Sunday, December 28, 2014

Day 572

Dec. 28, 2014

Day 572's over.  And...I survived.  And...I'm relieved.

Actually, Christmas Day wasn't so difficult.  Christmas Eve was slightly so.  My folks arrived mid-afternoon, which was nice.  All the Littles wanted to stay with Grandma and Grandpa and the Bigs wanted to go to the Christmas Eve service so we went.  But I couldn't concentrate.  As much as I wanted to be there, I also didn't want to be there.  As soon as the service was over, I bolted.  I just really didn't want to talk to anyone.  Plus, I had forgotten my make-up bag and didn't have my pik or lipstick and I'm kind of vain like that and felt less-than-perfect in my appearance and didn't want to be seen in that condition.  The boys stayed inside the church for awhile, which was fine.  I sat out in my van and watched the light snow falling and listened to Christmas music on the radio.  That was actually quite peaceful.

I had a visitor at 3:30 in the morning on Christmas.  Sam bounded into my room and declared, "I can't sleep!"  So I let him crawl into bed with me.  Only, when I rolled over to do that, a jagged edge on my toenail (it's winter - I let them go during this season) caught on my sheet and ripped off.  I still have a band-aid on it!  My bed did not make for instant dreams of sugar plums for Sam, either.  He was rather chatty. 

"Nighttime is 8 hours, right, Mom?  So, I've slept about 4 hours which means I only have 4 more to go!"

And then,

"I think I need some more melatonin, Mom?  Can I get some?"

Please...take the whole bottle while you're at it...

He eventually drifted off but one of the effects of the peri-menopausal symptoms I am experiencing these days is an inability to fall back to sleep easily once awakened.  So around 5 I was taking an Advil PM which then, of course, made it very hard to wake up when I had a little brown face breathing heavily into mine two hours later!

But, despite being a little foggy in the head, Christmas was nice.  It was relaxing like last year, which is what I needed.  I'm not so sure I could have handled some of my Christmases I've had in the past, surrounded by all sorts of people (which normally, I have always enjoyed).  I needed this.

David surprised me with a cookbook he had purchased in August when he went to the state fair.  Every couple of years they compile a book from the blue ribbon food entries.  I was so touched by his thoughtfulness.  And wrapped in pink camouflage wrapping paper, was my gift from Will - a 32" flat screen tv!  I'll never tell him, but Ben accidentally let part of the cat out of the bag last month.  He felt so terrible about it and he didn't tell me enough for me to know for sure, so I was still pretty shocked that Will had done this.  The tv in my bedroom has been giving me problems for a few months now and I would have had to have replaced it sometime soon.  It's an old tube tv.  Will is going to take it to his dorm room for video games, which will save me $25 and the time and energy to have it recycled.

I ordered a couple of things off Etsy for myself from Mom and Dad.  My favorite one is a 20X30 calligraphy print of the first two verses of Psalm 91.  The morning of Paul's death Marcia and I sat on my couch, thumbing through the Psalms.  We found this one and I just latched onto it and even had the psalm printed on the back of Paul's funeral program.  When I read it, even today,  I am instantly calmed and comforted.  Dad said I should memorize it.  He's right.  This summer I looked on Etsy for wall hangings of that Psalm and found a lady in North Carolina who does calligraphy of verses.  I didn't think I should spend the money then but promised myself if I still wanted it in Dec. then it could be my Christmas present.  I finally ordered a week ago tonight.  I told the artist that I was in no hurry and for her to take her time.  I also told her, line by line, the colors I wanted.  I heard from her the very next day and she told me she was already working on it.  By that afternoon she was done and sent me a picture for approval.  I assured her again there was absolutely no hurry to get it to me and I did not want this interfering in her Christmas week. 

It was on my doorstep Christmas Eve!  The mailman had apparently fried her brain with all the extra work required this time of year.  It came in a huge box, big enough to cushion the nearly 2 foot by 3 foot dimensions.  The mailman leaned it up against the door!  Tell me how I'm supposed to open my door without knocking the thing over?  I eventually got it, but it was not without effort.  Give me a break...

I ordered a frame off Amazon that is supposed to be here Tuesday.  I'm looking forward to getting it up.

I also ordered a little red 12X12 sign for my hallway off Etsy that reads, "Because someone we love is in Heaven, there's a little bit of Heaven in our home."  That hasn't shipped yet.  That's fine because I'm planning on painting the hallway really soon and all my pictures will have to come down for that project.

