Thursday, July 23, 2015

Day 779

 July 23, 2015

Day 779


I. Am. Exhausted.


That's what camping will do for you.  I want to say, "never again," but that probably won't be true.  More than likely, time will eventually find me loading half of our belongings into the mini-van again, driving a few hours, unloading everything into a cabin smaller than my living room and attempting to  cook food over a fire that refuses to start again.



But more on that later.


David was gone last week at camp - his first working.  He enjoyed it although he said he about "passed out" from the heat.  It was really hot last week.  He came back with the "camp crud," that nasty cold stuff that all campers eventually come down with.  I remember last year Will ended up having to go to Urgent Care while working at camp - dx with an ear infection, had to miss a couple days of work. 


That meant I had to do the yard work.  I had never in my life run a weedeater before.  My shoulders, back, and arms hurt for days!  I never did get all the mowing done because I'd do it piecemeal, to avoid being out in the heat so much and because I had so much other inside stuff to do. I actually kind of like mowing - probably for the instant sense of satisfaction it provides. 


I'll have a lot of the satisfaction in the next 3 weeks.  David leaves Monday for Sr. High Camp and then he will stay to work the following Sat - Friday of Family Camp.  He comes home that Sat and leaves on Monday for his missions trip.  That will be a good experience for him.  They're going to swing into Ohio and take the kids to Cedar Point, which is this humongous theme park, I guess.  Paul's sister used to live in Ohio and I know everyone in his family eventually visited her (except us) and went to Cedar Point at some time.  I remember hearing the story of how Paul's 70 year old mom paid $25 extra to ride this special ride they offer.  Paul and I  both thought that was insane.


A week ago I had a rough couple of days.  On Wed. morning I woke myself up at midnight with loud, painful hiccups.   I have no idea if that was related to what happened later that day or not.  Probably not.  The hiccups have happened before.  I think I've blogged about waking up with Paul holding a pillow inches from my face threatening to smother me to death because I was hiccupping in my sleep!


I was eating lunch later that day when a piece of ham got stuck in my throat.  Ugh.  This is not uncommon, unfortunately.  I think I too often eat too large of pieces, attempt to talk while eating, or in this particular case, sat reading while slouching and eating.  Nothing I did would dislodge the piece of meat, including attempting to gag myself and doing the heimilech remover.  My ribs are still sore from that move.


I could still breathe, but every time I ate or drank even the tiniest amount it would close up my airway, I would panic and immediately begin to vomit.  Eventually that turned to unrelentless dry heaving.  I couldn't even get stuff like pudding or applesauce down.


For the first few hours I went about my normal business.  I had noticed that Paul's grave was looking awfully neglected a few days earlier (it turned out that he got skipped by the weed eater guy) so I went up there with some lawn shears that same afternoon with the kids.  The guy who does the mowing was doing his job, which was fine.  So the kids and I got to work, pulling all the decorations out of the ground and trimming the weeds and grass around the stone.  The guy on his mower comes over, turns it off, and conversationally asks, "Are you Sarah?"  He was a chatty sort and was wondering if I was related to some people he knows in Pville.  I'm not.  I just look like everyone's sister/neice/cousin whatever.  I get that question a lot.  He wanted to talk and to my horror, I could feel my throat begin to fill with vomit from the stuck piece of ham.  The next thing I knew, I barfed all over Paul's grave, right in front of the groundskeeper.  I told him what was going on, but I don't think he understood.  He probably thought I was still so emotionally overwrought that it made me nauseous. 


Or else I've turned to drinking to cope and am not very good at  holding my liquor.


We were driving home and Lizzie was quiet.  She finally asked, "Aren't you so embarrassed, Mom?"  I was, but probably not as much as I should have been.  I was really getting too miserable to care.


The rest of the day was shot.  I was getting too weak from not eating and drinking and the continual vomiting to do much of anything.  I spent a miserable night.  The next morning I decided I really needed to see a doctor.  But that meant finding a sitter.  The first friend I texted didn't answer (she responded the next day when she finally saw my message) but my next friend said, "Bring them over!"  I got an appointment with the ARNP at my doctor's office.


