Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day 234


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.

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.
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!
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. 
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.

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?

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!
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. 

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