Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Day 686

April 21, 2015

Day 686


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 this one!


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 couples  walking hand in hand, enjoying the beautiful spring weather. 

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 transition.


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 Saturday night.


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.  I  need 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've  scheduled 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 date.


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 death.


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 first-hand.  Sad.


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!

































Thursday, April 16, 2015

Day 681


April 16, 2015

Day 681


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, anyway.


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 got  sick.  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 today.


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 Christmas break.


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 almost  think 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) but  I 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 happened!


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!





























Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Day 673

April 8, 2015

Day 673




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 done  at 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 am...


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 that!


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 all maintenance.


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, either.


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!






































Thursday, April 2, 2015

Florida Report

Florida Report
April 2, 2015

"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 it wasn't.

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.

I endured.

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 was scary!

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.  Sigh...

Hollywood Studios
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 wasn't, either.

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 show.

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 together.

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 found interesting.

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 liked that.

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.

  And I held her little braided head and I knew I was right where I belong.