To the New Owners

Dear Bob and Sally (not their real names!),

I have been in complete denial about the sale of our home. Now, we are closing on the sale this week and I have a lot of stuff to get done. Instead, I am writing this letter to you.

Like the two of you, my husband and I bought this house when it was off the market. We did everything a buyer is not supposed to do and became emotionally attached right away. We paid too much for the house during the recession when it was a buyers’ market. We just knew this was the house we wanted to spend the rest of our lives in. We saw so much potential despite the wallpaper (long gone) and faux marble purple swirl scalloped sinks (still there!) We loved the beautiful yard and the neighborhood. This was going to be our home.

When we moved in, my oldest (now almost 11) was about to start kindergarten. My second son (now 8) was 3 years old and I was pregnant with our baby girl. We had done our due diligence and researched not only the school district, but the precise schools they would be going to for their entire public school lives. It was very important to both of us that our kids have consistency and predictability. We didn’t want them to have to change schools once they started. We picked the right place because the kids love their school.

My husband put a tv in the master bedroom so I would have something to watch throughout nighttime feedings. We had a rocker/glider that sat right at the foot of the bed, where I fed my baby girl night after night while searching for “Taxicab Confessions”. About two years later, our youngest son (now almost 4) was born and so the nighttime ritual continued. The glider is gone, but when I walk into my bedroom, I can still see it sitting there at the foot of my bed. Two tv trays on either side of it to hold the tv remote and lots of water.

The almost perfect home (except for all the brass and faux marble), in the perfect neighborhood, with the perfect schools, with the perfect yard for the kids to run and play. We even put up the perfect play set back up by the woods. We had picnics and ran through sprinklers, camped outside–we even had my oldest son’s preschool graduation here. We have a black lab who roams the neighborhood, but he always comes home. He knows exactly which neighbors give him treats and which ones leave their garbage outside. Then he comes home and gets sick. But it was all the way it was supposed to be.

Since the day we moved in, not a day has gone by when I haven’t driven into this neighborhood and thought about how lucky I am to be living here. Despite the bears, coyotes, bobcats, attacking owls and utterly ridiculous and stupid HOA, I have always known how fortunate we were to be living here. There are some amazing neighbors on this street who have become family to us (there is also a bitch across the street–steer clear of her! She is a nut case.) I know those great neighbors will stay a part of our lives no matter where we end up. It just won’t be as easy to pop in or wave to them as we are leaving our driveways at the same time or stop to chat when they are outside walking their dogs.

Life didn’t continue the way it was supposed to. I am now a widow supporting 4 children, a still roaming black lab, and a house and yard that are too big for me to afford or manage. I did not win the lottery this past year so that I could keep my home. (That was definitely supposed to happen!) Most people think selling my home is just fantastic. But, it’s not. It’s the smart thing to do–and I haven’t made any smart decisions in about 13 months. I have to be smart for my family–financially–it will be a huge relief. But this is not what is best for me emotionally. I walk around this house and my husband is everywhere (not literally, I know–I’m not that much of a kook). I’ll share a secret I’ve not said out loud to anyone–every once in a while, I think I still see him coming down the hallway. Every once in a while, I actually still smell him. A strong smell that seems to come out of nowhere. This house is where Jake is. It’s where WE are. I don’t want to leave that. I don’t know how I am going to walk out the door and never walk back in again. It feels like I am losing him all over again. I’m devastated.

I am very happy to know that our home is going to a nice family. There is a “secret” path through the woods in the backyard that leads into the neighbor’s yard. Although the neighbor children are grown, they still have a playset in the backyard and they absolutely love seeing our kids coming out of the woods and playing out there.

IMG_1597 My 8-year-old planted this tree in a Styrofoam cup and brought it home from preschool. We planted it in the backyard and it has grown right along with the kids. I tried to figure out a way to take the tree with me, but there is no way I could move it without killing it. So I took a picture of the tree. I won’t get to see it continue to grow. But you will. Lucky you.

I wish you all the best, and hope you love and appreciate our home as much as we did. Oh–and if a senior black lab ever shows up at your back door, he answers to the name of Charlie and he is just trying to get home.

Kindest regards,
Kristen

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The Angry Kristen

**10/6/2015-I started writing this post about a week and a half ago.  I was going to delete it because I was so angry when I wrote it.  I re-read it and realized how disorganized and crazy it sounded.  But, I’ve decided to post it anyway. Because this is what happens to me sometimes.  This blog is about how I live my life without Jake–and this is how it goes sometimes. You may not want to continue reading if you are easily offended. **

9/25/2015

I had to drop my oldest boys off at grief camp on Friday night. I will be picking them up today. I didn’t expect to react the way I did. I walked away and immediately started bawling. Sobbed for about an hour afterwards. Not because I missed them. I was so sad and so incredibly pissed off that I had to take my kids to a grief camp. They shouldn’t have to go to grief camp. They did nothing to deserve this–this sadness, emptiness, and confusion. These unexpected triggers tear me up inside.

Don’t get me wrong. I am extremely grateful that such a place exists. It is called Camp Erin and it is held once a year. It is free to the families that attend. It is run solely on donations and grants. The volunteers who work it are some of the most amazing people I have ever come across in my life. I wish I had the words to describe–but my words would never do this event/place/people any justice. It was another reason I found myself crying. I wish I had all the money in the world to support Camp Erin. I wish I had the words to express my gratitude that my boys were “fortunate” enough to attend. I have to pick them up today. I’m anticipating an emotional day ahead for me.

