Sunday, June 17, 2012

I Promise To Sing To You When All The Music Dies

     The title of this post was taken from the song Marry Me by Train.

      I haven't been able to read much this last year. I just can't sit down and focus on anything long enough. This is very out of character for me and very disturbing. I've continued to buy books, but they just pile up on my shelf. I might get ten or fifteen pages into one and then I put it down and can't finish it. However, two weeks ago I decided to give it another try and picked up One Summer by David Baldacci. I've read a lot of his books and have always enjoyed his work but this looked like a sappy tragic love story and I was less than thrilled. It's about a husband who is terminally ill and loses his wife in a car accident. He makes a miraculous recovery and the book continues with his life as a widower raising his three children. I was a little annoyed with some of the similarities to my life until I really started to read it. When the husband was ill and thought he was dying he wrote his wife several letters for her to have after he passed. Throughout the book he reads them. One of them is as follows:

"Dear Lizzie,
Christmas is five days away and it's a good time to reflect on life. Your life. This will be hard. Hard for me to write and hard for you to read, but it needs to be said. You're young and you have many years ahead of you. Cory and Jackie will be with you for many more years. And even Mikki will benefit. I'm talking about you finding someone else, Lizzie. I know you won't want to at first. You'll even feel guilty about thinking about another man in your life, but, Lizzie it has to be that way. I cannot allow you to go through the rest of your life alone. It's not fair to you, and it has nothing to do with the love we have for each other. It will not change that at all. It can't. Our love is too strong. It will last forever. But there are many kinds of love, and people have the capacity to love many different people. You are a wonderful person, Lizzie, and you can make someone else's life wonderful. Love is to be shared, not hidden, not horded. And you have much love to share. It doesn't mean you love me any less. And I certainly could never love you more than I already do. But in your heart you will find more love for someone else. And you will make him happy. And he will make you happy. And Jackie especially will have a father to help him grow into a good man. Our son deserves that. Believe me, Lizzie, if it could be any other way, I would make it so. But you have to deal with life as it come. And I'm trying my best to do just that. I love you too much to accept anything less than your complete and total happiness.

If you replaced the name Lizzie with Mel; the kids names with my own children; and Jack with Mike, this could have been written for me. When I read this my heart was touched and I knew that these words reflected what Mike would say to me if he could. He would want me to be happy. 
      John proposed. It was was difficult for me to picture myself with someone was impossible for me to picture the kids with someone else...but my time with him has been wonderful...the kids are laughing again...and I said yes!  I'm sure some people are like, "What?! How can she be engaged when her husband passed away just over a year ago?!" I shouldn't have to justify myself, and really unless you've been through what I've been through you can't possibly have any idea. I am not assuming that everyone will judge this but I do think there are those out there who just won't understand. This is not an effort to replace Mike; it is rather an attempt to replace a part of me that is missing. A part I never planned to lose. A part that, once lost, made life unlivable but again, if you haven't been through it you could never understand. 
     John and I met through church. He still lives in Williamsburg and comes in a lot to visit. I must say that we have the most unique relationship I've ever known. John completely and totally meets me where I am in my life right now and that includes the crazy that is my grief. I cannot count how many times a thought of Mike has choked me up and John just put his arm around me and let me cry. He stole my heart when he sat with Tyler one night and combed her hair after her shower. She talked about her dad and how he used to have long hair. He listened to her stories, asked questions, and completely respected that at that moment she needed to talk about her dad. He listens as Mason talks about his dad the artist, heart disease, and heart attacks. He plays video games with them and is sensitive to those activities that they did with their dad. We have talked with the kids about us getting married and they are okay with it. We stressed how this does not change how I or they feel about their dad. This does not mean that we can not talk about Mike the way we always have. This does not mean that we have to tip toe around those conversations. It means we have John here who wants to be a part of our future, while listening and understanding about our past.
     This was not something I was looking for. It is not something I thought I needed or wanted in my life right now. I was okay...or not...just struggling along with my role as the sole parent. When John and I became friends, I thought, "Cool, I get to talk to someone fun and for moments it takes my mind off my troubles." Then he came to visit and I started to visit him in Williamsburg. Our friendship grew and I began to feel guilty when I found myself smiling or enjoying spending time with him. My mind often went to that "What the heck are you doing?" place. I then realized that I have to live my life for my kids and myself and, if John makes us happy, then I can't see any downfall to that. More than anything I wanted some kind of confirmation that I was making the correct choice. I prayed about it and prayed often even before he proposed. I never felt bad about my decision but a part of me needed to know that my decision was right. One night I sat alone in my room crying my eyes out. I was yelling at Mike for leaving me and forcing me to make seemingly impossible decisions all alone and now I faced one that wouldn't even have to be made if he were still here. Then all of the sudden I felt a peace around me. It was almost like Mike had wrapped his arms around me and the tears stopped. In that moment I could have sworn that if I had turned around I would have been able to see him. As I sat there these words entered my mind, "Mel, I want you to be happy. It's okay." I have such a strong belief that this was Mike telling me that I didn't need to stop living for him. It was okay to miss him and honor his memory but that he was in a place of peace. He was in a place where he had work of his own to do and part of that was to help watch over our kids and me as we go about finishing out our life here in mortality. 
     Because of all of these things, I have given myself permission to be happy and yes I think Mike has given me permission as well. In a much earlier blog I mentioned that a few weeks before he passed he joked that he would not want people to cry at his funeral. I've always known that he would not have approved of the absolutely pitch-black hole I had encompassed myself in. I also know that it was necessary so that I could work on untangling the mess of who I had become. Nothing happens in life without a lesson to be learned. I know it's a cliche but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. It's often hard to see things that way...especially when we aren't getting our way. While I cannot fathom the reason why Mike is not supposed to be here with us, I do have faith that my Heavenly Father loves me and feels my pain as well as my joy. John makes me smile. He makes me laugh. He puts a sparkle in my eye that has been gone for so long. He is kind and thoughtful. John is incredible with the kids and they absolutely adore him. We are blessed to have him in our lives and I am incredibly grateful for him. I have a life-changing decision to make. I am choosing to live life and be happy.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

