Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 565

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW
Dec. 18, 2014

Thursday - Day 563

I won't finish this tonight.  I have children that need to be read to and tucked in soon.  I have folded laundry all over my bed that has to be put away before I get to get in, unless I fancy sleeping on the floor.  Actually, that might not be such a bad idea. So, I'll just get a good start.  That's ok.  I'll be home for most of tomorrow until evening when Ben and I have to go man the concession stand at the school to earn money for his (our) Florida trip.  It's one of those things where I got a phone call from the Fine Arts Dept. director and felt kind of on-the-spot.  I managed to worm out of the night he wanted us two weeks ago but offered to do the 19th instead.  I didn't realize when I offered that we would still be in hunting season at that point and that the night of the 19th I would be hosting 3 overnight hunters at my  home. 

It's ok.  I'll manage.

Tomorrow, Will, David, and Jonathan (David's bestie - do guys have "besties?") will be hunting all day long with some other guys from church.  Then, two more friends arrive later tomorrow to join the hunters on Saturday.  I sure hope they get something.  The guys hunted last weekend and came up empty-handed, except for Nathanael, who got himself a nice, thick 9 pointer.  But if they do get something, then that means butchering might be happening on my dining room table next week in the midst of the Christmas bustle.

Like last year.  I had beheaded, skinned, dead deer on my dining room table on Christmas Eve.  My parents arrived to start the Christmas celebrations and I still had a house full of guys waving knives and bowls of blood setting on the table.

It was so warm last weekend that Will and Nathanael strung up the one Nathanael got to the swing set and skinned him right there and then.  I've been fighting off the neighborhood dogs all week long, all who want deer legs, the skin, and rib cage.  I finally got the boys to dump the carcass in the garbage can but I'm sure the dogs can smell it.

Why am I blathering on about deer?  I don't know.  My brain has been kind of foggy all week.  Anyway, I guess I was saying that I'd be home most of tomorrow so I can work on blogging in between all the time I'll be spending in the kitchen cooking for the hungry hunters.  I think that was the point I was getting to.

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I had to drive to Ottumwa this week (more on that later).  I ended up getting a series of text messages from one of our pastors so I kept having to pull off so I could text back.  I like to say texting makes my life easier, but sometimes it really doesn't!  Anyway, I pulled off at the Knoxville/Chariton exit.  I couldn't find a good place to park, but I eventually found a little access road.  I saw some sort of business up ahead so I wound around on the gravel road until I could pull in.  I was so surprised when I read the sign on the building - Bertrand Monuments.  A year ago July I drove up and down and up and down the several mile stretch of highway that runs through Knoxville looking for this place. Armed with Mapquest, I knew about where it was supposed to be, but   I never could find it.  I finally gave up and went with McCall Monument, also in Knoxville.  I could find them.  It's all right.  They did a great job and really served with compassion.  But now a year and a half later, I finally find the joint!

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Yesterday I had a unique experience.  It's no secret that the religion of Islam is growing, and along with that, its influence.  For some reason, the Muslims seem to prefer the west side of Des Moines.  There are quite a few fully scarved Walmart employees at the Jordan Creek store.  That has made for some interesting conversations with the Littles!  And actually, there is one at Ben's school, which is surprising.  His school is one of the smallest districts in the entire state.  It's something like 99% white, if not more.  In fact, Lizzie commented to me that if she does attend there next year she'll probably be the only black girl in the school and, more than likely, she's right about that.  So, I was really surprised this year at Ben's first vocal concert when one of the students stood up there, her head fully covered by a white scarf.  Maybe she's a foreign exchange student.  I just thought of that.  That could be.  Or, she could have recently transferred into the district or maybe even converted.  I don't know.  At the Christmas program last week, Ellie saw her, squealed loudly, and exclaimed (also loudly),

"Look, Mommy - a Muswim!"  Yeah, we've had a lot of conversations.

So, anyway, yesterday I was out at Jordan Creek Mall.  I had just the Littles and we ate in the food court.  I won't go into all the details of that experience, but suffice it to say, I didn't have the stroller, the kids were in bulky winter coats and it was...harrowing.  They were all actually really well-behaved, but it was still not an experience I want to repeat anytime soon.   We got done eating, and of course, all their bladders instantly filled to capacity.  Sam had no desire to go into the ladies' restroom, but I wasn't about to let him go into the men's alone.  What did I do before they came up with Family bathrooms?  I know they didn't have them when my big boys were little.  Inside the food court at Jordan Creek is the restroom area.  They have the mens' room and ladies' room, a changing room or two, a nursing room, and two family restrooms.  Both were occupied so the kids and I sat down in a little waiting area they have with couches and rocking toys.  I think they're rocking toys.  Maybe they're supposed to be decorations, now that I think about it.  My kids have always played on them, though!  Both family rooms were occupied so I herded the kids over to the waiting area.  Later, when a room opened up, I was a bit miffed when a single lady walked out.  Hello, people - these rooms are for families!  You know, harried, tired mothers like me who have more small children than they have arms?

