Terrible horrible no good very bad day….

Today was a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” day, and no, my name is not Alexander.  Awoke to Ben not feeling better, still running fever.  Okay, I accepted the doctor’s nurse telling me yesterday to add mucinex 3 times a day.  Today, that didn’t cut it.  My little guy has felt like crap since last Friday night, fever, malaise, no appetite, coughing, sweating….you get the picture.  Called today only to find out our doctor was off today.  No matter, I demanded to see someone, and we quickly were given to one of the nurse practitioners.  She listened to his lungs, immediately ordered a chest xray, and diagnosed him with pneumonia, left lower lung lobe totally clouded.  With a breathing treatment in the office, and four new prescriptions, we hope to see improvement soon.  Glad I followed my instincts and pushed today, can’t imagine what shape he would’ve been in otherwise.

After that, we came back home for awhile.  Wonderful church friends are coming over this Saturday to assemble a 8 x 10 storage building for us.  The pieces are in two heavy cardboard boxes, waiting in the backyard.  I anticipated the boxes being opened Saturday, but my German shorthaired pointer evidently couldn’t wait that long.  I glanced out into the backyard to see pages of the instruction manual floating all over the place!  Found a bag of screws and various small pieces that had been removed. The guilty party was kenneled while I gathered up the various pieces and called the vet to see if there was a doggie hotel spot open for Miss Maggie Mae until after the building’s completion.  She got the last slot.  Ben & I took her there post haste. 

Upon our return, I began looking at the chewed up manual.  There are 4 manuals, actually, in English, French, German, and Spanish.  Maggie just decided to chew up the German one.  Maybe something to do with her heritage?  Or the fact that Mark was born in Germany??? Not sure about either of those, but as exasperated as I was, Mark Howell had better not be laughing at me…..
Ben taped together the few English pages she was just beginning to taste as I caught her in the act.  We should be all systems “go” for Saturday. 

Didn’t want to leave Ben alone, so he went with me to Home Depot, where we had a list of things to purchase for the building’s foundation.  This list included 6 pieces of lumber, 10 feet long, and 26 bags of pea gravel.  I admit it, I pulled a bit of a “poor female” routine to get some much-needed help.  I had no stinking idea where these things were in the store.  I found a sympathetic female employee, and we started gathering up items.  I washappy to see our dear friend Jacob in the lumber area.  He postponed lunch to help load lumber and gravel.  With Mark’s Toyota pickup bed filled, we headed back home…again…and I unloaded every piece of it, all by myself. Mark would’ve been proud. 

Add a run to the bank and the pharmacy to pick up much-needed prescriptions.  Check.  And I recycled, filled both vehicles with gas, and washed two loads of laundry.  Even typing this makes me tired.

This is a different sort of blog entry for me.  No great deep philosophical truths revealed to me.  No messages from up above.  This was just a normal busy day in the life of me.  I was too busy to have time to think, too busy to feel sorry for myself, too busy taking care of my sick child. Too busy taking care of the little details that God trusts me with, while I’m giving all the big stuff to Him.  And that’s okay.  There are plenty of days to miss my better half.  Plenty of days to cry.  Plenty of days to think of what might’ve been.  But today, well, today, I just lived.  I accomplished much.  And it feels good.

Baseball, grief, and hope…

As we watch the Rangers in the ALCS, we can’t help but miss Mark.  His big “man chair” sits empty for part of the game, but sooner or later one or two of us cozy up in it.  It just doesn’t seem like he should be gone.  I catch myself thinking that he’s just away in Austin on business, but then in a millisecond my brain and heart remind me that he’s not coming back. 

He loved baseball.  Breathed it, drank it, ate it, could rattle off statistics, starting lineups, pitching rotations, etc.  Andrew has the same love; it’s been hard watching the playoffs without his dad, but I’m trying my best to fill the gap.  I’m certainly not as knowledgeable as his daddy was, but I can hold my own, especially for “a girl.” 

