Sunday, November 30, 2014

Day 545

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW
November 30, 2014
Day 545

The last few hours of November...can I go to sleep tonight and not wake until Feb. 21?  Yeah, I know...

It's just hitting me so hard right now.  I totally unloaded on my friend, Sarah, yesterday, when I went to have my hair done.  She made the mistake of asking me, "How are you doing, really/"  And I told her.  I told her that I'm depressed.  Last year at this time I was wrapped in a cocoon of grief, but this year I don't have that protective covering.  Everywhere I look it's Christmas, Christmas, Christmas - which is fine.  Christmas is a good thing.  The kids and I spent all of Friday and some of Saturday getting the decorations up.  If it were up to me, I'd skip it, but I can't, of course.  And that's a good thing.  There's a reason we celebrate.  But...

This year I'm seeing couples everywhere.  Why did I never realize before how couple-oriented Christmas really is?  Smiling couples on tv basking in a firelight glow (before turning to one another and exchanging diamond jewelry) or surprising the other with a car in the driveway donned with a 40 pound bow (do people really do that with the bow?  I've never seen it.  But then, I've never been given a car for a Christmas gift, either), couples indulgently sipping their coffee on the couch while watching their 2.7 children merrily tear into Christmas loot...

I've been trying to force myself into the Christmas spirit by listening to holiday music but about every other song has to do with wanting to see a loved one (well, I guess I could relate to those, but I know the songs aren't talking about death) or the joys of love at Christmastime...sigh...

Poor Sarah is going through a messy divorce so she could easily relate and we had a real time of life-is-so-stinky before settling into some "real" talk.  She's such an encourager to me.  In fact, I now have a series of 7 articles she sent me on the Christian and dating/remarriage sitting in my in-box as a result of our conversation.

I'll get through it.  I'm actually having some pretty deep thoughts right now about celebrating Christmas while crushed in spirit which I may expound on later.  I know that even in this brokenness and pain the message of Christmas still rings true and is perhaps even more applicable now than in other, happier, years.

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I did get through Thanksgiving just fine.  Last year we did something totally out of the ordinary and went to visit friends because I thought it might be easier on the kids - and because these friends invited us and I genuinely like them and enjoy spending time with them.  I was afraid that trying to do what we've always done and not having Paul there would be unbearable for all of us.  But afterwards the kids begged me to stay home at Christmas and we did. They wanted the familiarity of tradition.

So this year we went up to my parents' for Thanksgiving.  And it was nice, quiet (well, as quiet as it is with a half dozen children), and relaxing - just the  8 of us.  It was snowy and cold, which was kind of different.  I'm sure, in 43 years of life, I've experienced other snowy Thanksgivings but the only one I can remember is when I was somewhere around third grade and even then it wasn't all that much snow.

Two nights before Thanksgiving the Des Moines area GARB churches hosted a joint Thanksgiving musical thing with a combined orchestra and choir and congregational singing up at Faith.  We all went and met up with Will.  I really, really enjoyed the evening.  For the first six or seven years that I lived in western Iowa with Paul the Omaha area churches would gather together at Thanksgiving time and I have such fond memories of those services.  Even though I'm not the least bit musically inclined I still really appreciate these kind of endeavors.  I hope this becomes an annual event.

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Maybe one of the reasons I was so thankful Tuesday night to be up at Faith was the distraction it provided.  I had a rather upsetting event occur earlier that day.  I had to order a water shut-off for a town resident.  It should have happened a few days earlier but I forgot that the payment deadline had passed and then our water guy forgot to do the shut-off when I first asked, so, anyway, it finally happened on Tuesday.

I, of course, got a phone call.  But this was, by far, the nastiest encounter I've ever had with a disgruntled (to put it mildly - "enraged" would be a more apt term) resident.  Eventually, he started telling me I was a "piece of work" and "needed to be fired" which made me laugh.  I have tried to quit this job so many times!  But from there he launched into a personal attack and began calling me filthy, vile names.  I hung up on him.  I don't have to listen to that. 

It was upsetting to me, of course.  It made me fearful for my safety, to the point that I told the mayor I would not be the one to turn this guy's water back on whenever it was he decided to pay up.  But it also made me really, really sad.

It made me sad because I know that Paul would not have stood for this.  He would have marched down to this guy's house, poked him in the chest and said, "I will not have you talking to my wife that way."  That's who he was.  I saw him do it before with his own father.  And now - I have nobody to stand up for me.  I felt defenseless.

But then, as I drove up to the college that evening I suddenly thought of  Psalm 68:5, "Father to the fatherless, defender of widows--this is God, whose dwelling is holy."  There are other verses with similar messages in Scripture, as well.  I'm not defenseless.  No, God is not going to go ring this jerk's doorbell and remonstrate with him for his offensive behavior - which would give me a certain sense of satisfaction.  But at the same time, I'm not so sure I'd want to be in this guy's shoes right about now.  God makes it pretty clear that nobody is to be picking on or taking advantage of the widow or orphan.

***********************************

I have a new bathroom floor and baseboard now.  Friday night I met Will at Menards.  By then the black Friday crowds had thinned and it wasn't too bad.  We picked out what we needed and that evening he and Sam ripped out the old floor and spent most of yesterday installing the new.  I went with a different look for the floor because it was on sale but also, during Christmas break we're going to do something I found on Pinterest called, "planking" to one of the walls.  It's basically gluing pieces of wood, kind of like a wood floor, to a wall for a rustic look.  In our case, this will also serve to cover up some bad drywalling.  So I went with a wood-look linoleum and white baseboard.  Will kept commenting about how much better he liked this.  I think it makes the bathroom look bigger since it's lighter in color.  But I have to fight the urge to throw down a rag rug on top it.  It's a bathroom, not a kitchen!

Sam was so eager to be of help and Will was such a good teacher.  I could hear him gently giving instructions throughout the day.  It reminded me of another twosome that used to work on our houses together and that made me smile.  As I said on Facebook, Paul's legacy continues through his sons.

