Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day 234

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

January 26, 2014

Day 234

It’s supposed to be 1 degree tomorrow.  Again!  I am so tired of this cold.  This winter has been exceptionally cold, it seems like.    I remember after Paul died thinking, “Oh, I’ll never have to pray about the weather again!”  His income depended on extreme weather conditions.  As a heating and air guy, it was good for our bank account when summers were excruciatingly hot and winters were bone chilling.  Well, I think I’m going to have to pray about it, regardless.

I am sick right now over propane prices.  Pre-death, we spent about $1000 a year on propane.  A lot of that was because we burned wood, which meant the furnace didn’t have to work that hard or long.  Mild winters helped, too.  So, after Paul died and I had to switch to a monthly budget, I budgeted in $100 a month for propane.  That would give me a little bit of padding in case prices increased.

I’m not burning wood this winter and the future of that is still in question.  We found out that the reason the wood burner won’t work in the basement has to do with pressure levels in the house.  Upstairs, there was more of a neutral pressure area because of all the windows.  But the basement is sealed very tight and there is only one window down there.  We would need to buy a new woodburner with a special vent on it in order to make it work.  So my woodburner, with all its new, expensive duct work, sits cold this winter while I try to figure out what to do about it. 

1992 - we were engaged.  I can't believe I wore that ugly sweater and he STILL married me!
In the meantime, propane prices have skyrocketed.  In early Dec, I filled up the tank for $600.  Propane was less than $2 a gallon then.  Right now it is more than $5.  I checked our level the other day and we’re already down to 20%!  I can’t afford to triple my budget allowance for propane.  But if I get the tank filled this week, I will spend more than $2000.  A few fills like that will drain my bank account very quickly.

I don’t have a choice, of course.  We have to have heat or we’ll die.  I’ll just order the minimum amount in hopes that prices will fall soon.  We’re experimenting with the thermostat, seeing how low we can keep it without developing frostbite.  I’m reducing the number of hot showers the kids are allowed.  I’m washing more in cold water. 

Later this year I’ll have to decide what to do about the woodburner, whether or not to buy a new one with the special vent or to just forget about heating with wood altogether.

This financial insecurity terrifies me, though.  It creates a sick feeling in my stomach as I worry.  Are we going to be able to maintain our lifestyle (such as it is – we’ve never exactly been high rollers)?  Will I have to return to work, put Ellie in daycare and the others in school?  What about Ben?  How will I work but be able to ferry him to whatever he ends up doing after high school?

I comfort myself with God’s promises of provision.  That helps.  Fragments of different verses are beginning to crowd into my mind:

I have been young, and I have been old, but I have never seen the righteous beg for bread

But my God shall supply all your needs…

For we walk by faith, and not by sight

A sparrow does not fall to the ground without your Heavenly Father knowing it…

Who, by worrying, can add one day to his life?

I sense this is an area where God desires to see me release more into His control.  To me, money is security.  But He wants me to find my security in Him.

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As I walked out of church this morning, a friend told me that it looked like I was surrounded by trees – great, tall, gangly trees, that is (Will, Ben, and David)!  It’s kind of a nice, protected, feeling, to have tall boys.  Out of curiosity, I just measured them.  Will is just shy of 6’, 1”.  I don’t expect much more growth out of him.  Ben is nearly 5’11” and David is a little over 5’8”.  I know eight months ago David was still shorter than me, so that means he’s grown about 3” since his birthday last May.  I’m guessing both Ben and David will pass Will in the height dept.  Paul was only 6’ and had more of a stocky build like Will does.  Ben and David are all elbows and knees, dependent on elastic in their waistbands!  I just had to buy David all new jeans on Friday.  I can’t keep him in pants these days.  And I noticed today that Sam’s church pants have crept above his ankles.  It won’t be long and he’ll be part of my “forest,” too!  And maybe the girls?  I don’t know.  Both their birth parents were on the short side, but they definitely are not tiny for their ages.
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God protected our house the other night from some major water damage.  I am SO thankful!  We were getting ready to leave the house to be gone all evening.  In fact, the rest of us were all in the van and were waiting on Will to scoop up some supper and get in the van, too.  I finally went back into the house to see what was taking him so long.  As he was dishing up his food, the ceiling suddenly began raining.  The upstairs toilet had been recently flushed and was flooding!  Water was pouring through the ceiling, into the cupboards, and down on the floor.  Will was able to stop the water, unplug the offending fixture, and the two of us used loads of towels to mop up the water.  But if we had been gone when that started – oh, boy!  The kitchen ceiling would have been toast, the cabinets might have been hurt, the new wood floor would have definitely warped, and the water would have probably ended up in the furnace, which could have been wrecked.  I’m still shuddering!
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My latest devo for Jewels came out today.  You can read it here.  Are you impressed?  I made myself learn how to insert hyper links into my text a few weeks ago.  This was my first chance to try out my new skill. 
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Will has been telling me about a couple who work at Camp, who were expecting their first baby, a baby I believe, who was conceived after a prior miscarriage.  Even though he’s only 19, has never dated, and marriage and parenthood are probably years off in the future, Will has been excited for them because he knows them and has worked with them.   Tonight he told me that this couple lost the baby this last week – a full term baby boy who died in his mother’s womb.  He had a bedroom all ready for him and he’ll never sleep in it.  I find that I am crying for this couple and I don’t even know them.  It’s a deeper pain than I think I would have felt prior to Paul’s death.  Grief recognizes grief.  Pray for the Hemmings.

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Paul's 22nd birthday - 6 weeks before our wedding



We went to an Iowa Energy (basketball) game Thursday night.  It was kind of neat – the boys and I had discussed the possibility of buying tickets to a game sometime because it would be something we could do as a family.  Checking on ticket prices was on my to-do list when we started Amanda the Panda.  And there I was told that a benefactor had donated a bunch of tickets for a certain game and if anyone was interested, to put their name on a list.  I did and we went!

