The title is a description of my old life...but these days I ramble on about widowhood, homeschooling, single parenting, adoption, special-needs parenting, & living a life I never planned for or expected - a life that God, thankfully, continues to strengthen & equip me for daily...
My plans got turned a bit inside out today,
but I'm not complaining.I had planned
to spend the morning getting David's 16th birthday pictures taken and running a
few errands in W. Des Moines while we waited for them to be developed.But he woke up with the same stuffy nose and
sore throat the rest of us have been battling for the past week.So, pictures are delayed a week.I'm not complaining.I've got a lot on my to-do list this week and
now I just gained a few extra hours!
One thing I did was to submit my article to
RBP.I had a friend edit it last
week.And then I ended up deciding to go
to my writer's group last night.I was
torn because my mom's group was meeting and I really hate missing getting
together with those ladies.But I
haven't been to Word Weavers in 6 months.That's not good.I know if I'm
going to do anything with my writing I need to put in appearances more often
that that.But I hate it when the two
groups meet the same night!So, anyway,
the leader of the group sent out an email yesterday afternoon asking for
attendees to bring articles/chapters to critique.I had a light bulb moment and emailed her back
saying I'd bring my article.Why
wouldn't I want something I'm about to submit to be edited by a room full of
actual published authors?
They were so awesome for my ego.I can't believe how fragile that thing is
when it comes to my writing!And they
had lots of good suggestions.I came
home and the kids were in bed so I immediately sat down and did all the edits
they suggested, which included some minor re-writing.And then I couldn't fall asleep until
midnight because my mind was still buzzing!
I got it submitted to RBP today and now I find
that I keep wanting to check my email to find out if she A) thinks this is best
manuscript she's read in the history of all writing or B) is sorry, but my
skill set appears to be way below what they are looking for and have I perhaps,
considered a career in the service industry, instead?
Actually, I was surprised at how difficult
that thing was to write.I did not
expect that because, after all, I've bled all over my keyboard since a week
after Paul's funeral.But it was
emotionally draining.I'm glad I did it,
though.I don't think God intends for us
to keep the things we learn through our trials for our own benefit.
I had a busy weekend.Friday night was the second time I attended
Single Parent Provision, where they give single parents a break by watching and
feeding the kids in a fun environment.This time I happened to notice on the website they had a woman pastor
scheduled to come in and speak to the kids on the subject of "guarding
your heart."I think that's
great.But my kids have all had
questions about lady pastors and I could just see one of them commenting
to this woman, "My mom says...!" so I had to give them a heads up on
The kids had a blast.Chick-fil-A provided chicken nuggets again
and they got to color on their own t-shirts ("with permanent
markers, Mom!").They also gave me
a full report on "Pastor Lori's" message, which sounds good.Except...she told the story of David and
Bathsheba.Sam and Lizzie were
shocked.They had never heard that story
before - with good reason.
"But I thought David was the good king,
Mom!" Sam exclaimed on the way home.Lizzie was mainly appalled that Bathsheba decided to take a bath on her
roof.Who would do that?Just that morning we'd been having our
millioneth conversation about God and death and how God never kills
anyone.When death occurs it's because
He allows it, not because he wants that person dead.This didn't fit in with the story of the
death of David and Bathsheba's baby and the kids had a hard time wrapping their
minds around that.
I'm not upset in any way.It just made for more conversation and
explanation from me.And it gave the
kids an opportunity to think, which is always good.But still, I can't help but wonder - there
weren't any other Bible stories that might have illustrated the
importance of guarding one's heart against sin?
While the kids were having their fun, I ran a
few errands.I needed to go up to Merle
Hay Mall, which is never my favorite place to be anyway.It's not a good area of town anymore, I don't
think.I did what I needed to do and
walked out, trying to ignore the immigrants and probable gang members.I realized that I felt vulnerable and
I imagined how it might have been if Paul were still beside me.I wouldn't have worried a bit because I knew
he would protect me - not that I was bothered the other night in any way by the
people I saw.That made me sad, to
be reminded that I am without his protection now.
And then I went down to Jordan Creek which
makes me feel infinitely safer.But it
was a Friday night and the place was coming alive with coupleswalking hand in hand, enjoying the beautiful
I felt so sad.
It really wasn't until yesterday I was able to
shake that off more.I was so
"down" all weekend.
Saturday night didn't help, either.I went to our Sunday School class' monthly
get-together.For the first time in 6
months schedule, babysitter, and health all lined up enabling me to go.I'm glad I went.It was fun.
But it was incredibly hard.
We had a progressive dinner.There were about 8 or 9 couples ...and
me.Everyone was super-nice to me, as
usual.Nobody sat around discussing
their happy marriages in front of me.But...I was alone.I felt awkward
when trying to figure out where to sit in the vehicle to ride around and where
to sit at the dinner table.I am so
worried about getting in the way of the married people and my singleness being
more of an impediment than it already is.