I dreamed about Paul today and Christmas gifts.  The kids and I went out to eat and while we waited Will was sharing what he was learning in his SS class about Heaven.  So I suppose that was on my mind.  I had eaten a big meal (well, I ordered a big meal, but the kids got most of it - my appetite is still down.  I have lost 9 pounds since Thanksgiving.  I can't complain) and fell into a deep sleep almost immediately once I laid down when we got home.

In my dream it was Christmas time.  A lot of different things were happening, with a number of different people I know and different Christmas celebrations.  Throughout my dream I kept wondering when I was going to get my Christmas present from Paul.  We always exchanged gifts for Christmas, as well as Valentines, our anniversary, birthdays, and Mothers/Father's Days.  Not all couples do that, but I guess I just like stuff, so we did!  It always felt good to do that.  So, in my dream, I had this delicious sense of  increasing anticipation of when he was going to give me the gift and what it just might be.

And then, still dreaming, I suddenly realized that oh, Paul is now dead and I won't ever, ever receive another gift from him.  Sadness enveloped me.  But before I could give into the emotion, still dreaming, I heard a very clear voice.  I'm not sure who was speaking, but I'm almost wondering if it was God.  And since I still remember this so clearly, awake, I wonder if the dream was another message from Him.  The voice said, "But Paul gave you six gifts." 

And then I woke up, the voice still ringing in my ears.  Six gifts?

And then I knew.  I have  six children.  Each one, a gift from God, certainly, but also a gift from their father.  If it was not for Paul, I would not have any of them, not even the girls.  And these gifts will last the rest of my life and give me much more joy and satisfaction than anything wrapped under the tree ever will.


As I mentioned, we went out to eat, today.  A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me some money, instructing me to take the kids out.  Yesterday, I ended up shopping for most of the day.  It was fun, kidless shopping.  Although, I'm probably getting old.  Being in crowded stores two days after Christmas wasn't as fun as it used to be.  After walking awhile my knee and my shoulder hurt and I needed ibuprofen but I hadn't brought my water bottle into the mall because my purse is already so heavy.  So I had to wait until it was convenient to get some lunch.  And then the food court was so crowded that it was hard to find a place to sit down.  I felt like the new kid on the first day of school, facing a lunch room full of hostile faces, while trying to balance my tray.  I eventually found a table and gratefully sat down, popped my Advil, and read my kindle (ironically, I'm currently reading a funny book about growing old) while eating my taco.  I managed to finish the taco, but could not eat all my potato oles.  It used to be the other way around.

So anyway, all that to say that I decided that we would go out to lunch today because I didn't have time yesterday to get today's lunch prepared which is usually what I do on Saturdays.  I wanted to take the kids to the Cozy Cafe on the south side.  This is like their 6th or 7th location.  I had never been there until a couple of weeks ago when some friends from church took me.  I really like their food - comfort type of stuff. 

This particular location has been two other restaurants in the time I've lived here and I went to both of them.  When it was called "The Robin's Nest" Paul and I went there one Sunday when Sam was only a couple of weeks old.  Friends had volunteered to take the big boys so we could have some alone time.  I'll never forget how Paul gallantly opened up my door so I could get out and then proceeded to walk towards the restaurant.  I kind of hung back, wondering how long it would be until he figured out he had just left a baby in the van.  After awhile he turned around and sheepishly started back to the van!  That memory still makes me laugh!  And then it became the "Black Angus."  They hired Loziers to do some work so one night Paul was doing that and they told him they'd be happy to give him a discount on the food.  I can't remember exactly how that all worked out but I just remember sitting in the parking lot of the Black Angus for quite awhile, reading, while I waited for him to get done working so we could start our date night.

And we were back today - great food, good service.  They play the local Christian radio station in this restaurant - maybe in all their locations, I don't know.  But, their greeter had a nose ring.  And I'm not talking about a discreetly placed, winking stud (although I don't care for those either - I always think of a dried booger when I see them).  This was a half ring with balls on both ends.  The balls hung over the nostrils.  Blech - talk about an appetite reducer!  I know it's not just me showing my middle age.  Almost all my kids commented on it, too.


Will got his grades this week.  He got straight As in all his classes this semester.  I'm impressed.  No wonder he made the Dean's List!  He was slightly bothered, though, that his GPA is not a 4.0.  It's a 3.87.  I may have slightly rolled my eyeballs when he mentioned that.  But as a homeschooling mom, I do have to admit to feeling a certain sense of satisfaction.  I didn't ruin him!  When you're homeschooling your kids you never know for sure how good of a job you're doing.  At least I didn't.  And in the back of my mind I have always wondered a bit if I was totally screwing my kids over, educationally, because I am so aware of my own shortcomings when it comes to educating them.  At least I did ok with this one!