I haven’t attended a lot of basketball games in my life.  Well, not since my senior year of high school anyway.  I went to a Christian school that didn’t offer football, so basketball was the “big” sport then.  I saw a lot of games that last year of school!  I think I remember attending a basketball game my freshman year of college at Faith and it’s possible I made it to a UNI game when I was attending there, but I can’t remember for sure.  But I know I haven’t seen one in all my post-college years.  The Iowa Energy is a professional team, which differs from school teams.  And boy, is it different!  They played pounding, pulsating pop and rock music throughout all the playing.  It didn’t really bother me, although it was kind of loud.  They sure didn’t have that my Christian high school!  Ellie thought the music was pretty neat – she danced her way through the first half of the game before her legs wore out.  Part of me was amused, but the other part was a bit worried.  How did she learn to move her two year old body like that?  I sure didn’t teach her those moves!

And the cheerleaders…well, the less said is probably better.  You know, I always cringed a bit when the dance team would take to the field during some of the halftimes of the football games.  It was a good time to encourage the boys to go to the bathroom or the snack shack or anywhere!  But those public high school performances were awfully tame compared to the repeated performances we saw Thurs. night.  The cheerleaders’ moves were dance moves and they were meant to be seductive and sensual. 

Ben leaned over to me at one point and told me he was pretty sure that a couple of the cheerleaders were Pleasantville grads.  I thought that was highly improbable and told him they were probably girls that just reminded him of past students.  He just smiled and said nothing.  Later Will said to me, "Hey, Mom - did you know two of those cheerleaders graduated from Pleasantville?"  

The big day!  Definitely not loving those puffy sleeves, but that was the style back then.  Pretty cake, though - Paul's mom made that.
Lizzie was both entranced and appalled.  She couldn’t care less about the basketball game, but her eyes were glued to those cheerleaders.  When the girls (women?) came out the second half they had changed their outfits.  Lizzie commented, “Well, at least I can’t see their tummies anymore, but do they know I can see their underpants now?”

Several times, though, Lizzie said, “Will and David don’t like the cheerleaders.”  I would look at the boys, and sure enough, their heads were turned and it was apparent that they were deliberately choosing to not watch the cheerleaders.  That’s something they learned from Paul.  He was so careful about where he let his eyes go.  So I did take the opportunity to explain to Lizzie, at a five year old level, why it was that her brothers weren’t watching.  I don’t know how much she understood, but it’s a message I’ll keep repeating until she understands what to look for in a future spouse.

Do you know what?  Not a single player on either team was white.  Every single man on that court was black!  I seem to recall a movie in the ’80's called “White Men Can’t Jump.”  There must be a reason for that, although it’s hard for me to believe that one race is genetically predisposed to certain athletic feats over another.  Aren’t we all people, regardless of skin color?

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Ben had a Special Olympics event yesterday up at Woodward-Granger, which is over an hour  away.  This was for his basketball skills.  I sure wish they'd find a bigger gym in which to host this event.  It's so crowded and when you bring your own cheering section, like I do, it's hard to find seats and is difficult to climb the bleachers (particularly when you have a child with mobility issues - like a lot of the participants!)   Ben did really well.  I remember the first year he did basketball and his cerebral palsy made it so difficult for him to dribble.  This year he was markedly better at it.  In fact, I wonder if at some point he might be able to participate in an actual Sp. Olympics basketball game.  He did get first place, so we will be headed to Iowa City for the state championship in March.  He was supposed to go to that last year, but the chicken pox got the best of him.  I  jokingly told him, "No chicken pox this year!"  He smiled and laboriously explained to me, his ignorant mom, that he can't get the pox again because he had them once and they were pretty bad.  But he could get the shingles at some point.  I can't believe I still forget at times how literal the autistic mind is!
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I read a piece the other day about grief.  It was written by a bereaved mother and she was covering things that ought not to be said to parents in her situation.  I found a lot of what she said applicable to any kind of grief, though.  One thing really caught my attention.  She said that any sentence that is prefaced by “At least” should never be uttered.  I understand that by saying one of these, the speaker is making a clumsy attempt at comfort.  I can accept the spirit in which it is said.  However – just don’t.

At least:

- he’s in Heaven
-he didn’t suffer
-you have your children
-you have the Lord
-there was life insurance
-you’re still young (you can remarry)
-you had twenty years
-you have a wonderful church family
-he wasn’t murdered
-you still got to adopt the girls

Yes, all these are reasons to be thankful.  And I am - really.  But it doesn’t change the fact that Paul is dead, gone when the kids and I still needed him desperately.  It doesn’t change the fact that he died long before he should have and that the kids and I have been left with a huge, gaping, painful hole in our lives and hearts.  It doesn’t change the fact that our lives are forever altered, painfully and horribly. 

The reality is that Paul is gone.   It hurts.  And there is nothing that can be said that will make it hurt less. 
















Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 229

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

January 21, 2014

Day 229

Today would have been my Grandpa Daniels’ birthday.  He would have been 93, I think, if he were still alive.  But he died in 2001 – my first grandparent loss.  Now they’re all gone.  While sad, those losses were normal and somewhat expected.  All my grandparents lived long and healthy lives and all their children (save one who died a couple of days after birth) outlived them, as it is supposed to be.

