Friday, July 30, 2010

Our House, Is a Very, Very, Very Fine House...

This month marks my two year anniversary of blogging. A few things have changed in my life since that time.

When D was in hospice last summer, he asked me to wait for a year before I made any major decisions or changes in my life. I've spent a year trying to decide if I should stay in our home or fix it up and sell it. My compromise has been to fix it up and stay. For now.  

We bought this house almost 12 years ago. It was near the kids' schools, our church and my teaching position. But the desire of our hearts was to buy a little bungalow in a nearby town, and when the nest was empty to fix it up for the long years of retirement. We considered this our "practice bungalow", and we set about remodeling every square inch of it. 

I've been working furiously (make that mostly hiring people who work furiously) to finish the renovations this summer before school starts. And today? (Drum roll, please!) All the major projects are finished! The bathrooms are both redone, there are new windows throughout the house, the attic is newly insulated to help keep the electric bill down in Texas' summer (please, God.) Today the bricklayers finished bricking my mailbox and surprised me with planters on either side. I love it! (And so did the mail carrier who actually put the mail in the old box which was laying on the ground. Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat...nor mail boxes leaning sideways stop these couriers from their appointed rounds...)

Tonight as it was getting dark, I stood out at the street to admire all the progress that has been made over the last year. The new front door D had chosen is now installed and painted the red color he picked out. New landscaping, windows, and a paint job that is a much lighter color. (I've had several friends come to the front door who thought they were at the wrong house because of all the changes. I consider that a compliment of the highest order.) The house looks new and fresh. If I decide to sell, it is ready. If I decide to stay, it is beautiful. 

The only thing that is missing is you, D. I finished all the projects just like we had planned them. You would have loved the way it all came together.

But somehow? I think you know that. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Girlfriend Weekend in Grapevine

I have four great friends I've known since high school. I don't know how I could have collected more precious people into my life but for God. We've supported each other for over 35 years through dating, college, marriage, children and just all the stuff that life is made of.

We try to meet as often as possible, but at least once a year we meet halfway between Austin (as in Texas) and Broken Arrow (as in Oklahoma). We've found that Grapevine, Texas makes for a wonderful weekend getaway.
We go from store to store and shop a little. Mostly we sit on their displays to talk. Or, as my friend's daughter calls it, we "clump around." We did a lot of clumping this weekend.
We visit the local Mills Mall. Our taste in accessories is amazingly similar, don't you think?
Welcome to Texas where painted cows are considered art forms.
Clumping in the Ice Cream Store after the ice cream is long gone.
Clumping in the hotel suite to sign our friend MA up for Facebook for the first time.
Fellow teacher shopping for school supplies. (Teachers ask so little to make them happy on birthdays.)
The only bad part? Stopping in a quilt shop to say good-bye. 

But we have a plan: between us we have 11 daughters and we are planning a Mother-Daughter Weekend in the next year.  Where we'll introduce them to the fine art of clumping. And long term friendships.

Can't wait!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Our House

Ahhh. Remember that trip I took to Seattle?

Well, that was so last week.
This week my home has become Construction Central.
But the good news?
That horrid 70s faux golden marble sink is GONE. Kicked to the curb and replaced by granite.
And look at D's red door! This makes me happy every time I look at it.
The window guys were here today and they replaced every window in the entire house.
It is rather jarring when there is a huge hole in your home where  a door or window used to be. I spent the day running into every room as they took out huge windows, and I kept saying, "WOW. There is a big hole in the wall!" I'm sure the workers thought I was acting about four years old, and at least that irritating. So I took a picture of them to prove it.

This is a shot of D's office sans french doors. He lovingly turned an empty room into a Craftsman's refuge. He added the most beautiful red oak woodwork throughout the room. The reason he never replaced the doors was because he was afraid it would  mess up the woodwork around it. Not to worry. These workers took extra care, and door looks like it has always been there. I thanked them for doing such an excellent job, and I was full of The Happy.

That "vision yet for the appointed time"? I think the work D wanted done is almost finished. He would have loved it. I know I do.  

What a difference a year makes. Welcome, changes. You are no longer an unwanted visitor. Maybe you are a new friend.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Taking the Long Way

I am careful how I think about D in the present tense. I don't want to get out on a limb and believe that he can hear me. I also don't want to lapse into "The Year of Magical Thinking" where author Joan Didion worked through her grief by pretending for a year that her late husband was still alive. I'm not judging: we all have our own roads through grief.