I think someday I will look back on these days
and be incredibly grateful to my SS class, and church as a whole, for the way
they have embraced me and done their best to help me adjust to this new
reality.I suspect that is probably a
rarity for a lot of widows.I have to
give my friends kudos.This is a new
situation for them as much as it is for me.Old widows we "get."Young ones - not so much.There's
no set protocol on how to interact with them and how to try to ease the
But, it's still hard and it still hurts to
spend an entire evening with married people, knowing what I used to have. Every time I happen to see a couple holding hands or a husband with his arm around the shoulders of his wife - or happen to glimpse a look between the two of them meant just for each other - it hurts. It's not like anyone's making out in front of me. It's just missing what I never thought I'd lose.
It's probably why I cried most of the way home
Ok, onto something more cheerful - namely,
Stitch Fix!My box arrived yesterday, a
whole day early.I am having so much fun
with this.I started looking forward to
the box's arrival about a week ago.Also, last week I discovered a number of blogs on Pinterest that include
SF updates from customers.What they do
is model everything that comes in their box, post a picture of each on their
personal blogs, and write what they like or dislike about each and give their
verdict on whether they kept or returned the item.I don't really have any desire to do that
myself, but I do enjoy reading others'.It's been a relief to find that I am really not so unique.A lot of ladies are having a blast with this
service and stepping out and trying clothes they normally would pass over in
stores.It seems like a lot of women are
recognizing the value of not having to do their own shopping, too, but just as
many seem to be budget-conscious, as well.
I ended up keeping two items, like last
time.I would have kept three, but one
blouse I loved was just too tight across the shoulders to consider.They sent a gorgeous gold necklace that I'll
have good use for.I kept this delicate
cream, summer-weight cardigan, too. Ineed
to find some loose tanks to wear underneath it (I'm beginning to be slightly
less enamored of all the cami tops I own which could go underneath the sweater since
they seem to cling to my tummy rolls now that I have developed them!).I'm pleased.They sent a gorgeous, royal blue tank top.It was textured and had a lot of pretty
detail.I wasn't sure because the
armholes seemed to gape a bit and I really don't like showing off a lot of skin
around my fat upper arms.So I went back
and forth.Then, I happened to glance at
the price sheet and discovered this particular top was priced at $68!That made my decision to return it a whole
lot easier!I didn't even consider the
skinny black, polka dotted pants...
I'vescheduled my next fix for June 11, which will be the 2 year anniversary
of Paul's funeral.I could still use a
few more tops for summer and it gives me something to look forward to on that
It's now evening.No, it's night.Late at night.Will came back at 2.He was so tickled that he got Paul's old
truck running.It has sat all these
months, unmoving, and as it turned out, all it needed was a new battery.And the old one was still under warranty.I hope that's all it needed.He just drove out of the driveway in that
thing headed for Ankeny.I sure hope I
don't get a call about a 27 year old broken down truck on the by-pass...
There is not a thing wrong with Will's
car.But he wants the truck up in
Ankeny.I don't begin to fathom the male
mind.What is it about a rusted-out, loud
hunk of metal that makes one want to drive it around?But I remember how partial Paul always to his
trucks.And maybe driving this makes
Will feel like Paul is closer in his memory.I don't understand, but I care - enough that I drove us down to Knoxville
today to pick up a duplicate registration and sticker since I managed to
misplace the one they mailed to me in December.And I called and got the insurance put back on the thing for him.
And then I spent most of the afternoon and
evening helping Will write an 8 page paper on choosing joy in the midst of
trials.Will said he wanted to put his
own story in there so we wove it in.I
think that's progress in Will's grief journey since he's mostly had an attitude
of, "I can't fix it, so why worry about it" in regards to Paul's
He and I both stumbled across an interesting
truth in Heb. 11 and 12 that I'll have to share sometime related to the
Christian and suffering.My mind is too
fuzzy right now to think it all out, but we just kind of sat and stared at
eachother as the newness of this concept washed over us both.It's amazing when you suddenly realize
something from Scripture you never knew was there before!
I have something new and exciting.Now I just need to find time to open it
up.Last year Laura Ingalls Wilder's
autobiography was put together and published.She had written this back in the 30s or it was discovered then and deemed
not acceptable for readers used to the Little House books.It was finally published last year.It's a huge, hard-back book.I had requested it for my birthday and my
sister-in-law had it on backorder.She
finally gave up and sent me a Barnes and Noble gift card last week.I checked on-line and the book was going for
$57 on Amazon and $100 on half. com!Not
worth that,I don't think.I figured I'd have to wait until it lost some
of its popularity.But then Friday night
I was out while the kids were at the Single Parents deal and I found it at
Barnes and Noble - $40.I haven't had
time to read it yet, but I like to pick it up and just hold it right now.I can't wait!
The other day I heard Ellie shrieking at
Lizzie, "You're not my sister!"And so, it begins...
I was checking out at a store, also on Friday
night, when I happened to glance at the clerk's - a gal in her early twenties,
probably - arms.It took me a minute to
realize what I was looking at but her left arm was completely scarred with
razor blade slices.She's a cutter.Or she was.The marks didn't appear to be fresh wounds anymore.I've read about that, but never seen it
The other day I was attempting to kill a wasp
in the dining room.Sam was decidedly
nervous and eventually commented, "You know, if Adam and Eve had not
sinned, then I wouldn't be so scared right now!"