Today has been a good day, after a couple weeks of really rough days.  Just the same, I’ve found myself in tears several times today.  Granted, I met with my pastor’s wife today and having someone sit down with me and ask me how I’m doing tends to bring on the waterworks.  Our Bible study was on God’s great power and the speaker on the video referenced Joseph.  Paul loved that Bible character more than any other, I think.  He often talked about the life of Joseph and identified with him.  I found myself drawing from that, as well.  Right now, I’m in the prison with him, I think.  I want to believe that God has better things in store for me, but I don’t see how Paul’s death fits into that.  How is crushing me supposed to make for a good life?  But maybe there won’t be a “good” life until Heaven.  And, perhaps, my vision is a bit short-sighted right now, too.  There’s always that possibility!
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Last night was our second Amanda the Panda meeting.  A couple of the women in my group were quite chatty last night (to the point that nobody else really got to talk).  But they both commented how they know there is no future happiness for them.  They’ll never love anyone again and their only role right now is to raise their children – otherwise, they’d be happy to commit suicide.  I could understand that.  I’ve had the same thoughts.  But at the same time, I wanted to fight against that kind of thinking as I listened to them.  I want to believe that future happiness awaits me.  I want to believe that someday I won’t hurt so badly and that maybe, even someday, I might be able to love another man the way I loved my first husband.  And now I’m a soppy mess again just typing these things out.

I do see progress, though.  I remember right after Paul died trying to look down the road of my life and I saw nothing.  Everything was barren.  I would simply exist, do what I had to do, but my days of happy living were gone – buried right alongside Paul.  But now…now, I see some green shoots starting to grow in that dry, barren path.  They’re tiny little seedlings of hope.  There aren’t many of them and mostly I see the dry ground still, but every so often, I am spying a tiny green sprout and the sight of one is enough to keep me walking.


So, back to the group last night: I wish I was a quick thinker, but I’m never going to be.  Someone says something unbelievable to me and I just stand there and take it.  Later, I suddenly realize what I should have said, but it’s too late.  Of course, I probably save myself a lot of trouble that way, not being able to shoot off at the mouth in response like I wish I could.

Before it started, I was chatting with one woman.  We were both widowed suddenly in our forties.  I mentioned that I homeschool and she could not believe it.  “Oh, honey!,” she exclaimed, “You have got to put those kids in school!  If you don’t, you’re going to crack up and be no good to them or yourselves.  Even if it’s only for a year, you get those kids back in school today!”  She wouldn’t let it go and all I could muster up was a feeble, “Well, I didn’t want to impose too many changes on the kids’ lives at this point…” I’m sure she thought she was being helpful in her blustery, bossy way, but I felt like I’d been run over by a steamroller.  Here’s the thing, though…homeschooling is a calling for me.  That doesn’t mean that I’m listening to God and others who don’t homeschool are not.  But I believe that God called me to homeschool my kids, at least for the time being.  If the day comes, like it did with Ben, when God does not wish me to homeschool any longer, He’ll make it clear.  That’s what I wish I would have said to the woman.  For a few moments there, though, I doubted myself.  Am I going to eventually crack and go crazy if I don’t lessen up on my responsibilities?  I know crazy people are the last ones to recognize their own craziness, but I think I’m doing ok right now.  I haven’t misplaced any children yet or run outside naked, despite continuing to homeschool through widowhood.

But speaking of doubting one’s self: David has always been upset with me because I did not wake him up the night Paul died.  Paul had been dead about 8 hours before any of the kids, except for Will, knew.  I remember thinking about it that night, wondering briefly is I should wake the older boys.  But I decided against it because Paul did not look normal any longer.  His skin was gray, he had a vent in his mouth, a dent in his forehead and blood smeared over one side of his face.  I did not want the kids to have that image in their mind (now all my readers do, though!).  Also, if I woke them, they would be upset and sleep deprived the next day, which would make for further upset.  Looking back, I really am grateful for the clear head God gave me that night and in the next few days to make decisions.  Part of me felt very detached from everything and that was the shock that typically insulates the newly and abruptly bereaved.  But at the same time I was able to function and make decisions that I still think were good ones.  That’s not because I’m such an amazing person – God was carrying me.  So, even though David has not been real happy with me, I’ve never really thought that I should have done things differently.  It was just this past Sunday night and he and Will and I were talking once again about the events of that night and David brought it up again, that he wished I would have awakened him so he could have seen and said good-bye to his dad.

But then last night at the group, one of the members was sharing about her husband’s death.  He died and she knew it was very important that her kids get to see him before rigor mortis set in.  If they didn’t get that opportunity it could cause all sorts of emotional upset and seeing their dad was so vital to proper grieving.  So she made sure they got to the hospital and they got to see him one last time.  I began to second-guess myself in that moment.  Maybe David was right.  Maybe I had made a bad decision that night in not awakening him.

God is good.  He’s more than that.  He is amazing.  We got home last night and I was puttering around and David came to me.  He said, “You know how I’ve always wished you would have woke me up when Dad died?”  Trust me, I know!  He then told me about a boy in his group who had shared how he  had watched his little brother die a few months ago in a horrific accident. Now that memory is forever burned into his mind.  David said to me, “Mom, I think you made the right decision to let me sleep that night.  Thank you for not waking me up.  This way, I don’t have any bad memories in my mind of dad.”

Thank you, Lord.

Oct '11 - we had to have a family picture for our adoption file.  So I had a friend snap this one night after church.  After seeing it, I was convinced that nobody would EVER let us adopt after viewing this picture - all those surly, unsmiling faces!

The other morning I was doing Lizzie’s hair when she asked, “Mom, are you fat?”  Such a pleasant way to start one’s day!  I asked her what she thought the answer was to that.  Lizzie replied, “Well, I would say, ‘yes’!”  Trying to remember that she was a chosen child…

Ever helpful, Sam piped up, “Well, I’ve noticed that most moms are big in their middles!”  I think that was attempt to make me feel better.

