Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Day 547

Dec. 2, 2014

Day 547

I think I'm fighting some sort of mild germ invasion.  I woke up at 5:45 this morning with a migraine-like headache, although I think it was my sinuses.  I didn't think I'd be able to sleep any more, but after popping a butabital pill I did fall back asleep.  I'm kind of sniffly and achy today, too, but it's not all that bad.  The headache keeps coming back, too.

But, I've had a couple of good things happen to me already today (it's only early afternoon).  The first was that I received a call from Learning RX - David is DONE!  Oh, my goodness.  It feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders to know we are finished running out there twice a week and spending an hour at home every day working on it and feeling guilty when I can't do that. 

David wasn't sure what to think.  I suspect he thought he'd be a little smarter at the end of this.  But I think he is.  No, he's not spouting algebraic algorithms but he has come a long way.  Maybe I just want to think that since I spent so much money on the program!  We do have to go back for him to take an assessment test to compare beginning and ending progress and then they want me to come back one more time to meet with me.  I am sure that will be where they put the screws on for me to sign up and pay for more sessions.  I'm not doing that, though.  I can't afford it, money or time wise.

The other thing that happened is that my friend, Sarah, who I mentioned in my last post, sent me an invitation to a Christmas dinner for single moms at Point of Grace church in Waukee in a couple of weeks.  I'm kind of excited about it.  The event sounds special and it will be so wonderful to be able to meet and talk with other moms who are trying to figure out how to do this parenting thing alone, as well.

At first, I wasn't quite sure how to make it work and I almost turned her down because that same day a sweet teenager from church is coming over to my house to wrap Christmas gifts for me. I wasn't sure how to make both work.  I thought about it, though, and in the end, this friend agreed to stay through the evening in order to take some of the load off David for babysitting.  So that is a real blessing.

I also just found out that this church offers monthly times where they will watch the children of single mothers so the moms can go out for up to four hours and get things done child-free.  I'm definitely going to look into that.  Waukee is a bit of a drive but I don't think it's all that much farther than W. Des Moines and I am out there all the time, anyway.  What a neat ministry this church has!

Oh and one more nice thing happened to us over the weekend: I was at Menards with Will on Friday and when I got home David motioned to me and said, "You need to come in the living room, Mom."  My first thought was, "What did somebody break now?"  To my surprise, there was this huge wrapped box.  Inside the box were 25 wrapped gifts.  David said that someone from Amanda the Panda had brought them out.  That is the grief services organization we went to group sessions with last winter.  The gifts are all labeled by person and date, so that someone is opening a gift every day up until Christmas.  I about cried.  What thoughtfulness!

The first gift was for yesterday and it was addressed "Family."  Inside, I found a kit for growing an amaryllis.  That makes me a little nervous because I have a 100% failure rate growing things.  But I may try this anyway, especially because of the note on top of the box:

This amaryllis plant was specially chosen for you for its symbolism.  It has only one stalk which makes it look very lonely.  It appears to have little or no life to it.  But with care and water, a beautiful flower WILL eventually bloom.  May this amaryllis plant be a visible reminder to you that YOU, TOO, WILL BLOOM AGAIN!  Like the amaryllis plant, take good care of yourself and remember that water, even tears, is important to its growth.

I sure hope I don't kill it!


I put in four hours up at City Hall today.  I sorted the mail when I got there because it had been a few weeks since I'd been up there.  One letter was addressed to "City of Swan, care of Sarah Hollywood."  That made me laugh.  It was a vendor that I'd ordered a classified ad through - apparently a vendor with rather poor hearing.  But "Sarah Hollywood"  has a distinctive ring to it, don't you think?


I received a Christmas card over the weekend addressed to "Paul and Sarah Heywood."  That was upsetting.  On the inside, it read, "Merry Christmas to Paul and family."  It was a hand-written, hand-addressed personal card from one of Paul's siblings.  My first thought had been well, maybe she'd been in a "zone" when addressing cards and wasn't thinking straight.  But Will saw this and said, "Oh, no, Mom - this was intentional.  She's making sure you know she doesn't consider you the head of this family."  Maybe.  I don't know.  I don't want to assume the worst when it could be explained as a momentary brain lapse.  On the other hand, I'm not even sure why we got a Christmas card, since this particular individual has been very vitriolic to me.  If it was meant to hurt, then it succeeded.  I didn't hang it with my other cards that are slowly trickling in.


