Saturday, December 26, 2015

Day 941

Dec. 26, 2015

Day 941


It's over. I survived another Christmas of widowhood.


And it wasn't totally terrible, either.  I did better this entire season than the last two.  But Christmas Eve night we went to the service at church, which I was fine for throughout.  And then, as I'm out in the foyer, wrestling Ellie into her coat, a friend came up to me and with this sympathetic I-feel-so-sorry-for-you, wish-I-could-fix-your-heartache  look that I know too well (and appreciate as much as I can see it coming from a mile away anymore) asked me how I was doing.  I've never been great at faking things and honestly told her, "Ok - just, ok."  This friend isn't possessed of a huggy type nature, but she wrapped her one arm around me and whispered, "I'm so sorry."  Her kindness made tears spring to my eyes.  And then just at that moment, another friend, who IS huggy, came over to me, wrapped her arms around me and said softly, "Hey, Girl - you are loved so much."


And I knew I had to get out of there right then or I would lose it.  So Ellie and I bolted for the van.  About 20 min. later Will and David finally showed up and David was complaining about how "unsociable" I am. 


Maybe someday he'll understand.


And after that I was really fine - until we were opening gifts yesterday morning.  All of a sudden, this intense grief wave just slammed into me.  I didn't even see it coming.  Emotionally, I was reeling, but you know, it was Christmas and I couldn't run off wailing to my room.  That would be a  real quick way to put a damper on the holidays. I don't even think the Grinch could top that!   So, I just kept on unwrapping presents and taking pictures of the kids.


By late afternoon  it had passed and I really felt ok once again.


Which has me wondering...will I ever be free of the blues at Christmas someday?  Time will tell.  I wonder, too, if I am doing the right thing by keeping things from the kids.  Maybe someday I'll hear them complaining that I wasn't "real" enough when walking through this valley.  The mom is the emotional barometer of the home and I've just wanted to keep their emotions at a balanced level.  If I insisted that they feel what I do, then they'd be down more than they are up.  But they may never  fully appreciate this.


A fellow widow friend posted this in a meme on Facebook last night and I thought it was so good:


It's hard to rejoice when your heart is hurting and it seems like the world is celebrating around you.  But the same God Who loved us enough to send His only son understands you better than anyone else - and He's closer to you now than anyone else can ever be.



Plans changed during the day.  Mom and Dad went home early because Mom wasn't feeling the greatest so I was kind of at loose ends.  I ended up watching the Dolly Parton movie that was on NBC.  I was really surprised at how good that was.  I thought it was going to be something about her rise to fame, but  instead it was just a 2 hour movie about a period of a few months in the life of her family while growing up - themes of faith, resilience, and trusting God when it hurts.  I could probably watch that again. The little actress who played young Dolly was really talented.  She reminds me of someone I know in real life but I haven't put my finger yet on just who it is.


Oh - Lizzie did break her foot.  I felt so terrible - seriously terrible, like worst-mom-in-the-world kind of terrible.  I had taken her to Urgent Care on a Monday.  On Friday of that week I got a phone call from Urgent Care letting me know they had been trying to get ahold of me all week long.  A radiologist had read the x-ray and decided a bone was actually fractured.  Ugh!  And here, every single day that week I had been forcing her foot into a shoe even though she complained that it hurt because, after all, it wasn't broken!  She's still in a boot now.  She might get out of it next week, but I'm not sure.


I've started reading, "Little House in the Big Woods," the first Laura Ingalls Wilder book, to the Littles most every night.  I plan to go back and forth between her books and some Beverly Cleary ones until we've read everything by these authors.  Sam seems to actually be more into the books than the girls are, which surprised me.  But they still listen.  Laura included a lot of the little songs her Pa used to sing for them and I always sing them to the kids as I'm reading, making up the tune if I don't know it already.  So I was singing one the other night when I got to the word, "darky" in the song.  I quickly realized the song was a little ditty about a black man.  For the time period of the story (mid 1870s) it wasn't inappropriate.  But for now, it's highly so!  Fortunately, none of the kids caught what I sang and when I came to that word again in the song, I quickly changed it to, "that man."  Oh, wow.  Times have changed!


