Saturday, February 27, 2010

Second Chance

I promised something a little less depressing for my next blog, so here it is: This is my Faithwriters entry from a couple of weeks ago, for the subject of "Ohh." I placed 10th out of 39 entries, which was a lot better than I expected to do. It's just a recounting a how Paul and I got together. I left out the part where, on Feb. 8 of that year (after my disastrous attempt to speak to him) I wrote in my journal how I "couldn't stand that Paul Heywood. He was an arrogant, stuck-up jerk and I wouldn't talk to him again if he begged me to" - or something like that. Thank goodness, God doesn't always hold us to our promises!

I also left out the fact that he unexpectedly kissed me after our second date and told me he thought he might be falling in love with me. I was so shocked that I said the first thing that popped into my head, which was, "Well, you'd better figure it out for sure before you go kissing me again!" He did!

This April 7th will be the 20th anniversary of our first date. I think we'll probably head up to Ankeny and hit the Godfathers' there, which was where we spent that first night. We also walked all over campus, talking, afterwards. So maybe we'll do that, too, this year.

Second Chance
It was twenty years ago this spring that I met Paul. He and I were both freshmen at the same Midwestern Bible college. I knew who he was but had never bothered to talked to him until well after our Christmas break. There was nothing special about him that set him apart from the other young men at the college and I was too busy having fun with my girlfriends to be interested in any of the guys!

One of my classmates began urging me to seek Paul out. In her opinion, we would be “perfect for each other.” I wasn’t so sure about that. I really was not interested in getting a boyfriend and I sure wasn’t going to chase one down! But, to get this classmate to quit pestering me, I decided I’d “test the waters” and see what, if anything, would come from venturing into simple conversation with this farm kid.

Not much came of it! I remember attempting to speak with Paul as we went to class one day. He had nothing to say to me. I was more than irritated! I had just gone out of my way to initiate a conversation and he couldn’t get away from me fast enough! Mentally, I washed my hands of him and went back to having fun with my girlfriends.

But for the next six weeks, every time I turned around - he was there. He never spoke to me, but I always noticed him. But I wasn’t about to speak to him again! However, he finally spoke to me. He asked to sit by me in chapel. He asked to carry my books. And then one day he hesitantly asked me out on a date. It turned out that what I interpreted as arrogance and indifference on his part was actually shyness.

So, I went out with Paul one Saturday night. And I had a wonderful time with this shy farm kid - who really wasn’t so shy once he opened up. Before the evening was over he romantically asked me if he could have the honor of escorting me to an upcoming banquet. And so I went out with him again. I found I was kind of liking this guy!

The next day I found myself ruminating over my time with Paul, remembering how miffed I had been with him a few months earlier. And now, things were so different! And then it hit me - ohh! I had just tumbled head over heels in love with this boy! Could it really happen that fast? What should I do?

I did the thing any sensible girl would do. I married him!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Love that Hurts

This is going to be one depressing post, I can already tell...

This has been a very, very rough week with Ben. His obsessions are overwhelming and all consuming. Last night was yet another battle with him that ended up with him throwing a temper tantrum like a 2 yr old and me being completely overwrought and rung-out. Paul and I spent quite a bit of time talking. Do we just give up and let him engage in socially inappropriate behaviors - for our own sanity? Do we drug him up more so that he only sleeps and eat, but no longer has the energy or desire to engage in his self-stimming behavior? I am feeling pretty close to the breaking point right now with him...had another incident this morning, only this time it was with Ben and Will. Will is now up in his room, in tears, grappling with the sudden realization that Ben can't love or esteem him the way that he (Will) thought he did. Ben's desires (in this case, game shows) are always going to come before familial relationships. Nothing else matters to him. And that's a hard blow to take - especially when you're 15 and have spent your entire life helping care for this kid. It's hard for me, as Mom, to take, too. No matter how much I pour into this kid, how much I love him - he will never love me back to the same degree that he loves his obsessions. Of course then, it makes me think - what is love, really? Do we love expecting to be loved back because of our sheer lovableness? Or do we love as Christ did - knowing that our love will probably never be returned and our sacrifices will seem foolish.

Totally unrelated: almost 2 weeks ago I had a horrifying dream. I woke up on Valentine's morning with it running through my head and I haven't been able to shake it since. I'm hoping writing about it (and depressing my readers) will help excise it from my mind. I dreamed that I was in Dubuque, Iowa with just Sam. Why Dubuque, I have no idea. That is a town in very NE Iowa that I have driven through a few times, but never spent any time in. I had a group of friends there, in my dream and I left Sam in their care for some reason. It seems like I would pop in every so often to check on him and then I was leaving again with my friends. Well, then there was a mob of people on the streets of Dubuque and I suddenly realized I couldn't find Sam. So, I'm trying to push through the people and the whole time I'm yelling for Sam. We were on a big bridge and he was nowhere. The next thing I knew was that Paul was with me. Somehow, we had been told that Sam had been found in the water and we needed to get to the hospital. So the two of us are pushing through this throng of people, trying to get to the hospital. My grief in the dream was so great at this point, that several times I would fall to my knees, gasping for breath, and just crying out to Paul, "It's all my fault! I'm so sorry!" and then I wouldn't be able to talk anymore because the grief would literally take my breath away. This happened over and over again. At one point he and I had to run through some shallow water that was up to our knees - probably a creek or something. Then, finally, we were at the hospital. We walked in and we could see Sam. He was laying in one of those isolettes that they put babies in the NICU in. Ben spent his first 2 1/2 weeks of life in one, so that's how I was familiar with it. They had Sam stripped down to just his diaper and the only thing that he was connected to was a ventilator. And actually, all he he had was the mouthpiece - it wasn't connected to a machine. And I knew in that moment that he was already dead. They were just waiting for us to get there so they could remove that mouthpiece. At that point, part of me tried to come out of the dream, but I got sucked right back down into it. The next thing I was trying to do was to call our pastor. I kept scrolling through my contacts in my cell phone, but I couldn't find his name. And part of me kept thinking that I should call my parents too. That's kind of where the dream ended. I just remember this crushing weight that fell on me once I realized that Sam had probably drowned. When I finally did wake up it wasn't with this sense of light relief like I normally have after bad dreams. This dull heaviness stayed with me all day long, even though it was just a dream.

I haven't puzzled it all out yet. I suppose the obvious thing is that it points to my fear that I could lose one of my children. But I can honestly say I don't obsess about that in real life. I really do try to hold onto all 4 of them with an open hand. I know that while, statistically, they will outlive me, there's always a very real chance that I could lose one at any time. I don't waste my time worrying about potential accidents and could-be scenarios. If anything, I'm probably a little too laid-back when it comes to their safety. So I guess it baffles me that this showed up in my dream world.

Well, hopefully, I can shake that now. Maybe I can focus on real-life - like that pain that's in Will's heart now as he wrestles with this new knowledge of his brother. And as I try to deal with Ben. I feel like every day he's pushing me closer and closer to the edge of the proverbial cliff. I told Paul the other night is like being the target of a battering ram. He just doesn't quit. He comes at me over and over and over again. I just want to curl up and hope that he'll go away.

But I can't help but think he needs me more than ever right now. I'm supposed to be the strong one - he needs me to be strong. But I feel so utterly weak and used up.

Told ya you'd end up depressed after this one! I'll be lighter in my next post, I promise...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Highly Commended, IQs, the Runaway

I got "Highly Commended" for last week's FaithWriter's entry! I just found out this morning. Actually, I was hovering over the computer at 9am, waiting for the results to be posted. I never used to get this excited about those entries. I guess that's because I never used to win. "Highly Commended" is just below the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. It was my first time to enter at the Intermediate level, so it feels pretty good that I did so well on my first try. I'm really excited about the piece I just entered yesterday - maybe I'll have some good news to share again next week! What I want is to be chosen for "Editor's Pick." At the end of the year, they take all those (10 for each Challenge) and publish them in a book. That hasn't happened yet, but I sure would be be pleased if it did sometime this year!

I had a major computer problem the other night. I went to upload pictures from my camera and the computer would not recognize my camera any longer! Oh, I was so frustrated! I spent all night long working on that issue, snapping at anyone who dared interrupt me in my moment of crises. I don't understand why I get this way. I can live with a messy house, fractured relationships, and mold growing in my bathroom, but if something isn't working right on my computer, I go to pieces! All I can think about it getting it right again! Fortunately, I posted my problem on Facebook and within minutes, my friend Don had a solution for me. Thank you, Don! Now, I'm thinking I really ought to work on my attitude...

Ben's first meeting is next Monday at the school. We are meeting so that Ben can be evaluated and so that we can start his IEP. We have a friend at church who has spent his entire career in education and sat in on many, many IEP meetings. He's coming with us and I am SO thankful that he will be there to advocate for Ben and make sure that he gets what he needs. But my stomach is still tied up in knots over this. I know it's the right thing to do - but I'm scared.

