Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Day 321

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

April 22, 2014

Day 321

I’m watching the number count on my posts – it won’t be long before I’m at Day 365. 

Completely safe with Daddy...David '03
I don’t have any definite plans yet for the actual one year anniversary day.  Maybe it will end up being just a normal Friday.  Will will be coming home late that night from his first full week at camp.  Sam and Lizzie will have VBS and that night is the program.  I have to be there for that.   The next day the boys have their final games and picnic.  Then, later that afternoon, we’ll do a balloon release at Paul’s grave.  I know the idea is a bit hokey and overused these days, but I like it.  I think we’ll do green and yellow balloons.  My friend, Julie, is going to photograph that and then we’ll do some family photos.  I just talked with my friend and neighbor, Lynne, yesterday, and she’s pretty confident she and her cousin will have our quilts (made out of Paul’s clothing) done by then so we can incorporate at least one into the family photos.  And then, maybe we’ll go out to eat.  Or maybe we’ll do that the next day.  I don't want to be a slave to the anniversary date, but I don’t ever want to not observe it, either.  At least that’s how I feel now.  I don’t know – maybe 25 years from now I’ll pause from whatever I’m doing and think, “Huh – it’s June 6th.  I had forgotten!”  Except, of course, I never will.
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Saturday I had a really special time with my friend, Vivian, who has been widowed for 12 years, beginning when she was 41.  Her husband’s death was very unexpected, as well.  As I had previously, mentioned, Vivian took me for my first pedicure.  I’m not so sure I’m the pedicure “type” although my nails are never not painted in warmer months.  First off, the people at the place we went to were all Vietnamese and spoke very broken English, to the point that my gal was having to gesture to me because I could not understand what she was saying!  I felt a little rude sitting there talking to my friend while this little gal worked on my ugly feet.  It seemed kind of rude, somehow, like she was a servant and I was this pampered princess!  They put me in this vibrating chair.  I know it’s supposed to feel good, but all I felt was pummelled.  Eventually, I had to turn the thing off.  It was vibrating so hard I was afraid I’d spill my pop all down my front! 

I happened to look at the price list hanging on the wall.  Wow – paying someone else to do your nails is pricey business.  I could see it maybe for a special occasion, but not as a regular thing.  My toes do look awfully pretty, though!

Vivian had a birthday present for me, too.  She gave me a brand new GPS!  I have never had one and have always relied on Mapquest, which is not always extremely reliable.  Plus, it’s not always that safe to be shifting papers and trying to figure out directions while in the midst of driving.  But ever since Paul died I have gotten lost more than it seems like I used to.  My brain is just not all there, I don’t think.  Now I don’t have to worry about it!  Vivian said buying a GPS was a lifesaver for her and she wanted me to have that same reassurance when I’m on the road.

Sweetness...Ben - age 6
Vivian took me to lunch, along with her mother, who was in town.  Her mom had a severe stroke a number of years ago and still struggles with the effects from that.  I found myself feeling very tender towards her – I am sure it’s because of my own stroke and being reminded of how badly that could have turned out.

Vivian and I talked about all kinds of things, widow-related.  She shared how she used to be a lot like me – very dependent on her husband and feeling so lost when he died.  But now, she’s grown to be extremely independent.  Paul always complained I was already too independent for his preference (I don’t see that.  I never did when he’d comment on that.  All I see are the ways I needed him and how much I’m floundering without his help and guidance) so that makes me wonder just how independent I will be a dozen years from now!  That could make the issue of a potential re-marriage a bit tricky, I suppose.

And we  talked quite a bit about the option of re-marriage.  I found myself thinking on that later.  Vivian talked about other widows she had known who remarried very quickly for a variety of reasons – to have a father for their kids, for security, etc.  I suppose one could come up with a long list of reasons to re-marry.  But I don’t want that.  If I remarry at some point I want it to be because I’m in love and can’t imagine my life without this person as my spouse and because I know that God is directing my steps toward this other person.  Right now, I feel very incomplete as a person.  I think that’s understandable.  Half my life, identity, and future was ripped away in minutes.  But I know it would not be fair for me to marry another person while in this state.  I need to be complete before I ever contemplate re-marriage and expecting another person to complete me.  It won’t happen.

I say that, though, and have to wonder if I’m just idealistic and have bought into this western notion of the soulmate and true love topping the list of all human experiences.  The very first Christian romance stories I read as a teenager were Jeanette Oke’s, “Love Comes Softly” series.  Paul actually owned those, too, believe it or not! He bought me the entire video series a few years ago.  I wasn’t overly fond of those because they deviated so much from the books.   Her books were set in the mid to late 1800s during America’s westward expansion (although she’s Canadian – were the books actually set in Canada and I just assumed all these years they were about the United States?  Hmmm…).  In the first book, the main character, Marty, is a pregnant newlywed when her young husband dies unexpectedly (thrown from a horse, maybe?  It’s been decades since I last read these).  Rather than remain in the wagon train she is encouraged to marry a local farmer, a widower with a young daughter.  They don’t love each other, they don’t even know each other, but for pragmatic reasons, this couple decides to make it work.  Eventually, the love comes and they live out their very happy life together.  So there’s nothing to say that love HAS to be at the top of reasons for a couple to choose marriage.  But I would think it would help.

