Friday, November 30, 2012

chocolate chips

There are 7 different varities and over 400 cookies in my house right now.  I sure hope someone shows up on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

long division

I've meant to post for the past couple of days - but it just hasn't happened. Either I find myself busy or when I have a quiet moment I just don't know how to put 'it' into words. Every day is its own, new special kind of hell with something or the other. *Like long division with no solution that will play without a remainder.
I've been thinking, praying, about the decision to try and stay here in Germany. I can make lists upon lists about why it makes sense to try and stay here through the school year. I've jumped through the necessary hoops, logistically, to remain here until June. I've prayed and prayed about where I should be and what I should be doing. Doors have opened leading me to the paperwork that was submitted yesterday - and should my request be granted I am trusting that it IS what I am supposed to be doing.
After all, I have lists. upon lists.
Every single bullet explaining why staying here is worth it - for my kids.
But what none of my lists have on them is this: I'm scared to not be a housewife anymore. Stay-at-home mom, homeschooling mom, domestic engineer. Whatever it is you call what I do. It's all I've ever known. It is what I was born to be. Staying here, I get to hold on to that piece of my life that isn't anymore. I've been thinking about it a lot this week. I've been cleaning and baking because of a cookie open house the kids and I are hosting this weekend as a way to thank the local community for their unbelievable support over the last year. As I am going about scrubbing toilets and mixing ingredients, I catch myself happy for a moment. Happy at the normalcy. THIS. this is what I know. and it's all changed now.

*it's from a Death Cab for Cutie song, just thought I'd site that lest anyone think I was trying to take credit....

Friday, November 23, 2012

thankful it's done

It's not hard for us to find things to be grateful for, really, it's not.  It was HARD to have a holiday without him.  Our family, the 5 of us, so very close and steeped in traditions that we created over the years.  So much a part of the preparation and planning, it was hard not to miss him every single second of the last week.  To make an apple pie again, his favorite. 
    The day was fine, the food was good, but we were the most thankful last night about 9:30 PM when the pie was eaten, dishes were done, the movie was over, and we could all just go to bed and be DONE with THAT first. 
  I think, I believe, it was the best it could have possibly been just 6 weeks after losing him.  It was good to be here, in Germany, and in our home -without a big fuss or a lot of guests. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

life in the fog

   As autumn tip-toes toward winter Germany has become cold, wet, grey, and foggy.  The nights dip down to the point of freezing, but it can still warm up to almost 50 degrees some days, this means we’ve been treated to some very dense fog in the mornings.  The dog and I take different variations of the same trails that we’ve always run.  I know these paths well.  I know the dips in the concrete along the paved bike trails; I know the roots in the paths when we veer off through the farmer’s fields.  I know where my dog will go off exploring, and he knows the points to wait and I’ll catch up. The other morning when the fog was so thick I caught myself comparing the soupy, white mist to my life in this haze of circumstances. 

      We are not standing still; we are going down paths we know so well we could do it blindfolded.  It’s more than just “going through the motions” because we aren’t numbly functioning, but rather just doing what we know – avoiding a root, side-stepping a puddle.  The kids may be new to the school routine, but it has become comfortable and familiar to them.  They have their extra activities, their chores, their friends – and they just travel along, sure of their footing, doing what they know to do.  Day by day, moment by moment.  I have my routine as well, though it’s changed a bit, I can settle in and make it through each day.  It’s acceptable.  It’s sufficient. 

     That same day I ran, lost in thought about the fog I also had to drive the dog to be groomed.  The breeder that we bought Phantom from is the same person who grooms him.  She lives in a small village about 30 minutes away.  These are roads I only travel every 6 – 8 weeks when Phantom needs a haircut and only for the last 10 months since Rob used to shave him.  The way is windy, hilly, narrow, and unfamiliar to me.  The fog was thick and so I was driving very slowly.  I noticed that I wasn’t aware of the curves in the road until I was about 50 – 100 yards away from them.  Since the streets are unfamiliar to me and look completely different masked by fog there were points when I had no idea where I was (depending solely on my GPS).  There was construction at one point and I had to back track about 10 minutes to find the detour because I had missed the sign in the fog. 

 This is what my future feels like to me (and the kids, too) right now.  The destination is unfamiliar.  The roads are unknown.  And I’m only privy to the next small portion of road directly ahead of me.  If I try to look ahead, or go too fast, the way is too clouded and I might end up taking a curve too fast.  I’m only sure of what is right in front of me. 