But sometimes? I  know exactly what he'd be saying to me at that moment. When I was painting some cabinets today, and getting as much paint on me as on them, I heard his refrain in my head, "If there is a drop of paint anywhere, R, you would get it on you." And that is correct. 

As I prepped the cabinet, I remember he said that the pre-work usually took several times longer than the actual work. So, I did it correctly, just like he would have. I cleaned the cabinets, lightly sanded them, used tack cloth to get the grit off, and cleaned them again before painting. Oh, he would have been amazed that I was actually following his instructions today. His work was usually measured by excellence; mine was usually measured by speed: How quickly can I get this job done? (Can I get a witness on that, female readers?)

So, I had to laugh today as the workers were replacing the bedroom windows. Two very hefty men were having a time getting an air-conditioning unit out of the window. We have central air, but D's medication always seemed to keep him overheated, so he put a window unit in the bedroom for sleeping. He did this with his one leg perched on a  tall ladder. He was amazing.

Anyway, the men tugged and pushed and pulled, and an hour later had the unit out. "Who in the world installed this with so many braces and screws?" one of the workers asked me. My husband the engineer, I answered. "Ahhh," they commented with admiration, which is man code for knowing engineers do everything with just a little extra complexity. D would have been so proud.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Power of "No"

Making decisions without a husband to bounce  ideas off has been a real learning curve. A few weeks ago I was praying about changing my cable/internet system to another company. I felt like the answer was (stick with me here), "Yes, you can change it but that is not going to be the end of this lesson." Drat. Felt like God was throwing me a curve ball. 

So, I walked into the competitor's store with my AT&T U-Verse Special Offer Card I'd received in the mail. Except, they glibly explained to me, U-Verse was not available in my neighborhood. Which was the same neighborhood the store resided in. And the same one the Special Offer Card was mailed to. But blah blah blah bait and switch blah. I should have run out as fast as my little feet would have carried me. But, oh no, I listened to the two hour spiel that was full of twists and turns and hidden information. Only after I'd signed in blood and handed over my debit card did I remember the commercial against AT&T. "Umm," I countered, "is this cable a dish?" (Oh, I am such a techie.) Why, yes! exclaimed the salesperson who'd forgotten to mention that small fact. Do you personally use a dish? I asked him. Uhhhh, well, no...he backpedaled. But he used to have it. And he used to like it. And then he went to the back room to deposit his commission check.

I went home with reams of information to read about my new system. I was immediately accosted by four phone calls and three emails that laid out new! and even more confusing! information. Things I would have to do and appointments I'd have to set with several different technicians over a two week period. It involved climbing in my attic, routers, boxes and some kind of plot to overthrow the world via satellite. Stressed much?

 After two days of heartache over the decision to switch, I re-engaged God on this subject. Actually, I think I fussed at Him. "I ASKED you before I went to that store. You said YES and now I am STRESSED beyond belief and what is UP with THAT???" 

And His reply? "Cancel it. You always have 72 hours to cancel an agreement."

I can do that? Really? I picked up the phone, clinched my fist and prepared for war. I knew these people were not going to let me off easily. Before the tech person could say a word, I shot into my spiel: "I want to cancel my cable and internet before it begins. I do not want to be led through any hoops. My husband died and I do not have the emotional energy for playing games over this."

I thought the line went dead, but then I heard a soft voice on the other end of the phone in the U-Verse. "I understand where you are. My son died last week. I'm only back at work to try and stay busy. There will be no hassle from me. Consider it all taken care of."

And it was. And the weight of the world  lifted off my shoulders.

"No"? It is my friend. As it was again today.

I have two mature trees that have died in the Texas heat. Along with the grass in a corner of my front yard. I called the number advertising yard and tree work on a sign in a neighbor's yard. Their yard looks good, I reasoned. Worth a shot.

Two guys showed up who reminded me of that fox and cat in the movie "Pinocchio" who tried to lead the poor puppet astray. They put on this little show that made me very distrustful.  The tree removal price seemed sort of reasonable, but the thinning of other dead limbs was exorbitant. When I just chose having the trees cut down, the total for all services was magically reduced. And he could do the work that day: no waiting! I agreed to the lower price. His friend, in charge of the sod, said he'd email his proposal: $550 for about 20 square feet of grass. I could carpet a few bedrooms for that price.