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I have more to write but I am getting really sleepy.  Tomorrow is my monthly grocery shopping day and it would be nice to have my wits somewhat about me and be somewhat alert as I go drop $1000 (it's not only groceries - it's my Walmart and other misc. stuff, too).

Here's a Sam funny to end with: Today I was dishing up the Littles' and Ben' lunch.  I don't know what it is like to eat hot food except for the occasional meal out with friends.  That's what used to be nice about date nights but those obviously aren't happening anymore.  By the time I got each of the kids their plate of food, chopped up their roast into non-chokable pieces, and got their other food and drink, the first one served was ready for seconds!  Sam asked for more and Lizzie pointed out to him that I had not eaten yet and he should really be patient and let me get my own food next (I love that girl more every day).  Sam looked at her and seriously protested, "You act like you care more about Mom than us!"

It's funny but a few alarm bells are sounding in my brain at the same time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Day 539

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

Nov. 24, 2014

Day 539

 

I sat down at the computer last night to blog.  But first, I followed a link to a fellow widow's blog and found myself so impressed with her site that I immediately had to change my own.  Why do I do this?  Why am I incapable of accepting that I am, at best, computer-illiterate?  Honestly, I've been doing good the last six years to just get my thoughts from a Word document into Blogger.  Why do I think I can compete with my more tech savvy friends?  As it turned out I sat at this computer for over THREE hours working on my blog site.  At one point, around 11:30 I was hyperventilating because I thought I had just ruined my blog.  I had gadgets stuck on there I couldn't get off and now I was going to be utterly humiliated every time anyone logged onto my site.  I'd just have to shut the whole thing down and start a new one but then I'd lose my readers (you know, all three of them) and oh, what was I going to do?  You know, there is a reason people design websites for money.  It's because there are some people that are only good with words, not html type and other stuff not understandable by mere mortals. 

 

As you can see, I eventually got it figured out - somewhat, anyway.  I got my daisy background, which I wanted.  I was aiming for something restful and healing.  I may tweak with it a little bit in coming days, but for now, it's done.  I wanted to get a picture of our family at the top and actually created this really cute header with the picture - but it was too small and I don't know how to enlarge it.  Then, I tried inserting a picture and it didn't look so good with the title over the top and then I tried it another way and my title completely disappeared.  I figured a title is more important than a family picture so I gave up at about that point. 

 

It was close to 12:30 when I crawled into bed - without showering, which is something I never do.  I HATE the feeling of an unwashed body on sheets.  I was so tired, though, that I just shucked off my clothes, turned the heated blanket on high and snuggled under the covers.

 

And found out that while my body was tired, my mind was now awake, thanks to three hours of having to think and be stimulated by the computer.  Ugh.  On top of that, the wind was howling pretty fiercely.  Our garbage can was set out by the alley for the next morning's pick up and since we had an over-abundance of garbage this week (I cleaned out my freezers - I even found a macaroni dish someone brought to us right after Paul died) the lid wouldn't go down and it thumped against the side of the can all.night.long.  So, I finally got up and took an Advil PM.  I knew that wasn't good since I had to be up in 5 1/2 hours.  It worked and I fell asleep.

 

Until 2 am when I heard gligitty, gligitty, SWACK, gligitty, gligitty, SWACK!  The icemaker was at it again.  The icemaker is in the fridge - well, the freezer - which is positioned on the other side of my bedroom wall.  It's been giving me problems for months.  Sometimes it gets stuck when trying to pop out the ice.  I even had someone look at and do some research for me this summer.  The end consensus was that the fridge is 3 1/2 yrs old, fridges don't last for decades like they used to, and LG parts are frightfully expensive to buy, even if you can figure out what the problem is - which the guy who looked at it couldn't.  So I'm stuck with the problem until the icemaker decides to totally die or the entire fridge takes a dump.  It doesn't do it all the time - just in spurts.  So, I had to get up at 2, poke at the icemaker, and it quieted down.  I went back to sleep.

 

Until 4 am when the icemaker serenaded me once again.  This time I had the forethought to turn the thing off.  But when I stumbled out of bed at 6:40 to get Ben ready for school, I could barely speak, I was so out of it.  I tossed a poptart on the counter, suggested he wear a coat to school, and curled up on the couch, hoping I'd hear the schoolbus in time to alert Ben.  Then I went back to bed - something I learned long ago I cannot do because I will always fall into a heavier sleep.  But of course I couldn't because about 15 min. into my sleep, I hear heavy breathing by my cheek.

 

"Mom?  Are you awake?"  No.  Go away.

 

"Mom?"  Somebody had better just opened an artery or smelled smoke...

"Mom?  Can I play the i-pad?"  I've changed my mind.  None of them were "wanted" children.

 

 

I had enough time after awakening to get ready and then drive down to Ben's school to pick him up.  I have applied for Disability for him since he's now 18 and I had a letter in the mail about ten days ago from Social Security telling me I had better show up at this doctor's appointment they had made for Ben or he'd be denied. 

I was immediately on the defensive because the doctor had an Indian name.  It's not that I have anything against Indian doctors, but I never know how well I'm going to be able to understand them.  Some of them have very thick accents and my hearing is deficient, anyway.  I don't always understand the stuff my own kids say, who talk in perfect American.  Plus, I always am reminded of when I was a teenager and suffered from near constant, debilitating migraines and one Indian neurologist tried to tell me I was merely "stressed out" because I was a senior in high school.  And then there was Dr. Gupta I saw over in Indianola a few years ago for some foot problem I was having.  I can't even remember what it was - must have resolved itself.  He took one look at my feet, gasped, and informed me that my feet were "deformed" and  I needed to have immediate surgery where he would break the bones in my feet to correct my deformity.  Uh, huh.  I mentioned this to a nurse friend of mine who demanded to know who this dr was.  She then said, "I knew it!" and informed me he was in the process of being sued for doing this surgery on another woman and permanently crippling her.  Oh, I remember now - I had plantar warts.  That's what it was.

