Tuesday, January 27, 2015
DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW
January 27, 2014
This will probably be a shorter post - which is good because my last one took about three days to read. I don't have a lot to report on. January has been a pretty slow month and I am not complaining one bit. I like this pace!
(Editor's note: I may have been premature to predict this would be shorter. I just wrapped up the writing and apparently I had more to say than I thought I did - oops.)
The flu is going through our house right now. In a way, it's kind of a relief. I knew it was coming because we've all been healthy for so long (the pessimist in me reigns supreme) and I was a little concerned as to when it might come. Will is going to Arizona in March and Ben and I are heading to Florida a few weeks later. Sure wouldn't want to be sick for those trips. We have a family day coming up next month for my wedding anniversary and it would be bummer if that got interrupted by illness. Not that it can't come again, but it's not as likely now. It's been a quick moving virus. I had it over the weekend. I was pretty miserable Saturday but I was not doing all that bad by evening. I'm extra tired now and my stomach is still not crazy about normal food, but I'm doing ok. Fortunately, this is a slow week, too, so I'm able to set aside my to-do list and lay around more.
Will came home late Fri. evening and had only intended to stay until early Sunday. But when he discovered I was sick he offered to stay until Sun. night. That way he could take some of the kids to church and was able to get some pizzas and feed them all, taking some of the pressure off David. Nice boy I've got. Man.
Lizzie threw up Sat. morning which is when I was feeling pretty crummy. So I was cleaning up vomit while feeling like I could add to the mess myself. That was nasty. Then she laid down and slept for a couple of hours and was back to herself after that. She's got the constitution of a horse. This is the first time she has ever had the flu since I have had her and that's been more than 2 1/2 years. It's only the second time she's ever vomited in my care. The first was last year on the way home from MN and I think that was just due to something she ate. Sam is sick now. Poor kid has it pretty bad - coming out both ends - but he even said a little while ago he's feeling a bit better now. Last night I had gotten the bathroom mopped up (with a towel - I'll do it properly once we're all done being sick) and finally got to bed at 11:30 - too late. Then I could not fall asleep. I finally did only to be awakened by Sam shrieking, "Mom!" as he vomited all over the bathroom at 12:30 a.m. I got that all taken care of, got him settled on the couch...and could not fall back asleep. So, I'm shooting for an early night tonight! We'll see.
I'm hoping everyone is completely healed by this Saturday. I am going to my first "Mom's Night Out" hosted by Single Parent Provision (the organization that put on the Christmas dinner I went to last month) in Des Moines. They take the kids for 3 1/2 hrs. They feed and entertain them and all the workers are subjected to a background check. I've been told that most moms come dressed up, like they're apparently going out to party. But I'll be in my jeans. I'm going to drop the Littles off and go find a spot at a local mall to curl up and just read, eat my supper, and enjoy not being talked to. I'm not a party mom. I talk to my children all day long. That's enough talking. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to Sat. night! Conversely, though, I am kind of hoping I get a chance to at least meet someone while dropping off the kids that I could chat with. I guess I'm not completely anti-social.
Lizzie's word for "gangster": Jangster. I can't remember where we were but she saw some droopy panted, gold-toothed, attitude-laden character and said, "Look, a jangster!"
I was making finger jello a few days ago and Ellie excitedly exclaimed, "Mommy making jello fingers!" I have a feeling she just coined a new family term and we'll be calling the stuff "jello fingers" from now on. Kind of like how I still call hot-dogs "dog-dogs" almost 19 years after Will called them that as a toddler.
The other day Ellie came upstairs waving a dvd of Charlotte's Web and asked, "Can I watch Charlotte Dies?" I guess she's already seen it!
Oh, let's see...what else?
Last week was an expensive week. My printer died. That wasn't so terrible, really. I looked up reviews on google just to get an idea if the printer had lasted as long as it should. I bought it when I was making invitations to Will's graduation less than two years ago when my LAST printer decided to die. That one lasted six years so I was a little surprised that I got fewer than two out of this. But according to the reviews, I got about two more months than normal. I probably should have checked reviews before I bought it. Of course, I had JUST bought all new ink for it...grrr....
The reviews suggested that Epson WorkForces are good home printers so that's what I bought. I paid less than half of what I paid for my Epson that just bit the big one and I figure I'll be happy if I get 18 months out of it.
The same day I went and bought new dressers for the girls. I wrote about taking down their bunk beds which obviously means less floor space. It occurred to me that a better use of space would be to get two vertical dressers. The ones I had weren't in the greatest of shape anymore thanks to my poor painting job (one of them) and Ellie's penchant for sharp, gouging objects and permanent markers (the other one). So I stopped at Homemakers and ended up buying two identical, white upright dressers that I am hoping will last the girls their entire growing up years and maybe someday they'll want to take them with them when they leave home. If they last that long. I did buy the protection plan which guarantees them for 5 years against preschoolers and other related disasters. Oh, and the best part - the top drawer comes with this panel that has interchangeable, colored, vinyl strips. I'm not explaining it very well, but the majority of the front of the top drawer is pink now on a white background - so pretty! I lo-o-ove having girls...
I got home last Thursday night from my shopping and David and I worked. We unloaded those dressers from my van, emptied and hauled the old ones down the stairs, out the door, and to the burn pile. And then we hauled the new ones up the stairs, and David screwed on all the handles and I inserted the pink panel, and filled them with all the girls' cute, girly clothes. David suggested we wait until the weekend when Will would be home, but I didn't want to. Part of me just wanted the job done and the other part wanted to prove that I didn't have to hand off all the hard stuff to Will. David maybe, but not Will!
