Together we will get through

The gym closed today.

I found out about it late last night when my pastor commented on Facebook. He said something like the one time he was thinking about going to the gym it was closed.

Exercise is a big part of the keeping myself sane routine. Addiction might be taking it a little far, but… More than anything I’m a routine addict.

Our trip to Florida we were planning for the end of the week is pretty much over.

The kids went to school today, but now the schools will be closed until at least the middle of April. My daughter works at Culvers and her work hours for this week have been cancelled.

The world is ending, yet here I sit calmly. I don’t feel like my anxiety is any more or less than normal. I’ve been dealing with a high level of stress and chaos since I was born. How is this any different? My husband is doing well too. We are not freaking out or buying massive amounts of toilet paper.

Yesterday I felt hopeful for a small amount of time that maybe our trip would still happen.

Today I am preparing for isolation. I am no stranger to it. I wish I had some control over it, but I do not. I like being alone. But I fear for the ones who do not.

I spent three years from 8th to 10th grade homeschooling. I rarely saw people outside of my family, much less my friends. That was before the days of cell phones. Right now we are safe. I’m not sending my children off to war. We will get through this.

Although I wish I could start my census job tomorrow. I would have more of a chance of finding people at home. Once this is all over, no one will want to stay home again.

Tomorrow starts the first day of the new normal. By the grace of God, structure, and routine will get us through. This might be the best memories we have together as a family.

We will be forced to get through this together and together we will get through.

Gratitude week 6

  1. People are still complimenting my hair. I receive the most compliments after a sweaty workout or when I have unbrushed hat hair. What!!?!
  2.  My son had a dentist appointment this week. As an adult, I passed along the reminder I received on my phone. I DID NOT tell him when to get up or where he needed to go (thinking he would know and I would be the annoying mother hen if I did so). He ended up getting lost and was going to be late. I called the dentist office as a courtesy…my son got lost and will be a few minutes late. The lady who answered was really snippy with me and said he needed to reschedule. This freaked me out because I worry a lot about my kids being late. Thankfully, when he got there about 10 minutes late they still took him for his appointment. Despite all of my worry, everything ended up turning out fine.
  3.  My daughter Angel came home from college for a visit and spent the night on Friday. I haven’t seen her since Christmas Day.
  4.  The big fight between Arabella and Estelle is over. There is relative harmony in my house right now. There was even a brief moment this weekend where all five of my kids were talking and laughing together.
  5.  I am grateful to have a husband who is following his dreams. He is taking classes this weekend and starting a new career. I am really excited for him and proud of all his accomplishments. He really motivates those around him. It’s never too late to try something new.
  6.  I was grateful to watch Arabella and Clara perform at solo and ensemble this past weekend. I love to watch my kids perform.
  7.  I felt grateful to go on a date with my husband before he left. I was able to order a pizza with goat’s cheese and afterwards ordered dairy-free ice cream. The food was unbelievably good for being vegan/dairy-free. The ice cream was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Plus it was nice to go on a date alone with my husband. It’s been awhile.
  8.  I found a dress for my daughter’s college graduation. In a few months, my oldest will be a college graduate. I am excited for her future. She already has a job lined up and might be moving back to the area within the next year.
  9.  I am thankful to live close to the store. As I was making supper Friday night, I noticed one of the ingredients was rotten. I opened an unexpired canned good that was moldy inside. Thankfully I was able to zip to the store and back without having to eat too late.
  10.  I am thankful for my organization skills. I like to plan ahead and leave early. Although my mom and kids gave me some crap about it this weekend, things don’t always go as planned. I like to plan for that. You never know if you are going to get into an accident, hit a deer, or a random meteorite might hit the Earth (JK). The solo and ensemble event was at a school I was not familiar with. It took awhile to find a parking spot. There weren’t many signs directing us to the right sites. Then last minute, both of my daughter’s events were moved up to an earlier time. I got us there with less than 10 minutes to spare. You’re welcome! It takes a lot of organization to effectively manage a large family.

New year, knew me

It’s a new year and I can see clearly now that it is 2020. Literally! After I wrote the post about getting a sliver underneath my fingernail, the next day I went to the eye doctor. I am now sitting on the couch writing this post wearing my new bifocals. BIFOCALS!!

