Sunday, November 28, 2010

PS - I Love You

A postscript to my last post: 2 1/2 yrs ago I was privileged to watch my first (and maybe only) home birth. It was when my friend Tammy gave birth to her daughter, Lariah. Sam was only 6 months old then so he came along. Later on, I joked to Ray and Tammy that maybe I had just witnessed the birth of my future daughter-in-law. Well, it's funny, because by the time Sam was more cognizant and getting around on his own, it was evident that he just adores Lariah. He's always looking for her at church and generally, when you see one, you'll see the other. He is such a busy boy, but he will sit quietly by Lariah out in the church foyer. On Sunday mornings he'll generally make a comment about how we're going to church and he's going to see "Riah." Now that he's getting older, I've noticed he is starting to tease her more. In fact, a couple of weeks ago he was making faces at her in Children's Church so I had him move and that just broke his heart. He cried and cried so I finally ended up letting him sit by her again.

Well, today in Children's Church I was talking to the kids about love and I asked each of the children to name someone who loves them. So I asked Sam, "Who is somebody who loves you?" and without missing a beat, he replied, "Riah." The room just exploded with laughter -not from the kids, but from Paul and me and from the helpers. Interestingly enough, today's teen helpers were Will and Lariah's 18 yr old brother, Nathanael. So, those two were really cracking up!

It makes me curious to see what the future will bring, that's for sure!

Healthy Me, Good Drugs, and Vehicles

It's a Sunday night and I'm not at church -- mostly because I just didn't feel like getting out of my sweats and getting dressed up again! Pathetic, I know. I am fighting a cold, too, but it's not too bad. I do need to go take some more coconut oil soon, though.

Yes, coconut oil. I only recently learned about the powerful anti-viral properties of this product. What you do, when you are feeling ill is to take a spoonful of the oil and spread it on some toast and then coat that with honey to disguise the taste. It knocks whatever you've got right out. I woke up Friday feeling really icky so I bought some of this that day. It's almost instantaneous in how quickly you feel better. I had a piece of toast when I came home from church this morning and I have felt fine ever since. But I'm going to take another one after I get done writing this.

Paul had to get his tooth pulled the day before Thanksgiving. The day before a huge piece of it broke off and left a really sharp edge that kept cutting his tongue. So he got that yanked out. I noticed he got a prescription for Vicodan. I had to have c-sections to get prescriptions for that good stuff! I've had plenty of teeth pulled and I never got anything like that! I think I'm going to go to his dentist from now on! Although, I'm not planning to lose any more teeth.

Our Thanksgiving was quiet. I made a nice dinner, but it was meatballs instead of turkey. The boys were not impressed - and they don't even like turkey! Ben kept pawing through my grocery bags, asking, "Where's the turkey?" and David had plenty of choice comments for me. This was actually Paul's idea. He suggested we just have frozen pizza, but I thought of doing things a step up from frozen pizza. At one point David turned to me and said, "You know, I don't know why they call it 'Turkey Day' when some people serve MEATBALLS!" Sheesh...

Oh, I went to that Norwex party last week. I have to say I was really impressed. They do sell some actual cleaning products but their big thing is their microfiber cloths. They have silver in them and, as a result, you clean only with water. I'm looking forward to getting mine. Later, I read through their catalog and I was bothered to see that their big emphasis is saving the planet (which is a total crock) but the demonstrator didn't mention anything about that. She just showed us the products. I'm half tempted to have my own party and I don't have parties. I got talked into one when Will was a baby and it stressed me out so much I swore I'd never have another one. And I haven't. But if I do agree to host a Norwex party, it'll have to be after my house gets more in order.

Will dragged me out shopping on Black Friday. I didn't stumble across any great deals, but I did get some Christmas shopping done. I almost lost Sam, too. The crowds out at Jordan Creek were unreal. He got separated from me and I was panicking because there were so many people that I couldn't find him. It was only about a minute later that I spotted him standing in the throng, looking around. I don't even think he realized he was lost yet. But, oh, my heart was pounding hard!

I visited our new Trader Joe's for the first time. I LOVE that store! They have so many natural and good-for-you products. And they're not super-pricey. I bought some natural potato chips (not made with saturated fats), some pure mango juice, a bag of almonds (for a granola recipe I want to try) and some yummy all-natural crackers and I only spent a total of $13! I'm going back tomorrow. I didn't realize that good-for-you food could actually taste good, too. But even if it didn't, I'd still eat it, I think. I've been reading up on corn syrup and trans fats and what they do to your body. I have to change my eating habits as much as possible!

We loaded up on bullets and insulated socks and gloves at Scheels for hunting this next week. Oh, my goodness - these guys had better shoot a LOT of deer! Will's special insulated gloves with the rubberized trigger thumb cost $25! And the two pairs of insulated socks I got for him and Paul were $15 each!

Speaking of hunting: figuring out just how we're going to get out to Council Bluffs has been a bit of an ordeal. I've already made plans with Kathy to shop on Sat. But then last night Will said that Paul said he was just going to drive his truck (which he just got running). But we can't all fit in there! So we talked and talked about what to do and finally we decided that we'd just have to pay somebody this week to fix my silver van because Paul does not have the time and won't until probably after Christmas. I hate to pay somebody to do something that Paul can probably do on his own, but time is a commodity too.