I was watching tv yesterday and I saw an ad for a trade school. I am not kidding, but wish I was. The name of the school was U.T.I. I think it stood for "Universal Trade Institute" or something like that. But all I could think of was "Urinary Tract Infection." Maybe I've been a girl too long. You'd think, though, that someone would have thought of that and suggested a different name when they were picking a moniker for the school.
I had a meeting last week with a representative from Vocational Rehab for Ben. I've met various reps over the years at his IEP meetings but have never been entirely sure just what it is they do. I came away from the meeting so encouraged. Their job is to start the process of finding employment for disabled young adults once they graduate from high school. The actual work of that is funneled through an agency because the case load is just too heavy for them to do it all personally. That's fine because I already have an agency in Indianola that I've been working with for several years in other capacities for Ben. So now we have a plan in place for Ben. It's helpful that he knows he wants to work retail - preferably in a grocery store. That's been his desire since he was quite young. That cuts out a lot of trying out different types of jobs to see what fits him best.
Right now, they have a program in place that lasts 4-6 weeks that is designed to train disabled adults in everything they need to know about working retail. They attend full-time for the specified period and when they get done they basically have a "degree" in how to work retail which should give them an advantage when it comes to securing and maintaining an actual job. Of course, this all depends on funding, since it streams from the government. The plan right now is that Ben will start this training probably in the late summer after he graduates. There's no guarantee the funding will still be there for the program, but I'm going to pray it is. After that, Ben will receive assistance in finding a job and if he needs a job coach to stay on the job with him that will be provided. The goal is that he will spend the next year trying out some different stores and using that time to figure out a good spot for him, where he can work well and someplace he enjoys working. Then, by his 21st birthday, he will be permanently and gainfully employed. In Ben's case, that will probably be on a part-time basis.
And to that end, one of Ben's teachers was able to persuade a local Hy-Vee to take Ben on as an employee for the rest of this school year. I don't think he's going to get paid, which is of no importance to me. But he had to fill out an application and tomorrow he had his interview. He has to wear the Hy-Vee "uniform" of khakis, a white dress shirt, and tie. He is absolutely thrilled because he's been slightly obsessed with Hy-Vee since he was very young! He'll have an aide from school with him all the time.
I am beyond delighted. When Ben got into high school I was warned that "those teachers won't do anything at all" for him by another mom of a special needs child, but that has not been my experience at all. Maybe my expectations are low, but I've been very pleased with how invested everyone has been in his life. Now that he's nearing the completion of school it just seems like his teachers are really determined to get him as much work experience as possible and prepare him as much as they can for life beyond the classroom.
And today I got the Social Security ordeal wrapped up. I think I've written about it before. It's so arduous I won't go into it all again. Suffice it to say, it took me FIVE attempts, including three trips to Ottumwa, to get the girls new social security cards. It should NOT be this difficult. Friday I received back the documents that Social Security had told me I had to have with a note telling me that no, they didn't need this. What they needed was my driver's license. If I wanted, for my convenience, I could mail it to them - who would DO that? Every single time I've dealt with them I've gotten the run-around and conflicting information about what documents were needed. By the time the mail came Friday the office was closed. So, all weekend long, in between cleaning up people's vomit and trying to get well myself, I prayed for favor in this matter. I didn't know if I needed to hire my attorney to take care of it or what.
I called yesterday morning and was connected with a worker. I turned out that, of all the people that work in the office, she was the one who had sent back my documents and sent me that last letter. She said, "I had a feeling you might be calling today!" We talked, and of course, she didn't know why I was being given all this wrong information. All she knew was that it wasn't right. I decided I'd make one more trip to Ottumwa and asked her when she'd be working the front desk. She told me that would be the next day (today) and I told her I'd be down to see her. I happened to mention the situation to my folks and they told me they were praying.
I made the trip today. Like she had promised, this gal was working the front desk. She spent a lot of time apologizing for the ineptitude of her fellow workers. It only took her about 15 minutes to get the girls' applications processed. She asked me if I wanted new numbers for the girls. I told her well, yes, I really did. There's been some concern about fraudulent activity with Ellie's number by her family of origin. But I had three workers at that office tell me it was all but impossible to get new social security numbers issued. So I had given up on that thought. But she went ahead and applied and got approval for new numbers right then and there today. God answered my prayer above and beyond what I had asked. I just wanted cards with their new names on them!
I put some of this on FB today and quickly discovered that I am not alone in this type of ordeal. A LOT of adoptive parents run into snags with Social Security when trying to get new cards. I had no idea. You would think that the government would be pleased that adoptions are happening and would bend over backwards to ensure easy transitions with all the needed paperwork. That, however, is not the case.
But it's (adoption) still worth it.
I've been spending more time in my bed with my electric blanket as I recover from this virus. In the last couple of days I discovered that one of the retro channels is now airing old Newhart shows from the 80s. I LOVED that show and am enjoying it all over again. What a classic and so full of substance, especially compared to a lot of what airs as sitcoms and family shows today. I was watching it last night and one of the characters got up and said, "I'm Larry and this is my brother Darrel...and my other brother, Darrel."
