Sunday, January 28, 2018

It Is Well...

With my soul.

Prologue: This blog post has been sitting-half finished- as a draft for MONTHS. Partly because, as we travel to different areas, my internet connection isn't good enough to do much on the computer, I'm busy, I constantly drive long distances....but I think if I'm honest it's partly because it's just so dang hard. Most of the time I choose not to think about the fact that my grandma isn't sitting in the chair near my grandpa's chair anymore...

This summer my grandma was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that had metastasized. No treatment. Just make her as comfortable as possible.

I was extremely close to my grandma. She was like a second mom to me. My mom is great, I just got the best of both! She came to help me with 3 of my 4 newborn babies. I'm very grateful for all the time I had with her as I know most people don't have their grandma at age 41. But man I miss her! I haven't lived close to my grandparents for a long while but we were always close where it mattered. In our hearts.

In so many instances, grandparents have so much to give. When they were the parents, when their own children were young, they had all the stresses of that life. Earning enough money to keep things going, working full time (I know my grandpa worked 2 and 3 jobs at times!), keeping the house clean, making the kids mind their manners. Being a parent is stressful. It's the best and hardest job in the world I believe. If you're doing it well.

When grandkids come along you have one job really. To love them. It's not your responsibility to make sure they eat their broccoli. You get to give them ice cream. You don't have to make the hard decisions and discipline nearly like you do as a parent (sure, grandparents should come alongside parents and support them in their responsibilities, but it's just that. Support. Not your full-time responsibility.)

Anywho, my grandparents embraced this role. I'm quite sure the grandma I remember is not the same as the mom my mom remembers. Does that make sense? My mom was the baby of 3 kids. All born within about 5 years. Three kids in five years. My mom likely remembers an exhausted mom. One who didn't have much time to be silly or just sit and talk. While we didn't do that often, it did sometimes happen.

I remember taking a walk with her one time and she taught me how to "skip a stick" (you make it skip as you kind of push it along).

I remember her driving me to church once. My grandpa always drove. Always. She had a license but she didn't drive. And she drove in the grass. I apparently reported this to my grandpa. We laughed about it til...the end.

I remember that she knew when I asked for crushed ice, I likely had strep throat.

I remember that my friends and I would build tents out of her chairs and sheets in the living room on Saturday. Her one day to clean (she worked full time)

I remember that when we went out to eat, I would sit reeeeal close to her when her salad came and say "we share, right Grandma?" Funny, I don't ever remember her asking for my food?

I remember when we moved a thousand miles away when I was 13, it was the hardest thing ever. I'd spent every weekend with my grandparents since I was an infant. (That is, during the times we didn't live with them-which we did for many of the years.)

I remember her standing at the kitchen counter always cutting a piece of fruit and offering it to me.

I remember that if I hated what was for dinner, she would make me macaroni and cheese.

I remember when I had my first baby, she came the day before. When we came home from the hospital and the baby wouldn't stop crying (I think she was broke!?) my grandma and grandpa sent me and my exhausted husband to bed. I was protesting that I would need to feed the baby. She won. Best sleep I had for another year.

I remember when the screaming baby was screaming (get the theme here?) and she was trying to help me and give guidance without bossing me around, she said "She's your baby, Cara." (I had asked if I could give her mylicon to try to make her stop crying.)

I remember when she pulled out of our driveway when Lindsay (my first) was a week old. I was terrified and emotional and...terrified!

(for the record, my mom would have loved to have been there for the baby's birth but my brothers were in school and, see? She was the mom! She had to do what HAD to be done.)

This past summer was the hardest thing ever. Harder than when we moved away. Harder than when she would visit and then have to leave. Harder than when they pulled out of my driveway and left me with this baby that I didn't know if I could take care of all by myself (Harold had to work).

Because this time, she needed me. This time it was me taking care of her. This time it was me saying goodbye to my grandma. My grandma. Ovarian cancer (any cancer) sucks. It made her waste away right in front of our eyes. It tried to take away her dignity. It didn't win, but it sure gave a heck of a fight. Watching her lay there in the hospital bed at home, with oxygen constantly motoring into her frail body (where did that frail come from? She was never frail before?). Watching her heart beat like mad through her do you reconcile that? I was blessed to be able to spend several days helping to care for her right at the end. I've beat myself up many times and wished I could go back to redo my leaving. I left a few days before she passed away. We didn't know how long it would be. Hospice seemed to think it would take longer. I couldn't stay forever. But I wish I'd have stayed a little longer.