The first thing I noticed was this Muslim lady wearing a dress, a winter coat, and colorful head scarf.  She was sitting on one of the benches.  A man, around her age, was on the floor, which I thought was a little odd.  What I mostly noticed was how irritated he looked when the kids and I came back there.  Tough banana, Guy - if we have the chance to sit while we wait, we're going to do it.  Then, I saw that he had his glasses on a bench and it looked like he was peering under the couch.  As mentioned, my brain has been a bit foggy this week, but even with that I began to wonder - if he was looking for something wouldn't he want his glasses ON so he could see what it was he was hoping to find?  The guy kept kneeling with his nose to the floor.  The light began to finally penetrate my murky mind as I saw him then stand and pick up a 12" X 12" square of gold and brown woven tapestry piece off the floor and place it into a bag on the bench.

He was practicing salat!  I've heard of the practice, seen pictures of men in mosques doing it, but never witnessed it first-hand before.  And no, I didn't know that word.  I had to google it.  I just knew that Muslims are required to pray five times daily, facing Mecca, which would be, what, East?  It was really interesting to me.

And incredibly sad.  As I watched him, a real sorrow just enveloped me.  This young man will spend his entire life reciting his prayers and will make at least one pilgrimage to Saudia Arabia (where Mecca is located - also had to google that).  But when he dies he will be cast into Hell because he rejected Jesus.  All that self-sacrifice and prostrating for nothing!  He will have spent his entire life believing a lie.  I immediately began praying for him. 

After he and his wife (I assume - are Muslim men allowed to have girlfriends?) left the area I gathered the Littles around and explained what had just occurred. 

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My kitchen floor is buckling.  Ugh.  I have never heard of this happening, except in flood situations.  I don't know if the dishwasher leaked or what.  It's a section of wood right in front of it.  Will said there was a wet spot on the basement floor below, but it wasn't too bad.  We've been watching it all day and haven't seen any more water.  But there are, apparently, drawbacks to wood floors.  This is one of them.  It's a section about two strips wide by maybe 18-22 inches.  The wood is going to have to be either screwed back down, or somehow replaced.  We do have some left-over pieces but  Will was saying they won't look quite as good when replaced.  It's got to look better than it does now, all puffed up.

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Friday - Day 564

The girls are still asleep and it 's nearly 9am...not going to wake them.  My hunters were up and moving at 4am.  I know this because I heard them.  Then, Lizzie appeared, breathing heavily, at my bedside at 6am.

"I had a bad dream!"

A good mom would have invited her to crawl in the bed and chase away the scaries by cuddling.  I'm not that good of a mom.

What I am is a distracted mom.  Yesterday I put Lizzie down for her nap and then came downstairs and helped Sam with some schoolwork and then plunged back into my to-do list.  About an hour later, a disheveled Ellie appeared in the kitchen, rubbing her eyes.  I had totally forgotten about this child!  I asked her where she had been and she told me she had been sleeping underneath her bed!  I didn't miss her and I completely forgot about putting her down for her nap!  I am reminded of the harsh thoughts I have had at times towards the girls' birth mom because of her lack of interest and care for her children.  Am I any better?  Not yesterday, at least!

The other day Ellie asked me to get down the "owie game" out of the closet for her.  I didn't know what she was talking about.  I eventually figured out she meant "Operation."  Makes sense, I guess.

The kids' Christmas program is at church Sunday night.  Ellie has been going around the house all week singing, "In elshellshees Da-a-ayo!"  That must be all she remembers.  It makes me smile.

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Frustrated this morning...Sam has lost his glasses AGAIN.  He took them off to wrestle with his brothers last night and this today they are missing.  Argh!  This is like what, the 50th time he's misplaced them?  Would I get in trouble if I stapled them to his head, once he finds them again?  Of course, my fear is that he won't find them and then I'll be forced to buy him another pair.  On the plus side, Sam did find the missing basement dvd remote while he was searching.

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When I was out with the Littles the other day, they were very eager to put money in the red Salvation Army kettles.  Well, they were very eager to put MY money in the kettles.  They asked again what they were for and I explained it was to help poor people.  Sam nodded and said, "Yes, they buy Christmas trees for all the poor people.  That's important!"  I was thinking more along the lines of food and energy assistance, but I guess when you're 7, having a Christmas tree is a pretty big priority, too!

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As I mentioned earlier I had to drive to Ottumwa earlier this week.  It's a good hour and fifteen minutes away, but the Social Security office for my region is located there.  I went in Sept, hoping to get the girls new Social Security cards.  Well, I didn't have their new birth certificates with me, so I couldn't get it done that day - grr.  I decided to go this week.  I cannot get my taxes done next year without new cards for the girls so I'm kind of running out of time.  I wanted to make sure this would not be another wasted trip so I called down to the office and verified with them what documents I would need.  I had them all, so I left.

I got there and the guy behind the window told me, "You have to have an ID for the girls."  What?  They're children - how on earth would I have an ID for them? Surely adoption decrees and birth certificates are some sort of identification!  The man was insistent that I  must have this ID before we could start the paperwork for new cards.  I explained repeatedly that I had just called not two hours earlier and nothing was said to me about IDs.  He went and talked to his manager but came back telling me the same thing.  At this point I was nearly in tears.  I was fighting them hard.  I burst out, "I have SIX children and live over an hour away.  I do not have TIME to come back!"

