth, I never went "under". There was always that rope. Most often I think God put that rope in the hands of those able to immediately surround me with support - my father-in-law, Bob, and his wife, Elaine and my brother, Rolfy, and his girlfriend, Suzy. But sometimes, when there were some pretty overwhelming and dark days, missing him so much it was like a tangible weight or the uncertainty what to do, God would nudge someone else to pick up the rope and keep my head just above the muck. We are adapting. We are finding our way. It is slow, it is painful, it is fraught with challenges and complications. but always, always there is grace.
Grace to keep holding that rope and knowing God won't let it go.
"Measuring the summer's day I only find it slips away to grey The hours they bring me pain Tangerine, Tangerine living reflections from a dream I was her love she was my queens and now 1,000 years between Thinking how it used to be Does she still remember times like these To think of us again and I do........"
- Led Zeppelin (Tangerine)
Did you ever have that moment as a new parent? You know the one - you've just had your baby and they're releasing you from the hospital - you're anxious to get going, get home, start your life as a parent. C'Mon! can't we get the release papers signed any quicker? Yeah, yeah, yeah this is all stuff you've gone over - I KNOW!
Then, just like that you're in the car traveling home. Walk through the front door, all smiles, "Welcome Home, baby!!"
Now what are we supposed to do? Can you believe they just let us take this baby by ourselves? What do we do with it?
so, I found buying a house was a little like that. First there was the whole finding the house, deciding that I wanted to put an offer on it, the negotiating, and then the waiting.
There was much anticipation leading up to the big "CLOSING" day. My closing was a bit further off after the offer was accepted because I had agreed to wait until their new house was ready for them to move into before they left.
FINALLY, the big day was here and the paperwork took a long, long time. after what seemed like hours it was over. and just like that.
I had keys and drove to my new house. I had this sudden urge to just keep driving because, "OH MY GOODNESS, what have I done? They really just let me have the keys?" What am I supposed to do now? I'm a homeowner? What was I thinking!?!?!?
The week I bought the house is a blur - My brother came down from Minneapolis to help me get some walls painted, people from church helped move a bunch of stuff over, grandparents helped, my mom and dad came up from Florida, and slowly we turned the house into our home. It really is the perfect house for our family. I'm sure more picture will appear over time, but here's one from about 10 days after the closing, once the living room was set up.
We are so blessed to have found a great Cub Scout Pack and an awesome Weblos Den for Micah to be a part of. The weekend after school started they had a fishing day along the Mississippi River. Micah got a few nibbles, but didn't catch anything. He still had a great time practicing casting. Throwing it out about 100 times. We also go to see 2 Bald Eagles flying along the river and they were so beautiful! no pictures of the birds.
much of the first few weeks settling into Wisconsin life has been spent getting everyone sign up, register, and be ready to start school. Sarah started on the Thursday before Labor Day and the boys started the Tuesday after Labor Day. I didn't get the traditional first day of school pictures, realizing this as Sarah got out of the car for her first class - so I sneaked a picture of her at the crosswalk. I promised myself I'd do better with the boys the flowing Tuesday - but again had to grab pictures of them when they go home to the grandparents house after their first day was already over.
School starts on TUESDAY (for the boys, Sarah actually had her first few classes last week Thursday and Friday). We took the long weekend to go visit Waukesha and stayed with Grandma Ann and Grandpa Lee. Grandma took us to the zoo for the day and the kids had SO MUCH FUN! The weather was great and the animals were all cooperative and playful. Not having been to many zoos in their lifetime they really enjoyed their day at the park!
Acclimating to Wisconsin had its ups and downs, especially with all the "bonus drama" surrounding us. Because we are living with Rob's Dad and Elaine we are able to take everything at our pace. They have little lists of things we need to accomplish, but are never forceful and always willing to help us achieve whatever is on the list. Some of us (Noah) hit the ground running with summer marching band practice and Boy Scouts. Other's of us (Micah) didn't have a lot going on and patiently waited for the next grandparent to be available to play Monolply. We slowly started to find our desire to make this place our home and to go on with whatever this new way forward was going to look like. There were good days - a church picnic, Noah marching in his first parade, Sarah starting driving lessons or traveling on her first solo plane trip to go see her boyfriend in Oklahoma, finding a running trail (that's me and Phantom). But there were hard days. The grief was unescapable and the weight of everything to come was overwhelming. When I couldn't stand to be in my own skin and thought that the sadness and complexity would overwhelm me we took off to see my brother and his girlfriend, Suzy, in Minneapolis for a couple of days.
I am not going to do a "post per event" as is my usual format for this blog, but just arrange a jumble of pictures from our first days/months in Wisconsin.
July 11th - Noah spent a week with his new boy scout troop at a summer camp just a few miles up the road from us.
July 16th - Spending a couple of days in Minneapolis - the boys gaming.
July 18th/20th celebrating Phantom's 6th birthday with the grandparents and The boys on the bike trail (my new running trail!!)
August 2nd, Sarah in Oklahoma City visiting Evan.
August 10th - In Minneapolis to celebrate Uncle Rolf's birthday. grilling out, trip to Minehaha Falls, and more games (of course!!)
August 17th, watching Noah in the Holmen Kornfest parade
August 19th Micah enjoying the beach at Fort McCoy during the annual church picnic
August 23rd - Micah participating in a week long Cub Scout Day camp
August 23rd, Noah in the bleachers with the marching band during the first home game of the season. (We all went to watch, too!)