David found Sam's glasses Monday or Tuesday.  They were in front of the downstairs tv.  I looked all over down there and I don't know how I missed them.  Last night he had them on, rolled over onto his side on the couch...and snapped the bow off. 

I cannot win.


This morning before Sunday School started Ellie and I were in the bathroom.  She asked for some "wipstick" and I let her have my gloss.  She smeared it on while I combed my hair.  She smacked her lips together, looking in the mirror, and then I heard her exclaim,

"I am so boo-oo-tiful!"

Yes, yes, you are, Little one...and more than a little self-centered, diva-ish, and all-together girly.

But, fortunately, we have time to work on that!
Along with a host of other things.  Happy New Year, everyone.  May it be one of rest and growth.
















Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Day 567


Dec. 23, 2014

Day 567

Two days before Christmas...and I'm doing ok.  There's a big hollow feeling in my heart, but I can live with that. 

I think.


I wish I could sleep better.  Ben is on break, which means I don't have to get up at 6:40 in the morning - yay!  Except...yesterday morning, I was sound asleep and at exactly 6:30am, I was suddenly wide awake.  This morning, the exact same thing happened, only at exactly 5am.  It took me over an hour to fall back asleep.  I wonder if this part and parcel of the menopausal stuff I'm dealing with. 

I am finding some relief, though.  I've done some research on essential oils and mixed up a cocktail of oils I already had on hand.  I find that by applying that twice a day, along with my progesterone cream and another oil blend I ordered I am getting some relief.  There's another blend specifically  made for menopause, but it's on backorder at the moment.  I'm probably going to be limited to what I can come up with myself, anyway.  I know my gynecologist has told me repeatedly that because of my stroke, my options are going to be limited.  I am still getting nearly daily headaches, though.  I wonder if I'm going to have to go on some other sort of prescription to combat those.


Ben and I worked concessions at the school Friday night.  I had no idea how much work that would be!  I mostly worked with popcorn and within an hour my wrist was killing me from the continual scooping.  I figured that they would find some out  of the way job for Ben, but no, he was right up front, taking orders and money.  I was really surprised at how well he was able to tally amount and figure change.  It sure was an exhausting night!


Ben has developed a real interest in reading the Bible in the last couple of weeks.  I'm not really sure where this has come from.  I've only ever encouraged the kids to read the Bible, but haven't forced them to do so.  But suddenly, he is asking me where it would be best to be reading (I suggested Proverbs) and he's been trying to figure out the best time every day to read it.  I suggested that he could do his reading after he's dressed and eaten breakfast before the bus comes in the morning.  Normally he hops on the computer during that time to watch Wheel of Fortune.  I figured he'd reject that idea outright, but instead he said, "That's a good idea!"!

What he doesn't know and what I had already done prior to this sudden interest is that he's getting a new Bible and case for Christmas.  That will work out well.


Will made the Dean's List at Faith for this semester.  I hadn't even thought about that possibility.  I don't really care - I just want the kids to do their best regardless of where their grades fall.  Abilities differ.  But he's gifted intellectually and it's paying off.  The president of Faith sent me a nice (form) letter along with a press release if I want it in the paper.  I don't know if that's just for bragging purposes or if there is some value in creating a public "trail" for future employers.


Before Paul died I remember noticing that people were having window clings made up for the back window of their vehicles as a memorial to someone they lost.  They were usually maybe 6 or 7 inches in diameter and listed someone's name, birth, and death dates.  After Paul died I thought about getting one made, but decided against it.  For one thing, I think it's a fad.  And for another, I have no desire to advertise my widowhood status - not that anyone would know, just by looking at something like that that I'm now widowed.  I know when Paul was born and I will never forget when he died.  I don't need to be reminded of it every time I get in my van.

A few weeks ago I saw something that trumped those little window clings, though.  I have never seen anything like this.  We were driving home from Iowa City and there was a car in front of me.  The entire back window was a memorial to a young woman who had died a few years ago in her early twenties.  It features a full length body shot of her (probably a senior picture, I would guess) along with her name and dates.  It was a middle aged man driving I noticed when I passed him.  Probably her dad.