This Bond Between Us Can't Be Broken

     The title of this post was taken from the song You'll Be In My Heart by Phil Collins.

     Father's Day is tomorrow. Last year, I remember dreading it but, thinking about it now, I have no idea what we did. I guess I need to go back and read my blog to see. I have a lot on my mind and I'm going to try and organize it into some semblance of a coherent, well-thought-out post. 
      My dad is amazing. He is one of the most selfless people I know. My whole life I have watched him serve others and do so humbly. His work ethic is impeccable and he always took time to teach us as he worked. He was strict on us growing up. The word "gross" was one we did not utter in our home; it was just a word he disliked. Dad worked hard to make sure that we never lacked anything. We took family vacations every summer and I remember having a computer in our home when we I was ten. It was an old Tandy 2000. Dad is organized, prepared, and always knows how to handle the most difficult situations. He never speaks a bad word about anyone no matter what they have done to him. I could go on and on. My whole life I've known that if I needed anything dad would be there for me and he'd do everything he could to make things better. Dad is not one to cry but when Mike passed away I remember watching tears roll down his cheeks as his heart broke for the loss we were enduring and for the pain his daughter was in. I love my dad more than words can say. I still hold his hand when we walk together in a store and yes I still call him "Daddy." Never has there been a child who loved their father more than I love mine. Happy Father's Day Dad!
     I struggle with how to handle Father's Day for the kids. We talk about Mike all the time...but I know that talking about it during times like this is a little harder than it is during others. We will go to church tomorrow and the kids will get up with the other primary kids and sing a song to their dad. I wonder how that makes them feel; knowing that their dad isn't physically there to hear what they are singing. This year Tyler is singing a special song with a friend and she's been working really hard on it. It's a surprise and she refuses to talk to me about it. Whatever it is, I'm grateful because it's given her something positive to focus on. I'm also grateful for those that have helped her with this. 
     Mike's favorite job in the whole world was being a dad. He loved the kids so very much and making them happy was his main goal in life. We aren't perfect and, of course, they often pushed his buttons but nothing they did could ever change how he felt about them. They were his entire world. Likewise, the kids love him. We often talk about the good times; the silly things they would do that would drive him crazy; and the special moments they shared with him. I think knowing that they can, and should, talk about him anytime they want to has been therapeutic for them. The kids understand that there will be times when talking about it makes me sad, or even them but most of the time he's simply a part of our daily conversations. I love that they are comfortable with this. 
     We went to the cemetery yesterday and the headstone has been set. I'm sharing several pictures. The first one shows our reflection in the granite. The stone itself does not have clouds or us on it, lol. Although it is kinda cool looking.

The quote on the bottom reads, "For now I must go, but know you are with me always." I took it from a letter Mike wrote me a long time ago.

This is the back of the stone. It has his artwork on it and the quote is from Star Wars...Yoda to be exact; it reads, "Soon I will rest, yes, forever sleep. Earned it I have. Twilight is upon me, soon night must fall."

Here is a close up of the art work. He drew this at work and someone recreated it for me so that I could put it on the stone. Our initials were interchangeable (JMD and MJD).

