To My Babies… The Hardest Letter I will ever write to you

For My Babies, Love

Out of all the things I’ve wanted to say to you during your little lives, this was a letter I never thought I would write to you, nor would I ever, ever want to. Our family is going through such a hard time now. Your father, who we all loved so deeply, died in a motorcycle accident at the young age of 45. I never, ever wanted you (or anyone, for that matter) to experience such tragedy. Most days I still can’t comprehend the idea that he is no longer living with us. How such a beautiful light could just go out so quickly is beyond my comprehension. And his poor, sweet children. Rowan is 3 (going on 16), Dylan is 6, Sebastian is 12, Sarah is 15, and Justin is 26. He loved you all so much. The love that I shared with your father was passionate, deep, strong, and sometimes crazy. But we were most beautiful when we were all together as a family. We truly made such a beautiful family.

I love him and miss him so much. I cry so many times just at the thought of not ever being able to hold him, talk to him, laugh with him, kiss him, and go through with all the crazy plans we had for life with him. But it is really all of his kids that my heart breaks for most. There are so many things that make the situation so tragic. From the idea of my love being injured and hurt so bad that his life was lost in the blink of an eye, to the fact of someone so charismatic, funny, talented, charming, and hard-working no longer living amongst us. To how many people loved him and are truly devastated by this loss. But the worst is for his beautiful children who lost their beautiful father. My heart breaks the most for all of you.

Dylan and Rowan, I know you both hurt so bad over this, and yet, you are so young that I can’t imagine that you really understand what’s going on. I hate the fact that you only had him in your life for such a short time. Dylan, you have always been a happy child. You are just as playfully mischievous as your father. But I know you are hurting right now. You don’t talk about it much. You talk about Daddy in good ways. You’ll talk about random stories about him, but you don’t talk about your pain or even how much you miss him. I’m pretty sure your strong little heart is just trying to be brave and keep going. Rowan, I know you don’t really understand at 3 years old what has happened. You just know that Daddy’s not here and you miss him. You tell me so many times a day how you want Daddy. It breaks my heart that I can’t give him to you. I found one of his t-shirts the other day that he wore frequently. It hadn’t been washed, and it still smelt like him. I rubbed my face in it and clung to it. A while later that day, you were upset about something, and I remembered the t-shirt. I gave it to you and told you to smell it. You stuck your face in it, and all the sudden you lit up. “Daddy’s shirt!” you exclaimed. It made you feel so good, just to smell his scent and hold that old cotton t-shirt. You carried the shirt around for days. I finally put it up, in the hopes it might hold on to his scent a little while longer so that I could give it to you when you start to get sad and missing him.

We were in the car today; Dylan, Rowan, and I. Rowan, you had just gotten an Elsa doll that sings “Let It Go” from the movie Frozen. As you were sitting in the backseat singing along, I had a sudden memory of your dad singing that song with you. He was really the one that got you singing it in the first place, when you were only like 2 years old. You would start to sing it, and then your dad would start singing along with you, loud and proud. You loved it. He used to sing it with you all the time. We all did. But your dad was the one that really started it. As the memory hit me while we were driving in the car, I started to get a little emotional. I turned and asked you, Dylan, if you remembered Daddy always singing that song with Rowan. You smiled sheepishly and sweetly and said yes, and I could tell you really did remember, too. I asked you how you were doing. “I’m good”, you replied, as is a pretty normal response for you. I asked you if you miss Daddy. You said yes. I was thinking how I don’t ever really see you get visibly upset about losing daddy. I see you get upset, much more frequently than normal. I know you miss daddy, but you just don’t normally say that you miss daddy and it hurts. As I was asking you if you missed him and starting to tear up myself, I think you must have known my thoughts because  you simply said “My heart is crying.” It was the most honest, poetic, adult thing I’ve ever heard you say. I know your heart is crying, baby. And I am so sorry that all of you are having to go through this.