This was the first time I felt like I had experienced workers who rubbed their hands together greedily thinking, "Widow! With money!" (Except reality would be "Teacher! With little money!") I asked another worker that I trust what he thought of the sod bid. He said it was about 4 times too high, and he would do it for a quarter of the cost.

I turned down the grass bid, and waited for the tree guy to come. And waited another day. And another day. And felt like this was another "NO!" Today, I called him and cancelled the job. And, again, felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. There are other tree trimmers, and I'll find one I feel good about next time.

The Moral of this Story?  Sometimes prayer leads me down a road that appears right, but seems to turn out miserably. And that is when God steps in, takes my hand and makes it all right. And He is teaching me boldness and the value of the word "NO". I'm slowly learning that I do have Someone to bounce my questions off. And I always end up right where I should be.

Bet they don't have that in the U-Verse.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The First Year

July 13, 2009: Saying good-bye.
So began a year when life as I'd known it came to a screeching halt. I've posted these pictures to remind myself that God is/has been/will be faithful, and that friends and family are the most precious gift He gives us on this earth.
In August 2009, a precious friend let me use her Maine home for some much-needed time away. Thank you, Kathy.
My children and Loyal Sister helped me set up my first grade classroom, which soon contained the most wonderful children (and attentive parents) on the entire campus. Thank you Bumblebee parents for all your patience, love and support this year. Your children blessed me daily.
Kansas City Marathon/5K in honor of Dave. Thank you Steinochers for blending me into your family and surrounding me with your love.
Oklahoma City Women of Faith Conference with three of my favorite women of faith: friends since high school who let me talk and cry and process this year. Thank you Adrienne, MaryAnn and Pat for walking beside me this year. (And Jennifer! I know you were there in spirit.)
Thanksgiving weekend brought members of my church to paint my house. (And that front door? It is now RED!) Thank you Arnett and Heriford families for meeting my practical needs.
The day after Thanksgiving for early morning shopping with friends. (Not sure I should thank you for the cost of this little excursion!)
Christmas in Missouri with Young Son, Married Daughter and Loyal Son-in-Law and his extended family. (Have I mentioned a time or a million that my friend's son married my daughter? Made it easy to blend these families together for holidays...) Thank you real family and faux family for getting me through the holiday.
My first white Christmas...except it is too cold to breathe! Thank you God, for serendipities throughout this year.

Happy New Year 2010. Thank you first graders for giving me hugs and high fives all year.
A birthday/slumber party held at my house for a former student who grew up way too fast! Thank you, Meg and friends, for  a wonderful weekend.
Meeting a reader of this blog who flew to Houston from Canada for a Beth Moore conference. Thank you, Lynn, for all your helpful advice this year. You made the path a little smoother.
A high school aide who helped in my classroom each week. Thank you, Miss Haley, for giving extra joy to our classroom. (Good luck at A&M next year!)
Meeting sorority sisters in Crawford, Texas. Thank you Kaye, Gayla and Debbie for all the laughter and good memories.
O'Brien's Bumblebees ready to rumble on Sports Day. Thank you 19 six-year old best friends for making my world a happy place each day.

A Spring Break trip to Pennsylvania. Married Daughter had just moved a few miles from Dave's brother and sister, and his oldest daughter, Heather, drove down from D.C. to see us all. Thank you Kevin, April, Heather and Katy for helping me keep Dave's memories alive.
Another Delta Chi Rho reunion. Thanks Debbie, Kaye and Sonya for making time for memories.
Elton John in April. Thanks Loyal Sister Renee for walking close by my side all year.
NEW YORK!!! in April with Quality Friend, Connie, and three of my former kindergartners. Thanks Rachel, Celeste and Gracie for letting me be your chaperone and seeing the bright lights of the Big City with you.
Young Son graduates from College! Thanks Chris and Katy for remembering the importance of family.
Ireland in June. Thanks Bonnie for taking me on the trip of a lifetime.
Seattle/Canada with Married Daughter. Thanks, Katy, for helping me mark the end of this year with laughter and happy memories.

I look at these pictures and see so much love and laughter. In private, I also know there were many tears shed. 

I am ready to cross the line into the next year without Dave remembering the good times and holding him close in my heart.