My little girl, age 5, handed me a picture she made the other day. IMG_1511  When I asked her to tell me about it, she pointed to the numbers.  She said “One mom, four kids, and zero dads”.  I don’t think I need to say anything else about that.  Anyone reading this can imagine the pain.  This is the way my little girl expresses her grief.  Holy shit.  I can’t believe this is my life.

My littlest guy continues to ask where daddy is, when is he coming home, why can’t we go see him, etc.  He won’t get it for a very long time.

I get asked questions like this a lot–“How are you?”, “How are you doing?”, “You doing okay?” or some version. I never know how to answer.  But I will say this–if I say I’m “fine” or “okay”–do not rejoice because you think I am “fixed” or “all better” or “past it”.  I will never, ever be any of those things.  I’ve said this before–my life has been broken into parts–the BEFORE and the AFTER.  I’m learning to live in the AFTER.  What has happened will always be a part of me.  When I tell you I’m “fine” or “good” or “even great”–there is always the caveat that I’m not the same “fine, good, great” as the BEFORE Kristen.  I was trying to come up with suggestions of other things you can ask a person in a similar situation.  It’s hard.  Even I don’t know what to say to other people under similar circumstances.  Maybe just a hug and “I’m always thinking of you” or “I think of you often”.  Don’t ask us “how we are”.  I know it’s such a natural greeting–it’s very hard to not ask.  If you see me smiling or laughing or having fun-just don’t assume I’m all “fixed”.  It just means I am having a good moment.  Which is good.  But not the same.

So, going along with this whole anger theme I have going on lately–if I were to make a list of qualities of the BEFORE and AFTER Kristen–many of the characteristics would be the same.  But in a different way.  I experienced anger before–I experience anger now.  But they are very different.  The AFTER Kristen is way more likely to tell you to “fuck off” than the BEFORE Kristen.  I was a compassionate person before–I am a very compassionate person now.  However, don’t expect me to stir up any sympathy for you when you complain to me that your husband is going away on a business trip to an exotic country for three weeks.  Fuck off.  Don’t complain to me about how busy you are with one kid who plays sports, has music lessons, goes to art class, and has tutoring just so he can “get ahead” on the MSP/WASL/SBA (whatever they are calling the state standardized test now).  Fuck off.

I am very easily overwhelmed.  I always feel like I’m on the verge of going over the edge.  The tiniest little thing that someone says or does has the capability to shut me down completely to the point where I can’t do anything at all.  For example, at work I needed to complete a task that I had never done before.  It was pretty simple and straightforward.  But I froze.  I couldn’t comprehend the simplest of directions of what I was supposed to do or the steps to take to accomplish this task.  I read the directions over and over again until I just shut down.  I couldn’t do anything.  I gave it a few days and tried again and completed it.  Don’t ask me if I did it accurately! I have no idea.  But I did it.  Another example, I was very proud of myself for being productive and making a ton of phone calls I needed to make and getting shit done.  Then I received a simple text telling me I needed to do one more thing.  Something small.  But again I froze.  I crawled back into my shell and couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Not one more thing.

I am also extremely sensitive to well-intentioned people giving me unsolicited “advice” on how to parent my kids.  My kids “need” this or “that” in some person’s opinion.  I am going to be clear about this.  Unless I ask for advice-do not tell me anything about what my kids need/don’t need or everything I am doing “wrong”.  This leads to irreparable damage to our relationship.  Every time something is said about what I need to do/not do–something inside of me breaks a little more.  I feel enough guilt, enough responsibility, and enough…”lack of good parenting skills” to fill me for the rest of my life.  I don’t need anybody else telling me or even “gently suggesting” to me, what to do. I do it enough to myself.

Speaking of “myself” (selfish Kristen coming through), I experienced the worst day of my life so far–something I never imagined happening in a million years on August 27, 2014.  I had no choice but to get out of bed everyday and somehow go through the motions.  I feel sorry for myself–yes.  Absolutely.  I want the opportunity to crawl into a hole and cry and punch things for a while.  Not forever.  Just for a little bit.  I’ve recently started doing some things for myself.  Pursuing new interests.  Some of these interests impinge on my time with my kids.  I had signed up for a dance class I had been wanting to take for a long time.  After I registered, I found out that my daughter (who is only 5) would be having soccer practice at the same time as my dance class.  I chose to continue with the dance class (which is only six weeks long).  Holy mother fucking shit on a stick.  You’d think I was beating her based on the reactions I got from some people.

**Updated: 10/6/2015–I’m not having an angry day.  But everyday I am sad.  I am sad about what Jake is missing out on.  I am really sad about what my kids are missing out on.  A lot of days I still don’t believe he’s gone forever.

I was obviously very angry when I wrote this post.  I have these days sometimes–I call them “fuck the world” days.  Actually, they are not usually whole days–but minutes, maybe hours.  But I want to make it clear that I am so grateful for who I have in my life. I am so appreciative for what I have in my life.  In loads of ways, I am very, very blessed and fortunate.**

Thanks for reading

XOXO