Sunday, August 2, 2015

Day 789

August 2, 2015

Day 789


Another Sunday is in the books...well, it will be as soon as I get the Littles to bed, anyway.  I got a nap today, which was nice.  But that means I will probably be up late tonight.


Tomorrow is my once-a-month shopping day.  Yuck.  And, to make matters worse, I have to take all 4 kids home right now with me.  But, I'm trying to look ahead to next month when I may only have Ellie.  And, with any luck, she can stay home with David!


Only two more weeks until all my chicks are home.  Will called last week.  He's ready to be done with camp.  He's outgrowing the desire to work there, which is fine.  Of course, David is growing into the desire to work there.  He will be home this Friday and it just occurred to me yesterday that I have no idea how he's getting home.  I wonder if that means I will be making a four hour round trip up to Clear Lake to retrieve him?  I hope not.  He leaves a week from tomorrow at 6 am for his missions trip to inner-city Detroit. 


He texted me briefly yesterday to let me know he'd had a wonderful time at Sr. High camp last week.  Camp is so important.  There will always be room in the budget to send the kids.  Always.  I was so torn because I wanted to text more with him but I was meeting friends at Burger King that I hadn't seen in several years and they were waiting on me. 


And that was awesome.  I got to see my friend, Laura, her sister, Jackie, and Laura's 18 yr old, Derek.  Laura and I have been friends since kindergarten but I haven't seen her since her last trek to Iowa,  over four years ago. She was enroute back to her home near L.A.   I am trying to convince her to move back to the Midwest and I think she's wavering.  I just need to apply a little more pressure, I think!


And then, I could not believe it, but our friend, Lani, whom we both knew from third grade on, drove two hours from LaPorte City down to Ankeny just so she could have lunch with us.  Bless her heart.  I haven't seen Lani in 6 years, although she called me a few weeks after Paul died, which meant so much to me at the time.


Even though I had my four neediest kids with me, it was still such a blessed time of connecting and fellowship.  I don't know  about that adage that claims, "old friends are the best friends" because I have some newer friends that are pretty precious to me as well.  But there's something about somebody who's seen you through your dumb playground adventures, remained friends with you despite middle school haircuts, lived through your crushes with you, and has rejoiced and mourned through all of your adult ups and downs.


I forgot to mention in my last post that Sam's glasses had another adventure.  His glasses have been found...on the ground in the yard, on the swingset, on the basement floor (many times), under the furniture, on the woodpile, in the van, on the driveway, in the mud room, behind his bookshelf, in his blankets, behind the toilet - just to name a few places.  The last day of our trip, the glasses were nowhere to be found.  I had the kids go check the pool area and we looked in the lost and found at the KOA store, but didn't see them.  I figured they were finally gone for good and planned to take him to America's Best and shell out some money for new ones (that preferably come with staples I can nail to his skull).  I started doing some laundry when I got home and when I unloaded the first load to dry, guess what was sitting in the bottom of the washer?  Not a scratch on them, either.


I have to do my city clerk stuff this week - water billing and getting ready for the council mtg Thurs night.  I also have to make some phone calls and find out what my options are for a resident who absolutely refuses to keep her dog tied up.  Last night that mutt chased Sam on his bike and he was so frightened he ended up wiping out and got a skinned knee.  He wasn't supposed to be out bike riding, which is another story, but the whole incident really raised my ire.  I have had  a lot of complaints about this dog and I've sent a letter and the owner refuses to do anything.  I also have been asked to find out warranty information on the city's six year old swing set.  I think I already know the answer to that question!  But I'll call anyway.


I suppose my ears are more tuned to this kind of news, but it seems lately, like I've heard an awful lot of stories of city clerks here in Iowa getting arrested for embezzlement.  I know exactly how it happens.  In these little towns, of which Iowa is majorly comprised, there is very little oversight into what happens in clerk's offices.  Cities are supposed to be audited every ten years but I don't know if that happens or not.  I've only been on the job for 3 years, so I guess I have 7 years to see if it really happens. Clerks are responsible for entire funds of their cities and it would be easy to divert some of those monies into cash or personal accounts.  I'm so aware of this in fact, that when I took the job and had my keys made up, I bought key covers to keep the keys separate and I put a blue cover on the one that opens my office because blue is the symbol of honor and I tell you, every single time I open my office door with that blue-capped key, I think of that word.


Anyway, I was just appalled this week when listening to the news.  One clerk here in the state received 5 years probation for her crime and has to pay back only the portion of funds she stole that is not covered by insurance. 




Why is she not responsible for the entire amount?  I understand the city was reimbursed up to a certain point already, and maybe there are laws prohibiting aquiring restitution that ultimately results in more than the original amount of lost monies.  I don't know.  But if that's the case why couldn't she be required to pay back the full amount and have the excess funds go back to the insurance company that had to pay out?


I assume this clerk lost her job, but she's still coming out ahead, financially, if she doesn't have to pay back every penny she stole.  Shaking my head...