Thank you, Bloggy Community, for walking this incredibly difficult year alongside me. You've blessed me so. Let's keep seeking out the Joy in the Journey.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A New Year

I've been in Seattle for a week with Married Daughter. (More on that later.) We were walking around Pike's Place Market watching the fish being thrown and enjoying the cool weather. As I walked, I was praying and asking God for a word on how to move on in this New Year after D's leaving. I looked down at the street, and this is what I saw under my feet:

"I have always known that at last I would take this road,
But yesterday, I did not know it would be today."

Moving on to a New Life that is full of the future, and full of hope.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Final Chapter

Hello, Anniversary that I've both dreaded and anticipated for a year. Dreaded because of the memories attached to this day; anticipated because it was hard to believe I'd ever be a year down the road from D's death.

Up front, I want to say that I'm not moping around. I'm really using this time to reflect and remember, and there is a lot to treasure in my heart. I've felt for a long time that if I could just finish this year, I could begin to move on. I've celebrated and marked every holiday and anniversary by myself. I no longer have that brittle-as-glass feeling in my heart. I feel more empty, but there is a promise stirring in my spirit that life is going to begin again. That joy is going to invade my life in the near future. The promises of God are "yes" and "amen".

So. I finish my story from yesterday's blog. And then I move on. And if these posts are too maudlin for you, please feel free to skip them. Telling the story via bloggyland has been very healing for me, and I appreciate your patience as I've felt around through life for the last year.

Last year on Sunday, D continued to sleep. Married Daughter and her husband made it in from out of state, so the gang was all there at the Hospice "hospital" called the Christopher House. We kind of took over the lobbies of this peaceful place, having only 3 or 4 people stay in the room at one time. We took shifts by D's bedside, and I usually gave up my place knowing I'd had so much time with him, and many of those gathered needed this last time far much more than I did. We didn't want visitors since our family filled all the extra space, but one sweet friend came by to hold my hand (literally). We should all have a Shannon in our life: she just brings joy and peace into any room she inhabits. I hope you have a friend like her.

As the day wore on, family began to drift out for rest. I had promised D that I'd sleep in the room with him the entire time. There would be no more waking or pacing for him, but after midnight, early Monday morning, his body became very restless. Hospice had been good to prepare us that this was very common, but I didn't want my D to be unpeaceful. I had my laptop and called up YouTube to repeatedly play Chris Tomlin's " I Will Rise" . (You can click that link to hear the song or this link to see the words.) So powerful, so peaceful.

"I will rise when He calls my name, no more sorrow, no more pain. I will rise on eagle's wings, before my God, fall on my knees and rise. There is a day that's drawing near, when this darkness breaks to light, and this darkness disappears, and my faith shall be my eyes..."

D rested peacefully as the music played. He was always so touched by music. At that time I knew in my spirit this was his last day, and time was very short.

I sent out an email at dawn to friends asking them to tell me what was going on in their lives. I needed to hear of life outside those walls, and I'd been isolated from many of them during these last months of terminal illness. An abundance of long, newsy emails began arriving almost immediately, making me smile. And making me so thankful for my friends who truly mean it when they say, "Ask us anything we can do to help you at any time, and we will do it." Well friends, lifting my spirits at that moment on that day was one of your kindest acts of service.

And then another email appeared from a lifelong friend. It was actually an email she'd written for D, and she wanted me to read it to him at his bedside. So I did:

Dear D,

I am writing you a thank you note because I want to say thank you for being the husband that my dear friend deserves. In the past fourteen years, you have shown her that you love her and appreciate all her talents and giftings. You valued her and showed her that she had great worth; I have seen her confidence be rebuilt and grow throughout her marriage to you. Because of you, she got to experience being in love and being loved! I remember R telling me after returning from your honeymoon that just holding hands with you was wonderful and that “fireworks still happen”.

You provided her children with the model of a father and husband that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They saw a man who was dependable and true to his word. They saw a father who loves their mother, holds them to a standard and receives them as his own.

You provided R with a house that you made so beautiful with your woodworking skills and other building talents. Just as important, you valued her input as you shared this common interest in the house remodeling and the Mission style furniture; I know that she sees your love for her with every replaced baseboard, cabinet and door frame.

I am so thankful that God put you in R’s life and she has shared these past 14 years with you. I know she has been amazingly strong throughout your illness, and I truly believe that strength is based on the fact that she knew you loved her and she could let herself love you in return. I admire you both so much – you are both a testament to the faithfulness of God despite difficulties in this life. Knowing that He is enough for you both helps me to know that He will always be enough for me.