As I sat in the waiting room I noticed that I was suddenly feeling, "burpy" - the kind that come with indigestion.  I saw the medical assistant first.  When I mentioned "vomiting" he immediately assumed I had the flu and started jabbering.  I stopped him, interrupted, and said, "I'm NOT sick.  Listen to me!"  I guess I get cranky when I feel bad.


The nurse practitioner came in and the most interesting thing about her was her first name - "Brach."  Like the candy.  I wonder what her parents were thinking?


She told me I needed to go to the ER and I would probably have to have surgery and spend the night.  I began to mentally panic.  I know how high my insurance deductible is.  I cannot afford surgery! Who would take care of my kids?  And if someone did take care of my kids, they'd have to see my  messy house!  She mentioned that most often, lodged food does eventually move but it can take up to a week.  A person won't do too well without eating or drinking anything for a week.


So, I reluctantly agreed to visit the ER.  I got out to my van and I had brought along a bottle of water just in case.  I took a swallow, preparing to vomit again.  To my surprise, the water went down this time and stayed down!  Experimentally, I took a piece of emergency chocolate out of my purse and ate a small bite.  It also stayed down.  Woo-hoo!  Somewhere between leaving my house and getting out of the dr's office, that piece of ham had finally decided to migrate where it needed to be.  Just to see if this was real and because I was completely starving, I went through a Taco John's drive-through because I love their  taco bravos- although, in retrospect, eating  Mexican on a raw throat is probably not the wisest of decisions.  It all stayed down.  I was just praising the Lord that I didn't have to go to the hospital!


I have since found out that both my parents have swallowing/digestive issues, too, so I probably inherited this.  The nurse practitioner commented that she'd me like to come back for some testing for GERD and to see if I have an abnormally small esophogus.  Maybe sometime.  In the meantime, I will just cut my food up into miniscule bites, focus on my eating, actually chew all my food before swallowing, and try to sit straight while eating.


All's well that ends well.


I'm just really glad I didn't die.  When I go, I want it to be for normal reasons.  I do not want people saying for rest of their lives, "Do you remember Sarah Heywood?  Yeah, she choked to death on a piece of ham." 


Now, that would be embarrasing!


I heard from the Iowa Donor Network last week.  They told me that they made grafts from Paul's bone donation and so far, 47 people have received those grafts, some right here in the Midwest and some as far away as S. Korea and Chile.  I was thrilled to receive the news.  It's comforting.  I just do NOT remembering authorizing bone donation, though.  I must have.  It's fine.  I was good with them taking whatever they could use as long as Paul still looked pretty  normal for the funeral - he did.


Just think, parts of Paul are walking around right now speaking Korean and Spanish. 


Oh, last Wed. night when I couldn't get that meat down?  It dawned on me that I had not seen Bella for hours.  She even had fresh food in her dish that had not been touched.  This was NOT normal since that cat acts like she is starving about every hour.  I got really concerned and was hunting around outside with a flash light.  She has gotten out once or twice, but it's not something she really tries to do.  I remember the cat I had growing up would hang around doors and dash out the second she had a chance.  Bella doesn't do that.


But I couldn't find her and a storm was rolling in.  So I finally went to bed with a heavy heart thinking that on top of having meat stuck in my esophogus, I now had lost Paul's last birthday present to me.  I imagined Bella shivering in the rain, having fleas jump all over her, and getting attacked by outdoor cats who still have all their claws.  I laid down and then I heard the tinkle of Bella's collar as she crawled out from under my bed.  Apparently, she'd been taking a VERY long nap.  Boy, was I relieved.  I scooped her up and hugged her which she tolerated for all of 17 seconds.  That was ok.  I was just glad she was still dry, flea-free, and not being attacked by wild cat gangs.


The Littles were talking about Will and Arien the other day amongst themselves.  I heard Lizzie assert that she was "sure they're kissing by now."  Sam replied confidently, "No, I don't think Will is in the 'kissing zone' yet!"   It's a good thing I wasn't eating ham at the time - I might have found myself choking once again!


Last week Lizzie asked me, "How old will I be when you're 90?"  I did the math, told her (52) but then Sam quickly interjected, "Mom isn't going to live that long."  Well, then...


Under the category of things I never thought I'd find myself saying to my children:  Last week...