And on a related note, late last week Lizzie and I both got handwritten apology notes from that boy who made that racist comment to her.  They came addressed to me in a school envelope, so I don't know if that was something the principal required the student to do or something he did on his own (or was told to do by his mother) and then asked the school to mail them to me.  But, I was impressed anyway.  One was addressed to Lizzie and the other, to, "Lizzie's parent's."  Lizzie said he also verbally apologized to her at school.


So, anyway, it definitely sounds like he is chastened and repentent.  That's the best possible outcome out of an unfortunate situation to start with.  I did write to the district superintendent and told him how pleased I was with how this was handled by the principal.  He wrote back and thanked me for telling him and said he'd definitely commend the principal, too.  He then went on to tell me how much he enjoys Ben.  Everyone enjoys Ben!


A few weeks ago Lizzie went to a birthday party.  Unfortunately, she didn't have a very good time.  She said the birthday girl spent all her time with her other friends and not her.  But when I picked her up the mom gushed, "Oh, your Lizzie is SO polite!"  It was interesting to me because in recent weeks I've heard that from other adults about Sam and Ellie, too.  It makes me think that there must be an awful lot of impolite little kids in Pleasantville if mine are coming off better in comparison.  I know my kids and I know how rude they can be.  But everyone else's must be awful!


Speaking of bad behavior...Ellie's latest ploy whenever she gets in trouble is to shriek, "You don't love me!"  Sigh...I don't remember the boys ever pulling that one on me.  Lizzie hasn't either, but that's probably for other reasons.  We were in Hy-Vee one night recently and I took away her mini shopping cart because she continually rammed it onto her siblings heels.  Oh, boy, was she angry.  She yelled, "You don't love me!" and ran to the opposite end of the aisle.  Then, she refused to stand by me in the check-out lane and when I tried to put her in the cart, she splayed her legs open so they wouldn't go in the leg holes.  About a night later she got ahold of my key fob and pushed the panic button on it.  Of course, I was in a different part of the house so it took me awhile to get to her, find what she did with the fob, and get my van quiet again.  That same night, she took antibacterial cream and Glade spray and put them all over the mirror in her bedroom.  I remember reading a story when I was a kid about a little boy that was kidnapped.  He was so terrible that the kidnappers ended up returning him before they ever got to their destination.


That would be Ellie.


A week ago I was up to my eyeballs in cooking.  We had two out-of-town guests for a couple of nights - Nathanael and Eric came down to hunt with Will and some other guys from church.  They had a good haul altogether - 8 deer.  David shot his very first on Sunday.  He was so pleased!


Butchering Day happened Tuesday.  I helped a little, but not much.  However, I did package all the meat, which was quite a job - several hundred pounds.  We ended up buying another freezer because we just didn't have room in ours.  It's a nice problem to have, minus the $300 for a new freezer part...Will said he may buy it off me someday when he has his own place.


Tomorrow Will leaves with Eric, his father, and grandfather for a few days down in southern Iowa for even more hunting.  They're staying in a hotel.  So I suppose it's just as well I got the additional freezer.  Eric is a superb shot and gives most his meat to us.


Will finally had his root canal on Wed.  By Sunday his gum was beginning to puff up and I knew that was infection coming back.  He wouldn't let me open it up, though.  Wed. morning his face was visibly puffy.  So, he had his appointment early that afternoon.  The dentist did lance his gum which was just full of pus, I guess. Will said that was the worst part.   Then he did the root canal.  He discovered that Will had 5 roots, which is a lot. The dentist said he had not seen that in 12 years, commenting that when he was in dental school he watched a dentist do one with 7 roots, which was highly unusual.   Most people only have 3.  He couldn't see the other two when he drained the tooth twice before.  So, that's why it kept getting so sore so quickly.  Since the tooth had a temporary seal on it, there was nowhere for the pus to go except for into his gums.




So now we let that heal and then he needs an appointment for the crown.


I bet Dr. Fuller is going to eventually stop taking any calls from our house.  Between Will's extra roots and my "cement-like" teeth (his words) he's not going to want to have anything to do with our mouths!