I've been using essential oils for about a year and a half now.  I'm not a fanatic about them by any means.  I'm not selling them.  I still pop Advil when needed.  But I think they're a good thing.  My medicine ingestion and that of the kids' has dropped quite a bit.  We don't get sick like we used to and I think that's because in the colder months, especially, I'm pretty faithful about applying certain oils to our chests to ward off germs.  I have such an oral aversion to a lot of other health stuff - vitamins, shakes, and stuff, but I can rub oils onto my skin.  Some people ingest them but I've tried that and just can't do it - the whole oral thing again.


The FDA is cracking down on the industry and other natural health companies and soon it's going to be illegal to have some of the question/answer websites up that are there.  I'm not sure what the new rules will entail, but I was even told it's going to be hard to get your hands on reference books  eventually because of increased regulation.  So I went ahead and spent almost $50 this week on an essential oil reference book so I know what to use for which ailment.  That arrived yesterday.


Anyway, one oil I've been using for months for my perimenopausal symptoms is called, "Progessence Plus."  Love, love, love this stuff.  It soothes out my agitation, lessens the other symptoms, and just makes life easier all around.  I was using it last week and Lizzie wanted to know what it was for.  I told her it was oil that would help me "not be cranky."


She replied, "Oh."  And then a moment later said, "I think you should give some to David."




I read an absolutely fascinating book this week entitled, "Runaway Amish Girl" by Emma Gingerich.  She has a blog by the same title, which popped up on my news feed.  I checked it out, was very interested, discovered she had written a book, and found that Amazon has a lending library for its Prime members, which meant I didn't even have to buy the book. 


I found the story riveting.  For awhile I was really into the Amish Christian romance books.  They tend to portray the Amish in a pretty favorable light and rarely venture into some of the more grittier aspects of that lifestyle.  Emma's book tells it like it is.  And it isn't even like she was raised in an abusive home in any way.  But it was lacking so much and left her wounded, as a result.


She's one of 14 children.  Her father was, by her account, kind of lazy, which seems unusual for an Amish man.  He had these grand plans like buying flocks of sheep and then the kids would end up being responsible for all of them after he lost interest.  Her mother was continually busy and didn't have a whole lot of time for nurturing her children, which isn't encouraged all that much in the Amish community.  Emma found herself chafing against the many restraints of Amish life as she grew older.  It wasn't that she necessarily longed to be an, "Englischer" (someone not Amish) but she couldn't understand all the nonsensical rules imposed on the community.  Everything they do is motivated out of fear of displeasing God - the "Good Man" they call him.  The Good Man doesn't approve of buttons and the Good Man will send you to hell if you wear perfume and rule upon rule upon rule.  Church services last four hours and are not even given in the German language most Amish speak.  So they're nonsensical.  Nobody owns a Bible except the church leaders. 


Children are not educated very well.  School stops at 8th grade and what they do learn is a far cry from what is taught even in the poorest of our public schools today. History is not taught at all because it is deemed not relevent to the Amish.   Emma asserts that  the poor education  is a deliberate attempt to keep the children from leaving the community.


Kids and young adults know absolutely nothing about procreation.   Evidently, they do figure it out at some point, since they do keep having babies.  They even have a dating tradition where teenagers who like each other are expected to sleep together in the same bed - but not to have sex.  Although, if they don't know what that is, maybe it's not a problem.  Of course, if they do figure it out and end up pregnant, then maybe it's another way of ensuring that they remain in the Amish community.


Well, eventually Emma left.  She enlisted the help of an outsider who did business with her father and he found an ex-Amish family willing to take Emma in.  Now she's in college pursuing a graduate degree.  The best thing is that she was led to the Lord after she ran away.  The concept of grace was so amazing and so unheard of in her life until then and it's really a sweet part of the story.


Anyway, I really enjoyed reading this story and wished it was a longer book.  So far, Emma is the only one of her siblings who has left the Amish, but maybe others will follow her, eventually.


I sold Paul's freon this week.The price was dropping and I knew I needed to get it sold.  About 16 months ago I had been given the name of an HVAC owner of a  local company who might be interested.  I put off and put off calling him.  I finally did it this April and he expressed interest.  And then he never called me back.  So, I called him again in June and he was saying, "Oh yes, yes, I meant to call you.  Tell you what - I'll call you back."  This week I'd finally had it.  He obviously was not that interested.


So I checked on Amazon and put the freon on Craig's List for the lowest price that Amazon is selling it for.  Unfortunately, it's dropped quite a bit in price even since April when I first checked.   I got several texts and calls from people wanting me to sell it for even less.  I don't think so.  Will called me and said the camp was willing to take it as a donation and give me a receipt for a tax write-off.  If it came to that, ok, but I'd rather have cash!


But a guy from Omaha called me and just happened to be coming to town the next day and was willing to buy it all without quibbling on the price.  He wanted to meet at his hotel and I told him I wasn't comfortable with that (I watch too many news stories) and suggested we meet in a mall parking lot and he was fine with that.  He was perfectly nice, but I had my mace in my pocket, ready to go, just in case!  I also made all the kids get out of the van during the transaction, just in case he wanted to try any funny stuff.  I thought maybe he'd be less inclined if he saw my crew!