Me: "We can't go camping if you have a dead sister!"


Lizzie: "We can't?"


I don't even remember what precipitated this exchange now.


I had another "faith builder" experience.  Really, the past two years have been filled with them, but I think this one, in particular, may always stand out in my memory.


A few weeks ago I was doing my monthly shopping.  I had Ben and  Lizzie with me.  We were at the Hy-Vee on Park Ave. in Des Moines, which is NOT a good area of town.  But I needed to go to this particular store.  So I did my business and got out as fast as I could.   On top of the store being in an unsavory part of the city and attracting all sorts of distasteful types (don't I sound proud?  I can't imagine Jesus complaining about the types of people he had to interact with during His earthly  ministry), it's also undergoing remodeling, which makes for even more unease and unfamiliarity.  We were walking back to the van when Lizzie darted out of my grasp and stood peering over something on the ground.  I told her to come back but she said, "Money, Mom!"  I went over and saw that it was a $50 bill!  I told her to pick it up and she handed it to me.  All the way back to my van and unloading my groceries, I wondered what I should do.  I could turn it into the store manager, but would anyone inquire about a missing $50?  If not, then the store would get to keep the money.  Besides, if I went back in, I'd have to drag the kids with me and that would be no fun.  Did I mention it was hot out, too?  I could see turning in $100 find, but $50?


So, I got in my van, still stewing about what I should do, and  shooting up quick prayer for wisdom.  I finally drove away but the uncomfortable image of a poor, old, widow lady getting to the check out lane with her groceries and being unable to find her $50 bill kept bothering me.  But then, I just as quickly imagined a grizzled, toothless, and heavily tatooed man realizing he had just lost his beer money  - and that thought didn't bother me at all!


I tried to reason that this was God's way of blessing me and even commented to the kids that maybe we could use the money on our upcoming trip.  But that didn't set right with me either.  I found myself wishing I could call Paul and get his opinion.  So often, he was the voice of my conscience and I came to rely on his widom a lot.   I did the next best thing and called Will up at camp.  He told me that that same day he had found a $20 bill at camp.  It was the last day of Family Camp and most of the families had already left for home.  He had no way of finding the owner.  So he had determined that he would hang onto the money until he learned of someone in need and then quietly pass the money along to them.


 I liked the sound of that.


The crumpled bill sat in my wallet for two weeks.  Every time I saw it I would be tempted to tell myself God wanted me to have the money - why wouldn't He?  I'm a widow raising six fatherless children.  If that doesn't speak of need, I don't know what does!  But I couldn't bring myself to pocket the money.  Besides, every couple of days, Lizzie would ask, "Have you found someone to give the money to yet, Mom?"


Every month, following communion, our church takes up a Deacons Fund offering.  The fund is to help families and individuals in the church who are going through a particularly rough time -  job loss, medical emergency, etc.  Paul and I were the recipients of the church's generosity several times throughout the years.  That morning I slipped the $50 into the offering plate when it came around for this collection.


I am not sharing this story to show my readers how great I am.  I'm not.  I'm selfish.  There was a big part of me that wanted to keep that money!  My only point to this story is to show how great and amazing our God is.


Lizzie asked me that week if I had taken care of the money and I was relieved to tell her that yes, I had.  I no longer had to think about it.  It was done.  She seemed satisfied.


A week later, the church treasurer approached me.  He handed me a check and said, "Last week, this came in, marked for you, when the Deacon's Fund offering was taken."  I was very surprised because I haven't been the recipient of any financial gifts, from church members or otherwise, for close to a year now.


Later, I opened the check.


It was for $100.


  As my friend, Karen, frequently says, "There are no cooincidences - only 'God-incidences.'"


And now...a report on the Great Camping Expedition of 2015...


First of all, anyone who has spent any time at all in my company knows that I am not a country girl.  I am opposed to heat, insects, small spaces, thin mattresses, sharing bathrooms,  and having to work any harder than is strictly  necessary.  Camping entails all of the above.


Paul loved camping.  He was never more at peace and relaxed than when sitting around a campfire.  This caused more than one eruption between us - not the idea of him relaxing, but of him wanting me to accompany him while he relaxed.  Eventually, my love for him would win out and I would go.  But I would be grumbling the entire time I loaded the camper.  Paul would always say, "You just need to throw a few things in the camper and GO.  You're going to way too much work!"  So says a man who lives in a fantasy world.