As it turned out, though, this dr that I saw today was perfectly nice and spoke very good English.  Still, I was blunt with him and said I didn't understand why we had to see him (rather than our family dr)  and that I was somewhat dubious of his ability to make a recommendation concerning Ben when he doesn't even know him!  I became somewhat alarmed when he mentioned that he didn't think Ben seemed all that "off" physically.  But we talked and he assured me that he would definitely be recommending that Ben receive benefits.  He said he thought that Ben's cognitive deficits were more of a concern and I can agree with that.   I made a point to tell him, then, of all the ways I could think of that Ben's cerebral palsy does affect his life.  I think I did pretty good, considering my lack of sleep the night before.

I needed to run to Walmart after the appointment for a number of things, but when I arrived at Methodist, I realized I couldn't find my list anywhere.  Then I remembered that I had suddenly realized, while still home,  that I had more gray hair showing than brown and needed to remedy that ASAP, so I had written, "root dye" on my list and I probably left it at home.  I called David, thinking he could read it to me, but he couldn't find the list.  Drat.  It wasn't in my purse, couldn't find it my pockets.  I was going to have to go home, find the list, and then drive down to the Walmart in Knoxville, further cutting into my day.

So we parked on the third level of the lot, and I decided to take the stairs down to the first level because I need to do something to combat all my other unhealthy lifestyle habits.  We did that and went to the appointment.  As we were walking back, I thought, "Maybe we should take the elevator since this time we'll be going UP."  But then visions of Halloween candy and birthday cake and ice-cream at bedtime floated into my head and I resolutely told Ben, "We're taking the stairs!"  It's a good thing we did because as we approached the first step, I happened to look down - and there was my shopping list on the floor in front of the step.  I don't know how many dozens of people had walked right over that  thing or how it avoided being blown away when the sliding doors to the garage would have opened and shut the multitude of times for the hour we were at the appointment.  I told Ben, "See how good God was to save this for us!"  He was happy because it meant we'd get to go to a Des Moines Walmart.  Walmart makes him very happy.  I was happy because I could get that errand done and over with.  I just wonder how it fell in the first place.  Where was it that I couldn't find it when still in the van when we arrived?

*********************************

Will got my new treadmill put together Saturday.  Now I have no excuse to not exercise.  Well, I'm sure I can come up with many excuses, actually!  I bought just a basic, manual, folding model.  I roll it in front of the tv and make myself walk.  I need to.  I've been gaining weight and lately I just haven't felt comfortable in my skin.  I'm achy and out of sorts.  I am getting suspicious that there is something hormonal going on.  I'm not sleeping well, either, even on nights that I'm not interrupted by the computer, kids, and ice-maker.

Will also installed a fan in the bathroom.  He said he wanted to do that and that sounded like a good idea to me.  I had no idea that he was going to put in something that ranks a decibal level that's on par with say, a turbo jet.  Wow - so much for relaxing bath times and or slowly coming to life in the shower first thing in the morning!  I may need to look into some sign language classes because at this rate, I'll lose my hearing a little earlier than when I anticipate losing it with the natural aging process.  Like when I'm 47.

**********************************

Last Friday night added a few gray hairs that I need to cover now.  I was supposed to meet Will in Ankeny at his employment to drop off David.  They planned to go to some Christmas thing in the East Village and then go see Joseph at the Civic Center.  I was supposed to meet him at 5.  I still forget how much Ankeny has changed in the 25 years since I was student there.  It was SO busy the other night - total bumper to bumper traffic.  I was so slowed down that Will ended up having me meet him somewhere else.  I would not want to live there, that's for sure.  Then, I had to get back on I-80, go to Urbandale, pick up the Littles, and then get back on I-80 and take it to 65S.  That's a trip that normally takes 15 min. during the weekday.  So I just started praying that God would go ahead of me and make a smooth ride without any traffic conditions that would cause traffic to come to a standstill.  I was already late and I had to be down in Pleasantville by 6:30 at the latest for the school musical Ben wanted to attend.

And He did.  I arrived at the school with plenty of time to spare before the musical.  I assumed it was going to be a packed-out event like the concerts always are, but it wasn't.  The kids and I had our pick of seats and thoroughly enjoyed the students' rendition of "The Wizard of Oz."  It was good!  Ben laughed a lot and the Littles were full of questions about what they were seeing. 

Will and David didn't enjoy their show quite as much, though.  When Will and I went to see the Piano Guys in Oct. he saw posters in the Civic Center advertising "Joseph and the Amazing Techni-color Dreamcoat."  He thought it sounded good but  I wasn't so sure - the title seemed to indicate a potential for blasphemy, I thought.  So I did some research.  I found really great reviews - people praising how Biblically sound the  musical is and so forth. Our local Christian radio station started airing ads for it, too.  Assuming it was something like what the Sight and Sound Theater in Branson offers, I bought the tickets for the boys. 

The boys got home and just shook their heads.  They were put out that it was only singing - not songs interspersed with acting.  And, the musical was NOT Biblical at all, it sounds like.  Will said that Joseph's dreams were of things in modern times like trains and cars - huh?  And then they had Joseph in bed with Potipher's wife, which did not happen, either!  It makes me wonder what Bible all the people who promoted this as being sound are reading!  What a waste of time and money...

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Frustrated today...have I mentioned how much I loathe dealing with governmental agencies?  A few years ago I quit dealing with TMS, which is the agency that provides transportation reimbursement for gas costs for Medicaid members.  I got so fed up with them that I decided it was not worth the hassle.  Well, then this whole Iowa City dental thing for Ben came up and decided it would be financially best if I tried to jump through their hoops in order to recoup some of the gas expenditure this would require.  I didn't do it for the first trip and another trip I couldn't do because I didn't call it in in time (not that anyone bothered telling me that I had to call at least two days before a scheduled trip).  But I did get a check for one and I sent in paperwork for another.  Today I got notice that trip was being denied because they didn't have an out-of-county request form.  I took care of that in Sept. and was told that it was good for six months.  So I called them and was actually very nice despite having been on hold for 15 minutes.  You get more flies with honey, they say.  They told me they never got the out-of-county form.  I told them I took care of it and besides - you paid me for one of the trips so how can you say you never got the form?  Well, they replied, that was probably a mistake.  They tell me to get another form.  I say ok.  After all, I have so much time to re-do things!  They'll fax the paperwork to the referring dentist, they say.  Oh, look, they say - they already have the fax number and rattle it off to me.  The number is off by one digit.  I point this out to them and they say, well, that  could be why they never got the paperwork back from our local dentist. 