Well, I need to get going here.  I have dinner plans with a friend who is only in Iowa for another day.  I need to hear all about her love life (she's younger than me).  Earlier today David said in all seriousness, "I think you need to get out of the house."  Evidently, I was appearing stressed to him.  I was able to tell him I was already on it!


I'm actually in a pretty good mood today.  Sadly, I think that's because Christmas is finally over.  I'm pretty sure that's not the right attitude to have.


This may be my last post for the year, I don't know.  I'm not exactly regarding the new year with anticipation.  I'm kind of nervous about a few things -  the uncertainty of my job, starting college again, Ben's graduation...


But I won't be alone.


Which is reassuring, particularly when I really stop to think about the truth of those words.

























Thursday, December 17, 2015

Day 932

December 16, 2016


I probably won't get this all written today.  Or tomorrow.


I woke up at 5am with a nasty migraine and the pain was so bad I never did fully get back to sleep.  In fact I ended up getting up before the alarm summoned me.  My head still hurts but it's bearable.


I've got SO much on my plate right now between Christmas prep and guests coming all weekend long for hunting (although I'm very glad they are coming - Will has such nice friends and it's always fun to have them here).  I'm trying to clean my house and today I'm up to my eyeballs in getting ready for the Patch Club party at church tonight.


I just picked up Ellie from preschool and she came home with the treat bucket, which means I'm expected to fill it up with healthy snacks for her class tomorrow.  What?  I checked the snack list twice this month and Ellie's name was nowhere on it.  So I thought we got lucky.  Apparently not.  So now I have to go to the store.  It's going to be store-bought stuff because I do not have time to bake another thing today.  I feel like whining about it to the staff but...her teachers are really nice...and Ellie got a I feel kind of obligated to cough up the snacks every so often.  But today is really  not a good day for this!


Things are hard on my heart right now, too.  It's December.  Every year since Paul's death I get hit with the blues and missing him so much.  I think that's fairly common with the bereaved.  But I wish it wasn't the case.  If nothing else it makes getting done what I need to a lot harder.


And I'm really hurting over  Pastor and Marcia leaving.  I know this is God's will.  I know that He knows so much more than I do and is so much wiser.  I know this is not only for their good, but for their new congregation's, as well as for ours.  I know it's for my good.

But I don't understand.


All I know is that a major support system is being pulled away from me and I feel like I'm floundering a bit.  I'm losing friends.  And I hate that.  Marcia and I have made a lunch date for January so that makes me feel better although I'm afraid I'm going to get to the restaurant and bawl into my soup the whole time (not that I would order soup - I'm not a fan of foods I have to drink).


And on top of everything else, I'm supposed to be starting class on Jan. 11 - and my FAFSA got totally messed up which means I have no idea what I'm going to be paying to attend school yet and I can't apply for loans.  I have spent hours on the phone with the FAFSA people (each of whom does not know what the person in the cubicle next to them is doing and saying - like most government offices) and talking to my advisor and the financial aid dept. at BVU.  I even made a special trip up to Ankeny yesterday to meet with the ICAN rep who filed the FAFSA in the first place.  I think it's all going to work out.  BVU is very willing to have me go ahead and start even w/o the financial plan in place yet as long as I sign a promissory note.  But it's been stressful and has made me wonder if I'm even supposed to be going to school right now.  Is this God's way of putting the brakes on this or is it just trials I have to persevere through?


On top of all this, I am getting a very distinct impression that my job as City clerk is coming to an end.  Nobody has said anything and I can only say that this "feeling" must be from the Lord.  Of course, this throws me into a bit of a mental panic.  How will I replace that income, esp. with going to school?  I guess I could be wrong, but I don't think I am.  I'm not planning on quitting the job, but I am just certain, all the same, that I will not hold this position for much longer.  Sometimes you just know when you hear the voice of the Lord and I am definitely hearing that right now.  But it doesn't mean I'm going to be out of the job tomorrow, either.  Maybe God is only preparing me for something that's still a ways down the road.  I guess time will tell.


Wow - is this enough negativity for one post?


There are good things in my life!