Ellie has her dental surgery this Thursday
somewhere between 8 and 8:30.We have to
be there at 7.Lizzie and Sam are both
so excited about the surgery because they know I purchased the new movie,
"Annie" for Ellie's recovery.It's a surprise for Ellie, though.But the poor kid probably thinks she has really sadistic siblings.Sam keeps excitedly asking, "How many
more days until Ellie has her surgery?"Ellie does have a bit of a runny nose and I had made the comment over
the weekend that I didn't know if she would be cleared for the surgery at her
pre-op visit on Monday because of that (she was).So Lizzie said to Ellie, "Please don't
be sick or my heart will be broken!"No wonder Ellie doesn't want to be her sister anymore!
I read a disturbing story today about a Cedar
Falls toddler who died recently after getting his tonsils removed.Makes me a little more nervous about these
"minor" surgeries the girls have had to do.
Well, I have got to get to bed.David is relaxing
in the tub now in an attempt to feel better with his cold.He needs to get out.I've gotten very little sleep for about 4
nights in a row now.I'm going to
collapse if I don't get some tonight!
It's one of those nice, sunny and warm April
days that makes you think winter is now a distant memory -until you look at next week's forecast, which
is cold and rainy.But I'll enjoy today,
This whole week has been really nice.I've been slowly whittling down my wood pile
with the good weather.That means I'm
moving it by wheelbarrow load from its home in front of the propane tank to the
other end of the property by the fruit trees.It's a big job.I go out once an
hour and move one load.I was afraid
maybe it would be termite infested by now, but I haven't found one yet - just
some slugs and worms.
I got my article written and a friend edited
for me.She's so good at what she
does.Every time I write something I
think, "I don't need an editor!" and every time I find mistakes later
(like after publication - how embarrassing).Now I just need to think of a snazzy title before submitting it.
We went to Waterloo over the weekend - where
Ellie gotsick.She had diarrhea on Sat. night which meant we
put her on a bath towel while Dad and I ran to Kmart to buy more underwear for
her.And then she threw up Sunday
morning.She's fine now, but I hear my
parents weren't so fortunate.I feel
like the worst daughter in the world, bringing the plague into their house.We, however, are all fine here.Ben did have a nasty cold earlier this week
but is on the mend.He went to school
Yesterday was Ben's dental appointment in Iowa
City.He did fine.They took xrays and said his wisdom teeth
won't be ready to come out for another 4-5 years, which is great news.The dr there commented that girls' jaws
develop more quickly than boys' do.I
did not know that.
In a week and a half Will and I meet with the
oral surgeon about his wisdom teeth.I
don't know if he's going to be able to get them out in between the end of
classes in May and before he heads up to camp or if he'll have to wait until
Ellie's dental surgery is a week from
today.Too much teeth stuff!
While I was driving in Iowa City yesterday I
drove by an apartment building that billed itself as "Dark
Place."I thought that was kind of
odd and a potential impediment to securing renters.I immediately began thinking of the fun one
could have with that, though: "Yes, well, I'm in a rather dark place right
now."Ha, ha, ha...Then I realized
that I had, once again, read something too fast.The apartments were Park Place...not
nearly so much fun!
Ellie was "helping" me cook this
week.I gave her a bag of cheese and
told her to sprinkle it on the bread.As
she did so, I heard her saying, "Sprink, sprink, sprink!"
My contractor came out for a few hours on
Tuesday and got about half the back of the kitchen done.I'm really trying not to be impatient.If Paul was alive the siding would be years
away yet and I'd still be living in a construction mess inside the house.So, really, even if it takes this guy all
summer long to get my house done, I'm still way-y-y ahead of what it would have
been.Hopefully he'll come out tonight
and get some more up.
I have found that this week has been a little
harder, grief-wise.I wondered if it is
because the work on the house is getting done.And, of course, that was supposed to be Paul's job.But maybe that has nothing to do with
it.Maybe it's just one of those grief
swells (notice - not a "wave," but a "swell").
I read something really, really good last
night, written by the author of the blog, "One Fit Widow."She talked about how her son was just a baby
when his dad died.But yet there are
still times this boy, now several years older, really, really struggles with
the fact that his father died, despite never having known him.She wrote about her helplessness and
inability to fix this in her son's life.Boy, can I relate!I almostthink my teenagers have done better with
losing Paul than Sam has.But the author
went on to point out the things that she has been able to give her son:
* resiliency: our kids learn that life can go
on, despite enduring the worst possible loss
* love: our kids learn that you can love
someone well who has died
* life: learning that it matters
* joy: this is choice we can make in our
homes, despite what has happened
Anyway, I saved this particular post.I'll probably want to read it again.Or a hundred times.
I am getting such a kick out of Sam these
days.Ok, I've been doing that since he
was born.He's just such a unique little
guy.Even today I was watching him do
his math problems and I wondered if his teacher next year will appreciate the
cute little way he holds his pencil in his left hand - something that just
seems so foreign to me in this family of right-handed people.I hope she does.Sam has had a lot of deep, spiritual
questions lately.Some have to do with
Paul's death, but a lot pertain to salvation.He's having a hard time understanding how some people get to hear the
gospel over and over in their lives and how others may only hear it one time
but they're equally responsible for their decision.