Hunting is over for now, although Will is making noises about going muzzle loader hunting.  I'm not even sure what a muzzle loader is, to be honest.  We ended up with three deer for our freezer, which works for me.  Will's friend, Eric, drove down from camp Friday and stayed through Sunday.  Eric is the son-in-law of one of Paul's old college roommates at Faith.  This roommate and his wife attended our wedding 22 years ago and I remember when Eric's wife was born.  Man, I'm old...But Eric is doing an internship at camp right now and he and Will have become good friends.  So anyway, he shot two deer and Sat. and gave them to us.  Then, Sunday, he loaned Will his gun before he had to leave and Will was able to shoot two more deer.  He's giving one of them to some other people we know, though.  I don't quite understand it, but there is something about Eric's gun that is so incredibly special that Will is now convinced he must buy one just like it before next year.  He had  me looking through the scope and that was pretty cool - things were really up close with that thing.  I would imagine that's a big advantage when hunting.

I took the Littles shopping the other day for their gift exchange presents.  We went to Scheels and Ellie spied a sign that features a pistol and reads, "Keep calm and carry."  Will has a t-shirt with the same message.  She squealed and exclaimed, "Oh, Will really like guns!"  So we got it for him.


Yesterday I ran errands and did some Christmas shopping with Ben and David.  It ended up taking nearly all day.  My friend, Mishelle, had my Littles.  She and her teenage daughter made cut-out sugar cookies with the kids and decorated them.  I have never had the courage to do that with my own kids, so I was grateful they did!

We ate lunch at Red Robins because I know Ben loves that place and David has been wanting to try it for months.  That was  the location of Paul's and my last date, a few weeks before he died....While there, I saw a customer using one of those e-cigarettes.  I've never seen that before.  Kind of freaky, almost.  But, if you have to have that oral fix, I suppose it's better than an actual cigarette.

I couldn't finish my burger again.  Three times in recent weeks I have ordered burgers from restaurants and all three times I've had to hand them over to the kids to eat after only a few bites.  I don't know what's wrong with me.  I'm such an American eater - I love burgers and chicken sandwiches and french fries and onion rings.  But my stomach just can't take it anymore.  I am thinking of getting tested for Celiacs soon, but I really hope I don't have it.  I don't want to have to change my entire eating habits or buy $6 loaves of  bread.

One of my stops yesterday was Victoria's Secret.  I really didn't want to brave the 4-days-before-Christmas mall shoppers, but my everyday ("boring" as Paul called it), beige bra broke last week and I had a $10 coupon set to expire on Dec. 24.  So I left the boys in the van and ventured in.  I even got measured again just to check things.  The little gal ("little" in age - she was actually taller than me) tried to tell me I've advanced to a DD cup.  I just laughed and told her "not even in my dreams" - give me my regular C.  I tried them both on and as I suspected, I was right and she was wrong.  But that's not what I wanted to write about.  As I was leaving the store with my purchase, I was shocked to see that Victoria's Secret has a young man as an employee!  I have never seen that in any of their stores before and I've been buying from them a long time.  He was just spraying down tables and not working in the fitting area.  But that is NOT a good idea.  It made me uncomfortable as a customer and I would never be happy about a son of mine working in a store so dedicated to selling sex.  The last thing a young man, or any man for that matter, needs to be surrounded by is lingerie and pictures of it being modeled.  What a world we live in...

By the way, the only reason I am a dedicated VS shopper is because their bras are the most comfortable ones on the planet.  I'm all about comfort and feeling nothing under my clothing.  That's all.


A Sam funny: He and Lizzie were talking about people that get born with extra fingers or toes.  I've known a few people in my lifetime that have had that.  They usually get them removed in babyhood.  I said to them that yes, it happens every so often that babies get born with extra digits, but it's not a very common occurrence.  Sam nodded and replied seriously, "Yeah, it only happens when babies stay in their mommy's tummies for too long."   And yet another reason for labor induction, I suppose!


I started this earlier today and when I did, I felt good.  As the day has progressed, however, I find that my spirits are sinking.  I hate being all over the place like this, emotionally.  It makes me grateful that God is not the same way.

The kids had their Christmas program Sun. night.  They all did wonderfully.  The Littles were part of the choir.  Everyone keeps commenting to me on how loudly Lizzie sings.  I must be that deaf that I don't hear it.    Sam even said the director had to keep hushing her during practice!  I thought Ellie's group was so cute - they did wonderfully with their one piece of "Away in a Manger."  I was surprised at how Ellie knew all the words.  She sang them lustily - no stage fright for her!  I'm not trying to pat myself on the back, but my thoughts did flit to a place of wondering what Christmas would be like for the girls had they not been adopted.  I'm pretty sure they would not have been on stage singing songs about Baby Jesus.