Yesterday Lizzie accompanied me while I shopped.  Her birthday money has been burning a hole in her pocket and she begged to bring it.  I've put her off as long as I can so I let her.  She eventually found what she wanted at a Frozen toy display at Younkers.  I was there because both Will and Sam needed jeans and I had a $20 off a $50 purchase coupon.  Plus, the jeans were already on sale, so I got a pretty good deal, I thought.  The clerk was very accommodating of Lizzie as she paid for her toy herself.  Lizzie had all kinds of questions about the check-out process and the  clerk took her time answering every one.  At one point Lizzie wanted to know what the credit card machine was for.  The clerk explained what it was but then told Lizzie she should avoid getting a credit card for a long time until she "had a job."  Lizzie replied, "Well, my mom has a credit card and she doesn't have a job!"  Thanks, Lizzie.  The clerk said, "Well, your dad probably has a job, right?"  To which Lizzie replied, "No - he's dead."  That poor clerk!  Of course, she was tripping all over herself apologizing for what she had no way of knowing.  She went on to tell me that she was a single mom, too.  She said hers was a divorce situation but it happened all at once and she never saw it coming.  It felt kind of nice to have that camaraderie even with a stranger.


There's a commercial for a local window company airing right now.  I think it is the dumbest commercial.  It features a group of kids playing ball in a backyard.  A ball goes flying upward and the mom looks hopefully toward the arcing ball and then as the ball stops short of shattering her very new and nice-looking  window, she looks crestfallen.  In a moment of inspiration, she grabs a decorative ball thingy from inside the house and pitches it straight through the window on the inside.  Then she hollers out, "Oh, Honey - the window got broken - guess we'll have to call Window World!"  Give me a break!

But I felt so encouraged the other day after this aired.  Ellie watched the commerical and then, eyes wide, she turned to me and exclaimed, "That mom lying!  Bad!"  Yes!!!  She's understanding!  Actually, I'm pretty impressed that she was able to observe the commercial and gather her own opinion of what was happening without any of us saying anything.  This is a child who is quick to blame her sister for all her own misdeeds and I haven't known how much she has understood when I've punished her for lying.  But I've figured I have to start somewhere.

And I remember two years ago Lizzie was seeing a therapist who tried to tell me that children are incapable of differentiating truth from non-truth until at least 12 years of age!  As I recall, that was our last session with that therapist...


So, this whole Ferguson thing has been on my mind.  I don't have any definite conclusions yet, but it continues to gnaw at me.  We watched the verdict read last week and I was honestly relieved to see that Officer Wilson was cleared on all charges.  But as the camera panned the gathered mobs and they began to gather steam in their anger and began shaking their fists Lizzie burst into tears.  She cried, "Why are all black people so bad?"  It hurt my heart.  I hastened to assure her that it wasn't a race problem, but a heart problem.  She agreed and dried her tears.

But here's the thing: it does seem like a race problem.  For the first time, I am more attuned to the complaints of black people because I now have black children.  It bothers me that someday I will probably have black grandsons who will have to be  more careful than their white friends when going out in public.  They must not appear too threatening.  They will be more likely to be pulled over while driving and suspicion will more quickly land on them than on their white counterparts.

But is this really racism?  Could it be that blacks, as a collective whole, have earned this?  After all, as a white woman I do tend to hold my purse tighter to my body and lock more vehicle doors more quickly when seeing a black man nearby.  Is that because I don't like black people?  No, of course not.  Obviously, if I had a problem with black people I would never have adopted black children!  Why is it then that I feel more threatened by black people than white people?  After all white people are just as capable of committing crimes against me.

It seems, though, that black community has a embraced a large percentage of negativism in many different areas.  For decades they've had the highest illigitimacy rate (although all other races are quickly catching up).  Those are the babies they haven't destroyed at Planned Parenthood's abortion mills.  More black babies are murdered by abortion than other race's.  I'm sure Margaret Sanger smiles to know this.  As a result of many different factors, blacks experience higher poverty rates which in turn, creates higher crime and drug involvement.  As a result of fewer fathers in homes and churches black youth are lacking needed direction and role models. Two thirds of all children in foster care in America are black.   All this, coupled with sins against them in past generations, creates an anger in the black community that is seen in rap music (a very angry type of music, if you think about it) and in demonstrations like we're seeing in Missouri. The cycle perpetuates itself in increasing degree with each generation.