Seriously, I feel so old. The only thing that could make me feel older now is being a grandparent or having a child get married. My daughter Angel did not get a ring for Christmas. Okay, that might not exactly be truthful. My daughter did get a ring through her nose. She got a botched piercing the week of Christmas and ended up having to get it re-pierced this week. But nothing from her boyfriend.

I’m not going to lie, 2019 was a really tough year. I’m glad to say good riddance to it. Just a quick recap..I started the year off losing my job. I had a very important piece of jewelry stolen from me. I found my ring in the pant pocket of my son Alex’s friend while I was doing his laundry since he was practically living with us. We said he was no longer welcome here. We were worried about our son graduating from high school. Thankfully he did.

Then we had a nice break sailing with friends in the BVI. There was some smooth sailing. The year didn’t totally suck!

My daughter left home for good. Although Angel was away at college, she always came home over summer and holiday breaks. My baby got her driver’s license. We decided to fill our emptying nest with two foreign exchange students. It’s been an adjustment going from two to four teenagers in the house.

My husband and I had some marriage issues over the summer. We were arguing a lot. For the first time in 22 years of marriage, I wondered if things weren’t going to work out. Thankfully we are both willing to work on things and it has improved.

I also had some health issues and watched close family members struggle with ill health as well. I ended up having to go dairy free and give up my favorite foods and drinks from allergies. This has been a real struggle for me. Despite not feeling the best, I finished my first 50k and plan to do another this year.

My husband’s hours got drastically cut at work and he started a new business. We are uncertain about our finances. I applied for a job working for the census and my husband might apply for another job as well.

Most recently, my dad really screwed up. The PG version I am telling the children in our house is that grandpa and grandma might get a divorce. What really happened is more of an X rated version for a mature audience. I can’t really talk about it right now. The only people that know the full story are my husband and adult children.

In 2019, I finished my book. I got a lot of great feedback from the test readers. They both loved it (and also wanted to give me a lot of hugs and play dolls with me).

I hope that in 2020 I’ll have a clear vision for my life. I want to find meaning and purpose. Finding peace and joy would be an added bonus. I haven’t had a lot of that in my life. What I want more than anything is to keep writing. The funny thing is that I never wanted to write more than one book.

I have been struggling a lot lately over the holidays with depression. This whole situation with my parents has really been getting me down. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve hosted five parties. This weekend I’ll be hosting the foreign exchange student Christmas party. There will be somewhere around 30 people at my house that I don’t even know. I will be happy when it is all over. Having large groups of people over makes me feel stressed and anxious. It’s the cleaning, the cooking, and the cleaning again after everyone leaves and everything in between.

I don’t think it would be a big deal if I wasn’t already so stressed out about my parents. Then when nothing is going on, I feel bored and depressed. It’s not like I have nothing to do, it’s just that I don’t feel like doing anything.

I haven’t wanted to write a lot over the holiday time because I have been feeling so low. I think the holidays should be a happy time. I was rather disgusted with myself for being the Debbie downer, the victim, the person who’s life sucks although I have been blessed with so many things. It’s been very difficult to write about. It’s easier to write about past pains than the raw, fresh, gushing gashing wounds.

It’s my time of grief and sorrow. It’s just a season that I hope doesn’t last too long. But the clock keeps ticking. I wish with the changing of the calendar year that it would just end like the turning of a page. I don’t think it will end anytime soon, but it will end eventually.

New year, knew me.

Before the storm

My whole life just fell apart, again.

I guess I will start the Tuesday of Thanksgiving. Paul came home from several days of deer hunting empty handed. A storm was rolling in on Wednesday. I told Paul that Angel was coming home from college right before our Thanksgiving meal on Thursday due to the weather. Boy was he surprised when she came waltzing through the door on Tuesday night. Who doesn’t love a good surprise?

Wednesday went by in a blur. Thanksgiving morning most of the household woke up early to participate in a race. I ran 5 miles as fast as I could muster and was happy with my time. It was a cold day, but not too bad for the end of November in Wisconsin.

After the race, Paul and I ran into an old friend of ours. She was still drunk from the night before. Her eyes were bloodshot and she reeked of alcohol. But she ran the race. She told us how a mutual friend’s teenage niece just died in an alcohol related accident. We promised to get together sometime but probably never will because we chose different forks in the path.

Then we went home and started getting ready for the 20 plus people we were having over that afternoon for the holiday. Just a quick word of advice if you are thinking of running in a race and then throwing a holiday party the same day. DON’T! I was so dead tired even though all of the guests brought a dish to pass.

