Sunshine in the morning

31 01 2008

      Someone must have been praying for us!  I woke up and the atmosphere had changed around here. 

      First of all, Neal sacrificially took care of Pat all last night (sitting him up and whacking him on the back whenever he started to choke) and I got a good night’s sleep.  It’s amazing how much sleep will do to improve your attitude and restore your faith in God and man.
       Secondly, it was warm enough to bundle up and go out in the yard for a bit.  Bren had to go back in when the wind sent her into coughing spasms, but the rest of us managed to dig up a bed for vegetables.  The residents-before-last apparently had two raised beds.  The wood is rotten, but the plastic liner is still in place and the soil is rich and black and very promising looking.  We scraped the pine-needles out with our hands and turned the earth on one of them.  I chopped a pine root in half that was as big around as Pat’s arm and felt empowered.  It’s been a couple days since I had the strength to wash the dishes without panting! 
       Now my fingers are stained black around the nails and I am much happier.  I haven’t had a garden since we left Sand Hill Road.    Well, we had flower beds, but unlike Lisa I can’t get excited about digging flower beds.  If I can’t eat it, I’m not hugely interested in growing it.  
        Night before last, Donal heard “Taps” floating across the fields from the air base as he lay in bed.   Last night at ten, we all stood silently, almost breathlessly, hoping to hear it again.  But we didn’t.  The wind must not have been in the right quarter.  I love hearing the planes punch up to speed in the morning and roar around our house.  They’re so loud they make you feel like you’re sitting in a massage chair, but the sound is more visceral than audible- it doesn’t hurt your ears.  We’ve been so isolated since we moved here that I like hearing those evidences that there is other life on the planet! 
          I’m almost ready to take some pictures of the house & post them for you.  I wanted to wait until we had most of the boxes put away and the furniture roughly in the right place.  It’s not much fun to look at a picture of a wall of boxes.  Well, Pat just woke up.  Thank you all for your prayers & your loving comments- they’re so precious to me right now.



30 01 2008

     I have been thinking about cages a lot lately.  In this last month, in the days since Christmas, I have been wondering if I would be changing my current cage for the cage of sickness, surgery, radiation therapy and cancer.  I watched Leslie go through it with such courage and positivism.  I am not naturally a very positive person, and I have a feeling I would be very frightened.  As the days and then the weeks went by and the pain in my breast got worse I had to examine my fear.
      I am afraid of radiation.  I am very very afraid of radiation.  My experiences with morning sickness have been bad enough that I have often thought to myself that I would rather die than go through the treatment.  But is that true?  At times I have lain in bed beside Patrick, holding his small fuzzy head against me, and thought about how much he still needed me.  I have four children to raise!  I don’t have time for breast cancer!
      But then, who does?  
      It took me a long time to bring myself to the point of mentioning it to my husband.  It was bad enough for me to be carrying this burden through the mess of moving without troubling him.  But as the pain continued I realized that I really had to get to a doctor quickly.  I know time makes a difference.  Still I kept finding reasons to put it off.  This can’t be happening to me.  I nursed three babies!  I thought nursing was supposed to reduce your chances.  I kept searching for a lump.  I couldn’t find one.  I spent hours dreaming up other explanations for the pain- hoping it would go away. 
      Finally one Sunday I realized I was rubbing my breast in church with the pastor watching me.  Obviously, this situation could not last.  I spoke to Neal, to my mother…    Then everyone got sick, Neal had to go to immediate care today, threw up all over the living room, the baby threw up all over his bed…
       Anyhow, I’ve been thinking about cages.  I think we all live in them.  Who on this earth is really, completely happy?  We live in the cage of a bad job situation, hoping it will end.   The cage of fear for a relative- their health or their salvation.  We have financial burdens that press on us, health issues, time problems.  I am priveledged to know a few people well enough to know the things that worry them.  The stresses they’re under.  The things that they wish they could be relieved of- but if those things were gone, wouldn’t there be something else?
      A series of cages until finally we come to the end and God hits the door latch, one way or another. 
     I am relieved, I am relieved today even in the midst of sickness and exhaustion because the pain is gone, the pain is gone, GLORY TO GOD, the pain and swelling have gone!  (I suppose it was a lousy trick to make you think that this was still going on, but I guess I wanted to share, for five minutes, how I’ve been feeling for about five weeks.)  I’m glad to be relieved of that fear (for the most part- going to keep a sharp eye on it!) but still there are cages.  Probably not breast cancer, but a worry about my husband: we’ve had a flu, but in Neal it’s been much worse.  This is the second time in two years that a mild flu has gone to complications with him.  I’ve worked through the disease, cleaning up throw-up, cooking, watching babies, changing diapers, calling doctors, packing the diaper bag…   I’m exhausted, but Neal is in bed so sick he can barely move. 
        He’s nearly 50, diabetic, and apparently vulnerable to chest complaints.  How much longer, Lord?  I’ve been so angry and cranky with him today.  The truth is, I’m afraid.  I’m afraid of losing him.  Other men with diabetes live into their seventies, eighties… but will Neal?  He’s taken it so hard from the very beginning.  I’ve prayed so long and so hard for his healing with so little apparent effect.
         And I suppose even if Neal were spectacularly, miraculously healed, there would still be other things to worry about.  Life still wouldn’t be perfect.  I guess what I’m really saying here is that I’m angry.  I’m angry that life has to be such a crummy place with old age and sickness and layoffs and houses that won’t sell and car repairs and… and… cleaning!  I’m angry that it manages to make me afraid.  Even though I love God deeply and tenderly, it still manages to make me afraid.
         I don’t know how to let go of the things I love.  I don’t know how to let go of relatives or dreams, of friends, or even of my childhood.  I cling to things so hard!  I still want to go back and fix some of the things I did when I was SIX, for Pete’s sake.  I can’t let go.  I don’t want things to change so fast…  In seven years my oldest son will be leaving home.  My last baby is already not really a baby any more, and when I look at my husband right now in his sick misery, do I see the old man he will become?
        If I keep publishing merry, upbeat stuff like this, ya’ll are all going to stop reading my blog.  So, Blessings List:

1- the heat is back on
2- I almost certainly don’t have breast cancer as I have feared all month (hallelujah)
3- Patrick gave me sloppy baby kisses all through the grocery store
4- All of my relatives are alive and well.  Matt didn’t die white-water rafting, Nick didn’t die in the car accident, Elizabeth didn’t die of ovarian cancer.
5- Lisa called me today.  Friends are such a blessing- a blessing that I longed for for years.
6- The first two books I ordered for my Prayer Ministry class arrived today- what a blessing to get to do a class outside the home!
7-The moving company is fixing my piano
8- We are not (quite) totally broke.
9-Neal loves his job.
10-I found the immediate care place without getting lost.

Things to Pray about:
1-Neal’s healing from bronchitis and that it not progress to pneumonia this time
2- House to Sell.  We need it to sell DESPERATELY
3- I need to replace my van pretty badly, so finances & a good second-hand eight-passenger van to show up
4- Friends for the children.  Donal especially has trouble getting boys past his “wierdness” and making friends.         
5- And just that, generally, things ease up on us for a while.  I think we’ve taken about all we can take for a while, and could use a little sunshine for a bit.

 Love & miss you guys,


28 01 2008

I am trying to imagine myself in a happy place… no sick children, no ETV blaring, no schoolwork, no cranky, feverish husband.

In my imaginary land, i’m not trapped in the house- I can go for a walk, or dig in the yard.  I could even climb a tree if I wanted to and climb up very high where the leaves are so thick below me that I can’t see the ground and the leaves above me have become transparently gold with the sunlight.  I’ll find a comfortable crotch in the branches where I can sit and rock and rest.  No one can find me.  No one knows where I am.  Only the wind and the tree and me and God…

I suppose it says something bad about me that whenever I imagine being at peace I imagine being alone.  Or maybe it just says that I was raised in a family with four kids, and have lived with roommates or husbands for years, and then had four kids of my own.    The only thing I can fantasize about anymore is being alone.  In a hammock, on a mountain, in a house covered in honeysuckle… no one holding my hand, yelling for milk, asking when dinner is, asking what they have to do next or if they can watch TV or if they can have a cup and brush and paper and something to wipe the brush on so they can paint or wanting to know where the clean clothes are when there aren’t any…

This is another big whine.  Sigh.  I must go check my son’s fractions, fix milk for the baby and take Neal some aspirin and change the wash loads and…

Status Report:

27 01 2008

3 sick, one recovered, one cleaning, one on the trampoline.  No heat. 

No problem, man.