      I think of God as the fog and the GPS working together.  I trust only Him to guide me to the place I’m eventually going and He only reveals to me the next 50 yards at a time.   Traveling everyday life through the fog without a GPS (because we know the roads so well) doesn’t mean that God isn’t there, but that He allows the routine to carry us forward and the everyday steps toward another day when maybe another portion of the road will be revealed. 

      Being here, in this house, in this community that we know best is a gift.  In the schools that my kids have grown to love and found kindred-spirits.  With the same coaches, teachers, and mentors that they’ve known for years.  This is a good place for us to stay the same, but at the same time a good place for us to learn how to begin to go on.  The way forward looks totally different, masked by fog, but day-to-day is much the same for us.  It works.  We can sometimes walk blindly and just trust the way we know so well and the things we’ve always done.  At the same time I know that we cannot stay here forever and there will come a time when moving on, leaving this place, will become necessary.  I don’t know yet when that will be.  I’m prayerful the kids will get to finish this school year and we can move on after Sarah’s graduation, but I don’t know.  God has only shown the next 50 yards.  Thanksgiving is next and that’s all I’ve been allowed to see.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

high honors

Noah receiving his high honors certificate at a ceremony held at his school. Way to go Noah!

Weekend with Heather

This past weekend my friend, Heather, came to visit us with her youngest, Titus. When this family lived in Germany they were among our closet friends. Their latest assignment has them stationed in England - so a few months ago the whole family made the trip to visit with all of us, including Rob.
Heather so wanted to come for the memorial that they held here, in Germany, for Rob. Her husband's work schedule and kids' health wouldn't allow it, or the week after - but in God's perfect timing things worked out so that she could come and spend the long Veteran's Day weekend with us.
The community blessed the kids and I by making sure we had dinner for TWO WEEKS after we came back from Wisconsin. I can't tell you how helpful that was, how welcome, how needed. It allowed me time to not have to think about it and be distracted by 1,000 other things. As the second week was coming to a close I began to realize I was going to have to think about cooking again. And it was harder than I thought. Everything I thought to make, every item in my kitchen holds a memory of a life I don't have anymore. Maybe it's different because being a housewife for 17 years, cooking was something I excelled at and always enjoy. But I couldnt' think of a thing to make. or that I wanted to make. It actually overwhelmed me.
Heather and me at a housewaring party we
 attended on Monday afternoon
The meals stopped on Wednesday of last week and on Thursday we managed with leftovers. So, Friday was the first day I actually HAD to have a plan. And it was time. Knowing that was the day Heather was arriving made it so much easier to HAVE to come up with a plan. Using her as an excuse made getting back in the kitchen SO MUCH easier.
Not only that, but Heather brought some new (to me) cookbooks and the following day we shopped together, cooked together, and enjoyed a meal that was completely brand new to me - that got me excited about cooking again and preparing meals.
Titus "helping" Noah practice the piano
I am thankful for the visit and the sweet time I got to share with my friend. It is amazing to me that God cares for me so powerfully and so intimately that He was aware of an area that I would struggle before I even realized it - as simple as cooking a meal, and with all that is facing me you'd think that would be the least of my concerns.
They left this morning and I am blogging the couple of pictures that we captured along with a sincere thank you to the whole family. For her husband who took time off work and kept the older two so she could come - and to Heather. For lots and lots, but mostly for just being there.
Why, yes - yes, that is cardamom chicken, basmati rice, and HOMEMADE nann!  It was delicious!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteren's Day

Every year the boys join with other local scouting groups to place flags and clean up the site where American military members are buried at a cemetery in the village right by the base.  This is the first year I've ever gone with them because it was their Dad who always did the scouting things with them. 
   Even though it is something they do every year this year was different.  significant.  It was important work to them this year as they really understood the weight of the task. 
   I got a picture (right) of Micah cleaning up some leaves with his Pack, but Noah was off with his Troop and I only saw him when the group was beginning to break up. 
  It was a tough morning.