Along those same lines, yesterday I received Ben's IQ testing results in the mail. I didn't realize they were going to be mailed to me because I really didn't want to know what they said. I suppose they had to send them out, though. The results are that Ben has an IQ of 47. A normal IQ is in the 90-100 range. So, he definitely is "feeble-minded" as the website I checked to compare his results to indicated (I'm guessing it was an old chart - who says "feeble-minded" anymore?) The letter went on to say that he falls between the intelligence and ability levels of a child ages 3 to 6. I wasn't prepared for how that made me feel. I felt like I'd been hit. That just seems so stark. And really, it's not indicative of who Ben is. My sister in law was telling me yesterday that when she used to work as a college admissions officer one of her jobs was to evaluate the ACT and SAT scores of would-be students. But she had to recognize that while those tests showed how they did on the tests it really was not a total picture of who the student was. And I can accept that about this test for Ben. Educationally, he is beyond the level of a 3-6 year old. He's been right at the 2nd/3rd grade level for several years now. But emotionally and behaviorally - yeah, he's closer to that lower level. Paul was kind of ruminating on this and he said that he can't totally accept this either. After all, he said, Ben is smart. And he's crafty (not in a paper/scissors way, but in the I'm- gonna- figure -out- how -to- sneak -around- Mom- to -get- what- I -want kind of way). But still, I've held onto the belief for all of Ben's life that he is not retarded - just severely delayed. But this test result says otherwise.

And, honestly, this low score will be in our favor. It will be easier now to get services for Ben that I wanted. And that was my whole motivation for having the testing done in the first place. So, I got what I wanted. I just didn't count on how it would affect me and my perception of Ben. I have a retarded child. Wow.

Oh well. Mentally retarded or not, he's still my boy. Lately, I've been wishing he were some one's else's boy because he's been just awful! But I have to remind myself that he IS 13 and the junior high years are generally not that pleasant for the parents of most boys that age. Will sailed through them, but that's just who he is - easy going, easy to raise, and easy to have around. Ben - isn't! Yesterday I caught a whiff of Ben so I introduced him to something called Deodorant. He was pretty tickled with that! Before we went to church in the evening I had him in the bathroom so I could comb his hair and Ben grabbed Paul's deodorant out of the cupboard and said, "I'd better use some of this!"

Last week I checked some cds out of the library. One is a collection of hymns sung by country artists. I've listened to it before - really enjoyable. So I had it in, listening to it as we drove home. I found myself singing along to "How Great Thou Art" and soon I could hear Ben in the backseat, singing too. I had to laugh because neither Ben nor I can sing worth a lick. He's flatter than a squished snake on the road and my voice is not pleasant at all. In fact, all the boys, at one time or another, have clapped their hands over their ears and begged me to quit singing out loud! But it was kind of a sweet moment, the two of us lifting our voices in imperfect praise!

Paul's cousin is missing. I posted this on Facebook Monday evening. It was kind of funny - I don't know if that's the right word. Astounding? Incredible? 3:00 I was in the van and listening to the news. They announced an Amber Alert coming from Council Bluffs. My ears perked up at that since that's Paul's hometown and we lived there for 12 years together. To my astonishment, I knew the girl that was missing. I remember when she was born and I've watched her grow up. She is the daughter of Paul's mom's youngest brother - Paul's uncle that's only about 3 years older than he is. So we have kids the same age. At any rate, Janakaye, who turns 15 this weekend, ran off with a convicted sex offender, aged 19. She and the boyfriend left suicide notes, which is very scary. I immediately called Paul and asked, "Did you just hear the news?" He said, "Yes! Is that who I think it is?" And so he called his mother and got rest of the story. Her parents had filed a restraining order against this felon, but those are worthless if one or more parties ignores it. So, they reported their daughter kidnapped. Later that evening they dropped the Amber Alert because the police had determined by that point that she had gone willingly. We've gotten a few updates from Paul's family. The couple is still alive and were last reported in Springfield, Illinois, where they stopped at the boy/man/felon's father's house. He urged them to turn themselves into the police, but they didn't. It's just incredibly sad. I cannot imagine what Paul's aunt and uncle are going through right now. I would be probably close to hysteria. Pray for the safety of Janakaye. Once she is returned home, there's going to need to be some major changes and much restoration needed. I'm not quite sure how that is possible without Christ, honestly. I was reminded the other day that my cousin ran away when he was 16. I was only 10 at the time. He was gone for about a year and I can remember my mom cautioning us not to mention cousin David's name at Christmas when everyone would be around. It was a different circumstance than Janakaye's disappearance, but I can still remember just how sad it was for my family that David was gone. He did come back, graduated, went into the military, and then was killed when he was 26 in an automobile accident. Sad times...

Well, it's back to work for me. I don't have to go anywhere for the next two days and I'm delighted! Hopefully, I can spend today and tomorrow catching up on things that I haven't been able to do for the past couple of weeks. Saturday evening I am going out with 3 friends from church. One is going through an extraordinarily difficult time right now and we are hoping to give her an evening where she can just have fun and maybe set aside her troubles for a few hours. I hope we can do that for her. Of course, we'll be happy to just sit and cry with her, too.

Sam is informing me "Sam stank" (stink) and then "Sam dirty!" Sigh...duty calls...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You Know You're an Adult When...

appliances excite you! Here I am with my new stove! It came in last weekend so we picked it up on Saturday - actually on our way to dinner for our anniversary celebration. I'm enjoying it, although I have to keep the owner's manual out on the counter. I still haven't figured it all out yet! I didn't realize that there is no knob to set the oven to bake. It's all digital, so that's taking some relearning. I'm used to just flipping the dial to "Bake" and being done with it. Now it involves a series of complicated buttons. In the manual they also tell you which rack to put what kind of food on. That's too much work for me! I just want to shove my food in there and get it done. But Paul is being very serious about this. He evaluates each food item we put in the oven and then consults the rack chart in the manual to make sure we're doing it properly. I'm standing there thinking that supper is going to be delayed yet another 20 min. until he figures out that the racks are fine where they are!

In addition to getting my new stove, we had a nice anniversary. Paul spent the day at an Amish auction, which was a new experience for him. He bought a bunch of lumber and cement blocks for our (his) basement project he is planning. I spent the day rushing around like a madwoman. Last week was super busy for me and so I had a lot of housework to catch up on. Plus, Will had informed me Friday that he had invited a friend to come home with him Sunday afternoon. Argh! I don't mind that but it meant I had to clean up the house and make a somewhat presentable meal - which meant I had to go shopping because we were almost to the end of my 2 week meal plan and I wanted to make a somewhat decent meal for a guest (esp. since I know his mother is an amazing cook and I'm - well, not!). So by the time Paul and I left for the evening, I was more than ready.

We saw "Dear John" at the theater. The jury is still out on that one in my mind. The movie deals with the subject of autism, which was a pleasant surprise for me. But I didn't realize the movie was based on a book by Nicholas Sparks. I might not have gone if I had known that. A few years ago all my friends were ga-ga over "The Notebook" so I finally read it. I wasn't that impressed. It wasn't bad, but I just didn't see what the fuss was about. It's kind of the same for this movie. It just seemed very unrealistic to me. The young couple in the movie is so, so in love and that's fun to watch. I mean, they are soulmates - bound at the heart, the hip, and the lips. But then John goes off to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq - somewhere, post 9-11. And Savannah can't take the separation (hello? They were separated for 6 months right off the bat after they met during spring break and fell madly in love!) and writes him a "Dear John" letter. It didn't make sense that a love that was portrayed as so strong collapsed that easily. Save your money or go see "The Book of Eli" instead.

I am earnestly hunting for a new refrigerator now that I have the stove. I thought I had found one on Craig's List the other night, but after we started dealing with the owner, we discovered that he was a jerk. So I'll keep looking. I just hate to pay a ton of money because I have heard all kinds of stories about refrigerators having shorter and shorter life spans now. Today Ben decided to use brute force on the one remaining produce drawer I have when it wouldn't open for him. It's been cracked for the last year and I've had duct tape on it. Lately, it had started to stick so I had to kind of wiggle it to get it to slide open. Well - no more! He completely took the front off the drawer in an attempt to get to a pudding cup. So now I have no produce drawers at all. My mom was reminding me about my grandparents' Maytag refrigerator. They bought it in 1960 for a 25th wedding anniversary present to themselves. It was one of those ones with the rounded tops. My grandma always referred to it as "the ice-box" which is a term that goes back to the 19teens when fridges first came out -they had a spot on top where you would purchase a block of ice from the appropriately named, ice-man, and that block of ice would cool the entire unit. Anyway, that Maytag refrigerator was still going strong in 2003 when Grandma and Grandpa both died. That's 43 years of service! And I bet it's still working somewhere...

Monday I took Will to Penneys to get his clothes for Prom Alternative. That's an event that our youth group does every spring. The kids get all dressed up, go eat somewhere fancy, and then have a fun overnight trip. This year they are headed up to the largest indoor park in America, located right beside Mall of America in Minnesota. I have been amused by Will's interest in what he would be wearing for the dinner. I guess this is the closest I will ever get to buying a prom dress - and at considerably less cost! He told me he wanted a red shirt and we were able to find one. He picked out a nice black tie with embroidered red swirlies - and was aghast when he saw that it cost more than a shirt! Welcome to men's dress clothes! I haven't figured that one out, either, actually.