On one hand, I get it - well, I think I do, anyway.  I'm sure the black people of the world would scoff that a 43 year old white woman who's never experienced a shred of racism in her life, would make that claim.  Blacks have historically not been treated well in our country, starting with, of course, slavery.  It took another hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation for them to even begin to have the same opportunities that were given to whites as part of their birth right.  This is why the Civil Rights movement was so important.

But Civil Rights happened.  Nobody has to look very far to see successful black people today.  They're everywhere - even in the White House.  That's how it should be.  Not one race is superior to the other.  Ever.  It took a long time for our country to figure that out.

However, there is that anger I was talking about.  Many blacks today seem to have embraced an attitude of entitlement (and honestly, there are probably just as many whites with the same attitude of feeling they deserve all kinds of government handouts simply because they breathe).  Because in the past blacks were abused and treated unfairly they want whites to pay for that today and they look at us with the same suspicion that I may view a lone black male in a parking lot. 

Here's the thing: violence solves nothing.  Well, unless there's a war going on.  Ruthless leaders have to be quashed and the only way to do that is to obliterate them and their territory.  That's a biblical principle and we saw it in both world wars most recently.  But when a group of people turns to thuggery because they have a "point" to make they are nullifying their complaint.  Nobody is going to listen to you when you start burning businesses and overturning police cars and even murdering innocent people because you feel disenfranchised. 

Playing the race card serves no purpose either.  Does racism still happen?  Yes.  I will be saddened and upset, but  not be surprised if our own family encounters it at some point because of the girls.  It's an ugly fact that in a fallen world one group of people is always going to try to retain a false sense of superiority.  It's human nature.  Does racism happen like it did it sixty plus years ago?  Not very often.  What happened to Michael Brown was not a matter of the color of skin.  It was the color of his heart and the fact that he was threatening a police officer who only wanted to return home that night. 

Anyway, this is just a collection of incomplete thoughts rattling around in my head.  It's stuff I have to think about now because I have created a mixed race family.  I'm still pretty new to all this and my thoughts will probably evolve further with time.  But this I know: I am teaching my daughters that they are beautiful.  As I tell them, God "colored" them exactly the way He wanted them to be.  We talk about skin color all the time.  That's not my doing.  They've made it abundantly clear this is something they want to discuss.  It's obviously important to them at this juncture in their lives so I oblige.  But do you know what we talk about most of all? 

The color of their hearts.  Heaven is going to be filled with all different shades of people - God's personal paintbox.  But what we will all have in common is our hearts - once black with sin but washed white by the red of Jesus' blood.  I can talk ad nauseum to the girls about racism and race relations but it pales to the importance of what happens inside us.

I don't have all the answers for what's going on Ferguson.  The situation there is being debated upside down and sideways by all sorts of pundits and people with letters after their names.  None of them agree with eachother.  I'm just a mom.  But I do understand something human hearts.  I can't fix Ferguson.  But I can point my girls - and my boys - to the One who can fix their hearts.


I had to go pick up Ben from basketball practice.  Lizzie was anxious to be of help in supper preparation so I told her she could help with browning the burger for tacos and if she wanted, she could put the tater tots on a greased pan.  I got home and discovered that everything was ready.  The tater tots had been cooked, the meat was chopped into very small pieces and a bowl of lettuce and cheese was neatly set out on the counter.  I praised David for his initiative in getting supper ready and he told me Lizzie had done it all.  I am in shock.  She is barely six years old!  I am suddenly seeing a much brighter future waiting for me...at least one where my presence won't be so needed in the kitchen!


I walked into Sunday School Sunday and began to carefully choose where to sit.  It's my second week back to this class and I'm remembering now the difficulty that singleness presents to choosing seats.  I had forgotten for the few months I sat upstairs in a pew during class.  But I have to be careful.  I can't just plop down beside a friend because her husband might still be coming in and I don't want to take his spot.  If there are three spots available then I can take one and there will still be room for another couple who might come in later. But I can't take the middle seat.  It has to be on the end so that two seats will be together.  But if there are four spots then that's really unfair for me to take one because then two couples can't sit there.  I'll either have an empty chair beside me, which is ok, if a bit lonely, or I'll end up potentially breaking up another couple that might come in.  Am I thinking too much?  Probably.  But that's what I do.