So, that's a relief to have that taken care of.  And it frees up some space in the garage, too.


There are some neighborhood kids who have suddenly "discovered" my  kids...unfortunately.  Not all of them live here, but they're being babysat here.  It's a situation where  two grown daughters keep having children out of wedlock and then they pass them off to Grandpa and Great-Grandma (who live together) to watch while they work.


I'm really trying to not have a bad attitude, but it's been hard.  They remind me of locusts.  They descend upon my house wanting to use the pool, play with my kids' toys, and demanding food.  I find myself so stressed.  I've finally begun to limit their visits to about an hour and a half and I've gotten quite stern with them telling them they're rude to ask for food and they may not come back after I've sent them home for the day.  The second they come I start watching the clock and when it's time to go, I loudly announce playtime is over and it's time to leave. my. house. Now.  Lizzie says I sound "rude" but these children are oblivious to hints.  I know, because I tried that the first day or two.  I made one of the little girls cry the other day because she refused to apologize for spilling nail polish on my table.  Her brother told me she's "shy" and doesn't like to talk to adults.  You know what - I don't care!  If her parents are not going to insist that she learn proper manners, then I will - or she can go home. She hasn't been back.  I probably scarred her and arrested her development.


They started bringing a three year old with them and I caught him running around my house with one of my girls' lipsticks - argh.  And then I caught him trying to climb into my pool, which gave me a heart attack.  He's too little to be in that thing without a full floater suit and supervision!   Our town does not require pool owners to have a fence so I don't think if something happened any litigious action would get too far, but I don't want him to drown, either.  I sent him home and explained to his siblings that a three year old is too young to be leaving home and I will not be responsible for him.  He came back yesterday and this time he sat down in my yard and refused to budge.  So I marched up to the grandparents' house and explained my dilemma to them.  They said, "Oh, he's not supposed to leave our house!"  But yet, it wasn't an hour later and I saw him playing in the street, blocks away from Grandma and Grandpa's with his siblings and cousins.


This kind of behavior just makes me so mad.  I really don't think - I know I am not the most overprotective parent in the world.  I don't watch my kids every single second they are outside and I am not opposed to them doing things that could potentially cause minor harm to their bodies.  I figure scrapes, skinned knees, and even a few stitches are a pretty routine part of childhood.  But at the same time, children are a huge responsibility.  There is never a moment where I don't have at least a general idea of where my kids are and what they are doing.  And I would never let a three year old out of my yard or sight for a second!


But yet, I'm somewhat sympathetic to these grandparents, dunderheads as they are.  I'm sure they never planned to be the main caregivers of their illigitimate grandchildren.  They're old.  I imagine it's a relief to have the kids outside and not bugging them inside for popsicles, tv time, and about the latest infraction of their sibling/cousin.  Being with my own children is quite wearing.  I can't imagine doing this when I'm thirty years older and that much more tired, esp. when I imagine the level of gratitude from the children's mothers is probably minimal and without financial compensation (I'm guessing, anyway).


I've wondered if there is more I'm supposed to be doing.  I imagine they think I'm a pretty cranky lady and probably feel sorry for my kids having to live with me.  Maybe I'm the only person that day who has a kind word for them.  Maybe I should make an effort to tell them about Jesus. 


I don't know.  I'm just tired of the extra kids, though, and can't wait for school to start, as a result.  But I may be missing a real opportunity here in the meantime.


The other day part of Ellie's new doll stroller broke - nothing that can't be fixed.  Sam was insistent that he be the repairman.  He tried attaching the fabric to the metal with Scotch tape (which I knew wouldn't work, but thought he should be the one to figure it out).  I finally suggested to him duct tape might be a better option.  He ran and got the roll and then I heard him saying to Ellie as he peeled off a piece, "Duct tape is the handyman's secret weapon!" 


Paul would be so proud!


I took the kids to the library again this last week.  While I was there, I found a movie for myself and checked it out - which is silly, because I rarely have time to watch movies.  I'm more of a reader.  As it is, I've been watching this one bit by bit, as I can snag a few minutes before bed every night.


It's a Meryl Streep movie and she plays a divorcee of 10 years.  She and her husband have 3 grown children and they suddenly begin to rekindle their feelings for eachother.  Unfortunately, this involves booty calls and the husband is already remarried, which is a definate no-no.  I believe that's called adultury.  I haven't finished the movie yet, but I don't think it's going to end well.


But it made my mind start to wander.  I found myself wishing that I could re-kindle things with Paul.  Which is impossible of course, given that he's dead.  But, my mind started going into fanciful, "what-if" land.


What if he wasn't dead?  What if, instead, he had just left me for the past two years?  Just walked out and didn't look back.  I would have gone through a ton of grief and anger and stuff and maybe a divorce would have happened.  But then what if he came back, like the ex in this movie, and began to woo me again?  Could I be wooed?  Would there be enough feelings not ruined by hurt?  Could we pick up where we had left off?