Could be.

Then they say that they cannot pay me for the trip that's been denied.  I tell them, think again.  I didn't make the mistake - you did.  I'll have to check with my supervisor, I'm told.  You do that, I say.  I'm on hold for quite awhile longer,  It will be ok, I'm finally told, but I have to call back tomorrow and make sure they receive the fax with the form.  And no, I cannot talk to this representative directly.  I can only phone in to the call center and explain everything

all.over.again.

*************************************

I'm finding that I'm more emotional as we move into the holidays.  I don't think it's as bad as last year, but it still hurts.  I just have zero anticipation for the holidays.  I want to survive them, like last year.  But I'm not excited about them.  That said, I did find the most adorable ballerina outfit for Ellie on-line over the weekend.  I'm going to hit the children's consignment stores and see if I can find her some actual ballet shoes to go with them.  I'm kind of excited about this.  She is going to be so thrilled!  I must be a good mom if I'm still willing to make a good Christmas for a child that drives me absolutely insane most of the time.

The other day I  was on Facebook and someone had posted a meme about how successful parenting will only happen when a father fully supports his wife and she knows she has that support.  It was some quote by Dr. Dobson who I really respect in matters of parening. If he says it's true, it must be.  I just lost it.  I sat at my computer and cried and cried.  I'm already more emotional because of the season and like I mentioned earlier, I think I have some hormonal issues happening.  But it just touched a very raw nerve, too.  I want these kids to turn out right so badly.  Having children that love the Lord more than anything else in life is my ultimate desire.  Nothing else matters.  But I feel so inadequate to do this job without a husband.  How on earth can children turn out ok when they don't have a dad?  Most of the time I am just so tired, worn-out, and defeated by the daily struggles of parenthood - feeding the kids, transporting them everywhere, taking care of them physically, and  keeping them from killing themselves and eachother, that I feel like I am failing miserably.  Single parenthood creates a burden like no other.  I never knew.  I kind of feel like I am destined for failure because I don't have a husband.  And that thought just tears me apart.

See, now I'm crying again.

Better go make some supper before they start gnawing on the table legs...

*********************************

I'm still working on catching up on my scrapbooking.  Actually, my scrapbooking group will be coming to my house for the first time in Jan.  It only took ten years for me to feel like my house was finally ready to host something like that!  Anyway, last week I was working on my pictures of the adoption more than a year ago.  I felt something powerful just kind of shake loose in me as I did so.  The day of the adoption was a good one and I was grateful for it and have good memories of it. 

But I was still so numb that day.  I had imagined this day over and over in my  mind even before I knew we were going to pursue adoption. That makes sense if you know my whole story concerning the call God placed in my heart as a child about adoption.  It finally arrived but it was so different than how I had imagined it would be because my life had just been turned upside down and in the midst of that craziness I was agreeing to permanently commit to two more children.  I wouldn't have done it any other way, though.  Those girls were mine from the moment I received the phone call about them.

Scrapbooking the pictures I was just impressed with what a momentous day it truly was. I didn't have these thoughts that day sitting in the courtroom.  They're arriving with the distance of time.   Legally becoming the mother of someone else's children is huge.   Because of another woman's loss (albeit deserved) I gain the love of two little girls.  I am the one teaching them  about womanhood, helping them develop character, and pointing them to the one Parent Who will never fail them.  I am the one who gets to tuck them every night and hear their dreams and observations about life.  I get to watch them grow into young women some day and I will be the grandmother cuddling their babies.  Adoption is so powerful, merging the two events of Loss and Gain into one beautiful legal document that says,

They're yours.

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Lizzie was helping me cook the other day and asked if she could put some food into the "smooshitizer."  She meant the food processer.  It cracked me up and I will probably always refer to it now as the "smooshitizer!"  I just love it!

Sam pulled out his other top tooth tonight.  He pounded down the steps to show me.  I love that I am still the number one person he wants to share his joys with.  And I am totally loving his gaping smile right now!

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I got an anonymous check in the mail this week.  Well, I'm pretty sure I know who it's from, but they want to keep it private and so I will honor that.  I was definitely grateful for that.  But you know what pleased me even more?  The envelope was addressed to "Mrs. P. Heywood."  That meant a lot.  He isn't forgotten.  I am still part of a unit, even if one half is in Heaven.

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Ben did well at Sp., Olympics bowling Sat, earning a silver medal.  As I watched him from behind, I realized, for the first time, how broad his shoulders have grown.  Maybe it's a combination of parent-teacher conferences, his birthday, and IEP meeting all this month, but I am just feeling so crazy in love with this boy of mine lately.  While at the games I was chatting with the grandmother of one of Ben's teammates.  Before I realized what I was saying, I said, "Having Ben is one of the best things that's ever happened to me."  I surprised myself by saying that.  But what was more surprising was the realization that it's true.

I didn't always feel this way.  For years I grieved the loss of the boy I was supposed to have.  I felt like everyone else had been given exactly what they wanted, while I was stuck with the broken present.  I loved him.  From the first moment I spied his diaper-clad body covered in tubes and wires as he fought for his life in that isolette in the NICU, I knew I would fight for  and protect this baby with every breath in my body.  I remember begging God to spare his life, even if it meant I would bring home a near-vegatative child.  And then I felt guilty for praying that.  But I didn't change my prayer.  Many times, though, in the ensuing years I would wonder why God had allowed Ben to live.  Wouldn't all our lives, especially Ben's,  have been so much easier and better if he'd just been allowed to slip home to Glory where he would be free from a body and brain with limitations?  Sure, I'd have the broken heart of a parent who has buried a child, but surely that would be preferable to all that I had to deal with now.

