Monday, March 5, 2007
Then yesterday, as I attended my first Sunday school class at my new church, the pastor introduced me and told everyone my husband was in Iraq. A visitor leaned forward and said, "Thank you for your service. The families serve as much as the soldiers. So, thank you."
People forget, we, the ones left behind, sacrifice more than our soldiers do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not degrading what our men and women in arms do, but their jobs are, as my husband says: "a cake walk compared to what you have to do at home."
So far, he has spent his entire time there on base in his office, never leaving for anything. And I feel he'll only set foot off base when he comes home on leave. But back here at home, I've been cooped up inside with four cabin crazed kids because the weather doesn't permit escape. We've combated one sickness after another. When they're all crabby, I'm at my wits end to get them calmed down while I don't lose my mind, which many times I have failed. There's homework, house work, the driving from here to there, doctor appointments, grocery store trips, meetings--sometimes with all four kids in tow, keeping two young children occupied while I try to write and revise a book, getting them to keep their rooms cleaned, teaching them to not jump on furniture or out of the windows, the list goes on and on. Up at 6:30, on the bus by 7:30, out the door at 8:00, and then run any errands that need to be run and back home, only to turn around and leave again, on a good night I'm in bed by 10:00.
Many of these things my husband would help with, or do for me so I could have a break. But I will admit, by him being gone, some of my workload has decreased. But that doesn't compare to the nights where I wish I could just sit and chill while someone else gets the kids cleaned up and put to bed. The nights where I have no one to talk to when I used to. And the days where I wish someone else would just clean that up instead of me.
We sacrifice so much so they can serve, and yet, we're the ones usually forgotten. But our soldiers don't forget. They have said countless times, their job is made easier because of those of us back home.
So, today, if you personally know a family who has a soldier or sailor serving thank them for their duty. Especially if it's a spouse with children. We're the forgotten ones.
Friday, March 2, 2007
Thursday, March 1, 2007
Faced with no income at first(it takes a while for the insurance company to send insurance money) I sold my engagement ring to purchase groceries to feed the kids. Thank goodness we also had mortgage insurance and the house would be paid off with that money. Once all the insurance money arrived we were pretty well set financially for a while anyway.
But with all the housework and yard work and upkeep of a home I was soon overwhelmed with it all. I remember many nights after the children were in bed, retreating to the basement family room to cry and feel sorry for myself. The hardest thing for me was dealing with everything alone, with no one to share the bad times as well as the good times with. I had family, but none living close enough to me to be of any weekly help. I cried because I couldn't do it all. The cleaning, the lawn mowing, the weeding, the laundry, dealing with sick kids...with no one to help...EVER! It was during that first year of crying in the family room that I pulled out my Bible and began to read. I started in Psalms as they were my favorite. I found comfort. And I once again learned to lean on God and let go of my anger at Him. It took a while. See, this wasn't the first person I had lost to death. My dad was killed by a drunk driver when I was a senior in high school and my mom died 3 years later while I was in college. I have an older sister and a younger sister. My older sister was married and had just had a new baby when my mom died and was pregnant with her 4 childd when Dave died, and she lived out of town. My younger sister was in high school when mom died and I quit college and got a full time job so I could take care of her and get her through high school. I never returned to college. I met Dave and we married and had our first child 2 days before our first wedding anniversary. I don't tell you this story so you will feel sorry for me. I'm just laying the groundwork so you will understand the anger I had toward the Lord for allowing Dave to die. And the guilt I felt over that anger was huge! Yet, I wasn't able to let it go for quite some time. But when I fianlly released it....oh how much stronger I felt and what a relief off my shoulders.
No matter how hard it gets being a single mom, the one thing we all have to count on is the LORD. Sometimes we think He isn't there with us...but it's those times I found that I was absent from HIM. Without Him, where would any of us be?
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I wanted to reiterate that the bold comments on Part 1 are my sister's.
1. These are ideas. Sort of like brainstorming. Please don’t take them as gospel or think you must do them all. I was only trying to give you some ideas to show you how easy it is to bless someone’s heart.