Well, we aren't getting mail anymore. I'm irritated. Our postman is a crotchety old guy. Yesterday he had Janet, my neighbor and the postmistress, call me and let me know he was refusing to deliver any more mail to our box until we get all the snow and ice cleared out around it so he can drive right up to it. There's no way that is going to happen. There is a layer of thick, thick ice out there, topped with a lot of snow. I've sent the boys out to clear out the mailbox numerous times but they can only do so much. So, I just told Janet I'd pick up our mail in Hartford at the post office until it melts. I stopped in today to get it and Bob, the mailman was there, getting ready to go out on deliveries. Janet brought up the fact that it was too bad I had to come by to get my mail now and I said something about how there was no way we could chop through all that ice and we'd just have to wait until it melted. Bob commented loudly that he had another lady with the same problem and she used a pickax and it was all gone now. How nice for her! I'm sorry, but I am not that motivated - especially when it's only 14 degrees out, like it is today! I'm also picking up my neighbor, Dawn's, mail. I went over to her house yesterday to let her know about the mail situation and to offer to get her's for her since she is at work during the hours that the PO is open. She didn't answer her door the first time I went and so I peered in through the back window. I could smell animals through the door, which is gross, anyway. I don't think anyone should ever have more than one animal in their house - any more than that and it stinks! But I could not believe the mess inside - and sitting there atop it all were 5 cats! And that's just what I saw. I knew she had a couple because I've seen them outside, but oh my goodness - 5 cats! My other neighbor, Jenn, just rescued a sheep. Yes, you read that right. And she's keeping it in her house, like a cat, my boys have informed me. That cannot smell good! I know our house probably doesn't always smell the greatest between stinky tennis shoes and diapers, but at least it doesn't smell like a barn! I hope not, anyway.

Ok, I've got to be ending this. I have more to write, but I need to conquer Mt. Laundry that has exploded and overtaken my back room. I also have to get my next FaithWriters piece written today. I have a fabulous title - "Between Marriage and Menopause" but now I have to write something to actually go with my title! I've only got a few hours to get this done in, too.

One good piece of news: I made a new friend yesterday. Don't I sound like a kindergartner home from her first day of school? We have a new couple in our church with a little girl that is Sam's age. I haven't had a chance to get to meet them at all yet. But the mom is going through a year of chemo right now in an attempt to beat down a serious auto-immune disease that she has. So the ladies of our church have been signing up for different weeks to do something for this family. I think that is so nice! So yesterday I brought over a meal and Jennifer and I just sat and talked for hours. It was great! And it turns out Jennifer is a Twilight fan, too. How can I not love someone who is as excited by Edward and Bella as I am?!

Off to fold and fold...and fold some more. Why do we need clothes anyway?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Left Behind

I've been thinking about some spouses lately - not mine. Specifically, I've had Julie's husband, Luke, on my mind, Chris, who was married to my friend Barb who died 11 months ago, and Jessica. I don't know the last one, personally, but she is the young widow of the nephew of some friends of mine who died this month. During her husband's ordeal, someone shared parts of her blog with me, so I felt like I got to know her from her writing. What a difficult road God has called these people to travel. The longer I am married, the more I feel like Paul and I are intertwined - truly more like one person than two separate beings. The thought of having him die and be gone causes a physical pain just merely to think about it. So I ache for those I know who are living that reality.

I have a song I want to share on that very subject. I looked all over the Internet for a link to include. I couldn't find one. I also looked for the lyrics - they're not there. So, I went and put the cd in, listened to the song, hit the pause button about 50 times, and scribbled furiously. Hopefully I can read my own handwriting!

This song was written by Steve Chapman back in 1978. He and his wife Annie recorded it. It's about a young widower. It has a really lovely melody, but the words are the most beautiful part about it.

A note about the Chapmans: I have been listening to their music since I was about 9 years old. I had an old record player and my parents bought me several of their records and I would listen to them over and over again. Dr. Dobson once referred to the Chapmans as "Ambassadors for the Family" and that's such an accurate description. Throughout the decades the Chapmans have written and recorded songs that encourage husbands and wives to be faithful, joyous lovers to eachother. They've written songs to encourage couples in their parenting and to impress upon them the absolute seriousness of the job they have undertaken as parents. They have a strong Christian testimony and I just love them. As I got older, I bought a number of their tapes. And then about 10 years ago Paul took me to one of their concerts and he secretly bought all their cds and gave them to me for my next birthday. I love Southern Gospel music anyway, but to have it with such affirming and challenging lyrics makes it even more enjoyable.

Luke, Chris, and Jessica: I know you'll never see this, but I am praying for you. I dedicate this song to all three of you:

No Regrets

He's got a lonely heart, an empty room,

he's got an empty bed, it happened much too soon,

He's got some memories he will never forget,

but one thing he doesn't have -

He has no regrets.

He remembers the day, about a year ago.

When they told her the news, he held her close.

And in the time she had remaining,

he didn't know how much she'd be changing.

'Cuz his love that was strong through all of those years,

had to be even stronger now to hold back the tears.

When her angry words would cut him so deeply,

somehow he knew it was pain that was speaking.

And the girl that he married had a spark in her eye

that won a young boy's heart, and kept a man's love alive.

When the thief stole that spark and his nights grew colder,

he didn't seek other fires, he was warm just to hold her.

And he remembers the night she called out his name,

and he held her hand 'til the morning came,

And in the still of the night, she told him good-bye,

and he'll be glad he was with her for the rest of his life.

But now he's got a lonely heart, he's got an empty room,

he's got an empty bed, it happened much too soon.

He's got some memories he will never forget,

Oh, but one thing he doesn't have-

He has no regrets.

Oh, one thing he doesn't have -

He has no regrets.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Motherhood, Interrupted

Ok, here's my piece that placed 3rd last week. I think it's kind of whiney and ungrateful sounding. I didn't make any spiritual references, whatsoever. But when I wrote it I was tired. It was the night before Julie's funeral and my heart was sore and I just wasn't really in the mood to be deep and spiritual. I knew I wouldn't win since I never do, so I just pressed "submit" and sent it off to be judged. Apparently, the judges LIKE whiney and ungrateful!

Our topic was "grrr." Now I'm off to be creative with the topic of "phew." I'm a little nervous as I contemplate this one because "Motherhood, Interrupted" propelled me to the Intermediate level where I'm sure the competition will be a bit stiffer. Wish me luck - or much creative juices or something!

Motherhood, Interrupted
“Mom, he took my magazine and he won‘t give it back!”

“Mo-om! Ben took my piece of pizza that I was saving for lunch and ate it!”

“Mom! Will called me a ‘dipstick,’ again, even though you told him not to!”

“Mom - I need this permission slip signed!”

“Mom! David wants to know where the toilet paper is!”

Grrr…Some days - most days - it seems like my life is just one big interruption after another. I am performing a delicate balancing act every day, attempting to do way too much. And then along comes an interruption - generally in the form of one of my children - and my act collapses. My frustration mounts and I invariably turn snappy and crabby.

Is this what motherhood is supposed to be? If I were to believe the tales of my friends and the mothers portrayed in television sitcoms, I’d have to say that I am probably living a pretty normal life. But I’m not so sure it’s really the way things are supposed to be.

I remember when I had my first son. We lived in a tiny cracker-box of an apartment that didn’t require much upkeep. I stayed at home with him and the hours stretched out languorously before me each day. We rocked for hours in that little living room. I still can remember the utter peace of those days, the morning sunshine streaming through the window, no sounds but the creaking of the rocker and my baby’s contented sighs. I thought to myself, “I love being a mother!” Those days, I just couldn’t understand women who complained about their children. They obviously didn’t appreciate what they had, or else they had produced brats - unlike my own perfect progeny!

But my perspective on just how delightful motherhood was began to dim with the arrival of subsequent children. As the number of children in our home increased, along with the noise levels and demands on my time, I began to view my days as a little less rosier than when I had just one infant!

Currently, we have two teenagers, a pre-teen, and a two year old. Daily, I find myself gritting my teeth and muttering “grrr” as the interruptions interfere with my schedule and plan for how I want the day to progress. But as my older sons are beginning to do things like tower over me, drive, and have the capability of conversing somewhat intelligently, I am struck with the understanding that these days of interruptions are limited.

One day in the not-too-distant future I just may be able to get through a single day without a single interruption. Everyone assures me that then I will miss having the kind of days that I do now. It’s possible, I suppose - although I find it hard to believe! Besides, if I get too melancholy about my empty house I’m sure I’ll hear the door slam some afternoon while I’m in the midst of writing or some other equally-important project. And then I’ll hear, “Honey? Can you come help me bleed the brakes?” Grrr…

The End of the World

I'll give you the PS to this story first: Ben continued to talk about how the world was set to end next May. It was like he didn't even hear my nice, Biblical response that I write about here. I shouldn't be surprised - Ben tends to hear only what he wants to. We happened to have a meeting with our pastor (ongoing counseling sessions as we attempt to parent Ben during these especially difficult years) and I asked him about this. I kept thinking of the verse in Heb. 11 that tells us "faith comes by hearing." We tend to think of that only in terms of the Bible, but the truth is that is applies to almost anything we hear. The more we hear something repeated, the greater the chance is that we will believe it. I was beginning to get concerned that Ben truly did believe this heretical teaching he was listening to every night as he went to sleep. It all came to a head about a week after we met with our pastor. Ben brought up the subject to Paul and he began to argue with him when Paul told him exactly what I had - that nobody but God knows when Jesus is coming back. Paul decided that was IT and Family Radio was history in our house (which is unfortunate, because I really do like the hymns they play). Fortunately, we found that we could tune in AM 940, which is another local Christian radio station. They tend to feature more of the "wordly-looking, sullen, self-proclaimed Christians" that I refer to, but at least they aren't teaching falsehoods. So that's what Ben is listening to now as he sleeps - the transition was actually pretty painless, as compared to times when his cd wore out in the middle of the night (when he used to listen to a certain cd to sleep). He would be hysterical and there was no more sleep for any of us until I went out and got another copy of the exact cd.