So we would camp.  And honestly, once we got to our destination and got the campsite set up it wasn't all that bad.  He would do the cooking and I would sit around and read and attempt to keep the kids from falling into the fire pit.


Invariably, something important would be forgotten, which would enable us to have to make a run to the closest town and that would help me then breathe better - I need doses of civilization, even it comes in the form of Walmart.  We'd always visit a local church on Sunday, too,  and that was always kind of interesting and sometimes, eye-opening.


Memories were made on these trips.  Of course, what the kids probably remember most is Mom being in a surly mood.  The trip that sticks out most in my mind happened the summer Sam was a baby.  We went up to Nevada to a campground that was a little nicer than most. 


I still laugh about this trip.  We had not been there a half hour when someone's yip yip dog ran up to David on his bike and bit him on the back of the knee.  Paul promptly informed the camp management and they set out to find the owner, which they eventually did.  The camp gave David some free ice cream (I'm sure in hopes we wouldn't sue them).  We parked our camper next to the playground thinking that would be perfect - the kids could play while we stayed at the camper, enabling us to keep an eye on them at the same time.  What we didn't realize was that the playground became party central after the sun went down on Sat. night.  We didn't get much sleep that night.


That same weekend Will lobbed a camper cushion across the camper and burned a streak off David's forehead.  Paul took the boys fishing and while he and Will caught several, David got his line tangled in a tree.


Poor kid.


Then, while we were loading up Sunday, a terrible storm rolled in.  The wind was gusting like crazy and Paul was working with all his might to secure the bikes to the camper.  It began pelting rain and the entire van and camper were shaking.   The sky was a funny color and it was getting downright scary.  We finally got everything done and Paul and I jumped into the van, both of us soaking wet.  As we drove out of the campground, I got a call from my brother letting me know the area was under a tornado warning! 



And people wonder why I'm not a fan of camping.


We sold our pop-up camper in May 2013.  We knew we'd have to get something larger once the girls came the summer before.  The plan was to find something larger that summer.  That obviously didn't happen.  In fact, I remember raiding the envelope of camper money in the safe to buy Paul's burial plot that terrible morning of his death. Kind of ironic in a way.  As much as I wasn't crazy about spending money on another camper, I certainly would have done that rather than use some of it for his grave.


The boys miss camping.  More than one has commented to me how they think I should buy a new camper.  I've resisted.  I know exactly how that would go down.  I would use the camper exactly twice, after spending money on a hitch (if my van could even pull a larger model - maybe I'd have to buy an SUV or truck).  If I didn't lose the camper enroute to the campground I wouldn't know what to do with it once we arrived.  Those things have to be leveled and hooked up to the sewer and water.  And they have to be backed into place.  I can't even back a minivan into a parking spot with no other vehicles around!


The camper would sit unused for about four years until Will would offer to "take it off your hands" and he would end up with a free camper.  And then it would then get lots of usage.  So here's a thought:  I'll save myself a bunch of money and stress and let him buy his OWN camper someday.


I know what the boys are missing are the memories of those trips we took as a family before life exploded with the arrival of the girls and Paul's death. Camping won't take us back to where we were.  Those days are gone forever.


But I also recognize the importance of making memories with the kids.  Trips are one of the big things kids remember.  I've had more than one adult friend comment to me wistfully and almost resentfully that their families never took vacations while growing up.  It would be a lot easier and lot cheaper and a whole lot less stressful for me to always stay home but I don't want to be that kind of parent.  I can't afford to take my kids places every summer and they're never going to be exotic get-aways (I'm saving up for a trip to Kentucky so we can see the Creation Museum when David graduates - which will be a big trip and about as "exotic" as I get) but I can still do something to generate precious memories.


With all this in mind, I rented a cabin just outside Omaha.  My friend, Kathy, and I had driven by it on one of our shopping trips and she mentioned that she and her family always stay at KOAs when they camp, which is what this was.  Honestly, renting a cabin wasn't a whole lot cheaper than getting a hotel suite when all was said and done.  I probably spent even more with the extra food and supplies I had to buy in preparation for the trip.