We’re slowly but surely finding our way through this maze of grief.  I know that the best way to honor Mark and his life is to remember how great he was and continue to move forward.  He had faith that I could carry on without him.   He knew that I would put the boys’ welfare and best interests in the forefront, just as he did.  He would want us to live.  He would want us to have fun. And I want that, too, for all three of us. It’s scary being without your best friend and better half standing with you— I may never get used to the extra responsibility, but I’m doing it.  I could not do it without the wonderful support system of friends & family, and the great number of prayers going up for our little family of three. 

When I met him, I was only 22 years old.  I did alot of growing up while married to him.  Most of what I stand for and believe in is due in large part to being his partner for a quarter century.  He led this family in faith and in grace, and he loved these boys more than anything else on this earth.  They are his legacy, a big piece of him that’s living on.  Above everything else, I want them to have as normal a life as possible, even without an earthly dad beside them….and I want them to just be boys.  As I told Andrew shortly after Mark died, “I just need you to be a 9 year old kid….I’ve got the rest.”

I’ve had to make several head of household decisions in the past two months, and that alone, is hard, whenever one is used to having a partner to bounce ideas off of, and discuss the pros and cons.  My sounding board is gone.  Yet another reason for me to put everything in God’s hands and at His feet.  Whether it’s choosing a new electric provider, buying new tires for my car, or purchasing an outdoor shed for all of our extra stuff, it’s all new to me. 

On top of everything else, Ben’s still sick.  His fever, although getting lower, is still not back to normal.  Poor kid, he’s sleeping during the day, his appetite is terrible, and he alternates between hot flashes and cold sweats.  Hoping the fever breaks by Thursday, he’s tired of being at home. Another reason to miss daddy, he was able to use sick time to stay at home if the boys needed him.  What a great dad, huh?  I went off to work while he stayed home and took care of our boys.  Is it any wonder that we miss him?

Tonight, we celebrated the Rangers winning game 4 of the ALCS, the boys are snuggled asleep in bed, and that big chair looks empty once again.  But I know that he is watching over us, and I can feel God’s hands on us in everything that we do. 

And my hands?  Why, they are wide open.  I make sure of it every time I pray, hopeful that God will continue to guide my decisions and fully expecting Him to fulfill Jeremiah 29:11– “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord.  “plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It’s been Monday all weekend…

So much for an exciting 3 day “hip hop partyin'” weekend.  That’s how Mark would describe any weekend where we had an extra day off.  And more often than not, with Mark it was a non-stop partying weekend, fun stuff going on most all the time. 

Initial plans for a trip to Kansas were nixed, as Andrew told me he wasn’t ready to be at the farm “without Daddy.”  Since I told them that we would make major decisions like this, the three of us together, I added in my vote, as well.  I’m not ready to be at the farm without Daddy, either.  We’ll  maybe try again next month. 

Glad we didn’t travel, since Ben boy came home with a fever Friday night & headed to bed for a 2 hour nap.  That’s so unlike our Benny, I knew something was up.  He fought fever and coughing all weekend, so I took him to the doctor this morning.  Bronchitis is the diagnosis, for both of us, actually.  Mark would love the fact that we got a “2 for 1” at the clinic as the pediatrician listened to my chest and prescribed antibiotics for me as well.  All for the low price of one co-pay, $25 🙂

Poor Andrew, he’s been so good to help take care of his brother, even helping cool him down with ice & cold compresses on more than one occasion this weekend.  We’ve tried two nights to get to the cinema to watch “Real Steel”, but Ben’s afternoon fevers have put the brakes on those plans.  Andrew broke down & cried this afternoon, as Ben’s temp spiked back up.  I think everything is a bit more emotional for all of us, so I let him cry as long as he needed to.  Crying is healing, whether over spilt milk, modified plans, or missing a loved one. 