The hurt of watching other little boys his age jump, chatter, and play...while Ben watched.  The nightmare of his eczema. Trying to keep him from causing bodily harm to himself.  The tantrums.  The tube feeding. The dour specialists. Watching Ben live inside his own mind where I wasn't invited. The odd behaviors.  The violent behaviors. His apparent non-emotion. The developmental delays. The allergies. The worries about his future.

When Ben was little I didn't have the network of fellow special needs moms that I do now.  Part of that was on purpose.  I didn't want to be part of that group.  But when he was two I happened to be at ladies' retreat where I met a lady who had a mentally handicapped teenage son.  I sought her out and I asked her, "If God gave you the choice, would you take your son as he is or would you ask to have him given to you with a healthy and whole mind?"  She looked at me, perplexed, and said, "I just don't know!" 

Well, I know now.  I'd ask for Ben to be exactly who He is, the way God allowed him to be.  I'd take him with his quirky routines, and his excited jumping, his obsession with all things Wheel of Fortune, and his still-messy eating skills.  I'd take his big hugs, his fear of "being in trouble," and the deep thoughts he writes for his school papers. I'd take his still unclear future and my fears of being eighty-five and still holding his hand in parking lots.

Ben, being Ben, exactly the way he is - not as he might have been - is truly one of the best things to ever happen to me. 

I'm only sorry it took me so long to recognize that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Day 535

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW

Nov. 20, 2014

Day 535

 

It has been one grueling week, schedule-wise.  I'll probably have to write this in chunks throughout today.

 

Monday I actually didn't have anywhere to go.  Well, I did, but I forgot I did.  I realized about 40 min. before my scheduled time that I was supposed to visit the chiropractor.  But I had already determined this was a no-make-up, no hair drying day.  So I rescheduled.  Monday was Ben's birthday.  He didn't really want to do a whole lot, he said, which is fine.  Part of me thought we should do something extra-special since it was his 18th and those are kind of extra-special.  But it was his day and staying home would save me money.  Plus, it was bitterly cold.  So I stayed home and made him minion cupcakes.

 

They turned out SO cute!  The idea came to me sometime this fall as I was pondering a twinkie and realizing that a half a twinkie is very similar to a minion in shape and color.  I did some searching on Pinterest and found that I am not the first person to put these thoughts together.  Mine actually turned out better, I thought, than the site I went to to figure out what supplies I would need.  Ben was so surprised and thrilled.  Tastewise - not so great.  Twinkies dry out really, really fast I found out.

 

Of course, for Ben, turning 18 makes a few more wrinkles than for the average young adult hitting that milestone.  I filed paperwork a couple of weeks ago for Disability for him.  Monday we have to meet with some foreign doctor/specialist so they can determine just work ability has Ben has.  This afternoon Will, Ben, and I have to meet with my attorney to sign paperwork for his guardianship that we have to get into place pronto.  That kills me - paying a ton of money for the privilege to do what I've already been doing for 18 years!  But it's for his protection.  Ben, in particular, could be easy prey for people with low ethics he may encounter.  This way he can't decide he wants to go learn to drive or sign up for a credit card or things like that.  My ultimate desire is that someday we can drop the guardianship portion of the papers and just have Will and I serve as his power of attorney.  But right now he needs more protection.

 

Yesterday I took Ben to Iowa City.  It looks like that is where he'll be doing all his dental, even preventative, visits from now on.  They just have the tools and skills to serve him best.  I don't have to go again now until next spring.  At that time they are going to xray his wisdom teeth and see if they are big enough for extraction.  That would take place in the summer and would be done surgically.  I am really hoping it can be done this year because next summer he will have graduated from high school and may be employed by that point and I would just hate for him to have to delay that or take off recovery time.  We'll see.

 

I've been hurting this week - physically.  Well, actually, both ways, but I'm just talking about my poor, aging body right now.  Early in the summer I started having problems with tennis elbow on my left side.  It was bad, to the point I had my chiropractor look at it.  He suggested I might want a brace, which I never got.  I kept applying essential oils and finally the inflammation seemed to go down after a few months.  Now, my right elbow is flaring up!  And my right knee is hurting, too.

 

Sunday morning I dropped a full, mega-size bottle of hair conditioner on my ankle in the shower.  Oh, that thing swelled up and has been SO tender all week long!  It seems to be doing a little better now.  I think I am a bit of a menace to myself.

 

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Tues. night I had one of Paul's former co-workers come over and do a furnace check for me.  If my furnace goes down, all I have for heat is a kerosene heater, which I don't know how to use.  I'd probably have to just load us all up and go to a hotel if something happened.  So I figured it was a good idea to spend a little now for some preventative work.  I got a good report on my furnace and enjoyed some time chatting with this guy's wife and kids.  They told me something that really touched me.  They said that Paul's death had been such a wake-up call for both of them.  This couple was really there for me in the weeks and months following his death.  I didn't even know them that well, but they were there for both the visitation and funeral.  Their little daughter even cleaned out her piggy bank for me.  So sweet!  They were both heavy smokers but when Paul died, they told me they quit, cold-turkey.  They'd both tried to quit before, but failed.  But after his death they were awakened to the fact that they didn't want to die young like he did.  So now they are smoke-free.  That's awesome - one of those "goods" to come out of his death.

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Sunday I went back to my Sunday School class.  I've been avoiding it for months because they were doing a unit on marriage.  I figured I didn't need that kind of salt in my wounds, so I've been sitting upstairs with the older folks.  But I heard they were done with that so I went back.  I didn't know what to think.  It was just kind of odd for me.  The teacher was talking about life's difficulties and responding the right way in differing circumstances and different people shared about various trials they've encountered.