And I immediately heard Paul. He loved that line! Anytime he heard the name, "Larry" or even the word, "brother," he would immediately recite, "I'm Larry, and this is my brother Darrel...and my other brother, Darrel." He thought he was funny. I mostly thought he was annoying.
Clear as day, I could his voice echoing that classic line. It went straight to my heart. But it didn't make me sad. I was reminded how, shortly after Paul died, an older widow from church sat in my living room, and as I mopped my eyes, she told me, "Right now your memories make you cry. But someday, they're going to make you smile!"
She was right. I was smiling last night.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
January 20, 2015
I dreamed about Paul this morning. It wasn't a sweet, "I just came back from the dead to tell you I love you one last time" kind of thing. It was just weird. He had only been gone 3 weeks in the dream and then he was back. But he was changed and he told me, "I can't tell you why I was gone." Ok. There were a lot of other things happening in the house - chaotic stuff and we were trying to get ready to for Wed. night church. And then in my dream it suddenly dawned on me that if Paul wasn't dead anymore, the insurance companies were probably going to want back that life insurance money they had paid out (not that anybody collects in only 3 weeks) and I was so divided in my dream. I was thrilled to have Paul back but not too happy to have that financial security taken away. I was so upset by this that I woke myself up - 15 min. before my alarm was set to go off. It was just a dream, but what does that say about me, about who I am at the core, that I would even be concerned about money in the face of getting my husband back? A little unsettling...
Today's post is going to be a little repetitious for some. I've got some things I've already shared with others and on Facebook over the weekend. But I want them here, too, so I don't forget them and so that my friends who aren't on FB but do read my blog can hear them too. I've also got something that is filling me with great joy and wonder to expound upon a bit too. But that doesn't come until the end. So, anyway, Bear with me, Readers, and skip what you what you've already heard.
An article I read last week in the Huffington Post entitled, 10 Signs You are Living with a Threenager. Read it here I love it! Specifically, a girl threenager, I think. I had four boys who were all three at one time and I do not remember that being a difficult time at all with them. When I clicked on the article to read it, Facebook immediately sent me several more suggestions of related articles for my reading pleasure. One was entitled, "Three Year Olds are _________s" (nasty swear word omitted by yours truly). The articles cheered me. Apparently, I'm not the only adult to feel utterly defeated by someone who's only been alive for three short years.
Speaking of three year olds: I was in Walmart one day last week looking at collapsible tables. I am hosting my scrapbooking group for the first time ever, this Friday. I have always wanted to be able to do this but I've never had the right amount of space available to fit a bunch of ladies and all their scrapbooking gear. Except for the outside, my house is done now and I finally have that desired space. So, Friday night my kids will be banished to the basement and the upstairs will be mine. So, I wanted to get another table in case my dining room table isn't big enough. I figure it will come in handy at future graduation parties, too.
So, I'm looking at tables and Ellie starts excitedly exclaiming, "Santa! Santa!" What? I look up and over a ways is an older gentleman, a Walmart employee, with a full head and beard of snowy white. I tell her to hush, which she, of course, doesn't. I mean, I'm not anti-Santa, but I've never perpetuated the story with the kids, either. They know who's spending her time, money, and Discover cash-back points to fill their stockings! I turn around to hoist the 6 foot, folded-in-half table into my shopping card, and when I look up, "Santa" has come over to our cart and is tickling Ellie. ("That's creepy, Mom" said David when I told him. But it wasn't - he was just having fun and it was very innocent and sweet and made Ellie's day). But I was still a bit embarrassed and managed to hurry up and told the kids to tell the nice man good-bye.
"Good-bye, Santa!" they all chorused.
Time to find a new Walmart...
Saturday I was putzing around all day. Actually, what I was doing was laundry - washing every single blanket Ben and David own. Ben had told me Friday night his stomach hurt. I slapped on a bit of peppermint oil and told him he'd be fine. Two hours later he vomited all over his bed. I've never been very good with puke. I don't have a ton of memories of having to deal with it. I seem to recall a few hazy nights where I had the kids strip naked and then laid them on bath towels on the couch with the firm instructions, "Do NOT throw up on my furniture!" and went back to bed, saving the clean-up of their rooms for the light of morning. It's probably why I'll never open my door to Oprah, filming a tear-jerking segment for one of her network shows, as she honors me for my years of self-sacrifice and martyrdom, raising all these kids. And then hopefully, hands over the keys to a new house or car. But, like I said, moms who don't clean up pukey beds and give sick kids hot showers at 3 am probably don't get those kind of honors later on.
I think Paul usually dealt with this kind of stuff, anyway. I do remember him giving a few kids baths in the middle of the night. It's another reason I'm mad at him for dying.
So, anyway, Ben throws up. So I haul all his soiled blankets to the laundry room. David was spending the night at a friend's, so I grabbed his blankets and gave them to Ben to use. Which was fine. Until Ben threw up all over them. Right beside his bed I have this cubicle bookshelf with canvas drawers in some of the cubes. They hold various small toys and belongings of Ben and Sam. Well, he aims his projectile vomiting into one of the cubes and now I have an entire wooden train set that is covered in vomit. I threw away the canvas cube and dumped the train on the laundry room floor. I'm still working up the courage to clean the pieces.