Arien is coming over Sat. so I can help her shop for Will's Christmas present and so she can help me with my wrapping.  She's coming again Sunday so I can introduce her to "Forrest Gump" which she has never seen while the guys all hunt.


I am under-budget this year for Christmas buying - always a good thing.


A sweet, older lady at church slipped a $20 bill in my Christmas card Sunday.


My contractor came out Saturday and finished the work on the house! 


I have heat.  I have more than enough clothes to wear.  I have plenty of food.


I have a van with 213,000 miles on it that still starts every single time I insert the key.  Although, I need to replace the tires and the brakes are starting to get a little iffy.


David got his driver's license yesterday.  He was so nervous he was shaking as we walked into the station.  I tried to warn him ahead of time that he might not pass the first driving attempt - and that would, in no way, be a reflection of his value as a human being. He still wanted it so bad and was up early with a nervous stomach and the inability to sleep.  But he walked in there and  aced the test.  Now my insurance has shot up $43 a month.  But I have another driver, which will be a tremendous help to long as he keeps his car on the road, I guess.


And I have an i-phone now - my very first smart phone.  I am seriously wondering how I lived for so long without this thing.  It is amazing!  It took awhile to get it.  Will and I visited the US Cellular store last May to find out what would be what.  The rep we talked to was very confusing, but we came out of there with understanding we needed to wait until Sept. 1 to have enough points to upgrade, but those points had to be used by Sept. 30 because they were going to phase out the points system.


So, in Sept. we went back to a different store and were told that no, the points were supposed to have been used by Sept. 1.  However, if we wanted to pay an extra $20 per month per line we could go ahead and upgrade.  I don't think so.  So, we were going to have to wait until March which is when we could upgrade.  And then, a few weeks ago I got a card in the mail from US Cellular thanking me for being such a loyal customer and offering early upgrades.


And that's what we did.  Both Will and I walked out of the store a week ago with brand new i phone 6s - which are not the latest model, but that's ok.  And the best part?  I am paying less money per month now for better phones and a larger data plan.  Who knew?  Maybe that's why God had that clerk mess up last summer and tell us the wrong thing, so that we could get a better deal in the end.


Yesterday and the night before were kind of hard on the heart, as well.  Monday, Lizzie and Sam got off the bus, both upset.  Another child had told Lizzie to, "Shut up" and then added, "I'd like to say something else, but it's racist and I'm not supposed to say that."  Later, as she was leaving the bus, he told her, "You need to leave.  We don't want people like you here.  Nobody likes you."


Lizzie asked me, "What does 'racist' mean?"  She didn't know.  All she knew was that this boy had been very mean to her.  Of course, I was outraged.  I wanted to chase the bus down, scramble aboard, and choke this child.  How dare he?"  It's a good thing I'm not a very fast runner because it gave me time to question both kids and to think about the best course of action.


I've had the girls for 3 1/2 years now and up until we have never encountered a shred of racism.  I kind of hoped we never would - probably naive, huh?  My first reaction was  to console Lizzie and remind her that there will always be jerks in this world, but to try not to take their unkindness to heart.  But the more I thought about it, the more I decided this wasn't enough.  This child needed to be dealt with.  I don't ever want any of my kids picked on, of course, but I am definitely not going to tolerate racist statements directed toward my girls.  At the same time I don't want to be looking for offenses or giving the girls a false sense of victimhood. 


So the next morning I made sure I was dressed by the time the bus came.  As the kids got on the bus, I followed them and spoke to the driver who nodded and said this particular boy is a trouble-maker.  I didn't know it until later, but when he got the kids to school he then went into the principal's office and told him what I had reported.


In the meantime I wrote a very firm, but fair letter to the principal.  I really had to separate my emotion as I wrote because I wanted to demand that all hell rain down this child and I had to force myself to think about what would be the best possible outcome for this situation.  Ultimately, I decided that what really needed to happen was repentance on the part of this boy and an apology for Lizzie.  She also needed to understand that his actions were in no way a reflection of the school's values.  I didn't tell the principal that, other than to ask him to please advise me to what he ended up doing so I knew what, if any, further steps to take (meaning, "if you don't take care of this, I'm going over your head"!)