The other night he was on my bed and I had PBS
on.They had a program about one of the
concentration camps.I kept it on
because that kind of stuff is important but also because the guy narrating does
some of the Dateline whodunit shows and he has such a compelling voice - I
could listen to it all night long!Some
of the images were pretty gruesome.Sam
knew nothing about the holocaust and had all kinds of questions.He was baffled that an entire continent could
listen to "such a bad guy" (Hitler).I needed to go take a bath and gave Sam the option of turning the tv off
but he wanted to keep watching it.I
wondered, briefly, if this was too heavy for a 7 year old.But this is stuff people need to know.It happened.Seven year olds died in those camps.He didn't have a lot to say later but I know him well enough to know
that he's thinking about it.One of
these days, he'll have some questions for me.
When we were in Waterloo last weekend I had
the kids at a nearby park.There was a
really nice lady there with her kids.I
could sense that Lizzie was intensly interested in these people.She's pretty sociable, anyway, but this
interest went beyond what she is normally.She's just kept hanging around the little boy and mom, in a way that was different from how she typically acts.Well, they were
black.I think she was identifying with
them.She comments fairly often how she
wishes she had more black people to associate with.There's not a whole lot I can do about that.
It was cute.At one point, I was chatting with the mom and Lizzie plopped down beside
me.She asked the lady, "Do you
know that I'm adopted?"It was all
I could do to not laugh out loud!
Will came home yesterday afternoon and got the
new trampoline set up.We all ended up
having to help.What a job!We had one before that Paul assembled.It lasted maybe 5 years or so.Actually, we saved the top when it fell apart
and that's what our pool now sets on.It's the perfect size.I don't
recall Paul having any difficulty putting it together.But this new one was a beast.Of course, all trampolines now are sold with
protective, netted sides.So that makes
for more work.But Will commented how he
wants us to take this down every fall and store it during the winter time.That makes sense, for preserving it, but I
cringe at the idea of the work that's going to take!
The kids are sure enjoying it.
Tomorrow night is a Moms Night Out event.I am looking forward to my hours of
freedom!I have a few errands to run and
then a date with supper and my kindle.
Saturday will be busier.I was invited to a neighbor's "vintage
jewelery" sale (whatever that is) butI don't think I'm going to have time.David has softball practice in the afternoon, which means I have to take
all of us, as well get everything else done in the morning.Then, I think I am actually going to make it
to my Sunday School get-together, which hasn't happened since last fall.They are talking rain this weekend so perhaps
David's practice might get rained out...I would not complain one bit if that
Well, I don't think supper is going to make
itself, although it would be nice if it did.Growing up, I watched the show, "Bewitched."Being an adult now, I totally believe
Samantha's nose-twitching powers were poorly used.If she had half a brain, she would have
gotten out of cooking every night simply by wiggling that nose!
I'm going to start this tonight, but I'm just
killing time until I can put the girls to bed.I am so exhausted!
Today were the spring Special Olympic
games.This was Ben's 5th year to
participate.I can only remember
pleasant weather for one year.I do not
understand why these games cannot be doneat some covered arena.I would
drive out of town for them if it meant I was not risking pneumonia or ear
infections like I do every other year.It's early April in Iowa.It is
not a nice time of year!But every
single year they have these games outdoors.
Today was just awful. The wind was
terrible.It was so, so cold.It was foggy.Rain was intermittingly spitting out.All the bleachers were wet because while we slept it did more than just
spit.I had planned to take everyone but
when I looked out my window this morning I had second thoughts.I'm glad I didn't take them.Ben and I made a bee-line back to the van
after the opening ceremonies and sat there for an hour with the heat cranked
up.And then we went out for his 100m
dash and turbo jab throw (something new he tried this year - he did well and
got second place).And then we were
right back in that van!Even with those
warming breaks my joints are so achy today and I think it's from the cold.
And then, we're in the (warm, thankfully)
gymnasium waiting for the kids' ribbons when one of Ben's teammates begins
vomiting right there in the bleachers.The other adults associated with our team immediately begin rounding up
a garbage can, rags, the school custodian and rubbing the sick girl's
back.I'm paralyzed and don't move a
muscle, other than to begin quietly gagging myself into the collar of my
coat.My only thought is, "Don't
touch her!She's got the plague!"I don't do vomit.But my goodness, what a wretched human I
As soon as I get the girls to bed I am going
to take a hot, hot bath...
You know, something occurred to me while I was
in Florida.Walking 12 or so miles a day
provides lot of thinking time.I found I
was not overly fond of Florida weather.It was either hot and humid or cool.I didn't mind the coolness, actually.I could not imagine going to one of those parks in the heat of summer,
though.August in Iowa gets pretty
miserable - what must it be like in Florida?
It occurred to me that comfort is pretty big
desire of mine.In fact, a lot - not all
- of my life is spent ensuring my personal comfort.It is a huge motivating factor in my
life.My first thought was well, maybe
this is just a human trait in general.We crave comfort and do what we can to provide it for ourselves.That may be true to a certain extent, but I
think we are differently motivated by different things.Some people crave power and/or fame and spend
most their lives pursuing them.I could
not care less about those things.Some
people want riches.I'm not there,
either, other than desiring to have enough in order to make my life
comfortable.I don't know if there are
any other large motivating factors in people's lives - revenge for a select
few, maybe?I don't know.