So that's what I was doing Saturday. Ben, by the way, was just fine. Apparently his stomach didn't like the summer sausage he had eaten. I didn't know he'd had summer sausage until I had to clean it all up. I was fearful that he had the flu, but he was fine and the rest of us are all extremely healthy, too. I mean, seriously, we are FINE. We have not had as much as a case of the sniffles in months and months here. I just know we're all going to get sick one of these days and the suspense of when it's going to happen is killing me.
So I'm going about my Saturday and I'm in the basement, moving some things around. And then I see it - the very last anniversary card Paul ever gave to me, nearly two years ago. Oh, that hurt. Just when I think I'm doing ok, something like this happens and I am reminded that I am NOT ok and probably never will be.
But I do like what a friend of mine told me on Facebook. She said, "You're doing ok-enough - and that's fine." I like that - okay-enough.
I'm not kidding, it was about two minutes later that Sam comes to me. He's a pretty serious kid, normally, anyway. But, oh, he was deadly serious Saturday. He approached me where I sat at my downstairs desk, still shaking from my encounter with the anniversary card. He said, "Mom, what if someday I have two girls? And what if my wife dies?" He paused, and I could see his lip was actually quivering and he was literally fighting tears. He cried, "HOW will I do their hair for church on Sundays?" I was so torn in that moment. Part of me wanted to laugh out loud. He was just so serious and I sat there thinking if he loses his wife someday, hair is probably going to be one of the last things he needs to worry about! But at the same time, I wanted to weep. As morbid of a little kid as I was, I never worried about stuff like this. But death changes everything. And each of my kids will enter marriage someday with the knowledge that it might not last forever because they've already seen it happen. We talked and I pointed out to him the different things I've learned to do since Paul has died - things like changing the furnace filter, learning how to add fluids to my van, operating a table saw, etc. I assured him that should the worst happen and he finds himself the single father of little girls, he would learn how to do their hair.
Death changes everything.
In South Dakota last spring I picked up a few educational books for the kids on the area culture, mostly having to do with the Indians and early settlers. My great plan was that every day we'd have Social Studies and I had a list of about 20 books we'd get through this year. Well, today we finished the first book! The best laid plans and all that... But, this first book had to do with the history of the Sioux Indians. But first, a little digression...
I have long thought that "Sioux" would be a great name for boy. It sounds so warrior-like and strong. But then, I had to remember - it still sounds like "Sue." You might have a child and name him "John Sioux Smith" but the day he graduates all his friends will hear, "John Sue Smith." Anyway, that's a bonus for my readers. I also think, "Pharoah" would be a cool name for a guy. And maybe some other mother has already thought of that. But anyone who knows their Biblical history probably wouldn't opt to use that name for their son. It's kind of like naming him, "Judas" or "Herod." Nobody wants to be named after a bad guy.
And more digression...after discussing all kinds of things about the early Sioux, the book wrapped up with where the Sioux Indians are today. Well, today, they're not even Indians, but "Native Americans." And the bad United States government put them on reservations when they stole their land. But those plucky Sioux managed to form their own governments, build their own hospitals and schools, and create communities. All by themselves of course, with their own money. But they're not as nice as what the white people have (I'm paraphrasing). So, those ingenious Indians made casinos and the casinos are helping them a lot. Seriously, this was in a children's book. So, Lizzie and Sam had a non-politically correct sidebar as part of their Social Studies class today!
Anyway, back to the early Sioux Indians. When it came to death they had a custom of never again speaking out loud the name of the deceased. It was considered impolite. I read that to the kids and my heart sank. I cannot imagine not being able to talk about Paul. Some days that's all I want to do. One of the greatest gifts I was given after his death was the night that my Mom's Group ladies convened at my house and peppered me with questions all about Paul. I knew they didn't care about him half as much as I did. Most never even met him. But they cared about me and I cared about Paul and so, they let me talk. It was healing.
I'm so glad I'm not a Sioux Indian.
But I am part Choctaw. And so after we finished our book today I told the kids about their great, great, great Grandmother Emma, a full-blooded Choctaw Indian. They thought that was pretty cool.
And, speaking of my Mom's Group, we met last night. We had the neatest activity. We made marked New Testaments. I've never seen one of these before, although Jenny was telling me our church made some a few years ago after viewing some Ray Comfort videos. I remember the videos but I sure don't remember marking up a New Testament. Anyway, the idea is that you can quickly walk someone who may have never held a Bible in their life through the plan of salvation. Using a series of questions, you start them with John 3:1-8. You underline the verses, write, "What is 'born again'?" at the top of the page, and then at the bottom of the page you say, "Go to page _____" Well, that next page will be Romans 3:23-24. Eventually, the reader will go to about 15 Scripture verses/passages and at the end their questions should have been addressed and there should be no reason they don't understand how to be saved. It takes a lot of "pressure" off the one sharing and it makes things very clear and easy for the one reading.
I want to go to the Christian book store and pick up two more New Testaments. I need ones with larger print than what I had last night because my eyes are most uncooperative anymore where micro-sized print is used! I want to have two ready, one for myself, and one in preparation that, should I be able to use it with someone, I can then give it to them. I'd kind of like to go through it with the Littles, too. Lizzie's saved and Sam may be, as well, but I still think there's some value to just presenting it over and over. Even as I underlined and read last night I found myself, once again, really overcome with the message of the gospel. It's so clear and it just proclaims, "You are LOVED!" so loudly. How can anyone not respond to that?