Thank you for being the man you are. My friend R will be blessed all her days by your life. I hope my life will make an impact on those around me like yours has. Thank you. P

D was in a deep sleep as I read this, but I believe he heard me because he became so peaceful. I talked with him and prayed with him, and I thanked him for the time we had together. I told him I knew this the day he would leave the earth, and I was ready for that. And I felt something settle into my spirit: the grace I'd need for the day. This last day.

The family began trickling back in for the morning, and after taking shifts to go get lunch, we were called in to D's room: he had about an hour left. Well. How do you respond to that?

We just encircled the bed. I sat in a chair and held his hand. I stayed quiet for a while, asking the others if they wanted to talk or pray. No one seemed able to speak at that time. I didn't fault them for that: I'd had far more time than the rest to work through the reality of this situation. So, I began telling D how much we loved him. That we believed that all that needed to be said or done had been said or done. That a terminal diagnosis had given us the gift of loving good-byes. That we appreciated he'd bravely fought the cancer for 7 years, and during that "extra" time we saw all four kids graduate from high school, then enter college. One was now married; one was in graduate school. He had made it through some of the most important times of their lives. And now it was OK to let go of this world and pain, and to go to God. And he did. And we all prayed together one more time, and tried to figure out how to leave the room and resume our lives.

I've had several people ask me if I felt anything during that last hour. My answer? Absolutely. God manifests His promises through His presence. There was such peace, grace and mercy in that room. It was a real Presence. It is no mistake that the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter: I like to see that as a quilt that is just laid over me. And it was.

To be honest, I have no memory of how I got home from there. I know Married Daughter took my phone and began making calls to my friends. I know the pastor and his wife were at our home almost immediately. Friends from out of town (I love you, Patty and Chris) came over as soon as they could. The memory of The Day is very raw. But the memories of the friends and family members who surrounded me and my children are full of love to the point of feeling like my heart will burst with joy.

And so I cross the line into a new year. The most important lesson I learned is simply: God is enough. I've heard it said that the base of all fears is the fear of death. I ask, like the letter to the Corinthians, "Oh, death where is your victory? Oh, death where is your sting? But thanks be to God that He gives us victory over sin and death through the Lord Jesus Christ."

Pressing on to a year filled with victory, and a journey back to joy.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beginning the Final Count Down

And now I am in the final lap of this year since losing Dave. I woke up yesterday thinking, "This was the final day he spent at home last year." I remember that he had paced most of the night with his walker; in and out of the room, round and round the house. And I was a little grumpy about the fact that I'd been awakened repeatedly. The night before, a huge crowd of friends had shown up with trays of food to help us feed the family members who were converging for a visit, not knowing this would be the Final Visit. Yesterday, I remembered that Dave had seemed restless and anxious, and knowing he needed some quiet, I took the family who'd arrived to the movies. Before bed, he asked the kids to be in their rooms at bedtime, because he needed to "pace" during the night. I remember thinking that was a strange request, but when I questioned him about it he said he didn't know what was happening but that he needed to keep moving. He kissed me good-night and began his laps of the house. Apparently, the restlessness and anxiousness are common when things are beginning their final descent.

On this day last year he tried to keep his early morning routine of green tea and oatmeal, but he seemed very dazed. When he showed me some of the changes that had occurred with his body overnight, I knew we were in serious trouble. I am not a panic-er. I tried to let him make decisions about what he wanted to do in situations like this, and give him the freedom of those choices. He agreed that we needed the Hospice nurse to come over immediately, and her advice was to go immediately to the Hospice "hospital" named the Christopher House. We hadn't planned on that being part of the journey, but we both knew at this point that we needed more help than we'd anticipated.

My always proper husband wanted to get dressed "nicely" (read that pressed khakis and a collared shirt) before we left, but I convinced him they'd just put him in a hospital gown when we arrived. The shorts and t-shirt he had on would serve him just fine.  He asked where the presents for his daughters were. We had gotten them a picture album with family pictures. A copy of the book "I'll Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch that he used to read to them as children (and had inscribed with words that included, "I hope you read this to my grandchildren..."). A DVD of family pictures set to music that he and I had watched the day before, and that he'd thoroughly enjoyed, commenting, "We've really had a good life, haven't we?" And a classic silver bracelet monogrammed with their names on one side and "Love, Dad" on the other side. (Thanks to my friend Kay and the great people at James Avery for the RUSH engraving job.)