David was a wise man.  He sang in a trio.  He's 15 years old and I have never heard him sing in my life.  He's always been too self-conscious about it.  In fact, he about had a heart attack and a stroke combined when I was contacted about the possibility of him being in the program and I happily accepted on his behalf.  He was ok with that, but then I threw out there, "And it involves singing in a trio!"  It was good for him! And it turns out that he has a really nice singing voice!  It was nice to finally hear it.

And Ben was a silent Joseph - a good part for him.

The kids are about beside themselves with excitement.  Christmas is almost here!  My perspective as an adult and as grieving wife are different, of course.  But, still, I am finding a certain peace in the midst of the frenzy.  If anything, the Christmas story means more to be now than it ever did before.  Jesus came to heal broken hearts, to be crushed for those crushed in spirit.

And, oh, how He loves us!  Sunday, I had an older lady give me a hug.  She looked me in the eye and said firmly, "You are my daughter."  And I about lost it right there.  Yesterday, after I was home from my day of shopping, the doorbell rang.  It was a friend from church and her two little ones, delivering Christmas goodies and a card.  They had made a special, half-hour trip just to come see me.  I don't know this gal super-well yet, but I am so appreciative of her.  She's quiet, but she told me, "Sarah - I know this is hard for you, but I want you to know that you're shining.  We all see Jesus through your struggles."  She left and I cried again.  And today another friend emailed me and set up a date for us  to get lunch and a manicure after the holidays  (her treat).  My nails have never been so well taken care of as they have been since Paul's death!

He loves me.  Of course, I know John 3:16 - God so loved the world and since I'm part of the world in general, I am included in that.  But that love is so much more than a generality.  I am loved, personally, completely, and lavishly.  I have never been more conscious of that than I have since Paul's death.

Christmas is a love story.
And that's why we celebrate.
















Saturday, December 20, 2014

Day 565

Dec. 18, 2014

Thursday - Day 563

I won't finish this tonight.  I have children that need to be read to and tucked in soon.  I have folded laundry all over my bed that has to be put away before I get to get in, unless I fancy sleeping on the floor.  Actually, that might not be such a bad idea. So, I'll just get a good start.  That's ok.  I'll be home for most of tomorrow until evening when Ben and I have to go man the concession stand at the school to earn money for his (our) Florida trip.  It's one of those things where I got a phone call from the Fine Arts Dept. director and felt kind of on-the-spot.  I managed to worm out of the night he wanted us two weeks ago but offered to do the 19th instead.  I didn't realize when I offered that we would still be in hunting season at that point and that the night of the 19th I would be hosting 3 overnight hunters at my  home. 

It's ok.  I'll manage.

Tomorrow, Will, David, and Jonathan (David's bestie - do guys have "besties?") will be hunting all day long with some other guys from church.  Then, two more friends arrive later tomorrow to join the hunters on Saturday.  I sure hope they get something.  The guys hunted last weekend and came up empty-handed, except for Nathanael, who got himself a nice, thick 9 pointer.  But if they do get something, then that means butchering might be happening on my dining room table next week in the midst of the Christmas bustle.

Like last year.  I had beheaded, skinned, dead deer on my dining room table on Christmas Eve.  My parents arrived to start the Christmas celebrations and I still had a house full of guys waving knives and bowls of blood setting on the table.

It was so warm last weekend that Will and Nathanael strung up the one Nathanael got to the swing set and skinned him right there and then.  I've been fighting off the neighborhood dogs all week long, all who want deer legs, the skin, and rib cage.  I finally got the boys to dump the carcass in the garbage can but I'm sure the dogs can smell it.

Why am I blathering on about deer?  I don't know.  My brain has been kind of foggy all week.  Anyway, I guess I was saying that I'd be home most of tomorrow so I can work on blogging in between all the time I'll be spending in the kitchen cooking for the hungry hunters.  I think that was the point I was getting to.


I had to drive to Ottumwa this week (more on that later).  I ended up getting a series of text messages from one of our pastors so I kept having to pull off so I could text back.  I like to say texting makes my life easier, but sometimes it really doesn't!  Anyway, I pulled off at the Knoxville/Chariton exit.  I couldn't find a good place to park, but I eventually found a little access road.  I saw some sort of business up ahead so I wound around on the gravel road until I could pull in.  I was so surprised when I read the sign on the building - Bertrand Monuments.  A year ago July I drove up and down and up and down the several mile stretch of highway that runs through Knoxville looking for this place. Armed with Mapquest, I knew about where it was supposed to be, but   I never could find it.  I finally gave up and went with McCall Monument, also in Knoxville.  I could find them.  It's all right.  They did a great job and really served with compassion.  But now a year and a half later, I finally find the joint!