And then, the same day, at lunch, Lizzie looked at me and said, “Mom,when you were younger…” I sensed a question coming on, probably about color tvs or cameras that didn’t show pictures on the back.  Instead, I heard, “…you were a lot prettier!”  Feeling the love, let me tell you…
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Will is thinking now about the possibility of becoming a PE teacher, with the intent of being able to coach high school football.  He’s been researching programs at some area colleges.  He’ll still do at least one year at Faith, first, though.  I could see that being a good fit for him.  I can see him on the football field better than I can in the pulpit.  Time will tell.
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Today I had to go to town and buy a new bathtub, surround (walls for the tub), vanity, sink, cabinet, and light.  I had not planned on buying all this for the new bathroom.  The plan was to simply move everything out of the old bathroom into the new one.  I should have known better.  Remodeling is never that simple.  I wrote last week about the decision to go with a smaller sink.  But when Will started ripping into the bathtub he discovered it was all corroded underneath.  That hurt because I loved my extra deep, extra wide tub!  Bathtime is the highlight of my day and it has been nothing short of bliss the last 3 years to be able to sink into that deep tub, full of bubbles.  Sigh…I did have my eye on an extra deep soaker tub at Menards but, but then we went to the Habitat for Humanity resale store and found a regular size tub for nearly half the price.  I actually sat in it right there in the aisle and to my surprise, it did feel kind of nice, while small.  As long as I never get as fat as Lizzie seems to think I already am, we should be ok.  This tub does have a nice slant to the back, which will make for easier reading than what I have had the last few years with my other tub.  And, I will get a few more inches in my closet by going with this tub.  But, still…

I did buy a really, really nice surround, though, to kind of make it up to myself.  It looks like tile (without troublesome grout) and has lots and lots of shelves.
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Monday morning I fell asleep on the couch after sending Ben off to school.  I was SO tired still!  The next thing I knew, I felt small hands pulling my afghan up around my neck and tucking it in around my body.  When she isn’t intent on being contrary, Lizzie can be very sweet and nurturing!  It felt good to have somebody taking care of me. I miss that.
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The kids were discussing a Sunday School classmate who broke her wrist this last week at school.  They were super-jealous of her cool, purple cast.  Lizzie declared that she wished she could break her wrist, too.  Sam sighed dramatically and said, “Well, I wish I could break my spine!” He’s always been one to do things in a big way…

Ellie was looking at her “Sleeping Beauty” book the other night in church.  She got very excited and pointed to a picture of the King in there.  “Jesus, Mommy, Jesus!”  He did have a robe on and shoulder length hair, so I can see how she thought that.  But I had to tell her, no, it was a different king!

I was complaining about being cold again the other day.  I don’t remember what David said in response, but I told him that I had been told that being extra cold is often something that comes the older you get.  David looked at me with a wicked glint in his eye and said, “So I guess the older you get, the less hot you become, huh?”  Ooh, let me at him!


Feb '12 - we went to the GARB marriage conference.  We made a whole weekend of it.  It was so special and we told eachother that we'd definitely do it again before too long.  Only, we wouldn't.
I had a dream Sunday afternoon while napping.  It wasn’t a message from God this time.  It was just simply a dream, brought on by circumstances and feelings, I’m sure.

I was in a cupcake bakery-laundromat.  What a combination!  You’d think the heat from the dryers would melt the cupcake frosting.  But I was choosing cupcakes to buy when I felt a pair of arms encircle me.  Surprised, I turned around and it was Paul!  For some odd, unexplained reason, he was shirtless.  Oh, I was so excited!  We were all over eachother, right there in the store, hugging and kissing – I’m quite sure that had the dream been real, we would have been asked to leave the bakery-laundromat! We were putting on quite a show.  He felt exactly like I remembered.  I have forgotten nothing.  I know every plane and contour of his body, the feel of his body hair, where he was soft, where he was hard, how he liked to be touched.  And then, in my dream, we were sitting down.  My head was resting on his shirtless chest and I began to sob.  They were wild, grief-stricken cries, the like of which I have rarely engaged in since his death, simply because I am afraid that if I start, I might never stop.  My heart was completely broken in the dream because I knew it wasn’t real.  Paul was dead and he wasn’t coming back to me.  And so I cried and cried into his chest, completely broken in that moment.

I woke up with tears streaming down my face.  Even my dreams are broken-hearted.








Saturday, January 18, 2014

Day 226

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

January 18, 2014

Day 226

I slept in until 10:39 this morning.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I did that.  I’m thinking it was decades ago – definitely my pre-children years, I’m guessing!  David said I must have needed the extra sleep and I guess he’s right.  But wow – 10:39???  I’m sleeping down in David’s new bedroom now since mine is in the process of becoming the new bathroom.  His room is windowless and away from the main rooms of the house.  Plus, I didn’t get to bed until 12:30am.  I’ve discovered an old show that comes on late on Friday nights (Monk) and I am totally hooked.  I can’t believe I never knew this show existed before!  And, I am still recovering from that sickness last week.  I suppose all those factors contributed to my late start this morning.  Of course, now I’m going to be playing catch-up all day, but sometimes that’s ok, too.

Look at those white legs! Visiting friends in Des Moines in '01 - we went to Living History Farms during this trip & still haven't been back, even though we moved out here in '04!
I did my grocery shopping and Walmarting yesterday.  The Littles spent the day with Jenn and her kids.  Really, this set-up is so ideal.  Once a month, she takes the short people all day long.  It gives the girls a chance to see both their bio brother, James, as well as their former foster siblings.  Sam gets a chance to play with boys his own age and Jenn gets her Lizzie-Ellie fix.  I get a chance to do my shopping alone, which is nice, and Will and David get a break from the Littles.  It’s so perfect!