Paul’s step-dad Darryl brought over his new girlfriend. She was wonderfully nice and I’m not sure how he is planning on keeping her. I introduced her to my best friend Cindy and my mom piped in that she thought she was my best friend instead of Cindy. No, mom, no.

Plus there was the special diet. My autistic brother Matt has tons of food allergies. My youngest daughter Arabella wants to go into culinary arts and wanted to make a lot of the food for the celebration. How could I say no to that? One of the dishes that Arabella made was cheesy potatoes. My mom got upset with her for not setting aside some of the food for Matt before she added milk to the recipe. Don’t you love your uncle Matt, Arabella? Matt, Arabella doesn’t care about you.

I never asked Arabella to set aside some potatoes. I was going to make sweet potatoes, but as I was preheating the oven I was told that we needed the oven for the turkeys. I wish my mom would’ve just said good job to Arabella for cooking. If you don’t like how I do things at my house, why don’t you do it then??

We also had our new pastor over with his family. They didn’t have anywhere to go. I asked them to bring desserts and none of those were dairy free either. That is the thing about being dairy free, I don’t want to ask people to make things to cater to me. My mom told the pastor’s wife that I was dairy free and she felt bad all evening. But other than a few hiccups, things went fairly good.

The next day we went out with a million other people trying to find that perfect tree. We finally found it after trudging another 5 miles through the mud! The girls spent the rest of the afternoon decorating the house.

We heard a huge snowstorm was blowing in for the weekend. Angel was thinking of making the 4 hour trek back home Friday night, a day early, but she lost her glasses. The following morning, the snow started to fall earlier than we thought. Angel found her glasses, but we weren’t sure if she was going to be able to make it back home safely.

She decided to stay. We were so excited for a snow day. We could watch movies and play games. But there was a break in the storm and she decided to leave while she could. She was scheduled to work all day Sunday and didn’t want to miss work or class on Monday if she stayed. The rest of the day was a real downer. It was the first time she was home since school started again and we hated having her leave after we thought she was staying.

Sunday morning the storm raged. We awoke to no power. The power was off and on all day. That was the night the real storm came in and changed my life. I don’t think things will ever be the same. It almost seems like time didn’t exist before it happened. The things I thought were big all just drifted away until there wasn’t anything left but the weight of the heavy snow.

My first 50k

I did it! I finished my first 50k.

The ultra marathon started at 6 AM. I got up at what would’ve been 3 AM my time at home after a restless night’s sleep.

It was still dark when the race started. I borrowed my cousin’s headlamp. I thought that I could just use my cell phone, but was told that a headlamp would work better. I never ran with a headlamp before. It was disconcerting and took some getting used to. I felt like I was running with a strobe light.

I felt tired and had stomach issues for three quarters of the race despite my best efforts to get enough rest and not eat anything that could possibly disagree with me. My body likes routine and kept cuing me that something was off. I did a lot of walking dragged along by my cousin who was always in front of me. He kept encouraging me along and everyone else along the path.

As the day grew long and the end neared, we greeted everyone and were greeted with a great job, keep going, looking good. It was a difficult course despite near perfect weather conditions. I saw runners vomit, covered in dirt, lay on the ground, and fall in front of me. Some were running the 100 mile race that started the afternoon before. Some looked strong and others looked like they were barely holding on.

Every muscle in my body screamed at me to stop after I ran the length of a marathon. My feet ran along in a slow shuffle. In my mind my movements were exaggerated. I thought I was picking up my feet high enough to get over several roots on the trail. Twice I tripped and caught myself from falling. My body jolted in a pain so fiercely never experienced before.

There was no way I could keep up to my cousin after that, but he wouldn’t finish without me. He told me how strong I was and to keep going. The closer I got to the end the more my mind told me just the opposite. I sucked at running and was despicably weak.

Meanwhile, Paul and my cousin’s wife followed us around routing for us. They stopped in the middle of the woods for a picnic lunch which prompted a runner to ask them if they were real.

C’mon now, we only have a 10k left…now a 5k. After another mile, we just had 3 miles to go. Wait you told me that a mile ago. Are you lying?

The last two miles were the hardest. It took everything I had to just keep walking. I never ran that far before. I didn’t trust myself to run. I felt like I was going to pass out. But I was determined to finish even if I had to crawl. My cousin said he would carry me across the finish line if he had to, but I said I would never allow for that.