It's silly, I know.  Nothing productive comes from existing in a fantasy world.  But sometimes it's fun to visit and wonder what things might be like if they weren't what they are.


I still miss him.  Nearly 26 months and that hasn't changed.  I like to think I've come so far, but I'm not so sure that's really true. 


I'm still trying to exist between the planes of what was and what is.


And that exhausts me.















What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

ow with a certain amount of anticipation, although there are still moments when I am sick at heart to think that that future will never again include him, other than the quick glimpses I sometimes see in my sons. As much as hope is beginning to seep back into our lives, I am also accepting that, for the rest of our lives, we will be among the walking wounded, forever hurt and altered by Paul's early death. As sad as that sounds, it really isn't, though. Even scarred, life is still pretty beautiful.

What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

















Thursday, July 23, 2015

Day 779

 July 23, 2015

Day 779


I. Am. Exhausted.


That's what camping will do for you.  I want to say, "never again," but that probably won't be true.  More than likely, time will eventually find me loading half of our belongings into the mini-van again, driving a few hours, unloading everything into a cabin smaller than my living room and attempting to  cook food over a fire that refuses to start again.



But more on that later.


David was gone last week at camp - his first working.  He enjoyed it although he said he about "passed out" from the heat.  It was really hot last week.  He came back with the "camp crud," that nasty cold stuff that all campers eventually come down with.  I remember last year Will ended up having to go to Urgent Care while working at camp - dx with an ear infection, had to miss a couple days of work. 


That meant I had to do the yard work.  I had never in my life run a weedeater before.  My shoulders, back, and arms hurt for days!  I never did get all the mowing done because I'd do it piecemeal, to avoid being out in the heat so much and because I had so much other inside stuff to do. I actually kind of like mowing - probably for the instant sense of satisfaction it provides. 


I'll have a lot of the satisfaction in the next 3 weeks.  David leaves Monday for Sr. High Camp and then he will stay to work the following Sat - Friday of Family Camp.  He comes home that Sat and leaves on Monday for his missions trip.  That will be a good experience for him.  They're going to swing into Ohio and take the kids to Cedar Point, which is this humongous theme park, I guess.  Paul's sister used to live in Ohio and I know everyone in his family eventually visited her (except us) and went to Cedar Point at some time.  I remember hearing the story of how Paul's 70 year old mom paid $25 extra to ride this special ride they offer.  Paul and I  both thought that was insane.


A week ago I had a rough couple of days.  On Wed. morning I woke myself up at midnight with loud, painful hiccups.   I have no idea if that was related to what happened later that day or not.  Probably not.  The hiccups have happened before.  I think I've blogged about waking up with Paul holding a pillow inches from my face threatening to smother me to death because I was hiccupping in my sleep!


I was eating lunch later that day when a piece of ham got stuck in my throat.  Ugh.  This is not uncommon, unfortunately.  I think I too often eat too large of pieces, attempt to talk while eating, or in this particular case, sat reading while slouching and eating.  Nothing I did would dislodge the piece of meat, including attempting to gag myself and doing the heimilech remover.  My ribs are still sore from that move.


I could still breathe, but every time I ate or drank even the tiniest amount it would close up my airway, I would panic and immediately begin to vomit.  Eventually that turned to unrelentless dry heaving.  I couldn't even get stuff like pudding or applesauce down.


For the first few hours I went about my normal business.  I had noticed that Paul's grave was looking awfully neglected a few days earlier (it turned out that he got skipped by the weed eater guy) so I went up there with some lawn shears that same afternoon with the kids.  The guy who does the mowing was doing his job, which was fine.  So the kids and I got to work, pulling all the decorations out of the ground and trimming the weeds and grass around the stone.  The guy on his mower comes over, turns it off, and conversationally asks, "Are you Sarah?"  He was a chatty sort and was wondering if I was related to some people he knows in Pville.  I'm not.  I just look like everyone's sister/neice/cousin whatever.  I get that question a lot.  He wanted to talk and to my horror, I could feel my throat begin to fill with vomit from the stuck piece of ham.  The next thing I knew, I barfed all over Paul's grave, right in front of the groundskeeper.  I told him what was going on, but I don't think he understood.  He probably thought I was still so emotionally overwrought that it made me nauseous. 


Or else I've turned to drinking to cope and am not very good at  holding my liquor.


We were driving home and Lizzie was quiet.  She finally asked, "Aren't you so embarrassed, Mom?"  I was, but probably not as much as I should have been.  I was really getting too miserable to care.


The rest of the day was shot.  I was getting too weak from not eating and drinking and the continual vomiting to do much of anything.  I spent a miserable night.  The next morning I decided I really needed to see a doctor.  But that meant finding a sitter.  The first friend I texted didn't answer (she responded the next day when she finally saw my message) but my next friend said, "Bring them over!"  I got an appointment with the ARNP at my doctor's office.


