Saturday, January 3, 2015
Jan. 3, 2015
My heart is weary tonight. After experiencing the relief that I had survived the holidays, it's been a bit disheartening for this to happen. But tomorrow is Paul's birthday. Today I did my grocery shopping. As I got the items off the shelf I needed in the baking aisle it hit me that I should also be picking up a marble cake mix and a can of chocolate frosting. That was Paul's birthday cake every year. I've never been all that creative in the cooking department and Paul knew what he liked. I felt it when Sam, Ben, and I ate at Subway for lunch - their choice, but I ate there many, many times with Paul because he loved their food. And when I was loading up the 12 bags of chips we go through in a month, I spied the chili cheese fritos and remembered how delighted Paul was whenever I came home with a bag of those. He'd squirrel them away in his work van and snack on them in-between stops.
I decorated his grave yesterday for his birthday. As I did so, it occurred to me that for the rest of my life I will be doing this (decorating). Ah, maybe not. Right now it's important to me, even more so than it was a year ago, which seems a little odd. But I can forsee a day when the importance will wane to me. I can't really imagine doing it when I'm 97, either. His grave is important to me and I put a lot of thought into what I wanted when I designed the stone. But I remember thinking that I would be spending hours upon hours there and wanted it just right. I even bought a collapsible stool in those early days that I intended to keep in my van so that whenever the urge hit to go see the grave I could whip my little stool out and have a handy place to sit, away from the grass and dirt. Yeah, that stool is now in Will's dorm room. It just never happened, except for maybe once or twice. And that's ok.
I am hoping to have my dad help me plant something up on or around the actual grave next summer. I still want it to look nice. And right now, for whatever reason, decorating it seasonally has become important. That's ok, too. I'm just going to roll with it.
We're supposed to get snow tonight. After our white November, we had a mild, brown December. But now we're under a winter advisory. The snow amounts don't sound like more than inch or two, but it's going to be bitterly, bitterly cold with 40 mph wind gusts tomorrow. I'm dreading it. But Paul would have been very pleased to get snow on his birthday.
I have two apple pies ready for the oven and a five gallon bucket of vanilla ice cream in my freezer. We'll get some fried chicken after church tomorrow (if we have church, with the projected weather) and we will, once again, enjoy Paul's favorite foods as we remember him.
And so, it's a new year. A year ago, the Littles and I brought in the new year by crying at Paul's grave - not the best way to start a new year, but it happens sometimes. This year we went to church again for the soup supper and I hung around until a little after 9. I was ready to leave before then, but it's so much work to load everyone up and get them corralled, zipped into coats, and into their seats in the van, that I tend to put it off as long as I can. In fact, on the way to church that night I thought to myself, "Why am I doing this (going to church)?" I couldn't think of one good reason, but I kept heading west anyway.
I finally got Ben and the Littles loaded up and in bed by 10:30. You would think that meant I got to sleep in really late the next morning, but these things rarely work out like one might hope! So, I took my shower and got into bed and flipped on NBC. I've watched the ball drop most New Year's Eves of my life. But as I laid there, it occurred to me that I didn't really want to watch a bunch of strangers smiling, kissing, and overpaid entertainers rocking in the new year.
Maybe I'm starting to listen to myself more, figuring out just what it is I do want to do, rather than what I think I should be doing? I don't know. I do know I've spent an awful lot of energy the last 19 months trying to figure out what it is widows are supposed to do. I wasn't ready to go to sleep yet and I eventually figured out that what I wanted to do, in that moment, was read my new widow book. So I did. And it was quite pleasant. I had the lights out before midnight, which was fine - nobody to kiss, anyway. But I did happen to roll over towards the clock at exactly 12am. So, I saw the new year in after all.
My new widow book I referenced is called, Confessions of a Mediocre Widow by Catherine Tidd. It was a complete impulse buy. A quote from her popped up on my Facebook. I checked out her blog, which made me laugh, and I immediately went to Half.com and ordered her book. She was 31 in 2007 when her 34 year old husband was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving her with three kids ages 5 and under.
I am loving the book. The author is a very funny writer. I love how the most tragic, serious things in life can also be laced with humor. It's everywhere, even in the darkest of pits, if you just look for it .