Ben was talking about his graduation party a few days ago. We're a good 16 months away from said party, but it's on his mind and I've given more than one thought to it myself by now. But then Ben told me seriously that he actually doesn't want the party day to arrive. I figured it was because that will signify the end of high school and I know that's a concern to him. But he said, no, that wasn't it. He said, "Well, Dad died a few days after Will's party and I'm afraid that you're going to die after mine!" Then he added, "How healthy are you?"
Didn't I just say that death changes everything?
Last week I dropped David off at Learning RX for his final assessment and then we had a meeting yesterday morning to discuss those results. I figured this is where I would get the hard sell to try to get me to re-enroll David so that he could improve his scores even more. I came prepared to be very firm in my refusal.
They brought out their graphs and showed me the results. He has definitely improved. He made a tremendous jump in logic and reasoning. His long-term memory ranks at the same level as a typical 19 year old - very, very good. Other areas he's still a little weak on. Visual processing is his lowest area, along with short term memory, but even those were improved from a year ago when he first started. So, I'm pleased. I think the investment was worth it.
They wanted honest assessments from me on how the program went, wanted to know if they could use me as a referral, and gave me a list of board games I might want to consider buying/playing with David that would target some of these specific areas in which he's a little weak. I think I'll do that and incorporate it into our school day (another parental sacrifice - I'm not a huge fan of games). And that was it! No pressure to re-enroll, not even a suggestion that that might be an option! Huh!
Then they wanted to take a family picture. Well, about one minute before they said that both Sam and Lizzie announced that their bladders and evidently, colons, were in dire danger of explosion, and raced off to the bathrooms. So we waited and waited and waited. In the meantime, David's trainer, who was supposed to be in the picture, had another student waiting on her. I finally went back to the bathrooms and hustled Lizzie out, not even letting her wash her hands. Really, what are a few germs when she's holding up everyone? But Sam was the real one holding up the show. I kept poking my head in the men's room, encouraging him to move things along. Each time I would get an explicit description of just what it was he was engaged in at the moment. Yuck. He finally came out and I got the two of us up to the front, only to hear Lizzie announce loudly to everyone, "My mom didn't let me wash my hands!" I am never going to be able to show my face in that place again. When they think of me, they will only remember what a dirty mom I was.
In the dirty, bad mom category, as well: this morning I stumbled to the basement after only about six hours of sleep - not enough for me. Normally, I lay out Ben's clothes the night before but since I got home so late last night I figured I would grab them this morning. But I soon discovered he had no clean jeans. So, I pulled him a non-food-stained pair out of the dirty laundry. I hope he didn't have flies buzzing around his rear end all day at school.
Sam is really,really good at math. He is flying through his first grade book and adding numbers for fun. I can remember being in the second grade and our teacher had promised us a special treat if we could write our numbers up to 200. I wanted to do that so badly, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't. I didn't understand. That was about the time I checked out of math, mentally. That teacher made me feel so stupid that I never wanted to have anything to do with math, ever again, and spent the rest of the year gazing out the window during class. So I am very impressed with Sam's abilities. Will is even teaching him how to multiply now and Sam gets so excited when he figures out that 2 X4 is the exact same thing as two fours. He even pointed out to me this week that any time you add two of the same numbers together you will always get an even answered result. I had no idea. Nor do I care. But I'm impressed that he cares! Paul was good at math.
Ben made me smile Monday. We were in the van and the one of the Littles said something about our friend, Marissa. She is one of Ben's Special Olympics teammates and the daughter of my friend, Maureen. One of the kids was wondering how old she is and Ben replied that she is 20, Will's age. Lizzie exclaimed, "She's TWENTY? But she's so short! Ben replied, "Well, that's because she has Downs Syndrome." Then he added quietly, "That's the way God made her."
I took apart the girls' bunk beds yesterday. What a job. This is how I get up to my neck in most things. I don't stop to think things through. This was fine and I'm glad I did it but I just hadn't envisioned the mess of mattresses, blankets, and bed parts all over the room that ensued. Thankfully, David knows his way around a drill and was a big help in disassembling the railing and ladder.
This was my motivation and I do have one because, really, when you have a lot of kids or even just a few, bunk beds are really an amazing, space-saving invention. And more so than boys, girls have stuff. Stuff all over their bedrooms - clothes, shoes, dolls, one thousand stuffed animals, puzzles, purses, coloring books, Barbies, Barbie's wardrobe, reading books, and so on. It just multiplies and any time you try to throw something away it's tears and pleading, "That is my most favorite possession, EVER!" That's not just a girl thing. I've heard that from the boys, too, every time I tried to clean their rooms. That's how I soon discovered the magical power of black garbage bags.
But anyway, because of all these girly things, bunk beds are a wonderful space saver in order to make room for more girly things. But I've been praying lately about Lizzie and I. We have made so much progress but there's more to be made. Lizzie is a very stubborn, non-trusting, and non-compliant child. I'm slightly stubborn at times, too, and so we butt heads on occasion (every day, maybe every hour). But I know developing the relationship between us is of vital importance. Because of her past, we're behind on that journey. But I don't want her growing up thinking her mother was more interested in getting her to behave just right than in simply loving her just the way she is.