There was nothing I could do.  This is the United States government at work.

The only way for me to get an ID for the girls is to take them to the doctor and have the doctor type up a document on piece of paper stating the girls' names, birth dates, and sign it. What does THAT prove?  So I called their doctor.  Well, the girls haven't been seen in almost two years.  So they can't do anything for me until the girls have a full physical.  And since that time, the girls have had a name change.  Lizzie's file was misnamed and the office tried to tell me repeatedly they had never seen her.  I told them otherwise.  Eventually they found it. 

All this was further complicated by the fact that I need the same doctor to type up a letter about Ben for his guardianship hearing.  Ben hasn't been seen in a year and half, so the doctor wanted to see him, too.  And, this doctor no longer takes new Medicaid patients, which means he would see Ben, but not the girls.  But, his nurse took pity on me and scheduled the girls with him, anyway.    So, right before rush hour on the 30th, I get to take the kids to downtown Des Moines and do all this.

There are times I want to leave civilization altogether and go live on a mountaintop, just me and the kids.  Sometimes, I'd happily leave the kids behind and go live by myself. I get so tired of dealing with agencies and the government.

On the way home Tuesday, I found myself really questioning God.  I couldn't (and still can't) understand why He let my entire morning be wasted like that.  Sometimes when my plans get derailed and I am late or don't get to go somewhere I had planned, I often assume that I might have been involved in some sort of accident and it was God's way of protecting me.  But this?  I just don't see it.

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Saturday - Day 565

The other night a widow friend at church (older - they're all older there) gave me a hug and whispered, "I don't need to ask how you're doing because I already know."  It's probably written all over my face these days.

Earlier this week I found myself thinking about suicide.  Before I begin to get phone calls from concerned friends questioning my mental health, I will be quick to assure everyone that I am not thinking of ending my life.  If I die young, it will be because I did something dumb, like turned in front of semi or dropped my hair dryer in the tub.  I have zero intentions of killing myself.  Ever.

But my thoughts were going there in a detached manner.  I understand the appeal.  I used to think that suicide was the ultimate act of selfishness.  I no longer believe that.  Suicide happens when a person is in so much pain that they can no longer think rationally.  It's still a choice and it's still a sinful decision.  But I understand it better now.

I have been hurting so much lately that the thought did creep into my mind - "You know, you could just end all this pain."  Looking back, I'm pretty sure that thought came straight from the pit of hell.  I pondered the idea for about a split second and then rejected it.  My death would hurt too many people.  Plus, I firmly believe that God is the author of life.  Paul's ended because his work was done.  I'm still here, which means there is purpose yet for my life.

Even if I'm not crazy about fulfilling that purpose yet.

Even if that purpose involves pain for the rest of my days.

But what if it doesn't?  What if, down the road, happiness sneaks up on me again?  I love my children so much it makes me teary-eyed at times.  I want to be here for all those moments as their lives unfold and blossom.  Yeah, those moments are always going to be a double-edged type of thing, probably equal parts pleasure and disappointment that Paul is missing these milestones.  But there will still be joy despite that and I want to see those moments.  As much as I long to go to Heaven, now, there are some things I think I'd like to see happen in my own life while I'm still tethered to earth.  These are things that I think will give me pleasure.  I don't want to miss them

So, I stay and slog through the hurt that, these days, feels like sticky, mucky, swampland. 

But even then, now, through this, hope remains. A lot of the times its flame is barely discernible, but it's there.  I'm going through a devotional book right now by Juanita Purcell on the Psalms - one for each day of the year.  It was given to me a few weeks ago and I couldn't wait until Jan. 1 to start using it.  Yesterday, I grabbed onto a few lines she wrote and held them close all day long:

We must ever doubt in the dark what we know in the light.  God is good; God loves me; I will again lift my head and sing.  Anyone can sing when the sun is shining brightly, but only confidence in God can give us a song in the night.  Don't lose hope!  Hope is admitting that troubles do exist, but believing they won't last forever.  Hope believes that God will lead us through the darkness to the sunshine of His love.  Don't give up; don't lose hope!  You will lift your head and sing again.

I needed to hear that.

I have found another song to hold onto, as well.  It's by Kari Jobe, entitled I am not Alone.  Here's the link if you want to hear it song

 

When I walk through deep waters
I know that you will be with me
When I'm standing in the fire
I will not be overcome

Through the valley of the shadow
Oh I will not fear


I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me


In the midst of deep sorrow
I see your light is breaking through
The dark night will not over take me
I am pressing into you
Lord you fight my every battle
And I will not fear


You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as your own

You're my strength
You're my defender
You're my refuge in the storm

Through these trials
You have always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul




 
 
 
 

Encouragement.
 Truth.