With David's crazy summer schedule I didn't have a whole lot of time in which to fit this trip in.  We have a number of friends in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area and I had hoped to spend some time with some of them, but I couldn't fit it in; our time was so limited.


I began preparing for the trip last week.  And as the time grew closer I found myself wallopped with a grief wave that nearly knocked me off my feet.  I wasn't expecting that.  I haven't gone through terribly deep waters since last Dec. and was kind of hoping I was past all that now.  The best way to describe involves yet another water metaphor.  When these things hit I feel like I am walking through chest deep water.  We've all done that, as kids in a swimming pool, if nothing else.  No matter how quickly you try to move, the water acts like a barrier.  You know you'll eventually get to where you want to go, but your steps are exaggerated and slowed down by the pull of the water.  That how I felt by the end of the week.  I just wanted to sit and cry.  But I had to keep moving instead.


I'm pretty sure it was because I was preparing for a camping trip without Paul.  This was always his thing, never mine. 


By the time I picked up my kids Sat. night from Single Parent Provision I was actually feeling better, which was a relief.  Maybe I just needed a few hours alone, away from the packing.


And then yesterday morning the kids were all at the park playing while I packed up the cabin.  For some reason I had awakened with Steve Green's, "Calvary's Love" running through my head.  I actually have a recording of Paul singing it, too.  As I wiped things down, threw away garbage, sorted dirty clothes from clean, and folded blankets, my heart grew heavier and heavier.  It literally (and I mean, "literally") felt like like I had a 10 pound rock sitting on top of my heart.  The grief was so intense during that time I could barely move.  I begged God to take it away - I could not do this.  And then the words from "Calvary's Love" popped into my head again and this time I began to sing them outloud (and I cannot sing at all).

...Calvary’s love, Calvary’s love
Priceless gift Christ makes us worthy of
The deepest sin can’t rise above
Calvary’s love

Calvary’s love can heal the Spirit
Life has crushed and cast aside
And redeem til Heaven’s promise
Fills with joy once empty eyes

So desire to tell His story
Of a love that loved enough to die
Burns away all other passions
And fed by Calvary’s love becomes a fire.


I worked with tears running down my face as I thanked God once again for the gift of Calvary - the truth that, as heavy as it is,  my sorrow is only temporary.  He is so faithful.


And I've really been ok since, even though I'm crying now as I write this.  I don't want to forget it, though, long after the tears have permanently dried  (will they ever, though?  I wonder) and Paul has faded more into the recesses of my distant memory.


So anyway...the trip.  It went well.  My van hit 200,000 miles on Day 2.  That means I've put on 50,000 miles in just two years.  Wow.  I was hoping to get 4 years out of the thing when I bought it, but I don't know if that's going to happen or not.  So far, it seems to be holding up just fine, though.


We were able to load everything in without having to use the topper, which was good, because I'm not sure how that thing attaches to the top of the van.  I could just see it flying off as I hurtled down the interstate!  I do praise God for stow and go seating, though.  I don't think I'll ever buy another vehicle without that!


I didn't forget a single thing when packing, which was a minor miracle, too.


I like to keep busy.  A friend commented on that to me a number of years ago that that seemed to be an element of my personality.  At the time I wasn't so sure and I thought she might be comparing me to her own homebody preferences.  But I've since decided she was pretty spot on in her assessment. 


We got there mid-afternoon on Monday.  KOA campgrounds typically have more amenities than the ones that Paul usually chose for us to camp at.  So, we spent all of Monday just enjoying the pool, play area, and mini golf.  In fact, as I was doing a back float in the pool that afternoon, I found myself looking up into the blue, blue sky and imagining Paul just on the other side of the blueness.  I even "talked" to him in my thoughts and exclaimed, "Do you see me right now?  I took your kids CAMPING!"  I bet he was laughing, particularly later that evening when I couldn't get a fire going for our supper.


The next day we went to the Omaha zoo.  I've been there many times in the 25 years since Paul and I first began to date.  It never gets old.  However, this time it really seemed stinkier.  Maybe I just didn't remember that element.  David woke up that morning feverish and congested.  His camp crud had taken full effect.  So he stayed in the cabin all day and nursed himself with Advil cold and sinus and thieves oil and lots of naps.  He also ate nearly an entire box of zingers.  I'm not so sure that was conducive to good healing, although he was feeling much better the next day.