I’m not going to be able to figure this all out.  But as long as I keep asking God for wisdom and rely on Him to direct my footsteps, I don’t think I can go too wrong when it comes to the possibility of choosing another mate someday – or really, any decision I have to make along this journey.

I have realized, lately, too, that I am questioning Paul more these days.  What I mean by that is that he was very opinionated on a number of things.  If there was any subject that arose that was addressed in Scripture, or had a Biblical principle that could be applied,  he was all over it.  Once he decided something, there was no changing his mind – that was true of everything, whether we were talking doctrine or the right way to make pancakes.  Some things I disagreed with.  If I felt it was important, we’d fight about it.  Other times, I just kept my own counsel and let him have his own (wrong) opinion.  And, sometimes, I accepted his beliefs as my own.  Some things – a lot of things – I completely agreed with him about.  But other things, I didn’t have an opinion, so it was far easier to accept my husband’s, than to think things through for myself.

But now I’m thinking.  I actually realized this a few months ago, but I’m even more aware these days of what is happening inside me.  I find myself questioning Paul’s stance on things like divorce and remarriage, alcohol consumption, dancing (only because of Nathanael’s upcoming wedding – I’ve had to think this one through), and even silly things like wearing pants to church.  He had definitely opinions on these things, along with other things.  I’m not backsliding, I’m not turning into a heretic.  I’m thinking.  I find myself searching for answers in Scripture myself more than I ever have before.  That has to be a good thing.  What I end up determining will influence how I live the rest of my life and how I raise the kids still at home.

A widowed friend recently commented to me about how we share the commonality of single parenthood.  Seeing that in print startled me.  Obviously, it’s not a news flash.  I’ve been aware for some time that I am doing this alone now.  But, I think I have been so focused on being a widow, that I have tended to not look at my other role, that of single parent.  I’ve done it, of course, because I haven’t had a choice, but I haven’t had long thinking sessions where I’ve mused about single parenthood.  I’m thinking about it more right now.  

Re-siding the old house.  10 yrs later I am getting ready to re-side this house - it's going to be a different process this time around - but I think the boys learned more the first time.
I have had at least one divorced friend comment to me that I have it “better” than she does and I can see that.  I don’t have an ex-spouse I have to try to get along with, even though the sight of him makes my heart ache and my fingers tingle with the desire to wrap themselves around his neck.  I don’t have to worry about my kids’ safety when they spend a weekend with their father or fret about the influence of his family or a new stepmom.  I don’t have to worry about going back to work because my deadbeat ex won’t pay child support and the local collections office is backed up.  My children aren’t looking at me with betrayal and anger in their eyes because I split up their home and took away their security.

But…I don’t get a break, either.  I am “on” all the time now.  I have to grieve while making lunches, cleaning the house, figuring out why the van is making that funny noise, and carrying load after load of laundry upstairs.  Sometimes I can cry once all the kids are in bed, but I’m usually too exhausted by then.  Nobody else is responsible.  If I have a child stray off the right path, it’s going to be all my fault.  If I have to make a major decision about a child, the repercussions are on me. 

I guess any way it happens, single parenthood is just plain tough.  And I chose this, but I have to think that there is a pretty vast difference between being a single parent to one child, versus six.

It can be pretty easy to feel sorry for myself because my life IS hard these days.  But then I remind myself that God knew all this.  He gave us all these kids knowing full well I’d be raising most of them myself.  He allowed Paul to die, knowing that would leave me to parent alone.  He knew that would put me in a nearly impossible situation where it’d be unlikely I could cope. 

He knew that it would bring me to the end of myself, forcing me to look up…

which is where He wanted my eyes all along.





















































Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 317


DIARY OF AN UNWILING WIDOW
April 18, 2014


 

Day 317

 

Today has been a good day.  I took my friend, Tammy, shopping.  This is Nathanael’s mom and we needed to find her a good mother-of-the-groom outfit for the wedding.  She is not one to ever shop for herself, so it was great fun for me to help her find something beautiful.  I appreciated the conversation as well.  She and I have 14 kids between us (none of whom accompanied us), so I have a feeling she did, too!  And we did find her a gorgeous dress, shoes, and jewelry suitable for the occasion and fitting her simple tastes as well.  I enjoyed it.

 

Tomorrow I get to go out again.  My friend Vivian is taking me for my first pedicure and out to lunch.  We were supposed to do this a month ago for my birthday, but I got so sick.  I’m not so sure about the toe thing – I have extremely ticklish feet!  Then I have some errands to run on my own and then I need to come home and cook Easter dinner and get the kids’ baskets put together.  I may fall into bed by 1am if I’m lucky – only to awaken an hour early so we can get to the church’s Easter breakfast.  I’d be happy to skip that, but the kids are pretty intent on going.

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I was shopping a week ago at Walmart (a lot of my life seems to be consumed by shopping for some reason) and a store manager saw me with my list and commented that he “loved it” and was seeing quite a few people at the store with lists that day.  I laughed, flipped mine over, and showed it to him, pointing out that it was both typed and organized by store location categories (I remember once Paul’s nephew referring to me as “neurotic” when he saw my shopping lists).  The manager stopped it and mockingly began to raise his arms up and down in front of me, and said, “I bow down!”  I’ll take any adulation I can get these days, even if it's solely for my organizational skills!