I did find myself crying in the van as I drove yesterday.  Nothing in particular triggered it.  I think that there is a part of me that recognizes that when the kids aren’t with me I am “free” to do that and so now it’s just a given that if I’m alone, I’m going to be crying!  It didn’t last long.  But right now I do definitely have a case of the winter blues.  Even Jenn commented on that yesterday, that I seemed “different” right now.  I think it’s just the weather and the added stressors right now of David’s tutoring and the knowledge that I’m going to be losing Will soon, the fact that both the girls have lost most of their hair (another story for another day), on top of normal grieving.  It will pass.
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The new church directories were printed up and handed out this week.  I knew it was coming, but it still hurt to open up to the “H” page and see my name listed – alone.  The masochist that I am, I had to turn to the back pages and look under January and February’s calendar – no birthday for Paul listed and no anniversary for us.  It’s like he never existed.  Even Ben last night was thumbing through it and exclaimed in indignation, “Hey, Mom – they forgot to put your anniversary in here!”  Of course, I know they can’t include dead people in the directory.  That would just be weird and clutter things up.  But it still hurts, just like every Christmas card I received this year addressed this year to “Sarah Heywood and Kids.”  It’s not supposed to be like that!  Everything is still supposed to be “Paul and Sarah.”  But it’s not.

Yesterday, while shopping, I had a phone call about some city business.  I had to point out to the caller that our town is very small and nobody is available to attend these certain meetings she was calling about.  Our mayor and most of the council members work full time.  I told her, without thinking, “I’m just a housewife and I’m actually in the middle of grocery shopping right now (as opposed to sitting in an office all day long)!”  After I hung up, though, I thought to myself, “But I’m not a housewife anymore!”  I still do house-wifey things, I guess, but the “wife” portion is no more.  I wonder what my new title is?

Back to the church stuff: Will did point out to me a paragraph dedicated to Paul in the Deacon’s report.  I don’t know who wrote it, but it was very sweet and touched me.  They wrote about how the hardest thing our church had to deal with this last year was Paul’s death and how it was something we still don’t understand, but just have to trust God’s hand about.

Speaking of which, I have more song lyrics to share!  Oh, this is one I’ve loved since it came out in the mid-90s.  It’s taken from a quote by Spurgeon:  

God is too good to be unkind
And too wise to be mistaken

In fact, that very quote hung on our kitchen bulletin board for many of my growing up years.  My mom had found it printed somewhere and clipped it and tacked it up.  I must have read it a million times, never knowing future events that would make those words so poignant for me.

The camper Paul insisted we buy - I hated the thing, but this was actually kind of a fun trip - Sept, '01 - Lake Rathbun
The song, recorded by Babbie Mason, touched my heart when it first came out.  I can remember being especially grateful for it after Ben’s birth.  In fact, I have a vivid memory of his time in the NICU.  The local Christian radio station in Omaha then had a Saturday morning request show and I remember calling them and asking them to play that for me.

Yesterday, as I was driving it came up on the shuffle list on my mp3.  I listened to the words especially carefully this time:

All things work for our good
Though sometimes we don't
see how they could
Struggles that break our hearts in two
sometimes blind us to the truth

Our Father knows what's best for us
His ways are not our own
So when your pathway grows dim
and you just don't see him,
Remember your never alone

Chorus:

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don't understand
When don't see his plan
When you can't trace his hand
Trust His Heart

He sees the master plan
He holds the future in his hand,
So don't live as those who have no hope,
ALL our hope is found in him.

We see the present clearly
He sees the first and last
and like a tapestry He's weaving you and me,
to someday be just like him

(Chorus)

Boy, did I need to be reminded of the truth of those words!
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The older boys told me that they, too, made “feeling” pie charts at their group at Amanda the Panda Mon. night.  Only, Will and David mentioned that they also had feelings like “happiness” and “hope” listed.  I’m glad for that.  I just wish that I felt those things, too.  One of the ladies in our group who lost her husband awhile ago commented that the first year after a death is a “honeymoon,” that the real grieving comes in year two and three.  I’ve heard that before and I can’t think of any more depressing news.  I’m already so low, emotion-wise, but it gets worse?
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Ellie has figured out how to use the microwave.  That’s not a good thing.  She’s warming up things like food, which is fine.  But she’s also warming non-food things.  I’m afraid she’s going to fry the microwave or burn herself.  On one hand, I’m impressed by her extensive and ever-increasing knowledge base at only two years of age.  The other hand is really getting scared by how smart she is!

She loves to sing and does it frequently.  Yesterday we were going home and I heard her singing, over and over, “Daddy die, Daddy die…”  Oka-a-y…but then she started adding, “Mommy die too!”  Cheery little thing, isn’t she?
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Will and I are doing Financial Peace University right now.  Will is a huge Dave Ramsey fan, so for his graduation we gave him the FPU kit.  It has all the audio cds, books, envelope system, etc.  He’s been rather insistent I listen to everything with him and read the book, so I agreed.  If nothing else, it’s time spent with him and I don’t think there are a whole of 19 year olds that really want to spend time with their mamas!  I have always found Dave Ramsey annoying (his laugh, primarily) but I do have to admit he seems to be right on the money (no pun intended) when it comes to his financial advice.  I know that I need to be extra careful.  I am completely debt free but that’s only because Paul died and there was some insurance money.  Most people have to work their way, slowly and painfully, out of debt.  That’s what Paul and I were doing – not too successfully – in the years prior to his death. In doing so, they learn proper money-handling techniques and develop a strong determination to never, ever owe anyone again.  I by-passed a lot of that and it might be tempting at some point to allow myself to get back into debt.  So, I think this is going to be good.  Just with the three cds we’ve listened to, I already find myself tweaking some of my budget/ money handling techniques.
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One thing I find that I am struggling with is the future.  I so much desire to know what is coming.  I remember going through this after Ben’s birth.  I hounded the dr’s and therapists to tell me what they envisioned for him in the future.  Of course, they couldn’t tell me (except for the NICU dr’s who were only too happy to inform me that Ben’s life held no  future accomplishments or joy).  And now I want it again.  Am I going to make it, financially?  Will my kids be ok?  Will I remarry?  Will I be sad the rest of my life?  Will I live in this house forever?  Will I have to return to work at some point?  Will I live long enough to raise my kids?