It was fun to take the girls to the zoo because they had never been to this one before.  I got there and realized I had forgotten the sunscreen I set out on the table in the cabin.  So our first stop was the gift store to buy some - $12 for an 8 oz bottle.  They get you coming and going there.  The weather was not unbearably hot, although it did get pretty warm as the day went on.  We finally wrapped things up after about 6 hours, left the zoo, and I quickly realized I had absolutely no clue where I had parked my van.  They even have these cute signs with animal names that differentiate parts of the parking lot.  Of course, I paid no attention to which animal we were parked in!  But thank God for Sam, who is so  much like his logical, oldest brother.  Sam assured me he knew the general area where we had parked and he was right on the money and we did find the van rather than having to wonder around for hours.


That evening we went swimming again, which felt esp. good after our long day of walking.  Ellie mastered putting her head under water on this trip, which I think is pretty good for a 4 year old.  Now she just needs to figure out how to hold her breath.  David got the fire going for me that night and we roasted hot dogs.  Later, we went to the KOA store and bought ice cream treats.  The kids were so exhausted they fell asleep almost immediately, unlike the night before.


I packed up the next morning and we were on the road by late morning.  We all felt like pizza so we found a Pizza Ranch in W. Omaha and had an early lunch.  I had forgotten how much the retired set like buffets for their meals.  They all began pouring in about 15 min. after we got there.  I got so many smiles and compliments on my "beautiful family" from these older folks.  I'm pretty sure it's the obvious adoption factor.  One older lady came by and one by one, pretended to pull quarters from behind the ears of each of the Littles.  They were all completely amazed and couldn't figure out how it was that they've never found money in their ears!  I told them that was how I paid for the trip - cleaning out their ears after they're asleep at night.


We then went to the Children's Museum in downtown Omaha.  I used to take my big boys there quite regularly.  So I was anxious to take the Littles.  They were in heaven!  The museum has made a lot of changes and added a lot of things in the 11 years since I was there last.  But one thing that hasn't changed is the noise level.  Holy cow.  How do the workers not lose their hearing, over time?


They've installed a carosol, which my kids rode.  The operator was a friendly, young, black woman.  We got into a good discussion about hair and she gave me some tips and product suggestions.  And she didn't blink when I used the term, "black" to refer to people of color.  It is just as I have long suspected.  "African American" is more of a white thing than a black thing.

But anyway...


And then we got back last night around 7.  The kids went from being mostly cooperative to extending their claws and being at eachother's throats.  Welcome home...


This is probably the longest post I've written since I began blogging.  I'm finally going to wrap things up.  I put up a post on Facebook with my smiling children outside the cabin.  I wrote about our trip and then I closed it with this line.  I will end this blog post with it, as well.


  I can't duplicate the camping trips my boys remember, but maybe I can give all the kids some new memories that will cause them to smile from time to time.


  I'm trying.













What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

ow with a certain amount of anticipation, although there are still moments when I am sick at heart to think that that future will never again include him, other than the quick glimpses I sometimes see in my sons. As much as hope is beginning to seep back into our lives, I am also accepting that, for the rest of our lives, we will be among the walking wounded, forever hurt and altered by Paul's early death. As sad as that sounds, it really isn't, though. Even scarred, life is still pretty beautiful.

What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.





















Monday, July 13, 2015

Day 769

July 13, 2015

Day 769


I haven't written a lot lately - mainly because I haven't had a lot to say!


Today I am staggering through another migraine.  I had one like this last Wed.  I called in a refill on my pills and they have to get an ok from my neurologist first.  I have a fuzzy feeling he's going to make me come in for a visit before giving me another refill, which is not going to make me happy.


Fortunately, today is a day with no demands.  I don't have to go anywhere, other than first thing this morning when I had to get David to church so he could head up with the junior highers.  This is his first week of actual work up there.