 

The girls’ new bunk beds arrived this week and I picked up their mattresses on Wed.  They’re loving them and keeping Ellie contained hasn’t been quite the chore I had envisioned.  Of course, the novelty hasn’t completely worn off yet!  Will and David assembled the bed, which arrived in pieces.  Apparently somewhere on the box it must have said that the bed was intended for children ages 6 and over.  Lizzie pointed that out to me and asked, “Did you lie to the store and tell them I’m 6 so you could buy it?”

 

A postcard arrived in the mail for me this week from the funeral home.  I saw their name on that and was puzzled as to what on earth could they want?  The part of my humor is that is black immediately wondered if it was one of those, “We’ve missed you, please come back” type of ploys by other businesses!  I thought it was funny, anyway…Actually, it was just a note informing me that they planned to take an Easter lily to the church this weekend in honor of Paul.  That’s sweet.  Lilies always make me think of Easter because my dad would always get my mom one every year.  The entire downstairs would be filled with the gentle fragrance that victoriously exclaimed, “He is risen!”  I hinted to Paul several times over the years that that would be something nice for him to do for ME, too, but he never caught the hint.  I guess I’m finally getting my lily from him, huh?

I read these verses one morning this week in my devotions.  It’s not the first time I’ve seen them, of course, but I needed to see them that particular day - Ps. 27:13014:

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

 Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

What encouragement and truth!

Ben had a psychiatric evaluation/IQ test this week.  It’s for his waiver, which is the program that pays for his assistance.  Every few years they have to have some method of determining whether or not the client still needs services.  While the assistant (who showed off half her bosom and had wings tattooed on both her sandaled feet – not a real confidence booster to this staid and traditional middle-aged mother) did the testing with Ben, the psychiatrist sat down with me to get a history on Ben.  I mentioned Paul’s recent death to him and he then asked, “Does Ben have any father figure in my his life, then?”  It pained me to tell him no, he doesn’t.  Not anymore.  I know it’s not my fault, but I feel so guilty about the lack of a dad in my kids’ lives.  Guess I need to refer back to the above verses a little more often!

I got our South Dakota trip planned out this week.  Other than the trip to MN in Feb, this is my first time planning out a real family vacation.  It was harder in some ways without Paul’s input and ideas.  But it was easier, too, because I didn’t need to run anything by him.  I just looked and decided.  I did seek quite a bit of input from the older boys, though.  I have our itinerary set and our reservations made.  I hope it’s a good trip.  Paul had wanted to go to the Badlands for years.  Going now seems like both a way to honor that desire of Paul’s but also kind of masochistic, in a way.
I had to order new address labels this week and new checks a couple of weeks ago.  Those were things I had to order right after Paul’s death, too.  When I did, back then, I ordered everything to read, “Mrs. Sarah Heywood.”  But this time I left off the Mrs.  I know that’s who I am, but it just felt weird to do it now, even though I needed to do it last June.  I guess I’m not really viewing myself as married anymore.  Reality has settled in.
A month ago I received a letter from the lady who was given Paul’s corneas.  I was delighted when that came.  Along with her letter came instructions from the eye bank so that if I wished to write back to her, I could.  I did that today.  I found myself wanting to tell her about the kind of man Paul was – the owner of the eyeballs she now sports in her head.  So I did.  It struck me later that I kept saying, “He was…” Of course I did – duh.  But for the first time it just really hit me.  Paul was.  He isn’t anymore.  He is a past tense.

This is what I’ve been listening to lately.  It’s a song I remember hearing before I ever married, so it’s pretty old.  I liked it back then, but I suddenly thought of it the other day and have been listening to it ever since.  I could have written these words now, at this point in my life!  Reba McEntyre was the one who recorded this.  I believe she did so after several of her band members were killed in a plane crash in the late 80s/early 90s.  But I love it – whoever wrote this is someone who has walked through the pain of death.  It speaks to unexpected death and  regrets, which are something that crowd in and cloud my vision at times.  But mostly, it’s just sorrow, an emotion that I am intimately familiar with.

If I had only known
it was the last walk in the rain,
I'd keep you out for hours in the storm
I would hold your hand
like a life line to my heart
Underneath the thunder we'd be warm
If I had only known
it was our last walk in the rain

If I had only known
I'd never hear your voice again
I'd memorize each thing you ever said
And on those lonely nights
I could think of them once more,
keep your words alive inside my head
If I had only known
I'd never hear your voice again

You were the treasure in my hand
You were the one who always stood beside me
So unaware, I foolishly believed
that you would always be there
But then there came a day
and I turned my head and you slipped away

If I had only known
it was my last night by your side
I'd pray a miracle would stop the dawn
And when you'd smile at me
I would look into your eyes
and make sure you know my love
for you goes on and on
If I had only known
If I had only known
The love I would've shown
If I had only known





 




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Day 309

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

April 10, 2014

Day 309

I think I’ll have to work on this post, little by little today.  I’ve got a lot to do!

