Nov 21, 2013

Little Known Facts

To lighten the mood a little I thought I would share some little facts about myself that you may not know.

1.  When the dishwasher is full I wash "hand wash" dishes and leave the "dishwasher safe" dishes that didn't fit in the dishwasher in the sink for another load because I'm that lazy.
2.  I increased my coat count by two this month.
3.  I've accepted that Matt is retiring in three years, but I am still holding out hope that he'll get a job in Europe so we can go back.
4.  When Gabe gets in trouble at school for things like running to the bus and talking in line on the way to lunch, I couldn't care less.
5.  I sent my kid to school today without a coat.  It was 30 degrees this morning.  He has two awesomely warm winter coats in the closet but I refused to let him wear one to school as punishment for leaving his school coat on the bus.  Thankfully, he found his other coat and will get to wear a coat to school tomorrow.
6.  I stole the cookie from the cookie jar.  Yes me.  That's who.
7.  I wouldn't trade a single day of my life for someone else's.  I feel super blessed to live each day under the grace God has given me, the love of my family and friends, and the adventures that seem to never end.
8. I voted for Obama in the Primaries in 2008.  However!!!!  I voted for McCain in the general.
9.  I believe the greatest gift I can give each of my students is a fresh start each day.  I will not hold the decisions of yesterday against them today.  Grace is my gift to them, math skills are a bonus.
10.  I do not want to be kept on life support if I'm a vegetable.
11.  My decision to follow Christ has nothing to do with heaven.
12.  I don't know why but I like hostess orange cupcakes, chocolate fudge pop tarts, and entemans glazed donuts.
13.  I struggle with judging people who are not independent.
14.  I haven't been checking my kids' homework.

Nov 19, 2013

Die as you live.

After asking a lot of questions of one of the hospice nurses the other day, she finally directed me to a pamphlet that I could read if I was interested.  It is called "What do Expect as a Loved One's Death Draws Near".  I opened the little booklet and the first phrase that popped out at me was this:

"Dying is a unique process.  How one dies often echoes how one has lived"

I think this message is supposed to be for for those who have a loved one dying (as the title of the pamphlet suggests).  It is important for them to expect many of the same personality traits in death as was existing in life.  If someone loves being surrounded by family, enjoys music or humor, they will want these things in their last days.  For those who prefer to hide their pain and suffering, they may not want ever present guests at their bedside.  Worriers in life will likely be worriers in death, complainers in life - complainers in death, strong and brave in life - the same in death.

I didn't initially read the pamphlet and understand that this statement was directed to those who are living about those who are dying.  I interpreted it a little different.
My first thought was that it was speaking to the one dying.  As in "be careful how you live because that is how you are going to die".

I think my interpretation could be correct to, though not the point of the pamphlet.

Maybe if you are full of life, love, joy and peace, your death will echo that.  If you are angry, conflicted, and nasty then your death will be that way too.  I'm not suggesting that if you are a good person your death will be painless, but I wonder if through the pain and fear of death a person who has always found joy and peace in their life with also find it in their death.  Those who are calm in life will have a "calm" death, those who are embattled in life with have a battle with death.

If my supposition is true, I'm going to have a really awesomely exciting death because my life is pretty fun.  Or maybe it will be spontaneous - I'm spontaneous.  I hope I laugh and cry, I hope I say ridiculously funny things whether on purpose or just because I lost my mind- because that too is how I live my life.  I do hope my death echoes my life...and I hope that for most of the people I know as well.

Live well, die well.  Is that a bumper sticker?

Nov 17, 2013

Sie haben Manna?

I drove up to Bellingham Friday night after work and spent most of the day Saturday with my grandma and grandpa.

It was a good day, an emotionally draining day, but good.

My grandpa and I had a short conversation that I'll never forget.

He told us he didn't know where he was or where he was going.
My aunt told him he was going to heaven.

He looked over at me and asked me "will you be there?"
I told him I would be, one day.
He then asked me "have you trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?"
I told him yes I did, then I asked if he did.
He said "yes I have trusted him for many many years"

I started to talk to him a little about what we'll do in heaven.  I suggested that maybe we would dance and sing.  I asked him to save me a dance.

He looked at me and asked "are we speaking English?"