But then this morning Paul says to me, "Why don't we just let Will buy a car?" I hadn't thought of that. It was going to happen sooner or later, so it might as well be now. He has the money and since we'd be using it, we can help him out or at least definitely pay for the licensing, insurance, gas, and any repairs. Then, we could take out the red van (that is making a dreadful whining noise) and if something happened on the way, we at least wouldn't be totally stranded because we'd have the car. So, Paul spent the afternoon perusing Craig's List and making some phone calls. He and Will will go look at several tomorrow night. Will is excited! Our use of it would be temporary - just until Paul gets the silver van fixed. I hope that's ok as parents - to have your child buy something and then to turn around and use it yourself!

When Paul gets home tonight we're going to watch the Hallmark movie and then grind up some deer meat that was given to us. We cut it up last night. A guy at church gave us a huge section of a deer he got bowhunting. I am so thankful because now I won't need to buy any hamburger tomorrow! And deer meat is much more healthy for you, too. I also started buying our eggs from the neighbor at the bottom of the hill who has a farm. They're a tad more expensive, but they're organic and free range! I sound sick, I know - what happened to the Dorito Queen?

So that's what I know for now. Off to go spread some coconut oil on toast (and I have always detested the taste and texture of coconut, by the way)...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Monday Musings

Today Sam was going to the bathroom and he told me, "My wiener is raining!" He thought that was hilarious...toddler humor!

Not a whole lot to catch up on today. I need to start dinner soon because I'm leaving early tonight to go to my first Norwex party. I'd never heard of them until about a month ago. Should be interesting - they sell cleaning cloths and stuff, I guess. And you know how much I LOVE cleaning!

Ben had his birthday last week. He got his long-coveted Wheel of Fortune Wii game, so he's been a happy boy. He's been coming down at 6:30 every morning to play. I always send him back to bed until 7am!

Oh - I'm getting published again! I was kind of bummed when I saw that my latest FW piece didn't place in my division. I'm so used to losing anymore that I didn't even think to check the Editor's Choices until my friend Kristi emailed me, saying, "Congrats!" I got 9th place! Here's the link to my story if you want to read it: I wrote about miscarriage this time. I think because so many women have been through it, it touched many at that level. My mom said it's a "three-hanky plus" piece! I have a great idea for this week's topic; I just need to find the time to write it!

So, anyway, that's 5 stories now that are going to be published in FW anthologies - I'm excited!

Paul cut a hole yesterday in the mud room and hung the new door. He bought this gorgeous Victorian door for $10 at an auction this summer. For some reason, I thought it was going to face the kitchen -not our ugly mud room. I really don't like that. The mud room is just that - uninsulated, storage, dirty...and now with a beautiful door! Whatever, I guess!

We still do not have an operating furnace and we're limping along with the one van...stressful times, to say the least. And Paul ended up having 2 seizures over the weekend. But he logged 70 hours of work last week, so I wasn't too surprised.

Well, I need to keep moving. Hard to believe it's Thanksgiving week, already...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Maturity

Here I am, the NEW me! It's amazing what a haircut can do. I'd been mulling over the thought for awhile of cutting off all my hair. I didn't know if I would do it, but I did, as you can see. My reasons were multiple. I was tired of dealing with frizzy long hair. It takes a long time to do. And, 40 is looming large on the horizon, which doesn't bother me a bit. But there is something about that age that speaks of a new maturity and a shorter hairstyle seems more "adult" in my mind. Never mind that there are plenty of 40+ Hollywood actresses who still wear their hair long!

And not least of all, there comes an age for all women when long hair ceases to speak of youth and does the opposite - ages the woman. Obviously that's different for all and I'm not sure I was to that point yet, but why risk it? I need all the youth points I can get on my side! I was surprised to see today while doing the back that I've got gray hair creeping down the back of my head. I thought it was confined to the rootline. Apparently not. My stylist says she has a "plan" to let my gray grow in naturally, but at $68 a pop, I may need to come up with my own plan!

Maybe it's not just my hair that is maturing, either. Tuesday was our co-op pick-up. I ordered our first ever bag of evaporated cane juice (non-processed sugar) - expensive stuff! But I knew several of the other women in the group had ordered it in the past and I had only recently learned of the benefits of it. Anyway, while we waited for the truck, I ended up getting into some interesting conversations with the women on health and nutrition. There is SO much I don't know.

And then that very night was my Sp. Needs Moms group. I had no idea we were having a special speaker, via skype. Guess what her topic was - organic and whole eating! She has a blog that I've been studying all week since. I've also been peppering another member of the group with my questions.

The truth is, I don't want to change our eating habits. But I am becoming convinced that our general health would improve if our diets did. I don't want to get to 65 and be on tons of meds that eat up the budget, like some good friends/neighbors of ours have to be. I see Ben and lately David, really struggling with nasal allergies and I wonder - could it be what they eat? Last night Paul had two seizures and kneed me in the eyeball during one. Could he be helped? What about my neurological issues, my daily headaches?