Friday, November 9, 2012

     This morning I went to an awards assembly for first quarter honor roll students at Ramstein Intermediate School where Micah received an outstanding achievement certificate. 
  I came home and cleaned the house, made soup, drank some tea and read my Bible (I find myself stuck in Isaiah these days), and am now catching up on facebook and emails. I will fold some laundry, make some bread, and wait for my kids to get off the bus so I can hear all about their day. 
  so why are tears streaming down my face. 
maybe because of all the dad's showing up, in uniform, for the awards ceremony this morning.  maybe. 
   but I think it's because today is just so normal that I hate it.
  hate it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

this treasure

     I haven't really had to clean my house in almost 10 months. I've had people helping out, kids doing their best, mothers coming to visit.... My house has been cleaned, but not the way I would do it. Since I've been home from WI (and the kids returned to school) I've slowly been working my way through the house - cleaning room to room. With one exception. I leave all things of Rob's alone. Once the final load of laundry that held items of his were put away in his drawers the drawers remained closed. His closet is shut. His cabinet downstairs with the storage bins of his things (military stuff, hunting gear, personal items, etc) remains locked up. I'm not ready for that. I work around those things and they all just stay.
Sometimes things will overlap, though, and in those moments I have to steady myself as thought catches up with action. There are those unexpected moments, because I try so hard to work around things. Going downstairs to our coat closet to dig out hats and gloves because the weather has turned colder - completely forgetting that his hat and gloves would be among the things stored with ours. I am undone.
Other times, I know they're coming and I can't really avoid it; wandering into the storage area to find an adapter plug for an appliance. I ran my fingers over the tools on his shelf and was suddenly overwhelmed.
      Noah came home from his scout meeting last night and said that he had signed up to go on the annual Bastogne hike that the troop goes to in Belgium every December. His eyes pierced mine when he said, "I just put a 1 on the sheet" - and I got it. Rob was such an active part of Noah's scout life an went on this trip every year. While Noah has been on trips with just the troop before, THIS one is significant, that one on the sheet was important.
      Sarah had a moment at the beginning of this week when she found herself having to travel to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the big Army hospital here, where Rob died. She was with friends having lunch and the mother of one was going to bring her home, but first needed to stop and pick up a younger sibling that had a girl scout project going on at the hospital. Walking those hallways, right by the one where her Dad stayed, she dug her nails so far into her skin that she drew blood. When she came home, shaky and tearful, to tell me about the experience I was unglued because I can not fix this for her. ever.
      All through these moments, when I am missing my husband and hurting for my kids in their moments of grief, I think about those jars of clay. We read those verses over and over when Rob was sick and talked about how even the awfulness of cancer was a light, momentary affliction preparing him for an eternal weight of glory. But now, I think about the four of us and our afflicted, perplexed, struck-down vessels. These beat-up "jars-of-clay", and I know how very true those words that Paul spoke are also true for me and the kids, "that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." All these moments, though they wear our outer selves away, they do not break us. We are not driven to despair (which is hopelessness). Because we are not forsaken, and we will not lose heart.
(2 Corinthians 4)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Micah's moment

     Before bedtime Rob would read and pray with the boys. When they were little it was Dr. Suess or Eric Carle. Their prayers were simple - that they would get to go to the pool if it was summer, or that it would snow in the wintertime. As they grew, they began to work their way through devotionals or simply just read the Bible before the boys would have time to read their novels on their own.
      The three bedrooms we use (the boys share a room) are all located upstairs. In order to help the boys stay focused on the "getting ready for bed" part, Rob would often sit upstairs and play his guitar in the room he and I shared so that he could remind the boys to stop chatting and just brush, change out of their jeans (it's a real concern), remember to use the bathroom, etc. Sometimes when Rob knew they were getting close to ready he would sneak into their room and hide under the covers, pretending to be sound asleep when they discovered him because they took SO LONG.
      Last night Micah was getting ready for bed on his own because Noah was still working away at homework. Micah came down before bed with tears welling up in those huge green eyes of his. He explained to me the story of how Dad would hide, and that when he was done getting ready just now, he walked into his room and the blankets were sloppily arranged on Noah's bed in such a way that he thought Daddy was hiding him them. He said he actually reached out to the blanket before he remembered. He sat on my lap and cried for a long time. Noah and Sarah came and cried, too. Though I know Micah has wept, mostly because he can't stand to see me cry - and I cry. a lot. This was the first time I think Micah understood, in his 10 year old way, what it means to really miss someone.
      We talked about how it's good to share these things. How it's better to cry and remember than try to forget or be so strong that you push memories away. That I always want them to tell me when they think about things like that, because it's those memories that help us to keep Daddy a part of our lives. Then we talked about how great it is to have had a Dad that read the Bible with them. That made a point to read with them, pray with them, talk to them about what he thought about the Bible said EVERY night he was able. And they remember.
      We sat for a long time. The four of us. Micah on my lap. And I thought about how I missed Rob this week. I thought about how it's not just the sweet moments like Micah remembers, but in particular as we settle back into routines and activities. His help with the driving, especially in the evening. Or how when we'd both be going different directions because of different kids' commitments - I would come to the point over the top of our hill where I can see our driveway and I'd see his car in the driveway, if he'd beaten us home, and everyone would cry, "Daddy's home!".
Today has been 4 weeks. And I am glad that these memories are starting to come, as hard as they are to bear, and we remember him when he was healthy, and well. and funny. and not in a hospital bed fighting for his life.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