I'm fairly certain the author is not a Christian, though. That has the wheels in my own brain turning. Actually, these wheels have been turning for about 4 months now and I'm strongly suspicious that God is prodding me to write my own book on widowhood. The reason I know it is because I keep feeling this poke, poke, poke in my heart and it feels exactly like it did five years ago when God was informing me that I needed to consider adopting more children, even though was very content with what I had already.
But I don't know if I'm quite ready. I do know that, at some point, I'm going to sit down at my monitor and be very intimidated by the first white page of Word staring back at me - a page that is supposed to become page one of my story. I am dubious that 19 months is long enough to have learned anything worth imparting. I've still got widow's brain which means that most of the time I'm functioning in a fog and have trouble following conversations that last more than three minutes. I'm finding that peri-menopause brain is very similar to widow's brain...it's a miracle that I'm able to get out of the house these days with both shoes on and no tags sticking out of the front of my shirts...not that I'd be aware of it if I was partially shoeless or wearing my shirts backwards. But fuzzy brains and writing don't go together so well.
I look at the row of books on widowhood on my bookshelf and I wonder why it is I think the world needs another one. At the same time, I have had a sense of disatisfaction with every one I've ever read. It's probably just because every widow's story is so unique that no other writer is going to be able to capture my experience except for myself. But why put in the time and effort to write something, pay someone to edit it, pay someone else to design a cover, and more than likely pay some company to self-publish it, when only my mother and a couple of friends might read it?
And just when do I think I'm going to have time to do something like this? Already, writing these few paragraphs, I've been interrupted numerous times and have turned into a very growly monster as a result. All they want is some of my time, but I'm considering taking away more from my kids just so I can write. That doesn't seem fair to them. So, do I wait another 15 years until they're all grown?
And, just as I have asked Him for months, God is finally giving me some clarity on my future. It is looking like it's going to involve full-time employment in about 3 years and going back to college somewhere in there. I'm still wrestling with all that because I don't want to do either, really. But I am fond of my current lifestyle and would prefer to not have to sink to poverty levels once Social Security dries up. So how does writing fit in with all this?
I do not know. I don't know anything. But what I do know is this persistent knocking on my heart and how I keep thinking things and then immediately follow it with, "That needs to go in my book!" I had been thinking about this a great deal last fall but then when I fell into the holiday pit I found myself really doubting my ability. It seems like I don't have enough capability to hold my own life together - what makes me think I could ever be of encouragement to someone else wading through the same deep waters? But now, reading this book, I'm starting to re-gain some of my confidence.
I am planning to meet with a couple of authors sometime in the near future. Once just published a book about her daughter's death and the other has a book on the Christian and suffering coming out this winter. It would probably be good to tap their brains. Maybe they'll tell me I'm nuts for toying with this idea now and I need to save this kind of effort for when I'm really old and have figured out what it was I supposed to have learned from losing my husband at a young age. We'll see what happens, I guess.
I worked on a couple of different projects this week, neither of which involved any writing. Monday night I re-did my bathroom wall. I am so proud of that thing, even though I think now my bathroom looks like the restroom at a BBQ joint would. That wasn't really the look I was going for! But I'm still pretty pleased. Monday, Will and I went to Menards and he helped me pick out boards and glue. That evening he hauled Paul's circular saw onto the front porch and showed me how to operate it, along with a caulking gun. After that, the project was mine. And I did a good job! And, wow - that saw sure has some power! What's kind of scary, now that I think about it, is that I was operating that thing under only the light of my dim front porch light and the Christmas lights out there! But I still have all ten fingers, so I guess it worked. I just wanted to get it done that night.
I spent New Year's Day painting my hallway. It's now a warm taupe color. Will thinks it makes the hallway look smaller, which it probably does. But I think it also makes it have a cozier feel.
I thoroughly cleaned the girls' room this week, too. I never did find Ellie's other brown church shoe. She stashed that thing somewhere good. It's probably in the same place she put her white sandals last summer. Those have yet to be found, too. I was up there one morning this week and she was still sleeping. She roused as I walked in, stretched, and exclaimed, "Oh, I had a good nap, Mommy!" I guess so - about a ten hour one!
We go to court this Friday for Ben's guardianship hearing. I don't want do it. I find courtroom situations stressful. It's kind of like when I see cop on the road. I immediately slow down and start sweating, even though I'm perfectly innocent. I just don't like courtrooms.