     Happy Father's Day Mike! 

     We closed on the house Thursday. We will be moving as soon as the previous owners are out. In spite of all we have been through, I can't help but feel blessed at this very moment. We've lost so much but, through that loss, we have gained much. Our priorities are where they need to be. We have pulled together as a family and now, more than ever, we stay focused on the things that matter most. I've learned to have more faith and to trust in the plans my Heavenly Father has for me...even when I'm not sure what they are. I've found someone who loves and cares about me and truly makes me happy. John is so completely understanding about everything and never bats an eye when I have crazy moments. His gentle support as we stood looking at Mike's headstone gave me a peace beyond anything else, most importantly, it gave me reassurance that, while we have been through something horrific, there is still room in my life for love and happiness. 

*John even proofreads and corrects my many mistakes.  :)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Everybody's Gone. They Left The Television Screaming That The Radio's On

     The title of this post was taken from the song Holiday In Spain by Counting Crows.

     Mike and I bought this house 12 years ago, I was 19 years old. I remember us house hunting, and when we found this one we thought it was perfect. We had no children at the time, and this house seemed like a mansion. I remember walking into the bank filling out the loan application, providing some basic information, like bank statements, and then later getting a phone call when we were ready to close. It truly was a smooth process. I'm now 32, okay okay almost 33, and I'm in the process of buying a new house. From the moment I applied for this loan it has been a nightmare. The amount of information the bank, mortgage insurance company, and homeowners insurance company want from me is absolutely ridiculous. I completely understand needing to supply bank statements and paycheck stubs, but they have asked for a list of things that I do not understand. I have had to provide a copy of my drivers license, a copy of the kids social security cards, and then a copy of their birth certificates to prove their ages, a copy of my homeowners insurance policy for my current home, and many more things. 
     I got a phone call from the bank the other day and the lady processing our loan said they needed a monthly statement for my 401K. I thought okay whatever. Then she said that my credit report showed that my previous mortgage had been paid late two months in the past, and the banker wanted to know if I knew what two months it had been late. WHAT?! Really it was late twice in 12 years and you are grilling me on it. I told her I had no idea when or why they were late. She then stated she would need to contact our previous mortgage company to find out when they were late, and then she needed an explanation from me as to why. After I got off the phone with her I received the following email.

OK Ms. Dawson,

I just need your completed retirement statement for the Mortgage Insurance company and the late mortgage payments were 5/2009 and 6/2009 so I just need an explanation as to why they were late then I can re-submit to the mortgage insurance company for approval from them. Once I approval from them I can re-submit into the underwriter for final approval.

Thank you

Here is my reply to her email.

It was my late husband's 401K and when he passed away it became mine. The company does not send out monthly statements. The only statement I have ever been mailed was the end-of-the-year statement from 2011 that I have already sent you a copy of. I did log into my account and take a screen shot of the account summary and I am attaching it. If you need further verification concerning this I will be happy to give you their information and you can contact them. I don't know what else to send you.

As far as the late mortgage payments in 2009 I honestly cannot tell you why they were not timely. My late husband took care of paying the bills and I can't rightfully ask him why they were not paid on time. I took over all accounts upon his passing, and every payment was made on time until I paid it off in July.

I know I sound a little frustrated, and to be honest I am. I know you are only doing your job, but I feel like I keep supplying the same information just in different formats. I appreciate your help in making this loan work. I am simply looking forward to having all this completed.

Melanie Dawson

Here was her response.

I’ve forwarded your e-mail to the MI company and she just responded and said she was fine with the information you provided. She said she is finishing up the Mortgage Insurance Certificate for me and will be sending it over to me shortly. Once I have this I will re-submit into the underwriter for a clear to close. Sorry for the inconvenience I know that it can be frustrating but thanks for your patience!

I mean we have been working on this loan for two months now. Does it really take that long? I know the economy is bad, but really come on people. Do we have to make it worse by putting potential buyers through all of this.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

No More Pencils No More Books

Title of this post was taken from the song Another Brick In The Wall Part II by Pink Floyd.

