Friday, February 28, 2014

Day 267


February 28, 2014

Day 267

It has been one of THOSE weeks.  I have been so incredibly busy that I have been waking up with my heart racing and this feeling of certain doom that I will be unable to complete all that must, according to my list. This is not a good way to be living.

Coming home from vacation always leads to a hectic few days, I’ve found.  You kind of have to “make-up” the days you missed.  On top of that, I have had a number of March 1 deadlines looming over my head for several different things, all of which involve paperwork and phone calls.  I had Ben’s annual  care and needs assessment/meeting this week (more on that later).  I had to start on Will’s FAFSA this week.  I grocery shopped and visited my gynecologist today.  She was horrified to hear of Paul’s death and wanted to know if I am “taking care of yourself.”  I tried not to laugh.

Oh, that reminds me.  I got kind of a sad kick out of this, but it tickled me nonetheless.  I always have to fill out a form before I have this annual exam and on it, they want to know what type of birth control I am using.  This year I wrote, “widowhood” on the blank.  It made me kind of laugh, anyway!  I don’t think my dr was nearly so amused.  She reminded me that I might start dating at some point and that I’ll be fertile until I’m around 52.  I told her, well, I doubt I’m going to get married again until after it’s too late for babies.  She looked at me and said, “Well, you just give me a call when the day comes and I’ll get you set up on something!”  Of all the things on my mind these days, birth control is not one of them…
Oh, what else happened this week?

1993 - the wedding reception our church in Council Bluffs had for us
I have my bedroom painted and Will bought carpet for it today while I was out grocery shopping.  My friend Debbie came over Wed.  Her son was working on his Camp Coins service project (a way for the church kids to earn $ towards camp – also another one of my current stressors since I need to get Ben working on his) and he decided to work on my house for his.  I wasn’t about to say no to that!  Debbie and I ended up finishing up the painting ourselves, all the while having a nice conversation.  I needed that.  The back wall didn’t turn out to have as much of a contrast as I had planned for it to have against the other three walls.  I guess the colors were too similar.  But I am so sick of painting right now that I do not even care!

When I bought the paint earlier I could have just smacked the Menards employee that helped me, though.  I told him the color and type of paint I wanted and that I wanted their cheapest interior paint.  A few minutes later I saw him using Dutch Boy paint, which I know is NOT cheap.  I questioned his choice in this and pointed out that their store brand is 1/3 of the price of Dutch Boy.  The employee looked at me and said, “Oh, I thought you wanted good paint!”  Seriously?!

I am pretty confident I will be moved into my room by this time next week.  How wonderful that will be!  I even bought a metal track and bookshelves this week for the room.  I have not had sufficient book space since our very first apartment 20 years ago which had a dining room with an entire wall of shelves.  I bought 8 12” shelves.  I’m going to have a lot of space for books now. I can't help but smile at the thought of that!
I realized this week that despite my hectic pace and this continual feeling of falling farther and farther behind I was actually happy.  I think that really stems from the fact that I made it past the 20th.  I didn’t fall apart, but chose to live, as a friend reminded me.  That felt good.  Of course, I still do have these moments of familiar grief, still.  I’ll be going along and suddenly it’s there again, wrapping itself around my heart.  But anymore, as quickly as it comes, it also leaves rather rapidly.  I guess that’s progress – maybe?
This Monday will be our last Amanda the Panda session.  It will be nice to have our Monday nights back again, but I have really enjoyed these group sessions, all the same.  But they have once-a-month family nights so I think we’ll try to shoot for some of those.  And then they have Camp Amanda which is a 2 day, overnight, camp experience for the grieving.  I’m going to wait on that until next spring, so that Lizzie will be 6 and can participate.  Plus, this year I’m too busy!

At our last session, shortly before it ended, our leader passed around a box of small rocks and asked us to pick out one that appealed to us.  Then, after we all had our rocks, she wanted us to use our rocks to describe ourselves.  Boy, did I feel put on the spot.  Talk about having to think quickly!  Mine was a flat, smooth rock, so I said that the fact that it was flat reminded me that my life had been completely flattened by Paul’s death.  The small nicks and uneven spots I saw on the rock were like my life which will be forever scarred by the loss of my husband.  But, the fact that the rock was completely oval and the edges ran together seamlessly reminded me that, like the edges of the rock, my life WILL go on.  I kept the rock.  I assume it’s in the bottom of my purse right now.  One of these days I’ll pull it out and put it somewhere where I can see it.

At the last session, a couple of other widows in my group told me that they had missed me the week before and wondered where I was.  That’s the Monday night I was speaking to my ladies group. So I told them what I had been doing.  The women looked at me and asked, “How could you DO that (talk about marriage when I have been widowed so recently)?”  I told them it wasn’t easy, but I really believed it was something I was supposed to do.  Then, I shrugged and said, “Honestly, it was God giving me the strength.  I don’t know that I could have done it without Him holding me.”  I find that I am bolder now about my faith and beliefs.  It’s kind of nice.

Last night at Amanda the Panda they had an advertised  opportunity to make an art project – something that could be used to decorate our home in memory of our loved one.  I almost didn’t go because of my time pressures.  But I had already signed up and I hate to not follow through on my word, so I went.  I’m glad I did.  They wanted us to make a large heart, divide it into pieces to represent each member of our family, and write the strengths that each member brings to the family.