 

This week has been better than last.  I've received a slew of encouragements from friends all week long.  I don't know if it's because it's Christmastime or if it's because my friends have been talking and decided that something must really be done about poor Sarah.  Or maybe it's just God prodding hearts into action, one by one.  Whatever the case, I'm grateful.  I received a Christmas card from a friend and when I opened it, out fell a wad of cash with a note telling me to take the kids out to eat.  I will.  I received a Facebook note with the most encouraging note from a friend's husband.  I have read it over and over this week.  My trials have value.  My suffering is not for nothing (according to his words).   I found a loaf of homemade bread sitting on my seat when I got back in my van after church Wed. night.  Another friend sent home a gift basket full of goodies for all of us.  Another friend told me she's taking my Littles Monday and when she found out I'm feeding hunters again this weekend she baked an entire supper and brought it out to me to help feed them.  It's warming in my oven right now.  When I got home from program practice today a box of food staples was on my front porch.  This was from the American Legion in Pleasantville.  They blessed us this way a year ago, I remember.

The person I am being changed into - for surely, I AM being changed - would not be happening were it not for Paul's death, for this hurt, this soul-splitting agony.  But equally a factor in my change is the love of God, caring for me, protecting me, ministering to me through the goodness of others.    It's like those ancient masks depicting both comedy and tragedy.

 Never have things been both so horrible and so good at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Day 559

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW
December 14, 2014

Day 559

What a week it has been.  And I don't mean that in a good way!  I'm not even sure where to start...

I'm struggling.  I know I've mentioned this numerous times already as we've moved into the holiday season, but I really am.  I am becoming convinced, though, that it's not all emotion and grief and loss.  I was talking with a nurse friend yesterday, describing what's going on and she said, "This is totally menopausal stuff."  I haven't had a single hot flash yet so I'm probably a number of years away from having the whole process over and done with, but it is nice to know that there may be a reason why I'm such a mess.

That's one component.  The other is loss and that's very real right now.  Very real.

I am not much of a crier, by nature.  But the skin around my eyes is chapped right now.  Friday I sobbed, off and on, for about 5 hours straight.  I do not cry in front of the kids by design.  I don't want to freak them out. They need the stability of knowing that Mom is ok, which means they are going to be ok, too.  So, sometimes that cork just pops.

Everything has just been building to a crescendo inside me.  I went a week with a migraine, which was not helpful.  More than likely, it was hormone-related, I realize now.  I'm figuring out my future and I find that I am mourning  afresh the loss of the plans Paul and I had.  It breaks my heart that my younger kids are not going to have the stability of a stay-at-home mom and that I probably will not be homeschooling much longer.  I worry about money.  I have teenager issues - normal stuff, but stuff I'd sure prefer to pass off onto a dad.  I feel tremendous pressure about vehicle and home maintenance stuff.  It's all there and it all builds inside and even though well-meaning friends toss Bible verses my way, it is hard to grab onto them at times.

And there's just the ever-present grief, as well.  I miss him.  When will that stop?

Friday I was scheduled to meet with Marcia for our normal Bible study.  I got in my van for the 22 minute drive and wasn't even out of our little city before the tears started.  I cried all the way to church.  I   climbed up the steps to Marcia's office and she asked, "How are you doing?" and I began to cry harder.  She held me and I just sat in there and cried and cried for an hour straight.  And I cried all the way home, but managed to pull myself together for the kids.   But I spent a lot of time in my bedroom that night, so they wouldn't see me because those tears just wouldn't stop.

This morning Marcia asked if I had gotten all the tears out and wouldn't  you know it - my eyes began to well up immediately and I just prayed nobody else would ask how I was doing as I went to get my coat and the kids.

I hate this.  I want to be strong, but wet eyes have a way of making me feel very weak, worthless, and vulnerable.  I want to be that person everyone looks at, nods, and agrees that she has it all together.  Why, look at the terrible things that have happened in her life, but she's so strong, regardless!  Instead, I'm a hot mess of tangled emotion, tears, and hampered decision making.

And, apparently, I'm also stressed.  Or so I've been told.  My friend, Jenny, gave me some lotion last week from Bath and Body, called "Stress Relief."  I love it.  It smells so good.  I keep it on the shelf right inside my bedroom door and whenever I walk in, I put some on my hands.  David saw that and commented, "Well, it's a good thing she gave that to you because everyone knows you're so stressed!"  What?

Then, Monday, my friend, Deb was here because she's going to start working with Ben for his SCL services and she earnestly told me, "I know you have so much stress in your life and I want to help."  And then later in the week, our mayor told me, "Sarah, you have too much going on in your life right now!" and then he insisted on setting up a play date later in the week for his daughter and my girls who are all about the same age.

The truth?  Yes, there is stress.  But, I don't think I'm drowning in it.  Maybe.  Or it's more of of factor than I recognize yet.

But the nice thing is that people care.  I could be going through all this and I could be alone, which would be far, far worse.

Yesterday, a sweet teen from church came home with us from program practice.  She did all my Christmas wrapping, which is a LOT of presents when you have a big family.  I had supper ready for the kids and for the hunters, but she cooked it all so I could leave the house for a few hours.  She washed my dishes and swept my kitchen floor, and bathed the girls and even washed and detangled their hair, which is a big job.  This morning Lizzie informed me that she wishes Arien could do her hair every time because "she's gentle Mom - not like you.  You YANK, YANK, and YANK my hair!"

