Life…like holidays…

Life…like holidays…

So many blogs stop.

So many of us claim to want to write, then don’t.

Life is terribly funny that way, isn’t it? What we claim to want to do and what we do are at times/often not the same. Perhaps it is just me.

This holiday season was, in so many ways, wonderful.

Christmas Collage

Scarves Collage

My hubby and I carved time away together. We attended parties with old, dear friends. We had dinner with wonderful, new friends.

As a family (or parts of family) we went to the Nutcracker; laughed heartily at the Melodrama; gave to a family in need; enjoyed carols and church; read parts of a beautiful Advent book.

We were incredibly organized for us. No staying up Christmas Eve to wrap presents, Christmas cards got mailed on time, and money was deposited into our oldest’s account as a gift and to buy his Christmas dinner. All of those were wonderful improvements over years’ past where good intentions and reality were a tad bit out of sync.

The Christmas dinner was fantastic–I do love to cook turkey–but that wasn’t enough to salvage my mood.

I shot way too many dirty looks in my hubby’s direction. When my reality and my expectations didn’t meet up, I let my petty trump my grace.

Again.

Due to extended family drama, I already had a counseling appointment set up for the day after Christmas. I paid someone to talk to me for nearly two hours.

It was absolutely money well spent.

The less than perfect of the Christmas Day does not black out the good that preceded it. So hard for me to remember sometimes. I think it is why the stories of the beginning of Jesus’ life and the end take place over time. Mary traveled. Jesus was born. The shepherds and the wise men came.

Jesus was betrayed. He was beaten. He was put on trial. He was crucified. He was buried. He rose again. He stayed for a while. He rose into the clouds.

To get the whole meaning–to let it sink into my soul in a life changing way–I must accept the time of it. My Christmas season was blessed. I served the needy with friends, I worshipped with my family, I laughed. Even though my Christmas Day was testier than I wanted, it is a mistake to focus on just that.

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And so I remember that although I don’t write as often as I wish I did, I will continue on. Brighten A Corner requires I get better as a writer. The messages on my heart prod me as well. And I will remember that although the day of Christmas had great moments and weak moments, the season was Jesus-focused and filled with laughing with friends and family alike.

Because life, like holidays, are seasonal in nature…

 

 

What is Normal?

What is Normal?

I admit that there are moments when doubt and fear creep into my  head and heart about my daughter’s future.

Will she be normal?

Ryan is the only one in the world with her particular chromosomal abnormality. Apparently, I have bad genes. Great.

She is almost ten and can’t talk. Years and years of speech therapy, but still no ability to form a sentence. She can utter few words. She can use a few signs.

As a family we function very well. We guess and decipher and encourage and learn and endure some melt downs as her world and her thoughts expand. But every once in a while I am able to step outside myself and feel how abnormal my normal is.

Sure, she went to four years of kindergarten. Not normal, but absolutely the right thing for her.

No, she is not in Special Education. She obviously qualifies, but my hubby and I don’t believe the system would invest in her; it would merely endure her.

All this is not normal. We are not a part of the typical crowd, we are not a part of the special ed crowd. We don’t fit in.

But, save a few moments filled with ridiculous and useless panic, we enjoy the journey…

Ryan Blog

Years ago my family began a tradition of going to Disneyland for Halloween.

In my opinion, the Christian Community–of which I am a proud and vocal member–is nutty about Halloween. The whole gather on the 31st of October, in costume, to collect candy, and call it any other name you want and declare you don’t celebrate Halloween is just not for me. And, truthfully, the small town I grew up in had many streets with no lights and obnoxious teenagers that would drive around and smash pumpkins all evening, so my initial thoughts about traditional Halloween are not fabulous. I wanted/needed/searched for a better third option, and Disney was it.

This year, unbeknownst to me, my hubby planned an entire trip to Disneyworld.

Two weeks.

Five different resorts.

Unbelievable.

We packed up and moved our tradition to Florida.

As is the normal routine, one of our first stops the evening we arrive is Downtown Disney to choose a costume. My teen was willing to dress up, but there really was not a great costume for her. (Note to self, a bit of planning and preparation would have been helpful.) Most of the searching was done by my peanut.