I got a lot of nice comments on this piece for FaithWriters but it didn't place. I wish I would not have referred to Ben as "autistic" in the first line since that really wasn't the point of the piece. It makes it sound like I am drawing attention to his disability - for sympathy maybe. I wasn't. I was merely thinking ahead to where I need to explain his need for routine, but I should have not said that because it wasn't necessary at that point in the piece.

Our assigned topic was "huh?"

The End of the World
Just this week, my 13 year old, autistic, son asked me, “Mom, did you know the world is going to end on May 21st, 2011?” This was first thing in the morning and my brain doesn’t fully engage until a good two hours after I’m forced to get up. So, having to wrap my mind around this little tidbit at that early hour was a bit of a stretch! My first thought was, “huh?” And then it was, “Could I be so lucky? “ If the world is going to end in just 16 months, I can radically change the way I’m living! I can quit taking my vitamins because I’m not going to be around to reap the benefits of them down the road. I can throw our budget out the window and run up the credit cards! I can spend my days playing games with the kids instead of trying to balance all that I feel needs to be done every day (you know, little things like cooking, home schooling, and laundry!) We can go ahead and take that cruise now and not worry about saving up the money first. I can stop worrying about our boys’ future. I can eat as much chocolate as I can stuff into my cheeks! What freedom!

But alas…I knew immediately where my son had come up with this. Being autistic, Ben has certain “rituals” and things that must happen at certain times of the day. We have a radio station that I enjoy listening to because they play hymns rather than the latest release by some worldly-looking, sullen, self-proclaimed “Christian” artist. I like that. But, unfortunately, the preaching offered up on this station is really off-base. But in recent months Ben has begun listening to this station as he drifts off to sleep at night. Even though I believe the teaching on this station is faulty, I have allowed it for Ben because it is soothing to him. To take it away would cause a huge upset and would mean sleepless nights for all of us. Now, however, I am beginning to rethink that decision…

I was able to gently draw Ben’s attention to Matthew 24:36:
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father, only.” I pointed out to him that the Bible says only God knows the day of Jesus’ return. As such, it’s pretty silly for someone here on earth to be saying that they know, too. I think he understood - I hope so!

As I thought about this later, I felt grateful that I had an immediate answer for Ben and was able to direct him to the Scripture that addressed what he brought up. There are going to be other times that we hear somebody asserting something and our spiritual “radar” needs to be such that we immediately say, “huh?” when something doesn’t line up with what we know the Bible to say. And how do we develop this sense? There’s only one answer: by knowing God’s Word. When we read and study our Bibles, we tuck it into our minds and hearts. Only then, can we discern truth from man’s fanciful assertions. And, then, it can even be done even when we’re not fully awake yet!

Oops, I Did it Again

Totally ripped that title off Britney Spears...

I'm going to post 3 recent FaithWriters pieces I did lately. I really do like this one. After the judging was complete, someone in the group sent me a note saying, "Congratulations! You placed 11th in the Beginners!" My first thought was "yay!" But then I went back and counted just how many entries there were - there were 30. Yeah, I'm not going to get too excited about this one...That's like saying, "Congratulations! You didn't lose as bad as half the entrants did!"

We were supposed to write about or at least include the subject of "oops."

Oops, I Did it Again

Several years ago, when Brittney Spears came out with her silly song entitled, “Oops, I Did it Again” I couldn’t help but chuckle - not at the song, but how it reminded me of my own life and my plethora of “oops” moments.
I have long thought that my life contains way more “oops” moments than the average person’s. I still cringe as I remember some of those stand-out experiences. There was the time I dropped a hymnal over the balcony at church - during the pastor’s benediction. There was the time in 4th grade music class when our teacher instructed us to remain silent during one part of “Silver Bells” and let the piano fill in as we practiced for our Christmas program. Everyone caught that instruction but me, and when we got to that part of the song, I sung a solo! I still can’t listen to “Silver Bells” today without remembering that! There was the time I slid across the college dining hall in my high heeled shoes. I managed to grab onto a bar supporting the tray counter, which saved me from doing a face plant into the wall - but it wasn’t enough to save me from my own humiliation and the laughter of my fellow collegians! It was also that same year that I decided dressing in the early-morning dark had its drawbacks - when I showed up in class wearing a black skirt with navy hose! I was never more embarrassed, when, as a new mom, I had to take my 6 month old into the ER because I had accidentally poisoned him with his brother’s high-dose prescription medicine (in my defense, I was bone tired - both boys sat with their mouths open, I had two spoons, one with medicine, and one with baby cereal - it could have happened to anyone - right?).
But honestly, as klutzy and air-headed as my experiences show me to be, I can live with these kind of oops moments! Someday, I’m sure I’ll be able to laugh about them! But what I can’t laugh about are the other “oops” moments that occur in my life. There are the harsh words I’ve spoken to my husband, children and others. There are the times I’ve slandered people with my gossip. There are the times that I haven’t made the phone call or visit that I should have. And there are the moments when I had the perfect opportunity to share Christ with someone and I didn’t.
Those “oops” moments are the ones I regret and strive not to repeat. But, unfortunately, being human, I do. That’s why I appreciate so much the words in Lamentations 3:22- 23: “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”* I may really mess things up, but God doesn’t hold it against me. He forgives and we start over. God doesn’t cringe when he thinks of me and how I sinned, like I do when I think of my “oops” moments. Every day is new opportunity to start fresh and clean with the Lord. What a Faithful God we have!
*quotation from New King James Bible translation

Monday, February 15, 2010

Providential Spending?

As I typed that last post late this afternoon I kept hearing a persistent banging coming from the kitchen. But, in hopes that if I didn't respond it would disappear, I ignored it. Finally, though, I had signed off the computer and the clock told me it was past time to start dinner. There stood my son (who asked not to be identified) trying to jam the oven door back onto its hinges. In some weird manner, it had come off the hinges (I never did quite catch that story). It wouldn't go back on. So, in a desperate attempt to fix the problem he took a block of wood and a hammer - and did something. I'm not sure what it was, but it resulted in the oven door shattering into a million pieces all over my kitchen floor. I didn't yell - to my credit. I simply turned around and went and put a load of laundry in the dryer. Said child was distraught, so I called his dad and suggested to Paul that he assure this individual that he was not in trouble (even though he had just shot the chances of us selling this stove once the new one arrives. In addition, I wasn't sure at that point if I would even be able to use my oven anymore, which posed serious potential problems to our need for food until then. I don't think you can cook casseroles in a toaster oven.) As I posted on Facebook: Testosterone + brute strength = 1 shattered oven door...sigh...

As it turned out, Paul was able to put it back together when he got home. He showed said child how the door latches into the hinges (it was really quite simple) and then he used electrical tape to hold the insulation onto the door.

I am SO glad we ordered a new stove yesterday! I can't help but think God directed our steps. Perhaps, he even arranged that sale at Menards specifically for us...

Longing for that Empty Nest

Ooh - what an irritating and frustrating day this has been! I feel on edge and all bent out of shape. I can't really blame that on anybody but myself, either. As I remind the boys daily, "You can't control what others do - but you can control your response." I haven't murdered anyone yet today, so I guess I'm controlling myself somewhat, but neither have I overcome my irritation.

I woke up to snow - again. I really don't mind the snow. Everyone is complaining constantly now. We have never had a winter like this before. We've had snow on the ground since Dec. 6th with no break. There's been no January or February thaw - just regular snow every 4 days or so. I've just decided that we won't see spring until May so I don't get too worked up about it. But I did have to go out to West Des Moines today and the inclement weather meant I needed to leave early. Paul assured me that the roads were fine (then why were so many area schools cancelling/starting late? I had to wonder). They weren't bad until I got on the bypass. Then I fishtailed all over the place and came very close to joining all the other vehicles lining the ditches. So I had to crawl.

I had my chiropractic appointment and immediately had a run-in with Ben who thought he needed to bring in his new cd player to listen to while we there. He has been extremely argumentative lately and it's very wearying to me. He won't listen, but has to tell me why I am so wrong and why he is so right. Then, once in there he didn't want to sit where I told him to and then he had to keep messing with the dr's equipment. I wanted to smack him. The good news was that my spine is almost perfect alignment - "the best it's been!" the chiropractor chirped.

I then had an hour to kill before Ben's dentist appointment so I went to Penneys. I have a $10 coupon and I always like to use those. I needed some new jeans so I thought it would be best to use it for that. I really hate buying jeans. I never know anymore (since my stroke and losing weight) what my size is and different brands fit differently. It's about as bad as bra shopping used to be (I say "used to be" because I finally started biting the bullet and only buy my bras now at Victoria's Secret. The girls fit me, find what I'm looking for, and the bras are SO comfortable - worth the price). So, I'll wear jeans until they're falling apart just so I don't have to buy new ones. I did manage to find some today. I went to pay for them and found that my coupon excluded Levi's! Argh! But I went ahead and bought them. After all that work and trying on so many pairs, I didn't want to have to go through that again. Will needs a new dress shirt and tie for the upcoming Prom Alternative so I'll probably use my coupon for that.

So then I took Ben to the dentist. He needed to have a tooth pulled. The kids can watch movies while the dr. works on them and Ben wasn't satisfied with the selection they offered and he demanded that the nurse find him a Scooby Doo video. Then, he didn't like the video she started for him and insisted she change it. I think why I am so irritated is because I let Ben get away with it. I was afraid of confronting him in public, in front of another adult (in case he flipped out on me) so it was easier to let him be a brat than to insist that he take what was offered. But I let him have it once we were done and in the van. Oh, and then I forgot that I was going to have to cough up $45 for the nitrous oxide they used on him, so that was bothersome, too.