It is those moments of absurdity intermixed with clarity that make tough moments a little lighter.  One moment we were talking about seeing each other in heaven and the next my grandpa and I were speaking to each other in German.

Since we both have a limited vocabulary in German, the conversation quickly turned to me asking in German where the toilet was, to which he responded in English that he didn't think we would need to worry about it in heaven.   Then I was telling him I'd like some fries, again in German, to which he responded in English "we haven't got any, only manna".  I asked if my manna could be fried and he simply smiled.

The sweet moment ended about as quickly as it began.  He spoke to a few other people in the room and on the phone and then his moments for the day were done.  He began to get very confused and upset, and with the help of a few nurses and an injection of something powerful, he slipped back into a quiet calm.

As I said good bye to him a few moments later I told him I loved him and kissed him on the forehead.

I don't expect that I'll see him again on this earth, but I am confident he'll save me some manna in heaven.

Nov 15, 2013

For My Boys

I've been praying a lot for my boys.  I've always prayed for them and with them but I have found that lately I've praying for them more.  More frequently and with more fervor.  I pray for Gabe as I drop him off at school, I pray for Eli as I leave him in the morning.  I find myself thinking about them often during the day and I just say a prayer for them.
My prayers are super eloquent.
Here are a few examples:

"Dear God (pause) Gabe.  Amen"

Sometimes I don't even know what to say, I just offer up that child to Him and trust that God knows my heart.  Other times, I get a little more detailed with my requests:

"Dear God...protect Eli. Protect his mind, his body, and his innocence...stop by Safeway and grab some eggs and gas up before my reward points expire...oh wait....and God bring a good friend into his life, give him joy, 
and let him know he is loved"

OK so maybe not so noteworthy but that's what I've got at the time.

A few years ago I found this prayer by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. His words are simply beautiful.  In a much more eloquent and focused way, he expresses what I desire for my boys. I'm going to start praying these words over my boys.

General Douglas MacArthur

"Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee….Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.
Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.
Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

Nov 13, 2013

This past weekend I went up north a bit to spend some time with my grandma and grandpa.  Gramps was sent to a hospice house on Friday.  His home hospice nurses had some idea that he was going to die soon and he was no longer able to be cared for at home so they opted for hospice care.  Someone came, loaded him up, and delivered him to a beautiful place where he could spend his last days on earth.
I went up to hang out with Grams because I knew it would be completely bizarre for her to be alone for the first time in...maybe over a decade or longer...and of coarse it would be painful for her role as caretaker to be gone, in an instant.
Grams is 92.  Holy cow we have some strong jeans in this family.  She cares for herself and, up until this past Friday, has been the primary care provider for her husband.  She has some help, thankfully family lives nearby, but she is there for the day in and day out, nitty gritty care-taking of her husband.
When I first saw her Saturday morning her eyes were puffy and red.  Who knows how many tears have fallen since Gramps left home.  She is confused about what her role is now, where she wants to be, what she wants to do, and I think how she is supposed to feel.  It is truly heart breaking to see her at moments, and then other moments inspiring.
My cousin and I snatched her up and headed down to the home. Now, a hospice house is probably supposed to be solemn and quiet, but hospice houses are probably not used to my family showing up.  We brought a little crazy with us and I'm quite proud of that.
My boys and their cousin were playing card games in the waiting area while sitting at a table and chairs intended for two year olds and sipping on hot cocoa.  My cousin and I were sitting with my Gramps and Gram in his room....laughing our heads off.  My grandparents are two of the most sarcastic people I know and don't let a little thing called a hospice house get in the way of that.
Gram seemed to want to test Gramps, to see if he still had his whits about him, so she asked him "who am I?" He responded "Mrs. Clause".  Then he said "ask me a stupid question and I'll give you a stupid answer".  Yep.  He's still got his whits.
Although there were very difficult moments, there were so many that were simply comical.  My grams can't hear what my gramps is saying, so she is answering questions he is asking with the most ridiculous answers.  My cousin and I are scared to death of seeing parts of Gramps we would rather not, so we are hiding every time he gets a little rowdy and starts kicking off his sheets.  The man thinks he needs to poo.  This is sad, but I'm telling you, when an 80 something year old man emphatically claims "I need to sh&t".  Its funny.  My favorite moment was when Grams started telling Gramps the names of all the people they know who had recently died.  I'm pretty sure she was trying to peer pressure him into dying.  Out in the hall my cousin and I made a deal that we wouldn't force the other to poo in our beds, we'll just push that morphine button as many times as required to keep the other knocked out and crapping our beds unconsciously.
My gramps didn't remember me most of the time I was there.  In fact, he told me that he saw me so little that he must treat me like a stranger.  Uh thanks?  It is true, since we lived out of state I wasn't around that much as a kid, and we haven't been back much for a visit as adults.  He kept saying he didn't know me.  It stung a little, but I just told him it didn't matter if he knows me or not, all he needs to know is I love him.
As I sat at the end of the bed I watched as Gramps took labored breaths and I was actually praying that I would witness the last one.  Nobody wants to die like that.  A prisoner in a body that won't move.  Spending your days and nights in a strange place...hoping that your time on earth would just come to an end.
This weekend was set up for sadness but it proved to be pretty darn entertaining.  My Grams got all wrapped up in her seatbelt and bust out with an "oh blimey" which made me laugh hysterically.  I was all warm and fuzzy from sampling every variety of apple liquor known to man at a local distillery....and ended up hopping on board an adult sized rocking horse and riding off into the sunset (or just rocking back and forth and realizing how fun rocking horses are) and I spent these tough days with one of the people I love most in this cousin Rhonda.  Nothing brightens a dark day like sipping coffee and chatting with someone you love...even in a hospice house.
So Gramps didn't die.  He had a free 5 day stay at the hospice house but it looks like he may outstay his welcome.  He is heading to a rest home in the coming days.  I'll visit as much as I can, and pray that his days on earth are over soon.