I suppose there's an element of sadness, too. Normally, when a child hits age 18, the parents see freedom in their new future. They've raised the child and sometime in the next few years, that child is going to fly away to start their own life. But with Ben, I'm having to petition the court for legal responsibility for him because he still needs me. This isn't the way things are supposed to go.
And, I'm getting increasingly concerned about what this is going to cost me. My attorney, as most attorneys do, bills by the hour, and he seems to be racking up quite a few of them as we prepare to go to court.
Ben's case manager has been helpful to me as I've been preparing. She called me a couple of weeks ago and suggested I get a copy of Ben's neuropsychological evaluation that was done in April to present to the court as evidence, which I did. While talking, she casually mentioned that Ben's IQ score from that test, which puts him squarely in the category of having a mild intellectual disability. None of this is news to me. Well, the score itself was, but it's not a news flash that Ben does not function at a typical 18 year old level. I have been dealing with this reality for his entire life. But it hit me like a fist to the heart when she told me. I don't quite understand that, really.
Ben has had a harder break. He is really agitated lately that he doesn't have the same authority over the Littles that his brothers do. He tries to intervene in different situations and it makes the problem ten times worse. He then gets very angry, which ticks me off. He has also seemed to be perverserating a lot more than normal lately. At any rate, I'll be glad to see that school bus Monday. If there is school with the cold and weather they're predicting!
He hasn't been only trouble. Several mornings I have found him quietly reading his new Bible. That warms my heart. He also, completely on his own, took it upon himself to organize my food storage containers. That shelf has taken on a life of its own, to the point that I've been throwing containers in there and then slamming the door before they can tumble out to the floor. I've even been toying with the idea of throwing them all away and starting over with new containers and lids. But he took the time to take them all out and stacked like sizes together and now that shelf is very manageable.
Guess who found his wallet with his brand-new driver's permit in it? It wasn't David, that's for sure! Will butchered the deer this week with a friend. We keep the meat grinder in the laundry room next to the laundry rack. When he moved the rack to get the grinder, the wallet was laying underneath. David must have had it in a pants pocket in Nov. and sent the pants into the laundry where the wallet then fell out. I have been praying and praying we'd find that thing!
I have been letting David do the driving up to City Hall every evening when he collects his water sample for his job. I have been pleasantly surprised with what a good job he does on these city streets. Maybe driving will come a little easier to him than I was anticipating.
One thing I am sorting through in my mind as I read this widow book is the author's tales of "visits" from her husband and "messages" she has received from him through mediums. That kind of stuff makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, as it should to all Christians. I want to say it's purely demonic in nature and her husband is probably not aware of these messages she has been given. But they're coming from somewhere. Part of me is almost jealous, though, because there have been times I would like to have a "sign" from Paul. There have been a couple of dreams that I'm pretty confident were not just random couplings of stuff floating around in my head. They seemed to be designed to impart a message. But I've always taken that as a message from God, not from Paul. I'm still thinking through all this. It isn't just this book, either. I've heard stuff like this from lots and lots of widows and I always feel kind of left out because I've never felt a tap on my shoulder or had Paul's ghostly image sit at the foot of my bed to impart a final message. I'm sure it's a good thing, actually, because then I might have to question my salvation if I did see these things. I may seek some counsel sometime when I can figure out what it is I want to know, exactly.
Here's my Facebook post from Tuesday night. I don't have a whole lot here to add to what I wrote, other than I was doing more than "fighting" tears. They were pouring down my face at one point. I was glad for the darkened theater. Before the movie started, the girls and I walked in and there were two ladies and a little girl in there. They saw us and immediately nudged eachother, quickly summing up our situation in their minds. After that they were super nice to us, offering popcorn to the girls, who were more than happy to receive it (because I'm too cheap to buy them their own movie popcorn). For awhile as we waited, Lizzie sat with the girl and the two of them were chatting. Lizzie motioned back to me, and I heard her say, "That's the lady that adopted me." What?! I mean, yes, I am, but I'd rather hear her say, "That's my mom." I think they must have been talking about adoption, though. Anyway, this is what I wrote:
We had a family night tonight, sort of...While the boys went down the theater to hall to watch some hobbits or something the girls and I saw, "Annie." With the girls' background, I had a few reservations about watching the movie. I wasn't sure what kind of emotional fall-out I'd be mopping up afterward. But when Lizzie found out the main character was played by a little black girl, she wanted to see it in the worst way. And so we went. It was fun and mostly light-hearted -a "feel good" movie Actually, I ended up being the one fighting tears for the last third. Its themes of abandonment/foster care/adoption touched on exposed places in my own heart. Plus, the main character reminded me so much of my Lizzie! The credits began to roll and Ellie hopped off my lap, free from my restraining arm at long last. I had been absent-mindedly stroking Lizzie's curls for some time with my other hand. She snuggled up closer and breathed in my ear, "I love you, Mama."