I love you. I love you all so much. And your Daddy does, too. He is watching over us, with a soul that is at peace, loving us, wanting us to be happy. But it still hurts so much. I pray for strength to be a good mama to you throughout all of your lives. I want you to know how many people have loved and supported us through this awful time. I want you to know that there is still so much beauty in the world and that we can still have beautiful lives, no matter the pain we feel from not being able to physically live it and share it with him. I want you to know that his beauty and everything about him still lives on in all of you and in every life that he touched, which was so many. And I pray that I may let him live on through me, all of his quirkiness and love of life, so that you can still grow up with that piece of him in your life.

I love you all so much. Out of all the amazing and beautiful things your dad did in life, the most precious are the beautiful children that he gave us. I am grateful for you that are mine by birth, and for my stepkids (who already have beautiful mamas that love them). You are all wonderful gifts to us from your father.

I love you always and forever.

To the moon and back. That’s what your dad always said.


Your Mama


It Breaks So Quickly…

Love, Poetry

It breaks so quickly, yet comes back together slowly and with determination

Made up of moon beams, hugs, and dreams of life in the sun with a happily-ever-after theme

It knows you for who you are, sees your weaknesses and your beauty

And it makes me flush with emotion from all this knowing

It makes me keep going, one dream in front of the other, steadily keeping pace with it’s rhythm

It belongs to you, or at least, I let you borrow it

Yes, my heart breaks so quickly, but it always mends back together

Slowly and with determination

It is strong from so many hugs, dreams, and moon beams

Grateful for Gratitude

Happiness, Mind

Being that it is the month of the Thanksgiving holiday, the concept of being grateful is something you hear mentioned often. But gratitude is something I ponder frequently, no matter what the time of year. When life seems hard or I start to feel anxious or depressed, I find that remembering all the things I have to be grateful for is a great antidote to those negative emotions.

So often while we are in the throes of some stressful or hard time that life has dealt us, it is easy to forget and under-appreciate everything good that we do have.

Gratitude is the cure to dissatisfaction, jealousy, and even greed. It takes out the part of the equation that is focused on what we are lacking and adds in the beauty of all that we already have.

There are many documented psychological studies that show the strong correlation between gratitude and happiness. Being grateful requires you to think about the present, taking one’s mind off of the worries for the future and the heartaches of the past. Focusing on the things that are good in life invokes positive emotions such as hope, love, and compassion. This puts you in a better mood which increases your energy level and gives you incentive. These feelings make it more likely for you to take positive steps and focus on and accomplish goals.

The act of showing gratitude makes those around you feel the same. Having someone express how grateful they are for you is always extremely moving. It is so much better than just being complimented or even told that you are loved. Your expression of gratitude for others spreads the same positive emotions to them, and they in turn also experience all those other positive effects.

It is so easy to lose yourself thinking about the bad things in life. Every day is bound to be filled with some amount of challenge; a sick child to take care of, a broken down car, stress at work, problems in relationships. The list has no end. But neither does the list of things that we have to be grateful for.

Gratitude encourages positive thinking. Positive thinking attracts positive things into your life. More positive things in your life = more things to be grateful for.

These are basic underlying concepts shared between ancient religious beliefs such as Buddhism, “new age” ideas like Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, and proven theories of modern positive psychology. They all agree that remembering to appreciate the good and be grateful for it is a major part of being happy. And I love the fact that such a simple thing as being grateful can make such a big difference in our happiness.