As I sat in the waiting room I noticed that I was suddenly feeling, "burpy" - the kind that come with indigestion.  I saw the medical assistant first.  When I mentioned "vomiting" he immediately assumed I had the flu and started jabbering.  I stopped him, interrupted, and said, "I'm NOT sick.  Listen to me!"  I guess I get cranky when I feel bad.


The nurse practitioner came in and the most interesting thing about her was her first name - "Brach."  Like the candy.  I wonder what her parents were thinking?


She told me I needed to go to the ER and I would probably have to have surgery and spend the night.  I began to mentally panic.  I know how high my insurance deductible is.  I cannot afford surgery! Who would take care of my kids?  And if someone did take care of my kids, they'd have to see my  messy house!  She mentioned that most often, lodged food does eventually move but it can take up to a week.  A person won't do too well without eating or drinking anything for a week.


So, I reluctantly agreed to visit the ER.  I got out to my van and I had brought along a bottle of water just in case.  I took a swallow, preparing to vomit again.  To my surprise, the water went down this time and stayed down!  Experimentally, I took a piece of emergency chocolate out of my purse and ate a small bite.  It also stayed down.  Woo-hoo!  Somewhere between leaving my house and getting out of the dr's office, that piece of ham had finally decided to migrate where it needed to be.  Just to see if this was real and because I was completely starving, I went through a Taco John's drive-through because I love their  taco bravos- although, in retrospect, eating  Mexican on a raw throat is probably not the wisest of decisions.  It all stayed down.  I was just praising the Lord that I didn't have to go to the hospital!


I have since found out that both my parents have swallowing/digestive issues, too, so I probably inherited this.  The nurse practitioner commented that she'd me like to come back for some testing for GERD and to see if I have an abnormally small esophogus.  Maybe sometime.  In the meantime, I will just cut my food up into miniscule bites, focus on my eating, actually chew all my food before swallowing, and try to sit straight while eating.


All's well that ends well.


I'm just really glad I didn't die.  When I go, I want it to be for normal reasons.  I do not want people saying for rest of their lives, "Do you remember Sarah Heywood?  Yeah, she choked to death on a piece of ham." 


Now, that would be embarrasing!


I heard from the Iowa Donor Network last week.  They told me that they made grafts from Paul's bone donation and so far, 47 people have received those grafts, some right here in the Midwest and some as far away as S. Korea and Chile.  I was thrilled to receive the news.  It's comforting.  I just do NOT remembering authorizing bone donation, though.  I must have.  It's fine.  I was good with them taking whatever they could use as long as Paul still looked pretty  normal for the funeral - he did.


Just think, parts of Paul are walking around right now speaking Korean and Spanish. 


Oh, last Wed. night when I couldn't get that meat down?  It dawned on me that I had not seen Bella for hours.  She even had fresh food in her dish that had not been touched.  This was NOT normal since that cat acts like she is starving about every hour.  I got really concerned and was hunting around outside with a flash light.  She has gotten out once or twice, but it's not something she really tries to do.  I remember the cat I had growing up would hang around doors and dash out the second she had a chance.  Bella doesn't do that.


But I couldn't find her and a storm was rolling in.  So I finally went to bed with a heavy heart thinking that on top of having meat stuck in my esophogus, I now had lost Paul's last birthday present to me.  I imagined Bella shivering in the rain, having fleas jump all over her, and getting attacked by outdoor cats who still have all their claws.  I laid down and then I heard the tinkle of Bella's collar as she crawled out from under my bed.  Apparently, she'd been taking a VERY long nap.  Boy, was I relieved.  I scooped her up and hugged her which she tolerated for all of 17 seconds.  That was ok.  I was just glad she was still dry, flea-free, and not being attacked by wild cat gangs.


The Littles were talking about Will and Arien the other day amongst themselves.  I heard Lizzie assert that she was "sure they're kissing by now."  Sam replied confidently, "No, I don't think Will is in the 'kissing zone' yet!"   It's a good thing I wasn't eating ham at the time - I might have found myself choking once again!


Last week Lizzie asked me, "How old will I be when you're 90?"  I did the math, told her (52) but then Sam quickly interjected, "Mom isn't going to live that long."  Well, then...


Under the category of things I never thought I'd find myself saying to my children:  Last week...


Me: "We can't go camping if you have a dead sister!"


Lizzie: "We can't?"


I don't even remember what precipitated this exchange now.


I had another "faith builder" experience.  Really, the past two years have been filled with them, but I think this one, in particular, may always stand out in my memory.


A few weeks ago I was doing my monthly shopping.  I had Ben and  Lizzie with me.  We were at the Hy-Vee on Park Ave. in Des Moines, which is NOT a good area of town.  But I needed to go to this particular store.  So I did my business and got out as fast as I could.   On top of the store being in an unsavory part of the city and attracting all sorts of distasteful types (don't I sound proud?  I can't imagine Jesus complaining about the types of people he had to interact with during His earthly  ministry), it's also undergoing remodeling, which makes for even more unease and unfamiliarity.  We were walking back to the van when Lizzie darted out of my grasp and stood peering over something on the ground.  I told her to come back but she said, "Money, Mom!"  I went over and saw that it was a $50 bill!  I told her to pick it up and she handed it to me.  All the way back to my van and unloading my groceries, I wondered what I should do.  I could turn it into the store manager, but would anyone inquire about a missing $50?  If not, then the store would get to keep the money.  Besides, if I went back in, I'd have to drag the kids with me and that would be no fun.  Did I mention it was hot out, too?  I could see turning in $100 find, but $50?