When I got home, at noon, I discovered Will and David playing video games - and the house was a mess, even though they swore up and down they had cleaned it and it "just got messy since then." I'm not a dummy. Sam was still in his pjs and was soaked. I was not amused. So they lost all their gaming privileges and I made them do the dishes (which I had intended on doing myself). And then they wonder why Mom is in a bad mood!

Ok, all that wasn't even on my "blog" list. I'll get to that now. Hopefully, the mood will improve from here!

Yesterday was Valentine's Day, of course. I spent way too much on the boys' gifts. It gets harder as they get older. Their expectations rise, as do the cost of the things they are interested in! Paul gave me candy, a little sign for my laundry area, and a "princess" hook (it says "princess" on it). He also gave me the nicest, most romantic card. I got him one that wasn't quite romantic, but it was funny! After church we all (except for Will who was sledding with his youth group) went to Fazolis for lunch, which was great. Any time I don't have to cook, I'm happy! Then, we went shopping and ordered my anniversary present!!! Oh, I'm excited...

Our anniversary is in 5 days. We bought a brand new stove! We had to special-order it and it should be here within a week or so. It's black, electric, with countertop burners. No more cruddy, smoking burners! It even has a dual coil on one, so I can adjust it to the size of pot I'm using. It's self cleaning and programmable, which I think will be great, esp on Sundays when we want to come home to a ready dinner. Our current stove still works, although I've had some trouble with it in the last year with food getting more done towards the back of the stove. We bought it used 10 1/2 years ago and I just don't think that thing is ever going to give up the ghost! I decided a few years ago that I want all black appliances now so that was another reason I am anxious to get rid of it - its' white, as is the fridge. When we bought our dishwasher 2 years ago, I made sure to get a black one.

Oh, and speaking of the refrigerators: we looked at those yesterday, too. I am really wanting a new fridge. Specifically, I want a side by side black one with an ice dispenser in the door - one that will give me crushed ice. Other than all that, I don't care what we get! :) Paul said if I want to start looking around for a used one - maybe on Craig's list and found a good deal, we could go ahead and get that too. So, I don't know what is out there. And truly, there is no hurry. Our current refrigerator, ancient as it is, works fine. But I'll be keeping my eye out!

Sam has started announcing, "Sam hug!" and then he walks, arms spread, to whomever he has decided is the lucky recipient of his hugging. I can't tell you how good that makes me feel when I'm the one getting hugged!

And more good news: remember last spring/summer sometime when I bounced 3 checks? I was just distraught and so disappointed in myself because I really keep very close tabs on our money and I couldn't figure out how it happened. We found out in Dec. and it was not my fault after all! A year ago Paul had signed up for some service that, for $1.95, charged to our bank account, would send us listings of local foreclosures. Well, we didn't know it but this company then gave our name and account number to another company (or just another division of theirs) that then was taking out $40 monthly in two different payments listed under two different companies. They called it "Easy Saver" something or other and the other was "Money Edge." Well, Paul cancelled the foreclosure service but he didn't know anything about the other payments that were now going out. My fault in this is that I really dislike going through the checkbook and comparing it to the bank statement. I tend to put that off as long as I can. When I did do it, I saw these things and I remember marking them to ask Paul about - and then I forgot to do so. Really, what they did was illegal and I should take the time to report them to the Attorney General. It was in early Dec. that we figured out what was going on. By this time our account had been debited over $400 that we didn't know about. And that is why I bounced last year when money was tight. It took a couple of stern phone calls, but we did get reimbursed all that had been taken. But I am just SO glad to know that I really didn't screw up our money after all!

The other day Paul and I were chatting - actually, talking about death. It has long been a concern of mine that Ben will get cancer at some point because when he was little we used to slather him in this ointment called "Protopic." It was for his eczema. First we had to wait for FDA approval. Then it came and we started using it like crazy. Well, then they ended up yanking it off the market a couple of years later because some tests showed it caused cancer. I don't lay awake and worry about it, but I do wonder sometimes what will happen down the road. On the other hand, in many ways, it would be good if Ben did die before Paul and I do - but that's a whole different blog post! So, anyway, we were talking and I idly said, "You know, I wonder what Ben will eventually die from?" There's the whole eczema/cream thing and then drs have never given us a lifespan expectancy for him. I honestly don't know how long brain injured people live - is it just as long as those with healthy brains? What about cerebral palsy? Is that life limiting? I don't know. I remember asking the head of the NICU these questions and she archly commented, "His lifespan will depend on how well you take care of him." Thanks - no pressure there! Gee whiz...But anyway, it was so funny. I said that and in tandem, both of us paused and then said, "He'll get hit by a car!" It's really not funny, because that's probably more true than not (we have never been able to train Ben to stop and look for oncoming traffic - he still runs out into parking lots and across streets without looking) but it was because we were both thinking the same thing at the same time.

Are you reading any good books right now? I just finished one last week called "The Last Madam." It was the story of Norma Wallace who ran a whorehouse in New Orleans from the 1920s- 60s. It was an interesting look at not only Norma's life and the seedy business she was in, but of New Orleans itself. The culture down there is just so steeped in corruption and vice - has been for centuries. And it was interesting, too, because her world is so, so far removed from my conservative, middle-class, rural one fifty years later. It was sad, too, because Norma ended up blowing out her brains in her early seventies. She had wealth, friends in high places, and a husband 50 years her junior - but she never escaped her feelings of inadequacy, which probably led, in part, anyway, to her choice of careers.

I am also reading "Liberty and Tyranny" by Mark Levin. One of Paul's customers loaned it to me. We were over at his house a few weeks ago so Paul could do some measuring for a job. We got to talking politics and before I left, this book was in my hands. I think I should have finished college in order to read this - it's so deep and has SO many big words! I continually have to think as I am reading, so it's taking awhile to get through it.

And lastly, I'm still in a bit of a good mood from last Thursday. I've mentioned my FaithWriter's attempts here before. Last year I entered a few pieces to this website's weekly writing challenge. I never even placed. And that's a little discouraging, of course, although I quickly got to the point where I expected NOT to win. I got out of the habit of entering and then my friend Kristi suggested that we both commit to entering weekly this year, or at least as often as we could. I knew if Kristi could do that, I could. Kristi is a pastor's wife and has two sons on the autism spectrum. So her life is pretty hectic, too. But sometimes you just have to make time for pursuing your dreams - even if it's just in little spurts and pokes. I entered one the first week in Feb. They post the winners a week later. I finally got around to checking the website Thursday afternoon - and discovered that I had placed 3rd in the Beginner's division! I about fell over, I was so shocked! The irony is that I really didn't care all that much for the piece I wrote! So, now I've been bumped out of "Beginners" and now will be competing in the "Intermediate" division. But that just made my day! In fact, I'm still grinning about it 4 days later! This doesn't mean my future as a writer is secured, by any means, but it was enough of a "boost" for me to want to continue on, as much as I am able during this stage of life. Sometimes it just takes a little "atta girl" to perk up the energy levels!

Well, my children keep attempting to talk to me while I am writing. I suspect that they are the main reason that the next Great American Novel has yet to flow out of my fingertips. I'm going to call it quits for now because I can see that they aren't about to leave me alone. Days like today I sure am yearning for that empty nest!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dead Animals and the Inside of My Head

I think this is my last blog, as far as getting caught up goes. I do have a couple of FaithWriter's pieces I want to post, but after this, I will have relayed all I jotted down as being blog-worthy. I'm sorry - I know it's overwhelming for my readers. I have had more than one friend ask, "How can you write SO much?' It's easy when you live in your head, like I do. Of course, it might be better for both myself and everyone around me if I'd step out of that world every so often!

Just last night I had a revelation that did more than just prick my conscience - it was more like a body blow. David likes to talk a lot. He's a verbal kid and he feels the need to share just about every thought he ever has - which is fine. I enjoy him so much because we have similar personalities. Well, it seems like he is always wanting to chat with me when I'm on the computer! I hate shooing him away, but I cannot think and talk at the same time. Last night I was thinking about this, wondering just why it is he's always coming around when I'm attempting to write. And then it hit me - because that's where I am. If I weren't on the computer, he'd talk to me elsewhere. But since I'm here a lot, this is where he has to chase me down. Ouch!

We got our last deer butchered two weeks ago - just in the nick of time. It had been hanging in our garage for 6 weeks, which is too long. But it's been plenty cold so there wasn't any danger of the meat going bad, we didn't think. There's just been too many other things to do. Paul went out there one day and discovered that some animal had gnawed off a huge portion of the hind leg! Oh, he was mad! He got his shotgun, stalked out to the garage with a gleam in his eye - and came back empty-handed. He couldn't find the culprit. So, he wrapped chains around the deer and hoisted it up high. Later that night, Will grabbed his gun and said he wanted to see what he could do. He walked out to the garage and there sat a possum - nasty little overgrown rats! Will shot him right between the eyes. He was so pleased with himself! He came back into the house, sighed, and said, "I love killing things!"

Paul got the deer skinned about a day later and discovered that there was mold growing inside the ribs! He didn't think that was possible because it had been so cold for so long. So, between that and what the possum had eaten, we only got about half that deer. I sure hope we can pick up a roadkill sometime this year. I hate buying hamburger!