Lizzie’s surgery went well yesterday.  I hope I did the right thing.  I had some doubts about the whole idea of yanking out one (two) of her body parts, but it seemed like the right thing to do.  Today she is a little more querulous.  The forced inactivity, sore throat, and limited diet are starting to get to her, I think.  She about cried last night when my friend brought us some supper, a taco dish, and she couldn’t have any!  I do have the recipe and was able to assure Lizzie I’ll make it for her after she heals.

We had to be at the hospital at 6am, which meant I had to be up by 4:30.  As it turned out, I awoke at 4 and was so worried I’d miss my alarm that I never went back to sleep.  Grrr!  Lizzie was all excited and lapped up the attention she got, being the patient,  and cute and little, to boot.

My pastor came and I was so grateful for that.  If Paul had been alive, he would have been there with me.  But as it was, I would have to be there alone.  I knew I had probably more than a dozen people I could ask to come and they would, without hesitation.  But I hated to ask that of anyone, especially knowing it would probably be an early morning situation (there goes that besetting pride again!).  But Sunday Pastor told me to let him know the surgery time and he’d be there.  Oh, how grateful I was for his comforting presence! Having a child’s tonsils out aren’t a major surgery by any means, but it’s kind of lonely to sit in a waiting room all by yourself. Plus, I had the opportunity then to talk with him about a number of things on my mind – finishing my house, Paul’s family, and the possibility of remarriage someday (!), among other things.  It was good and I’m grateful for his time and wisdom.

Monday night I had gone out to eat with a couple of friends and my friend, Debbie, handed me a stuffed dog.  Her 7 year old son had picked it out of his own collection and wanted Lizzie to have it for her surgery.  I about melted – so sweet!

While Lizzie was in recovery they had me come back and they put her on my lap.  A chatty nurse came back and wanted to know how long Lizzie had been adopted.  A lot of times anymore, I forget until I get questioning looks, that Lizzie and I aren’t the same color!  I ended up telling her the whole story.  She exclaimed, when I told her about Paul’s death, “Oh, that’s not fair!”

May '93 - taken in the rain at the Old Market in downtown Omaha when with friends
Not fair?  I guess I haven’t really thought about it in terms of fairness.  I’m not so sure life is intended to be fair, really.  The Bible is full of examples of individuals that seemingly got a raw deal while alive.  Fairness isn’t something that is going to happen until eternity.  I think we Westerners, in particular,  tend to develop a sense of entitledness, born out of the relative ease of most our lives.  Then, when something bad does occur – as it is bound to, living in a sin-sick, dying world – we scream out, “Hey – no fair, NO FAIR!”  It kind of reminds me of a toddler, actually.
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I’ve been doing better this week.  Maybe I just needed to get past the 6th.

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Will put in my octagonal window yesterday in my bedroom – I love it.  It lets so much light in there!  He’s only got about 7 weeks until he leaves and I still have a list of stuff for him to get done around here!  I am scared to death about left alone without him, but I am trying not to dwell on that.  He needs to go.

He also got my new tail lite cover put on the van.  Mine broke out this winter, thanks to a violent encounter with my pastor’s mailbox.  Will had checked at a salvage yard, but didn’t have any luck.  A young man at church who works on my van when needed priced them for me and told me it would be $100 – yikes!  On a whim, I checked Amazon the other day – and found one – brand new -  for less than $50!

I also found bunk beds for the girls that I’m going to order.  I haven’t had much luck with Craig’s List and Homemakers wanted more than I really wanted to pay.  But Walmart has some nice wooden ones that can be taken apart and made into single beds if the girls would ever want that down the road.  Ellie’s crib is falling apart and I’m getting kind of anxious to “do” the girls room now.  I haven’t touched it since I got it ready while we were taking our classes 2 ½ years ago – I’ve been too busy!

Walmart.com also has caskets.  I had read that sometime ago and always meant to check them out, to see how much I over payed for Paul’s.  So I actually did the other night.  I bought the cheapest one the funeral home had for him (I know that would have been with Paul’s full approval – he always said we should bury him in an appliance box in the backyard!).  As it turns out, I paid less through the funeral home than I would have through Walmart.  I have actually toyed with the idea of going ahead and buying mine and storing it.  However, I may live for a very long time yet – not sure how well a stored casket would maintain for decades.  Plus, it might freak the children out – just a little.
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The other day I could not wake Ellie up after her nap.  We always get her up at 5pm so she will be ready to go to bed at 9.  But she must have been extra tired and no matter how I tried, she was not going to wake up!  Lizzie seriously asked me, “Do you want me to spray Ellie with the spray bottle, Mom?”  What - ??? Then a minute later, she tried again, “I’ll go get the bottle, Mom – I know she’ll wake up if I spray her!”  This child has a sadistic streak a mile wide, I’m thinking!
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Ben had his Spring Special Olympic events on Tuesday.  Oh, boy was it cold and windy (they’re all outside events)!  I was honestly hoping he wouldn’t do that great because the first place winners go to Ames at the end of May.  I’m already taking him up there on the 22nd for his bocce ball competition.  David let me know, in no uncertain terms, that only bad mothers hope their kids don’t do well in competitions.  Whatever!

Things were going fine when he did the 100M dash.  He lagged behind so I figured we were good.  As it turned out, he placed 3rd – all good.  And then the kid went and placed first in the softball throw and relay race!  Argh!  Now, he has to go to Ames not only on the 22nd, but the 23rd, and 24th!