I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome of the whole ordeal.  I heard back from the principal twice yesterday.  He was absolutely appalled and assured me that he would take care of this immediately, adding that racial intolerance is something he will not stand for one bit.  He ended up pulling both Sam and Lizzie out of class, along with some other kids to find out what exactly had happened on the bus.  And then he called the boy's mother to come to the school.  He told me that by the end, both the boy and his mother were in tears, which made me feel bad.  I didn't want to make anybody cry!  But it sounds like the  young man is sincerely sorry and he is expected to make an apology to Lizzie in the next day or so.  In addition, the principal assured me that he will be receiving consequences both at school and home.


So, I think in the end this is a good thing, especially if it results in this kid adjusting his attitude and learning to speak with kindness - or not at all if he can't dredge up any kind feelings.  At the same time, I am still sick over the fact that Lizzie had to experience this.  I keep reminding myself that this probably would not have happened if I hadn't stuck her in public school.  Sigh...


I am very pleased with how it was handled, though,  and I think I'll take the time to write a note to the district superintendent commending the elementary school principal's fast and decisive action.


I just ordered my books for my class off Amazon - only $40 for this term, which doesn't seem too bad.  I had orientation Monday night - and I was the only person to show up!  I mean, there were only three of us scheduled, but still - why wouldn't you call if you couldn't make it?  It makes you wonder how serious they are about getting started.  I need to buy another laptop between now and then.  That will cost considerably more than my books, I think!




I am absolutely falling apart.  Yesterday it was a migraine that didn't release its grip until evening.  Today, it's my left hip.  I cannot bend over and am dying. Every move I make sends shooting pain up my back and down my leg.  This hip has bothered me since late summer when the new chiropractor took over that office in Pville where I was going.  He was so rough.  So now I'm going to someone else (40 min away!) and he's really good.  I see him today at 5 - I sure hope it's worth braving that rush hour traffic with 4 kids in the van, though.


When I got my new iphone last week the boys were showing me all the features on it, including Siri, which is the "information" part of the phone.  If you want the phone to automatically dial, you just talk to Siri and she does it.  If you want to know about the weather or the capital of Zimbabwe - you ask Siri.  So one of the boys pushed her button and she said, "Good afternoon, Princess."  What?!


Then I remembered.  After Paul's death, I had his contacts transferred into my phone and deleted most of them.  But I kept my number in there which he had stored under the named, "Princess."  Siri recognized my number and related it to the only name she had in her memory bank.  I kept that in my contacts but told Siri to just call me Sarah!





Lizzie is very fortunate she is not limping around in a cast right now.  The girls have (had) a super-heavy mirror in their bedroom that used to be part of Lizzie's old dresser that I bought off Craig's List before she came.  I got rid of the dresser last year when I bought new matching ones for the girls from Homemakers.  But I kept the mirror because it is so pretty.  I propped it up on the desk.  Something told me when I did that that wasn't a good idea, but I ignored that voice.  Well, Ellie was messing around the other night and the mirror came sliding off the desk and onto Lizzie's foot.  Fortunately, the mirror did not break - although I'm planning to get rid of it now, so I guess it would have been ok if it had broken, although that might have caused injury to the girls, which would not have been ok.  Anyway, Lizzie immediately ended up with a huge lump on her foot which made me wonder if it might be broken.  But she wasn't shrieking in pain, either.  So I put ice on it and sent her to bed with the ice pack.  The next morning, she had difficulty getting her shoe on, so instead of putting her on the school bus, I took her to Urgent Care.


They x-rayed her and said they didn't think it was broken, but were going to send the x-ray to a radiologist just to make sure.  I haven't heard back, so I assume her bones are all intact.  With effort, we've been able to get her shoes on for the rest of this week and I got her excused from P.E. all week long.  Her foot looks black where it hit - I'm guessing it would be a dark purple color on white skin like mine.  Anyway - we were fortunate.


I'm going to buy a lightweight mirror to hang on their wall.  But I'll probably wait until Will gets the panelboard up.  Two walls are still lath and plaster and they're cracking, so I'm going to get him to cover those all up.