But yet, I don't know how to do this. My new friend, Vicky, an expert out of necessity, is urging me to take it slow. Even, Carrie, on Skype, said it's important to not change to much at once - could send your body into shock or something, I guess. They suggest changing one thing a week or so. And then the expense of it concerns me greatly. It's hard enough to buy regular, additive and corn syrup filled food for 6 people and stay within budget. How on earth am I going to buy organic which costs a lot more?

And I LIKE junk food! My taste buds are very cultured towards sweets and junky stuff. They don't like vegetables and most fruits. And the boys - ! I've ruined them, raising them on white flour and sugar. They're NOT going to be open to changes in their diets!

But I'm praying for wisdom. We just got a Trader Joe's grocery store. I've never been in one, but I guess they carry quite a few organics. So I thought maybe I'd take the first $10-15 of our grocery budget and buy from there. Apparently, Costco carries a lot, too, but I'm not too excited about paying a membership fee and then having to buy in bulk. We just couldn't afford that. So, I'm going to take baby steps. This week I've been reading labels of all our food. I copied down a list of the "Dirty Dozen" fruits and veggies you should always buy organic because these, in particular, tend to absorb pesticides more so than others. I can do that.

So, I've gotten more mature looking on the outside. I have a feeling the inside is next.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Children are a Gift from the Lord

I have had writing this post on my to-do list for about 3 months now. It's kind of interesting that it's today, of all days, that I'm finally getting to it.

Today is Ben's birthday, which is day that often makes me a bit melancholy, since I can't help but remember the traumatic events of that day. What should have been a happy day instead almost ended up being the day that both Ben and I died. It also signaled a whole new direction for our family. But I always struggle with feeling that I should feel happy (and I do) because Ben is still here and very much alive. I'm actually doing pretty well on this birthday - those sad feelings are lurking around my heart, but they're pretty squashed down.

This spring in my special needs moms group we had a speaker by the name of Jolene Philo. She wrote a book entitled, "A Different Dream for my Child." She actually ended up interviewing me about Ben for her second book. I bought the book in May, but didn't read it until August. It's excellent - devotionals for parents dealing with any type of a-typical situations with their children. She had one chapter that really grabbed me by the throat and I have not gotten it out of my mind.

She wrote about how the Bible tells us that children are a "gift from the Lord." Period.


I guess it got to me because while there has never been any doubt that I love Ben, I have often thought, though, that I got the "short end" of the stick when he was born. I look around and I see that my friends got these beautiful, healthy, well-behaved children - great gifts. And I got the broken one.

But that's not what the Bible teaches. It simply tells us that children are a gift. If I was on the ball this morning I'd go hunt up the reference for the verse, but I'm not. But it's in there. So that means that ALL children are considered to be a special gift from the Lord, even those that are not whole in body or mind.

Like I said, it really struck me. It was not new information, but for the first time, I really absorbed it. It's so easy to say, "Oh yes, my child is a gift!" But he doesn't feel like a gift when I've had to go to 13 doctors and therapy appointments in one week. He doesn't feel like a gift when he's arguing and yelling at me. I definitely don't feel like he's a gift when he's throwing a tantrum, jumping and screaming, because he didn't' get his way. It doesn't feel like a gift when I am combing his hair - and having to reach up to do it because he's taller than me. I don't feel blessed when I am putting his deodorant on him or explaining for the umpteenth time why it's important to check before leaving the bathroom to make sure our underwear is tucked inside our pants. It doesn't feel like a gift when I worry that I may and probably will die before him and not knowing who will be there to take care of him in his latter years. What kind of gift is that?

But yet, he is a child. And he was given to me. And, so, he is my gift.

Happy Birthday, Ben!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lullaby of Love

Here's a FW piece I wrote a couple of weeks ago. We were supposed to write about hand-written letters. This was one where I was really never struck by a blinding bolt of inspiration. I sat down at the computer the night I needed to get it in, not really knowing what I was going to write. I struggled with the ending and changed it several times. It's not one of my favorites. But I did get some nice comments on it and I ended up placing something like 21st or 25th overall with it, which surprised me. I didn't think it was that good.

Lullaby of Love

It is my mother’s weeping that awakens me. She quietly sniffles as the teardrops roll down her face.

Mom is in the corner of my hospital room, holding my two-day old daughter. Today is the day that I go home. And my little girl will go to another home. Soon, her adoptive parents will come and I will release her. And so, my mom is saying good-bye as well, her hurt intensified by knowing how my heart must ache, as well as having to bid her first grandchild good-bye.

My pregnancy wasn’t a huge surprise. I had been remorseful as soon as the deed was done and had begged God to forgive me. Of course He had. But actions always have consequences and that was how I found myself pregnant my senior year of high school.

I had gone to Mom as soon as I mustered up the courage to tell her. She looked at me for a long moment and then swept me into her arms.

“Oh, Kayla,” she murmured. She stepped back and placed her forehead against mine. “We’re going to get through this, ok?” she promised me. And I believed her.

My boyfriend broke up with me as soon as I told him the news. Mom consoled me by pointing out that that choice revealed his character. I just wish it hadn’t hurt so badly.

I spent the first few months trying to act like a normal high schooler in-between bouts of vomiting and attempting to hide my expanding shape under baggy clothes. I finally shared my secret with my cousin, Mandy. I figured my mom had probably already told her mom and Mandy might be mad if I didn’t tell her sooner than later.