2. Many of these do apply to single dads. I meant to mention it and forgot. (Since I don’t happen to be one.)
Some more ideas
*If she has a boy, invite her son to do things with your husband and your boys.
This summer my son played tee ball on the rec department’s league. My heart sunk when I realized all the other little boys knew how to catch a ball in their gloves and my little over achiever was working his heart out trying to catch his.
I just never thought to teach him that. That is a daddy thing. He did fine in tee ball. My point is there are simply things that moms don’t even think about. A man or even older teen age boy could tremendously bless a younger boy.
*If she owns any type of business that you can frequent, send your business there.
Tell your friends too. Many single moms that I am reading about on the blogosphere do computer work (graphics, internet sites, typing), some do child care, tutoring, private lessons, own a store. So if you need something her business offers please support her.
*Don’t offer to do something unless you intend to follow through.
I have had people tell me they will do “xyz” or “I’m going to bring something over for you” and it never happens. Or when I thought their offer was something I was to count on, I found it it was only good intentions.
Now I promise you I am not whining or complaining. If you were in my living room I could look you in the eye and say that. I didn’t ask for these things. They were offered.
Asking for help is really difficult for me. So when I went to take them up on the offer and found out they didn’t “really” mean it I felt completely stupid. I wonder if offering made them feel better about themselves so they just said things without thinking?
I don’t know. I just know that I heavily counted on some of the offers BECAUSE they were offered to me unsolicited. Dealing with the disappointment that came would have never occurred if only the good intentions had not been spoken. (There is however a blog post in that lesson when I get around to typing it up.)
Good intentions do not pay bills.
There are some really great ideas in the comments section of Part 1. Take a peek. Thanks to everyone for your input and ideas.
Our little group was followed by a reporter and photographer following my family. Many of our friends and some of Dh's co-workers were photographed along with us. Requests for the newspaper carrying the article were made and promises were given. I have acquired, in these few short days, new friends and reacquainted myself with ones I met before and didn't have a chance to get to know better. And my list of supportive friends grows every day. I can honestly say I will lack for nothing, because everyone will make sure I'm taken care of.
I battled the tight throat, the watery eyes, and gave myself the best day ever. I lasted until the final goodbye, holding my Dh close and telling him I love him and to come home to me. I was then joined by a friend I haven't seen since her wedding day. We exchanged contact information, as she is currently dealing with the same deployment issues that I am, though her new groom will soon be home.
God saw fit to bring us to this small town in the middle of Illinois for a reason. And I'm just now seeing more of the benefits than I had before. I never once questioned His purpose in moving us here three years ago, what I saw was people in need of our help. And eventually, He allowed others to come in contact with us that He knew I would eventually need help from.
Please remember to pray continually for our troops, for our country, our president, and for the people of Iraq.
They go, so we don't have to.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
I posted this on A Dusty Frame in December.
**They are just my thoughts. Nothing set in stone, but maybe it's a way for you to think and see the needs of single moms in a new way. If it helps you brainstorm and you think of other ideas that's super too!
**I asked my sister to read this first and make any comments. She has been a tremendous support to me through all this. She doesn’t live near me, but she’s been the one to listen to all the sobbing phone calls. Her comments are under mine in bold.
Before I was a single mom, I thought it must be hard. Now I know that hard isn’t really the word. It’s bone numbing hard. Even in the midst of the joy of rearing a child, having joy in the Lord, joy in living there is an inexplicable hardness. (Is that a word?)
I want to write these down to help you. It is also to help me. I know that even though now I’m doing it alone and have been for a long while, my single mom days will come to an end at some point in our future. My husband at some point WILL come home and these doing it alone days will be over.
I don’t want to get wrapped up in my “happily ever after” and forget to see the needs of single moms around me. I don’t want to overlook something that I can do when they need so much. I know how it feels to be overlooked or not thought about and I don’t want to do that to anyone else.
(I am NOT complaining or pointing fingers at anyone. It is just a simple fact that people forget that I am still going through this.)