I went a different direction.  I knew the instant I showed up at home with something like that the kids would all demand to know why I had ascribed certain traits to a sibling and not to them!  So I made my heart and cut a smaller heart out of the center.  On that heart I wrote, “We are Family.”  Then, I cut what was left of the heart into 7 pieces and wrote each of our names on them.  I glued it back together onto a piece of posterboard, leaving about 1/8” gap between the pictures.  To me, that symbolizes that our family heart has been broken, but is still a complete unit.   Near the bottom of the heart I wrote “Paul” on one side with his death date and “Our Dad” on the other side.  At the very bottom I wrote, “Living out a Legacy.”  I then filled rest of the posterboard with traits our family possesses.  We were given a frame and then I framed it.

When the program director came by she insisted on taking a picture of mine so she could show it to their staff.  She then asked if I had an art background!  I laughed and told her I was just a mom.

I’m going to hang my piece in the new hallway. 
Ben hasn’t had much school the past two weeks.  A week ago Monday was Presidents’ Day.  Then, we were out of town Thursday and Friday.  This week, he had a planned early out on Tuesday.  Wednesday, everyone was let out early, unplanned, because of a water main break in Pleasantville.  They had no school at all on Thursday because of that and today they had a 2 hour delay because of it.  But that’s ok.  It’s not like my other kids have been having a lot of school, either!

As I mentioned we did have his annual meeting this week.  There was a lot to talk about.  I’m switching Ben over to the CCO option which has necessitated a LOT of paperwork on my end.  But now I can pay his SCL and respite providers $15 and $16 per hour instead of the $8 something they were earning before when contracted through an area agency.  Also, my friend Maureen and her husband are getting close to having their greenhouse ready and they want Ben to come work in it so there’s been quite a bit of discussion about how that will work since it involves state monies for Ben’s job development.

The program director at Genesis also came, to my delight.  She is a fellow Christian and just a delightful woman.  I could so easily see us being friends outside of Ben’s involvement at Genesis.  But she and Lisa (the case manager – also someone I like immensely) told me that Genesis has group homes.  The more they explained these homes to me, the more excited I got.  From what they are telling me, this sounds like an ideal placement opportunity for Ben in a few years.  I know he desires to be independent, but I greatly desire to keep him safe.  Because of that,  I have just always assumed that Ben would live at home until I die.  At that point he’ll live with one of his siblings.  But the idea that he could be somewhat independent, while still having assistance for everything he needs, makes my heart sing.  I had them put Ben on the waiting list because it’s about a three year wait.  I don’t know that Ben will be ready to move out in three years but he won’t lose his spot in the queue if we decide to wait, either.  He’d be in Indianola and I could pick him up for church and other things, as we desire.  He’d have a social group and transportation to and from wherever he ends up working, which has been a concern to me as I contemplate my future and the possibility of maybe having to return to work someday.

Financially, it sounds like Paul’s death may benefit Ben, as well.  These ladies were telling me that not only will Ben be eligible for Disability once he graduates but because his father died, he would also receive SSDI, still.  At least until the entire American economy collapses, that is…

Talk about a look of smugness on my face!  My 22nd b-day
So now I feel like I have some definite goals to work with Ben in preparation for his eventual move.  When Lisa found out in conversation that I still put away all Ben’s clothes and lay them out for him every morning she got this look on her face and exclaimed, “Sarah!  Ben is 17 years old – you need to LET him be independent. He is almost a MAN!”  All right, all right…I’m just envisioning the mess his dresser drawers will be by the time he gets done.  Since then, I’ve started praying that God would give me other ideas of ways I can promote Ben’s independence as well.  It occurred to me that I should buy him his own alarm clock and see if he can learn to get himself up in the mornings.
My mom sent me a copy of David Jeremiah’s book on Heaven.  I don’t know if this is something new or not.  It’s really cute – just a small little, hard-bound book.  I read almost the entire thing in one sitting yesterday while David was at Learning RX.  I found myself so excited as I read it.  There is SO much waiting for us!  I’m so happy Paul is already experiencing all those delights.  Oh, how fortunate he is!  I’m going to read this book kids next.  We had started, “Heaven is for Real” last summer but haven’t gotten back to it yet.  I would like to finish it.  I see they have made that particular book into a movie.  I find that I am reluctant to watch it, though.  I have my doubts about Hollywood being true to the story and message and I kind of hate to have the book ruined for me before I finish reading it.
I had a rather profound thought earlier this week as I was priming my bedroom.  I have never felt like I am the best mom the girls could have.  I’m more equipped than their birth mom, but since the girls arrived I have felt like they have been getting the short stick in regards to what they deserve in a real mother.  I am supposed to be writing an article on adoption for a friend’s blog (due tomorrow, and no, I haven’t started yet) so that’s probably why this was on my mind.  I don’t say this so that my friends can rise up and assure me that I am terrific mother.  I know my heart and I know I could do better.  Since they came, I’ve been grouchier as they tested me (as I knew they would) and as my days got even busier.  While I very quickly learned to love the girls, it wasn’t the same, instantaneous love I felt for the boys.  I felt guilty about that.  I felt self-conscious at times, (and still do) wondering if I’m being judged by the entire black community (like it really matters, but somehow, it does).  At times, early on, I even felt resentful of the girls, even though I sought them, not the other way around! And then of course, Paul died and I haven’t felt like the greatest at anything for the past 8 months, but especially at parenting.  These myriad of feelings have lead me to believe that the girls could have done a lot better.

But I had this sudden thought this week.  We got pregnant four times, super-easy.  Of course, we lost the last one and then entered a long, long, long period of secondary infertility.  I pondered that.  It was just weird that I could have babies almost at will and then I suddenly could not.  Why did that happen?  Then it hit me.

God was saving Lizzie and Ellie for me.

Had I not had Sam so much later, it’s doubtful I would have ever pursued adoption.  God needed me to be in a place to adopt at the same time that these two little girls would need a new mother.