Yesterday I had a unique experience.  It's no secret that the religion of Islam is growing, and along with that, its influence.  For some reason, the Muslims seem to prefer the west side of Des Moines.  There are quite a few fully scarved Walmart employees at the Jordan Creek store.  That has made for some interesting conversations with the Littles!  And actually, there is one at Ben's school, which is surprising.  His school is one of the smallest districts in the entire state.  It's something like 99% white, if not more.  In fact, Lizzie commented to me that if she does attend there next year she'll probably be the only black girl in the school and, more than likely, she's right about that.  So, I was really surprised this year at Ben's first vocal concert when one of the students stood up there, her head fully covered by a white scarf.  Maybe she's a foreign exchange student.  I just thought of that.  That could be.  Or, she could have recently transferred into the district or maybe even converted.  I don't know.  At the Christmas program last week, Ellie saw her, squealed loudly, and exclaimed (also loudly),

"Look, Mommy - a Muswim!"  Yeah, we've had a lot of conversations.

So, anyway, yesterday I was out at Jordan Creek Mall.  I had just the Littles and we ate in the food court.  I won't go into all the details of that experience, but suffice it to say, I didn't have the stroller, the kids were in bulky winter coats and it was...harrowing.  They were all actually really well-behaved, but it was still not an experience I want to repeat anytime soon.   We got done eating, and of course, all their bladders instantly filled to capacity.  Sam had no desire to go into the ladies' restroom, but I wasn't about to let him go into the men's alone.  What did I do before they came up with Family bathrooms?  I know they didn't have them when my big boys were little.  Inside the food court at Jordan Creek is the restroom area.  They have the mens' room and ladies' room, a changing room or two, a nursing room, and two family restrooms.  Both were occupied so the kids and I sat down in a little waiting area they have with couches and rocking toys.  I think they're rocking toys.  Maybe they're supposed to be decorations, now that I think about it.  My kids have always played on them, though!  Both family rooms were occupied so I herded the kids over to the waiting area.  Later, when a room opened up, I was a bit miffed when a single lady walked out.  Hello, people - these rooms are for families!  You know, harried, tired mothers like me who have more small children than they have arms?

The first thing I noticed was this Muslim lady wearing a dress, a winter coat, and colorful head scarf.  She was sitting on one of the benches.  A man, around her age, was on the floor, which I thought was a little odd.  What I mostly noticed was how irritated he looked when the kids and I came back there.  Tough banana, Guy - if we have the chance to sit while we wait, we're going to do it.  Then, I saw that he had his glasses on a bench and it looked like he was peering under the couch.  As mentioned, my brain has been a bit foggy this week, but even with that I began to wonder - if he was looking for something wouldn't he want his glasses ON so he could see what it was he was hoping to find?  The guy kept kneeling with his nose to the floor.  The light began to finally penetrate my murky mind as I saw him then stand and pick up a 12" X 12" square of gold and brown woven tapestry piece off the floor and place it into a bag on the bench.

He was practicing salat!  I've heard of the practice, seen pictures of men in mosques doing it, but never witnessed it first-hand before.  And no, I didn't know that word.  I had to google it.  I just knew that Muslims are required to pray five times daily, facing Mecca, which would be, what, East?  It was really interesting to me.

And incredibly sad.  As I watched him, a real sorrow just enveloped me.  This young man will spend his entire life reciting his prayers and will make at least one pilgrimage to Saudia Arabia (where Mecca is located - also had to google that).  But when he dies he will be cast into Hell because he rejected Jesus.  All that self-sacrifice and prostrating for nothing!  He will have spent his entire life believing a lie.  I immediately began praying for him. 

After he and his wife (I assume - are Muslim men allowed to have girlfriends?) left the area I gathered the Littles around and explained what had just occurred. 


My kitchen floor is buckling.  Ugh.  I have never heard of this happening, except in flood situations.  I don't know if the dishwasher leaked or what.  It's a section of wood right in front of it.  Will said there was a wet spot on the basement floor below, but it wasn't too bad.  We've been watching it all day and haven't seen any more water.  But there are, apparently, drawbacks to wood floors.  This is one of them.  It's a section about two strips wide by maybe 18-22 inches.  The wood is going to have to be either screwed back down, or somehow replaced.  We do have some left-over pieces but  Will was saying they won't look quite as good when replaced.  It's got to look better than it does now, all puffed up.


Friday - Day 564

The girls are still asleep and it 's nearly 9am...not going to wake them.  My hunters were up and moving at 4am.  I know this because I heard them.  Then, Lizzie appeared, breathing heavily, at my bedside at 6am.