If money one of her biggest needs, you can:
*Give a gift certificate to a resale store
Do you know how fun it is to doorbell ditch? A package with spaghetti, salad & desert in dishes that don’t have to be returned — that simple. Then, sneak up to the front porch, ring the bell & run like crazy! A Gift Card for a special restaurant - don’t forget holiday’s & b-days
*Ask if there is a bill you can pay for her
*Give her money to buy a child’s birthday gift.
*Give her kiddo a gift
*Offer hand me downs if your children are larger than hers
Be super kind about this, don’t talk down to her, don’t make over her situation & embarrass her, & no matter what you do - don’t give clothes your child has worn out
*Offer toilet paper, or shampoo (basic necessities that are unable to be purchased with food stamps. Yes, I know not every single mom is on assistance.)
Don’t forget the pampering lotions. Buy an extra roll of trash bags or lunch bags or
*Put money in an envelope and mail it to her. If $5 is all you can spare, send $5. You can’t even imagine how much that can help. It buys some gas. Don’t always say “this is for xyz” She KNOWS where it needs to be spent.
Give the kids $ to buy a gift for mommy, or take them shopping to buy a gift for mommy - munchkins want to buy gifts for mom out of their overflowing love for her, but where are they to get the $, who will take them shopping for the secret gift? You do it, you’ll be more blessed by this than by any gift you put on your own list.
*Ask what they need for winter (boots? mittens? socks?)
*Gift certificates to gas stations, grocery stores no matter the amount
Let me just say one word, STARBUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*Share coupons with her that you don’t need
*Anything you have around the house you don’t need. Ask her if she can use it.
(examples notebooks, pencils, stickers, a measuring cup, cake pans, towels) You honestly have no clue if what you want to get rid of is exactly what she is praying for.
Any single mom can use help in these areas (even if her money situation isn’t desperate)
*Pray ask her what you can pray for.
Tell her you’re praying for her. Ask if you can stop with her right now & pray
together (then, don’t dump your complaints on her, just pray with her). Pick up the phone & give a call, don’t wait until you are rushing past each other
at church. Take time!
SEND AN e-CARD
*Watch her children for an hour.
Can’t we find something fun to make a memory with a munchkin? Root beer floats, make cookies, go to the park, etc. etc. etc.
(I asked this question of my divorced friend. She has a nice job and her money is tight but not desperate. She said “Just an hour to watch my kids.” When I’ve given the example, I usually say an hour. We aren’t asking for a lot! Just an hour!!
When you are the only parent there is no one else. No one to stay home so you can go to Bible study, or mail the packages, or run for milk. An hour out of your day can be priceless to her.)
*Go the 2nd mile and offer for 2 hours.
*Ask what home repairs she needs. Many single moms don’t know how to change the oil, or drill things into the side of the house. They are too short to reach high light-bulbs. Plumbing? (makes me nauseous thinking about it.)
When I heard my sister was having toilet trouble, I was pretty pushy about getting someone there to take care of it. (I never told her this). She’d been told someone from church would come, but they hadn’t arrived yet. Good grief, how long do you live in a house with inoperable plumbing? What kind of grief would you dish out until it was taken care of. I had gone so far as to line things up for a new toilet to be delivered to her door, with balloons on it, if the promised help didn’t arrive, asap. I called someone who could do something about it & told them I had plans for a new toilet, did they have someone at church who could go install it the next day? Last I heard, someone arrived to take care of the toilet.
*Tell her she’s doing a good job (If she is) Recently a couple people have told me how good my son is in Sunday School or how well behaved he was. Any mom loves to hear that. A single mom needs to hear that. There is so much wondering if I’m doing it “right” or wondering if he’s being ruined by this circumstance. Hearing someone else say he’s a good boy means the world to me.
And if you’re going to complain about a misbehaviour, think before you speak. How would you want someone to talk to you about your child misbehaving? Remember your child acts up, too & sometimes you think everyone else is over-exaggerating. Drown your words in prayer, mercy, love and grace. Explain the situation, but don’t tell her what to do or how to do it, unless she asks.