It was the most sobering and deep thought.  God picked me for the girls.  And vice-versa, of course.  If that’s the case, then perhaps I do have the skill set necessary for properly parenting them?  Perhaps then, time will even out some of these bumps and I will grow into the mother that the girls really do need?  I hope so. A better way to say that might be that God will give me the skills needed to parent the girls.  

Maybe this will be the basis of my article that I need to write.  Really, really soon.
Sam has had a few gems this week that I’ve jotted down.  I’ll wrap up this super long post with them.  This is what happens when I’m too busy to sit down and blog! 

When I got home last night I went into Ben and Sam’s room to get out Ben’s clothes for school and Sam was still awake.  I tucked him in again and took off his glasses and he sighed, “David doesn’t do a very good job at tucking people in!”

This morning as he headed down the stairs to pick up his bedroom, a daily chore, he commented, “Basically, I’m the butler of my bedroom because I’m the only one who cleans it!”  I’m wondering where he learned the word, “butler”!

Tonight I was warning Lizzie about standing on the table bench in the kitchen.  She bumped a picture hanging on the wall behind her and it was swinging wildly.  Sam then pointed out my fiestaware on a shelf directly above the picture and told Lizzie, “Mom will not be happy if you break those dishes.  They’re the most special thing to her!”  I was relieved to hear him add, “Except us – we’re more special to Mom.”

Maybe they are catching what I hope I’m conveying.  Maybe despite my many failures and lack of patience and understanding, they have caught what matters.

They’re all “more special” to Mom than anything else in the world.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Anniversary Anniversary


February 23, 2014

I got through it.  I survived my anniversary anniversary.  I actually did more than just survive.  I enjoyed the day.  Oh sure, a few times I did fight some melancholia and several times on Thursday I thought to myself, “Twenty-one years ago today I was married.”  But I was busy and distracted, which was exactly what I need to be.

Of course, right now, I  am remembering last year’s Colorado trip, which took place over this same span of days that is happening now.  In fact, a year ago tonight, that Sunday, we ate at Olive Garden.  I remember that Paul lost his good John Deere stocking cap (which is now hanging in the closet – we can’t bear to take it down yet) in the restaurant.  Just as we were settling into the car and trying to decide if we should buy him another or let his poor, bald head freeze, the manager of the restaurant came running out to our car, hat in hand.  There had been quite the snowstorm that day in Denver and most everything was closed as a result.  So that night we went to see “Safe Haven” after eating.  I still don’t get the fuss over Nicolas Sparks’ movies.  I haven’t been overly impressed with either I have seen.  Maybe I should just read his books instead.  But anyway…special memories...

Fast forward a year later and, rather than anticipating another romantic and kid-free celebration, I am trying to  merely survive the dates.
Two friends sent me thinking-of-you cards that arrived Wed.  I was so grateful- and teary eyed.  I know wedding anniversaries aren’t necessarily a big deal to everyone and so I know that my feelings surrounding Feb. 20th might not be understood by everyone, but anniversaries were HUGE to Paul and me.  So I am grateful to those that remembered.  I also got a couple of texts and Facebook messages the day of the 20th.
The weathermen were going crazy for the few days leading up to Thursday, predicting a big ice/snow storm.  I remember going through this last year as we planned our trip.  And I remember being reminded last year, as I was again this year, my mom exclaiming, as we planned our wedding, “Who gets married in February?”  21 years ago I didn’t care.  As long as Paul and the pastor made it, we were good!  But trying to make travel plans in Feb. can get dicey.  In the end, I changed our hotel reservations and we went up late Wed. afternoon.  I figured it was better to spend the extra money on another night’s stay than to risk being in an accident or stranded on the interstate.  We might have been ok, timing-wise, but Minneapolis did end up getting a foot of snow.  We went to Mall of America on Thursday and it was still dry when we arrived, but it was nearly blizzard conditions when we left that evening.  Fortunately, our hotel was just a couple of blocks away from the mall!
All settled into the hotel bed - I had to share with the girls.  Ellie kicks - a lot - while she sleeps, I learned.

Even driving home yesterday, parts of the interstate were still icy.  We couldn’t believe how high the snow piles were on the sides of the road and in the median!  But once we crossed into Iowa, all was good.  I’m glad I don’t live in Minnesota!

We enjoyed a nice trip up and were settled into our adjoining hotel rooms around 8 or so.  That was something new, having to rent an extra room.  We always managed to squish our brood into one, but now that there are six of them, I knew there was no way that was going to happen.  Until these kids start leaving home, it’s going to have to be either two rooms or suites.  I found it to be such a treat to tuck the Littles into bed and then to stretch out and watch all the tv shows I can’t normally watch at home because I don’t have cable tv!  The boys loved it too and we asked eachother what do people who have cable at home DO in hotels?  The extra channels would not be a treat for them!  But it’s just as well.  I noticed even in the few days we were there that I wanted to watch more and more dumb tv (Say Yes to the Dress, Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo (dumbest show EVER), Friends re-runs (ok, not so dumb – I miss that show!), and Extreme Couponers) and felt lazier and lazier.  My goodness – if I had those extra channels at home I would never get anything done!
So Thursday we went to MOA.  This was my third trip there, the first occurring, of course, on my honeymoon. I suppose, in some ways, it might have been easier if we had gone somewhere where I didn’t already have Paul memories.  But,   I do like shopping, and MOA is only 4 hours from home. 