As I waited for Andrew in the car during his guitar lesson, I did some praying and soul-searching.  In my mind, I kept coming back to a weekly image of Mark, every Sunday morning in church.  As we’d stand for the benediction, he would open his hands upward, placing them on the back of the pew in front of us, in sort of a cupped position.  He would hold his head up high, eyes closed, smiling like he was taking in the warmth of a beautiful summer’s day.  At the end, he’d give a robust “Amen” along with the pastor.  It was almost like he was “drinking in” the warmth of the Savior to help him as he left to prepare for his always-busy week.  Even if we were holding hands, he’d drop my hand to do this. 

Then I thought of my journey since losing him.  I haven’t been looking up towards my God with hands totally open, like my husband did.  My hands have been clenched, even if just a tiny bit, to keep from putting everything at God’s feet.  Don’t know why I’m doing it….okay, yes I do……I like to be in control.  As Mark would tease, “So, how’s that working for you, sweetie?” And I would have to admit, not so well. 

So today, I sat in the parking lot of Great Neck Guitars in Wichita Falls, Texas, and cried out to God to forgive me for holding back.  I told Him that I was opening up my hands, letting everything fall out of them, so He can work His ways in me.  Giving Him 80, 90, even 95 percent isn’t enough.  He requires all 100%.  And as smart as I’d like to think that I am, I’m not smart enough or wise enough or savvy enough to walk through this mess without turning all my worries over to Him. 

And when I’m tempted to hold back, to worry about one or two little things I cannot control, like what we’re going to do for the upcoming holidays, or what to do with my bird dog, or where God wants us to live in the next few years…..I will consciously think of that sweet image of the man I loved for over half of my life, holding his hands open to God and receiving His full blessing.  Maybe THAT’S why he had such confidence and calm with whatever life dealt him (us), even up to the end of his life.  Because he wasn’t afraid of dying, he was only afraid of leaving us behind. 

His being afraid of leaving us behind is all the incentive I need.  I will keep my hands open, because I know he’s watching over us.  And I don’t want to disappoint him.  His family will remain intact, whole, and be happy again, eventually.  With outstretched open hands, I ask for it, expectantly. 

Rain, Legos, & Jalapeno Peppers…

  
Rain!  Hallelujah, Wichita Falls is getting rain.  Cool, steady rain.  Rain after the longest, driest, hottest summer on record.  If only Mark were here, he’d be out in it, dancing….

Seeing the forecast, I rushed to put fresh batteries in our digital rain gauge.  Barely got them installed & outdoor gauge reattached to fence before it started.  Mark, being a Kansas farm boy, was always big on weather, particularly rain.  I’ve been travelling to his parents’ farmhouse for almost a quarter century, and the kitchen’s old chalkboard always has the daily rain amount posted.  Good farmers must keep track of such important information.  The chalkboard, something that’s been in that farmhouse forever, is something my sentimental husband wanted from his mom whenever she eventually moves.  I still want it for our boys. 

Picked a lone jalapeno pepper today from a plant he tended through the dry summer.  Before he went into the hospital, he asked me to keep it alive….believe me, it hasn’t been easy.  But patience, regular watering, and keeping the rabbits away worked, and I know he’s smiling & nodding that it’s producing.  Guess I’ll have to eat it with supper.  There’s something very comforting about nurturing something that he started.  (Now that’s a sentence that will require a whole other posting).

Tough day yesterday as I spent a counseling session without the boys.  Didn’t know that I could cry so hard, so long, or so continuously for 45 minutes, but I did.  What is it about that one-on-one counseling that allows me to just open up my very soul and everything comes spilling out?  It’s cathartic and exhausting, simultaneously. 

Struggling to find a way to tell the counselor what I was feeling, it came to me like an epiphany.  Our lives with Mark were like a beautifully-built Lego castle, every piece put into place.  Whenever he died, it’s as if someone came along and kicked the castle into pieces, and they are scattered everywhere.  I’m trying my best to scurry around and pick up the various pieces, and striving to find some way to put things back together again.  I know it won’t be the same, or as perfect as it was before, but it needs to be done.