It's been 7 months since the horrible day my cousin's wife texted me to let me know exactly when she passed into the arms of Jesus. In that time, I have never once grieved for my grandma. She's fine. It's us. My grandpa in particular. The thought of him sitting there alone. It was months before I could talk to him without crying-and trying to hide it so as not to make him feel worse. In those 7 months there has been a Thanksgiving, her birthday, Christmas, and their 68th anniversary. And we are coming up on a wedding. I know I'm blessed to have had so much time, but...

On a happy note, my grandpa, while going through a stack of papers looking for an address or something, found a little jotted note "It will all be worth it when we see Jesus". I think that's the legacy I'd most like to remember her by. Faith. Life wasn't always easy for her and I'm sure I didn't know the HALF of it. She never complained! Seriously, I wonder how long she had been in serious pain before anyone knew? Marriage wasn't always easy. Whose is? Motherhood? That's some hard stuff. But, she kept her faith and finished her race. Love you grandma!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Oh The Places We've Gone!

Ten years ago we bought a new van! (Well, almost new. I prefer not to buy brand new because I don't like losing $10k plus in the amount of time it takes to drive off of the car lot...but that's a whole other story!) We bought a 2007 Toyota Sienna. Dark red with gray interior. It's been our friend. It's even more than that, it's become part of our family! (this is not our actual van because *if* I took a picture of it when we bought it, it's long gone like 8 phones ago!)Image result for 2007 toyota sienna images red

I even made a "states I've been to" map for JUST the van!

Oops! I missed Nebraska! LOL, I know we didn't jump over it. The van is great, but not THAT great!

Yellowstone, Disney World, family visits, visits to friends. We've slept in it (on purpose!). We drove the last baby home from the hospital in it. So many memories.

Do you see those babies?? The ones in the top two pictures are now both taller than me. Lindsay will likely never go on another family vacation with us again.

And my van needs to be replaced. Does that seem significant at all? To anyone else? The van that we ALL went on vacations in will be gone. Replaced by a new one that we haven't all been in.

And I'm dragging my heels because it holds so many memories. I know, I know, I have the memories in me blah blah blah. But 10 years of our family life has happened in that van!

We've decided on another Sienna because it's been such an amazing vehicle (1 trip to the shop in all that time! And that was just recently at 200,000miles.) We probably don't need a van that seats 8 anymore, but it drives like a car. I can park it almost anywhere (unlike the huge SUVs) and tires are much less expensive, as are gas and oil.

It doesn't look quite as shiny as that first picture. Missing a hub cap from a blow out experience, the paint has seen better days. But for some reason, I don't look forward to the shiny new van like I *should*.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

So Many Changes!

My dear, humble, little blog. Oh how I have missed you! The last year or so has been such a whirlwind. So much craziness and so many emotions. Momentous occasions and not so momentous ones.

First, I'll start with this.

For years I've been intrigued by tiny living, tiny houses, schoolies, camper name it! I was just so interested in the how! How do you fit all you need in that space? (let me clue you in: with a family, you don't) How do you make a living "on the road"? (well, for us that's the reason we are doing it!) My family insists that I thought I should have one and live in one (a tiny home), but that's not true! I said I would have wanted to if I didn't have a large family! That's different. I just was curious. And they're cute!

Well, now I have one. Not exactly a "tiny house" but really it is. And you don't fit all your needed stuff in it. My poor van drags its behind because of the amount of "stuff" we keep packed in that sucker! I can't wait to share our solution as soon as we get it and get it "done"! My hope is that our "home" won't always look like this:
We have also had a son "graduate" from Boy Scouts to earn his Eagle Rank! And he was only 14!
Our oldest daughter graduated High School!!! (I made it! My first student successfully completed high school and is ROCKING college!!!!)
We sold the home we lived in for almost 12 years.

Which allowed us to pay off a mountain of credit card debt and start fresh! I do not miss that millstone hanging around our necks.

And our oldest daughter is now engaged to be married! To one of her best friends for years! The actual courtship/engagement has been a whirlwind but they've known each other for so many years that a long engagement is just not necessary.