Feb. 20, 2014 - my first wedding anniversary as a widow
It was fun to watch Sam.  He was SO entranced by the Lego store.  I think his jaw literally fell open when he saw the larger-than-life lego creations outside the store.  He and David had both brought their money and walked away with several new sets.  Lizzie ended up getting Legos, too, although she bought hers at the Barbie store.

Snack time
Barbie's Dream House
And I did something to myself there.  I haven’t decided if it’s symbolic or not.  It might be.  But then again, it might just be vanity.  I got a cartilage piercing in my right ear.  I have admired those for years.  I think it’s so pretty to see a simple stud winking from the top of a woman’s ear.  I mentioned the idea to Paul a couple of times over the years and he wasn’t all that impressed by the idea.  I don’t think he would have gotten mad if I had done it, but so much of how I presented myself was for his approval, so it never seemed worth it to me.  Paul had been dead about 4 weeks when it occurred to me that now I was “free” to get my cartilage pierced if I wanted.  I almost did it when Kathy came down to see me in August, but I decided that I needed to wait at least 6 months, to make sure I wasn’t going to get a hole poked in me and regret it later because I did it out of emotion.  In the meantime, I had been doing some research and talking to different places to make sure that if I did this, I did it right.  I had finally decided on this one establishment here in Des Moines but then I found out that they had a store at MOA.  So, that settled it.  I would get pierced on my trip.  And I did! 

It hurt (duh), but not that badly.  Ellie banged her head on my ear tonight when she hugged me and that was a little tender, but so far, everything looks great.  But here’s the thing – nobody can even see it, unless I pull back my hair, which I never do.  Only I’m going to know it’s in there (along with the 4 people who read my blog!).  But every time I do see it, I smile.  And I wonder, does this mean that I am moving on, that I can make a decision and take pleasure in something I know that Paul would not have cared for?
Eating at the Rain Forest Cafe in MOA - neat place, but expensive (but then, ALL meals are expensive when you have 6 kids!

The boys waited patiently for me on a bench a little ways away while I had the piercing done.  I got to them and without saying a word, the three older ones all, simultaneously, pointed at Ellie sitting in the stroller.  Poop was oozing up her back, and plopping onto the stroller seat and straps.  Divine retribution for having another hole bored into flesh?  Ugh and ugh.  So, first, I had to run into nearby Macy’s and get her some clothes to change into.

And I had to wait forever to pay while this gaggle of moms, scooping up clearance deals, chatted to one another about child beauty pageants and raffles and other inconsequential, meaningless stuff.  I just do not have patience for that kind of stuff anymore.  Maybe in time I’ll gain a certain level of tolerance again, but I’m not there yet.

The next day we went to Waterpark of America.  The kiddos were all very excited about this day!  This place is billed as the “largest waterpark in North America” and it IS big.  However, we were at the Wilderness Lodge in the Wisconsin Dells in ’06 and to my thinking, that place was actually bigger.  But maybe I’m not remembering it correctly.  There were a bunch of homeschoolers checking in as we arrived, so we were in good company.

Bathing Beauties
Actually, though, it wasn’t too crowded, for which I was thankful.  I had tried to get rooms right there at the Radisson, which is attached to the park.  But they were all booked up because a large group was coming in.  I am wondering if the 12” of snow made for a change in plans.  But the kids all had a blast.  I finally rounded up most of them and decided to climb the 17 flights of steps so we could take a family raft ride down the longest slide.  I wasn’t sure Ellie could handle that much climbing, but she did great.  Ben, however, fell, so we had to pause while I visited the first aid station with him and got his toe bandaged.  I assumed Ellie would be freaking out during the ride, too, but since I’m such a sensitive and caring mom, I made her go anyway.  She loved it!  As soon as we got to the bottom, she asked, “Go, ‘gin?”  So we did.  We made some good memories that day.  Some are still sticking around, like my sore back and stiff neck.  Doing stuff like this was a lot easier with the first batch of kids when my body was a lot younger and limber!

That night we headed back to the mall and ate at Famous Dave’s.  Will ordered a $20 sampler plate and ate the whole thing, which didn’t surprise me.  He was quite effusive in his thanks.  It’s common knowledge that kid can EAT! I hope his future wife likes to cook.   Lizzie had to try the “Devil’s Spit” hot sauce while we waited.  She ended up downing her entire cup of water which then necessitated TWO trips to the bathroom during dinner.  And, being in the mall, this restaurant didn’t have its own bathrooms, so we had to use the mall restrooms.

I noticed quite a few black people at the mall both days we were there.  I don’t know if that’s because Bloomington is near Minneapolis and blacks tend to live in the larger cities.  I have no idea.  There were actually quite a few Muslims there as well.  I’m observant – I notice these things.  But every time I’d catch a black woman looking at the girls while up there, I would find myself cringing.  Lizzie and Ellie are having hair issues right now.  In fact, they hardly have any.  I got both their heads relaxed last Sept. which was supposed to be no big deal.  I had done Lizzie’s about 8 months previously and it worked great – made hair time a lot less painful for her.  But something went wrong this time and they gradually lost most of their hair.  What stayed is just unnaturally flat and greasy-looking.  The natural hair is slowly growing in and I manage to make them look kind of cute with hair bows and bands.  But black culture prizes long hair and I just know other black women are looking at me in disapproval!  Oh, well...

Saturday we went to IKEA, along with half of the Minnesotan population.  Busy place!  Six years ago when we were up there we went, too.  I remember Paul wasn’t too impressed with the place, but I think it’s kind of fun.  Of course, it’s a very European store and I get the feeling that Europeans are very modern in the way they dress their homes.  I’m more old-fashioned so I wasn’t tempted by a whole lot.  But it was still fun to look.  I did find a small dresser that I bought for my new closet that Will is going to build soon.  It should be the perfect thing for holding socks, underwear, and pjs.