But comfort is mine.I'm not happy unless my environment is about
a perfect 72 degrees.The idea of losing
power to the furnace or air conditioner is enough to cause my heart to
race.I avoid activities that require me
to spend any amount of time in uncomfortable temperatures, which is why I began
this post complaining loudly about having to attend Ben's games today.As mentioned, money is important to me in the
sense that it provides everything I need to be comfortable.If I'm not cool/warm enough, fed enough, have
a soft-enough bed, then I'm not happy.Paul was never like this.He
always operated on a priority level, which, I imagine, is a healthier way to
live.He could easily work in unpleasant
conditions and wouldn't think of stopping to eat until I threw a fit about it if
he had a greater goal in mind for the present time.
While on the trip and complaining loudly to
myself (mentally) about the cramped quarters, inability to stretch often, and
necessity of sleeping two nights in the seats, I found myself thinking of the European
Jews during WWII.I've always been
fascinated by that war and have read a lot detailing the Holocaust.It makes for sickening reading at times, but
I feel almost obligated to make myself to do it.Anyway, I reminded myself as I complained
about how the Jews were loaded into cattle cars so tightly they couldn't even
sit.I imagine the temperatures were
brutal, both hot and cold, there were no bathrooms and no food.And they were headed for either death,
torture, work, and starvation.And I'm
whining about my trip to amusement parks?
Then today while standing on the sidelines
waiting for Ben's events to begin, I found myself thinking about the Jews
again.It was so cold and my
hands were going numb as I tried to hold the camera in preparation for the
perfect shot of Ben. The wind whipped my hair and went right through the two
coats, long underwear top, and tshirt I had on.I was miserable.I thought of the prisoners in the
concentration camps lined up every morning and evening for roll call -
underdressed for the European winters, overworked, grieving, fearful, and
starving.And I'm going to complain?
My weakness and focus on self bothers
me more and more.
Sunday was Easter.I felt like it snuck up on me this year,
which it did, with the trip.This is the
first trip where I really could not find much in the way of souveniers for
myself, which was great.It meant that I
came in way under-budget.The only things
I bought for myself were a small surfboard magnet for the fridge and some
really cute owl key covers for my keyring - which had nothing to do with
Florida. But I found them at the Ron Jon Surf shop and liked them.But I did find things for all the kids.And, smart mom that I am, I saved them for
their Easter baskets!So, they kind of
got gypped, but I don't think they've figured that out yet.
I did pull together our traditional Easter
meal, though.I cooked a real ham, not a
ham loaf like I normally do.That got a
thumbs up from most of the kids.Ellie
refused to eat hers when Will mentioned that hams come from pig rear ends."I don't want to eat a pig's butt!"
she wailed at the dinner table.David
reported that the potatoes were "watery" but I think he should just
be grateful that they were real potatoes and not something instant.
I had David digging out the Easter baskets at
10:00 Saturday night.Fortunately, I had
bought the candy (way too much, as usual) before Florida.Saturday ended up being a super-busy day but
I still managed to slip in egg-dying with the kids.
Sunday was nice.For the second year in a row I got to skip
the Easter breakfast (one of the "goods" to come from Paul's death -
I'm kind of terrible, I think!).We had
a cantata at church that morning.And
that evening we had something special.In the last year, the area churches in our association have formed a
joint choir.That night, we went up to
Faith and listened to them sing and, best of all, watched this amazing play.
It was called, "The Centurion" so I
figured I knew what it was about.I
assumed it would be about the centurion at the cross who believes.I was really surprised when the play
continued on past the cross.I
quickly realized that the centurion in this play was A centurion, not THE
centurion.I was absolutely riveted for
rest of the play.It dealt with the next
30 years after Christ's death and culminated with the martyrdom of the main
characters at the hands of Nero.I sat
there thinking how much I would love to write something like this.It was so well-written and so
well-acted.On the way home, David had
all kinds of questions.He had never
heard of Nero, I don't think.This was
definitely the highlight of Easter for me.I'm so glad we went!
Saturday I was able to take the girls to the
Des Moines ballet.A friend of mine had
been given free tickets again.Now, my
entertainment tastes are rather low brow.At least, they're not as high brow as those in the ballet world,
anyway.If I'm going to watch live entertainment
I prefer a vocal concert or a musical or play.The ballet is none of that.But,
two years ago I got to do this with Lizzie, who was absolutely entranced.So, I wanted to take Ellie this time.I was able to take both girls, as it turned
out.I think Ellie may have been a
little too young.She spent the entire
first half squirming on my lap and threatening to wet her pants if I didn't
take her to the bathroom RIGHT NOW!But
we were in the middle of the row and I wasn't about to shuffle out in the dark
with two little kids.And, besides, I
did my part.We visited the bathroom
before the thing started.So I made her
wait - and prayed that she would not wet herself or worse until intermission!