Nov 7, 2013

November 7

Forgive me if I've told this story before.
I relive it every year, at least a few times.
Ten years ago today my morning started early with a phone call from a panicked spouse.  At the time I was one of the FRG leaders for our unit and so my number was associated with information.  If people had questions about just about anything they would call me or one of the other leaders.
However, at 6:30 that morning I had no information.
The woman on the other end of the phone line told me a Blackhawk had been shot down in Tikrit and it was ours.
I was confused.
Our unit was running operations in Mosul not Tikrit. Why did she think it was our unit?
She said the news was reporting the aircraft belonged to 101st airborne.  Although there were over 200 aircraft in  theatre that belonged to the Screaming Eagles, I knew she was right, it was our company, it was one of us.  The 101st was operating out of Mosul, but our company, B. Co. Lancers, were rotating in and out of Tikrit to assist with another ground unit there.
Eli was just a little over a year old.  For some reason that day he was unbelievably good.  I can picture a million images in my mind from that day, but not a single one includes him.
Hours passed. I watched every single minute of every news report possible.  Waiting.  Praying.  Hoping.
By noon nobody had knocked on my door in uniform.
I finally decided it was safe to take a shower.
I decided it couldn't be Matt, too much time had passed without notification.  I thought that maybe the news was wrong, I hadn't heard a thing yet so maybe it wasn't our company.
I called the woman back who had awakened me earlier.  I wanted to let her know that I still didn't know anything and that was why I hadn't called back yet.
The phone rang a few times.
She answered.
I apologized for not calling back until now and explained that I still didn't know anything.
Her words shoot through my heart to this day.
"It's mine".
"What? What are you talking about?"
"They are here right now"
She passed the phone over to a mutual friend who told me the names of those who died that day.
I called Mika, who had been over earlier waiting with me, and another friend of mine Sara.  Both arrived at my house moments later.
I was asked to go to the house of another deceased soldier and wait with his girlfriend and son.
Everything after that is kind of a blur.  There were tears, a lot of tears.
Hours later I returned home, Mika and Sara were still there.  I shared the information I had gathered through the day, and we sat there numbly taking in the events.
Mika stayed with Eli and I that night.  Neither of us knew what to do with ourselves.
Early the next morning my phone rang...the voice on the other end was my husband.
It was by far the most difficult conversation he and I have ever had.
After a few minutes Tom got on the phone and I had a chance to talk with him for a few seconds before handing the phone off to Mika.
The sweetness of hearing the voice of a loved one in a difficult time is immeasurable.
Over the next few days I had the opportunity to visit each of the widows.  There were a lot of tears, and there was a lot of love and support.  We each shared our stories.
Through those difficult days we were all bonded together like never before and not again since.  We celebrated life, mourned the death, and prayed that the rest of the soldiers would soon return home.
A year later we gathered at the memorial dedication for the crew of the aircraft that was shot down.  We looked into the faces of spouses, children, and parents.  We gathered together and laughed and cried.  We remembered those few who gave their lives and cherished those who survived.
November 7th is a day I'll never forget.  Today is a day that Matt relives every year.  The names of those crew members, Scott, Kyran, Ben, and Paul, will never erase from our memory.
Today Matt and I will open up an old treasured bottle of Jack Daniels reserved for just this occasion, raise a glass to the fallen, say a prayer for the survivors, and take a moment to remember these few who paid the ultimate sacrifice for this nation.
All gave some, some gave all.  431.  Gone but not forgotten. Prost.