He's been having a harder time lately, which makes for a harder time for me.  He's finally agreed to some counseling and that's scheduled to start next week.  I think he'll be ok, long-term, but it's just getting through right now that's kind of hard when you're 16 and have lost your dad, and have a lot of little siblings, an older brother who's not really "older," care-wise, another super-star older brother, some learning struggles,  and an impatient, stressed-out mom.


David did do fantastic with Driver's Ed.  My concern was the academic end of things because that accounted for 75% of the classroom grade.  On his final test he scored a 94%!  He still has two more driving times to do with his instructor, but he's actually quite good at the driving.  Unfortunately, we found out that the state tweaked the driving requirements this last year and now David can't get his license until he's had his permit for a year...which is a bummer because that won't be until mid-November.  I guess that gives me more time to find him a car, though!


Driver's Ed lasted for 2 1/2 weeks.  During that time, Sam and Lizzie were also taking swimming lessons.  They passed with flying colors, those little fish of mine.  On the last day, the instructors had the kids jumping off the diving board, just for fun, mostly.  They went feet first and the instructors were in the water to catch them.  There were some kids actually crying and shaking when it was their turn.  Their moms were standing on the other side of the fence yelling encouragements.  I was kind of laughing evilly (internally) at them as my two asked their instructors to "get out of the way so I can really jump far!"  But I've been where those other moms have been, too.  Neither Ben nor David took to the water very easily when they were little. 


So, anyway, I'm glad the classes are out of the way.  That was a lot of running around every morning for those couple of weeks.


A week ago Sam began relating to me something that had happened in Sunday School.  He was seated at the table, another boy was beside him, and on the other side of that classmate was another boy, also named, "Sam."  The middle boy's mom happened to poke her head in the classroom and joked, "Oh, look - it's a 'Samwich'!"  Sam told me this and I smiled in appreciation, seeing the humor.  Sam looked straight at me and continued, "Yeah, I didn't think it was very funny."


Oh, Sam...


That same morning, we were almost home from church and we always pass the cemetery as we drive into town.  Almost every single time, one of the kids, usually Ellie, asks, "Can we see Daddy?"  She did this and without missing a beat, Lizzie deadpans from the backseat, "I don't think Daddy want to see you, Ellie."


It was all I could do to choke on my laughter and not drive into the ditch!  This last week has actually been a lot better for her, behavior-wise...which makes for happier mom!


The 4th of July was fine this year.  We went to the parade in Pleasantville.  It was good.  The last time we had been to that was 2 years ago, less than a month after Paul's death.  I still remember how numb I felt that morning, going through the motions of what we always did on the 4th, but feeling so utterly empty inside.  I wasn't so empty this year.  We had a good time.


That evening we went to our neighbor's annual 4th of July party.  It's free food and I want to keep friendly relations with these people because I like them.'s not my scene.  It's a lot of unsaved people steadily getting drunker and drunker and the only conversation that gets made is very superficial stuff.  I was glad when I could gracefully exit.


Then I took the kids down to the Pville fireworks. That hurt my heart a little more.  The last time we had been there, it was with Paul.  We ended up running into some friends who have a 5 year old and they were on the ball enough to stock up on glow sticks and sparklers (I'm not a big fan of the latter.  They scare me.  But Paul always bought them for the kids and I don't recall anyone ever actually getting burned).  So my Littles were delighted.  The fireworks show was, of course, amazing.  There's something about small Iowa towns that know how to do up the 4th right.


More on Go Fund Me accounts:  Since my last post, I've heard back from a couple of my readers who also detest these things.  I am not alone!  Just last week I had ones come across my feed requesting help with college tuition (for an advanced degree, no less), asking for money to buy a new roof because the family earns under $25K a year and can't afford it, barely having squeezed into the mortgage itself (isn't there a verse in Proverbs about a man who sets out to build a wall, but doesn't see if he has all the needed supplies first, or something like that?), and one for help paying off creditors from a deceased husband's hospitalizations.  The kicker was one I saw requesting money to cremate Grandpa.  I am not kidding.  So is Grandpa on ice while they wait to raise the money?  How does that even work?