One nice thing that happened yesterday was that when I got home from going to the high school to design Ben's baby ad with the yearbook advisor I announced that, due to my pounding head, I was going to lay down for a little bit.  Ben's SCL provider, who is a friend, was at the house (in fact, she came early to babysit Ellie and the other kids when they got off the bus so I could go do this thing with the yearbook advisor - David was out hunting with her grown sons and unavailable to watch the Littles).  When I woke up an hour later she was gone, but she and Ben had made mac and cheese and baked beans - and had fed all the Littles for me.  What a blessing!


Will had to go to the dentist again this week.  He's scheduled for a root canal on the 23rd.  But last weekend the problem tooth began causing him all sorts of pain to the point he was texting me and begging me to get ahold of the dentist NOW - which I couldn't because it was the weekend.  But I left two messages and they called me right away on Monday.  He was able to go in and the dentist opened the tooth again and got all the pus out - again.  Yuck - what a mess. There is absolutely no part of me that would ever want to be a dentist or even a hygeniest!   But he didn't have time to do the root canal early, so hopefully, the tooth will hold up until the 23rd.


Last Saturday evening was special.  It was the Single Parent Provision annual Christmas dinner.  Last year I went with my friend, Sarah, but this year I went alone - and I was really ok with that.  I brought the Littles with me because they had their own party in a different part of the hotel.  They loved it - they got pizza and presents.


I found myself mentally contrasting last year's dinner's to this years.  I enjoyed last year's, as well, to the point that I began attending the Mom's Night Out events faithfully.  If I had the time I would LOVE to get involved with one of their weekly Bible studies.  But last year I sat there thinking, "I don't belong here."  I felt sorry for myself because, unlike the majority of mothers in attendance, I didn't do anything to cause my single parenthood.  Not that all single mothers, of course, are responsible.  Some truly are abandoned.  But I felt like, the rest, to some extent, weren't blameless as to how they ended up as single mothers.  If nothing else, maybe they should have chosen better mates in the first place.


But since then I've come to recognize that attitude for what it is.




It doesn't matter how we ended up on this journey.  Goodness knows, Paul could have left me many times if he had not loved me so much or been possessed of such high moral character.  It's not like I was this outstanding wife all the time.


Our stories are important, but they're only part of the picture.  And the biggest part is that we're here now.  I don't think there was a mother in that room who doesn't love her children and desire to be the very best parent she can be, despite the hurt her kids have endured.  Our kids are not doomed because they don't have a dad.  Yeah, it's going to make things more difficult and definitely doubles the responsibility we bear as their mom.


But hope abounds.


I sat at a table of lovely women.  The one beside me was a slender, professional-looking black woman who has 6 children.  We talked quite a bit.  One of hers was adopted as well.  And she's going to college in hopes of starting a ministry to troubled children.  Another is caring for her demanding, invalid mother on top of her own teenage children.  Another is engaged to be married in a few months - not to the father of her child, but to another man who is willing to parent her daughter.  She and her daughter just came back to the States after spending 6 months in Sudan, ministering to victims of sex trafficking.  Another was just laid off from her job and is tackling potty training with her toddler son.  We all had different stories and circumstances (I was the only widow) but we had more in common than we did differences.  The roads that got us all to this particular path are different, but we're all on the same path now.


We were served a delicious meal, heard an inspiring Christian woman speak, and were blessed with gifts and goodies.  The lady who founded SPP stood up and said at the beginning, "As single moms, we often feel like we have to do everything ourselves.  It's hard to let others do for us.  I want to say one thing: I know you've got this!  But tonight, let us serve you."  Or something to that effect, anyway.


So it was nice and I am just so grateful for the community of people that came together to do things like this for us.


And that's all I have right now.  I'm going to go put Ellie down for her nap and keep plugging away at my to-do list (that keeps getting longer by the minute - I keep thinking of more things that need to be done).


Oh, and David...I was mopping my kitchen floor (painfully - this hip in unrelentless in letting me know it is NOT happy) when I said something about needing to pick up Ellie from preschool.  He quickly said, "I'll do it!" and just like that he set off on his first solo driving trip.  My heart was in my mouth as he pulled out of the driveway...but 25 min. later he was back, safe and whole.  I must have warned him one too many times about looking out for the little kids and the cars and the traffic that runs down the street as you're backing out of the parking spots at the preschool because David began to get this disgusted look on his face.  "I know how to do this," he complained.  I know...but....