A friend loaned me a book called, “Just Enough Light for the Step I am On.”  The title kind of sums up the entire premise of the book.  I was reading it, got side-tracked, and pulled it out again the other day.  I read a chapter and then immediately read a chapter in my widow devotional by Margaret Nyman.  It just so happened she had this paragraph in my reading that day,

Sweetness - Oct. '01  David was 2
God is the only one Who can see all the way down the road.  Because of that, it seems sensible to leave the darkness and uncertainty of what’s ahead up to Him.  He’ll highlight what I need to know, when I need to know it.  Meanwhile, He hands me the lamp of His Word and says, “One step is enough for now.  Walk into that small circle of light right in front of you, and let Me take care of what’s ahead in the dark.”

I have already seen this in my life with Ben.  I remember riding with Paul over to the NICU and asking him in a panic, “If Ben never regains his suck/swallow reflux, how are we supposed to feed him?  How will he survive?”  I had no idea.  I remember worrying what would happen if he never learned to walk.  I fretted about what we would do for schooling and the thought of having a handicapped teenager scared me to death.  But you know what?  Absolutely every concern has worked its way out.  I never knew the answers until I needed them,but I finally learned that the answers would be given to me, but only when I needed them. 

It’s going to be the same way now.
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As I was checking out of Walmart yesterday, the clerk happened to mention that she had been a single mom while raising her kids.  She was probably a good 15-20 years older than me.  I told her that’s what I’m doing now, too.  Our circumstances were different – she was twice divorced and I’m widowed, but we both found ourselves raising children alone.  We ended up talking for quite awhile because I was buying $300 worth of food and then, it being Walmart, the majority of the staff is inept and it took forever to get someone to come approve one of my coupons.  As I folded up my receipt, I told the clerk that it had been really nice to talk with her.  She smiled and said, “You’ll get through this.  We always do.”

I hope so.








Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Day 222

 DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

January 14, 2014

Day 222

Day 222 – kind of cool.  Not really…

Jan '12 - I love this picture of Paul teaching Sam the art of snowball making!
My house is in a remodeling uproar once again.  But…it’s the last time – EVER!  Even if I move someday, I refuse to move anywhere that needs work.  For the last 14 ½ years I have lived in the throes of construction and I am DONE.  I cleared out my bedroom today – the room where Paul died – and most of the bathroom.  Will marked off the measurements for the new bathroom and I hear a power saw at the moment, which sounds like progress.  We decided to go back to a single sink.  I feel guilty about that.  Paul always wanted a double sink and when he did the first bathroom 3 years ago, he was so tickled when he came home with a brand new double sink top.  It worked fine in the space we had for that bathroom, but in order to make everything fit in the new bathroom, it’s really best to have just a single sink.  I know it’s not as luxurious as Paul imagined, but I’m really ok with it.  This way I get to have my walk-in closet.  But there’s still a part of me that feels bad because I know it’s not what Paul wanted for us.

Will said that the other night he had a dream in which he was telling his dad his plans for the bedroom/bathroom project.  When Paul was alive, it was always the other way around, of course.  Will said that in his dreams his plans met with Paul’s approval and he woke up feeling so good about that!

Physically, I am doing much better.  I still have a persistent cough and sinus pain, but it’s so much better than what it was.  I don’t know what that was last week, but it was nasty.  I never did go to the dr, but I found some old antibiotics, which was pretty much the same thing (dodging death rays from my nurse friends as I write this…)

Sunday I had a parents’ meeting for Amanda the Panda, which is our grief support group we started attending last night.  They had all of us parents in a room and asked us to introduce ourselves, tell who had died, and the ages of our kids.  I did ok doing that, although I probably sounded like I was an emotional wreck just because my voice has been “off” due to being sick.  I left the meeting really wondering how this would work, though.  They divide the kids into groups by age, but I didn’t know if all the adults would be together.  That was a bit of a concern to me because some of the parents at that Sunday meeting had actually lost ex-spouses.  I’m sure that’s a hurtful situation, but it’s not the same as losing one you were still married to and very much loved.  As it turned out, they had those parents in a different group last night and I was glad.  So Sunday they spent telling us about their services and talking about grief in general. 
1992 - so in love...

I cried all the way home.

Last night was the actual meeting and it was great.  Will and David were dragging their feet about going and they’re still not 100% on board, but I don’t think they are quite as antagonistic as they were before the meeting.  It was special.  They had someone dressed up like Amanda the Panda who greeted everyone with hugs if they wanted them.  A delicious meal was served by community volunteers.  That part was a bit of a pain with Ben and his eating/fine motor needs.  I’m even toying with the idea of skipping the meal from now on.  We’ll see.

Our group was comprised of adults who have either been widowed or lost a child.  They told us that next week they’re going to separate us, though, and I think that’s a good idea.  Our group is led by a woman who was widowed in her late 30s ten years ago when she had young children.  They had us make pie charts detailing our emotions right now.  That took some thinking.  Mine was pretty evenly divided between sadness/feeling overwhelmed/anxiety.  There was also a little bit of anger thrown in.  Because, I will be honest – there are moments that I am SO mad that this happened.  I honestly am not mad at God or at Paul, but just at the situation.  When I am having to do something that normally fell under Paul’s jurisdiction, it makes me angry at times.