*Invite them over for dinner, or snacks. I used to be part of a couple. For now I am not. I have seen an obvious difference in the number of times people think to include us in things. It hurts. I don’t know the answer. It’s awkward sometimes.
I could say “Well, I should have people over more often.” and maybe that would solve it. But here’s the deal. I AM TIRED. I just can’t invite people over very often.
The times that we have been included in gatherings have made me feel like I’m not a leper. I almost forget what that feels like. So please, think to invite them to join you sometimes.
You do things with other people who have kids, why not a single mom with kids? When we were growing up, I remember at least 3 single-parent families that we did stuff with. If you think, for some strange reason, it would be awkward, then invite 2 or 3 families from church, including a single-parent family. When the kids go off to play & the men wander into the rec room, the ladies will have time to chat.
That’s kind of normal, you don’t have to zoom in on the idea that there will be one less male in the rec room than females in the dining room.
*Drop off cookie dough and icing so she and her kids can bake together.
*Send a note. I’m thinking of you. I’m praying for you. Anything.
*Offer to clean for her. If someone would dust for me and mop my floor once a month, I’d be in housekeeping heaven!
*Run an errand single moms have to run errands with the dumplings in tow. Is that easy for you? Maybe if you run errands on a certain day, you could call her and say “I’m going to the post office on Monday, do you need anything there or can I drop of packages for you?” Easy! You’re already going right?
If she homeschools:
*Offer to buy books she needs. Or give a gift certificate to Amazon or Barne’s & Noble.
*Ask her how it’s going.
Pick up the phone & give a call, don’t wait until you are rushing past each other at church. Take time!
*Offer her paper, craft supplies, pens, pencils, binders, page protectors, art supplies, stickers. Anything you’re cleaning out could probably be put to use.
*Don’t tell her she’s doing it wrong. Not in words or facial expressions. Just try to think how you would feel if it were you doing it alone. Would you want people to critique your chosen methods?
*Email her any neat websites or books you’ve found. She may like to check them out too.
*Offer to teach her or her children something you know. Does your husband do woodworking? Do you make pie especially well? Do your teens have a special talent they can teach?
Invite her homeschoolers on your homeschool field trips.
*Pampering items lotions, tea, nice coffee,
Think Spa in a basket!
*Something for her hobby. Does she write? Scrapbook? Knit?
*Something she collects. Clowns? Salt and pepper shakers? You can find cool things at thrift stores that people collect. Don’t spend very much. But just a little “I thought of you” is special.
*Something for her children. A pack of gum. A hot wheel. As parents you know that when you’re children receive something, it’s just as good as getting it yourself.
*Subscribe to a magazine for her.
*Think of ways to help the children make special days nice for mom.
Again, become a cohort in this crime - help the munchkin buy a secret present.
I will share something very special that my sister has done. She is the only person to think of this in my situation and it means very much.
At my birthday last year, she sent money for my son to go shopping for me. It was so that he could buy a present for me. She sent him a birthday card to sign for me and cash to spend.
This year she did the same thing and sent a gift card to a restaurant so he could take me out to eat.
This was a special blessing for me and for my son. Children want to make days special for their moms too. Single moms usually don’t have anyone to remember these days.
I can’t begin to tell you how fun this was!!!!!!!!!!! Talking to him on the phone to plan, he was so funny. I asked if he wanted to take mom out for dinner for her birthday. He said, “She’s right here, so….” I told him he could just say yes or no, so I went through some restaurants & he’d say no, no, no. Until we got to the right one! Then I explained that I’d send a gift card & that it would be enough to buy dinner. I heard that it was enough to buy dinner for both of them, then he used the extra to help pay for dinner for the uncle who had gone to celebrate with them.
*Don’t judge. Easier said than done I know. Some single moms are single moms because they are living the consequence of their sin. Some chose to leave their husbands for whatever reason. Some are because their husbands abused them. Some are because their husband is in prison.