"I had a bad dream!"

A good mom would have invited her to crawl in the bed and chase away the scaries by cuddling.  I'm not that good of a mom.

What I am is a distracted mom.  Yesterday I put Lizzie down for her nap and then came downstairs and helped Sam with some schoolwork and then plunged back into my to-do list.  About an hour later, a disheveled Ellie appeared in the kitchen, rubbing her eyes.  I had totally forgotten about this child!  I asked her where she had been and she told me she had been sleeping underneath her bed!  I didn't miss her and I completely forgot about putting her down for her nap!  I am reminded of the harsh thoughts I have had at times towards the girls' birth mom because of her lack of interest and care for her children.  Am I any better?  Not yesterday, at least!

The other day Ellie asked me to get down the "owie game" out of the closet for her.  I didn't know what she was talking about.  I eventually figured out she meant "Operation."  Makes sense, I guess.

The kids' Christmas program is at church Sunday night.  Ellie has been going around the house all week singing, "In elshellshees Da-a-ayo!"  That must be all she remembers.  It makes me smile.


Frustrated this morning...Sam has lost his glasses AGAIN.  He took them off to wrestle with his brothers last night and this today they are missing.  Argh!  This is like what, the 50th time he's misplaced them?  Would I get in trouble if I stapled them to his head, once he finds them again?  Of course, my fear is that he won't find them and then I'll be forced to buy him another pair.  On the plus side, Sam did find the missing basement dvd remote while he was searching.


When I was out with the Littles the other day, they were very eager to put money in the red Salvation Army kettles.  Well, they were very eager to put MY money in the kettles.  They asked again what they were for and I explained it was to help poor people.  Sam nodded and said, "Yes, they buy Christmas trees for all the poor people.  That's important!"  I was thinking more along the lines of food and energy assistance, but I guess when you're 7, having a Christmas tree is a pretty big priority, too!


As I mentioned earlier I had to drive to Ottumwa earlier this week.  It's a good hour and fifteen minutes away, but the Social Security office for my region is located there.  I went in Sept, hoping to get the girls new Social Security cards.  Well, I didn't have their new birth certificates with me, so I couldn't get it done that day - grr.  I decided to go this week.  I cannot get my taxes done next year without new cards for the girls so I'm kind of running out of time.  I wanted to make sure this would not be another wasted trip so I called down to the office and verified with them what documents I would need.  I had them all, so I left.

I got there and the guy behind the window told me, "You have to have an ID for the girls."  What?  They're children - how on earth would I have an ID for them? Surely adoption decrees and birth certificates are some sort of identification!  The man was insistent that I  must have this ID before we could start the paperwork for new cards.  I explained repeatedly that I had just called not two hours earlier and nothing was said to me about IDs.  He went and talked to his manager but came back telling me the same thing.  At this point I was nearly in tears.  I was fighting them hard.  I burst out, "I have SIX children and live over an hour away.  I do not have TIME to come back!"

There was nothing I could do.  This is the United States government at work.

The only way for me to get an ID for the girls is to take them to the doctor and have the doctor type up a document on piece of paper stating the girls' names, birth dates, and sign it. What does THAT prove?  So I called their doctor.  Well, the girls haven't been seen in almost two years.  So they can't do anything for me until the girls have a full physical.  And since that time, the girls have had a name change.  Lizzie's file was misnamed and the office tried to tell me repeatedly they had never seen her.  I told them otherwise.  Eventually they found it. 

All this was further complicated by the fact that I need the same doctor to type up a letter about Ben for his guardianship hearing.  Ben hasn't been seen in a year and half, so the doctor wanted to see him, too.  And, this doctor no longer takes new Medicaid patients, which means he would see Ben, but not the girls.  But, his nurse took pity on me and scheduled the girls with him, anyway.    So, right before rush hour on the 30th, I get to take the kids to downtown Des Moines and do all this.

There are times I want to leave civilization altogether and go live on a mountaintop, just me and the kids.  Sometimes, I'd happily leave the kids behind and go live by myself. I get so tired of dealing with agencies and the government.

On the way home Tuesday, I found myself really questioning God.  I couldn't (and still can't) understand why He let my entire morning be wasted like that.  Sometimes when my plans get derailed and I am late or don't get to go somewhere I had planned, I often assume that I might have been involved in some sort of accident and it was God's way of protecting me.  But this?  I just don't see it.


Saturday - Day 565

The other night a widow friend at church (older - they're all older there) gave me a hug and whispered, "I don't need to ask how you're doing because I already know."  It's probably written all over my face these days.