My cousin is a very kind and caring person. He stopped to offer help to everyone he saw struggling on the path.

Finally we were about a mile away. I saw some fortune cookies left on an almost empty snack table. In only one package, there were two fortunes. I convinced my cousin that those were for us.

Ability will enable a man to get to the top, but character will keep him from falling.

Seems fitting, I guess. I am quite the character.

Finally, the end was in sight. I ran with all the strength I could muster across the finish line.

Fortune cookie wisdom #20

Courage comes through suffering.

This fortune cookie blew away from the rest and was found the same day I found my lost ‘I am courageous’ sock. I only wore the socks once before losing one in Paul’s shirt for a couple weeks.

It seemed like a sign of some sorts. But what does it mean?

What does being courageous even mean? The dictionary defines courageous as not deterred by danger or pain; brave.

I would like to think that I am courageous. In the next couple weeks I am planning on doing courageous things.

This weekend I am running my first 50k. It takes a lot of courage for me to do this and probably will entail a lot of suffering too. There is no guarantee that I will succeed. I am very fearful that I might not be able to achieve the goals I’ve set in place for myself.

Within the next two weeks I will be submitting a 45 minute presentation for a local autism chapter about what it is like to be a sibling of someone with autism. I really need to put myself out there about the most difficult experience in my life. It is going to require a lot of courage. I am finishing my book on what life is really like with a disabled sibling. I’ve had to face my scars and demons.

As an extra test to my bravery, over the holiday weekend a filling fell out. I went to the dentist today to get it fixed. They said I could probably do it without being numbed. I would rather run a marathon with a broken leg. I was horrified and then they said I could get anesthesia just in case. But I decided to brave it despite my fear.

Then this past weekend I spoke to my dad about God. I don’t feel like he has much time left. For some reason he has softened his heart toward me lately. He told me that he loved me for the second time in my life. The first time was on my 18th birthday prompted by my mother. Then this weekend I asked him to come out and sit with us, his family, by the campfire. Surprisingly to everyone, he did.

Before this, I justified to myself that someone else should talk to my dad. My brother Luke sat down with my parents awhile back and aired out all of his grievances. It seemed like a good thing. I thought that he was getting along great with my dad. I felt like Luke is a better Christian than I am so he could carry the weight of talking to our dad. But my eyes were opened to the fact that Luke and my dad do not get along.

My mom is a devout Christian and my dad is a Christian bashing atheist. I bet you can guess how that worked. I believe that the best marriages are of those that have the same religious beliefs. Because, we the children, have to take sides. I feel the need to talk to my dad about God. I most likely wouldn’t have that burden if both my parents were Christians or atheists if I followed their beliefs. It causes a lot of disharmony and stress.

So on the way out of the cabin this weekend I said to my dad that I hope he finds God before God finds him. My dad laughed and said fat chance. I knew that my words probably did no good for him, but it released me. I did everything I could and if it is the last time I see him I will know that I did not leave a coward.

I don’t think that I am more courageous than the average person, but I am trying to be brave when there are demons to slay and fears to conquer.

 

Life’s good

I feel happy with life right now. It’s been a long time since I felt this way. Things are finally coming together. I think I actually slept two full nights this week following a week of insomnia and nightmares.

What makes me happy is that everything is coming together for my family.

My daughter Angel just started her last year of college. She is dating a guy that I would be happy to call my son-in-law. I think they might get engaged soon. Her future looks pretty exciting right now.

My son Alex just started tech school. He is joining a band that I approve of. It’s all I can ask for right now.

Things are going better than expected with the foreign exchange students. I have been busy getting them registered for school and trying to do all of the fun stuff around here before summer ends. Weather wise, it pretty much has ended. It’s been a cool and rainy summer.

Arabella is doing good with her diet and one of our foreign exchange students offered to host her as a foreign exchange student next year. Things are coming together.

Paul is starting a new business, not a start up company this time but a franchise. We are getting along better now than we have before.

I am excited and nervous to be traveling to Michigan next week for my first 50k. Paul and I are taking the car ferry across Lake Michigan for the first time. I love planning trips, even if they aren’t very far. Off to another adventure which I’ll be sure to tell you about.

I don’t know what the future brings. But as for right now life is good. I’m going to hold on to that as long as I can.

Expectation reflections

It hasn’t been too much of an adjustment having 4 teenagers in the house.