Mandy had a little boy last year when she was only sixteen years old. Logan is the cutest toddler with his blond curls! We sat together on the floor, watching him play.

“Ooh!” Mandy squealed, “This is so neat, Kayla! Our babies will be cousins! We can have play dates and if you have a boy I’ve got all kinds of stuff you can use.” She bubbled with enthusiasm.

I was a little stunned. I hadn’t thought of my pregnancy yet as being good news. The way Mandy talked reminded me of when we were little and used to play dolls together. Except, our babies now weren’t just dolls.
Responding to my silence, Mandy asked, “Well, you’re not thinking about giving it away, are you?” The truth was I hadn’t thought about adoption yet. I hadn’t thought about keeping it, either. I didn’t know what I was going to do.

“There’s all kinds of help you can get,” Mandy offered, “Being a single mother you can get food stamps and other stuff. I can give you the name of my caseworker, if you want.”

I left Mandy’s, mulling over her words. The thought of keeping my baby was really appealing. Every day that passed I grew more and more comfortable with the idea of this child. If I kept the baby, it would never lack for any love. I knew Mom would help me raise it. I could do it, especially with the help Mandy said was available to me.

But yet, my baby wouldn’t have a father. And I knew that was unfair. My own left when I was tiny and I knew all too well the hole that kind of loss leaves in the heart. My mom was wonderful and she did everything she could to compensate for my father‘s absence. But some vacancies just can’t be filled.

It was that night that I wrote the first letter to my baby. I told her about the dilemma I faced, how my heart was beginning to war against my conscience. I told her that I loved her and how I prayed God would help me make the right decision for both of us.


“Kayla?” The social worker knocks on my door as she walks in, followed by a nurse. “Are you ready?” Although I know I will never be ready for this moment, I nod. It’s time to go.


That day I said good-bye, my heart silently shattering as I placed my baby in her new mother’s grateful arms. I kissed my sweet girl one final time and then I handed her new daddy a manila envelope full of letters -- a lullaby from me that explained a decision and told of a love big enough to say good-bye.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

Tonight may be date night - or it may not. Paul's been working kind of odd hours this week - home at 4 one day, not 'til 7 the next. So, we made tentative plans to go out, but if he doesn't get home soon, I'm guessing we're going to have postpone our plans.

Our thinking was to go up to Des Moines. The bunk bed mattresses really need to be replaced. David has been having horrendous allergy problems every night and morning, so much so that he has recently started sleeping under Will's loft instead (and is doing much better, allergy-wise). I really hate to spend the money right now, but I can't have the boys suffering, either. But it looks like David will be sleeping with Will a little bit longer.

Paul goes on call tomorrow and it is supposed to be getting quite cold, starting tomorrow. So I doubt we'll see much of him this next week. That's always good, though, money-wise.

But it will add to his stress load. He's trying so hard to get this house closed in. And now his truck exploded the other night. It backfired, but it was a strange backfire so Paul doesn't know what is going on. And he doesn't have time to figure it out. And this affects our Thanksgiving plans, too. Neither of us is too fond of the idea of driving that rickety red van out to Council Bluffs. But we don't know how soon he'll get the silver van up and going - if it can be gotten going. ARgh!

Last night at church Paul was sharing some of our current struggles with his small men's group. One of the older men very seriously turned to him and said, "Well, why don't you just take your vehicles in and have someone work on them?" Paul said he didn't even know what to say.

I always like to read the wedding announcements in the Sunday paper, which we always get. Sometimes they have homosexual partners getting married, so those always catch my eye in kind of a icky way. But they had a normal couple and this is what caught my attention: The cool and classic looking bride is the daughter of a Dr. Greg Ganske. He used to be in the House of Representatives. He's also a well known plastic surgeon and runs these irritating ads about how he can do a "mommy makeover" and fix all the damage that bearing children does to one's body. So, anyway, the wedding announcement listed all the bride and groom's schooling and experiences and it was lengthy and lofty - Ivy League schools, training abroad, prestigious positions. And then it listed all the accomplishments of all four parents, which I thought was a bit much. It was just a like a big bragging advertisement. Who lists the jobs of the parents in wedding announcements, anyway?

And then right next to this large wedding announcement was a smaller one. This couple looked very Iowan (read: plump and ordinary looking!) and the announcement stated simply that they both worked for a Hy-Vee bakery. As I mentally contrasted the two couples in my mind I started wondering - is couple #1 guaranteed a happy marriage because they come from a family of high achievers and have buckets of money? Now, granted, a couple that works in a bakery is probably going to have more financial struggles than a couple of Harvard graduates. But will they be less happy? I really don't think so.

My article will be in church bulletins across the nation on March 6th, I found out. I don't think I can wait that long! They had me email them some personal family photos. But then the graphics guy thought that it would be better to have pictures of our church ministering to sp. needs children instead. So, I had to tell my pastor what was going on and he emailed them some pictures for me, for which I'm grateful. So, anyway, I had pulled these photos of Ben out of the scrapbook and they are now sitting on the steps, waiting to be glued back into the books. Sam looked at this one photo we have of Ben. It's one of my favorites. He's about two days old and has his eyes wide open. But there are wires running every which way over his body. His entire head is wrapped in gauze, as is a foot (holding in an IV). He looks pretty pathetic. Sam looked at that and said, "Ben head is broken!" I guess it would look that way to someone who didn't know better. And, truly, his head was broken, but just not on the outside.