The counselor, who chooses his words carefully, told me that I was trying too hard to do too much too quickly.  He advised me to “leave the pieces where they are” for awhile.  And to let God lead me when the time comes to begin picking up those pieces. 

He’s right.  I’m wanting to be “done” with this process.  That doesn’t mean I love my husband any less–if anything, it’s because I love him so much that I can hardly stand thisThis hurts.  It’s on my mind every waking second.  He’s in my dreams every night.  I see the longing in both of our sons’ eyes as they miss him, miss his touch, his laugh, his rough-housing with them. 

The counselor asked me if I enjoyed Mark.  Well, heck yes, that’s the understatement of the year, sure I enjoyed him!  He then told me that he has people sit in my chair frequently who did not enjoy their loved ones while they were alive, and they have regrets after their death.  My only regret was that we didn’t have him for 40 more years. 

Today, I start taking his advice.  I’m going to try to be content and leave the pieces where they are, and just seek to get the day-to-day “have tos” completed.  I will aim to keep my “way-A” type personality under control, and let God work His plans in His time. 

Okay, if you’ll excuse me, I “have to” step over a bunch of Legos….I need a recipe that calls for an organically-grown fresh jalapeno pepper. 

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…..

After a down day yesterday, where I allowed myself to feel angry at my husband, our situation, and choices made, I decided to make today a more positive one, if God would give me a little help.

I know that it’s okay for me to be angry, acknowledging the emotions & dealing with them is an important part of this whole sad process.  I also know I can’t be impatient, this takes time….but I have two little boys looking to me for strength & guidance, and although I make sure they see me grieve, cry, and miss their daddy, I want them to have confidence and assurance that I can move forward in this new unwanted role of both mom and dad.  Now, that would be hard for a 100% sane person, imagine what it’s like for someone who has lost her best friend and mate of 25 years! 

I think I realized today why he & I were so perfectly matched, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  We came together, married, and immediately moved 700 miles away from all friends and family.  We knew no one in Maryland!  We didn’t even have a place to live, Mark just had a job waiting.  For our marriage, it was the best thing we could’ve done.  Without anyone to run home to, or call, or cry to, or leave with, we had each other…and each other only.  We developed a deep attachment, friendship, and love that was indestructible.  And it only got better as time passed.  My heart still skipped a beat everytime he even looked my way.  All girls (women) should be so lucky. 

Feeling better about things, I hit the Lake Wichita trail.  About 6 weeks ago, I had a chance encounter with a lovely Christian lady and her dog on the trail.  She could tell I was upset, and asked how I was doing.  Boy, she was probably sorry she asked.  Long story short, she listened to me, hugged me, prayed for me, and told me she would continue to do so.  Haven’t seen her again….until today. 

I could tell it was her from a distance, her dog was distinctively large.  She was surprised I remembered both of their names.  She immediately asked how I was, and said she’d been looking for me every day she was on the trail.  As we stood and shared, two sisters in Christ, the tears began rolling down her cheeks.  She’s faced trials, too.  When I told her our family was in counseling & in the Hospice Building Bridges program, she raised her hand up in praise to God.  She told me that she has been praying for me on a daily basis….a woman I’ve only met one time, 6 weeks ago!  How awesome is that?  We parted, sure we’d meet another day on the trail. 

As I headed home, I heard the distinctive squawk of a red-tailed hawk.  He was above me, not hunting anything, not going really anywhere, but was just gliding and soaring on those majestic wings God gave him.  The wind was pretty brisk, so he was getting lots of lift.  I stood and watched as he ducked and turned in the bright sun for a full 2 minutes. 