Another Love Letter To My Babies

For My Babies
My sweet babies. You have saved my life, again. You teach me new things everyday; about life, myself, love, parenthood, patience, joy, struggle, beauty, sweetness. Everything. You require so much from me that I am forced to stretch myself to my limits, but you give so much back in return, sometimes when I least expect it and always when I need it most.
I have been losing my mind lately. Not completely. Not insanely. I haven’t flipped out on anyone. I haven’t completely broken down. While there have been atleast a few days in the past week that I found it difficult to get out of bed, I still have done so and faced the day with a smile on my face most times. Not all times, to be sure. I partially blame it on stress, partially on hormones, and partially on past pain that sometimes still wraps around my heart.
We came home from a wonderful two week vacation that was full of fun, love, family, and adventure. I really needed a break when it was all said and done. A break to get our home back in order. A break before both Dylan and I went back to school. A break off of work to just have me-time and feed my soul after the two weeks of family-fun-adventure. But my schedule and our finances didn’t allow for that. I think that is when my psyche started to fall apart a bit. All of these circumstances came together to make a perfect storm for me to have a slight mental/emotional breakdown.
And it’s been just over seven years since we lost Dad. I think there might be something psychologically significant about that time frame. I think emotions that I was never capable of dealing with all at once, slowly seep out at times. And seven years is just one of those boiling points for me and my heart. So, when the stress started to build up, I went to talk to my Daddy in my mind and heart like I might normally do. But I couldn’t hear the sound of his voice. I couldn’t imagine what he would say. And it killed me. I have come to grips over the years with the fact that he is deceased, as shall be every person’s fate some day. I have learned to believe that he still lives inside me, an essential ingredient to the very essence that makes up who I am. But at that moment I couldn’t feel him. An equally terrible feeling came over me, too. No one can ever take his place.
And then my babies snuggled me. Then my two gorgeous children wanted nothing more in the world but to be by my side and tell me how much they love me. There are many others in my life who love me. Your daddy was also sweet and loving to me during this time. He told me he loved me and bought me flowers and cooked dinner and tried to not be afraid of the tears I cried. But it was the love that I received from my two sweet babies that really healed my heart (again).
Rowan, you are such a beautiful, smart, strong little girl. You tell me everyday how much you love me. Dylan, you are so sweet and loving. You just told me earlier tonight how I was the best mommy in the whole world and that me and Daddy were your most favorite mommy and daddy ever.
I have a painting on my bedroom wall with a quote on it that reads “To love and to be loved is to feel the sun from both sides.” The love I share with you two is the epitome of this. It is your beauty that helps me to see the beauty inside myself. It is your sweet strength that reminds me of how strong I am. It is your powerful love that brings me back to the reality of how much love I have in my life.
I will have more moments in my life when I have to face sadness, stress, loss, grief. You will, too, my loves. But to face the feelings, to feel that pain, to cry those tears is not a sign of weakness. For after doing so, you may be stronger than ever before. During my moment of feeling sad and weak, your love helped mend my breaking heart. And I will love you forever and beyond. Thank you, my loves.
Your adoring Mama

That Moment (to my children)

For My Babies, Poetry

that moment when I see you smile with unbridled joy
and the purity of your soul is so obvious it brings tears to my eyes
when your beauty not only lights up my world,
but also reminds me of the beauty inside myself
that moment when I am filled and overflowing with love for you
and I realize it is love like this that makes life worth living and makes all things possible


A Meditation On Love

Happiness, Meditation
I am beautiful, and my heart is full of love. I do not require anyone else’s love to be happy. I have enough love inside of me. I want others to be happy. And I want to be in healthy relationships with those I love, but my love for myself, and therefore my happiness and peace of mind, cannot depend on other people or things. This is not necessarily because of their flaws or potential to hurt me, it is simply to say that I have to love myself and be happy with myself before I can experience any other type of truly loving relationship. If I have no love in my heart for myself, then I have no love to give to anyone else. But if my heart is full of my own love, then I have all the love in the world to give to others. I want to share it with everyone, and I don’t require it from anyone else to be happy. I have enough.
Slowly learning these lessons is a beautiful and life changing thing. It means caring for myself, listening to and appreciating my body, changing destructive behaviours, using positive thoughts to motivate my self-love, and in turn my love for the world. It means reaping all the peace-finding benefits of loving thyself, and therefore being able to truly love others. It is filling my heart with a beautiful, nurturing love and appreciation for myself, which allows me to also see the rest of the world with more kindness, appreciation, understanding, patience, and love.
From a baby to a woman
So fast
But only in my mind is that
How it passed
You’ve seen much more or the same
As I
But you hold it in an innocent heart
Held high
I want to show you the world you deserve
My sweet
And we’ll discover this world together
You make me recall all the love
In my heart
And it is for this reason, dear,
I pray we shall never be apart
For too long.
I love you always, beautiful sister.