We got my grandma's candy making supplies this week. Wow, she had SO much stuff! David and I have been going through it and figuring out what we're going to attempt for Christmas. I think I'm going to decorate Ben's birthday cake next week with some candy, too. I remember the fun of making candy with Grandma and now I will get to do that with David - and the other boys, if they're interested, but I don't think they will be. It kind of adds to my stress level, though, because now I need to find the time to do this, as well as learn how to do it. But I'll get there. And it will be worth it.

Paul called and as soon as he gets here, we're headed down to the Checkerboard. I can already taste those onion rings - best I've ever had. They even beat the Iowa Machine Shed and that's saying a lot!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beloved Enemy

Here is a recent non-winning FW piece (they've ALL been non-winning lately!). Years and years and years ago my great-aunt Margy used to save these monthly magazines, called "Good Ol' Days." She'd bring me a whole stack of them on her yearly trek to Iowa to visit family. They were chock-full of old stories that people recalled, usually from the 1940s or earlier. I devoured them all. Our assigned topic was "Face to Face Conversation" and I immediately recalled a story I had read in one of the magazines. I honestly didn't remember much, except that the feud was started by dirty laundry. You'll see that I put that in my story. I set mine in the mid part of the last century. I'm quite sure that when it actually happened, it was decades earlier. My mom hinted that this might be called plagiarism, but it's NOT! I totally made this story up - I was just inspired by something I read once. I enjoyed writing this one and I did get some nice comments. The judges, however, were not nearly so impressed!

Beloved Enemy

Thump-thump-thump-thump! The impact was loud enough to cause Myrtle Evans to look out the window. She couldn’t suppress a self-satisfied chuckle as she viewed her neighbor of thirty years, Rose Hillman, who had just swiped the side of her garage with her Cadillac.

Serves her right! Myrtle thought. She lived for these moments. Anytime she could view Rose in an inferior light she smiled.

It had all started shortly after both women, post- World War II war brides, had moved into the neighboring houses on Wilson Lane. One day, Rose had come charging up to Myrtle’s front door, angry that Myrtle’s young sons had thrown dirt on her freshly hung laundry. Now Myrtle knew perfectly well her darlings were innocent since, at that very moment, they were sitting sleepily at the kitchen table, eating breakfast! More than likely, it was Rose’s own hooligans that had soiled the laundry and Myrtle was quick to suggest that to Rose.
“Well, I never!” huffed Rose. She stared a long moment at Myrtle, and then turned abruptly back to her own house. The war was on.

For thirty years, the women had fought silently with each other. If Rose planted petunias, Myrtle planted rosebushes. If Myrtle put up a plastic Santa at Christmas, Rose decorated her lawn with the entire Nativity Scene. Neither woman hesitated to speak ill of the other and when they met in public, they would cross the street to avoid the other.


Still smiling, Myrtle retrieved the newspaper off the table where her husband had placed it.
She eagerly turned the paper to page ten, bypassing ads for Honest Joe’s Used Cars and news about President Carter. There it was -- “Woman to Woman”-- her favorite feature! She quickly scanned the letters, looking for one from “Blessed.” She wasn’t disappointed.

It really was a shame that “Woman to Woman” was ending, Myrtle thought. It was because, no doubt, the newspaper wanted to make room for more of those nationally syndicated columns they seemed to be so fond of. But she would miss it more than anyone would ever know.

The column had first appeared in 1954, entitled, “Housewife’s Corner.” The idea was for women to write in questions and then future issues would feature answers that other women had mailed in response. Myrtle had sent in the first question, asking for the secret to flaky pie crusts. She had signed herself as “Hapless Housewife” because that was indeed, how she felt at times! Days later, an answer from “Blessed in Bentonville” appeared. From there, a friendship was born. Over the years, “Blessed” and “Hapless” had chatted about everything from recipes to childrearing and even marriage through the newspaper column. “Blessed” was the one who had suggested to “Hapless” that her husband might appreciate a little more attention now and then, and “Hapless” helped “Blessed” adjust to the difficult empty nest . It seemed strange, Myrtle thought sometimes, that her closest friend was someone she had never met in person, let alone knew who she really was!


Several days later Myrtle received word that Rose Hillman had suddenly and unexpectedly died from a long-time heart ailment. She found herself surprised at the pang that news caused.

Three months later Myrtle was putting together some supper when she heard a tentative knock at the front door. Well, that was strange! Who would come calling at the front door? She brushed her hands on her apron and was surprised to see Bill Hillman behind the door. While Myrtle’s husband, Fred, and Bill and been friendly, she never had much use for the man. Anyone who was fool enough to marry that Rose Hillman didn’t deserve the time of day from Myrtle!

Bill awkwardly held a large book in his hands. “I’ve been cleaning out Rose’s things,” he began. “I’m not sure what this is, but I thought maybe you’d like to see it.” With that, he placed the book --a cardboard scrapbook, Myrtle could now see -- into her arms. Without another word, Bill left.