It was a good day, though, despite the blue ribbons, wind, and cold.  The competition was held this year within view of our church.  So Ben’s youth pastor and another young man in the church walked over to watch him compete.  That was so nice of them.  Then, later, the man from our church (who has a brain injury himself) called Ben to see how he had done in his other competitions.  Sweet!
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I have some of Paul’s songs on my mp3 player and sometimes, they come up on my shuffle list.  Sometimes I actually listen to them.  The other day, I heard him singing, “Find Us Faithful” originally recorded by Steve Green.  I suddenly recalled that at my high school graduation (25 years ago!) my friend Julie sang that song.  Julie died at age 38 from breast cancer.  And of course, Paul died, too.  Realizing this, the words from the song seemed to increase in their meaning for me:

Oh, may all who come behind us
find us faithful
May the light of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave,
lead them to believe,
and our lives inspire them to obey,
Oh, may all who come behind us
find us faithful.

Both of them were faithful and my life is richer for having been part of theirs'.
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Two days ago my friend, Joy, who has walked through the valley of death herself, sent me these verses.  I’ve been ruminating and rejoicing over them ever since:

Psalm 94:17-19
Unless the Lord had been my help,
My soul would soon have settled in silence.
 If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up.
 In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.

It does.  And He does.


















































Sunday, April 6, 2014

Day 305

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

April 6, 2014

Day 305

10 months ago today…dear, merciful God, it’s been 10 months…All week long I’ve been so heavy hearted, feeling a deeper burden and hurt inside than normal.  I just want him back!  I don’t know.  Spring is slowly coming to life and Paul died when it was warm out.  So maybe the weather is affecting me.  Maybe it’s just another grief wave and it will pass in the coming days and weeks.  Last week I was thinking about the 6th coming up but I actually lost track of dates as the week went on and kind of forgot about it.  But then today my brother texted me and reminded me and my friend, Sara, emailed to let me know she had remembered.  I was appreciative, but had to laugh at myself.  Typically, I’m so “date” minded, but apparently not this week!

I find myself, more and more, wanting answers.  I know I wrote about this not too long ago.  Why?  I know all the answers.  I know that if God wanted me to know, I would.  I know that to insist He filter events through my understanding would lower Him to my human level and then He could not be God.  I know He is all loving, always good, and possesses wisdom that I cannot begin to fathom. I know that all that happens is for my good.  I know all this. Most of this time this knowledge provides the comfort and assurance I need. 

But right now,  in my stubborn humanness and hurt, I want to know.  Because it just doesn’t make sense.  But mostly I just want it to not have happened.  I know I won’t always feel this way.  I think that someday I will find a measure of happiness again and I will be able to thank God for His sovereignty in allowing the events in my life – even the death of Paul – but right now I’m not there.  Right now I just hurt.

I was in a store the other day and I heard a child cry out, “Daddy!”  The hurt zinged me in a way that was nearly physical.  In fact, a physical jolt would probably have hurt less, I think.  It gives me great pain to know that my kids will never, ever have a man they call “Daddy” again.  I carry their hurt, too, and at times, the load of all our grief seems nearly impossible for one woman to carry.

Well, I’m just a bundle of sunshine tonight, aren’t I?  But I am hurting and there is relief for me in writing it out.  Unfortunately, I then transfer that hurt to those that read my writing and then they worry about me.  I’m fine.  I’m not going to do anything foolish and someday, I will pass through this valley.  Just continue to pray for me, for the kids.  That’s all that can really be done.

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Going to have to take a break here and get the girls to bed.  Ellie just dumped Juicy Juice all over the counter and into her $25 8 oz container of hair cream.  I think her day is over!  Just when I think I am finally beginning to see the light at the end of her very destructive tunnel, she goes and destroys yet something else.  My boys had nothing on her!
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This week we started eating meals together again as a family.  It’s not that it’s a new thing, but for the past 4 years, it’s been an inconsistent thing.  I’ve made it happen on most Sundays since Paul’s death, but that’s really been it.  Four years ago Paul started the basement project, which quickly became all-consuming.  He would come home from work and immediately jump on the skidloader or grab a shovel.  It was a tremendous project.  And because he was so limited on time, it became more expedient to just serve supper from the stove and for him to eat after it got too dark to work.  It definitely made less work for me.  A few times Paul would suggest that we probably should make more of an effort to eat together as a family and I’d agree in theory, but we never got consistent.

Will has been pretty consumed with the work on the house since November.  Knowing his available work time is limited, I haven’t wanted to interfere with progress.  But he’s nearly done now.  So, anyway, I decided this week that we’re going to make family meal time a priority again.  Anytime we don’t have to rush off somewhere in the evening, we’re going to sit down together – and figure out how to be a family around the table without Paul there, too.

The first night Sam was a little beast.  I couldn’t believe how poor his table manners were!  But then I mentally subtracted “4” from his age and realized he had not been exposed to regular family table times since he was 2 years old.  He hasn’t been trained and that’s my fault.