So, I got in my van, still stewing about what I should do, and  shooting up quick prayer for wisdom.  I finally drove away but the uncomfortable image of a poor, old, widow lady getting to the check out lane with her groceries and being unable to find her $50 bill kept bothering me.  But then, I just as quickly imagined a grizzled, toothless, and heavily tatooed man realizing he had just lost his beer money  - and that thought didn't bother me at all!


I tried to reason that this was God's way of blessing me and even commented to the kids that maybe we could use the money on our upcoming trip.  But that didn't set right with me either.  I found myself wishing I could call Paul and get his opinion.  So often, he was the voice of my conscience and I came to rely on his widom a lot.   I did the next best thing and called Will up at camp.  He told me that that same day he had found a $20 bill at camp.  It was the last day of Family Camp and most of the families had already left for home.  He had no way of finding the owner.  So he had determined that he would hang onto the money until he learned of someone in need and then quietly pass the money along to them.


 I liked the sound of that.


The crumpled bill sat in my wallet for two weeks.  Every time I saw it I would be tempted to tell myself God wanted me to have the money - why wouldn't He?  I'm a widow raising six fatherless children.  If that doesn't speak of need, I don't know what does!  But I couldn't bring myself to pocket the money.  Besides, every couple of days, Lizzie would ask, "Have you found someone to give the money to yet, Mom?"


Every month, following communion, our church takes up a Deacons Fund offering.  The fund is to help families and individuals in the church who are going through a particularly rough time -  job loss, medical emergency, etc.  Paul and I were the recipients of the church's generosity several times throughout the years.  That morning I slipped the $50 into the offering plate when it came around for this collection.


I am not sharing this story to show my readers how great I am.  I'm not.  I'm selfish.  There was a big part of me that wanted to keep that money!  My only point to this story is to show how great and amazing our God is.


Lizzie asked me that week if I had taken care of the money and I was relieved to tell her that yes, I had.  I no longer had to think about it.  It was done.  She seemed satisfied.


A week later, the church treasurer approached me.  He handed me a check and said, "Last week, this came in, marked for you, when the Deacon's Fund offering was taken."  I was very surprised because I haven't been the recipient of any financial gifts, from church members or otherwise, for close to a year now.


Later, I opened the check.


It was for $100.


  As my friend, Karen, frequently says, "There are no cooincidences - only 'God-incidences.'"


And now...a report on the Great Camping Expedition of 2015...


First of all, anyone who has spent any time at all in my company knows that I am not a country girl.  I am opposed to heat, insects, small spaces, thin mattresses, sharing bathrooms,  and having to work any harder than is strictly  necessary.  Camping entails all of the above.


Paul loved camping.  He was never more at peace and relaxed than when sitting around a campfire.  This caused more than one eruption between us - not the idea of him relaxing, but of him wanting me to accompany him while he relaxed.  Eventually, my love for him would win out and I would go.  But I would be grumbling the entire time I loaded the camper.  Paul would always say, "You just need to throw a few things in the camper and GO.  You're going to way too much work!"  So says a man who lives in a fantasy world.


So we would camp.  And honestly, once we got to our destination and got the campsite set up it wasn't all that bad.  He would do the cooking and I would sit around and read and attempt to keep the kids from falling into the fire pit.


Invariably, something important would be forgotten, which would enable us to have to make a run to the closest town and that would help me then breathe better - I need doses of civilization, even it comes in the form of Walmart.  We'd always visit a local church on Sunday, too,  and that was always kind of interesting and sometimes, eye-opening.


Memories were made on these trips.  Of course, what the kids probably remember most is Mom being in a surly mood.  The trip that sticks out most in my mind happened the summer Sam was a baby.  We went up to Nevada to a campground that was a little nicer than most. 


I still laugh about this trip.  We had not been there a half hour when someone's yip yip dog ran up to David on his bike and bit him on the back of the knee.  Paul promptly informed the camp management and they set out to find the owner, which they eventually did.  The camp gave David some free ice cream (I'm sure in hopes we wouldn't sue them).  We parked our camper next to the playground thinking that would be perfect - the kids could play while we stayed at the camper, enabling us to keep an eye on them at the same time.  What we didn't realize was that the playground became party central after the sun went down on Sat. night.  We didn't get much sleep that night.


That same weekend Will lobbed a camper cushion across the camper and burned a streak off David's forehead.  Paul took the boys fishing and while he and Will caught several, David got his line tangled in a tree.


Poor kid.