And then that night we had company.This was kind of a last-minute thing.The night before Will had mentioned that
Nathanael was coming to pick up our old loveseat for his new house.Then, he got the idea that he should invite
Janey, too, and I should feed them supper.It was no problem.I was already
planning on doing pulled pork sandwiches for dinner.We had a really nice time.It's a little surreal to have a guy who used
to be a scrawny teenager sprawled out on my couch playing video games with Will
(although he was always anxious to help me, I recall, unlike some of Will's
other friends) showing up for dinner with his wife.
Time stops for nobody.
I suddenly realized late last night that
yesterday was April 7th.Twenty-five
years ago Paul and I were on our first date.It didn't make me feel sad - just nostalgic.I remember 10 years ago he took me back up to
Ankeny on the same date and we went to Godfather's again (the site of our first
date).Only it had already moved across
town by then so it was a different restaurant.I wonder if it is still up there?I know Godfathers have been closing right and left in recent years.I remember telling Paul a few years ago that
we'd have to do something really special to mark April 7, 2015.I wonder what we would have done?
The siding work on my house has officially
begun.Less than half of one side is now
completed.And my contractor informed me
that starting next week he'll only be available nights and weekends.I guess he's going to work for someone else.So this project may stretch out for
awhile.It's not like I'm not used to
I was kind of excited last Friday when the
semi-load of siding was delivered.I had
no idea what I had picked for color.I
ordered off a little 2"X6" rectangle.I knew I wanted gray and there were only 3 choices.One was the pale color that's on the house
now, one looked beige-y to me, and there was this color that I went with
(called "deluxe" which probably means a jump in my final price).I like it.It's a "rich" gray color.I'm almost wondering if it will look blue in certain light.Oh well - it's mine now.I'm going to clean and re-paint the shutters
for the front of the house.I need to
get my house numbers painted, too, so those can be hung.This is the last item on my agenda for
completing the house.After this, it's
I remembered a couple other things from
Florida that I wanted to write about.When we were in Epcot Sunday evening we just happened to be walking by a
stage where a group was performing.They
were being introduced and it was the 80's group, "Starship."That was so cool to me because Paul's and my
"song" had always kind of been, "We Can Build this Dream
Together" - which we did, year by year, decision by decision, and
experience by experience.So Ben and I
got to stand there and hear the entire thing.It made me miss Paul more than I already was, but it wasn't a sad thing,
We were at Animal Kingdom earlier that same
day when all of a sudden, I felt my left ring finger and momentarily panicked
because I couldn't feel my wedding ring.This is not the first time this has happened.Why do I do this?I have not worn my wedding rings since 4
months after Paul's death.I have my
other rings on the third finger of that hand now.But somewhere in the recesses of my psyche I
am convinced that I still need to have those rings on.
Or else I'm just going crazy.
This is all I have on my list to write about.This afternoon I'll be doing some writing of
a different kind.My article for RBP is
due two weeks from today.This thing has
been hanging over my head since I agreed to write it about two weeks ago.I feel guilty for doing anything (even writing
on my blog) else in the meantime so I have got to get it written today!I still don't know exactly what I'm going to
say.I never do, though, until I sit
down and then the words just kind of pour out of my fingertips.
Better keep moving.The girls are in rare (normal) form today -
sounds like David needs my help in the kitchen!
"Florida Report" doesn't sound like
something fun to read - more like something cranked out by a consulting firm
for some need or other! But I don't feel
right entitling this "My Super Duper fun Vacation," either, because
I went for Ben. And I don't regret that one bit. He had an absolute blast. With all he's endured in his lifetime, I'm
very grateful I was able to give this experience to him.
The trip to and from Florida was arduous, to
say the least. Florida is a LONG ways
away from Iowa. Our charter bus was
old. They had a coffin-like appendage
hanging down in the front of the bus covering the first 4 or so seats so that
everyone had to hunch over to get to and from the entrance. It was
a bed for the drivers to take turns using as they drove through the night. Who thought of this set-up? The seats were cramped. I did a lot of reading. I worked a bit on an article I'm writing that
I have to have turned in by April 22. I
stared out the window quite a bit. Now that
I found it amusing to look down into people's
cars as we went by and into semi-truck cabs.
What was NOT amusing was the number of people - including semi-drivers -
who were scrolling through Facebook or texting as they drove. You hear about this kind of stuff on the
news, but until you see it like I did, you don't realize how dangerous
it really is out there on the road! One
semi-driver I saw had a book propped up against the steering wheel. Should I give him props for being a
reader? It's amazing more of us aren't
dead right now.
Attempting to sleep on the bus for two nights
was beyond horrible. Two Advil PMs were
not enough to make it work for me. I
tossed and turned and I couldn't stretch out and I got rug burns on my elbows
from repeatedly scraping the seat cushions.
I got kinks in my back and neck.
This may be an old lady problem; I don't know. The two teenagers to our left dozed almost
day Thursday. They were part of the
school group that returned from a trip to Belize at 11 pm the night before and
had to be at the school by 6 am to load up for the Orlando trip.
I'm not sure where to stick this in where it
will flow well, so I'll just do it here: Leggings. Leggings, ladies and gentlemen, are NOT
pants. But nobody seems aware of
this. I had the foresight to dress Ben
and myself in sweats for the trip down thinking we'd want to be comfortable
sitting for a 24 hour shot. Now, I like
leggings, actually. Lizzie has several
pairs and underneath a short dress or a long top, they're really cute. But I think every high school girl on this
trip dressed in leggings but they didn't pair them with a long top! They are a very unforgiving garment. Nothing is hidden when you encase your rear
end in a pair of skin tight leggings.