Whether they are single moms because of choices they made or choice someone else made, if they are living for the Lord NOW they don’t need to be judged.
They are women who are tired and hurting and in desperate need of help. If they don’t know the Lord, they are in even more desperate need of help.
Your reaching out in small ways or large ways makes a very big difference. It is much appreciated and much needed. Your help can help a child have a different life.
Pray about the single moms you know. Ask God what he’d have you to do. Do it.
For just a minute imagine it’s you. Imagine your husband isn’t home. He isn’t providing a penny of income. No getting a break from the kids even for a minute. He isn’t there to do anything ever.
Think of any time you speak to him in a day. Anytime you run a question by him. Anytime he disciplines the children. Takes out the trash. Rubs your shoulders. Tells you you’re pretty. Hollers at the children for being disrespectful to you. Warms up the car so you don’t have to be cold.
Take that away. None of it ever.
Then think what would you like someone to do for you? What would you like your church to do?
I completely understand that many homes where dad is home he doesn’t do much. Many homes with daddy home don’t make much money. Many married moms are exhausted too.
What I’m saying is just imagine never having one thing that your husband does for you, or your children or your home. Imagine doing it alone 24/7 for months on end.
I’m pretty sure you can think of a thing or two you’d be longing for someone to do for you.
When you’re stressed & want to get away, you find some way to do that. I’m not saying that getting away for a while negates the necessity of talking to the Lord, but you & I both know that you do what you have to do to get a moment to breathe.
What about a single-mom? Can you get together with some of her friends & family & find a way to help her get some down time? You can get a spa certificate for any amount of $, so she can go get a facial or massage or a manicure.
Don’t forget to laugh together!!!!
Don’t get weirded out if she starts crying, you would too, if someone suddenly began to notice you and offer help.
Ask how she is & mean it, listen & let her say what she needs to say without
telling her what to do — that’s what friends are for.
So, what’s stopping you? Go help a single mom!
If you have any ideas I missed, please leave a comment. If you’ve done something for a single mom let us know too!
The comments on my blog had some great discussion to. You can read here.
**Part 2 coming soon.
"I could never do what you are doing"
both innocent statements but equally annoying....I get so frustrated when people tell me how strong *I* am because NONE of this has been done in my strength. I want people to see and know that God is doing this because I can't. I guess that is where the frustration comes in because God should be getting the glory not me. I know part of it is my fault because I hide a lot of my feelings so people don't realize how hard this is for me.....I want to say FTR this IS hard and there is no way I could have done any of it without my Fathers help. I have to constantly give this back to Him because I try to do this in my own strength and I can't. In fact, recently I tried to do something and actually got in my bed and curled up in a fetal position and cried. Yes, I am 37:-) I wanted so much to give up. I was blessed to have a wonderful friend that not only knows my heart but always points me to God to remind me that I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength. I sometimes...ok a lot of the time... need to be reminded of that. This IS hard but I have the comfort of knowing that *I* don't have to do this alone because I do have my Father...He loves me:-)
I awoke in bed...empty except for me and the still strong smell of his cologne. As I lie there warm beneath the covers wondering how I am supposed to face the day, I hear the soft noises arising from the other bedrooms. Calling my name....Mommy, mommy, mommy! Oh yeah, I have to get up....I have to go on! But how will I do it, how will I cope. And how on earth do I tell these three little ones that their daddy will never walk through the door again? God give me strength and wisdom to help them somehow because I can't even help myself right now.
As I gather them together and herd them to the living room my thoughts are confused......they are all so young, how will I make them understand what has happened. They know he's been sick and has been in the hospital for a few weeks now but the boys are only 2 1/2 and not quite 4. How much will they grasp? And how about our only daughter....she's 7 now. Old enough to know and understand. It will be hardest on her at this point. She was always such a "Daddy's Girl".
I look into their little faces and their eyes so full of trust in me that for a few minutes I just want to run away and not face them and the questions that will come. If not now, in the years to come. My throat starts to close up.
