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Thousands of Blessings


It’s the first afternoon of Christmas Break and I’ve already had to give the kids the “You can make this best break ever or the longest break of your lives…” speech.  It may not be long for them, but it sure may be for me! 

I could have worked this afternoon.  I got a call from Kville about an hour and half before I needed to go get my kids from school (early out today).  In the span of a few seconds I had to figure out whether or not I could make arrangements for them to ride the bus and if they would potentially kill each other in the 2 hours they’d be home alone.  I turned them down.  Yes, it would have been extra money, but the hassle of making last-minute alternative arrangements, plus the fact that I had no make-up on and am so, so tired today – wasn’t worth it.  I subbed twice this week at Pville – one day as a social studies teacher in the high school (plus a period in the psych class) and another as the lower elementary special education teacher.  Last week I was a high school computer teacher one day and an elementary PE teacher another. 

So, it’s good.  This is why I finished my degree and spent all that money and made those sacrifices.  And now I’m getting grief from David and sometimes Sam nearly every time I sub. The girls don’t seem to care one way or the other.  They say I’m never home and I am “sacrificing my family” (David).  Ugh!  It’s frustrating because the reason I have made the decision to sub is FOR the benefit of my family.  They do not know our finances and the need for me to bring in more income.  I could have chosen to work full time outside the home but because of the kids I am limiting myself to subbing so I can be there for them.  It’s change and it’s hard and it’s not what it used to be when I was home and so, I get that. I don’t think they realize how blessed we were that with the insurance money and Social Security, I was able to be home full time for the first few years.  A little appreciation would go a long way to making these changes easier on me! 

Enough complaining.  I’m really tired.  I think a good night’s sleep and getting to check off some of the things on my to-do list will be helpful for my attitude and outlook – it generally is.
I’ve had a few hard days with subbing (a certain 3rd grade class immediately comes to mind) but, overall, I am really enjoying it.  I like the variety,  I like that some days I am basically sitting for most of the day catching up on my reading (balanced by days where I have to tell myself to slow down on my water intake because there may not be a free moment for a bathroom break later!). I like that there is always a possibility of an unexpected day off and I like that  principals and school secretaries act  really grateful towards me!  I’m also liking meeting kids with interesting names.  One day I had a little boy named, “Iggy.”  I had to ask him what that was short for – “Ignatius” was his answer.  I guess that makes sense.  I hope he has a grandfather or an uncle or somebody that made it worth conferring that moniker on a helpless child…I have had several “Braxton”s which always makes me think of Braxton-Hicks contractions.  One day I had a “Wiley” and all day long I thought of him as “Wile E. Coyote.”  I had a little boy named “McKale” too – interesting spelling of what I assume is supposed to be “Mikael.”  I also had a “Dale” one day – I loved that.  I love, love, love those old names.  I’ve noticed an increase in the popularity of “Glen” for little boys, too,  which I think is adorable.  Anyway, I’ve got no shortage of names now to delight me and feed my curiosity!
The kids had their Christmas program a couple of weeks ago.  It was exactly what I expected.  All 3 of mine had speaking parts and they all did well.  But the whole program was so pointless and totally without depth.   I wouldn’t tell my kids this, but  I felt like I was really wasting my time that night.  That same evening, a post came through my FB feed of the Christian school from where I graduated, decades ago.  Their Christmas program had been that same evening and a representative of the school had posted the students standing up front on stage singing “Silent Night” while the audience joined in – just beautiful and such a far cry from my own kids’ program experience that night.  But we are where we are and until God directs me otherwise, I will continue to sit through these inane semblances of Christmas celebrations.  My mom sent me a hilarious “Baby Blues” cartoon this week.  I’ve read it about 20 times already and it makes me laugh every time.  Hammy tells his mom, “Our class it putting on a show!” To which she responds, “Fun!”  And then the boy hands her an information sheet that she reads out loud: Come one, come all to the vaguely festive, nondenominational winter-ish gathering…Hammy then quips, “You can get in for half price if you’re easily offended.”
On Dec. 7th, Sam came home from school and a little while after getting home, suddenly burst into the room, exclaiming, “I can’t believe I forgot it’s Pearl Harbor Day!” I found out he’s been watching war videos on YouTube.  One day he made me sit down and watch two videos about this obscure WWI battle between the Russians and Germans.  He was fascinated by the story (which I had never before heard) about how the Germans used chemical weapons, thinking they had killed all the Russians and were stunned the next day when the Russians, covered in bloody cloths as they coughed up their lungs, advanced on them and got the victory.  He just loves this stuff.  A year ago I gave him an Usborne book on WWI and 2 and he’s always got his nose buried in that thing.  There could be worse habits, I guess!  Maybe he’ll be like his brother and get a degree in history…
A couple of weeks ago one of the moms at the school got arrested…because she defecated outside the door of the elementary school.  How…what…why???  From what I hear, it wasn’t like she was sick and had an unavoidable, runny accident.  She dropped her daughter off and then shucked her pants and did the deed – getting caught on security.  I don’t really even know what else to say.  Other than, this is an indication of the crude levels to which our society has fallen.  I’ve been bothered for years about how poop has become “cute.”  You see poo shaped pillows and notepads and on clothing and etc. and while it is supposed to be cute, it’s really not.   I remember hearing not too long ago on the news about a case – it may have been here in Iowa, I’m not sure – where a school was continually finding human excrement on their track. Eventually, they set up a camera and figured out that it was the principal of their rival team.  I do not understand the mindset that would even consider such an action! I don’t know – perhaps this is a sign of my advancing age more than anything. Or maybe it's just that I remember a time when people carried a certain amount of privacy and dignity in their persons.
Well, Christmas Break is well underway.  The girls were getting nastier and nastier with each other tonight until I finally told them to get in the showers and we’re going to bed early.  They went upstairs to get their pjs and before I knew it Ellie was screaming at the top of her lungs that Lizzie had attempted to push her down the stairs and Lizzie was protesting that she hadn’t even touched her sister.  Sigh…Sam then commented to me that it might be nice if kids could have their own lawyers to settle these kinds of things.  Then he thought a little bit more and said, “But since we can’t count on either girl to always tell the truth we just have to go by the fact that Ellie has a past criminal record and go off of that.”  That boy cracks me up!
Ellie is now having to use deodorant.  She started stinking!  This is the same age Lizzie was when she needed it.  It makes me wonder, even though Ellie is quite a bit smaller, if she will end up with the precocious puberty, too.  Sam keeps sniffing his armpits, hoping to have a reason to deodorize, but so far, he just smells like a little boy.
Another racist incident at school last week for Lizzie.  This time in PE, Lizzie asked an obnoxious classmate to quit his screaming.  He immediately retorted, “Gonna make me?” And then before Lizzie could respond he added, “Oh, that’s right.  You can’t because you’re black!” And he repeated himself.  I contacted the teacher and she made the kid apologize the next day.  I’d prefer my pound of flesh, but I guess you take what you can get.  Lizzie kept insisting to me that her feelings weren’t hurt by this; she just thought the kid was rude.  Well, he was rude, but he was also being racist.  I don’t want either girl looking for offense, but they need to recognize racism when they encounter it, too.
This last time I saw my counselor we dealt with the subject of the Heywoods.  In preparation for this, I had been asked to write out some thoughts on forgiveness in regards to them.  And then, the doctor read my summary, which really dealt more with my feelings than it even did with all the offenses by these people.  She put down my notebook and said “Sarah, what these people have done to you is nothing short of pure evil.”  It felt somewhat validating to hear her say that, especially since she is someone with no skin in the game and because I respect her opinion so much.  It’s been so easy throughout this ordeal to second guess myself and to question my motives.  I’ve had to battle anger.  And overriding everything has just been this grief at losing that side of the family, especially Paul’s mom – grief at the loss of relationship and grief over the realization that the relationship I thought we had, we probably never did. And there’s some real sadness, too, in realizing that as much as they claim to love my children and me – they don’t, not really.  