Nov 6, 2013

This is 37

Yesterday I spent hours making copies at work....and enjoyed it.  Not because I thoroughly enjoy standing by the copy machine for hours and hours but because I set a goal to do something ridiculous (make all the copies of student's worksheets I need for my 1-3 grade students for the rest of the year!) and I finished it!  It took hours and hours of pulling together all the materials, making packets by module and then making copies.  But woo hoo, task completed.
After that task was completed  I called my insurance company to chat about life insurance.  So many options and factors to consider.  Once Matt got home we rehashed everything and bammo made a decision we both feel good about.  So over the next month or so, we'll become the proud new owners of additional life insurance.  I'm keeping it a secret who our beneficiaries are.  I don't want anyone to get to excited about offing us in order to collect the kajillion dollars in insurance.  Whilst chatting with the insurance agent she asked how much I wanted to insure myself for.  I said "well that is up to my husband.  What do I care?  I'll be dead".  She wasn't amused and decided I was only worth about $250,000.  I'm such a bargain.
So, copies made, insurance plan underway, what's next to polish off my day of excitement?  I swear I'll make you one of my beneficiaries on my policy if you guessed this one correctly!  That's right Kirby salesman.  This sweet, perky, fun girl came to my door asking if she can clean my carpet.  I say sure.  I know it is a sales pitch, but I spilled a half gallon of white primer on Eli's carpet about 6 months ago and quite frankly I had nothing better to do last night, so I was willing to listen to her pitch if she could  try and get it out.  She said she'd be back in 10 minutes, and it would only take about 10 minutes.  Ha!  An hour later a dude shows up.  He was neither perky or fun and he was there to do the pitch.  Off we go up to Eli's room for the cleaning.  I lied and said I owned a Kirby before (Mika owned a Kirby so I was really just pretending I was her and answering questions as if I were Mika).  I know the Kirby works well but I sold it because it was too heavy.  (This really is Mika's answer).   I hoped since "I" was a previous owner of  Kirby he would lay off the pitch.  He didn't.  He vacuumed the floor, floor boards, cleaned the window, vacuumed the bed and finally got around to dry foam cleaning the carpet.  Long story short: my house is dirty either a: because I don't own a Kirby or b: because I don't clean enough.  I'm going with b, which is actually more embarrassing than option a, but it is the truth.  Matt came upstairs and told the guy he had to leave because the kids needed to go to bed (totally true, it was almost 9pm now which is way beyond a reasonable hour for a strange man to be in my house).
9pm.  Eli's room is looking quite clean, the carpet is a little better but not much, but now it smells like a wet dog.  Thankfully, Eli has a stuffy nose and couldn't breathe anyway so he was fine.  I kept coughing.  The guy asked me if I had allergies.  I said "no, your Kirby foam is killing me".  He doesn't respond.
He packs up the machine.  I tell him it took us 6 months to decide on what TV to buy so I surely am not going to make a decision over something that costs 3 times as much in a mere 2 hours.  He said "well that's a TV, its cheap and not important".  I said "uh that's my point dude.  If it takes 6 months to decide how to spend $1000 for something as meaningless as a TV how much more time will it take for us to decide on a vacuum that cost $3000."
He still didn't get it.  I suppose that is why he is cleaning carpets for free.  Not a mathematical equation that makes sense.
I kicked him to the curb, turned off the porch light, and headed in for a glass of wine.
It was a pretty good day.
Copies, life insurance and free painted carpet cleaning.  This is 37.

Oh I just reminded myself...big plans for Saturday: learn to knit.