Then, while we were loading up Sunday, a terrible storm rolled in.  The wind was gusting like crazy and Paul was working with all his might to secure the bikes to the camper.  It began pelting rain and the entire van and camper were shaking.   The sky was a funny color and it was getting downright scary.  We finally got everything done and Paul and I jumped into the van, both of us soaking wet.  As we drove out of the campground, I got a call from my brother letting me know the area was under a tornado warning! 



And people wonder why I'm not a fan of camping.


We sold our pop-up camper in May 2013.  We knew we'd have to get something larger once the girls came the summer before.  The plan was to find something larger that summer.  That obviously didn't happen.  In fact, I remember raiding the envelope of camper money in the safe to buy Paul's burial plot that terrible morning of his death. Kind of ironic in a way.  As much as I wasn't crazy about spending money on another camper, I certainly would have done that rather than use some of it for his grave.


The boys miss camping.  More than one has commented to me how they think I should buy a new camper.  I've resisted.  I know exactly how that would go down.  I would use the camper exactly twice, after spending money on a hitch (if my van could even pull a larger model - maybe I'd have to buy an SUV or truck).  If I didn't lose the camper enroute to the campground I wouldn't know what to do with it once we arrived.  Those things have to be leveled and hooked up to the sewer and water.  And they have to be backed into place.  I can't even back a minivan into a parking spot with no other vehicles around!


The camper would sit unused for about four years until Will would offer to "take it off your hands" and he would end up with a free camper.  And then it would then get lots of usage.  So here's a thought:  I'll save myself a bunch of money and stress and let him buy his OWN camper someday.


I know what the boys are missing are the memories of those trips we took as a family before life exploded with the arrival of the girls and Paul's death. Camping won't take us back to where we were.  Those days are gone forever.


But I also recognize the importance of making memories with the kids.  Trips are one of the big things kids remember.  I've had more than one adult friend comment to me wistfully and almost resentfully that their families never took vacations while growing up.  It would be a lot easier and lot cheaper and a whole lot less stressful for me to always stay home but I don't want to be that kind of parent.  I can't afford to take my kids places every summer and they're never going to be exotic get-aways (I'm saving up for a trip to Kentucky so we can see the Creation Museum when David graduates - which will be a big trip and about as "exotic" as I get) but I can still do something to generate precious memories.


With all this in mind, I rented a cabin just outside Omaha.  My friend, Kathy, and I had driven by it on one of our shopping trips and she mentioned that she and her family always stay at KOAs when they camp, which is what this was.  Honestly, renting a cabin wasn't a whole lot cheaper than getting a hotel suite when all was said and done.  I probably spent even more with the extra food and supplies I had to buy in preparation for the trip.

With David's crazy summer schedule I didn't have a whole lot of time in which to fit this trip in.  We have a number of friends in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area and I had hoped to spend some time with some of them, but I couldn't fit it in; our time was so limited.


I began preparing for the trip last week.  And as the time grew closer I found myself wallopped with a grief wave that nearly knocked me off my feet.  I wasn't expecting that.  I haven't gone through terribly deep waters since last Dec. and was kind of hoping I was past all that now.  The best way to describe involves yet another water metaphor.  When these things hit I feel like I am walking through chest deep water.  We've all done that, as kids in a swimming pool, if nothing else.  No matter how quickly you try to move, the water acts like a barrier.  You know you'll eventually get to where you want to go, but your steps are exaggerated and slowed down by the pull of the water.  That how I felt by the end of the week.  I just wanted to sit and cry.  But I had to keep moving instead.


I'm pretty sure it was because I was preparing for a camping trip without Paul.  This was always his thing, never mine. 


By the time I picked up my kids Sat. night from Single Parent Provision I was actually feeling better, which was a relief.  Maybe I just needed a few hours alone, away from the packing.


And then yesterday morning the kids were all at the park playing while I packed up the cabin.  For some reason I had awakened with Steve Green's, "Calvary's Love" running through my head.  I actually have a recording of Paul singing it, too.  As I wiped things down, threw away garbage, sorted dirty clothes from clean, and folded blankets, my heart grew heavier and heavier.  It literally (and I mean, "literally") felt like like I had a 10 pound rock sitting on top of my heart.  The grief was so intense during that time I could barely move.  I begged God to take it away - I could not do this.  And then the words from "Calvary's Love" popped into my head again and this time I began to sing them outloud (and I cannot sing at all).

...Calvary’s love, Calvary’s love
Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of
The deepest sin can’t rise above
Calvary’s love

Calvary’s love can heal the Spirit
Life has crushed and cast aside
And redeem til Heaven’s promise
Fills with joy once empty eyes

So desire to tell His story
Of a love that loved enough to die
Burns away all other passions
And fed by Calvary’s love becomes a fire.


I worked with tears running down my face as I thanked God once again for the gift of Calvary - the truth that, as heavy as it is,  my sorrow is only temporary.  He is so faithful.


And I've really been ok since, even though I'm crying now as I write this.  I don't want to forget it, though, long after the tears have permanently dried  (will they ever, though?  I wonder) and Paul has faded more into the recesses of my distant memory.