The first night we attempted this I was on the computer later that evening.  Will came up behind me and said quietly, “I like eating together as a family.  It was fun.  This is a good thing.”  My heart soared.  Maybe we can learn how to be a family without Paul.  So we did it again Tuesday and then on Friday night and then today for lunch.  We’re going to figure this family thing out.
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I’m figuring other things out, too.  Wednesday I was up at City Hall working.  I really don’t have time to be the clerk anymore.  I don’t feel like I do that great of a job because of my time limits and because I’m really not all that smart.  But even if the city could find somebody willing to take over for me, I don't have time to train anyone, so I kind of feel stuck.  But I am appreciative of the little bit of money the work brings in, too. Anyway,  I opened up an email sent a month ago from the USDA, through which the city has a loan for their water system.  I was supposed to file an annual report with them last Sept. and now our loan was out of compliance.  The thing is – I don’t get those reports.  There are two reports that have to be filed a year (well, now I know there are two reports – I had no clue until Wed!) and I’ve never understood how to do them.  I managed to muddle through the needed water budget last spring, but I was never trained well, the report forms are extremely complicated, and my brain just does not naturally fall into a pattern of thinking that does well with forms and budgets.  And because of that the entire city was in huge trouble.  Our loan could be called in at any moment and the loan amount is for more money than the city has in all their budget columns.

I sat at my desk and bawled.  All of a sudden, all these plates I’ve been spinning for months – parenthood, Learning RX, grief, homeschooling,  college planning, Ben’s care, Lizzie’s needs, housework, my finances, remodeling, this little  part time job with the city and more seemed to come crashing down, breaking on top of eachother.  I can’t do all this.  Or, at least, I can’t do all this and do it all well.

Love, Love, love this picture!  Taken at Worlds of Fun on the hottest summer day of 2011
I called the USDA and spoke with a couple of very nice women there.  They were horrified at my tears and assured me that I had options.  I didn’t know I had any options.  I thought I had to do these forms if I want to keep my job.  But they gave me some ideas to present to the council which I did the next night.  I told the council that if they wanted to keep me, something else had to be done.  They want to keep me.  So now I have the job of calling some banks and local CPAs to explore some suggested options.

But that Wednesday I couldn’t work anymore.  Well, I really could not have anyway, because I had to take Ellie to a pediatric dentist to find out what to do about her mouthful of cavities.  Earlier that day, I had taken Lizzie to her pre-op physical (and had gotten lost in downtown DM – I am so dumb at times – how long have I lived here?) and I was fitting the work at City Hall in between appointments and before evening church.  See what I mean about my time?  I couldn’t work anymore because I was upset.  I came home, still crying.  Will and David were putting up a suspended ceiling in one of the basement bedrooms.  I think they were kind of nonplussed by my tears.  I don’t normally cry in front of the kids, or anyone, for that matter.  But I couldn’t stop.  I was just so overwhelmed and feeling like such a failure because I’m not living up to my responsibilities.

I ended up sharing this in my prayer group Wed. night, just asking my friends to pray for wisdom for me so that I can figure out how to do things better.  The next day at Learning RX I talked with David’s teacher.  I definitely don’t want to quit LRX, but it is a huge time-sucker right now.  But it’s temporary.  As I thought about my options I briefly considered spending another $2000 and having David do the program solely out there, eliminating my home training portion.  But that wasn’t such a good idea, either, I didn’t think.  When I started this in Jan. I was encouraged to always sit through David’s sessions with him so I’d understand what is going on.  But since then I’ve realized that his trainer does a whole lot more with him than I do at home.  I’m only asked to do a handful of exercises.  And I know how to do those now.  For the last couple of months I’ve spent that hour and a half, twice a week, answering texts and reading my Kindle.  It occurred to me that if I did not have to be back there with David for those 3 hours a week, I could bring along a Little and get some homeschooling accomplished.  Don’t even ask me how homeschooling has gone this school year…So I talked to David’s instructor and she was very encouraging of my thoughts.  She’ll pull me back for a few minutes once a week to give me some tips and how-to’s on the home instruction, but the rest of that time is mine.

So that’s one thing figured out, anyway.  Then today, I humbled myself and asked my friend Mishelle at church if she would take the Littles for an entire day later this month.  I hated to do that.  But if I could have one day without them the boys and I could get the garage cleaned out (the city is renting a dumpster for residents’ use in a few weeks and we have lots to put in it) and maybe I could even work on my very messy basement.  When I asked Mishelle she told me “yes” immediately.  And then she told me she’d been thinking since I had shared Wed. night and she wants to figure out how to do something for me on a regular basis.  She said, “You can’t do all this, Sarah, and I want to help!”  I wanted to cry.  But my mind is mulling this over as I try to think of possible scenarios of how to best accept her generosity.

So maybe I am going to get it figured out, bit by bit.  I just know I can’t continue the way things have been.  Someday I may look back on this time in my life and wonder how I managed.  But I hope I’ll be quick to remember that it was only by the grace of God and others that I survived.
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We’re into softball season now.  Well, we will be soon.  The first game is April 15, but practices have started.  Will is coaching Sam’s team.  That wasn’t planned, but Thursday I got a call from the homeschool softball director telling me that Sam’s coach had backed out at the last minute.  He was wondering if I’d be ok with him asking Will to take over.  He didn’t have to do that, but it was appreciated, just the same.  Will agreed to the offer and is actually pretty tickled.  We had to make a trip out to Scheels the next morning to get some bats and balls for his team and Will had his first practice with his minor leaguers yesterday afternoon.  What’s kind of neat is that David’s coach’s daughter is on Will’s team.  They had back-to-back practices yesterday afternoon so during David’s practice, Sam ended up just going to the coach’s house, which wasn’t too far away, and hung out with their kids.  I’m getting a kick out Will.  He’s so enthusiastic about coaching!  Considering he wants to go into coaching as a career, I suppose this is a good thing!