I sit them down in a semi-circle on the floor around me. I tell them that their Daddy was very, very sick and couldn't get better no matter how hard he tried. And God saw how sick and how tired Daddy was and took Daddy to live in heaven with Him where he would never be tired again or sick again. And Daddy would not be coming home to us ever again; that Daddy's home was now in heaven with God. Daddy is now an angel and will be watching over us all.
The boys don't fully understand, I can see it in their eyes and on their faces. It's just what I expected. They will have more questions in the months and years ahead. Perhaps I will better be able to deal with it then. When it isn't so new to me too. Will we survive that long?
I turn my gaze to our daughter. The pain I see in her little face and in her eyes makes me wish that I could have died rather than inflict this pain on her when she is so small. She crumbles into my arms and sobs. I tell myself "don't cry, be strong for her"! It is all I can do to not break down and fall totally apart and I pray for someone else to be the strong one and take over......but there is no one else. It is my job....and there is no one to help. How I wish my folks were still alive. I wish I was a little girl myself and they were here to comfort me and handle it all. But they aren't! So I try to compose myself and pull myself together and be there for my children. Be the strong one for them.......they need me now more than ever. "Buck up girl," I tell myself, "you can fall apart later if you need to but for now put on a show for them." Let them know that everything will be okay even though Daddy isn't here.....we are still a family and you will be there to care for them.
Although it is sometimes hard to remember......GOD is with us!
Monday, February 26, 2007
Last week, I received another letter from my husband. He sent a family devotional for our son and I to do.
There was a letter for my son about what life is like there.
The travelling tic tac toe game came back.
Then there was a letter for me.
I sat down on the couch to read. At the end he wrote,
“My covering and God’s covering are over you.”
I sat there staring at the page as tears filled my eyes.
I read it again and again.
He has never said such a thing to me before.
THIS is what I prayed for year after year.
A husband that loves me and that wants to be a godly husband to me.
Little did I know the road that we would travel to reach this point. I am still not exactly able to glibly say “Oh it’s all worth it.” Not yet. Things still hurt and our wounds still ooze.
However, I know that whatever God does to conform us to his image will be worth it in the end.
My husband’s covering is over me. What a blessed thought.
God has been many things to me in this time. My Father, my Protector, and my Strength to name a few. I have learned to lean on Him more than I have ever done before in my life, and I firmly believe that is why in this time of separation from my husband, my marriage has mended weakened areas and given me the ability to see him with new eyes.
I won't deny this deployment has also been the most difficult thing I have ever faced in my life. Letting someone you love, someone who is your best friend, someone you'd give up your life for go to war is very hard. Wars are ugly and they're painful, if they weren't we'd grow too fond of them. And it's not only me who is affected by this act, my twin sons, my daughter, and my youngest son are impacted in ways I can only imagine. While I miss the many aspects of my marriage with my husband, my children miss their dad, the one who brightens their days when he comes home from work.
There are many out there like me, who's voice is so often never heard. And there are those who are actual single parents serving our country on foreign soil while their children are left at home. I hope to give us all a voice in this little spot on the web.
I became a single parent on November 15, 1975. That's when my husband passed away from malignant melanoma and left me with three little children to raise; a daughter, Michelle, age 7, a son, Brian, age 4 and a son, Doug, age 2 1/2. But I felt like a single parent even before that. I started feeling that way back in April of the same year when Dave was hospitalized for surgery and chemotherapy and he was too ill after that to help with the children ever again.
At first I had feelings of anger toward GOD. Why did HE allow this to happen to us? Why couldn't HE have taken a bum from skid row? Why did HE need my husband and the father of my children? Why did HE leave me all alone? Well, HE didn't leave me alone....I just felt that way at the time. I didn't want to go on, I wanted to crawl into a hole and die too. I thought that there was no way I could cope with raising three small children and the demands that they would place on me. I was wrong.
I did raise them and remarried and acquired two more children in the process. That marriage has not always been easy. It isn't a bed of roses trying to blend two families together as one. But, I'm rambling.....I will be addressing more of my feelings and happenings and experiences of being a single parent with each additional post.