 

And I get that.  I have daily trials along with everyone else in the world.  Two weeks ago my laundry sink started spraying water everywhere.  It's still in pieces.  This week my kitchen sink backed up and had to be dismantled and last night the main floor toilet overflowed and now my linoleum is puffing up causing the door to drag.  I get trials.  I have trials!

 

But I also have a perspective now that I never had before.  All this plumbing stuff?  It's nothing.  When you have buried your husband there's not much else in the way of troubles that can really get to you.  Everything else in the world is secondary.  Try lonely nights, trying to make sense of mounds of paperwork, attempting to do the work of two people,  soothing your children's shattered hearts, living with the sensation that you have just been ripped in two and suddenly you have an altered perspective on everything. 

 

So I sat there Sunday just feeling kind of odd.  I could find some application for what was being said and I couldn't argue with any of it.  But yet, my life has been so radically changed in the last 17 months that I found it hard to relate to what was being said.  But...it's my life that has been changed, not everyone else's.  I cannot expect people to pussyfoot around my feelings for the rest of my life because I've had a shattering loss and they have not.  And truthfully, when it's your life, it's big, whether it's a death of a spouse or a backed up kitchen sink.  It's all big.  The last thing I want is for my friends and loved ones to feel like they can't share what's going on in their own lives because it can't compare to what I'm dealing with.

But all that doesn't change the fact that I am changed.  I am no longer the person I was before Paul died.

 

So I had these unarticulated thoughts/feelings floating around in my heart and brain for the rest of Sunday.  And then that evening a friend, who had been in the class,  came up to me and put into words what I had been feeling, to let me know that she was aware and that she cared.  She said, "And this widowhood thing?  You shine, Sarah.  You really do."

 

That made me feel so warm inside and teary on the outside.  To know that others understand how I've changed, inside, because of Paul's death is huge because, as humans, we tend to be rather myopic and it takes a huge amount of effort and sympathy to step outside our own little box of viewpoints and life experiences to really feel what someone else is experiencing.  That's a major run-on sentence.  And to know, too, that at least one person thinks I'm doing this widowhood thing right is huge because it's what I've desired from the beginning - to handle with widowhood with a grace that comes from outside myself.  Because, I don't always feel graceful about it on the inside.

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Later Today

Today has been a big day for me concerning Ben.  We did go to my attorney's office.  I had to kind of laugh at myself about that one.  My attorney is youngish.  In fact, all the prior work he's done for me has either been done at my house or at his.  For awhile he was working for another attorney and then he quit that job and went to go work for an immigration attorney in Omaha.  But he wasn't real fond of that and then this summer he opened his own office for the first time on the east side of Des Moines.  As I walked into this tiny little store-front office with its freshly painted walls and shiny floor I felt almost a maternal sense of pride for my attorney.  And I really shouldn't because it's my checking account that's helping to pay for this new office (lawyers are expensive!) but I guess  I'm enough of a mom that I did, anyway.  And then I thought it was so cute that when we got there his  dad, who I have met before, was sitting in there in the teeny tiny lobby.  I realized later that he was there specifically to witness the paperwork that we had to sign.

 

I questioned my attorney if this office is just his first step for a lucrative career.  Maybe I'm not supposed to ask those kinds of questions, but when has that stopped me before?  I asked if someday he hoped to be a hot-shot lawyer out in W. Des Moines, but he said, no, he wants to stay right where he is.  He gets a lot of business from the Hispanic population and wants to continue to be able to help them.

 

It sounds like we may have to go to court after all.  At first, we were going to do a voluntary guardianship, but the more my lawyer thought about it and the more he observed Ben today he finally said he thinks we'd be best to do an involuntary one.  That will probably mean appearing before a judge.

 

And then this afternoon was Ben's yearly IEP meeting.  At first, these meetings filled me with stress, but that's not the case now.  It's so obvious how loved Ben is by the staff there.  Seriously, the whole meeting is one big love-in! Everyone just talks about wonderful Ben is - how funny he is, how responsible, how smart, how social.  It's wonderful!   I talked quite a bit with the Vocational Rehab. rep that was there today.  It sounds like a lot of things are just going to be in place for Ben after graduation.  They have so many options and available choices for special needs individuals - particularly higher-functioning ones like Ben - anymore.  I'm grateful.

 

As I sat around the table today and listened to all these reports on Ben I couldn't help but be reminded of the head of the NICU who looked at me 18 years ago and counseled, "It would be best if you never expect anything out of your baby."  I know she was trying to help prepare me for what she believed to be reality and her words crushed me that day.  But I also took them as a personal challenge.  I don't say that to my personal credit because I didn't know what I was doing.  I made plenty of mistakes with Ben - probably more with him than I did with any of my other kids, so far.  But if she could just see him now!

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The other day the girls cracked me up.  I was in my closet, trying on a new dress and heels I had ordered from a catalog.  I think I'm going to keep them, but I'm still trying to convince myself I'm ready to wear the color red again.  I've just wanted to avoid bright colors for the last year, which is not like me, but indicitive of my mood, I guess.  Anyway, I had the door shut because I was dressing and because my full-length mirror is on the inside of the door.  The girls wanted to come in but I wouldn't let them, so they sat outside the door and began to pitifully sing, "Do you want to build a snowman?...ok, bye..."

There was some major eyeball rolling going on on my side of the door!

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My new laundry basket arrived this week.  I don't want it.  It has sat down in my laundry room all week long, its bright whiteness and brand new plastic begging me to fill it with clothes.  I can't do it.  I need to do it, but I can't...yet.  There's a story.  Of course, there's a story.  That's what I do - tell stories about my life.  This is the laundry basket story: I have seven 1.5 bushel round white baskets setting on a 6' table we inherited when our old church replaced their fellowship room tables.  I used to have eight baskets when we had eight people in our family.  I latched onto the idea a long time ago of giving everyone their own basket.  Then, when all 1.5 bushels are filled with clothing I either unload the basket myself into drawers or summon the more capable family members to do the job themselves.  I never had any problem keeping track of whose basket belonged to whom.  It was a pretty simple matter of keeping them lined up in birth order and glancing at whatever clothes were already in the basket.  But one day Paul decided that this would not do.  Each basket needed to be labeled.  So he took a fat sharpie marker and wrote the name of each family member on the rim of the baskets.  Now there would never be cause for mixing up baskets.  Not that ever happened, anyway, but I didn't say anything.  On my basket, he wrote, "Princess" because that was his name for me and perhaps he was in a sweet mood that day.  So for the better part of a decade my clothes have come out of the dryer and gone into the round white basket labeled, "Princess." 