Tonight before dark, Ben and I headed outside for a little “green time” while Andrew finished 4th grade homework.  We decided to do chalk drawings on the driveway.  As we drew, we talked.  I told him, “Benny, you know Daddy is always close by.  I told him before he died, that we would need him, and I think if you listen close enough, you can feel him, too.”  He nodded & kept drawing.  Not 30 seconds later, a succession of Canada geese passed over us, in groups of a dozen or so.  The first groups were pretty high in the sky.  Each group seemed to fly over a bit lower, with the last two barely topping the trees in our front yard.  Even Ben remarked, “Dad, okay, I think we know you’re here, thanks for the geese.”

As my blog entries go, this one may seem a bit disconnected, but really it’s not.  I started today wishing for something better than yesterday, and that came in three striking examples:  seeing a new friend again after a chance encounter, watching a red-tailed hawk play my own personal air show, and listening to a 100-geese serenade as Ben & I watched the lovely sunset from our front yard.

The irony of experiencing all three of these while I was in the great outdoors today was not lost on me.  When Mark’s close by, these will be the ways in which I will feel him…in God’s beautiful creation where he was most at home. 

It’s still hard, and it still mostly stinks.  But we’re still standing.  And praying.  And walking.  And doing what needs to be done.  The rest will come in God’s time. 

p.s.  Dear God, thanks for the signs.  And Your help 🙂

The feeling of the day is….angry…

Angry.  That’s my one-word description for my feelings today.  Just angry.  Not at God, I’ve written that I’m not angry with God, just angry our plans were so radically altered.  Nope, I’m mad at my husband.

That sounds so cruel as I read it!  And it’s not real anger or malice or anything close, but frustration that he didn’t handle his health situation in as expedient a fashion as I would’ve wanted. 

His initial attack of acute diverticulitis was in mid-April.  He didn’t tell me how bad it was, and he was originally mis-diagnosed with a hernia (a problem he’d had for years).  A cat scan showed the perforation on his colon & surgery was recommended.  He resisted.  This healthy, brawny, intelligent man could not bring himself to schedule major surgery. 

A follow up colonoscopy.  I sat beside him while his doctor told him as plain as he could that NOT having the surgery was the risky option.  It needed to be done.  This was mid-May.  He opted to treat it with oral antibiotics (also an alternative).  I tried every way in this world to change his mind.  I begged.  I pleaded.  I cajoled.  I tried to guilt him into it.  Nothing worked.  I had three sleepless nights, tossing and turning, worrying about his not having the surgery.  I prayed.  And at the end of that week, I knew I had to turn it over to God.  He was a grownup, and I could not force him to make the decision to have surgery.   I told him if the shoe were on the other foot, my surgery would’ve already been scheduled…because I have two sons to raise & I need to be around another 40 years or so.  And then, I dropped the subject completely.

In his defense, he was thinking ahead to a big regional meeting he was planning for his department in late June, and a trip to Massachusetts to see his brother & sis-in-law in early July.  He was feeling better, and promised he’d consider the surgery once those events were completed.

Well, he had the surgery.  And we all know how that turned out.  And while I know that I cannot look back & wonder “what if,” I cannot help but wonder what the outcome would’ve been if he’d had the surgery whenever it was recommended.  He might’ve come thru it great.  Then again, he might have had the same sad outcome, but in early summer.

So I’m angry.  I loved him so much, he was the biggest influence in my adult life.  Because of him, I love the outdoors.  Because of him, I no longer shriek whenever I see a snake (at least most of the time).  Because of him, I have a great appreciation of ecosystems, natural resources, and God’s creation in general.  Because of him I don’t litter, and I recycle faithfully.  Because of him, I care about social issues, global warming, world famine, rainforests, and endangered species.   I had the most wonderful 25 years possible being his wife and his best friend.  And adding those two boys to the equation 10 years ago??? Without a doubt, the icing on the cake, the best darn thing we ever did. 

But he should be here with us.  And he’s not.  That is why today, just for today, I’ve decided it’s fine to be a little mad at him.