one of my favorite experiences, living in Germany, is the Christmas markets every holiday season. I love the small, local ones where parking isn't a problem and the drive is less than 20 minutes, the medieval one at Burg Lichtenberg is a favorite. I've braved a few of the bigger ones like that in Strasbourg, France, or more popular ones like St. Wendel. If you go on a weekend to these bigger, more popular ones (and take your children) things can get a little dicey toward evening. It is wall to wall people - and worse than a a sporting event or rock concert because their attention is focused on 1,000 different things as they head 400 different ways. It's colder so everyone is bundled up, it's dark by 3:30 in the afternoon, the stalls are packed very close together on narrow streets so if a line forms there's no where for it to go but in the middle of your path, or blocking another shoppe. If you're patient and willing to just move with the flow, you'll eventually make it back to your parking spot - but if you want to wait in line or try to cross to a specific stall where that perfect Christmas gift for your loved one is waiting - good luck! Especially if you're trying to get a reluctant boy-shopper to follow you.
      Trying to navigate my endless days feel like I'm fighting against the crowd to get somewhere. I'm not sure where, but I'm not moving with the crowd. I think there are people who would step-aside and let me through, or help me if only I (or they) understood where it was I wanted to go. Every time I see a hole in the crowd and feel like I could make headway to my unknown destination, and obstacle blocks that way, and I'm left standing there. directionless, but stuck just the same.
I was in a fender-bender yesterday afternoon and though it was minor, it still just sucks. I want Rob, disappointed though he would be, to tell me that it's okay that I am a crappy driver. To hug me and tell me that it will all be okay, not to worry about that. or the windshield. or the insurance issues. or the computer crashing. or the uncertainty of where and when we're moving. and just what I am supposed to do with the rest of my life here on earth.
      The mathematical problem with a downward spiral is that the further down you go, the faster it spins and the harder it is to stop.
Before you all start becoming anxious, I know I have people. I have a support system checking in on me. Watching me carefully. My faith in God is not shaken. I'm just sad. and a little overwhelmed. and impatient for the learning curve of adjustment.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Willkommen im Dynamikum

all the kids pose by the "gear wall" -
all those pieces are movable and interchangeable

The boys and I went on a field trip to a science museum in nearby Pirmasans. We went with my good friends, Deanna and Michelle, and some of their kids. The trip happened because Micah's class from school went on a field trip the same Friday as the memorial being held on base for Rob. Micah couldn't go because the return time was after the start time for the memorial. BUT this Friday was a day off school for teacher work day, so I asked Michelle and Deanna if they would be willing to turn it in a homeschool field trip so Micah would still get to go.
It was a fun filled day and the kids all had a great time. The exhibits were all hands-on and most had an explanation printed in English as well as German. It was our first social/fun outing and I am so glad that I had these two ladies with us. The older girls stayed behind to hang out, but it was wonderful for my boys to have some of their best friends to spend the day with.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Here I stand, I can do no other

Last night the kids and I attended a reformation service at our church.  It was not strange to be out - like I said, we've survived deployments, TDY's, remotes, shift-work, 12's....etc.  So, that didn't feel weird.  Though when someone was snapping pictures it did occur to me that this was the first.  Though, I am sure, if I were able to look through my photo library (were my computer not crashed and burned) I would find lots of pictures of the 4 of us - this was the first of "just" the four of us.  One more day, one more breath, one more hurdle. 

"That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever. "
                                                                                  - a Mighty Fortress is our God (Martin Luther)