And the answer came to me: take down the bunk beds. With the bunk bed it's a quick kiss goodnight while I stand on my tippy toes and I'm out the door. I'm not a big fan of bedtime anyway. I don't like reading books to my kids. I don't like praying together. I don't like drawn out conversations. I want them down, I want them sleeping, and I want them quiet. I'm tired! But then I remember it's not supposed to be all about me. I remind my kids of that many times a day, Is it all about you? and it's not about me either. It's about eachother, but most of all, it's about God. So the beds came down. The girls were delighted and quickly decided between themselves who should sleep by the window and who is over in the corner. Ellie picked the window, which concerns me a bit. I may want to look into some sort of extra locking device for those windows. I can very easily imagine her climbing out onto the roof some summer evening when she's supposed to be asleep.
But here's what I'm thinking. I can sit on the girls' beds. I can more easily read them stories while sitting on their beds. We can have great conversations. That is one of my biggest memories from childhood is having my parents sit on my bed and talk to me at night. In my narcissistic little world view, I just assumed that they couldn't get enough of me and were reluctant to have me go to sleep because of that. And if I don't fall asleep first, maybe the girls and I can have some of those great conversations that I remember. And maybe a relationship will strengthen because of those talks.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I had this nagging sense of "missing" something in my life and I finally decided that what it was that was missing was joy and that I would do my best, navigating through the still rough waters of grief, to find my way back to Joy.
I was wrong.
I decided that joy needed to be a destination, although my brother pointed out to me that joy is generally something you experience along the journey of life, rather than a place at which you arrive. Whatever. Nobody was going to deter me from my course. I was joy-bound. It exists. I know that because I've had it before. I just needed to plot my course back to where it could be found. The only problem was I wasn't quite sure how to do that. It's one thing to not know where something is. It's another to not know how to start the boat. So I figured the next time Marcia and I get together I'd quiz her. She loves to answer my questions (I'm being sarcastic. I'm sure her life would be a lot easier if I'd just shut up and watch the Bible study video with her. In all reality, I don't think she minds my questions a single bit, though). Other than that, I wasn't quite sure how to go about this.
In my Sunday School class we are going through a book by Jim Berg called, Changed into His Image. He's actually the author of the Bible study Marcia and I have been doing for the last year and a half. We started this book in class a month or so ago. Everyone else either had the book already or ordered it. I had no desire to, though. I feel like I have so much "input" coming in all the time that I really had no desire to have to read one more thing. I figured I'd just spend my Sunday School hour listening to other people who read the book. But, after a couple weeks of this I found that I was kind of curious about what was being discussed so I ordered myself a copy of the book off half.com for $4 (good price - I would have had to pay $15 if I'd bought it when everyone else did). It arrived and I've been trying to read the chapters before class. Some weeks I'm more successful than others. They're long chapters! Especially when you're reading them at 11 pm on Saturday night.
I was reading Chapter 5 on yes, Saturday night (but a little earlier than 11pm!). The chapter was about seeking God. There was so much meat in this particular chapter. I have slowly begun to realize, in recent months, that I don't have a clear understanding of grace. I don't know if Paul did, either. Since childhood I could quote the acronym "God's Riches At Christ's Expense." I know what it is. It's become such a buzzword in Christian circles in recent years, along with talk of God's love and so on. And that's not bad, but I've long been suspicious that a lot of modern church teaching centers on the love and grace end of things and not a whole lot of the responsibility/judgement end. But equally bad, is being too centered on other end. And I think that's where I've been dwelling. I have not been a grace-filled parent. I've emphasized a whole lot on duty and obedience and had a quick hammer to nail any child that didn't immediately toe the line.
I have spent my entire life trying to be "good enough" for God. Yes, I understand that salvation is a non-earned, free gift, but I have hoped that my sacrifice, attention to detail, piety, service, modesty, church attendance, and well-behaved children would be enough to please Him so that He would find me worthy. It has been a gradual realization, just in the last few months, that I can't earn grace. It's already been given. Anything I do for God needs to come from an overflow of thankfulness to Him for that gift. Yes, Christian service is needed. It's important to train our children right and to be in church regularly and to dress modestly and so on. But these things should flow from me in thankfulness, not because I fear being found wanting and need to "score points" with God. I'm still exploring all this in my mind because it's still pretty new thinking for me. I really wasn't even planning to get into this subject so much today, anyway. But maybe this all ties together.
So I'm reading this chapter, which did touch on the subject of living in grace towards the end, but that wasn't the emphasis of this particular chapter. Instead, it was about seeking God. And as I read, the pieces suddenly "clicked" for me. The gears fell into place and I knew.
This is what I must do. This is all God has ever wanted from me. If I do not do this, my life will be forever incomplete. God doesn't care about perfectly still I've trained my children to sit in church. He doesn't care how many Sunday School classes I've taught. He doesn't care how long my skirts are and if I tithe to the penny. All He wants is for me to desire Him and nothing more. He wants me to pursue a relationship with Him with all my heart. He wants a relationship with ME! It's not like I haven't heard all this before, many times, but for some reason, it's suddenly penetrating.
Sunday I didn't say in word in Sunday School, but I was listening. Our teacher gave the example of his little son who follows him around the house and just stands there, watching his dad, eager to be of help, but mostly just wanting to be near him. I nodded because I remember Will, especially,doing the same thing with Paul. There have been numerous times I've turned around to find Lizzie hovering behind me and mostly, I've found it annoying, but I've never put it together until now that she just wants to BE with me and to be LIKE me. This is how we need to be with God.
So where then, does the joy fit in? I still want it back. As I read the book Saturday night I could hear God speaking to my heart. He said, "Pursue ME with all your heart- and you'll have all the joy you ever could desire." Or, as my friend Jenny reminded me last night:
Mt 6:33 Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you.