I undertook an ambitious project last week and even got done! I went through all my cds and downloaded my favorite songs to the computer and then burned them disks. So instead of having dozens of cds cluttering up my cupboard (where I store them - easy access for when I'm in the kitchen and want to listen to music) I only have a handful now. I love it! There were a few cds that I just like almost every song - like some of my praise and worship and showtune cds. But the rest, honestly - there's only a few songs I'm crazy about on each cd. I'm having fun listening to them now. Some of these songs I haven't listened to in years!

Ben has been bugging me non-stop about burning a cd for him. So, I'm going to try to that today. David wants one too. He "bought" Will's old portable cd from him and now he wants music for it. Will told him he would "sell" it to David for the price of David playing a certain amount of basketball with him. I love it!

Paul was given a compliment at work a couple of weeks ago. There had been a customer complaint about one of the other service guys. He claimed that the service tech claimed more time than it actually took for him to do the job. And now the furnace still wasn't working right. But the customer refused to have this same service tech come back because he didn't trust him to write down the correct time. So, they sent Paul out. The dispatcher told Paul that they needed someone "trustworthy" to go this time. Wow - what a compliment! That's neat that his employer is noticing his character.

Paul's just a stand-up kind of guy. That's probably why he didn't send me packing the many times that he probably felt like it. Last week when we were on our way home from the funeral, traffic suddenly slowed to almost a stop. When we got closer, we saw there was something in the middle lane of traffic and cars were diverting to the two side lanes. So, Paul pulls off to the shoulder and gets out. He's in a suit, tie, dresscoat, and shoes - not really dressed for this. So, I'm sitting there, just praying that he doesn't get hit! I would not have done that. My attitude is generally, "somebody else will do it!" But not Paul. It was a huge part for the cab of a pick-up. It had been in a box that tumbled off a delivery truck and then split open when it hit the pavement. It was the size of a couch. But Paul got it back in the box and pushed off to the shoulder. Then, the delivery truck guy came running up and was able to get it back to his truck. And that was that - we were on our way again. Paul was safe and I was once again, impressed, with the caliber of the man I married - quiet, humble, and willing to do what needs to be done. I am so fortunate!

All right - back to the real world now. I've got housework, valentines, and schooling to do. And half my day is alread gone!

Where are my Little Boys?

It was -10 this morning. We got a bunch of new snow yesterday. It was supposed to be blowing around today but it really doesn't seem to be. A bunch of schools called off in anticipation of that. Will started Driver's Ed last week up at Carlisle high school and he was really hoping they would be open today because they have to make up in missed classes. So far, so good. They are open, but if they close early then Driver's Ed. will be cancelled, as well. Will and David are currently up at City Hall, shoveling out the walk and mailbox. It takes them a good hour to do that.

We have co-op pick up today. The truck is supposed to arrive at 3:30, although I will not be surprised if it is later than that. It's coming from Iowa City and the storm was supposed to be worse on that side of the state today. But we're supposed to be in Des Moines at that time for Ben's allergy shots and social skills class. I guess I'll have to bail on those.

As mentioned, Will did start Driver's Ed. He's enjoying it, I thinks. He found out his driving instructor is a Christian and she knows some of the kids in his youth group. I guess I still don't see a need for Will to take the class, particularly when he has already been taught how to drive. Homeschoolers have pushed for years for a bill to allow parent taught driver's education, but it never passes. I suppose it would put the driving education companies out of business. But it cost us $335 to enroll him in the class! And he already knows how to drive well! I suppose if he learns one thing that keeps him from wrecking in the future, then it will be worth it, though...I know several homeschooling families who are opting to just drive their kids around until they are 18 and then have them take a driving test with someone from the DMV. That's a way to save money, but we really could use an additional driver with our busy schedules. Now, Paul and I are tossing around ideas on how to provide a vehicle for Will to drive later on this year. I am hoping that he is able to get his school permit this summer so that I don't have to take him in for 6am weight lifting for football!

Sam is ready to drive! The other day I was getting ready to leave with him and instead of getting into his carseat, he climbed up into the front seat of the van, chortling, "Dive, dive!" To my utter amazement, he then revealed a set of keys that he had swiped off the keyrack in the house. I didn't know he had done that! But he was all set to go driving! Oh, boy!

Ben's voice is changing - deepening. I did not expect that quite yet. I guess I should not be surprised because his body is rapidly changing all over the place. He had a cold a couple of weeks ago and then one morning his voice was obviously deeper and raspier. I assumed it was from the cold. But he's perfectly well now and his voice is still deep! I don't know what to think! I guess part of me is pleased. It's been fun for me to watch Will grow into a man's body. I've been getting a kick out of watching his "peach fuzz" on his upper lip lately as it is getting longer and darker (time to break out the shaver, I think!) and I'm glad to see Ben physically maturing. But with him, it also gives me a bit of anxiety. My role is supposed to change as he gets closer to manhood. But you know, I still have to remind this kid to flush the toilet and I have to tie his shoes and button his pants. I have to hold his hand when we walk through parking lots. His body is 13, but his mind is not. So, it's a paradox that I find myself in. I feel like I'm mothering a little boy - who is almost taller than me! And the whole thing brings up anxieties for me - how will we get through all his teen years? How will we handle his sexual awareness when it comes? When do we let him start doing things independently with the youth group? How will he handle himself? What happens after high school? I could do the little boy - but this - man! No pun intended...

Something funny: the other day David asked me, "If we were rich, would we get a butler?" Ha, ha. ha! I told him I think I could answer my own door, no matter how much money I had. But I would be open to getting a maid! Who am I kidding? I'd get her before I'd buy my mansion or red sports car!

Until then...I think I'm on my own - speaking of which, that kitchen isn't going to clean itself! Back to business...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Cheering Up

I'm getting closer to being caught up on my blogs! Hopefully, tonight my internet access is a little better than the other night when I was trying to work. One drawback to using a phone for the internet connection is that sometimes the signal isn't as strong as one would like. I kept getting knocked off the other night, which made saving and properly spacing paragraphs a real nightmare.

But anyway... the first half of last week was a little rough with Julie's death and funeral. And my heart still hurts over that. I imagine it will for some time. But the last half was really kind of good. I don't know if it was an intentional thing or not, but I had loved ones who seemed to go out of their way to spend time and provide opportunities for me to have fun and put aside the earlier sadness.

The day after the funeral - Thursday - Sara drove down. I always love spending time with her and the girls. That's her Emily up there with Sam. Melissa had school, so we just met out at the mall with our littlest ones. Emily and Sam are Sara's and my "unexpected blessings." I had my first two, and then 8 months before David was born, Sara had Melissa. Then, I miscarried in '01. A year later Sara miscarried. Then, neither one of us could get pregnant for anything for years and years. Finally, I was, in the spring of '07. I had let Sara know and she promptly sent me all her baby things. She had run a daycare out of her home for a number of years and had finally closed it up. So, she had a number of baby things to dispose of and I was happy to recieve them since I had gotten rid of all my baby stuff years earlier! Here's the funny thing: Sara sent the baby things down in June. It was not two weeks later that Sara called to let me know that she, too, was miracle of all miracles, pregnant again! Sam was born in late October and Emily arrived during the Superbowl three months later! So that was fun, having babies that close together!

Anyway, back to Thursday: It was just a very nice, relaxing day, which was especially nice after the intensity of the day before. Sara had attended Julie's viewing and I, of course, went to the funeral. We were able to talk and compare notes on that. At one point, Sara said wistfully, "You know - I just wish I had known Julie better. And now it's too late." I know what she means. So we did some shopping and then we went back to my house. Poor Sara got stuck on Orchard Street. I forgot to tell her that you don't want to travel up our street in the winter - it's uphill, icy, and never thoroughly plowed. Fortunately, Will and the local schoolbus driver were able to get her unstuck. Then we sat in the kitchen for a couple of hours, ate, talked and watched the kiddos play. Nice day!

That evening was our city council meeting, which usually means date night. But we decided to postpone that by a night for several reasons. I'm glad we did because we ended up having an awesome date Friday night! Normally we just go to the Checkerboard and then go home again - not too exciting, but the food and company are good. But Friday we went to this restaurant in Pleasant Hill that Paul has been wanting to try for some time. I wasn't possessed by the same desire because the restaurant itself doesn't seem all that amazing on the outside. It's called the 5 and Diner. But, I am so glad we went! It's a 1950s style restaurant, complete with working jukeboxes on every table. The food was really, really good. We both had steak and only spent about $3 more than we normally do on date night.

While we were in there, Senator Grassley and an aide walked in! I was so shocked! But I've lost my appreciation for the man over the last year, so I wasn't inclined to go talk to him. Honestly, I'm hoping a good Republican or Independent decides to challenge him for his seat next fall because I would love to have a reason not to vote for him! But he's better than that old Democrat cow, Roxanne Conlin, who is trying to get his seat. So, if it's between the two of them, I'll vote for Grassley again. I'm really starting to dislike career politicians and that's what Grassley is. He's been a senator as long as I can remember. If you can't get the job done within a couple of terms, step aside and let someone else try!

Paul wanted to go see a movie, which was just down the road. But we had an hour and a half to kill before it started. It was too cold to go for a walk and it was definitely too cold to get busy in the backseat :) so we had to find something to do. We ended up going down to the fairgrounds because they had a camper show going on. We didn't pay to get in, but sometimes they let you in free by the time the last hour of the show arrives. When we got there they didn't even have anyone taking tickets, so that was great! We walked around and went up in all kinds of campers and rvs. Paul was totally salivating! I'm really content with our little pop-up camper, but I'm not the outdoorsman that he is. If he had his way, we'd probably camp at least 35 weekends a year!