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The kids are having fun with the gifts from Amanda the Panda.  Every day they excitedly ask who gets to open one today.  They're all buried now underneath the other presents.  I'll have to have the kids dig them out.  Ellie was given a 24 pack of play dough for one of her gifts from them.  My first thought was, "Somebody there really must hate me..."

I am not a fan of playdoh.  It gets in carpeting.  It gets in clothing.  Kids mash the colors together which always upsets another, neater child.  It dries out.  But the Littles all had a ball with it.  But Sam did get upset when the the girls seemed to prefer gooping all the different colors together and even hid the containers of the colors he was interested in so the girls couldn't mess them up.  So, against my better judgement I bought him his own 24 pack of playdoh this week and now it's wrapped up and under the Christmas tree.

I'm a good  mom.

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I finally called my neurologist on Tuesday because after six days, my headache was not letting up.  He said he didn't think I was in any danger of another stroke, but I probably should do something to get rid of the headache and he recommended I get an infusion.  I had never heard of such treatment.  I have heard of migraine shots, but not IVs.  As time goes on, I am losing a lot of my faith in the entire medical profession.  I questioned the nurse who called me back on Tues, explaining about the possibility of the infusion.  I asked if this was something that I would need a driver for.  She said, oh, she really didn't think so.  But then she mentioned that benedryl is given first.  I've taken benedryl before and I know how it affects me!  If a couple of pink and white capsules can make me a little loopy I could only imagine what benedryl flowing directly into my veins might do.  So I called Will and he was willing to drive down after classes on Wed and take me to the hospital.

On Wednesday, I set up the appointment at the hospital because I still had a headache.  They told me that I would need to sign an agreement stating I would pay anything insurance wouldn't cover.  I said that was fine, but asked how much the procedure typically runs.  The nurse said she wasn't sure, but thought it was just a few hundred dollars.  Oh, well, that's fine.  I'm willing to pay a few hundred dollars to get rid of a week-long headache. 

So Will and I arrived and they hooked me up to the IV and then handed me the paperwork.  To my horror, I saw that the drugs were just a few hundred dollars, but the nursing care was being billed at nearly $1500!  I didn't know what to do.  I already had this needle in my arm, but if my insurance doesn't pay, then I'm going to get a nearly $1800 bill.  I seriously thought about pulling the needle out and leaving. 

But then I'd still have a headache.  And what if my neurologist was wrong?  What if this prolonged headache meant I was going to have another stroke?  I can only imagine the devastation to my family if I became incapacitated by another stroke.  So I went through with the procedure.

It was horrible.

I hope I never have to endure this again.  I was told the entire procedure would take 30 minutes, tops.  I was there for over two hours.  The meds made me sleepy at first, but that quickly turned to jitteriness.   My heart raced and literally, for nearly the entire time, my body shook uncontrollably as I laid in the recliner.  My emotions were on edge and I remember feeling like I just wanted to wail out loud about over Paul, which is something I haven't done since about day two on this widowhood journey - lots of tears, certainly, but no loud sobbing.

But - the procedure did shake the migraine that had such a ferocious grip on my skull.  I came home and dozed for the next three hours on the loveseat.  Why I picked that and not the couch where I could stretch out, I have no idea.  David and Will did a great job of keeping the Littles occupied downstairs.

I went to bed early and the next day I felt a little more back to normal but it wasn't until late afternoon of that day, a full 24 hours after the infusion, that I felt completely myself again.

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So, I'm already sick about the possibility my insurance may  not cover this treatment.  I had a dentist appointment the next day and went to that.  I've had a broken molar since late May and have known that it will have to be taken care of.  I've just been praying I could live with it until Jan. 1 when my dental insurance will start to cover things.  The dental office laid out my options.  I can attempt a crown which will be $1000, after insurance.  But they don't think that's going to work because there's not a whole lot of tooth left and it's broken right at the gum line.  They're really pushing for an implant which will be $3000, after insurance.  I'm leery about the idea of putting something artificial into my body, as well as spending that much money.  I could do a bridge, for the same money, but that's putting a lot of stress on teeth that already have fillings and could break, themselves, at some point.

The idea of spending all this money on my mouth just sickens me.  I think I'm going to visit another dentist and  seek a second opinion before committing to anything.  I like these people at my dental office and don't want to hurt their feelings, but $3000 is a LOT of money.

But, along those same lines I did have something encouraging happen the same day.  In June I had to go to endodentist for something - a root canal, maybe?  I can't remember but it was something my dentist didn't want to touch and since the waiting period on my insurance wasn't up, I'd be responsible for all of it.  But I was dying and couldn't not have the work done.  I got the bill in late summer, wrote the check, but just didn't feel a peace about mailing it.  Probably because it was over $800!  So it sat on my desk and it sat.  I finally called the office this fall and asked if they would give me a discount if I paid in cash (rather than make payments).  They said no.  So I let the bill sit some more, not really sure what to do.  I know I had a responsibility to pay, but at the same time I didn't want to pay the whole thing.  I finally received a letter a couple of weeks ago letting me know that my account was dangerously past due, which I knew, of course.  I thought some more.