I had already placed the gift bags in the car, thinking he could give them to the girls at the Christopher House later. He insisted that I wake them up right then so he could give the gifts to them before he left. I think he knew this was his last chance to talk to them.  I went and woke the girls up, and he was able to give the presents and tell them he loved them. I told them they could go back to bed (it was early), and I'd call when we got him settled in.

I got Dave in the van never thinking this would be the final destination. He had bounced back from so many desperate situations over the past seven years that my mind would not set itself to "This is the end." He never liked it when I was the driver, so when he asked me to pull over a few blocks down the road I wasn't surprised. He said the car made him claustrophobic, and he didn't know if he could make the drive. I rolled the windows down, gave him several pills (Hospice had taken away the normal constraints of medication), and had him recline in his seat. Then I hit I-35 and drove faster than I'd ever driven, singing, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." Reminding myself that I was not alone in the journey.

When we arrived at the Christopher House, I told him to wait in the car and I'd go find a wheelchair. Of course he promptly got out with his walker to wait under a tree in the record 105 degree Texas weather. I had to smile: that stubbornness had probably served him well during the long battle with cancer. The staff welcomed us, settled Dave in, and I had to decide what was next. I made a few calls to family and our pastor. I knew Dave would not want a big crowd around.  

When I called my Married Daughter (who lived out of state), she asked, "Should we come?" I didn't know what to say: making that request meant I believed this was It. "I don't know", I told her, knowing there was a 12 hour drive between us. She called back almost immediately and said, "We are on our way," and I was so relieved I cried for the first time. The family began gathering around, and at one point Dave briefly woke up and asked everyone to leave but me. "You startled me!" he told me, "I only want one person at a time in here to talk to." So everyone began coming in to have some final words with him. My pastor later told a funny story that after Dave spoke briefly with him, he abruptly told the pastor to leave, which was so NOT Dave. I guess he knew he had no time to waste. A restlessness settled over him, followed by a deep sleep. The nurses told us he could hear us, but most likely would not awaken again. Still, my brain could not grasp what that meant.

 His brother and sister were flying in from Pennsylvania: a trip planned weeks ago, never knowing we'd be at Christopher House. I wanted them to have a final word with him. Miraculously, when they arrived in the wee hours of the morning, Dave did wake up and speak with them.  What a gift. And then he slept.

To Be Continued

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Telling the Story For Me

I'm overwhelmed with emotions as the anniversary of Dave's passing is only days away. I'm linking to Married Daughter's blog to tell the story today:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ode to the Land Line

This week I took the giant step and had my land line phone disconnected. It rarely rings, and usually the calls are for clothing donations and fund solicitations. I am now tethered to the world solely by my cell phone. But it is a new snazzy red model with lots of bells and whistles. Like messaging included in the package. For five years, I have paid for individual texts because I'm in denial that I text. Reality has come calling.

( A little phone humor there.)

Call me crazy, but this transition is a little sad. I've had a lifelong connection with the evolution of the telephone. When I was little, home phones had to be rented, and were attached to the wall in the most inconvenient places. At my house, there was a built in phone shelf in the kitchen that I had to stand on a chair to reach; at my grandmother's house, the shelf was in a hallway. There was no privacy on those phones, which didn't matter much because the phone receiver was so heavy you really couldn't hold it and talk for long. Long distance calls had to be placed by an operator, and even in my hometown of Austin there were party lines: we shared our line with our neighbors. You waited your turn, and you didn't listen to other callers' conversations. Or at least you didn't breathe too loudly if you were listening.

When you told someone your phone number, you usually began it with letters that identified your neighborhood. My earliest phone number was GL2-3589. (Called it recently and it was a recording of a youth league soccer schedule. Wrong. Just wrong.) Someone mentioned this antiquated letter/number configuration at a gathering recently, and everyone of a certain age in the room could recite their first phone number.

At some point in my teenaged years, there was a deregulation of the phone company monopoly. Ma Bell produced many Baby Bells. (Google it if that seems like a foreign language to you.) You could own phones, but they were still attached to cords in the wall. Many homes had separate lines for the children, and the female phone of choice was called a "princess phone". (Read that: small, rounded and usually pink.)