My counselor said it appears I have done absolutely everything possible to remedy this situation. My heart is right and it's been out of my hands for a long, long time now.  But it still makes me sad.

It’s been a day…

I didn’t get half the stuff (or even a fourth) done I had intended.  All day long I was dealing with Ellie.  We had an incident where I found an empty can of an energy drink in my fridge.  Jonathan had left it here last weekend, unopened.  She lied and lied and lied about it.  It was one of those things where I didn’t actually catch her in the act but because of her past history of lying, I was pretty sure it was her, anyway.  Finally, when I began removing items from her bedroom because of her refusal to tell the truth she  confessed – only to tell me later that she was actually lying then because she wanted me to leave her stuff alone.  It is enough to drive a person completely insane!  There’s always the chance that I could be wrong on this and therefore, I’m bullying my child into confessing something she never did, but the chances are really, really high that it’s just another lie in a long history of lying.  On a good day, I remind myself that God created me to be her mother and as such, is equipping me for the job.  But today is not a good day.  Today I feel defeated and wrong and fearful of the future and more than a little hopeless.

It’s just been a hard month all around.  I have been surprised by the sadness I have felt over Paul.  It’s a sadness that really isn’t around a whole lot any longer – maybe around our anniversary or his death date, but that’s about it.  But this month it has just been more present and lasting.  Logically, I know that grief has no timetable and things like the holidays are a typical time for its resurgence.  But I still feel a bit like a failure, like I should be past this.  I should be stronger.  And yet – if someone else were telling me these things I would be so quick to tell them to be gentle on themselves.  But I’m not willing to do that for myself.

But I did buy myself a new Vera Bradley wallet tonight, so I guess that was kind of a nice thing to do for me!  My old one was getting pretty battered.  And it was 70% off, which is about the only way I’ll buy anything VB. 