Our foreign exchange students have been very quiet and friendly. When we told others of our plan to have 2 foreign exchange students, they cringed. Most shared horror stories of wild teen exchange students that made every effort to sneak out and party. So far there haven’t been any problems.

It’s probably because they are not comfortable being family yet. There aren’t any fights or talking back. We are all on our best behavior, no belching or farting. My husband has been giving them special treatment. He is buying the foods they like, taking them to places they are interested in going, asking if they are too hot or too cold. It’s hard not to treat them like visitors.

This is going to sound insane, but I felt a twinge of jealousy. It triggered something inside of me that reminded me of my mom’s special treatment of my autistic brother Matt.  Everything in our house revolved around Matt and what he wanted. I honestly wasn’t expecting to feel that way.

Of course, the students paid a lot of money to have a great experience here. I want things to be wonderful for them. Things are going really well. The girls don’t seem to be too homesick. If anything, at times they seem a little bored. But I’m sure that will change once school starts and they make friends.

It’s fun because they get excited about all of the little things, like going to the grocery store. They eat differently than we do. They use their knife and fork to cut things more. They cut up grilled cheese sandwiches instead of just picking them up and plunking them in their soup like I did.

Today Clara made homemade German potato salad for our friend’s Octoberfest party tomorrow. Real German food!

I also didn’t realize how much Hitler and the nazi’s were the butt of American jokes in TV and movie comedies. Awkward! But none of us were alive when any of that happened. If anything, countries that were once at war can be friendly towards each other again.

Hopefully in the next couple weeks the girls will come out of their shell a little. As for right now, I’m really happy that things are going better than I expected.

A new family

Last night our foreign exchange students arrived, Clara from Germany and Estelle from France.

I felt anxious all day. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

I worried. Would our new “children” like us? What will this next year be like?

My oldest two children are not as excited about it as I am. I think they think I’m replacing them. But maybe in a way I am. They are adults and don’t need me being a mother hen to them anymore. They are off living their own lives like they should be.

I am excited about this new adventure, but as with anything new a little frightened too.

I wonder what it would be like to see everything for the first time through their eyes. Maybe even for us, the old will become new again.

I hope it is a wonderful experience for all of us.

 

Who’s your daddy?

By far the strangest thing that happened last week was finding out who Paul’s dad is.

A couple months back, a relative on Ancestry emailed asking how Paul and him were related. I replied back that I didn’t know and gave him what info I had.

Last week I got a message on Ancestry from this man stating that he thought he knew who Paul’s father is. There were some things that added up and some things that didn’t. Then I saw the man’s picture and was convinced that he was Paul’s dad.

My mom and I were working on our genealogy project but had to leave before I could show her the picture. I promised I would login and show her when we got back.

When we got back, I logged into Ancestry preparing to show my mom the picture of who we thought was Paul’s dad when I noticed I got another message stating that the mystery was solved. Paul’s relative found out who Paul’s dad is and it wasn’t the first guy. He left me his phone number to call for more info. I was debating whether or not to call him right away since it was after 10 PM his time. But I figured I would give it a try.

I found out that Paul is this man’s second half cousin. His cousin only met Paul’s dad once when he was little and didn’t know him well. We talked for an hour, then I decided to do some more digging. Paul’s dad passed away in 2010 at the age of 62. I haven’t been able to figure out the cause of death yet, but I did find out that his dad has 4 other children.

Paul has 4 siblings! He has nieces and nephews. He has a whole family that he didn’t even know about. So I did what any average person would do in 2019. I stalked them on Facebook. I tried to gather as much info as I could about their lives.

From what I gathered, one of the siblings seems to be doing fairly well. The rest seem to struggle. His youngest sibling had some trouble with the law. I think that Paul was probably better off not knowing his dad. At his funeral, they didn’t want flowers. They just wanted money to put towards the cost of his funeral expenses.

I only saw 3 pictures of his dad. In his obituary photo, he was wearing a tux and in a church maybe for a wedding. Paul looks nothing like his dad. There was a picture of his dad holding a fish. There was a picture of his dad hooked up to machines in a hospital bed. I didn’t get the feeling of a tight close knit family. There weren’t any smiling family photos. He didn’t leave behind a grieving wife.

When Paul got home later that evening, I had big news to share. I found your dad. He is dead. By the way, you have 4 siblings. As you can imagine, it was all very overwhelming. But a couple of days later, Paul said he felt closure. The mystery has been solved.

I’m not sure what we will do with the information, but now we know.