Even the foreign exchange, Muslim, girl that went on the trip wore her
leggings. She was careful to only wear
long sleeves and had all her hair covered at all times - even at the
beach. But she also wore leggings the
entire trip and they showed off things that I'm fairly certain would be
offensive to Muslim dictates. Maybe? Or am I just showing my age? I don't know.
We made it down to Orlando Friday morning and
were immediately taken to the first Disney Park - Hollywood Studios. I wasn't all that impressed. Ben wanted to ride roller coasters. I've never been overly fond of fast moving
rides, but who else was going to ride with him?
We had fast passes (Disney allows you to sign up in advance for three
rides/shows a day where you get to go through the "fast" lane rather
than waiting in the regular lane from anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours,
depending on the popularity of the attraction) for three. We used two.
When Ben figured out that we'd have to go clear to one end of the park
and then back to the other end for another ride, he wasn't interested and I
It was really humid on Friday and my hair was
going crazy. Fortunately, I had a
headband with me and was able to slick back most of the frizz with it. We left the park around 3 and were
immediately taken to Disney Downtown, which is this huge shopping area.
Expensive shopping area. Everything at Disney is expensive.
By this time it was raining. One of the best purchases I made in
anticipation of this trip was a $40 LL Bean lightweight backpack. I carried that thing everywhere and it came in
so handy. I was able to whip out two
umbrellas for Ben and me. Unfortunately,
we discovered that neither one worked well.
We got wet. After awhile we just
found some chairs under a canopy at a restaurant and sat for a long time. Then, we were herded to a Cirque du Soleil
This was really impressive. I had no idea what Cirque du Soleil was. It's circus acts minus any animals. It's a lot of acrobatic stunts and
comedy. I was so exhausted I kept
falling asleep during the performance and then I would feel guilty because I
knew I will probably never again in my life see these performers again. And the performers are - amazing.
Then, we finally got to go to our hotel. I was in charge of 8 other girls on my
floor. All that meant was they had to
periodically check in with me and I had to make sure they were in their beds at
curfew. By the end of the trip, some of
them were coming to me with problems.
One teenager got a severe sunburn at the beach and wondered what to do
about her bra. I told her to just skip
the thing. She didn't want to do
that. I remembered I had a sports bra I
had brought along for sleeping so I offered that to her. She was so grateful. I also tracked down some sunburn spray for
her. I bit my tongue. All of the chaperones warned the kids quite
strongly about the dangers of the sun.
But I remember being 16, too. I
probably wouldn't have listened all that well, either.
The next morning we returned to Cirque du
Soleil. I guess this was the
"educational" portion of the trip.
We got a backstage tour of the circus where the guide would hyperventilate
if anyone breathed on anything they were not supposed to. I found it annoying and the whole thing
boring. We didn't even get to meet the
performers - just saw where they worked and how some of the stunts were put
Then, we went to Cocoa Beach. This was probably my favorite part of the
trip. It was cool that day. When we pulled into the beach, a nearby bank
sign informed us it was 65 degrees. And
there was a good wind from time to time.
So, I rented beach chairs for Ben and myself (where they required my
driver's license and a deposit - how valuable are these chairs, anyway?) and
plopped down in the sand. I already had
my suit on and I swapped out my shirt for my beach cover-up. And I never took it off. It was too cold!
But again, I am an old lady. As soon as those teenagers hit the sand, they
were pulling off their t-shirts and running into the surf in their little bitty
bikinis. They're the ones that got
sunburned. I was very careful to use my
sunscreen but my scalp got burned. Right
where I part my hair, my head is still pink!
It was relaxing. Eventually, all the teachers on the trip
rented chairs too and placed them near mine.
I had some nice conversations that day with them. One of the teachers has taught both Will and
Ben. He told me "your boys have
changed our school!" He said that
Will is one of those rare students that he felt taught him more than he was
able to teach Will. We had a great
conversations about homeschooling and special needs children and other things. We even talked about Christianity, which I
One of the teachers reiterated to me how much
Ben is loved by his fellow students. He
commented that he thought if some teacher were ever to give Ben a hard time
about anything, the other students would immediately rise up in his
defense. I saw this affection on the
trip that the kids have for Ben. They
genuinely like him and are not put off by his quirks. At one point Ben was doing his little
"gallop" thing that has always irritated me and I've always attempted
to stop when I see him doing. But his
music teacher laughed and said, "Oh, I love it when Ben does that - that
means he's excited!" Would this
have happened in any other school district?
I don't know. I know it sure
didn't when Ben was in kindergarten up in the Missouri Valley school. I think of all the things that transpired
that eventually led to Ben attending Pleasantville and it makes me think that
God must have had His hand in every
little event, knowing where Ben needed to be.
That evening we were back at the hotel
earlier, which I appreciated. Ben
discovered a hot tub and I was able to relax for awhile in my room. The girls called me and then Will did,
too. I felt much better after talking to
all of them. I kind of forgot about Ben
being down in the hot tub until one of the teachers delivered a dripping boy to
my door. He said that Ben couldn't
remember his room number, so they had the concierge look it up and make a key
for him. I felt like not-such-a-good mom
at that moment.