More blathering & the deer that hit the truck

26 01 2008

    It’s sleeting today.  The sky is heavy and overcast and the cold is creeping in through all the cracks and creivces of this old house.  Brenna, Mike, and Donal all have fevers and coughs.  I have given up and let them vegetate in front of the TV.  We’re nearly out of propane and can’t have more delivered until Monday, so we’re conserving heat and huddling under blankets.
      Neal is off to the local home improvement depot to find wood & materials to cover the rotting ceiling in the landry room and build Donal a bunk over the dryer.  I am looking forward to this.  Donal will have kind of a rad room with a modern carpet in bright overlapping circles, shelves full of his things, a bunk with a new knock-your-eyes-out afghan crocheted by his loving mom, and walls filled with all kinds of posters and tin beer signs.  (He took down a few last week- “Too much beer and not enough other stuff” he told me as he carried them to the trash.)  The bunk will stretch across the back of the room & the dryer will open into the cave under it.  Donal wants to put a beanbag chair under there and make it his reading cave.
        I went to the first homeschooling group and tried to make a good impression.  At one point I volunteered a suggestion for a mother who was feeling overwhelmed by her children and unable to find bible reading time.  I told her that when I do have study time (like during the sermon in church!) I copy out verses that touch my heart on a piece of paper.  Then I stick it on my fridge or over the sink.  All week while I work, I read the verses and ponder them and memorize them.  I thought it was a good suggestion, but everyone stared at me like they were thinking, “I can’t believe the NEW person said that- everyone try to act normal and smile!”
       It’s tough being the new guy on the block.  I spent the rest of the meeting eating donut holes and nodding dutifully.  Was exhasted when I got back home from the effort of keeping my mouth shut.
        I found a t-shirt I really need:  It said, “Lord, please keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth.”  (Doris, I thought of you when I saw this… not that you need it, I mean.  Of course not!  What I mean is, I just thought you’d think it was funny.  Sheesh, I’d better shut up now! ) 

Oh- have I told you guys about the deer yet?  The weekend we went back to close down the house, we went out to Rocky Point to eat with Lisa & Tony.  We were all exhausted from the stress of packing and moving and unpacking and driving back to clear out the house and paint and repair and clean and Pat’s birthday and just everything all at once.  Dinner was lovely.  We collapsed and ate a ton of terrific spaghetti and played cards and ignored the kids.
      On the way home to dump the unconcious little ones into bed, a deer decided to jump in front of Neal’s truck, “Ka WHAM!”  I immediately huddled down in my coat and began screaming, “You hit a DEER!  I can’t believe you hit a DEER, I’VE never hit a DEER!”  It’s a wonder Neal didn’t smack me.  He started saying words that weren’t exactly cuss words, but weren’t really English, either.  The kids were screaming.  He pulled the truck over (I was still hiding in my coat trying to shut the awful crunch out of my ears) and checked the car quickly.  Then he vaulted back in and began driving way too fast.
       “It’s spraying some kind of fluid,” he said tersely.  A greasy pink liquid began spraying up on the windshield as we picked up speed.   He asked me to watch the dials to make sure it didn’t overheat while he pushed for home.  (I watched the wrong dial, I later discovered.  Oh well.)  The truck died in the driveway.
        So there we were, ALL of us.  Stuck in Wilmington in a house with no furniture, no groceries, no transportation, no curtains, and no clean clothes.  We were already several thousand dollars in debt from fixing up the house & him being out of work, and if that’s not all, a DEER had to commit suicide by jumping in front of our F-350 truck and piercing the transmission fluid, alternator, radiator, frying the main belt and giving the compresser the scare of it’s life.  We should have hit a taller deer.  Good thing it was only about a two-pointer.
       (Waaa!!  We hit a baby deer!)
        I have decided, as a result of this encounter, that AAA is a good thing.  They helped us rent a car, paid for most of the towing, etc.  All we had to do is find a friend to drop Neal off at the car rental place.  Oh- and try to finish cleaning out and packing up the last stuff the movers wouldn’t touch with no way to take trash to the dump or pack more than our suitcases in the rental van. 
          So we went back yesterday to pick up the truck ($900 worth of deer damage & no venison to show for it…) and to finish the stuff we couldn’t do to the house the last interrupted trip.  With two sick kids.  (I’m not complaining, Lord, really I’m not- I’m just stating the facts.)  We found that the unprintably annoying construction people had built a privacy fence right ON the property line.  As the line goes by five feet on the side of our house, you can hardly sqeeze past the bush to get to the kitchen door.  Now, I know that our house was built too near the property line, but was the nine-foot fence really necessary?  Couldn’t they have built it 2 feet in as an easement?  It’s so horrible.  You look out the kitchen window, and there’s this FENCE.  All you see is FENCE.  They built it two inches away from our chain-link fence.  It’s ghastly.  How will we sell the house now?  It was so rude and unneccessary I just couldn’t believe it.
      Then, on the way out of the driveway I asked Neal to stop so we could pray and say good bye to the house, and when he tried to back up in front of it, he hit the mailbox.
        I thought, “Oh, that’s just freaking FINE, now we have to fix the mailbox!  Lord, how many times are we going to have to come back to this house at $60 a trip?  When will we EVER be shut of this place?”  Neal got out of the truck and went back there and STUCK that metal post back in the ground with his bare hands, stomped the ground a couple times and got back in the truck looking a little dangerous.
        “So who’s going to pray first?” he asked thunderously.  All the kids looked at each other.  Finally Michael prayed, “God please don’t let any of the trees fall down, too.”
         Amen, little brother.