They had us introduce ourselves again and tell when and how we lost our loved one.  I find that it is one thing to write, but it was another thing altogether to say out loud, “My husband suffered an epileptic seizure and suffocated to death.”  It just sounds horrible.  We each had to sign up for an upcoming session where we will be given about 15 min. to “share” our loved one with our group.  I’m looking forward to that.  I think I’ll show the dvd that ran at his viewing and then I’ll pass around a picture of his tombstone, because that’s something that is important to me.  I’ll share about his death, of course, but I want mostly to share his life – who he was and what made him so lovable. I do that in two weeks.
Right after we were engaged - it's supposed to be a picture of Paul's new car


Sam had a great time and he’s been chattering off and on today about his group last night.  His second tooth fell out during his session, which delighted him to no end.

Today when cleaning out my room, I discovered Paul’s brown belt.  Paul had been looking for that thing ever since we came back from Colorado in late Feb.  It ended up in one of my baskets – weird.  Well, knowing this house, that’s really not weird at all!  I commented to the world at large that I had found Paul’s belt and Sam commented crisply, “Well, it’s too late for that, now!”  Yeah, I guess it is.


We started at Learning RX yesterday, too.  The night before I was almost making myself sick over the amount of money I am spending on this, despite the peace I’ve had all along.  Suddenly, though, I recalled a Wed. night about six weeks ago when I actually made it to prayer meeting and in my little group, I ended up raising some of the concerns I had about David’s learning.  That night I remember that every single woman prayed for the situation, that God would give me answers and clear direction.  Remembering that, I was finally able to banish the sick feeling and proceed the way I believe I am being led.

The session went great.  Thursday they will start training me how to do the home stuff.  I really, really like David’s instructor.  She’s funny and immediately struck up a good repertoire with David, despite the fact that he was nearly sick with nerves.  Poor kid.

I noticed yesterday that David has a picture of the tombstone as his wallpaper on his phone.


Will is starting to give more thought to his Best Man duties for Nathanael’s upcoming wedding.  He asked me for some bachelor party ideas and all I could come up with were strippers and drinking.  I don’t know!  What do Christian young men do for those?  Do they even have them?  Well, Nathanael’s having one, anyway.  I suggested to Will that he google “bachelor party ideas.”  He looked at me for a moment and then said, “Maybe I’ll google ‘Christian’ bachelor party.”  Oh, yeah – that’d probably be a better idea!  I can imagine what kind of websites would come up otherwise…


The other day, out of the blue, Lizzie informed me, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a really nice to my kids – you know, not like you, Mom!”  What?  She hadn’t even gotten in trouble yet.  I got up, got on the computer while she watched Saturday morning cartoons, and that was the sum of our entire interaction thus far.  Obviously, she’d been giving this some thought, though.  She went on to talk about how if her future children got really naughty (and by her tone, I could tell she thought this would be highly improbable) she might give them a time out, but that would be it.  Uh, huh – you let me know how that works for you, Kid…


One lady stopped into our group last night and told us that there is a group in Des Moines for the widowed who are raising children.  Apparently they meet once a month or so and function as a real support to one another.  I’m not saying I won’t ever get involved, but I’m not ready for that yet.  My fear is that  it would be a place to scope and be scoped out.  I don’t want to have to deal with that yet.  Or ever. 

Just the other day I was thinking about the possibility of remarriage someday and I glumly had to come to the realization that I have very little to offer to a potential spouse.  I think it’s probably safe to assume I may be alone the rest of my life.   Sigh…

I’ve had a lot of thoughts lately regarding the intimacy of aging with one’s spouse.  When you’re young and in love, you don’t think about things like that. In fact, I can remember being young and in love and pitying the older married folks I knew.  I just knew their lives were lackluster, the early fires of young love having burnt out long ago! But there’s just something about it…the way you can admire the streaks of gray in the other’s hair, the way you playfully pat the pouch that wasn’t there twenty years earlier.  The crinkles at the corners of the eyes remind you of the young person you fell in love with.  The fact that you have spent nearly all your adult years with the same person – you’ve seen them young and now you see them old.  You’ve seen them at their very worst – in labor, puking in the bathroom, bleeding on the kitchen floor, furious at their boss, making dumb mistakes.  And you’ve seen them at their best – your wedding day, holding your newborn child, holding your hand, planning the future.  When you look at those crinkled eyes, you don’t see an old lady/man.  You see the young person they were.  You feel the bond that’s been forged across the decades, the bond that unites you against the world – and your children.  This is the person who knows you inside and out and loves you more than anybody else.  I don’t know that there is anything more beautiful, to be honest.

I’ve lost that.  Even if I do, by some miracle,  remarry someday, that spouse will never know the “young” me.  I’ll always be middle aged or old in their mind.  We won’t have carved out our place in the world together or forged a future for the two of us.  There may be love and there may be enjoyment, but it will never be what I had.

Some days I just feel plain robbed. But most of the time I’m just sad. 
 
 



Friday, January 10, 2014

Day 218


 DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW


January 10, 2014

 

Day 218

 

Seven months into this, there are still moments where I find it difficult to believe that Paul is really and truly dead.  I thumb through the family scrapbooks and he seems so alive on the pages that I try to fool myself into thinking that if I rest my hand on a picture of him, I’ll feel him again.  There are nights that I pretend to myself that he is laying in bed beside me and I can almost trick my mind into believing it is true.  I can still instantly bring the sound of his voice and the touch of his rough fingertips to my mind.  When will that begin to fade, I wonder?

 

A number of years ago a song sung by Natalie Grant came out, simply entitled, “Held.”  At the time, I remember that the words touched me deeply.  These are just some of the lyrics:

 

Who told us we’d be rescued
What has changed and
Why should we be saved from nightmares
We’re asking why this happens to us

Who have died to live, its unfair
This is what it means to be held
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive

This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held

 

In fact, I remember talking to Will one day about this song when it came over the radio.  I remember actually choking  and telling him that someday, someday, he would understand this song.  That someday, his world would be rocked so strongly that all he could do was cling to  the Father.  I told him that someday something would happen that he would have no logical answers for and he would have to simply allow himself to be held in those moments.  Of course, I was thinking way, way in the future.  I never once imagined how and when that moment would arrive.