To Dylan and Rowan (because if you put it on the internet, it’s there forever)

For My Babies, writing
My sweet, beautiful babies, your mama loves you so much. Dylan, you are such a kind and gorgeous child. Your beautiful blue eyes remind me of both your father and of my father, also. They are the same brilliant, entrancing color and filled with the same characteristics of both of those wonderful men: your father’s playfulness and tender, kind-heartedness, and your grandfather’s trust-worthiness and never-ending love. I see this all in your charming demeanor. You were my first born, and it is mostly because of the love I share with you and your little sister that I have been able to heal at all from the pain of losing my own father. Your obvious unbridled love for me is what puts a smile on my face and in my heart, even during the worst of times.

Rowan, you are so gorgeous and sweet. I love you so much, and you show me everyday how much you love me in return. My baby girl, my precious daughter, your innocence and strength inspire me to be as beautiful and strong as my dreams will allow. Even at your young age, you are independent and courageous. I know that you will love life and understand the importance of seizing every day. Your creativity is already obvious, too. I have never seen a child so moved by music, nature, and beauty. I cannot wait to teach you and show you all the magnificence and wonder that is in the world, but I have a feeling you will end up showing me so much more.

You are both so young right now. Someday, if you ever do come across these letters, you will look back and remember your childhood, and I wonder what it will look like to you. Currently, most of our days are filled with normal things like Daddy going to work and me taking care of the house and all of you kiddos. I am working too, but it is only part-time, which is still atleast 30 hours/week, but this is far less than I am used to. Since Rowan was born, I have tried to work less. It was hard enough to maintain my 40-60 hour work weeks when we only had Dylan and then also Sarah and Bastian part time. Once we had Rowan, though, I knew from the beginning that my career would be mostly put on hold, for a few years atleast. The time I spend with you all is way more important to me than how much money I bring home. I like to spend money, do fun things, and have nice things, but I also know that the more money you make, the more you spend, and that this can become a vicious cycle. A person without money can still be happy. Financial wealth is not a prerequisite for true happiness. However, a person who has sacrificed time away from the things that are most important to them for the sake of money will more than likely find themselves unfulfilled and regretful. I would rather us go without for a while, knowing that I spent these wonderful years of your childhood with you, than have lots of money and a ton of regret to go along with it. I will never regret having spent more time with you.

Sarah and Bastian are currently living with us also. The two of them are a beautiful blessing to have in our home. We do truly have a wonderful, sweet little family.  There is stress at times over normal things: occasional financial difficulties, the expected bickering amongst you kiddos, the stress of taking care of a home and young children. Your daddy and I love you all so much, though, and I hope that is what you see when you do look back on these years. And you babies adore your older siblings so much. I hope to nurture this throughout your life. Even if some of you are “only half” brothers and sisters, you are still a part of each other. Just because you have different mothers does not mean that you don’t greatly effect one another. Just because you don’t always live in the same house, does not mean you can’t have rewarding, lifelong relationships. All of my five brothers and sisters are “only half’ brothers and sisters, technically speaking. None of them have the exact same mother AND father as I do. Still, your aunts and uncles have all made such a difference in my life. I have never seen them as anything less than simply my siblings. They all mean so much to me, and each are special and amazing in their own way.
Hold on to your sibling relationships as best you can. Be there for one another when needed. Be a part of each other’s lives, even if life and circumstance take you other directions and away from one another. Who you are is a part of what lies in one another. You can find strength in each other. You can give strength to one another. Do not forget this, and do not take it for granted. This will not always be easy. It can be hard to make time for the ones you love, especially as your own individual families begin to grow. Just do the best you can to appreciate and preserve those relationships that have helped you grow and shaped who you are. I struggle with this myself. With five brothers and sisters, I’m sure I’m not nearly the sister that I could be. I am trying, though, and I hope that all my siblings know how much I love them and would do anything for them, regardless of the time or space that may stand in between us.
You are so wonderful and precious, my beautiful babies. I have complete faith that you will grow into extraordinary beings, just as you are so magnificent to me now. Find your way. Find your peace. Find your place in life. Be kind and honest along the way. Both of these things will assist you in finding your true path to happiness.
“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
~Albert Pike
Know that I love you so much. I pray that my life reflects every lesson that I hope to teach you, but even as my imperfections may shine through, know that this does not make what I am telling you any less true.