Random notes about the move

23 01 2008
(sorry this post is in italics, but Mike slapped the keyboard and I can’t figure out how to undo what he did!)
To quote Rabbit, “There we were, ALL of us…” moved into the small house.  More or less.
I would like to take this moment to publicly state that all my happy feelings about the movers disappeared when I discovered they had broken the pedals off my piano.  They also packed a chainsaw full of gas and oil upside down in a huge box full of garage stuff.  It was a mess.  They threw my jewelry box (upside down and unlatched) into a box of things from my room, and I found a trail of my antique buttons along the sidewalk dripping from a cracked box.  They packed spices without closing them, packed half-eaten boxes of cereal with the tops open… argh!
Still, it was definitely better than packing it myself.  It turns out we have about 10,000 pounds of furniture and stuff.  (And books- lots of books).  (It humbles me to think that there are families in Africa who own three blankets, a pot, a knife and a goat.)    I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken me to pack.  I estimate I could have packed about two boxes a day.  It could have taken a year!
Still enjoying our new town.  The downtown strip is deserted at night.  Everyone goes to bed at 8:30 apparently.  On a Thursday night there were six cars at the Pizza Inn.  I’m not sure why they bothered to build a 24-hour Wal-Mart.
One of the best things about this place is the newspaper.  They keep putting people’s quotes about God and his divine providence on the front page.  They honor the troops stationed here, and write warm fuzzy stories about what people in town are doing.  They also report on the usual crimes & general downfall of humanity, but on the whole, the reporting is so upbeat I’ve actually resumed reading the paper after a fast of nearly 20 years.
The church search continues.  I found a preacher I really like at a local church, but the prayer meeting was a little disappointing.  I’ve gotten spoiled- I really expect annointed prophetic prayer, and it’s hard for me to think about settling for less.
At this point our house is starting to look like a home.  The boxes are out of the living room and only lingering in the corners of the other rooms.  The dishes are in the cupboards, and the cat litter box has, at long last, found a home.  Nearly everyone has a place to sleep (Donal still has to lean his mattresses up against a wall so I can do the laundry), and we’ve all gotten used to using the detatched doorknob.  You just shove it back in the hole and turn it- even Michael can do it.
A man came day before yesterday and replaced the broken glass in the window and all the cracked panes except the ones in my bedroom.  Another man came last night and, at last, (hallelujah!) we have an internet connection again.
Challenges: finding B a dance school, building a loft over the dryer so Donal has a bed, converting one of the boy’s bunks to an extra long bed for Neal, finding a bed for me so I’m no longer sleeping on the floor in a pile of blankets and cats, reattaching the doorknob, and finding a nearby grocery store.  (surely there must be one, unless Walmart ate it.)
Blessings: The wonderful going-away party.  Thank you all so much!!!  I used to watch “This is Your Life,” and I always thought it would be really neat to have all the wonderful people in my life come on a show and hug me.  The party was sort of like that.  It helped bolster me against the fact that I am now in a new town/new church/new homeschooling group where no one knows me, trusts me, or really has any use for me (yet).
More blessings: the landlord replaced the fridge when it blew out on Christmas.  Donal found a scout troop he likes.  There are two Christian dance schools here.  Neal loves his job.  Everything we own fit into the house or the garage here, and someone is looking at our old house.  Please pray they’ll buy it!  We’re so ready to move on.
I’m sure that there are things I wanted to say that I forgot, but I’ve got to go pick the pb&j crusts off the floor, put away the groceries Neal bought last night, and get my children organized.
Love to all!