The games will start up and my Tuesday nights will be gone until mid-June.  It’s set up so that the kids play by age – minor league for an hour, major league for the next hour, teens the last hour.  I’ve got kids on the minors and teen teams so it will be a full night for us.  Softball season represents sacrifice on my end.  I enjoy watching the teen games, but everything else I could do without!  Although, Will is telling me that Sam is really, really good, so he might be entertaining to watch.  But I don’t enjoy freezing in the beginning of the season and sweltering by the end.  I don’t enjoy chasing small children or eyeing foul balls, trying to judge whether or not we need to duck.  I don’t enjoy carting chairs and drinks, and gloves, and bats all over the fields.  I don’t enjoy the time it takes. And now I'll be doing it without Paul's help.

But – these years will be gone in a flash.  I know that.  My life is not about me, as much as I would prefer to think it is.  The things my kids gain from playing organized sports are things they aren’t going to learn at home.  So, I go and I will continue to go for years to come.

I just realized today, though, that this means I’ll miss The Goldbergs until June!  Oh, I’m sad now.  I hardly watch any tv at all, but this show started airing on CBS in January and I totally love it.  It takes place in the 1980s and maybe that’s the attraction for me since that is “my” decade.  I don’t know.  But it is well-written and funny, too (although, back during the real '80s I sure never  never heard some some of the words they use on the show!). I commented on that to the boys and somehow the conversation turned to Will and David declaring that I am Beverly Goldberg all over again!  What?!  She’s the mom on the show and she’s not just a normal mom.  She smothers her kids.  She’s overly involved with them.  She lives for them and through them.  I certainly hope the boys were just trying to get my goat.  I prefer to think I’m more of a “hands-off” type of mom, available if they need me, but content to let my kids live their own lives.  Beverly Goldberg – hmph!
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I bought Ben an alarm clock a few weeks ago but have been too busy to get it set up for him.  This week he came to me and asked me to teach him how to set his alarm.  He said, “Mom, I need to be more responsible!”  Alright, then.  And you know what?  He is!  He is getting up now at 6:30 every morning, dressing and feeding himself.  I stumble out of my bedroom, bleary-eyed at a quarter to seven and Ben is sitting quietly in the lazy boy, eating his pop tarts and watching the news.  Glimmers of hope…

But then, there are other moments, like yesterday, when he dumped the entire contents of the fry daddy all over my kitchen floor.  My kitchen floor that had been mopped less than an hour before.  Of course.  Any idea how slippery a wood floor gets with cooking oil all over it?  Deadly slippery.  Fortunately, Ben’s SCL worker was there at the time and he suggested I use Dawn dishwashing soap.  I did and it cut through all that grease like magic.  Now I have just have a section of the floor that is really, really shiny.  But it’s not going to be a death trap, like I had feared.  But still – if I hadn’t been around, Ben would not have known how to take care of the mess.  How can I even think of having him live somewhat independently someday?
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I had some song lyrics to post tonight but I think I’ll wait.  This post is getting way too long as it is.

This week one of my Facebook friends posted about her husband being out of town and how “hard” it was.  My hand actually hovered above my keyboard for a moment.  I so badly wanted to say something, but I didn’t.  The truth is, it is hard to have your husband out of town.  A year ago, I would have totally commiserated with my friend.  But now, I wanted to shoot off, “Well, at least he’s coming back to you!”  Sigh…But I can’t make my pain everyone else’s.  It’s not right for me to try to make them feel guilty for the normalcy of their lives.  But anymore, I just feel like I can’t relate to people.  It’s almost like I’m in this glass box made up of loss and suffering and everything I view through the box is distorted by the type of glass I am now looking through.  Will the day ever come that I step outside that box and rejoin humanity?  I don’t know.  Maybe.

 But I know I won’t ever be the same as who I was before.















































Monday, March 31, 2014

Day 299

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

March 31, 2014

Day 299

No more rambling posts, I promise!  I am actually feeling somewhat human again.  Friday morning I put myself back to bed after getting Ben on the bus.  As I laid there, it suddenly dawned on me that I knew these symptoms.  I had been so focused on the fact I’d had the flu that it had not occurred to me I might have something else going on, too.  This was a classic sinus infection.  I know that because I’ve had them numerous times before.  I made an appt. with the dr. and she confirmed it.  I got a prescription for an antibiotic (magic in a bottle – until you take it so often that you end up getting a SuperBug and dying from an infected paper cut, that is) and I am now feeling much better.  I am still getting the migraine-like sinus headaches, but they’re treatable and temporary.

Maybe my body just decided that it needed a time to shut down.  The past three years I’ve had minor surgeries, all in March, that required me to take it easy for a couple of weeks.  No surgery this year, but my body was determined to take its rest, anyway!