He came home, quite satisfied with himself and commented that he had never felt "such freedom" before.


Those words aren't all that reassuring to me.
























Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Day 924

Dec. 9, 2015

Day 924


It's December and I am slogging through it.  It's  not that terrible, I guess - not like the last two Decembers.  But it's worse than the rest of the year.  I wonder if I will ever again have a holiday season where I actually enjoy and anticipate it?


Sunday marked 30 months - 2 1/2 years.  That seems sort of significant to me because it's half of five years.  And there's a part of me that has always thought, "At 5 years, I'll finally be ok."  Or,


"At 5 years, my life will be back on track."  And,


"I can survive anything for 5 years."


Maybe!  Although, 2 1/2 years from now I may shake my head and wonder what I thought was so special about hitting the five year mark.


Yesterday, I got his grave decorated for Christmas.  In Oct, his mother and sister had decorated the grave - with fresh produce (pumpkins, gourds).  They were still there, only not nearly so fresh anymore. What an icky mess.  Our cemetery is rural and because of that there really aren't any rules as far as what type of stone you can have and what kind of decorations you use.  Some people actually have garden fencing around their stones.  Some have planted peony bushes that are huge now.  The down side to this lack of policy is that nobody cleans up your grave, either!  They have a groundskeeper but if you have junk in front of the stone, he's not going to touch it in order to weed eat.


So guess who had to clean up the rotten pumpkin and gourds?




They had also left this poem they had printed onto some supposedly waterproof thing designed for graves.  It's one of those that makes me roll my eyeballs.  You see them all the time.  The poem is supposed to be from the perspective of the deceased and he's talking about how he's always with you and when you're crying at night he's right there with you (creepy).  He's talking about you shouldn't be sad because Heaven is so awesome so go ahead and live your life, but hurry up and die, too, so you can back together. 


I'm paraphrasing.  Is there a problem with drawing comfort from Scripture rather than cheesy poetry?


But, I understood this brought comfort to Paul's family so I wasn't going to remove it from his grave even though I certainly never would have put up something like that.  I left it up there yesterday when I decorated.  However, I discovered this "waterproof" case is not so much.  The sides are already beginning to separate.  I'll just leave it until it completely gives way, I guess.


I got done, rocked back on my heels to observe my work, and decided that there isn't a whole lot more sad in the world than decorating a grave for Christmas or a birthday, I don't think.  It's the only way you can spend time "with" your loved one and it's the only thing you can actually do for them.  But it's not what you would have preferred to be doing with and for them at these times of celebration.


Will got my storm door hung yesterday.  My contractor still has some things to do on the house and he told me in Oct. he'd be back in a few weeks to hang the door and do those final things.  I haven't heard a peep out of him since.  I finally got ahold of him a couple of weeks ago and he said he's waiting on his supplier.  Sigh...


But it's getting colder (well, not this week - it's actually unseasonably warm right now, but that won't last).  And I can't wait on some balky supplier to have a storm door when cold air is blowing into my house!  It ended up being a rather time consuming job and took Will several hours.  But it's all insulated and hung now. 


I ended up dreaming last night that my contractor said he needed more money from me and when he said he needed a check for over $10,000 I just started bawling.  But then I thought to myself in my dream, "I'm SO glad Will installed that door himself so I didn't have to pay for that, too!"


Speaking of dreams, I ended up dreaming about Paul last week.  That is a very rare occurrence anymore.  In the dream I was on the phone with a repairman who was going to do some work on my van.  For some reason he wanted to talk to a male before starting the work (sounds kind of sexist to me, as I think about it) so I wandered into the kitchen and handed the phone to Paul who talked with him.  Then he hung up and asked, "Why are we paying someone else to work on our vehicles?"    That is totally the way he would have phrased it, too!


I answered, "Because on June 6th, you're going to die."  Paul's eyebrows shot up and he looked very thoughtful.  And then I began to explain everything that would happen in the months following his death.  He nodded and wandered out of the room.  Obviously, time was a very fluid thing in my dream.  But it was interesting to me to recall it once I awoke.