And last week I finally sent them a letter.  I explained that I wanted to clear my account, but I was a bit baffled by their attitude of not wanting to accept less money.  I know how collection agencies work.  Typically, creditors lose 2/3 of the money owed to them in collection fees.  I pointed out to the office that I knew this and that it made not a whit of difference to me if I paid them directly or if I paid whatever collection agency they would eventually turn over my account to.  As a business owner, surely it would make more sense to accept a little bit less money up front. I offered to pay them 90% of the bill. I figured I didn't have anything to lose by sending the letter.

I had a voice mail on Thursday.  The office would be happy to accept the amount I offered.

I should have offered less!

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My attorney called Friday.  We have a court date on Jan. 9 for Ben's guardianship.  He is being appointed his own attorney by the court.  I am getting very nervous as to what this is all going to cost me in the end.  I envisioned a simple, quick, legal procedure and instead, it sounds like I have to go to court, armed with a doctor's statement, and prove that Ben is incapable of acting in his own best interests and that I should be allowed to do what I have been doing all along.

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I went to a dinner for single mothers last night with my friend, Sarah.  I arrived first so I sat in the parking lot and watched the other women exiting their cars and going into the church.  I thought to myself, "All these women are in the same boat I am in!" and it was both comforting and distressing. 

The dinner was nice and I enjoyed my time with Sarah.  I think the organization is called, "Single Parent Provision" and it seems like a really, really nice thing they've put together.  They just want to minister to the single mom.  We had the dinner, there were give-aways, and games, and a video, and at the end a group of ladies got up and led the attendees in a rousing version of "Overcomer" by Mandisa, which has been a strengthening song to me in the last year and a half.

But, still...there were things that bothered me.  I observed some of the women at the dinner.  Some looked downright cheap in their attitude and appearance and honestly, it wasn't a huge surprise to me that they were parenting solo.  I was the only widow at my table and I understand that.  Widowhood at my age is still pretty unusual.  All the women were talking about custody battles and visitation agreements and legal fees.  One turned to me and asked how many kids I had and I told her.  She gulped and exclaimed, "Well, is your ex a help at least with all of them?"  I was so startled by her question that blurted out, "Well, no - he's dead!"  That gal didn't have a whole lot else to say to me all night!  Later, one of the women at the table commented that I was "lucky" to not have all the stresses they had with their divorces and my friend, Sarah, was quick to point out that widowhood brought it's own share of stress and pain.  That was nice of her.

But it's true.  In many ways I am fortunate in the loss of my spouse.  Most single moms are dealing with a great deal of stress in dealing with their former husbands or boyfriends.  They don't have the cushion of a life insurance policy and they have children that have been terribly wounded by the break up of their family.

The woman who started this organization shared her story and hers was that she had a baby out of wedlock.  That pregnancy was what caused her to turn back to the Lord and she had a nice testimony.  Another woman shared how God used the pain of her two divorces to really bring her to Him.  I sat there and I thought, "I'm not like these people!"

I'm not.  I don't know that that fact makes me better than anyone, though.  I may have arrived at the road of Single Parenthood in a different and more unusual fashion, but I'm still traversing the same path they are.

And that makes for a commonality.  Like it or not, I'm here.  God has placed me on this road, even though I did nothing to get here myself.  And if He has me here, then I need to trust that there is something along this road that He needs me to learn.

And while I'm learning, He will be providing the strength, grace, comfort, and provision that I need.

I have to keep reminding myself of this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Day 552

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW
December 7, 2014

Day 552

Pearl Harbor Day...73 years ago today a whole lot of other women became sudden widows.  See - that's what I think of now.  My first thought is not the terrible loss of life that day, the parents who opened their doors to military personnel informing them that their sons had just been consigned to a murky graves in the Pacific Ocean, but for all the wives who were suddenly thrust into widowhood.

A friend at church was talking to me tonight.  She's older than me by probably twenty years.  Her brother-in-law succumbed to cancer three months ago.  His wife, my friend's sister, died yesterday morning after being diagnosed with cancer just three weeks ago.  I told my friend that I was sorry for the loss of her sister, but I couldn't find any reason to feel bad for her sister.  What a relief it  must have been to discover that she was going to get to rejoin her husband so quickly!  I'm envious. 

I've felt like I've been on the verge of tears all day.  Maybe it's the season.  Maybe I'm just tired.  Maybe it's my head.  Thursday I was awakened at 6 am with a terrible migraine.  I popped a prescription pill but it didn't do the trick.  That day I had the worst migraine I have had in years and years.  It's not  my sinuses like I had thought earlier that same week.    It was so terrible I was nauseated for most of the day and I had to forget my to-do list and crawl into my bed for awhile.