And I think he’s okay with that.  The very few times he was actually wrong about something (and that was very rare), I relished telling him “I told you so.”  I get no joy in even remotely thinking that this time. 

I tell folks that whenever I get to heaven (hopefully many years from now), I will give him a noogie on his head….and ask him why he waited to have that surgery. Everyone tells me I will be so glad to see him, along with all other loved ones, that I won’t care.  But I think I will.  Because it’s something I think about each and every day.  The question doesn’t consume me, but it’s there, along with all possible outcomes….any of which would’ve been better than the one we were given. 

I’ll spend extra time reading my Bible and praying tonight.  And whenever I go to bed, I will let the anger go.  It serves no purpose, adds nothing positive to our lives, and is a waste of my time & my energy.

I promise, I’ll just wallow in it for another hour or so.

"A day without laughter is a day wasted…".

Today was an up-and-down type of day.  I’m still fighting congestion & feeling tired, and I’ve decided it’s much easier to feel down & depressed about things in general whenever one is not physically 100%.  There’s a definite connection between the physical and spiritual parts of our beings, that’s for sure.  I’m hoping to “hit the pavement” in the morning to begin to get those natural endorphins flowing again. 

On the “down” side of today, I felt overwhelmed at all of the tasks that are staring me in the face, piled in every room, hiding behind every door.  Before Mark’s hospitalization, we were practically out of town the whole month of July.  You can just imagine the sorting and putting away that I’m behind on. 

But I decided today to just do one thing…mark it off my list, and feel good about it.  My one thing was to bundle up the boys’ outgrown clothes & drop them by Goodwill.  Mark loved having garage sales, he was a natural salesman, loved the people coming & going—me, not so much.  Since he’s now in heaven, I don’t have any inclination to continue the garage sale adventure.  That’s where Goodwill comes in. 

As I opened a closet to see if I’d located all of things for donating, I glanced at his gunrack. There were his guns, his shotgun shells neatly placed.  His two hunting vests, one with lots of orange for pheasant & quail, the other green camo for turkey.  His jackets.  Sentimental guy that he was, he even saved his FFA jacket from Inman High School, his jacket from his not-sure-about-his-career-path Culligan job. 

A full, vibrant life.  Someone with so many plans, so much to do, so much left to give….gone in a heartbeat.  I’ll never understand why.  I don’t think I’m supposed to.  I had to close that closet door pretty quickly, I’m not ready to deal with all of those memories yet. 

I loaded up the truck and took the items to Goodwill.  Donating things to charities is a mood-brightener, I highly recommend it.   This was the beginning of my “up” part of the day.

We attended our next session of “Building Bridges” tonight, sponsored by Hospice.  It’s heartening to see that we are not alone, that there are folks from all walks of life, all ages, all ethnicities, walking a similar path that the boys & I have been given.  No one’s story is the same, yet you can identify with everyone’s on some level.  There’s a loss, there’s pain, and you try to minimize the collateral damage and heal the best way you know how. 

As we talked tonight before bed, after prayers were said, Andrew remarked, “You know, there’s a sign in our classroom that says, ‘A day without laughter is a day wasted.'”  Ben replied that he’d seen the same sign in his class last year.  In my 48 years, I’ve never heard that saying, and I’d thought I’d pretty much heard them all.  I like it. 

I remember Mark smiling at me in the hallway of the Blackburn Science Building at Murray State University on Sept. 3, 1986.  I smiled back.  Both of us smiled alot, we were both raised in the tradition that a smile can break tension, make another person feel comfortable, and is just a generous way to greet folks.  He had me at that first smile.  He laughed, oh, how he laughed!  Each & everyday.  And because of his laughter, my “way-A” type personality actually loosened up and enjoyed life more to the fullest. 

In my mind, I’m replaying dozens of instances in which he laughed, I laughed, we all laughed as a family.  And I know, down deep within my soul, that we will continue to laugh, even though sometimes we may be crying at the same time.  Because God is good. 