I also found some 26” square bed pillows, which intrigued me.  American pillows are all rectangular, of course.  I didn’t buy them because they only sold them in a set with a blanket and I didn’t need a blanket.  On the way home, though, I did some internet research and found some really inexpensive ones on Amazon (billed as “European Square”).  I am thinking they might make a nice contrast on my bed behind the pillow shams.  I’ll wait until I get it all set up in there and decide.

We left IKEA, maneuvered my purchases into the van, and headed home.  I couldn’t think of anything else to do and after three plus days, I was ready to get back. 
We stopped for lunch partway home and that was nice.  I remembered how, at the end of our trips, Paul would always quiz the kids on their favorite parts of our most recent adventure, so I did the same.  They were all pretty unanimous in their choice of the waterpark as the trip’s highlight.  Although, Sam had a hard time choosing between that and the Lego store!

About an hour later I heard Will exclaim, “ARgh, Lizzie!”  I turned around just in time to see her hurling her entire lunch onto her lap.  Gross!  I don’t think she had a thing left in her stomach by the time she got done.  It took a little while to find an exit.  By the time we did, she had fallen asleep, while I panicked trying to figure out how I would get everything done this week if the flu was going to be hitting our house!

So, I managed to pry her off the seat.  Several times, I had to stop while I gagged.  There is nothing like the smell of vomit.  Except maybe diarrhea.  And I was on my own!  At least when Paul was alive he would help me.  After all, he helped create most of these kids and assumed some level of responsibility for their care and upkeep.  But as much help as my older boys are, they draw the line when it comes to body fluids!  Lizzie’s booster seat was absolutely covered in orange, chunky, vile vomit.  I didn’t know WHAT to do with it.  She couldn’t sit in that all the way home, even if I did somehow manage to clean it.  And the thought of having to smell that thing for 3 more hours didn’t exactly excite me, either. Will said, “Just throw it away, Mom!”  I thought for a moment and then chucked it in gas station garbage.  It wasn’t as wasteful as it sounds.  We have another, identical booster seat sitting in the garage and both were given to us.

I got her cleaned up and changed.  Will tried to get me to throw away the soiled blanket and clothes, but Lizzie’s blanket is special.  I wasn’t about to do that to her.  So I just bundled them up and stuffed them under the seat.  But the van was pretty rank by the time we pulled into our driveway that night!  Oh, and Lizzie was just fine.  No flu – her food just didn’t settle right, obviously.

And that is the report of my anniversary anniversary trip.  It feels like an accomplishment.  I actually managed to transport my kids over state lines, kept them fed and entertained, and didn’t lose a single one.  I did it without Paul!  Of course, my next test will be to do it without Will sometime in the future…

I’m happy that we got away.  I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling that the anniversary date has the potential to be harder than the anniversary of Paul's death.  When June 6th rolls around, while I expect it to be hard, I’ll be remembering a horrible day.  February 20ths were always  wonderful days for me and now the date will forever be fraught with the possibility of  pain as I remember the good days and wish for them again.  The kids asked if this will be an annual event – celebrating the start of our family every Feb.  I like the idea of celebrating that.  But I was honest with them and told them that I don’t know if I will always feel the intense need to do it, like I did this year.  I hate to commit myself to that kind of expense every single year if it’s just not possible some years.  So, we’ll see.


When we got home, I eventually went through the stack of mail waiting for me.  In it I found another card from our mysterious benefactor with another $100 Hy-Vee gift card and the simple message, “You are not forgotten.”  This exact same thing arrived last fall. 

I’m not forgotten.  God knew the significance of Feb. 20th for me and He carried me.  He always will, no matter how many February 20ths I have to go through alone before Paul and I are reunited.

PS: About one hour after posting this, David read this and then wrote out some corrections, which were waiting for me on the computer when I got out of the shower:

I got a cartilage piercing in my right ear (which David did not like).

It was fun to watch Sam.  He was SO entranced by the Lego store, (David liked it too.)

Although, David and Sam had a hard time choosing between the waterpark and the Lego store!

David also suggested that I should mention that he had bacon on every sandwich he ordered at every single meal during the trip.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Day 257


February 18, 2014

Day 257

Last night was my mom’s meeting.  Jenny and I rode over there together and after we made it back to her driveway, we talked for a bit.  So, it was quite late by the time I got on the road and headed back to my place.  As I drove down (up?) Highway 5, the ¾ moon was absolutely brilliant.  A huge beam shone down upon the highway, piercing the darkness around me.  It was so bright that I had the fanciful thought that I would like to pull over to the side of the road, park my van, and simply climb that moonbeam straight up to Heaven.

I don’t think I’m depressed and I know I’m not suicidal in any way.  But I am so done with living.  I want to go.  And as time goes on, my yearning is simply not so I can be reunited with Paul.  I understand that our relationship in Heaven will be different than what we shared on earth.  But earth no longer feels like my home.  I don’t want to be here.  I am divided.  My heart and soul long for my eternal home, but my body holds me to earth.  So if I could have climbed that moonbeam, I just might have!
I wrote the above after midnight last night.  My mind was too awake to let me fall asleep.  Now, it’s 9pm tonight and I’m feeling my lack of sleep from last night!

I’m a little stressed at the moment.  The kids and I are supposed to be taking a trip this week.  I would prefer to be not home the day of our wedding anniversary.  But a blizzard is set to roll in the morning we were supposed to leave!  We either have to leave earlier and spend an extra night or bump the trip by a day and come home a day later.  I’m fine with either.  It’s just figuring out the best way to go.  I’m waiting to hear back from the water park.  We have tickets for a specific date and I don’t know if they will be willing to change that because of the weather circumstances or not.