By evening it had lifted somewhat and I was able to keep my plans to go out with some ladies from church.  That was special.  The ladies treated three of us to supper in Des Moines and I was given a wonderful Christmas present that really touched me.  But that migraine was terrible. That morning I had to take David to the dermatologist and then I had to spend an hour and half at the bank with the mayor.  I thought I was just going to pass out, right in both offices.  It's four days later and the headache has not completely left yet.  I have taken way too many pills and I'm going to have to get a refill soon.  This morning I awoke kind of dizzy and that hasn't gone away, either, although it's not as bad.

Are these just hormone issues? Am I on the verge of menopause?  Or, should I call my neurologist?  But he'll want to see me and I do not have time for a visit.  And then he'll want to put me on a daily headache pill and I've tried those and I don't like them because they have some bothersome side effects.   But in the back of mind (the part that's not in pain) I am very cognizant of the fact that often migraines precede strokes.  I don't have time for that, either.  Maybe I'll feel better by tomorrow morning.

I need to feel better by tomorrow.  I have an absolutely insane week ahead.  Will and two, potentially, three, hunting buddies are spending the weekend here.  That means I have to cook and clean like a madwoman all week.  Hunters get awfully  hungry after traipsing through the woods all day long.  I was planning to get up at 4 to make them breakfast both mornings but Will told me he'd rather take care of that because he's not overly fond of my pancakes.  I'm so relieved that I don't have to get up that early that I'm not even going to be offended by the fact he doesn't want my pancakes!

I also have a city council meeting this week which will involve a full day up at City Hall.  Plus, I have to go to the dentist and I can't reschedule that because I already did one time already.  And I have a Bible study with Marcia. Tomorrow, Ben's new SCL worker is coming over for the first time so I need to write some things out for her and Ben has his school Christmas program tomorrow night.   Too, too much...

Plus, it's Christmas and I'm struggling.  I've probably mentioned that once before.  Or twice. 

But, I'm typing out all this emotion and recognizing that I sound like a real whiner.  Good things are still evident in my life, despite all the complaining I do.

I'm starting to develop some clarity on my life plans - what needs to happen to make the rest of my life tolerable and to be in a position to provide for my family.  That actually scares me a bit because it's going to involve huge life changes that I really don't want to make.  But it's an answer to prayer because I've been praying that God would show me what to do.   I need to seek some more counsel before totally committing to what I'm thinking, but the wheels are turning - mentally, anyway, at this point.  It's good.

I got to go to Council Bluffs on Friday and spend the whole day with Kathy.  That's always a good thing!  I pulled off at the Underwood exit to program my GPS before driving into Council Bluffs.  Then, Will called me at the same time.  So I'm talking to him and backing out of my parking spot to get back on the interstate when two Subway employees come running out of the building and tell me my van is overheating and I need to not drive.  What?  I can see a little steam or something coming out of my hood, but my temperature guage isn't showing I'm overheating.  I know there's plenty of antifreeze and water in the thing.  I pop the hood and the one employee tells me my fan isn't going.  Of course, by this point my heart is hammering.  Being stranded - especially two hours from home - is right at the top of my Things to Worry About list.  I'm talking to Will and he's asking me questions and the employees are telling me to go to this mechanic place that's  not too far away.  Will has me drive around for a bit and says, "Mom, I don't know what those people were smoking, but you're not overheating!"

I wasn't.  So the whole thing made me later getting into town to meet with Kathy.  It also made me kind of paranoid.  All the way home that night I kept my eye on the temperature gauge which never went above what it was supposed to - to the point that I neglected to watch the gas guage.  I was 30 miles from empty when I suddenly realized that the needle was clear down in the red zone!  I had no idea when the next exit would be coming and if I could get gas.  Fortunately, about 5 miles down the road I was able to get off and a new Kum and Go was right off the interstate.  All was well.

Kathy and I enjoyed our day together, of course.  I found a beautiful big, red, wooden "H" for the front porch.  Well, actually, I bought that in Des Moines.  I found them at a Kirkland's in Omaha but they didn't have an H.  So I stopped at Jordan Creek on my way home and bought they only H they had.  It makes me happy.  I positioned it on the bench I bought 16 years ago with Kathy.  We still talk about that bench!  We went to a huge craft show that fall in Omaha.  Kathy had her 4 month old daughter with her that day.  I bought this bench made out of fence boards - it's probably 4 feet across and very, very solid.  I remember I paid $50 for it. This craft show was on the outskirts of Omaha and very, very well-attended.  Parking was at a premium  and we had to park blocks and blocks away.  It was so cold.  We had the stroller stuffed with all our other purchases and then we had to haul this bench and push the stroller for blocks.  And I was newly pregnant and very sick with the pregnancy.  A lot of memories are attached to that bench -  not all good ones!  But my H will look nice on it.

Yesterday I took the  Littles to the Amanda the Panda party.  The kids loved it.  They had a scavenger hunt for the kids and at each location the kids got nice presents.  Then, we won a brand new teddy bear that was a table decoration.  We got to make an ornament to honor Paul.  The kids had fun stuffing it with tinsel.  There was a dessert buffet, although, surprisingly, my kiddos were more interested in the fruit bowl carved out of a watermelon. They each got to light a candle to honor their dad's memory.  Amanda the Panda is such a neat organization.