Even in the midst of this terribly sad circumstance my family is in, God is in control.  And God will provide.

Because “living like Daddy” requires a whole lotta laughter. 

Amen.
 

Hard Stuff

Here I sit at home on a Monday, sick.  All of the chores I need to be doing, and I don’t feel like doing anything.  A slight fever, along with a cough & headache, are keeping me from accomplishing much.

I need to write a newspaper column! Thank goodness for TPWD news releases, that will just have to do for this week. 

My boys are home with me.  Both have similar symptoms, although I’m the only one with fever. 

I need to run!  Haven’t been able to since last Tuesday, before my substitute teaching gig at the preschool.  Speaking of which, I bet that’s where I picked up this crud.  Adorable 3 year olds are notorious for spreading germs.  But they sure are cute.

I need to clean my house!  I have a sink full of dirty dishes, two loads of laundry to do, a dishwasher full of clean dishes to put away, and bills to pay.  Not sure how much of that will get done today. 

So, I sit here, in an ibuprofen-induced fog, typing.  At least I feel like doing that. 

Yesterday dear friends invited us over to watch the Cowboys game, and dinner was delicious (don’t ask about the game).  Afterwards, the dad of the family offered to take my boys along with him to his deer lease, where he needed to fill his feeders with corn.  My boys needed that.  They need ample opportunity to “rip and snort” (Mark’s term for boys running around outdoors), and they haven’t done enough of that lately.  They came home telling boy tales of seeing a dead cow, and a live coyote.  It made me smile.

Saturday, Ben was in the shower, and I could hear him squeezing what sounded like the last remains of shampoo out of a bottle.  I asked if he needed a new one.  He replied that Dad had taught him to store it upside down, so that the little bit would be in the cap for next time.  

As he kept squeezing and squeezing, he said, “You know, Daddy wanted us to do lots of stuff.  And some of the things he wanted us to do are hard!”  Amen, little man, amen.  I’m doing alot of hard stuff now that Daddy wants me to do.  It’s lonely and sad and I wish that I could just wake up to find this is a very bad, very long nightmare.  But I won’t. 

The hard stuff is not going away.  The cluttered house won’t clean itself.  I’m still wading through piles of paperwork to be completed, and looking at statements that come in the mail that say “The Estate of Mark H. Howell”.  I’m just counting on God to keep carrying us through the hard stuff.  Because I have hope that there’s still good stuff somewhere down the road.

"Living Like Daddy"

Call me a bit crazy….but I love Spongebob Squarepants.  Out of all of the cartoons the boys have watched over the years, there’s just something about Spongebob.  Guess part of it is that a marine biologist is its creator.  The humor has several levels & can be appreciated by more than just kids.  For months, as I lay with the boys at night after we said prayers, we’d take turns talking about our favorite episodes.

Since Mark’s death, I have a new favorite Spongebob episode.  It’s one where Spongebob and Patrick (the not-too-bright starfish) watch longingly as Larry the Lobster, the buff lifeguard with the great tan, lives each day to the fullest.  They decide to follow suit, saying they are “living like Larry.”  Of course, as most things go with Spongebob, he and Patrick end up getting injured by attempting some of Larry’s activities.  As Larry says, “You should live life to the fullest, but don’t maim yourselves!”. 

I’ve borrowed and adapted the slogan for our own.  We are “Living like Daddy”.  Daddy was fun & he lived life to the fullest.  He was strong, healthy, full of life, and tried each and every day to be involved in interesting fun activities….and was darn good at involving all of us in them in the process. We don’t want to hurt ourselves either, but live life to the fullest in honor of him.