Curious, Myrtle carried the scrapbook inside and opened the cover. She gasped and her body suddenly began to shake as tears sprang to her eyes. When Fred later wandered into the house, looking for supper, he soon found his wife kneeling over an old, black scrapbook. Pasted to every page were yellowed newspaper columns, scanning several decades.

“Blessed” and “Hapless,” you see, were also known as “Rose” and “Myrtle.”

Based on true events...

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Times

There is Will from last night - love that smile! He posted this morning on Facebook that last night was quite possibly, the best night of his entire life. That's quite a statement. Paul didn't tumble into bed until after midnight (and he he had to get up at 6 to go into work today) so they must have been having fun! This picture was taken at Red Robins. Apparently Buffalo Wild Wings was so busy both times they tried to go in - I never thought about it being a Friday night and all.

So now we have a 16 year old. Time flies! Ben will be 14 on the 17th. That's hard to believe, too.

Speaking of Ben, we had parent/teacher conferences this week at his school. We met with his sp. ed teacher first. He showed us Ben's work and told us what a delight Ben is. Ben spends most of his day with that teacher and two other Level 3 7th grade boys. Level 3 is a category that defines the most seriously disabled students. Each student has their own associate.

We also met with Ben's industrial tech (shop) teacher. I really like him. Actually, the decision has been made for Ben to take home ec (which is now called something else; I can't remember what) for this semester. He had a couple of ind. tech classes and the teacher was getting really nervous because of Ben's jumpiness and the power saws. He wants Ben to take the class and thinks it can be done more safely another semester when he would only have Ben, instead of an additional sp. ed student to watch closely. I'm seriously considering having David take that class in another 2 years. He has such an artistic bent and a desire to create things that I think it would be great if he could be in this class, as well as Art.

And we met with the music director. We had a really good conversation about the program last week. She said she had just heard that day that I was upset about how things had gone and said that made her feel terrible. We're going to keep Ben in chorus for now because he loves singing so much. Hopefully with a buddy we won't have the wandering problems and maybe with some stage experience, he won't be so out of step during performances. I hope.

After the conferences we went and voted. That turned out pretty well! I wish Brenna Findley had beat Tom Miller for attorney general, but I heard that she may be offered a seat in Branstad's administration, which would be good. She's so sharp and bright - a homeschool grad, actually. And we got that idiot Culver out of the Governor's mansion - praise be! The best thing of all, though, is that Iowans had the courage and conviction to vote out the 3 Supreme court judges that ruled for gay marriage in '09. We sent a loud message that we're not going to tolerate legislation from the bench. It was Bob Vanderplaats, the failed Rep. gubernatorial nominee (that we supported whole-heartedly) that led the mission to oust the judges. David and I were talking about this the other day and I pointed out to him that perhaps that was why God didn't allow him to get the Rep. nomination. It was more important that he lead the fight and educate Iowans on the importance of getting rid of these judges.

And on a personal note, my week wrapped up pretty good. The summer of '09 I sent an unsolicited manuscript to Reg. Baptist Press. I wrote about Ben and how the church can meet the needs of the handicapped and their families. My thinking was that it would be good for their adult SS paper. I never, ever heard back. And then my friend Kay (who writes for their childrens division) told me she heard that RBP was now recycling their pieces, so it was probably unlikely that they were going to be publishing anything new. Well, phooey! It's always been my dream to write for RBP, but maybe now was not the time.

But the mail came Thursday and there was a check from the GARB in there. My first thought, as I was opening the envelope was that something had gone wrong with my renewal of the "Baptist Bulletin" magazine and they were refunding my magazine money I had sent in this summer. But no, it was a check for $80, with a little note stating they were buying my article that I wrote. Woo-hoo!!!! I am excited! I need to get an email off to the editor, to find out the particulars, but this knowledge alone right now is enough for me. This is literally a dream come true for me.

I am wondering how soon the day will come that I will begin to refer to and think of myself as an "author." This past year the door has flung wide open on that possibility. And I am more excited than nervous to step through that doorway.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Winter, Pics, B-days, and Screwed by Sunbeam

What a busy, busy week I've had! Next week should be easier and I am eagerly anticipating it!

I haven't felt well all week, either. Every winter when we start using the woodburner and the little particles of wood and smoke first get released into the air, my allergies flare up. That usually only lasts a week or so and then my body adjusts. But I'm not adjusting this year. And Ben and David are really struggling, too. Fortunately, this should be the last year that the woodburner is on the main level. I'm hopeful that when it gets moved downstairs the effect won't be so great. Also, along with the snifflies, comes the super-dry, itchy skin. I don't know if it's just the colder weather that produces this, or the wood heat. It's getting worse the older I get. Pretty soon I'm going to have to just roll in a tub (if I had one) of Crisco.

I think this depo-provera shot is messing with me, too. I'm having hard time with my temper and irritability levels. That's normally not a problem. The only other times I can remember feeling this way were the few times I was put on the birth control pill. I doubt I'll be menstruating while on this shot, but maybe I still have PMS and it's magnified by this extra progesterone in my system. I don't know. March can not get here quickly enough so that I can go off the shot and have my surgery.