All things. Including joy.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
DIARY OF AN UNWILLING WIDOW
January 14, 2014
I'm tired today. We're back into early wake-up times now to get Ben off to school. Maybe after all that wonderful sleeping in during Christmas break and the late starts and snow days last week, my body is rebelling against finally having to awaken early again.
I woke up with a nightmare this morning. And then as soon as I awakened, I realized I had a migraine. Ugh. I dreamed that the bus came for Ben and he was nowhere to be found. I was screaming, "Ben - the bus is here! Benjamin!" and he didn't answer. So in my dream I scrambled outside with his backpack and gave it to the bus driver, assuring him that Ben would be out in just a second. I came back in the house, still yelling for Ben, only my hollering came out as squeaks, so of course, he couldn't hear me. I finally located him in the basement and he was oblivious to the time and circumstances (that part is true to life) and I became very upset that he didn't have his shoes on. So, then I had to go back to the bus so I could retrieve his bag and tell the driver I would just take Ben to school and I couldn't keep my balance and so had to inch across the yard to where the bus sat at the end of the alley. What a nightmare! I was telling David this later and he said, "Only a mom would think that dream was a nightmare!" Probably.
I had to take the girls in for check ups today - only so I could get IDs made for them so I can obtain social security cards with their new names. It's been an ordeal. So, we saw the dr. who has seen my other kids, but not the girls. He wanted to know all kinds of things about them. I finally had to tell him I know nothing about their medical history. We'll have to be surprised together.
I had forgotten that he plots the height and weight of his pediatric patients and then predicts their adult size. I remember he told me, years ago, Ben would top out around 5'10" and he was pretty close to that. Ben's at 5'11" and I am getting suspicious he is pretty close to being done growing.
So, he told me Lizzie will probably be a large woman. He's predicting she will grow to 5'10" or 11" and weigh about 200 pounds. This is if she continues growing at the same rate she is now. But Ellie is going to be smaller. He thinks the tallest she will hit will be 5'6" or 7" and won't weigh more than 130 pounds or so.
None of the girls' biological brothers are all that tall. Birth mom was maybe 5'4 at the most and she was tiny. I never met the bio father but was told he was short and round. So I really wonder where Lizzie is getting this height - must be some recessive genes that showed up in her. Too bad one of her brothers couldn't have gotten them instead! Oh, she'll be fine. There's nothing wrong with being tall and even a little overweight (although I don't think 200 pounds is unreasonable for a woman pushing 6 feet). But if she's going to have a more petite sister, I need to make sure we have lots and lots of talks about how beauty comes in all different sizes.
I became a little suspicious that the dr. thinks Lizzie may have ADHD or something like that. He commented a couple of times on how "lively" both girls were. They were pretty much bouncing off the walls by the time he saw them - messing with the roll-around stool and chair, climbing up on the bench, trying to scale the wall, (Ellie), messing with his tools, and both chattering away wildly. I commented that I am considering enrolling them in school next year and he looked at me almost gleefully and exclaimed, "Oh, I'm so glad! You have got to take care of yourself!" Later, he said we'd need to keep an eye on Lizzie and if she continues to be so outgoing or whatever we'd need to consider some options. Like what? Drugging her? I'm more concerned about Ellie, to be honest. She is such a little live wire and doesn't have half the common sense Lizzie does. But she's only three, too.
We finally got out of the doctor's office. I had to run to one store, which was another opportunity for the girls to demonstrate their complete lack of sobriety. I grabbed some lunch for all of us and as soon as we walked in the kitchen door I shooed them off to bed and collapsed briefly. No wonder I feel so tired!
Something happened to me a couple of weeks ago I forgot to write about. Really, it should be on my list of THINGS THAT STRESS ME OUT but I didn't feel a bit stressed when it happened. I suppose it was because I was in no real hurry. I was going to pick up the Littles from Merritts a couple of Saturday afternoons ago and as I travelled up Hwy 65, to turn off onto I-80, traffic came to a halt. I mean, a complete stop. Both lanes. I sat there for 45 minutes, along with everyone else. Eventually, my heat gauge began to climb a bit so I turned off the van and then realized that everyone else around me had already done the same. I don't know what you're supposed to do in situations like this. Maybe that's Traffic Jam 101 - turn off your vehicle. People were getting out of their cars, trying to see what was going on. One lady in an SUV drove through the median but it's rather steep and I was pretty sure my van couldn't do the same trick. Really, I was ok with the whole thing. I had a book so I had almost an hour of uninterrupted reading time. No children were in my van. If they had been, it would have been a different situation because they all would have needed to go potty/eat/pick a fight with their seatmate/ask 300,000 times, "When can we go?" "What's happening?"
Eventually, a couple of tow trucks drove breathtakingly close to the side of my van on the shoulder and awhile later we finally got to go. It turned out it was an accident between a pick-up and a full-size van. One of them was hauling a small U-haul trailer, which became disconnected in the wreck. But neither vehicle looked smashed to smithereens. Just another afternoon in the big city, I guess.