You are everything to me, and I am so blessed to be your mama.

Yours truly and forever,
Your adoring mother,
Sandra Lea Highfill


Happy Birthday to The Best Dad Ever

Today is my father’s 70th birthday. It will be six years in March since he passed away. Anyone who knows me well at all, probably already knows this. Just as his living had the most grand effect on my life, his death has changed both me and my life as well. I know that it’s easy to make a person you love a saint in your mind after their death, to only remember the good things and make their effect on your life greater than it actually was. This is not the case with my father. My life would have been much different without him in it, and I can’t imagine that it would have been in a good way. He was a man of such quiet and deep kindness, generosity, and honesty. He was the most dependable person I have ever known. If my dad said it, he meant it, and you could count on it. He was also not a person to make grandiose promises or say things he didn’t mean just to make you feel better. While at times, this characteristic may have made him seem unemotional, it was this silent, unending honesty that was one the most beautiful things about him. And he loved his children with that same deep, honest love. Like a mountain, he was strong and unmoving, and yet dynamic and nurturing. And he was a breathtakingly beautiful constant in my life for 28 years.
For anyone who has lost someone you love dearly, I am so sorry for your loss. If love is what makes life worth living, then losing those you love must be what can make you fall apart. I’m sure that I emotionally and mentally fell apart after losing dad, but looking back, I’m really kind of proud of my strength. I didn’t see it then, but now I do. I endured, maybe unhappily and maybe in tears. But I’m still living. I’m happy today. I have two beautiful children to whom I try my best to be a kind, patient, loving, guiding, responsible parent. But even on the days when I feel I’ve failed at this, I remember my dad’s kind words when referring to the difficulty of being a parent. “You do the best you can with what you have.” I had no children at the time. These weren’t comforting words of advice that he was giving me. It was merely him trying to explain to me that no one is perfect, and that the best we have is all that we can give. And he was right. We all have our own problems and background. Having a child doesn’t take all that away. It gives you a new, beautiful love with a whole lot of responsibilities that go along with it.
Those words from years ago have helped me through many a day of feeling like a lesser parent than I would like to be, and given me the hope and strength to continue to do my best. In a lot of ways, I believe it’s my stepchildren who get the best of my dad’s kindness when it comes to being a parent. He was always so good to all my brothers and sisters, but two of them weren’t even his children. Still, he was there for them in life as much as he could be. He would have given either one of them anything they needed, well after the time that he and my mother were divorced. I believe he did this because he cared for them, and he knew it was the right thing to do. But I also believe he did it because he knew that they were my brother and sister, and he wanted to treat them as so. This is how I feel about my stepkids. I love them for who they are, and I take care of them as a parent should because it is my responsibility to do so when they are with me. But I also know that they are my own children’s siblings, and as that I shall forever treat them as my own children when given the chance.
Not only does my father continue to effect my outlook on life and my attitude as a parent everyday, he also had a great part to play in my career. He is the main reason I made it through college. I became a nurse mostly because of him. He didn’t pick my career for me, but his want for me to find a path and stick to it encouraged me to do just that. I already loved science, biology, psychology. I also wanted a job that helped people and filled a need in the world. Nursing and the medical field in general seemed a logical way to fill both my needs in a job and his wants for me to have a dependable career.  Being a nurse is not necessarily an easy job, though, and nursing school is even harder. There were many times during college that I probably would have given up had it not been for his support and my want to make him proud. And he was proud of me when I graduated. And I was proud of myself. It may not be a major feat to some, but that accomplishment made me believe in myself and know that with hard work and perseverance I can accomplish anything. That feeling has never left me.