Sunday we did both Animal Kingdom and
Epcot. It was a still a cooler day,
which I appreciated. We saw a Lion King
show at Animal Kingdom that was very well done.
Actually, everything Disney does is top rate. That said, we were on two different rides
that broke down at different times and another ride at the Magic Kingdom that
we had fast passes for had to be delayed until they got it running again.
I was impressed by Epcot. It's HUGE, though - so much walking. Our tour coordinator had a fit bit and she
visited the parks along with us, although probably did not do nearly as much
walking as most of us did. Sunday
evening she said her fitbit was registering that she had walked just under 10
miles that day. No wonder I got a
blister on one of my feet! But God bless
Clark sandals...they were the best thing I could have bought for this trip.
One of the neatest rides we did at Epcot was
called "Soarin'." I really
enjoyed this. There are a number of rows
and the rows slowly rotate upwards, downwards, and back and forth. Meanwhile, you are viewing this wrap-around
screen of scenery - all kinds - deserts, golf courses, rapids, plains. It was so realistic that I found myself
lifting my feet as we would approach banks of trees, so that I wouldn't hit
them! It must be something like what
hangliders experience, only without the danger.
I would gladly do that ride again.
I can't say the same for the bone-jarring roller coasters Ben preferred.
Half of Epcot is divided up into
"countries." You'll find
restaurants and shops designed to give you an experience as though you just
stepped into one of these actual countries.
It was really cool. Ben and I
spent quite a few hours in that section.
It was as we were walking through Germany, I believe, that I heard Ben
chuckling to himself. I asked him what
was so funny and he replied, "Nothing - I'm just so happy!" I knew in that moment I would do this all
over again. We had our choice of
countries for supper and settled on eating in "America." There was no
question in Ben's mind of where we should go!
I have raised these kids right! Unfortunately, I was served raw steak in
America, after being assurred it would be well cooked.
That evening we all met together again and
watched a fireworks show they do over the water. I've seen fireworks before, so I wasn't all
that blown away. Plus, I was tired!
Monday we did the Magic Kingdom. I never want to go there again. It was crowded. I don't know how anyone dealing with obesity,
a stroller, or scooter even survived. It
was so crowded you sometimes came to a complete standstill waiting for others
to get out of your way. Not my idea of a
good time! It's billed as the
"happiest place on earth" but I sure saw a lot of unhappy children
and parents. It was a hot again that
day, too. But Ben enjoyed it. We took one ride just to sit down that
basically circulated over the majority of the park, pointing out different
attractions. It was from there that Ben
saw a racetrack where he could drive. He
wanted to do that. So, we waited in line
for 40 minutes and he got to drive. He
That evening we loaded up onto our bus and
headed northward. We got home at 7:00
Tuesday night, 2 1/2 hours ahead of schedule.
I wasn't about to complain about that!
I was SO happy to be home!
Ben loved the trip. I'm so thankful that
it was everything he was hoping for. I
did it for him and I would do it again.
But I wouldn't do it for me.
I really struggled during the trip with grief
over Paul. That surprised me. I also missed the rest of my kids
tremendously. I kept noticing these
families at the parks and I felt sad that it was just Ben and me. I think a lot of it was that I remember past
family vacations when we were all together - not that we ever went to Disney -
and I wanted that happiness back. I am
convinced now that it's not so much where you vacation, but it's the act of
being on an adventure together. I am
anxious to take my kids back to Silver Dollar City and the Wisconsin Dells
because we had some wonderful family trips there in the past. It's not so much the locations themselves as
it was the fact that we were together.
I don't think we'll ever be together at
Disney, though. I honestly have no
desire to go back. Florida has rotten
weather - a brutal sun and some real humidity. I also got my first insect bites
of the season - something that would never happen this early in the year in the
midwest. I figured up that for our
family to do everything we did on this trip, I would be looking at a minimum of
spending $5000. And it would probably be
closer to $6 or 7000 by the time you add in food and travel. That's a chunk of change!
The food and souvenier prices at Disney are
very, very high. The cheapest meal Ben
and I ever had was about $14 a person - for a hamburger, fries, and drink. Disney does allow you to bring food into the
park but there's only so much you want to carry around on your back, too.
I'm sure there are plenty of people out there
who will disagree with everything I've written.
They'll point to their own Disney experiences and say it was the
greatest trip of their lifetime. And
maybe it was. If Paul and I had gone
with the kids at some point we might have said the same thing, too.
But I don't regret going. Ben has some awesome memories he will carry
around the rest of his life.
I haven't written about the best part of my
trip yet. It happened yesterday
morning. I went over to Jenn's to pick
up the girls. I couldn't drive fast
enough. I walked in the door and Ellie
spied me first. She ran to me and jumped
into my arms, burrowing her head into my chest.
She clung so tightly I thought she was going to bruise me. We sat there for the longest time, me
crouched on my knees and she with her entire body pressed against mine. And then Lizzie saw me and ran over too. She actually knocked me backwards.
held her little braided head and I knew I was right where I belong.