Just now Ellie asked for a couple of cookies, like Sam and Lizzie had a few minutes earlier. I replied to her what I had told her siblings - that I would let her eat the cookies, but she had to promise me she would eat all her supper tonight. I didn't want to hear, "Oh, my tummy is full!" when I finally serve them in another hour or so. I'm saying that because I'm fairly confident not one of them is going to be overly excited by tonight's menu (layered one dish dinner - stew beef covered in veggies and soups). Ellie replied earnestly, "Oh, I promise, Mommy! I will stick a needle in my eye!" I don't need quite that level of commitment...
Earlier today she was looking at some pictures on David's camera taken last May at Mount Rushmore. She squealed, "Mount Marshmallow!"
I'm going through a little booklet in my devotions by Adrian Rodgers called, How to Keep Your Spiritual Fire Burning. I like just about anything that man recorded or wrote. Today I was reading his explanation of what happened at Pentacost and he was covering the whole speaking in tongues thing. I liked this,
The true mark of spirituality is not that you speak in a foreign language or speak in an unknown tongue. The true mark of spirituality is that you control the one tongue that God has given you!
I went in for my second opinion this week on my tooth. I immediately liked the office because it looked old - like something from the 80s. Very unpretentious. Slick, modern waiting rooms are fun, but not so much when you remember that they have to pay for them somehow - and that somehow will probably be through you!
This dental office is a father/son operation and just seemed very relaxed. I saw the son and he was all for just pulling my tooth. He says, down the road, I may want to consider a bridge because, sooner or later, one of the filled teeth on either side of the broken one I have now will break off and I probably won't want to be minus two molars right next to eachother. I had asked my regular dentist when this happened about pulling what was left of the tooth and they acted like I had spouted dental blasphemy and wound up their you-want-to-keep-all-the-teeth-you-have spiel by muttering that besides, then all my teeth would fall over sidewise, trying to fill that space. Well, I sure don't want that to happen! But this dentist I saw emphatically told me that will NOT happen. I'm going with his opinion because pulling my tooth is going to cost a whole lot less than the implant or bridge they wanted to sell me. I get it out on the 28th.
I was also really impressed when he took the xray of my tooth. All my adult life, dental xrays have been horrible events because, "You have the smallest mouth!" they all exclaim and then insist on jamming a wad of cardboard full of sharp edges into my too-small mouth. This dentist started to try that and then stopped and said, "You know what?" And then he instructed me to just hold the piece of cardboard in place with my finger and he got the picture just fine. I didn't even know that was an option! He won my devotion right then and there!
I find that I am doing a lot better this month. I suppose some of that is just natural relief that the holidays are over. But, also my schedule has been a lot more relaxed this month. Granted, this week I have had somewhere I have needed to go every single day - but they haven't been all-day endeavors. I'm getting a lot of things crossed off on my to-do list, I'm actually educating my children, I'm cooking real meals instead of throwing an (industrial sized) package of corn dogs in the oven, and my house is no longer in a condition to warrant a visit from the state health department. I'm thinking that this is the pace at which I optimally operate. But you know me - pessimist to the core. I can't be content with what is at the moment. I need to borrow from the future and worry over that! So I am. I'm finding myself getting anxious about three years from now when I probably should be entering the work force. How will I manage? How will I cook and clean if I'm at work all day? What about when my kids need to go to the dentist? Will I have to take off work? What if I get fired because I take off too many days from work? Since they'll be in school they'll probably be exposed to all kinds of germs which will mean they'll be sick and what will I do when they are too sick for school? I'm trying to tell myself to stop and just enjoy this moment - this January, this year...
But I'm not very good at that.
I had my mp3 player going in the kitchen this week. There have been a number of songs I've avoided listening to since Paul's death - romantic songs, songs about marriage, etc. Well, I was busy doing something and the next thing I knew, Steven Curtis Chapman started crooning loudly, "I-I-I-I I will be here..." And what did I do? I yelled at him and said, "Well, you're NOT here now, are you?!" Maybe I'm entering the "mad at the dead person" stage of grieving.
I finally figured out this week what the hardest part of widowhood is. ( Hint: it's not hearing Christian romantic songs in my kitchen).
The other night I went to tuck Sam into bed and he started asking questions. He wanted to know why God decided his daddy had to die. Why couldn't God have just let him live, instead? His little lip started to tremble and my heart just broke to pieces. Sam rarely ever cries. Maybe he was extra tired. A friend suggested, when I told her later, that he might have been feeling Will's return to college after having been home for a month. That could very well be. But soon he was sobbing and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Oh, I said all the right things. I assured him of God's love and provision. I reminded him of how much his dad had wanted him and loved him. I even told him I don't know why this happened. I told him, "You're right - this was never supposed to happen. It's not fair and it's not right!" And then we talked about God's original plan for mankind where we were never supposed to feel the sting (such a mild word for what feels like utter agony at times) of death.
But in the end, I had a little boy who cried himself to sleep that night because his daddy is dead. I went upstairs and fell apart.
This is the hardest part of widowhood, hands-down, bar none. I would gladly bear their pain myself if it meant they didn't have to. This is one of those areas where older widows have no understanding of what it's like. When they lose their husbands, it's generally more expected. Their children are grown and usually busy with families of their own - and know that at some point, they will be burying their parents in the years to come.
They don't have to try to fix broken hearts of children too young to understand why they don't have a daddy anymore.
I can't fix their hearts. I can't even mend them.
All I can do is cry right alongside them.
I'll take the financial burdens, having to learn things I never wanted to, the lonely nights, the silent phone, the sad Valentine's Days, and the bare ring finger. I can do those things.
But I can't do this.