Ben didn't have school today so I took advantage of the day to get pictures done. I got the boys' Christmas photo done. I thought scheduling it for a week morning would mean we'd have the place to ourselves - not so! We were early and still had to wait almost an hour. I was getting nervous because I had more pictures appointments scheduled over at JC Penneys for Will and Ben and I was worried that we'd be late. As it was by the time we got to Penneys (on time, thankfully) we were all starving and we had to wait even longer! They were busy too. And I was not appreciative of one of the clerk's somewhat surly attitude. I had brought coupons in but she wouldn't let me use two coupons ("It's one coupon per day!" she chirruped). I told her I was not happy about that so she went and checked with her manager and came back and said, "You can only use two coupons if we're photographing twins (huh?) and I don't see any twins here!" Oh, I was mad!

So when we were looking over the photos she saw some goofy ones of Ben and asked, "Is he always like this?" I looked at her and said, "He has autism, so yes, he's always 'like this.'" Oh, that got her! She immediately started apologizing all over the place. But I still ended up paying $19 more than I had intended to pay for pictures today because of their stupid coupon rule!

Will turned 16 on Tuesday. We celebrated at home, but tonight is Will's "real" party. He and Paul are taking 4 of his friends out for laser mini golf and to Buffalo Wild Wings. Will also wanted to have them all spend the night, but the basement just isn't closed in all the way yet and I was afraid they'd all end up with pneumonia. So we told him when we get everything closed in and warm, then he can have "phase 2" of his party!

And yes, Will got his drivers' license on Tuesday. State Farm is supposed to be sending me some paperwork for his insurance, but I haven't seen it yet. But they said he's free to go ahead and start driving on his own in the meantime. Tomorrow night he has a party for the Network, so I think we'll let him drive up there by himself.

Oh, I did buy a new mixer this week, although I haven't had time to use it. It seems almost identical to the one I had, although, technically, they are no longer making the same model I did have. What makes me mad though is that the prices are higher now on these machines, but they've eliminated the smaller bowl. Fortunately, my old bowls and beaters fit this new machine, so I'm ok. But it angers me when companies think they can get away with stiffing their customers. Paul called Sunbeam and talked with them at length. He found out he could order a mixer directly from them, but when he told them that I could buy one cheaper at Kohls, they wouldn't match the price.

Well, I have more to cover, but I'm supposed to go watch a movie with the boys. Tonight's choice - Marmaduke. It doesn't interest me, but David picked it out, so I guess I'll suffer through it. I really don't like dog movies. Actually, I just don't like dogs.

I'll be back later!

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Appliance Vendetta

About two months ago my food processor died and I wrote at length about the search and procurement of a new one. Now my countertop mixer has joined the ranks of the deceased. I've had it for 5 1/2 yrs and assumed I'd have it for many more. Not so. It suddenly quit working last week. Paul took it apart and found the gears had been chewed up.

So I brought in my old Sunbeam mixer from the shed where it has sat since I was given my new, red one. I thought it worked and I cleaned it all up - only to discover that it only worked on low speed. One of the beaters was kind of mangled, too. So I had Paul take it apart to see if the gears in it could be transferred to my red one. He opened up and found a hornet's nest - nice. The gears aren't interchangeable.

So now I'm on a quest for a new mixer - which is not in the budget. But it's needed. I've been getting by with my food processor but that thing isn't really designed for mixing like a mixer is. I'd love to have one of those 700 watt ones with the plastic cover that goes over the bowl, reducing the amount of flour that goes up into the mixer's motor. They start at $400, so it's not happening. I did some searching today and it looks like Kohls is the best place for what I need, so I plan to stop there tomorrow and get one.

And our dishwasher - ! Actually, it still works. But, apparently, we've been in imminent danger of burning down our house with it and we didn't even know it. Paul was building a fire the other night in the woodburner and grabbed some stuff out of the recycle trash with which to start the fire. Every once in awhile we get mail addressed to the old occupant of this house. I always toss it. Well, for whatever reason, Paul opened it up and discovered a second recall notice on our dishwasher. Apparently, Maytag went by address first before the name, so they sent it in care of the former owner instead of us. We're the ones that bought the dishwasher in '08. So, anyway, I called Maytag and they'll be out Wed. morning to make the needed repairs.

I'm feeling a little ganged up on! But at least I'm gaining a kitchen full of shiny, new appliances...along with a dwindling bank account.

Halloween at Home

Isn't that a great picture? Ben and his classmates carved this pumpkin in their class this week. They put the three boys' names in a bowl, drew out a winner - and it was Ben! He was so tickled!

We had quite a plethora of pumpkins by the time Halloween arrived. This summer we discovered that some volunteer pumpkin vines had sprung up near Roy's kennel. I ended up harvesting six or seven small pumpkins off that. Then, Dorothy brought us 4 good sized pumpkins from her garden. And then we had this one from school.

I love Halloween. I know there are numerous Christians who find Christianity and Halloween incompatible. I can certainly respect their beliefs and I try to be a little quieter on the subject when I know they're around. Paul and I examined the issue when the boys were small and decided that we couldn't see any Biblical basis for not participating in the holiday. We both have such good memories of Halloween from our own childhoods and it wasn't something we wanted to deny our own boys. We do stay away from ghosts and witches because, in the demonic kingdom, there are real ones of those. I guess if God ever convicts us otherwise, we'll reconsider, but for now, we embrace the scary night with gusto!