Sam came home one day last week, very serious (he always is) and said, "Well, Mom, you  might think this is funny, but I have something to tell you."  He paused and then said,


"I have a girlfriend."


To my credit, I did not laugh.  Instead, I asked him what it was that he liked about this particular classmate (named, "Sky" of all things!).  But on the inside I was thinking, "Seriously?...and then, "I hate public schools...").  I was reminded of a conversation I overheard the night of parent/teacher conferences.  Two moms were talking and they were commenting how one of the lower elementary classes seemed to be "pairing up" awfully fast as in, "boyfriend/girlfriend" stuff.  At the time it made me inwardly roll my eyeballs.  It never occurred to me my own kids might get sucked into that.

Later I did talk to Sam about the importance of saving the words, "I love you" for someone really, really special and for when he's a lot older.  He seemed to take that to heart.


The next night we went to the elementary Christmas concert.  Now, that was a real disappointment to me.  I've always appreciated Ben's Christmas concerts at the high school level because there is always a selection of sacred holiday music used.  They've always been really good concerts, as a result.  I mentioned that to his old music teacher and she commented that the parents and the community at large seem especially enthusiastic about including songs about Baby Jesus so she always made sure to do that.  In contrast, I remember the joke of a Christmas concert we attended at the Missouri Valley school when Ben was in kindergarten.  It was held a couple of weeks before Christmas but was called a "Winter concert."  Every single song was about Santa Claus.  I homeschooled for the next 7 years, but found Pleasantville's Christmas concerts, once Ben was back in school, to be very refreshing.


So imagine how disappointed I was last Thursday  night when I got to the school and was handed a program entitled, "Holiday Concert."  And then  these elementary kids all got up on stage and began singing songs about Santa and getting lots of presents.  Sigh...


Fortunately, intermission came after the 2nd graders performed so we were able to leave at that point, rather than having to sit through three more grade levels of similar performances.


As we were leaving, Sam pointed out a father/daughter duo and excitedly told me, "That's Sky, Mom!"  Sky is a good six inches taller than Sam, which made me smile.


Tomorrow night is Ellie's preschool Christmas concert (or "Holiday" concert?) so I will be curious to see what they do.  The preschool is held in the basement of the Methodist church and the program is in the church auditorium, so surely they will have some sacred selections - right?



It's sunny out today.  The weathermen are saying to not count on having a white Christmas this year, in fact.  I guess that's ok.  We've had quite a few white ones in recent years.  It seemed like it rained non-stop the last two weeks of November.  I just remembered the other day an experience that I wanted to share.


So it was one of those rainy mornings and I was heading north on Highway 5 after dropping Ellie off at preschool.  I needed to go to Des Moines, as I recall.  All of a sudden, I noticed this pretty rainbow.  As I drove closer, the clouds dissipated and I had to reach for my sunglasses.  The brilliance of the sun and rainbow was simply astounding.  My first thought was to wonder if there are rainbows in Heaven.  And then it occurred to me that maybe what I was experiencing, this sudden brightness and explosion of color, was just a taste of Heaven sent down for our pleasure.   I sat in my van while passing under the sun and rainbows and felt warm from the inside out. 


As I looked in my rearview mirror I could still see the gray clouds behind me.  And after just a few miles, I found myself removing my sunglasses as I drove into more clouds and rain began once again spattering the windshield.  It occurred to me that life is a lot like this highway (I think Rascal Flatts recorded a song by that title, in fact). 


So much of life is just plain hard.  And it seems like problems seem to multiply when you're already in the midst of one.  Or as the adage says, "Trouble comes in threes!"  But every so often in the midst of of sludging through one heartache and trial after another, a bit of sunshine and happiness slips in.  God clears the skies for a little bit and you get to experience a gorgeous rainbow and sunshine in the form of some unexpected happiness.


It won't last.  We know that in this sin-sick, rotting world, nothing good can.  But for a little while, that happiness is enough to infuse our weary souls with enough hope to shoulder through the next round of clouds and rain.



























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.