But I just do not like having to change my plans – at all!  I like to think that I am this laid-back, super-flexible person, but I’m not as much as I should be.  As I recall, a year ago when Paul and I were preparing to go to Colorado, we had to leave early because of snow and we drove back home in a rather significant snow storm.  The next time I get married – it’s not going to be in a snow month!  No more anniversaries having to worry about blizzards interfering with plans!

Well, what else is going on?

Will and David are at a Blue Man concert tonight.  I’m not cool or hip enough to sense the appeal (they’re middle-aged guys wearing blue latex masks – good grief!), but the boys seemed to think they were THE thing to see.  Actually, it was more Will that wanted to see them and he talked David into accompanying him.  He needs a girlfriend, I think.

The other day I saw this truck in Des Moines, advertising its business on its back window.  The name of the company was “Spiritual Journey Construction.”  Below that it said, “Your happiness is our journey.”  That is the dumbest name I think I have ever seen for a business.  “Spiritual Journey” – really?  And how can someone’s happiness be someone else’s journey?  That doesn’t even make sense.  You could say, “Your happiness is our aim” or something like that, but the word journey is a noun.  Nothing is a “journey” except –a journey!  I rather imagine some fanciful business owner thought of the name first and then decided to design a slogan to fit.  Only, it doesn’t. 

Debbie and I took our kids to see the new Lego movie on Sat.  Well, most of them, anyway.  Her oldest didn’t want to go and Debbie volunteered her to watch the girls for me so I didn’t have to take them.  That was a good thing because the theater was really packed!  A bunch of people from church were there.  I figured I was being a good mom by taking the boys to see the show – one of those sacrificial times.  But it was good!  I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  The ending made the whole thing so perfect.  All week long now I’ve been singing the theme song, “Everything is awesome, everything is cool!”   I think the boys are beginning to wish they had gone alone.

As we were walking into the theater I commented to Ben that I really need to shave him again soon.  It’s been a couple of weeks.  He replied, “I know!  Mr. W (one of his sp. Ed teachers) said I’m growing a beard!”  Yeah, ok.  If his teachers are noticing, I guess I had better get him shaved!  I suppose he’s getting old enough now that I’m probably going to have to be doing it more like once or twice a week.  It’s not one of my favorite chores.  But of all the needs he could have, I should be grateful that this is one of the very few personal care tasks he can’t do for himself.

I bought some special face cream this last week.  I’m calling it “liquid gold” because there had better be something valuable in there for what it cost!  If Paul weren’t dead, I don’t know that I would have bothered, though.  I’ve noticed that the skin under my chin is not behaving like it used to.  It’s getting lazy and isn’t snapping back against my bones like it’s supposed to.  It’s just copying the skin around my eyes, I think.  Obviously, fighting the signs of aging is kind of a losing battle.  I’ve always admired those that can glide into their later years with a measure of grace.  That’s kind of why I quit getting my hair highlighted in the salons and have let more and more gray show.  Plus, salon coloring is not cheap!  Paul would not have cared one bit about the skin on my neck and I don’t think I’d be all that worried about it, either, if he were still alive.  More than likely, a few years from now I’d probably quit touching up my roots too and just let nature take its gray course on my head.

But, now I’m in a unique position as a widow.  I’m “on the market” – sort of.  Not really.  I’m not ready for dating.  When I think long term, I know that, unequivocally, I would like to find another husband someday, if that’s God’s plan for me (and only if).  But short term, right now – the thought of any other man makes my stomach a bit queasy.  But I still feel a certain pressure to keep up appearances and to be more careful with my own, so that when the time comes, I would be more attractive to another man.  After all, men are visual creatures.  Paul looked at me and did not see the signs of aging I saw when I looked in the mirror. I knew him well enough to know that was definitely the case.    So I didn’t worry about those signs too much, as a result.  But another man is not going to be nearly so forgiving because he won’t know me yet.  He’ll only see the outside.

Or maybe I should chuck my face cream out the window and be like Isaac’s servant.  If a man started sniffing around someday and wasn’t turned of by my saggy skin, then I’d know that was a sure sign from God that he is the one!  Instead of a water test, I’d be doing a skin test.  I don’t know.  I have a feeling someday I’ll re-read this post and be doing a lot of eye-rolling as I do so!
Summer 2012 - Paul loved root beer floats and made them frequently.  I wonder what he was laughing about here?
So, Friday was Valentine’s Day and it went pretty much like I expected.  It was fine.  I wasn’t surprised that the only Valentine I received was from David.  The others just don’t think of things like that. 

As it turned out, the next couple of days did bring me a few Valentines (not that I was looking for them).  A friend of mine who was widowed a number of years ago, much like I was and at nearly the same age thought of me and sent me a card, along with money, telling me, “Spend this on YOU!”  That made me cry.  And then, while it wasn’t a Valentine, my Word Weavers group sent me a check and card, refunding my year’s membership fee I had already paid.  I was just so touched by that.  I’ve only made it to one of their meetings because of Amanda the Panda the last couple of months.  And then a friend slipped a gift bag in my diaper bag Sunday with a note reminding me that I am loved.

Of course, this isn’t what I wanted for Valentines.  I want what I used to have.  And Friday night I was feeling a bit blue about that.  But the thought occurred to me that I have been called to widowhood.  Just as with other life circumstances God allowed (motherhood, special needs parenting, adoption, etc) He has set this path before me and called me to walk it.  It actually brought me a certain amount of pleasure that night to think that my disappointment in not having Paul as my Valentine anymore is something God has asked me to bear.  I could offer up that hurt as an offering to Him.