It helps that we live in a small town that also loves Halloween. Every year we have a bonfire and hayride the Sat. before Halloween. About every 6 years it works out that trick or treating and the bonfire happen on the same night. That's the way it was this year. And I had not made it to the bonfire since before Sam's birth. So this ended up being a great year. I took the boys trick or treating, which was first. Normally, Paul does that. Ben didn't' want to go this year, so he stayed home and handed out treats. I had to dissuade him from the notion of querying every child as to their preferences and then choosing candy accordingly!

Our mayor is a big kid, so this year he planned some extra Halloween treats for our hayride. He was mum about everything, but I did happen to notice that a nearby field had yellow police tape on it earlier on Sat. I figured that was part of the gig, and sure enough, it was.

We had zombies running at our hayride, shooting silly string. One of them was Will, which totally surprised us! He hadn't wanted to go down to the bonfire when we did and said he'd come later. He still hadn't made an appearance by the time we were loading up on the wagon. I just figured he wasn't going this year. What I didn't know was that he had been heading down the hill to the festivities when our mayor intercepted him and asked him to play a zombie role. So we were totally shocked when one of the zombies pulled off his mask and jumped on the wagon and it was Will!

Later on in the field we had zombies on lawn tractors and one with a chainsaw (probably not such a smart idea, running in the dark, in a field, with a running saw). It was great - such a good family time, as well as time with the townspeople. Sam kept declaring, "I not scared!"

These are memories that the boys will take with them. When their lives are busy and they're living in a large cities, around the end of every October, they'll wistfully remember the Swan Halloween festivities and wish that they could be home, once again.

Or else they'll be amazed at what Biblical ignoramuses their parents were and marvel that they turned out so well, despite being subjected to such obvious Satanic practices!

Oh, to Have a Horse and Buggy

Things are better now - but they got worse before they got better!

Thursday night, of course, was upsetting. And then Paul and I ended up getting in a big disagreement, which is pretty rare anymore - also upsetting. Things are fine now - he finally apologized! :)

And so, sleep deprived and puffy-eyed I made my way to Ben's school on Friday. This particular day I had decided to go the main route rather than the back way I normally take. I wouldn't be just dropping Ben off like I normally do. I needed to pick something up inside the school and so I needed to park;thus my decision to go the main route. All of a sudden the temperature gauge on my van shot to "hot." I knew it was a matter of minutes before the van would die. But I was stuck in a line of vehicles, all dropping children off for school. There wasn't a thing I could do about it. The stress was unbelievable!

And it did die. Ben immediately hopped out and darted across the busy street to the Middle School wing. I informed the driver behind me what had happened and went in the building too. Ben's teacher walked out with me and took a look at the van. He said there was oil mixed in the water reservoir, which is not good. I continued to try to call Paul, but he wasn't answering. I even had the dispatcher at his job try to page him in his van - to no avail. I sat in Ben's classroom for an hour, but got nowhere. All I wanted to do was dissolve in a puddle of tears - I was so upset about everything!

In the meantime, Mr. K asked me how the program had gone the night before. I gave him an earful. He had heard it already from some other source. He basically told me that since this was an extracurricular activity, the school was not obligated to provide extra support/supervision for Ben. But he suggested that perhaps a "buddy" system could be set up for Ben during performances. I agreed to give it a try. I don't want to take Ben out of chorale because he just loves it. But yet, I don't want there to ever be a repeat of Thurs. night's performance, either. So I guess we'll see what happens.

Eventually, I had Will come pick me up in the truck. I got home and Paul finally called. I had a full day of running around planned - of course all that was shot. I had the van towed home. Afterwards, Will drove me to town in the truck so I could get the bare minimum done of what needed to be done that day. The truck is not a sleek, well-running machine. It's a rusty, shaky beater. Will said it drives "funny" and he thought I'd be better off with a chauffeur, which was fine with me.

Paul and Will ended up spending all day Sat. working on our old red van. It hasn't run in months, but it is now. The plan is that Paul will get the house closed in, which is a real concern with the cold now. It won't be long and snow will be flying. Once that is accomplished, then he'll dig into my van. Paul's concern is that the oil in the water indicates a deep engine problem and he doesn't have time right now to get the outside of the house done and an engine job. Plus, work has really speeded up and he's working a lot of hours.

So, in the meantime, I'll be getting around in the rickety red van with the cracked windshield. It's better than walking, I guess. The starter needs to be replaced on it, which will happen tomorrow. I'm supposed to pick one up from some place in Sandyville. Yesterday morning, Paul, Will, and David headed out to Montezuma to pick up some free insulation from a guy off Craig's List. I had planned to take the other boys and go to church. But when I saw the problems that the starter was having I decided to forget it. I could just see me not being able to get it to turn over and having Paul be so far away.

The up side was that I ended up developing a very, very strange desire to deep clean my house yesterday morning. I'm not aware that that has ever happened before. I got the living room and half the kitchen done before I ran out of time. So, I guess every cloud does have a silver lining!