That all being explained, I decided that this Saturday would be the first “Living like Daddy” experiment.  Took AJ and Ben’s oldest friend, Sam, with us to the Little League park.  The weather was gorgeous, and AJ’s team won 21-2.  Afterwards, we raced home just long enough for AJ to change clothes, then headed to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner.  That place is loud, boisterous, and every sports person’s dream.  Watched the Rangers on their way to a win tonight, saw highlights of Baylor losing to K-State (GO CATS!), and watched Texas stomp all over Iowa State.  It was fun. 

After eating, we headed to the Plex for a game of mini golf.  We have a great course, not 2 miles from our house, and I’m embarrassed to say our boys have never played it before.  Neither had Sam.  We had a blast.  As I stood there listening to three boys trash talking, laughing, and giving each other unsolicited golfing advice, I just felt so happy.  We were ‘living like Daddy’, out enjoying a cool beautiful early fall evening, under a cloudless sky.

Of course, having Mark there would’ve made it perfect.  But since that can’t be, it’s my job to help make opportunities for good memories in his absence.  Don’t want the boys to look back, years from now, and think, “Wow, we really had alot of fun and made great memories before Dad died, but after we lost him, we just didn’t do as much.  We quit having as much fun.”  I want them to remember scores of great times with their Dad, and make great fun memories even after Dad went to heaven.  It’s my job now, and I take it very seriously 🙂 

So, we’re “Living like Daddy” each and every day—and hoping not to maim ourselves in the process.

Sad day, glad day…

Woke up early this morning, relieved that it was Friday, then remembered that it was the two-month anniversary of Mark’s death.  How can it already be two months?  There are times it seems like forever since we lost him, other times when it stings just like it were yesterday.

But we had a busy day planned, and life must go on.  It was student council election day at the boys’ school, so I made sure that we talked on the way there about the importance of both winning and losing graciously, because I didn’t have a feeling one way or the other about their chances.  Whenever there are only 20 or 22 kids in a class, and six of those are running, elections can be won or lost over a single vote.  We thought (incorrectly) that there were two slots in each of the 4th grade classes, but knew for sure there was only one slot per 3rd grade.  I said a quick prayer for both boys as I headed back to the truck. 

Raced home, threw a lunch together, and headed to the preschool for my last day of substitute teaching.  I had 12 three year olds, and did fine until about 1pm.  The noise and general busyness of the group began to get the better of me, so we cleaned up the room & I turned them outside onto the playground until time for parents to pick them up.  I quickly relaxed on the bench outside, watching them play and burn off energy while lots of monarch butterflies made their way across the landscape. When it was time for me to go, I cried a few tears, thinking it would be awhile before I felt up to being here again in a teaching capacity.

Headed to the school a few minutes early, wanted to check to see that the boys got their stu-co posters, since they like to keep them.  As I headed down the hallway, a 1st grade teacher called out to me, “Congratulations, proud mama!”….I quizzed her quietly, “Which one?”  to which she squealed, “BOTH!”.  Both Howell boys were elected to student council!  I was so happy, I burst into tears.

Now, it doesn’t take much to dissolve me into tears, and I felt a little silly crying over this.  But they were tears of happiness, sadness, gladness, all at the same time.  Sad that their daddy wasn’t here to witness the excitement, but glad that these two little boys, chips off the old block, were going to serve together on student council.  And I think Mark knows.  Actually, I have no doubt that he knows, because heaven wouldn’t be heaven for Mark H. Howell if he couldn’t see his boys.  And today, I can bet his chest puffed out, and he gave that familiar nod while beaming that big ole smile, saying, “That’s my boys!”

Bought a decadent chocolate cake and vanilla bean ice cream to celebrate the election victories, sharing it with sweet dear family tonight.  Good thing we had something else to celebrate, considering the pitiful display our Texas Rangers put on tonight at home against the Rays. 

So, in the midst of what started out as a sad day, we rejoiced and celebrated a 3rd and 4th graders’ victories in student elections.  Glad that they are my sons, feeling fortunate to be their mother, and anticipating a future filled with hope and love.