We got home, picked up Ben and David, and headed out to Jordan Creek.  Will met us there and we saw Kirk Cameron's new movie, "Saving Christmas."  I thought this movie was about how saying "Christmas" is becoming more and more politically incorrect and how we're expected to honor ALL December holidays with the same amount of enthusiasm we typically and historically have reserved for Christmas.  But it wasn't.  This movie addressed something else and I was so pleased about it.

I have been homeschooling since 2003 and I've met tons and tons of homeschoolers along the way.  Most are normal people, but there are some real nut jobs that homeschool, too.  In recent years, I've met a number of these nuts that are anti-Christmas.  They spout on about how Christmas trees are "pagan" and how Christmas itself is just a fancified version of the pagan holiday honoring the winter solstice.  They talk about how the Bible doesn't tell us to celebrate Christmas and in doing so, we honor Satan.  Plus, if you think about it, S-A-T-A-N is just like S-A-N-T-A - coincidence?  Not to them, it's not.  Some of these people won't celebrate Easter, which I don't quite understand, either. 

And then there are some Christians that aren't quite so extreme in their anti-Christmas stance, but they draw a clear line between what is acceptable at Christmas and what is not.  Baby Jesus is good.  Santa is bad.  Wise men and shepherds are good.  Reindeer are bad.  One twinkling star is good.  Stockings stuffed with goodies are bad.  There's "Christian" Christmas and there's the "secular" Christmas.

I remember talking with Paul about this and he would always say that Christmas must be pretty important if Satan and the world have worked so hard to get rid of it.  How delighted he must be that some Christians are now getting rid of it voluntarily!

This is what Kirk Cameron addresses.  The movie features his actual real-life sister (not the famous one, another one) and her husband.  The brother-in-law is a bah humbug type of guy, spouting all the reasons he thinks celebrating Christmas is just wrong for Christians - everything from how Christmas trees are just a form of idolatry to the fact that all the money we spend would be better used if given to the poor.  Methodically, Kirk addresses each objection.  The movie is both funny and very informative.  I learned things about Saint Nicholas I didn't know and I thought I knew that story.  His main point is that everything we do at Christmas - the lights, tree, gifts, Santa, stockings - ALL point back to Christ.  Granted, the unsaved and even many saved don't understand this. 

Anyway, I really appreciated the film.  Even though this particular holiday season is harder on me because of Paul's death, watching it made me want to embrace the holiday more than I have, typically.  It makes me want to be like my Grandma Daniels, who was crazy about Christmas when I was little.   She didn't even understand what she was celebrating.  I want to enter into it with her enthusiasm and desire to create magic for my children and future grandchildren.  But I can do it with the ability to teach them how each and everything we do at Christmas points to a tiny baby in a manger.

All week long, even before we saw the movie, Sam has been commenting to me that "we give gifts at Christmas because God gave us the best Gift!"  He picked that up somewhere and has been pretty excited to repeat it over and over.  He's right.  As Christians, we have the best reason of all to totally celebrate Christmas, to the best extent of our abilities and resources.

Sam has  also started adding two digit numbers in head, for no reason at all, other than he figured out how to do it.  So when he wasn't talking about gifts, he was saying things like, "Hey, Mom, want to know what 17 plus 32 is?"  He is definitely Paul's boy.

Afterwards, we went to Chik-fil-A, which was a treat.  They can get a little pricey, but we managed to get out of there for less than $30, which was really good.  My appetite hasn't been the greatest since Thursday, so Will and Sam got most of my chicken sandwich, but that was fine.

It was a good family night.

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As we were driving home today, I was appalled to see a police car and ambulance at my friends, James and Charlotte's house.  I stopped my van and ran into their house to see what was going on.  Of course, seeing the rescue vehicles brought back memories.  As I watched the paramedics work, I found myself wondering if they were the same ones who came to my house 18 months ago.  Charlotte had called an ambulance because she was fearful James was having a heart attack.  They took him away.  I texted their son tonight and it's just pneumonia, which is a relief.  But all that is a bit disconcerting.

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Last week I wrote on thankfulness.  I completely forgot about a quote from my pastor I wanted to sum up my thoughts with.  This is what he said last week:

"Anything that causes us to need God more is a blessing."

That really resonated with me, to the point that I wrote it in the flyleaf of my Bible.  There's so much truth to that statement.  Losing Paul has caused me to need God more than I have ever felt like I needed Him in my entire life.  That means that his death is a good thing.

It's something I've been chewing on all week.  I'm still not thankful he died.  But, without reservation, I am very, very thankful for the things I have learned the past year and a half.

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Well, I am sitting here, shaking.  I'm not sure if it's because my house is cold (Will is determined to make me save money and keeps the thermostat at a ridiculously low number.  I usually crank it up when he's not home, but he was home today so it's probably back down in the sub-arctic range) or if it has to do with this headache.  I've been kind of shaky since Thursday. I just found some Excedrine migraine in the medicine cabinet and popped one to give my brain a break from my Butabital pills.  It could be that, too.   I think I need to take a warm (boiling) bath and crawl under my electric blanket.  Some extra sleep wouldn't hurt, either.

Goodnight, World.