I’ve heard the song since Paul’s death.  But the other night I was listening to my mp3 player in the kitchen and the song came on.  For the first time since June it grabbed me and – hard.  I stood there, shaking, as tears just ran in  rivulets down my face.  But not for long.  A child came in there, needing something, and I had to quickly wipe my eyes and tend to their needs.  That happens a lot!  But I’ve had the song on my mind ever since.

 

I am really sick right now.  I honestly don’t know if I have the flu or if it’s just a bad chest cold.  I’ve got nasal and chest congestion.  My voice sounds like, “you’ve been smoking for 40 years!” as Will so eloquently described it earlier today.  I’ve got the body aches that make me think it could be the flu.  But my throat feels like I’ve swallowed broken glass so that makes me think it could be strep.  And, no, I haven’t been to the dr. yet.  One of my council members called me today and nagged me about that after I missed last night’s meeting!  I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and suddenly feel better.  But I may have to give in and go to the dr. intead.  Sometime.

Of course, I haven’t slowed down much.  I can’t.  I spent yesterday up at City Hall getting ready for the meeting I couldn’t attend.  Today I took David to Learning RX to find out the results of his testing and meet with the director.  Then, I ended up swinging by church to talk to Terry and get his input into what I should do.  Then, I came home and had to put another two coats of paint on David’s bedroom walls and attempted to paint his loft bed out in the garage (except it’s just too cold for the paint to dry, so it was an exercise in frustration).  Then I had to help David pack for the Winter Melt-Down up at camp.  Finally, Will said, “Mom, you need to take a nap!  You go to bed and I’ll put Lizzie down for her nap.”  So I did.  I almost slept, but then David came in to inform me he was leaving and did I have any money?  That was the end of my rest time.  And then Ben came home from school and wanted to know why I never showed up for his “fair” something or other he was doing at school today.  I knew he was doing something out of the ordinary because he told me he didn’t want to go to Genesis today but wanted to stay at school, which was fine.  But I had no idea he wanted me to come!  I feel so bad.  If he had told me, I would have been there.  I told him that, but Ben didn’t seem terribly concerned, just wondered why I hadn’t come, I guess.  

The older kids are doing a good job, but I wish Paul was here to take care of me right now.  I bet I would not have had to make supper tonight.

I did get the results on David.  He scored low on everything they test, ranging between 7 – 13 years age-wise on most things.  But, when it comes to long-term memory, he scored at age 19!  That does make sense, because he can pull out events from his pre-school years and talk about them.  I just wasn’t sure what to do.  They offer a variety of options.  The more expensive ones require little involvement from the parent, the cheaper ones require more parental involvement and less time at the center.  I was half-tempted to go with the expensive one because of my time constraints, but after talking to Terry, I decided finally to go middle-of-the-road.  I’ll be running David up to W. Des Moines twice a week for an hour and a half and then I’ll have to carve out 3 hours a week to work with him at home.  With this one, though, results are guaranteed.  Because of the severity of David’s needs, the center is suggesting we do a 32 week course, and the director said we may need even more time than that (for more $, of course).  But yet, if by doing this, I am broadening David’s options, then it has to be worth it.  The director taught first grade for decades and while she didn’t come right out and say she supported homeschooling, she talked with dismay about the handful of students she would have every year who just couldn’t learn and how they would handle normal school protocol for such students, but even with the intervention and parental involvement, the students still could not learn.  She made the comment that as these students grew their future and world became more and more limited.  And I know she’s trying to sell me a product and is going to pull whatever strings it takes to get me to sign on the dotted line.  But at the same time, her words did speak to me because that is what I fear for David.  I honestly do not care if he goes to college or not someday.  That’s not my goal with him – or any of my kids.  But if he chooses not to go to college I don’t want it to be because he could not function at that level, but only because that’s just not a direction God is leading him.  I have to do something.  The director asked me about my fears for David right now and I thought out loud as I expressed them to her.  I fear that he will be stuck in low-level jobs because of his lack of reading, decision-making, and math skills.  I fear that he will be easily taken advantage of by the unscrupulous.  I fear that he will continue to feel badly about himself which will lead to poor decisions that adversely affect his long-term life.

I have a peace about this decision even if I’m not quite sure how I’m going to manage it all!

Ellie is growing so fast.  Just this week she started saying, “Lizzie” very clearly.  Her sister was “Lolo” at first and for the past 8 months or so has been, “Lala.”  I think that’s adorable.  But whenever I’d call Lizzie, “Lala” she’d give me the death stare.  Apparently that’s a term of endearment allowed only by a little sister!  And when we ask her, Ellie says very clearly, “Me Elwie ‘Aywoo” (“Me: Ellie Heywood”). She has also figured out that some people are boys and some are girls and happily spends her time identifying each.  Her brothers get pretty disgusted if she misidentifies them as, "girls" - imagine that.  I'm not convinced she doesn't do that on purpose!  I’ve never had a 2 yr old girl before, but I’m pretty sure mine is pretty advanced for her age!

And her sister…oh, her sister…One night this week I was making supper and Sam asked if we were going to eat deer meat.  I pointed to the ham I was heating and replied, “No, pig.”  Lizzie exclaimed incredulously, “What?!”  I repeated that we were eating pig for supper.  Lizzie asked, “Why are we eating a kid for supper?”  I am not quite sure which is more appalling – her obvious hearing loss or the fact that she thinks I would actually practice cannibalism in my kitchen!



 

 

 

 

Mother's Day '12 - I was wearing the dress that I would end up wearing to Paul's funeral, a dress that afterwards I would wash, fold up, and seal in a ziplock bag, because I couldn't bear to throw it out, but knew I could never wear again
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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