So anyway...the trip.  It went well.  My van hit 200,000 miles on Day 2.  That means I've put on 50,000 miles in just two years.  Wow.  I was hoping to get 4 years out of the thing when I bought it, but I don't know if that's going to happen or not.  So far, it seems to be holding up just fine, though.


We were able to load everything in without having to use the topper, which was good, because I'm not sure how that thing attaches to the top of the van.  I could just see it flying off as I hurtled down the interstate!  I do praise God for stow and go seating, though.  I don't think I'll ever buy another vehicle without that!


I didn't forget a single thing when packing, which was a minor miracle, too.


I like to keep busy.  A friend commented on that to me a number of years ago that that seemed to be an element of my personality.  At the time I wasn't so sure and I thought she might be comparing me to her own homebody preferences.  But I've since decided she was pretty spot on in her assessment. 


We got there mid-afternoon on Monday.  KOA campgrounds typically have more amenities than the ones that Paul usually chose for us to camp at.  So, we spent all of Monday just enjoying the pool, play area, and mini golf.  In fact, as I was doing a back float in the pool that afternoon, I found myself looking up into the blue, blue sky and imagining Paul just on the other side of the blueness.  I even "talked" to him in my thoughts and exclaimed, "Do you see me right now?  I took your kids CAMPING!"  I bet he was laughing, particularly later that evening when I couldn't get a fire going for our supper.


The next day we went to the Omaha zoo.  I've been there many times in the 25 years since Paul and I first began to date.  It never gets old.  However, this time it really seemed stinkier.  Maybe I just didn't remember that element.  David woke up that morning feverish and congested.  His camp crud had taken full effect.  So he stayed in the cabin all day and nursed himself with Advil cold and sinus and thieves oil and lots of naps.  He also ate nearly an entire box of zingers.  I'm not so sure that was conducive to good healing, although he was feeling much better the next day.


It was fun to take the girls to the zoo because they had never been to this one before.  I got there and realized I had forgotten the sunscreen I set out on the table in the cabin.  So our first stop was the gift store to buy some - $12 for an 8 oz bottle.  They get you coming and going there.  The weather was not unbearably hot, although it did get pretty warm as the day went on.  We finally wrapped things up after about 6 hours, left the zoo, and I quickly realized I had absolutely no clue where I had parked my van.  They even have these cute signs with animal names that differentiate parts of the parking lot.  Of course, I paid no attention to which animal we were parked in!  But thank God for Sam, who is so  much like his logical, oldest brother.  Sam assured me he knew the general area where we had parked and he was right on the money and we did find the van rather than having to wonder around for hours.


That evening we went swimming again, which felt esp. good after our long day of walking.  Ellie mastered putting her head under water on this trip, which I think is pretty good for a 4 year old.  Now she just needs to figure out how to hold her breath.  David got the fire going for me that night and we roasted hot dogs.  Later, we went to the KOA store and bought ice cream treats.  The kids were so exhausted they fell asleep almost immediately, unlike the night before.


I packed up the next morning and we were on the road by late morning.  We all felt like pizza so we found a Pizza Ranch in W. Omaha and had an early lunch.  I had forgotten how much the retired set like buffets for their meals.  They all began pouring in about 15 min. after we got there.  I got so many smiles and compliments on my "beautiful family" from these older folks.  I'm pretty sure it's the obvious adoption factor.  One older lady came by and one by one, pretended to pull quarters from behind the ears of each of the Littles.  They were all completely amazed and couldn't figure out how it was that they've never found money in their ears!  I told them that was how I paid for the trip - cleaning out their ears after they're asleep at night.


We then went to the Children's Museum in downtown Omaha.  I used to take my big boys there quite regularly.  So I was anxious to take the Littles.  They were in heaven!  The museum has made a lot of changes and added a lot of things in the 11 years since I was there last.  But one thing that hasn't changed is the noise level.  Holy cow.  How do the workers not lose their hearing, over time?


They've installed a carosol, which my kids rode.  The operator was a friendly, young, black woman.  We got into a good discussion about hair and she gave me some tips and product suggestions.  And she didn't blink when I used the term, "black" to refer to people of color.  It is just as I have long suspected.  "African American" is more of a white thing than a black thing.

But anyway...


And then we got back last night around 7.  The kids went from being mostly cooperative to extending their claws and being at eachother's throats.  Welcome home...


This is probably the longest post I've written since I began blogging.  I'm finally going to wrap things up.  I put up a post on Facebook with my smiling children outside the cabin.  I wrote about our trip and then I closed it with this line.  I will end this blog post with it, as well.


  I can't duplicate the camping trips my boys remember, but maybe I can give all the kids some new memories that will cause them to smile from time to time.


  I'm trying.













What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

ow with a certain amount of anticipation, although there are still moments when I am sick at heart to think that that future will never again include him, other than the quick glimpses I sometimes see in my sons. As much as hope is beginning to seep back into our lives, I am also accepting that, for the rest of our lives, we will be among the walking wounded, forever hurt and altered by Paul's early death. As sad as that sounds, it really isn't, though. Even scarred, life is still pretty beautiful.

What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.