We then went and saw "The Book of Eli." I had my doubts about this film, particularly when I discovered it had an "R" rating. Normally we do not watch anything beyond a PG-13. And it was billed as an "action adventure" film, which is really not my thing, either. I like movies with kissing and babies. But Paul had heard this movie discussed on the radio and it intrigued him. And you know - it was good! When it ended, my first thought was, "Well, that was wierd!" but the more we talked about it and the more I've thought about it since, the more I liked it. I wouldn't mind seeing it again. I don't want to be a plot spoiler, but here's the basic premise: The world as we know it ended over 30 years ago. A war was fought, the sun broke through some layers of the atmosphere and pretty much everything was fried. Here and there there are remnants of past civiliaztion - burned out cars, broken down buildings, and so forth. Poverty and crime are everywhere. Through all this, a solitary man walks - Denzel Washington - "Eli." He is carrying the last remaining Bible in the world. After the war, all Bibles were burned. He runs into another man, Carnegie, who is desperate for a Bible. He doesn't want it for his own understanding and groweth, but in order to build his town that he has assumed leadership of. The film is about Carnegie's attempts to wrest the Bible away from Eli. Eli is resistant because he believes that the Lord spoke to him and told him he must take his Bible "West" and give it to those who need it most. It's really fascinating and makes you think! There's a lot of violence, which is how the film gets its R rating, but I didn't think it was that bad. Of course, I shut my eyes during some parts! But there is absolutely no sex in it, other than some rapes - but you don't see those; you just know they are happening. Anyway, I give this a 4 thumbs up! Good plot, good acting.

I think we're going to go see "Dear John" for our anniversary date in a couple of weeks so I'll get my kissing then!

I'm thankful - thankful for good friends who want to cheer me up and thankful for a husband who likes spending time with me. Oh by the way, we went to the 9:30 viewing so we didn't get home until midnight. We were laughing at how tired we were, remembering how when we were dating we would stay out all hours of the night and not think anything of it. And now a 9:30 movie just about does us in! We're old!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I haven't posted lately about the most delicious 2 year old on the planet, so I'd better do that! There he is, at left, "fixing" his John Deere ATV. It was cute - the music wouldn't play anymore on this thing, so he flipped it over, and told me, "Sam fixI recently found a whole pile of real screwdrivers underneath his bed. Apparently, he's been stashing them! We bought him toy tools for his birthday, but he seems to prefer the real thing!

Sam's still into Scooby. I cannot believe how transfixed he is by those dvds. Normally, toddlers don't sit still for an entire program. They'll watch tv for a few oments, bop off to do something else, and then come back for more viewing. Sam's that way with everything he watches - except for Scooby Doo. A few weeks ago in church he called out, "Dooby Doo - where are you?" I wasn't quick enough with the bag of snacks (used to fill his mouth so he can't talk)! And then he recently, very seriously, asked me, "Where monter?" (monster)

Sam has discovered stickers. He calls them "stickies" and puts them all over himself. He was frustrated the other day when he was running around shirtless and tried to put stickers on his tummy. Much to his chagrin, they kept falling off!

One morning this week Sam came down the stairs at 6am. He walked into our room and I mentally groaned, assuming I'd have to pull him into bed with us. There wouldn't be any more sleep once that happened! Sam stood there and asked, "Where Dabid?" I told him that he was in bed. Then he asked, "Where Ben?" I replied that he was in bed, too. Sam looked at me for a moment and then turned around and went back upstairs vto bed! I wonder what that was all about?!

Sam's new word this week has been "tan't," as in, "Tan't get it!" It's so cute! I hope it's a long time before he can talk right! Yesterday he grabbed Will's cell phone, flipped it open, and astonished, exclaimed, "Haw-dye! Haw-dye!" Will put a picture of the Hawkeye emblem on his screen. I love these days!

I do have other children, although it seems like I post mostly about Sam. It's just been so long since I had one this short and cute!

Oh, speaking of short, or rather not-short: At the start of fall I bought Ben all new dress slacks and jeans. He can't wear Will's hand me downs because he is so ultra-skinny. A few years ago pants manufacturers began offering slacks and jeans with adjustable waistbands - strips of elastic in the waisteband, punctuated by button holes that then attach to buttons sewn on the inside of the waistband - ingenious! I sewed tucks in hundreds of pants for Ben and now I don't have to do that anymore! Anyway, he has outgrown every single pair I bought. So, in Nov. I bought him all new dress pants again and I've been slowly replacing the jeans. Last Sunday he get dressed for church and I see that his navy slacks are hovering above his ankles! I cannot believe this! How can one kid grow that fast in that short of a period of time? I should have invested in Levi or Wrangler stock...

Yesterday Sam was asking me where Will was. I told him he was probably in his bedroom (which is now an "official" Hawkeye bedroom, thanks to my tireless painting - I'll post a picture sometime). Then Sam started hollering, "Will out-tide! Will out-tide!" I told him, no he's not - he's up in his room! but Sam insisted that Will was outside. So I went over the couch where Sam was standing looked out the window. Sure enough, Will was outside. And he was shoveling out the driveway of our neighbor across the street. She's a single lady and doesn't get home until after dark most days. I was so proud of him! I told him that when he came in and Will said, "Well, Mom, I've been doing that every time it snows!" I didn't know that! What a good kid I have!

All my kids are good. Some are just more delightful on some days than others! For example, Ben informed me this week that he likes to kick David, because it makes him feel good to get back at his brother...sigh...

Wireless Excitability

I feel like I have a new computer these days. We've only ever had dial-up since getting our first computer 10 yrs ago. Out here in Swan, our options for high speed spervice are more limited. They won't lay (put up? put down? Not sure where they put them, actually!) cables for high speed acess because we don't have a minimum of 1000 people that would use them. I think someday that may change, if cable themselves don't become outmoded. Residents have been pretty much been limited to using satellite for higher speed internet. I checked into that and found it was expensive because you have to buy the equipment. And from what I heard, the speed increase wasn't that terrific.

I've been frustrated by our slow speed internet at times, although not as much as Will is. He would usually remind me about every other day how backwards we were by still being on dial up internet and how life-limiting that really was! Paul and I have had cell phones since 2001 and 2002. As time has gone on I've really come to despise paying for a land line when we already had phones. But I needed the land line to operate the internet. I remember calling US Cellular about 2 years ago, asking if they had any type of cell phone that we could run our internet through. They said no, but they were working on it!

So, anyway, two Saturdays ago Paul and I were running errands all day long and we had a little time to kill before picking Ben up from respite care, so we went into a US Cellular store, just to see what our options were. Long story short, we came out of there with an air phone! It's a "phone" that plugs into the computer. We love it! We are operating at much higher speeds than dial-up allowed and now we can watch videos and see pictures that friends email us.

I've been paying $15 a month for my Iowalink mail account for over 5 years. I never had a problem with them until last fall when their spam filters refused to allow a lot of mail to come through. Sometimes it wouldn't send my mail, either. So I ended up re-activating my yahoo account and primarily using that. But Yahoo mail was frustrating to me on dial-up because it would take SO long to load everything. So, now I've dropped my Iowalink service and I'm using only free Yahoo, which loads ever so promptly now.

The air phone costs $50 a month. For that we get 5Gs of use. I think that's quite a bit. We'll see how we did at the end of this billing cycle, anyway! Our land line ran us $42 monthly. So, it made the most sense to drop the landline to pay for the air phone. So, we also bought an additional phone, which will increase our cell phone bill by $10 a month. We need something for the boys to be able to use for times that both Paul and I are gone from home. Will was so excited when we brought that home and immediately appropriated it as his own. He took it to church the next day and began collecting all his friends' numbers. I had not planned to get him a phone until he started driving alone, despite his pleas otherwise for the past couple of years. But this works out. It's a simple, no frills phone and I blocked texting capabilities!

So, we're all happy here! The only people not happy are those at Iowa Telecom. When I called to cancel our landline the girl I spoke with really tried to talk me out of it. I suspect she gets quite a few calls like mine. She reminded me that if I called 911 on a cell phone and couldn't speak, nobody could get to me. But if I called on a home phone, then 911 could immediately dispatch help. I can see the possible validity of that if I lived alone, but I don't. I told her I was willing to take my chances with that one. She then felt compelled to tell me about her aunt who fell in her home last year and whose life was only saved by the fact that she was able to call on her home phone and summon paramedics. Without that,she would not have lived. I told her that was a nice story, but I still wanted to cancel. With a heavy sigh, the gal then went through my service and commented that we currently had the $21 no-frills package. What?! I've been $42 a month for 5 plus years now! It turns out that half my bill is TAXES! I did not know that. Boy, if I wasn't going to cancel already, I surely would have cancelled then! Our cell phone plan is the $69 a month plan and I pay about $81 a month, so the taxes on that are not nearly as high as the landline's. Grrr...

So anyway, the Heywood House is completely wireless now. I think I have a little more spring in my footsteps knowing just how in step with technology we are now. And oh yeah - I have a really happy 15 year old!