It may take more than that this Thursday.  I know I’ll be thinking of the events 21 years ago that day and I know I will feel the grief more keenly that day.  Do you suppose Paul will remember the significance of that day?  I hope so.  Only, I know he won’t have the accompanying grief.  I suppose he’ll be feeling doubly thankful that he got to experience marriage with me and thanking God for the 20 years we did have.  There may be a lesson for me in that, too!

And I am thankful.  I really am.  I wouldn’t trade those years for anything, even knowing how it all turned out in the end.  I remember when the first batch of boys were small being discouraged about my marriage.  Paul wasn’t perfect and it irritated me (more than my imperfection irritated him, I know!).  I remember sitting in a MOPS meeting and the pastor’s wife of the church where we met served as the “Titus” woman of our group.  I remember the day she looked at all us young moms and said, “Your husband is a gift to you from God.”  For some reason, her words struck deep with me that day.  I didn’t always view Paul as a gift to me and that simple statement that day changed my thinking at a very deep level.  I think I just needed to hear that at the point I was in my marriage.

He was a gift.  Those 20 years of marriage were gift, as was the life we built together.

Oh, how I miss him!  I miss him all the time, but this February, this anniversary anniversary, I miss him with even more passion, deepness,  and fervency - and with a greater sense of loss.

Psalm 56:8 Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day 252


February 13, 2014

Day 252

It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve been running like crazy.  I’m not overly fond of those.  What would I do if I had a job?  Although, David, bless his heart, is convinced I do.  Like I didn’t have enough to do, I got asked to participate in the Nielson rating system for the last week.  So I’ve had these little booklets, one for each tv, and I’ve had to record every show we’ve watched and who watched it.  The beginning pages of the booklet want to know a bunch of classification info, like our races, ages, etc.  One spot I had to fill in the number of hours a week I work.  Since I do have the city clerk job I wrote in “2” in that spot.  David was looking through the booklets and brought it to me, “Uh, Mom,” he said, “You work a lot more than just two hours a week!”  I think he’s my favorite kid right now!

Paul always had a thing for cats, but would only allow kittens in the house (until last March when he got Bella for me)
Will may be, too.  He’s been working like a mad man on my new bedroom.  My days of sleeping on David’s new, but hard mattress are numbered!  I really, really wanted a window for the east wall of the bedroom.  This will be the wall behind my headboard.  I was envisioning something narrow, maybe about 3’ long.  Will was a little dubious about his ability to install a new window anyway and then we couldn’t find anything that looked right.  All Menards had were basement type of windows that were long and narrow.  I felt myself starting to get pouty and had to talk myself out of that really quickly!  It wasn’t Will’s fault he’s never put in a window before and if I want one that bad, I can pay someone else to do it!  But then we found these octagonal windows and I remembered that when Paul was building the bathroom in that same spot he mentioned that he had been half-tempted to buy one of those windows, in anticipation of our eventual bedroom being there.  Will said he’d research it to see what it would take to do it.  And I found that I could be content with that.   Later that day, he told me that he felt confident enough that he could put it in and built a frame in the wall for it.  I’ll have to wait until it warms up a little more before we go cutting a hole in the wall, but it will come!


It’s been a very raw week for me, emotion-wise.  I’m sure it’s just because it’s February.  I have been reminded of those first couple of months after the funeral.  It’s been that intensity of pain, where I feel like I could just walk doubled over.  The pain feels physical, even though it’s all emotional.  Times like this make me wonder if I have healed at all since June!  If I can still hurt this badly 8 months into this, what does that bode for the future?  Sigh…

But – people are wonderful.  Last night at church a young wife who just started attending our church with her husband came up to me and told me that she had heard I had a wedding anniversary this month and that she was praying for me and gave me a hug.  How sweet!  And last weekend another friend slipped me a substantial sum of money, telling me it was for the trip the kids and I are taking at the time of anniversary anniversary (is that what it would be called now?).  It really meant a lot to me that she thought our trip has such value that she was willing to sacrifice like that for our pleasure!

My dentist issues may be solved.  It occurred to me over the weekend that I should ask my dentist in Pleasantville if he would consider taking the kids.  I had no idea if their office dealt with Medicaid, and if they did, if they would take new patients with it.  So I called and was told that no, they weren’t taking any new patients.  That’s about what I expected.  But then the receptionist asked, “Would you hold on a minute, Sarah?”  So I did and after a bit she came back to the phone and told me that she had spoken with the dentist and since they know me and they know my situation (of being widowed – Paul was a patient there, too) they wanted the kids to come to office, Medicaid and all.  Of course, when I gave her all the info, the receptionist gasped and exclaimed, “You have SIX kids?!  I had no idea!”  Yes, well…It’s not the office I would have chosen for the kids.  It’s not a pediatric-only facility, like where the kids have attended for years.  Of course, when I was kid, we just went to a regular dentist and stared at nature prints on the wall.  We didn’t have movies to watch, tv screens located above our heads, cool sunglasses to wear, flavored gloves on the hygienist, chocolate-flavored toothpaste, and toys as a reward.  Will (who has regular insurance now) had to get two fillings yesterday.  He came home, scowled at me, and commented, “This dentist doesn’t use a laser!”  Oh yeah – that, too.  This one actually sticks a needle in the gum. But I survived going to a regular dentist and the kids will, too.

Hopefully, Ben will be ok.  He is my main concern in all this.