So I went through all this mental figuring Sunday, finally slumped into my seat, and thought, "I am so tired of this."  I am tired of being single.  I'm tired of feeling like a third wheel. I'm just  tired, period.  Then, talk began of the class Christmas party this coming Saturday, for which I signed up.  I thought to myself, "I can't do this.  I'm NOT going to do this!"  And so I erased my name from the list.  Only, of course, the eraser had dried up and some bright-brain had attempted to erase ink with it at some point so rather than quietly erase my name from the list it is now smeared out with a bright blue smudge that screams, "Sarah changed her mind!  She's such an emotional wreck.  Why would you want to be friends with her?  She doesn't even have the emotional maturity to hang out with a few married couples for one evening! No wonder her husband died on her!"  Uh, huh.  That's exactly what it says.

Any other time of the year, I'd probably go.  These are my friends.  They haven't stopped being my friends because I'm no longer married.  In fact, most of them have bent over backwards in the last 18 months, trying to soothe my hurt.  But right now, at Christmastime, I can't do it.  I'm trying to convince myself that's ok.

Instead, I'm taking the Littles to an Amanda the Panda Christmas party that afternoon.  I got the invitation weeks ago and have waffled continually on whether or not to go.  I responded by email yesterday, at the last possible minute before the deadline.  Now we're committed.  No smudging my name out of this one.  Then, that evening we're going to meet Will after work and go see Kirk Cameron's new movie, "Saving Christmas."  And then we're going to eat at Chik-fil-A which will probably sit like a rock in my stomach because all fast food stubbornly refuses to digest any more.  But that's ok.  I'll be with who I want to be instead of trying to smile with a bunch of married people and pretend that I'm doing ok and try not to cry in front of them because you're not supposed to be a Debby Downer at the holidays.


So, with the recent occurrence of Thanksgiving, I've been doing a lot of thinking on the subject of being thankful.  Specifically, I've been thinking about what it should mean in regards to being thankful for Paul's death.  I've listened to a number of people lately, read some articles all pontificating on the subject.  I even came very close to asking my pastor a couple of weeks ago if I was required to be thankful for Paul's death.  But just as I was about to ask, someone else came up to talk to him and I backed away.

I think I have figured it out, though, on my own.  1 Thess. 5:18 tells us "In everything give thanks..."  Some take this to mean that we need to be praising God for every bothersome, rotten, horrific experience that creeps into our life. 

I don't think so.  At least, not right away. 

We are told to give thanks IN everything, not necessarily FOR everything.  Semantics?  Not necessarily.  I believe we are to have a spirit of thankfulness in every circumstance that we find ourselves.  The apostle Paul talked about this very thing.  In regards to Paul's death, I have found many, many things for which to be thankful from day 1.  I'm thankful for many of the circumstances surrounding the death itself.  I'm thankful for the overabundance of help, care, and concern we still continue to receive today.  I am thankful that we live in country that has a safety net in place to care for families suddenly thrust into these kind of circumstances.  I am thankful for the Holy Spirit's comforting presence and for the wisdom God has continued to endow me with the last 18 months.

But I am not thankful Paul died.

I miss him so much at times my entire body aches.  Although the future is gradually becoming a bit brighter, I still have a hard time envisioning it without Paul's presence.  I want him back.  I would give anything for the circumstances of June 6, 2013 to be anything other than what they were.

Last week I wrote about Ben and how I was realizing that I was thankful that he was handicapped.  This is a new realization and if you had asked me even a year ago if I was thankful that he had been brain injured at birth I would have probably answered, "no."  Sure, I could rattle off a list of things I was thankful for in the circumstance of what happened in his life, both at the time of his birth and in the ensuing years.  But being thankful for the hardship and heartache of having a disabled child?  No, thank you!

But yet, somehow, I find that I AM thankful now for having Ben just the way he is.  Over time, my heart has softened and I have gradually come to realize the incredible blessing that having a handicapped child has been in my life.

I am thinking that thankfulness is a process, not a "do or die" now endeavor.  All things are passed through God's hands and for our growth and His glory.  But a lot of those things are incredibly painful and involve loss.  It takes time to process.  It takes time to develop thankfulness.  Feeling that we must be thankful when we're a big mess of hurt is putting an awful lot of pressure on ourselves.  Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there are different times in life for different activities. 

I suspect that there is a select time for thankfulness, as well.  As long we don't allow bitterness to spring up in our hearts (bitterness will choke out the tender plant of thanksgiving) and we continue to look for things we can be thankful for in any circumstance, we will eventually reach a point where we are thankful for even the horrible, heartbreaking things.

Perhaps a theologian will tell me I'm wrong on this.  But I don't think so.  There's a whole lot of new knowledge that comes from the school of disappointment and pain. 










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