Thoughts on Death

I've got 2 weeks worth of stuff to report - and a list longer than my arm to get done today. So, I told myself that I am allowed to type for 15 minutes and then I have to finish this post and go sweep and mop the kitchen floor. I don't want to write too long of a post, anyway, because I don't want to burden my readers with feeling that they have to keep on to the end. It's better to have several, shorter ones, I think.

Today, I am moderately cheerful. It's the first "happy" day I've had since Julie's death. Maybe it's because I was finally able to really cry yesterday . I put in a song the other night by Steve and Annie Chapman entitled, "No Regrets." I thought that would induce tears. It's a lovely song about a widower whose wife is taken too early by cancer. It made me pause, but didn't work me up, emotionally. Of course, the kids were around and I suppose that's why. I wasn't off-duty and they were popping in and out of the kitchen where I was playing the cd. But yesterday I was listening to "Sarabeth" by Rascal Flatts. First - what is the title of this song? I always thought it was "Skin" but Will swears up and down it's called "Sarabeth." I haven't bothered to research it on the internet. But I do kind of wonder. That song gets me every time and yesterday was no exception. It's about a teenage girl who is diagnosed with cancer and how she loses her hair. I think the reason I respond so strongly to it is because I have lost friends to this dreaded disease and they've gone bald from treatments before dying. And then it taps into my fear as a parent of having a child diagnosed with cancer. Anyway, it's sweet. I was putting away laundry in my bedroom and I just stood there and sobbed and sobbed as the song played.

Julie's funeral was Wednesday. Paul went with me. When I had called him last Thursday to let him know that Julie had died, one of his first responses was, "Do you want me to take the day off to go with you to the funeral?" He won major points with me for that! It was a good funeral. The church was packed, which is how you want it to be when you go. I think it's so sad when people die and there's hardly any in attendance at their service. On the other hand, it might indicate they outlived everyone they knew - which wouldn't be a bad thing, either!

But it was good - very moving. Both Paul and I were choking up in the beginning because they showed picture after picture of Julie up on the screen in the front of the church. She was so vibrant and alive, and always, always smiling. It was so hard to reconcile that with the casket sitting in the front of the church. One thing that I walked away with from the service was the reminder of how Christ truly conquered the grave. Death is the enemy of mankind. But, when you are a Christian, even that is not to be feared. Christ's death and resurrection took away the power of death. I tried later to think if there was any other religious figure who claimed to have done the same and I came up empty. And then Paul was pointing out to me, how Revelation tells us that the anti-Christ will have fatal-like wounds, but will pretend to die and then be resurrected. Even he won't be able to do what Christ did.

On the way home Paul asked me what part was hardest for me and he talked about what had moved him. He then told me that I am "not allowed to die" because he doesn't want to go through that. Sweet! But, more than likely, one of us will bury the other at some point. So, we hang on tight to our time together, loving and living all that we can now. There aren't any guarantees and it could change even today. But I really, really hope it's a long time from now. It's honestly not because I fear death, but only because I love my husband so much and the thought of being widowed seems like more than I could possibly endure.

But even then, Jesus would carry me and I would get through what seems impossible today.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Song on My Heart Today

These words and the melody that goes along with them have been running across my heart since last Thursday. My heart is heavy and with tender with grief right now and Jesus cares - such a precious, sweet knowledge!

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained,
too deeply for mirth and song;
As the burdens press, and cares distress,
and the way grows weary and long?

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained,
with a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep nightshades,
does He care enough to be near?

Does Jesus care when I've tried and failed,
to resist some temptation strong;
when for my deep grief, I find no relief,
Tho' my tears flow all the night long?

Does Jesus care when I've said good-bye,
to the dearest on earth to me,
and my sad heart aches, till it nearly breaks,
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

Monday, February 1, 2010

It's Not Good-bye

This is a post I never wanted to write. I've had the words forming in my mind since last Thursday, yet I have resisted sitting down to spill them out onto my keyboard because I have been heartsick. But, I am here now.

My friend Julie is dead and my heart is so tender over this. I haven't actually burst out crying yet but I know it's coming. Until that happens, the tears are just collecting in my heart.

I met Julie more than 30 years ago in Miss Bastian's 3rd grade class at Walnut Ridge Baptist Academy in Waterloo, Iowa. She had the longest, prettiest red hair I had ever seen! She was vibrant and enthusiastic about life. Even back then, I possessed more of a melancholy soul, so I found myself attracted to someone who didn't seem bound to a darker side by their own thoughts (really, I was a pretty normal child, even though that sentence seems to indicate otherwise!). My parents ended up switching churches the following year (to attend the church that sponsored the Christian school ; Julie's family also attended) , so during the school year, through the 12th grade, Julie and I saw eachother six days a week between school and church. As I told Julie the other day, every time I turned around, she was there! Julie and I attended the same Bible college our freshman year. We were at eachothers' weddings, ran into eachother from time to time in the decades since, and kept up with eachother through Christmas cards, letters, and phone calls every so often. We weren't best friends, but we were friends.

Four years ago, Julie's best friend called me one evening to let me know that Julie had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 34 years old! I knew that when Amy told me that, it meant that I would be bidding Julie an early good-bye. It's not to say that people don't recover from cancer and go on to live long lives because some do. Some have multiple bouts of cancer and still live for years and years. But somehow, I knew that with Julie, it was going to be different.

But it didn't happen right away. Julie endured chemo a few different times. She had some surgeries. I would call and she would be so bubbly and positive about it. As time went on, the shock of her diagnosis wore off and it was just the norm, anymore. I got one Christmas card from Julie with her family and there she was completely bald, and I didn't think anything of it!

I had my stroke in October of '07. Julie called me the night I got home from the hospital. I remember being so touched by that. The following July we were camping and we visited Julie's church. To my delight, she was in attendance that morning. Julie's head was covered with a downy fuzz which reminded me of newborn baby chick. She was so concerned, though, about me. She knew I was having a difficult recovery and wanted to know all about it. I finally managed to ask her, "But what about you? How are you doing?" She mentioned that a few weeks earlier her lung had filled up with blood at home, they had to call 911, and she ended up having surgery to affix her lung to her chest wall. I was aghast, but Julie was so matter of fact about it!

I started blogging a year ago. A few months into it, Julie let me know that her routine was to have chemo on Fridays and then, return home, and read my latest entries. I always made sure that I had something new up - just for Julie. Julie herself started blogging last summer. It was more of a private thing and she told me that she just "couldn't be funny, not like you, Sarah!" I found myself so touched by her entries, though. Her last was in November and she was discouraged because another scan had revealed more "hot" spots throughout her body and the 2 chemo pills she was taking were not enough to combat them. It was just a little while longer before drs told her there was nothing else that could be done and chances were, she'd be dying soon.

I went to see Julie last Wednesday, the 27th. I firmly told myself before I went in that I was not allowed to cry! I will cherish that hour I had with her, forever. Julie was very weak. Her skin was discolored from the failure of her liver. Her features were drawn. But her spirit was still there! I walked in, and Julie said, "I can't see - who is this?" I told her it was me and she smiled. We sat and talked for a little bit. I felt like an idiot because I couldn't think of one interesting thing to share with her. But I told her about the snow (it had snowed quite a bit on my way up) and how Will had finally gotten a cell phone and was starting driver's ed. soon - silly, ordinary stuff. Then, Julie said she was so sleepy and said, "I'm so sorry! I wish you could come back another time!" I told her to rest. Then, Julie's husband and I chatted for awhile. A little bit later Julie awoke and requested to be moved, so Luke, her husband, helped her walk to the couch. He and his mom got her all settled into place and then Julie and I were alone. I sat on the floor beside the couch and Julie lifted her arms over to me. We held onto eachother and I whispered, "I don't want to say 'good-bye'!" Julie's voice had been weak all morning long, but in the firmest voice I had heard yet, she said, "It's not good-bye!" And I agreed. It isn't - but it's a long separation until it's my turn to go, too. We talked about Heaven and Julie remembered that Paul and I had miscarried years ago and she said she'd find that baby for us and hold her/him. She then said something about "grace" and I couldn't make out if she was saying that was the baby's name, or if she was talking about God's grace.

It was such a surreal experience to be with someone when they were hours from "slipping the surly bonds of earth" and stepping over into Glory. It was sad for me, but it was also awe-inspiring. When somebody knows Christ, there truly is no reason to fear death, but rather, to embrace it. And Julie was ready. She was just waiting for Jesus to reach out his hand to her and carry her across that Great Divide.

The next afternoon Jesus came for Julie and she left us. I'm so happy that Julie is free from her suffering and no longer confined to broken, sick body. But I am broken hearted for Julie's family - her parents, her husband, her 3 young children. And I'm sad for me.

Julie's best friend, Amy, and I were trading song links the other night - sad songs to match our hearts. She sent me one, recorded by Toby Keith, called, "Cryin' for Me." I ended up downloading that, burning it onto a cd, and I've listened to it about two dozen times already. The words are so true, about how when someone dies (esp. if they are a Christian) we don't cry for them; our tears are for our own loss. I can't cry for Julie. She's free! She's with Jesus and free of her sickness after 4 very long years. But I cry for me because I'm going to miss her. She won't be around to answer my phone calls anymore. She's not reading my blog posts anymore and encouraging me to take my writing to the next level. She isn't able to encourage her parents, warm her husband's lonely bed, or to raise her precious children. That's what hurts.

But, as Julie reminded me, it's not good-bye. It's "see you later!" Julie, I can't wait to see you later. This world is now a little colder, a little un-friendlier, and even more so, not my home - because you're gone.

I miss you, my friend.