It has been said that everything happens for a reason. I think I kind of look at it in reverse. I don’t know that EVERYTHING happens for a reason. To me that would imply that every bad thing in the world had to happen for some good purpose. I find that a little hard to swallow. I do believe that we can choose to make the best of, find the good in, and learn from every experience, so that the bad things that do happen in life do not have to occur without purpose. That may be simply learning to be compassionate towards others because you know the pain you experienced in your own life.
The good things that have happened in my life because of losing Dad have been hard to find. He was such a wonderful person to have in the world, I find it hard to see any good that can come from him no longer being here for me to call when I need a few words of loving encouragement. Still, there have been some positives. Mainly the fact that because I don’t have him around to give me strength when I need it, I’ve had to look elsewhere for that. I’ve realized that most of the time, I can find it inside myself. I’m stronger than I thought I was. The world didn’t end when he died. There is still much beauty and love in it. And even though my father was not a real “religious” man, the physical loss of him has helped me spiritually. I still see him everywhere. Not literally, of course. But I see him in my oldest brother, with his kindness, ease of grace, and his pride in his son. I see him in my sister with her love for her children and passion for the outdoors. I see him in myself when I am patient and kind with my own babies and stepchildren. I see him so much that sometimes it feels as if I am looking at the world through his eyes. And maybe I am. Maybe that’s the best gift he ever gave to us. The ability to see the world with patience and understanding. I’m not perfect. Neither was my father. But he was a damn good dad. And I am grateful.
For anyone who is hurting over losing someone or hurting over some hard time in your life, I want you to know this: It does get better. Life is hard. There are times when your heart will break. Let it. Let it break, and then let it mend. Let it heal. Let others continue to love you and help you. And when you have regained your strength, reflect on your pain with compassion. Soften your hardened heart. Find what good remains in your life. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, if we will only be patient and look for it.
My dad’s birthday used to be the hardest day for me. Harder than Christmas or any other major holiday. I guess because it was the one day when I would always be sure to talk to him or do something for him. From the time when I was 8 and baked him an awful cake and wrapped up an old landscape portrait of a wooded lane for a gift, to taking him out for Mexican food (even though he probably wouldn’t let me pay), to coming over to the house and cooking a four course meal for him after he had spent the day at the golf course. It’s the one day of the year I atleast always talked to him, if not did something kind for him.
The first few years after he died, his birthday was unexpectedly hard. I’d find myself at work just suddenly crying and depressed. The past couple of years have gotten better, though. I still think about him and celebrate him, but I do it with love and fond memories. There may still be tears occasionally, but they are normally tears of gratitude and tenderness. I’ve decided to treat the day as it should be: a holiday. A day to celebrate the birth of a kind, beautiful, strong person and all he did and represented in my world.
So, Happy “Jim Highfill Day” to everyone! Hug your children. Call your parents. Go out and eat Mexican food and then lay on the couch watching old Star Trek movies with your family. Play a game of golf. Be kind, generous, and honest. Do a crossword puzzle at your own leisurely pace. Be patient with yourself and with others. Enjoy this beautiful day. And do the best you can with what you have been given.
I love you for the same reasons
That I loved you for then
Your beauty and your strength
Have inspired me again
My strong and kind sister
My devoted and wise mother
You have been both to me
When life swept me under
Through our brightest night
Through our darkest hour
You saw my beauty

And encouraged my power

A part of my soul
You surely are now
You have taught me so much
Of what life is about
Time and space
They cannot betray
The love that you’ve shown me
In so many ways

I am forever grateful to you
For how you helped me grow
And I will always love you
This I hope you know