And I also finally got into my massage therapist today.  My plan was to alternate months between her and chiropractor, which I did do for awhile.  But I got so busy this fall and I really didn’t want to spend the money.  I should have.  I have been in a lot of pain lately.  Today’s session was especially good.  It wasn’t all that relaxing – it felt more like physical therapy than a massage.  But the therapist explained that when I hurt my back two years ago it probably never healed right and because of that I’ve been walking differently which has put more pressure on my lower back and is causing the continued pain.  So she did a lot of different things today to my lower back and now I’ve got this therapeutic tape running up and down my back that I’m supposed to wear for the next week.  She printed out some exercises for me to do every day and I’m really going to do my best to incorporate them into my day.  I didn’t realize it was possible to feel better.  I had just gotten used to managing the pain.  She seemed like she really cares about me feeling better and told me she plans to call me in the next day or two to check in and see how I’m doing.  So, I’m going to do whatever it takes to keep up on my appointments with her and the chiropractor.  I’ve been toying with the idea of buying an exercise bike for awhile.  After talking to her today I’m wondering if maybe I should look for an incumbent bike instead.  From what I’m reading those are better for those with back issues and you can keep your hands free (all the better for reading).  You just don’t get quite as good of a cardio workout as you do with a regular exercise bike.  But I think my heart is still pretty healthy right now, anyway.
I want to end on a positive note.  It’s so easy to focus on the negative.  In my (single moms) small group this week our leader was sharing her recent experiences of caring for her elderly dad who just had a mild heart attack.  They had received some pretty discouraging news in the hospital and her dad, whom they thought was getting released one day, ended up having to stay for several more. She said as they were in the hospital room the cleaning lady came in and was kind of talking to herself.  But Laura, our group leader, heard her say something about “blessings” and asked her to repeat it.  The cleaning lady, who was African, I believe she said, in her broken English, then repeated, “All around us are thousands of blessings.”  Laura was telling us what an encouragement that simple phrase had been to her ever since and I have found that I have been pondering the thought since she shared Wed. night.  And really, there are thousands of blessings around me.  Some are in the way my needs are provided – my warm, paid-for house, my vehicles, all my little comforting possessions, my children, my friends…some are around my Christmas tree this year.  I was contacted a few weeks ago by Single Parent Provision  who told me that a church in Des Moines wanted a few families to bless this year with Christmas gifts and the staff at SPP thought of us and asked for Christmas gift ideas and so Wednesday, David drove out to their offices  while I was working and brought home gift after gift for us, all beautifully wrapped and now under my tree.  I feel guilty about that – there are people struggling to meet their basic needs and yet we are the ones blessed?  And then I am part of an on-line group of single mothers and every year the leaders host an “adopt a family” event at Christmas and they don’t always have enough sponsors for every family.  But this year they did.  Last Saturday two big boxes of goodies were delivered to my house for the girls – stuffed with candy and dolls and make-up and toys and books and all the little things that make little girls happy.  And then this week I received a card from Lone Tree, Iowa (I had  never heard of Lone Tree, Iowa) and I opened up the card to a letter that started, “Dear Sarah – you don’t know me, but I was a single mother for a very long time…” And out fell $300 from the card.

We have been given so, so much.  This year I have found myself beginning to long for the day when I can be the person sending money or wrapping gifts for families I’ll never meet.  I do not know why God has continued to bless us like He has.  Except, maybe it goes back to that old phrase I’ve heard, “Blessed to be a blessing.”  Maybe my experiences of receiving so much generosity means that someday I’ll be able to give out of my experiences – hopefully, financially, but also in other ways.  That’s one good thing that can come from this.  And beyond even that, I suppose it’s the continued recognition of God’s care as evidenced through the hands of others.  And that’s one thing I pointed out to the children when we got home from school Wed and they were oohing and ahhing over the extra gifts under the tree.  They wanted to know who gave them to us and for that moment I said only,
 They came from God.”

Later, I explained about the unknown church wanting to bless someone they didn’t even know.  But for that moment, they just needed to hear who the gifts were really from.

These are the things that I have to remember in the crunch and grind of my daily life – when my back hurts and my sore throat keeps coming back.  When I have ungrateful and non-understanding children.  When I can’t do it all and I don’t get credit for the little bit I can do.  When I find out my electric bill just shot up $30 a month and when the state of my bank account panics me.  When I’m lonely and think that maybe I should be looking a little harder for a replacement husband.  When third graders think that having a substitute teacher means they don’t have to sit down and shut up.  When my 7 year old has no apparent interest in building a good relationship with me.  When the principal texts me in the middle of my day because my 10 year just got nailed doing stuff on her school computer she wasn’t supposed to.  When the thought of growing older all alone scares me.  When another friend has announced her impending divorce and I just feel so, so sad. When my cats are making my suspended ceiling bulge because they’re so fat and like to get up in there and walk.  When my 5 year old carpet is starting to buckle.  When my child refuses to get out of the car for school because I didn’t drop her off in the pick up line like she wanted.  When life happens…

God is there providing

Thousands of blessings.


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