I'm rushing through so many things here in this post that I hope to go back and visit them again. (Like why I'm a fan of young marriage-for some!) I hope to keep up a little better now that we have a new adventure to share about.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

It was the worst of days...

Then the news came down...

The Union had refused several offers from the company. The company would not be allowing them (and the rest of the "bargaining unit") to work until an agreement was reached. At first we were nervous but thought it couldn't go on too long, right? I mean, these guys needed a paycheck too, right? They couldn't live on their "principle" of what they were owed. (In case you haven't yet figured it out, I'm not a huge fan of the union.)
These men have families. Christmas was coming (it was October 11, 2014 when the lockout began). Bellies would get empty, bills would come due. What the company was offering was not unreasonable in today's market. At all. These guys had just been living in their protected little world for so many years (getting away with sleeping on the job and almost anything else because...union).
We would get little tidbits of information that would give us hope but it was all rumor and speculation. The company (understandably) could not talk to my husband at this point. Thankfully we had opportunities to earn money, some grocery store gift cards were given to us at church and we kept scraping by.
Eventually, we began to see this may not end the way we thought it would. My hubby started looking in earnest for another job (thinking if, by chance, his job became available again he would have the choice of which one to keep) but we believe that when perspective employers would see the name of the company he was employed by on his resume they would draw back. It was frustrating to say the least.
It is so hard to go through something like this where you see no point to it. No real reason. It's hard to lead your children in bedtime prayers every night for "daddy to get his job back" and have them eventually say "why do we keep praying for that? it's not going to happen." So hard.
And other people try to understand. They really do. They try to say the "right" thing. The thing is, there is no "right" thing. There is no magic words to make someone feel better.
I know some of the "wrong" things:
 :: it could be worse (you know, some people don't have a home or a family or food or they have cancer)
 :: just pray harder. if you name it you can claim it.
 :: God answers prayers of the righteous.
 :: I know just how you feel. 
 :: [fill in the blank] isn't that important.

Yes, I know it could be worse. It makes me feel awful enough to be complaining when I know there are people who are homeless or have horrible illness. And the second two? Just don't ever say those to a Christian struggling through something. Seriously. What they hear is "God doesn't favor me" "Why are my prayers not good enough?"  No, you don't know how we feel. We feel like we've been left flapping in the wind. We feel desperate to make ends meet. We feel at a loss of what to do next and where to go. And yes, vacations with your family and occasionally buying a fun thing or going somewhere fun are important. No, they're not essential but they are important. And watching your kids grow up without those things is HARD. I have 2 kids that are nearing adulthood. I did not want their last memories of our home life to be so poor that we had to weigh out if we needed toilet paper bad enough to spend on it. A little fun is a much better end note.

I lost friends during this time. Or maybe I just wasn't willing to put up with what I normally would. I love "being there" for my friends. I love when someone trusts me to listen to what is going on in her life. But when the same person is only willing to talk about her problems-even when you are in the midst of a just realize how one sided it is. And because you are so "empty" and have little patience, you just don't put up with it anymore.

But you learn what is valuable. (Don't get me wrong, I don't want any more lessons for a while!)
You learn who cares-and who doesn't. You learn to depend on God-not just in word but in your every day life. (Give us THIS day our daily bread...)

One friend in particular was priceless. This friend had not been my friend for long and I often thought "how can she stand me? this is all she knows of me! and it's not pleasant!" She is much younger than me but taught me some valuable lessons in friendship. She did not try to tell me how to feel or how much worse it could be. She would just agree that it sucked. Even if I tried to say, "I know, I shouldn't complain....yada yada yada" She would say, "no, this sucks". Then, if I was wallowing too much she would give me a practical "assignment". One day she told me to go to the local nature trail area and just sit. I didn't have to pray (she knew that wasn't possible for me right then and didn't judge me for it). I didn't have to do anything. Just sit. In the sunshine. And ya know, it helped!? There were little things like that occasionally that were just important to my survival and staying somewhat sane for my family. She prayed for me, but didn't preach at me. She didn't expect much from me. And when I came to a place where I was ready to pray and reach out to God again, she rejoiced with me. And encouraged me. (Don't get me wrong, we had silliness and jokes and fun too!)

To be continued....