The circus '03 - I LOVE the expression on David's face!
The other night Lizzie said to me, “I am SO excited about my surgery! (her upcoming tonsillectomy)”  That struck me as odd and so I asked her why.  She excitedly exclaimed, “Cuz I won’t have to do any chores for a whole week!”  Geez, Louise…that makes me feel like Mrs. Haniford (was that her name?  The mean housemistress in “Orphan Annie” who made the poor orphan girls work all the time?)!  Oh, speaking of “Annie” I saw that a movie version is coming out soon.  That should be good.

I took David sandal shopping last Friday.  This was NOT fun.  I found some for him.  I had to spend $100, though.  One kid.  One pair of sandals.  One sighing mama…But this is what happens when your one kid has size 14 shoes and stores don’t carry sizes that large.  I went to Scheels and I knew they’d be a little pricey, but I also knew they had larger sizes.  But the salesclerk told me they only have a few size 15s so if David grows any more, he’ll be out of luck even with them.  Will informed me he needs some new crocs for this summer.  Crocs aren’t even in style anymore, but he is determined to have some.  That’s all he likes to wear in the summer months.  Since he wears a size 15 tennis shoe, I told him “good luck” on the croc thing…

Kathy and I met up on Sat for some shopping.  That was much more fun than sandal shopping for my big-footed boy!  Although, we made quite the pair.  I was still wheezing and blowing my nose every three minutes and Kathy was hobbling on a broken toe.  I kind of shudder to think what kind of a shopping duo we will make when we’re both 80 and still getting together!


I took David to the dermatologist today.  He’s had a real dandruff problem for a couple of years now.  We’ve tried all the over-the-counter stuff and I have even rubbed lavender oil into his scalp and ordered a $26 bottle of essential oil shampoo that is supposed to be good for that problem – no avail.  So I was able to get a prescription shampoo today. While we were there, I asked about a couple of his moles and the dr. volunteered to snip them off today.  I wasn’t expecting that.  I had actually taken David in for his moles about 6 months ago.  We had seen a different dr. but she seemed a little reluctant to do anything with the moles at the time.  But this one was more than willing.  So we had one removed from the back of his neck and one above his lip.  David was less-than-thrilled with the whole needle in his face thing and all day long I’ve been hearing updates about his bleeding and pain levels (they’re moles – it’s not like I had his leg amputated!).  At one point he sighed and said, “I would have left the one on my face alone, but you seemed to think I should have it taken off, so…” He has always been especially good at twisting-the-knife, amping-up-parental-guilt levels!

Tomorrow we see his orthodontist.  I had finally found an orthodontist that takes Medicaid.  A friend told me about this place.  I called them and they told me that they are actually the only place in the entire Des Moines metro accepting new Medicaid patients and as such, they have a waiting list of more than a year.  Yikes.  David is getting his senior pics done in 3 years, so I don’t think we can wait that long.  So I called the ortho he has been seeing for awhile, even though I’ve been told he is the most expensive ortho in the metro.  They were willing to take David’s Medicaid since he’s an established patient.  I’m not even overly fond of this dr.  He is decidedly effeminate which may or may not mean anything, just like his wedding band may or may not mean anything.  But it bothers me just the same.  However, it looks like I have no choice.  Maybe we can get away with just straightening David’s bottom teeth.  Hopefully.



Our 1st homeschool conference - what a fun weekend!  It would be 10 yrs later, almost to the very day, that Paul would die. 
The youth service went really, really well last night.  I was somewhat nervous for Ben and David, but I wasn’t twisted up as tight as I have been known to get in the past.  The entire youth group quoted a book of the Bible, with various kids being responsible for different verses singly, in duos, trios, and other groupings.  I really did not have time to work much with Ben, but David took care of it.  Ben did splendidly.  He didn’t even sway all that much up on stage.  I was pleased.  And then David ushered and spoke.  He did great.  I was really proud of him.

My friend, Mishelle, told me, “I could just hear Paul up there!”  I know.  Another, older, friend told me, “You must be so proud!”  I am.  I am curious to see what David’s future holds.  From the time he was a little guy I have been convinced that full-time ministry is probably in his future.  To my credit, I’ve never said any such thing to him, not wanting to influence him in any way.  But sometimes a mother just senses things.  I’ve always “sensed” with David.  Indeed, as he has gotten older, he has mentioned from time to time that he wants to be a missionary.  Hmm…Iowa could use missionaries, right?  Of course, David’s young yet. There’s a lot of growing that needs to happen between now and then, of course, and a lot of cavernous pitfalls to be steered around.  I’ve got a whole lot of single parenting left to do with him.  So, we’ll see what happens, I guess.

We got home last night and David was typing on his phone.  He handed it to me, so I could double-check his spelling and grammar before he posted to Facebook.  He had written, “I hope my dad was looking down tonight as I spoke at my church for a youth service.” 

Yeah, I choked.  I nodded and told him his spelling was fine.   And then I told him I was pretty sure that tonight was a night that Paul had, indeed,  seen him.  God had rolled back that floor and Paul had a front row seat as he watched his boy take some steps toward manhood and possibly, potential service someday.

But, oh, what I would have given to have him sitting beside me, watching together!