I'm not trying to be snobby, I'm really not.  The last two years I have been the recipient of many, many financial gifts, for which I am profoundly grateful.  We all have times in our lives when we need help and as Christians, we need to be unselfish and sensitive to God's leading in responding to our brothers and sisters during their times of need.  But I liken these accounts to the people I encounter at stoplights, peering into your vehicle and holding up cardboard signs that read, "Please help - God bless."  That makes me so uncomfortable and so do these sites.


In comparison: I have a friend who is having a double mastectomy tomorrow at age 39.  This is her second round of breast cancer in two years.  Things do not look good and this is a last-ditch attempt to give her more time with her family.  A relative set up a GoFundMe account over the weekend and her husband announced on FB last night that he had taken the site down and they were just going to "trust God for our needs."   This is the kind of heart that makes me want to give, not when it's thrust on me while I'm scrolling through FB.


Alright, enough on that...


Last week I got Lizzie's lunch ready, gave it to her and exhorted, "Eat,drink, and be merry!"  She frowned at me and said plaintively, "But I don't want to get married!" 


Also, one day, she curiously asked David, "Do you have wires on your nipples yet?"  He looked at her strangely and said slowly, "No-o-o..."  She then explained that "Well, Will has wires and I was just wondering if you do."


I really shouldn't laugh, should I?


I had to deal a small bit with Paul's family again this week.  I didn't realize until I had to handle this just how much I have managed to let them go.  I wouldn't say that's true, entirely.  I do check FB pages from time to time, just to see if anything is being said about me (that's a pretty rare occurrence, thankfully).  I'm still very saddened but I've been making a concentrated effort the past few months to not let this situation overly occupy my thoughts.  It has brought me such relief.  Burdens of the heart are especially heavy.  Fortunately, I have a wonderful pastor who is willing to go before me and handle this.  I am so thankful.  And who knows...maybe reconciliation will happen at some point.  I pray so.


My parents came down this weekend, which was so nice.  The kids were excited and counting the days.  Dad brought my new hamper, which was awesome.  I put a picture of that on FB last night and got all sorts of comments.  I think we just invented something!  Right now, it's fun throwing dirty clothing in there, even.


Will and Arien were home from camp, too.  It had been five or six weeks and it will be another five before Will is home for good.  So Dad made this big lunch and I picked up some Iowa sweet corn (none better) and we had a wonderful time of eating and enjoying one another.


Will and Arien spent most of their afternoon on the basement couches looking through the scrapbooks I've made over the years.  That was gratifying - all that work is being enjoyed by someone other than me.  Actually, they came up with the idea of getting to know eachother better by going through family photos.  I remember looking through the Heywoods' photos when Paul and I were dating and appreciating that so much, although Paul and I didn't do it together.


And now it's a quiet, hot, Monday afternoon.  Thank you, Lord, for air conditioning!  I don't need to cook supper tonight because I have lots of meatloaf and ham left over from Dad's cooking.  I'm just walking around, slowly, trying to lose this headache, and checking things off my to-do list.  I am so thankful to be in a stage of life where I don't have to go to work every day.  I can stay home with my  kids and move slowly on days like today when I'm not feeling the greatest.


David will be home next week, but he's going to be gone, including this week, a total of four weeks.  I've been coming up with some fun things the other kids and I could do during this time as we count down the weeks until the start of school.  It will be fun to surprise them with those.  Best of all - none of them are outdoor activities!  I could seriously live my entire life indoors.


Saturday night is Single Parent Provision.  I can't wait!


Well, back to my list and puttering around the house, I guess...


Seven weeks from today is the first day of school.  That will be a big day!






What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

ow with a certain amount of anticipation, although there are still moments when I am sick at heart to think that that future will never again include him, other than the quick glimpses I sometimes see in my sons. As much as hope is beginning to seep back into our lives, I am also accepting that, for the rest of our lives, we will be among the walking wounded, forever hurt and altered by Paul's early death. As sad as that sounds, it really isn't, though. Even scarred, life is still pretty beautiful.

What I have learned in two years of widowhood:

• God is good - so, so good
• I am loved far more than I ever knew
• I have amazing, resilient children (I am reaping what Paul sowed into their lives)
• Darkness eventually gives way to light
• Strength and wisdom are mine for the asking
• I don't have to have all the answers
• God delights in carefully and tenderly mending torn-apart hearts

Psalm 73:26: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.