And another friend gave me the name of an orthodontic office in Des Moines that is more receptive to Medicaid.  So I need to call them for David one of these days.  I suppose I should get a move on this.  We’re going to be doing senior pictures in less than 4 years and he needs to have his smile straightened before then!

The picture we had done for our 10th wedding anniversary - Feb. '03
I wrecked my driver’s mirror this week on my van.  This was one of those times where I was kind of relieved that Paul was no longer among the living.  He was great about big accidents.  Every time I wrecked one of our vehicles he was really kind to me.  He didn’t blame me.  He’d just hug me and remind me that the important thing was that we were all ok and that this is what insurance was for.  But when it came to little accidents (like every time I ran over the gutter or knocked over  the water meter thing) he was less patient.  I had to remind him that females don’t have as good of perceptive vision as males do (that’s a biological fact) nor are we as good at judging distances (also a fact).  He’d just grumble something about “women drivers.”  So, the other day I decided to get the mail on my way home.  We live at the top of the hill and sometimes it’s not such a good idea to drive up it during the winter.  But I’ve been really impressed with my new tires and how well they perform on snow and ice.  So I thought I’d be ok.  I got the mail and then my van started slipping backwards, even though it was in drive.  Before I knew it my mirror was flush against the van as it smashed into my mailbox.  Then, I got the van stopped, but my mirror popped back out and now it was stuck between my mailbox and the neighbor’s, right next to it!  If I went forward, I’d hit my mailbox again, and if I reversed, I’d hit the neighbors!  I was stuck!  David was with me so he trotted up to the house and got Will, who was immediately overcome by laughter when he saw my predicament.  I didn’t think it was all that funny!  But he pushed my van sideways and I got out without further incident.   It’s going to cost me $168 to replace the mirror.  I am definitely NOT laughing about that. But I’m still glad Paul’s not around to be witness to this, just the same!

I asked Sam how his Amanda the Panda group is going; specifically, if the other kids in his class behave themselves.  I was just curious, as well as making conversation.  Sam told me that some of the kids like to use bad words, like “taking God’s Word in vain!”  That made me laugh on the inside (not the fact that 5 and 6 year olds are swearing, but him saying “word” instead of “name”).  But Lizzie then asked, “Why don’t we do that?”  Before I could formulate a response, she exclaimed, “Oh, I know!  It’s because we’re a good family!”   Wow, well…ok!  I guess they’ve learned the lesson about not swearing, but perhaps some lessons on humility might be in order next?

Ellie’s vocabulary continues to explode.  She talks in complete sentences.  I am trying to remember if any of my boys could talk this well at 2 ½.  I kind of doubt it.  Right now it’s just so cute.  I’ll see her standing there and it’s obvious she wants to say something, but she’s struggling to remember and find the words she needs.  It’s like she’s running every word she knows through her little brain, testing them out, to see if she has found the right one!

I finally called a financial adviser this week.  I went to Dave Ramsey's website and looked at his list of recommended advisers. This guy has supposedly gone through Financial Peace University and read some of Dave's books.   I have put doing this  off and off.  I don’t want to think about money, although I certainly worry about it enough! I don’t like numbers anyway, and   I think there is a part of me that has been afraid to meet with someone.  I’m afraid he’ll look at my circumstances and what I have to work with and tell me, “Lady, you are so screwed!”  Sometimes not knowing is preferable to knowing.  But I did it.  I meet with him on Mar. 5.  That was the soonest I had an opening on my calendar.  I don’t think I’ll run out of money before then, anyway.

Well, it’s getting late.  I’ve got short people that I need to get to bed.  Tomorrow is grocery shopping day, after I get my mirror fixed.  And it’s Valentine’s Day, of course.  I have gifts for the kids and I’ll pick up some Papa Murphy’s heart shaped pizzas for supper.  I’ll come home, throw the pizzas in, and enlist the kids’ help in unloading and putting away the groceries.  We’ll eat and then we’ll watch Ben’s gift, the latest Tim Hawkins dvd.  I’ll put the kids to bed all over again and then David and I will watch Monk before going to bed ourselves.  Honestly, it won’t be too dissimilar from all the Valentine’s Days we experienced when Paul was alive.  Since our anniversary was so close to the holiday, we kept our expectations and plans for Valentine’s low-key.

Our 10th anniversary trip (to the big city of Des Moines - we lived out west then) - It was the 1st time we did something like that - so, so much fun!
But I won’t get a Valentine, chocolate, and present from Paul this year.  Or ever again.  Just yesterday I was in Walmart and as I passed the card section, for a fraction of a moment I found myself thinking, “Oh, I need to get a Valentine’s card for Paul – I haven’t done that yet!”  It’s funny how habits get so ingrained and become a part of you that you can momentarily forget that biggest heartache in your own life.  Every year I would get him a funny Valentine’s card.  I knew I’d be buying something mushy for him for our anniversary the next week, so I’d use this holiday to try and be more humorous.  Plus, I like the song, “My Funny Valentine” so thinking of that song title would make me consciously or unconsciously go for the humorous card section.

No more cards, no more chocolate, no more “I love you’s” and “Forever Your Valentine” signed on pink cards.  Just emptiness … and one ripped out, shredded, bleeding heart.


I write that and again feel very properly sorry for myself!  But I am immediately reminded of the six (well, five – Will is going to be inexplicably keeping Nathanael company tomorrow night – isn’t that boy engaged or something? Of all the nights one would want to spend with their intended, I would think Valentine’s night would be at the top of the list!) Valentines I’ll have crowding around the table tomorrow night.  I am blessed.  I may be lonely, but I will never, ever be alone and I will never be unloved.  Happy Valentine’s Day to me..