      School is out! I woke up this morning with the sun streaming through the windows. A small smile appeared on my face as I came to the realization that "Yes! I have slept in!" I eagerly looked at my phone to check the time, I thought for sure it was ten o'clock. Yea, it was 7:50. Okay whatever I will take it :). 
      Another school year has come and gone. I just completed my fifth year teaching special education, and will start my third year with the district I am in. It looks like there may be some changes in store for me next year, I'm not really sure yet. I know a few things for certain 1) I love teaching, and I love teaching in this district. 2) I am beyond grateful to have a job. 3) I absolutely love my coworkers. I truly work with an incredible group of educators and leaders. I continue to learn and grow from watching them. The support I've been given as a new teacher in this district, and through my trials, has been nothing short of amazing. I don't want to name names, but you guys know who you are. You hold a special place in my heart, and it's my privilege to work with and for you. 4) No matter what happens with next school year, I will always work hard and do my absolute best. A job worth doing is worth doing right. I grew up hearing this from my dad every day, and he will never know how it has shaped my life. I may not always know everything or have all the answers, but I will always do my best to learn and grow so that I can do my job to the absolute best of my ability. Moving on :)
     Sebastian passed all of his SOL tests, and worked really hard this year given all that he has been through. I am so proud of him for always doing his best. He is such a handsome young man. I cannot believe he will be in 7th grade next year. Where has time gone? He is getting ready to start cello lessons this summer, and we are hoping to do horseback riding again. There are not enough words to express how much I love this child. 

     Tyler made it through another year and will be moving on to 5th grade! She also passed all her SOL tests. Tyler begged last year to switch schools, I debated it and felt it would be best for her to be in the same school as I was so that I could be there for her. I'm glad I made that choice, because there were many times she just needed a hug; however this year was rough for her for a variety of reasons. I think deep down she wants to start over. She wants to go to a school where no one really knows her, and she can make new memories. Like all of us, she is trying to make a fresh start, and while I don't want her running from her problems I also can't blame her. So, she will be off to a new school next year. She is excited and nervous all at the same time. Here she is with her new violin. We haven't started lessons yet, but hopefully soon. Isn't she beautiful!

Mason, my dear sweet Mason. He graduated from Kindergarten this year. It is amazing all the things he has learned. He had incredible teachers who were so sensitive to his needs and there is no way I could ever let them know how much they mean to me. He will be moving on to 1st grade in the fall. He may also go to a new school next year. There are a few things left up in the air so I'm not sure yet. He is such a great boy, and I could not be more proud of him. Here are pictures from his Kindergarten Graduation. Go Mason!

The end of the school year is always bitter sweet. We are all ready for summer and the fun it will bring, but I always get a little sad knowing I won't see my students until August. Like last year a tear rolled down my cheek as I walked out of my room on Thursday. It's all packed and put away. I hope my students know just how much I love working with them. 

     I have treasures from this year that will help me remember just how much I love my job. Here is a letter a student gave me. I cropped off the students name so as not to identify him/her on here. What a sweet child.

It says "I love you Mrs. Dawson. Thank you for helping me with my work." :)
Makes my heart melt.

     Summer is officially here for the kids and I'm sure they will spend a good part of it in the pool swimming with their cousins. Super excited for family time! A few more pictures and I will be done. I have a super cute picture of Mason that I took at church on Sunday, it's so adorable I had to share it. The last two pictures are of a quilt that a fantastic coworker, Brenda, made for me. She is also working on quilts for Sebastian, Tyler and Mason. I wanted quilts using some of Mike's favorite t-shirts for all of us, and last fall my friend Deb and I went shopping and picked out a ton of fabric and materials. She was going to make them for us. A few months after we bought all the material she passed away. This quilt not only has Mike in it, but it will have my memories of Deb wrapped up in it as well. We spent hours going through fabric and trying to pick out the perfect ones for the kids and me. I have no idea how Brenda found time during the school year to finish mine, but she is one talented and giving person. She will never know how much it means to me. So, as I sit here on this sunny morning, I can't help but smile. I have lost so much, but I have gained a lot in the process. Despite all we have been through I am able to recognize my blessings. I still have much to be grateful for.

Seriously?! Isn't this the most adorable picture ever! 

For those interested Mike used transfer paper to make a work t-shirt with the Just For Men picture on it. Underneath the picture he put the following caption.

"Helping Management Stay Pretty One Dictatorial Blunder At A Time."

I wanted Mike's sense of humor in my quilt, and this captures it. The Type O Negative pieces came from his favorite Type O shirt. The white with the dragon was a shirt he wore often. The Kung Fu Panda looking one is actually from a shirt he screen printed in high school, so I have
his art work on there as well. The backward N square was from his favorite Nine Inch
 Nails t-shirt. The grey (and here is a short spelling lesson, grAy is how it's spelled in America, 
and grEy is how it's spelled in England. I've always spelled it grey :) square was from one of his many plain grey work t-shirts. 

I'm taking my memories and moving forward. Literally I'm taking them to the new house, but also in my relationship with John. I'm looking forward to spending more time together. Hope everyone has a great start to their summer!

*You may notice that my grammar and spelling get better in the posts to follow, this would be because John proofreads them for me now :) Grammar never was my strong suit.