Sheer thankfulness flooded my soul. Beautiful things do come from the hard and difficult. It just takes time.
Yesterday was the Hawkeye bowl game. They performed miserably. They were playing in what used to be called the "Gator" bowl in Florida. Only, money must have exchanged hands and the name has changed to the "TaxSlayer" bowl. I assume that's a business name. Only, I could not keep that straight in my head and kept thinking, "Tax-Evader bowl."
Last night Sam wanted to know who it was that discovered the earth is round and not flat. I told him I thought it was Galileo and Sam excitedly said, "Oh, I've heard of him! Then he went on to say, "I just love the sound of 'Galileo' - it sounds like a piano!" I thought that was a very poetic expression coming from my normally very practical and unromantic little boy. He then added that he thought "Beethoven" was the perfect name for a pianist, too because it sounded so "musical." I'd like to take credit for all these deep thoughts and the fact that my 7 year old is familiar with greats like Galileo and Beethoven, but truthfully, he probably got it all from PBS.
And, as it turns out, I misinformed him. It turns out that some Greek scientist named Pythagorus was the first one to decide the earth was round. He has kind of a musical sounding name, too, though.
I bought the girls a book for Christmas entitled, I'm a Pretty Little Black Girl. It had good reviews on Amazon and I thought it would be a nice addition to their "black girl" book collection. It is a cute book as a little girl narrates her day, comparing her different friends to different brown foods. It's kind of similar to another book I got the girls earlier. But as we read the book the first time, I was surprised when, at the end, the little girl talks about getting out of her bed and dancing around her bedroom, watching herself in the mirror because she's such a "pretty little black girl!" I thought that was a bit narcissistic sounding. Being appreciative of God's gifts is one thing - gloating in front of the mirror is another. In the story, Mom hollers up the stairs that the pretty little black girl had better get her heiny back in bed (or something like that - that's what I would say if I was the mom) but the little girl has to continue to parade and twirl in front of her mirror because "I'm just so pretty!" Lizzie was horrified. She exclaimed, "Mom - she's being disobedient!" I did a mental fist-pump right there. Yes-s-s...she's getting it!
A friend of mine posted on Facebook this week, asking her friends to list the worst and best parts of 2014 on her wall. I sat there and thought. I really did. But I couldn't think of a single thing and ended up just scrolling down my feed instead.
That has bothered me ever since. Shouldn't I be able to figure out something like that fairly quickly? If it had been 2013, it would have been easier. I would listed our 20th anniversary trip as the best thing and Paul's death as the worst. But 2014 was different. There were good things that happened during the year - finishing my house, our two trips, the other "family" things we did together, Ben's solo at the Christmas program, Will's start of college...but I can't look at any one of these things and say, "This was the BEST thing" because they're all kind of a blur in my mind. The specialness of everything was obscured by the pain of existing. And maybe that was the worst thing of 2014, the fact that I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, while hurting so much. I couldn't give up even though I wanted to many times.
So what will 2015 be like then? At the end will I be able to say, this was the best and over here, this was the worst? I don't know. My fear is that grief will continue to dog me and that I won't be able to shake free from its sharp talons. New Year's Eve night I looked into the bathroom mirror after brushing my teeth and thought, "I'm tired of this. I want to live again!" If my life was a movie, I would immediately buy a new wardrobe with lots of red in it, I would start college classes next week and be climbing the corporate ladder by June. I would throw open the blinds in my house (which are already open, actually, mostly because I usually forget to shut them at night) and give the house a thorough cleaning. You'd see my sweating on my new treadmill as I shed this extra weight and reading books with titles like, "Be the Best You!" or "Embrace your Future!"
But my life isn't a movie. I'm tired of living in the abyss of grief but at the same time, I'm terrified of taking steps away from it. All the same, though, I'm inching towards that future - with more timidity than confidence, but it's still progress.
Someday, I'll live again. It may not happen in 2015, but I'm getting closer.