 

The basket is falling apart now.  It needs to be replaced.  I couldn't find one in the stores, which seems really odd to me, but ok...  I found one on Amazon and ordered it.  It arrived.  But there's a problem with it.  It doesn't say, "Princess" on the rim and because of that I don't want to use it.

 

I don't know.  Maybe I'll take a sharp pair of scissors and cut off that part of the basket and then throw the rest away.  But what do I do with a piece of dull white plastic with faded lettering on it?  I could just put it on the dryer with all the other junk that makes it way into the laundry room, I guess.  But I don't like that thought either.  So I'm thinking.  And in the meantime I'm still pinching my fingers and catching my clothes on the jagged, broken edges of my basket that reads, "princess" on the top.

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Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.
Ps. 37:7-8

This - right here, right now.  I had been praying with increased fervency this last week asking God to just show me, what - if anything - I needed to be doing regarding the circumstances with Paul's family.  In that same Sunday School class I referenced earlier, someone happened to bring up these two verses.  It was like it was a hand-delivered, signed, and sealed note just for me.  I love it when God does that!

 

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Tomorrow will be another busy, busy day.  The Littles will be going to Merritt's, which is wonderful for them and gives me a break, as well.  But it's going to be a little hairy as the day comes to an end.  Will and David have tickets to go see "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat" at the Civic Center.  There is also the Wizard of Oz musical at the school that Ben really, really wants to see.  So, I am meeting Will at his workplace in Ankeny at 5 to hand off David.  Then, Ben and I will dash over to Urbandale in rush hour traffic to pick up my Littles.  Then, we'll fight against the hordes of traffic heading home for the weekend in order to make it to the school in time for the rising of the curtain.  I am tired and tensing up already just thinking about it.  But Jenn has graciously offered to feed supper to my short people, so that will ease one concern in my mind.  I'll just need to pick up something for Ben and me.

 

And then late Saturday morning we have to be in Des Moines for the state bowling meet for Special Olympics.  I am crossing my fingers and hoping that David won't want to go so he can just stay home with the Littles.  That thing is always such a packed madhouse.  Talking to Will today, he is anxious to get started on the bathroom.  He wants to put a fan in there, as well as replace the flooring.  He'll be home all day on Sat working on that.

 

Sunday is church, which will include an extra trip so David can get to program practice.  And then Monday morning I have to have Ben meet with some Voc. Rehab person that Social Security is sending him to in order to determine if he's really disabled or not.  Never mind that I already have reams of educational, medical, and psychological papers that say he is.

 

I cannot keep up this pace.  I just can't.

 

Since that's kind of negative, I do have a Sam funny with which to end.  Today he complained, " Ugh - I just can't get these ladybugs out of my eyes!"  Peering at his bespectled eyes, I sure didn't see any ladybugs crawling around in there.  I shrugged, not sure of what he meant.  And then I got it - sleepy bugs.  That's what I've always called the bits of dried matter the kids get in their eyes.  It's kind of a cute name for something not so cute. 

 


I'd sure rather have sleepy bugs than ladybugs in my eyes, any day, though.

 

 

 

 

 




 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Day 530

DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW
Nov. 15, 2014

Day 530

Snow today!  There's enough that it's accumulating and it's cold enough that it will stick around for awhile.  Boy, is it cold.  It's been this way all week long.  I don't remember it getting this cold this early in past years.  Of course, everyone is saying, "Oh, this means we're going to have a terrible winter!"  I hope not.  I had to drive in the snow today and it was slick and made for  slow-going.  I don't relish the thought of six months of that.

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It's Saturday night and the week is drawing to a close.  I still have a lot to do, though, before I can call it a night.  I'm not even sure where the week went. 

I did get a phone call in the first part of the week from an older couple at church who wanted to give us a fourth of a steer again this year.  What a blessing!  I was able to call the meat locker this week and order that how I liked.  I picked up my Zaycon order yesterday and that was 80 pounds of chicken breasts.  I got them all cut and bagged today.  What a job!  Now, I really need to get my freezers cleaned out.  But that's not going to happen tonight.

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Ellie is still being...Ellie.  This week she bit several people.  Fortunately, they were her siblings so I didn't have any fast explaining to do to irate mothers.  She took apart an ink pen, smeared the ink all over her dresser and then mixed it with water.  She found some sharp object and did the equivalent of "keying" to her sister's dresser.  Today, a friend of mine gave me a china doll for the girls.  I suggested to Lizzie it might be a good idea to hide the doll for awhile lest it meet an untimely demise at the hands of her sister.

She makes my weeks long.

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My face has been breaking out lately.  I've done enough reading to know this is not uncommon as a woman ages, but I wonder what it signifies?  Encroaching menopause?  I hope not.  The last thing I need right now is to go through the change of life!

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Lizzie said to me one day, "If you were to bake Sam and me in the oven  you would only want to eat Sam because he's vanilla and I'm chocolate."  What, huh?  I didn't even know how to begin responding to that one.  It's just wrong on so many levels!

Jenn and I went out Thursday night.  Lizzie was a little put out when she discovered just which friend it was I had supper with.  She thought she should have been invited.  As always, it was a refreshing time.  Jenn has a real gift of encouragement.  This time we talked a lot about the circumstances that brought our children to us through adoption.  It's a really neat thing to look back on the experience and to just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we were created to be these childrens' mothers.  They were born, of course, to another woman and entered into a life full of sin and chaos.  But yet, God was able to redeem that situation, pluck those children out of the home, safeguard them, and ultimately nestled them into our hearts.