Because The Phone Company had lost money in this dissection of the company, they often turned to other methods to squeeze more money out of customers. (Nothing has changed, hunh?) I remember coming home from college in the summers, and renting a phone for my efficiency apartments. The phone people would actually say things like, "You need a second line in the bedroom in case someone breaks in and you have to call the police." Listen, if someone broke into those tiny apartments (1) there was nothing to take but the cinderblock tv stand and (2) you could see every room from every room.  A second phone was not effective as security.

The long cord on a phone debuted about the time I had children. And they knew exactly how far it stretched. And would stand at that line when I was on the phone and try to play with knives and bleach. (Kidding: it was mostly scissors and Elmer's to glue their haircut back in place.) Most of my phone coversations were punctuated by snapping fingers, followed by a hand over the receiver issuing consequences for when I got off the phone.

Cordless phones represented Freedom. You could talk anywhere on your property--even outside--on these phones. Young Son once took our portable  phone in his backpack to school to see the distance it would work. It was days before he remembered where he put it for this little science experiment.

Our first cell phone was roughly the size and weight of a brick. And roaming charges kept calls short and to the point.  The introduction of generation after generation of cell phones, smart phones, and iPhones since that time has just been a dazzlement of technology.

So, good-bye land line. I'll miss you. What I will miss most? Dave's voice  still on the message. I listened to it often, kind of pretending he was still home. "We aren't able to come to the phone right now, but leave your message after the beep and we'll get right back to you."

Pressing on.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

On the Threshold

Young Son, the recent college graduate (and, yes, I am a Proud Mama), has agreed to help me with some projects around the house. I have workers who are texturing and painting, some who are replacing windows, and others who are taking on counters and bathroom tile. But the laundry room? It is the step-child of remodeling projects, and I asked Young Son if he thought he could help with it.

In between his various jobs including pedicabbing and shooting wedding photography, he squeezed me in this week. He removed the vinyl floor of the laundry room, and found the wall behind the washer/dryer was in Big Trouble, Mister. So, he removed the wall, and we walked through a mold scare. (These "little jobs" grow like rising yeast bread, no?)

The wall board is replaced, and the new ceramic tile floor is ready for grout. And with apologizes to my artist, Married Daughter, we are painting over the Mary Englebreit-themed wall art. The room will be neutral with touches of neutral. Because this is what my consultant stager/realtor friends say sells the best. (And while we are on the subject here, has HGTV really driven us all to expect every For Sale house to be 100% move-in ready? Apparently so.)

My laundry room is 9x10 full of possibilities. But the greatest one? Watching Young Son working with such confidence. Remember being in your 20s and thinking anything could be done? A time when you didn't know what you didn't know. Experience had not dampened the enthusiasm to try something new. Tile a floor? Why not! Ever done it before? No, but it shouldn't be too hard, he says. And he was right. I would never have attempted it on my own, but he has made the last few days a joy. Watching him work hard, and assuming the role of helper to his leadership. What a reversal that is!

I'm not ready to brush my hands together and declare that my job as Mama is now finished. Young Son still has some unpolished corners. But I've spent two days admiring all the progress he's made in his young adult life. And taking some time to drink it in, savor it, and hear his dreams for a full future. And be pretty darn proud of him.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

July 1, 2009

I am now less than two weeks away from the anniversary of losing Dave. It seems like every day, I can remember exactly what I was doing on this date last summer. The closer it gets, the more intense the memories. In some way, I  believe when I cross the line of the "Anniversary Date", I can enter into a new normal. At that time I have celebrated every holiday and anniversary without him. And surely it gets easier the second year around.

It probably wouldn't surprise you to know that besides blogging, I also journal.  This was my entry from July 1 last summer:

Amos 3:7 "Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants..."

Lord, I find myself asking You, "When?" The doctor says  1-3 months, but I trust You that all will be prepared for Your timing.

The drugs take Dave's pain, but they also take his consciousness. He sleeps. Lord, touch his dreams and his thoughts. Hold him near. Bring Him to Yourself.

Psalm 23: You lead us in paths of righteousness for Your name's sake.

You are leading, Lord. I often can only see Your back ahead of me. That is enough, because You are faithful and trustworthy.

I trust You for the timing. I trust You for the ending: Gentle, Painless, Quick.

I trust You for the healing of hearts. All that needs to be said and done will be said and done or seeds of healing will be scattered generously and You will be faithful to complete the work.

Jesus: Come near. Come quickly.