Looking lived-in

6 01 2008

       I picked up a women’s magazine in a friend’s house.  It fell open to an interior decorating article, which of course I read.  I’m kind of decorating-challenged.  What some women do almost instinctively I really have to work at, so I always enjoy books and articles on the subject.  
       One thing this article kept stressing was the importance of little homey touches to make a house feel “lived in.”  Personally, I would assume that any house containing people would automatically look lived in about three weeks after the decorator left with her last pay-check.  But maybe not.  Maybe there are people who need help to keep their environments from looking cold and sterile. 
       To help people like this (none of whom, I assume, are reading my blog) I looked around my house for “homey touches” that let you know that my house is “lived in.”  I found:

– A glass jar on the window sill containing two halves of a dead bumble bee and half a banana.  (Supplies for the afterlife?)
– A Lite-Brite work in progress, spread across the kitchen floor.  
– Sixteen shoes consisting of six pairs and four singles jumbled in the hallway.
– An eraser stuck full of straight pins and with eyes drawn on it posing by the pencil sharpener.
– Plastic dinosaurs eating each other in the houseplants.
– Two yellow marbles rolling around at the bottom of my waterbottle.
– Three tubes of toothpaste, nine toothbrushes, two hairbrushes, and two soaking wet towels strewn over the bathroom sink.
– All the boards but one taken out from under the bunks and forming matchbox car ramps in the boy’s bedroom.
– About sixteen flowers cut out from magazines and taped all over the headboard of my daughter’s bed.  Scissors, tape & scraps left on her night table, of course.
– Shredded scrap ends of yarn, snipped with scissors and strewn like confetti over the doormat, steps, and front sidewalk.
– About twenty rubber bands snapped around various places (door knobs, handles, stuffed dog necks, lamps, books, videos, cups, and the baby’s wrist.)
– Hemp rope tied around the legs of one of the beds.
– A few miscellaneous odds and ends: a christmas ornament hung from a nail on the wall, a rolled-up hammock in the living room recliner, a cup full of pencil shavings on the wardrobe in the hall, half a hot dog in the diaper bag, tweezers hanging from a blind cord, a plastic snake coiled up under the computer desk, etc.

Sometimes I feel like I live in an I-Spy book.  You never know where you’re going to come across the barbecue tongs, an earring, the screwdriver, two grapes, or a knob off the stove.  One of the more common exchanges you hear around this house is “Mom, where is my…?” and the response, “Oh, wait- I just saw that somewhere. Let me think…”

 If you wanted to be negative you could say that my house is messy and chaotic.  But look on the brighter side- it’s also a treasure hunt!  You never know what you’re going to find if you look under the couch cushions or empty the pockets in the laundry.  For about a week the house was infested with acorns.  Every time I swept or tidied I filled my pockets with acorns.  I threw out every single one I saw, but still they rolled out from under book cases and peeked out of shoes.  They appeared in the dirty dishes and floated in the bathwater.  I could have sworn they were breeding in the walls like cockroaches!  But one day they just disappeared, and I haven’t seen an acorn in months.
       I like to think of it as one of the mysteries of children.  Things appear and disappear.  Everyday objects get turned upside down, used as vases, put on heads, decorated with stickers, or made into caverns for lego robots.  Few things stay where they’re put, but in return things that you had forgotten about suddenly appear.  And things you wouldn’t have noticed in their proper place suddenly speak to your heart or grab your attention.  The little sock, the blue bead, the single crushed dandelion, a cut-out heart, a penny, a ring.
         Childhood isn’t one big thing- it’s an accumulation of little things: little handprints, little moments, bubbles, kisses, melted candy in pockets, sand in tiny blue shoes, little dolls and little rocks, tiny treasures that look like junk to adult eyes.  Childhood is bottle caps and chocolate coins, pink shoelaces and barettes that look like stars, sparkle lip gloss, yo-yo strings, live frogs and dead spiders, soap shaped like a seashell, holes chewed in the bread bag, cheerios under the rug, tears on long eyelashes, and a small hand wrapped around your finger.
        Little children are experts at living life to the max, being in the present, and taking it one day at a time.   Maybe the reason these young, hip magazine people are having trouble with sterile decorating is because there is very little real “home” in their homes.  In lives full of jobs, restaurants, night clubs, travel and social climbing, there’s no room for children, the messes they make, and the life they bring.  And though sometimes I may pretend I envy them, with their nice clothes and nice cars and clean houses, I don’t really envy them.
        I’ve made my bed and I’ll lie in it, cookie crumbs and marbles and spit-up and all.  Yeah, definitely looking lived-in!