Today is National Adoption Day.  A friend of mine whose been a long-time foster/adoptive parent and now works for DHS in some capacity, I believe, was at the Polk County Courthouse where a number of adoptions were taking place and where they were celebrating Adoption Day.  She took pictures and put them on Facebook.  Right in front of the courthouse a pick-up was parked with a professional sign protesting adoption.  Apparently this person or persons was actually confronting and harassing families as they walked into the courthouse, too.  It just makes me mad.  Her sign declared that DHS "steals children for money."  Seriously?  I am not saying that DHS gets it right every single time.  Any government agency run by fallible humans is bound to make a mistake here and there.  But to accuse them of child theft for profit?  That's low. 

And stupid.

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Oh, speaking of adoption...Monday night was my Word Weavers group.  For the first time, we had a guest speaker, a woman who has runs her own publishing company in Kansas.  Since we're a small group still we all met at Village Inn for supper before the meeting.  It turned out that in this group of 8, 4 of us were adoptive parents - including our guest speaker!  It was really kind of neat to compare notes.

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Lizzie asked Will this week, "When are you going to get rid of that apple in your neck?"  She was talking about his Adam's apple.

Today, David informed her that she could help him and Sam clean out the van.  He commented, "Many hands make light work!"  Lizzie looked down at her own and protested, "But I don't have many hands - I only have two!"

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Here's yesterday's Facebook post: I knew he could do it.
ew he could do it. never come easy for him and as a result, his confidence levels tend to be on the low side. I've watched him study the driver's manual for several months now and have been impressed with his diligence, although dubious, still, of how that would translate to actual test taking. I finally took him in this morning for the test. I assured him that many young people, his mother included, need multiple testing opportunities and that's ok and to be expected and so forth - trying to cushion the blow of his first failure. The Littles and I then sat out in the courthouse hallway and actually held hands and prayed for David whose self-worth was about to decimated. A few minutes later my son poked his head out the DMV doorway and announced, "Hey, Mom - I passed!"

There are few parental satisfactions greater than observing your child accomplish something previously thought impossible. Awhile ago, David expressed an interest in learning how to drive and I encouraged that because right now I am the sole proprietor of Mom's Taxi Service which is tiring and makes for a lot of time on the road.  At the same time, though, I was doubtful of David's ability to pass the written test required for his permit.  Learning and retaining information has never come easy for him and as a result, his confidence levels tend to be on the low side.  I've watched him study for several months and have been impressed with his diligence, although dubious, still, of how that would translate to actual test taking.  I finally took him in this morning for the test.  I assured him that many young people, his mother included, need multiple testing opportunities and that's ok and to be expected and so forth - trying to cushion the blow of his first failure.  The Littles and I then sat out in the courthouse hallway and actually held hands and prayed for David whose self-worth was about to decimated.  A few minutes later my son poked his head out the DMV doorway and announced, "Hey,  Mom - I passed!" 

 

I knew he could do it.

 

What a morning!  I am so proud of that boy.  He was so stunned and excited about passing that when he signed his name for his license he mispelled it!  When we got home, he excitedly posted a picture of his temporary permit and Will, of course, was the first to point this out to him!

 

Now I just have to find someone willing to teach David how to drive.  I really don't want to be that person.

 

Normally, I have gone up to the DOT in Ankeny for all our licensing needs.  I don't know why.  It's never been an enjoyable experience - so crowded with impatient, impersonal employees.  For some reason it just occurred to me this fall that maybe I didn't have to go up there.  I made some phone calls and found out I could just go to the courthouse in Knoxville.  The DMV there shares a room with the property tax people.  It was great.  There wasn't even enough room for all 5 of us to fit in there, so the kids and I stayed out in the hallway while David tested.  The Littles were all over the place when we were in the room, though.  Lizzie saw a posted sign picturing a cell phone with an X through it.  The sign was asking people to refrain from talking on their phone in the room.  Lizzie, who cannot read,  saw the sign, gasped, and exclaimed, "Mom!  You have a cell phone in your purse - you have to get rid of it!"  The DMV lady humored all the Littles by letting them check their vision in the machine multiple times.  They all had many, many questions, and each one had to pose themself against the blue background used for taking license pictures.  It was like trying to herd cats.  At one point, the lady looked at me and said, "You must be so tired!"

 

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I've been having an on-going conversation with my pastor's wife for the past week about the idea of redeeming Paul's death.  I don't mean in the sense of becoming an activist for some cause.  That's probably the most common direction people take when confronted with loss.  There's nothing wrong with that and it's good to bring attention to different disorders and situations.  But, I have no desire to slap a purple ribbon on my coat for epilepsy awareness, either.  I'm wanting something deeper than that.

 

I want to do something with eternal value.  For awhile I was questioning if death can even serve a redemptive purpose since death was never part of God's original plan for mankind.  But I've pretty much worked that out in my  mind and determined that yes, it can. 

 

Yesterday, Marcia sat on my loveseat and looked at the pictures of the kids lined up on the wall.  She pointed them out to me and said that perhaps my greatest act of redeeming Paul's death is to continue parenting the kids in the way Paul desired while alive.  That gives me something to chew on because I had not thought of this in that sense before.

 

I'm sure my thoughts on this will continue to eke out in future blog posts.

**********************************************

We actually had snow flurries one day earlier this week.  They were the first we'd had this season.  We needed to get going to Learning RX and I was trying, almost frantically, to get everyone out and loaded into the van so we could get on the road.  I got them all done up their coats, with the needed hats and mittens and instructed everyone to get in the van while I grabbed the stuff I needed and locked up the house.  I got outside and not one child was in the van.  Frustration mounted.  But then I saw them.  These three small children of mine stood with arms outstretched, faces to the sky, and little pink tongues extended, catching snowflakes.  The wonder of the moment was not lost on me and I immediately forgot the scolding words I was about to utter.  In another decade, these little ones won't be nearly so excited by the first snow of the season. 

 

Let them be children.  They're only little for a little while.

I knew he could do it.