The Best of Days

For our whole married life we have managed financially. Not thrived. Never extra, just enough (most of the time). Granted, we are not risk takers. We stay well within the box of ordinary financial decisions. Sometimes that limits you. And that's ok.
My hubby had a good job. For about 9 years, he went to work every day and came home every night. For the first time in our life, rain didn't mean a catastrophe to the budget, he was allowed to be sick without me silently panicking and then feeling horribly guilty, we took a couple of great vacations-without having to save for the vacation AND the pay he would lose. Get it? It was a good job. We didn't have health insurance, raises weren't plentiful and often the ends BARELY met. But in today's world, it was a good, stable job.
Then he really wanted to apply at a plant nearby. I was nervous. It was change. But a substantial raise. And overtime. We would finally be able to pull out of our "hole" a bit (debt is a sinkhole)
and maybe even get ahead. Health insurance. We are getting older and realize that eventually our bodies will need more tune-ups. But I was nervous. This plant has, in the past, had substantial layoffs. What if....
But we decided to just start the process to see what would happen. Praying for God to open doors if it was in His will for this change to happen. And each (difficult) step brought us closer to the inevitable. There were tests. Interviews. A physical. And he made it. The stress I could feel in him was difficult. I kept thinking, "once he gets the job..." but the stress only got worse. My husband is NOT an optimist. ;) Not even a little bit. So, he was sure that he would lose his new job within the 90 day probation period. I didn't think he would. There were, however, rumblings of the Union refusing to sign a new contract (while we were not union, it affected us as he was part of the same "bargaining unit"-in other words, their victories were to our benefit but their stupidity and failures were to out detriment). I wasn't worried about my husband's ability to perform his job. I was however worried about the Union's ability to play well with others.
In the meantime, I began to enjoy the financial benefits. I could get gas whether it was payday or not. I could run to the store to buy milk when we needed it-not wait for payday. I knew I could call the dr if we didn't feel was nice.

Sunday, November 20, 2016


In part of our new, crazy "normal" we went to a new church this morning. Because we don't always "live" at home now, I knew it was necessary. We are spending too many Sundays out of church. Not okay for us.
The preacher spoke on "Gratitude". Specifically, an incident in Luke where Jesus healed 10 lepers. What a horrifying disease. The most dreaded of the day. All of the men showed the good attributes of faith and obedience but only 1 showed gratitude. As they all ran off (in obedience) to the priest, they began to see the effects of Jesus's miracle on their bodies. The healing! ONE man, the Samaritan, ran back to thank Jesus. Not quietly, not with a high five, but loudly! He knew where his healing had come from. He proclaimed LOUDLY and fell on his face!
I've been meaning to tell our story. To proclaim my gratitude. To tell of the growth and healing we have experienced through some pretty hard things. And instead, I fear I got busy. Sure, I thanked God. And especially when I run, I just praise my God. But that's quietly. I should be proclaiming it. Sharing. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

I Have a Dream!

For real y'all. I have a dream. It involves this:

And lots of this:

(^^^^ that ^^^^ represents elbow grease aka work!)

I want to live in a skoolie. Do you know what that is? It's a home. Made out of a school bus. Cheaper than an RV and sturdier and CUSTOMIZED. There would be some things to figure out-I mean I have 4 kids. I get that this is a little crazy. I've done the sensible thing pretty much my whole life.
There are so many places I want to see.
I have wanderlust.
I have a desire to have my family all together more often.
I want a simple life. 
I also have a limited budget. (Very limited)
And ideas that go beyond an RV. RVs are awesome (we like to go look at them just for fun sometimes-makes a good free date!) but they are all so similar. And brown (inside). And so much money!!!!
 The good news is, my husband is completely on board if we figure out the logistics of earning a living and silly stuff like that ;).
The bad news is that at least 2 of my children who shall be unnamed (cough cough girls cough cough) are not a fan of my dream. They think I'm nuts. My 16 year old might just revolt if I shove her into a bus with her *gasp* family for a long period of time-let alone to live. In my mind though, it would be the coolest thing to have on your list of "things I've done"! She doesn't agree. I mean, they would have these awesome bunks with curtains for privacy. And little cubbies for books. I mean, it'll be AWESOME.
I don't know what the problem is?

Our skoolie:

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