Earlier this week I found myself thinking about suicide.  Before I begin to get phone calls from concerned friends questioning my mental health, I will be quick to assure everyone that I am not thinking of ending my life.  If I die young, it will be because I did something dumb, like turned in front of semi or dropped my hair dryer in the tub.  I have zero intentions of killing myself.  Ever.

But my thoughts were going there in a detached manner.  I understand the appeal.  I used to think that suicide was the ultimate act of selfishness.  I no longer believe that.  Suicide happens when a person is in so much pain that they can no longer think rationally.  It's still a choice and it's still a sinful decision.  But I understand it better now.

I have been hurting so much lately that the thought did creep into my mind - "You know, you could just end all this pain."  Looking back, I'm pretty sure that thought came straight from the pit of hell.  I pondered the idea for about a split second and then rejected it.  My death would hurt too many people.  Plus, I firmly believe that God is the author of life.  Paul's ended because his work was done.  I'm still here, which means there is purpose yet for my life.

Even if I'm not crazy about fulfilling that purpose yet.

Even if that purpose involves pain for the rest of my days.

But what if it doesn't?  What if, down the road, happiness sneaks up on me again?  I love my children so much it makes me teary-eyed at times.  I want to be here for all those moments as their lives unfold and blossom.  Yeah, those moments are always going to be a double-edged type of thing, probably equal parts pleasure and disappointment that Paul is missing these milestones.  But there will still be joy despite that and I want to see those moments.  As much as I long to go to Heaven, now, there are some things I think I'd like to see happen in my own life while I'm still tethered to earth.  These are things that I think will give me pleasure.  I don't want to miss them

So, I stay and slog through the hurt that, these days, feels like sticky, mucky, swampland. 

But even then, now, through this, hope remains. A lot of the times its flame is barely discernible, but it's there.  I'm going through a devotional book right now by Juanita Purcell on the Psalms - one for each day of the year.  It was given to me a few weeks ago and I couldn't wait until Jan. 1 to start using it.  Yesterday, I grabbed onto a few lines she wrote and held them close all day long:

We must ever doubt in the dark what we know in the light.  God is good; God loves me; I will again lift my head and sing.  Anyone can sing when the sun is shining brightly, but only confidence in God can give us a song in the night.  Don't lose hope!  Hope is admitting that troubles do exist, but believing they won't last forever.  Hope believes that God will lead us through the darkness to the sunshine of His love.  Don't give up; don't lose hope!  You will lift your head and sing again.

I needed to hear that.

I have found another song to hold onto, as well.  It's by Kari Jobe, entitled I am not Alone.  Here's the link if you want to hear it song


When I walk through deep waters
I know that you will be with me
When I'm standing in the fire
I will not be overcome

Through the valley of the shadow
Oh I will not fear

I am not alone
I am not alone
You will go before me
You will never leave me

In the midst of deep sorrow
I see your light is breaking through
The dark night will not over take me
I am pressing into you
Lord you fight my every battle
And I will not fear

You amaze me
Redeem me
You call me as your own

You're my strength
You're my defender
You're my refuge in the storm

Through these trials
You have always been faithful
You bring healing to my soul




This week has been better than last.  I've received a slew of encouragements from friends all week long.  I don't know if it's because it's Christmastime or if it's because my friends have been talking and decided that something must really be done about poor Sarah.  Or maybe it's just God prodding hearts into action, one by one.  Whatever the case, I'm grateful.  I received a Christmas card from a friend and when I opened it, out fell a wad of cash with a note telling me to take the kids out to eat.  I will.  I received a Facebook note with the most encouraging note from a friend's husband.  I have read it over and over this week.  My trials have value.  My suffering is not for nothing (according to his words).   I found a loaf of homemade bread sitting on my seat when I got back in my van after church Wed. night.  Another friend sent home a gift basket full of goodies for all of us.  Another friend told me she's taking my Littles Monday and when she found out I'm feeding hunters again this weekend she baked an entire supper and brought it out to me to help feed them.  It's warming in my oven right now.  When I got home from program practice today a box of food staples was on my front porch.  This was from the American Legion in Pleasantville.  They blessed us this way a year ago, I remember.

The person I am being changed into - for surely, I AM being changed - would not be happening were it not for Paul's death, for this hurt, this soul-splitting agony.  But equally a factor in my change is the love of God, caring for me, protecting me, ministering to me through the goodness of others.    It's like those ancient masks depicting both comedy and tragedy.

 Never have things been both so horrible and so good at the same time.