I lobbied heavily for this:

Minnie Ryan

But as precious as she was in that costume, and as much as she loved it, when we got into the dressing room she looked at me pleadingly, made her hand into a fist and tapped the wood bench with, “Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock…” which is her way of asking for FROZEN. (Cue the sound track: “Elsa? Do you want to build a snowman?”)

Ryan Anna 1

Ryan Anna 2

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So my daughter, with unlimited options before her, wanted to be a princess from FROZEN for Halloween this year.

It doesn’t get any more “normal” than that.

Grace Unplanned

Grace Unplanned

Much of life is a head down, do my best, nothing spectacular series of moments. But every once in a while, I get a glimpse of beauty that knocks me to my knees.

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Life with my hubby’s parents has been, well, interesting these last few years. My mother in law began losing her memory more than a dozen years ago. The family watched, helpless, as my father in law dug in and refused to make any changes that would be helpful to her. This was not out of any malice–his love was sincere–but borne of a misguided stubbornness and protective pride.

They lived in the mountains, in her parents’ old cabin, and when things got too bad we forced them to move to a retirement community near my hubby and me. My hubby is the third of four kids–one lived in Canada, one in Maine, another planning on traveling–and it made the most sense to move them near us.

We found a wonderful Christian assisted living center which became their home.

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And mostly things were okay. Grandpa, as I always refer to him, was angry, a lot. The truth is he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s for quite some time…long before we noticed. Grandma’s memory had been virtually non-existent for so long we weren’t even looking in his direction. Her dementia was our focus…and he went unnoticed.

We simply thought he was being grumpy.

The truth is he was scared. Often. For good reason.

Two years after we moved them, he got sick. It was only dehydration, but it profoundly affected him. We had to find a new place for them to live, as the care they needed exceeded the facility they had called home.

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Although he had Alzheimer’s he passed the memory test to live in an Assisted Living home with a memory care license. We crossed our fingers and prayed for the best, but they did not last. They could not find their room, ever. We printed out directions and a map and taped it to their walkers, but it did not help. Two weeks after they moved in, we moved them again to the memory unit.

Home was now behind a locked gate, a locked door, with 24 hour supervision. Grandpa threatened to kill himself. He jumped up and down. He screamed. He cried. I heard my mother in law cuss for the first time in my life.

My daughter and I sat on the floor outside their room and cried. She was just eleven.

The next day he had forgotten all about it. We plodded along, making the best of the decline.

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There have been hospital visits and emergency rooms. There has been anger, endless confusion, fits of rage and, gracefully, equal parts laughter.

My husband tells the same jokes every time we visit. Bless him. This last fourth of July he held up a cardboard American flag and led the whole community in the Pledge of Allegiance.

I fell in love with him all over again.

Three short weeks later, Grandpa began to decline again. As a family, we were wrestling with decisions about hospital visits and future medications. Before final decisions were made, he was back in the hospital. We decided to put him on hospice and focus on comfort. The doctor gave him 2-3 days to live.

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The next day, he perked up again.

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Hospice was a gift. He was no longer encouraged to do things he didn’t want to do. He didn’t have to eat if he didn’t want to. He could stay in bed all day. He could get up. He could do what he wanted, and he liked that.

We no longer got calls that he tried to hit a care giver or threw his juice on the floor. There was breathing room.

Then, last Tuesday, when the caregiver tried to feed him his oatmeal, he told her, “No.” That night he spiked a fever.

I went to see him the next day.

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He was dying.

And my mother in law had no idea. She didn’t know me, didn’t remember her kids, and didn’t recognize him.

My hubby and my now thirteen year old had a trip planned to another state for a fun, fun weekend. We decided they should go. So Ryan, my youngest daughter, my brother in law and I spent our days taking grandma out to lunch, wiping Grandpa’s forehead, and making sure his mouth didn’t get too dry.

We tried to keep busy, gently explaining to Grandma what was happening.

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She can not hold on to facts. She has no emotional memory of her life, no ties from her heart to her head. However, she is pure and simply loves what is right in front of her, whether she knows who they are or not.

By Saturday afternoon we were all weary. I was sitting on Grandma’s bed. I had prayed for Grandpa an hour earlier. Grandma came in to use the restroom, and on her way out said, “Is that my husband? He sure does sleep a lot.”

“Come here, and sit,” I patted the bed next to me. “The truth is, your husband is getting ready to go to heaven.”

Her eyes were wide.

“I believe God is waiting for him with open arms, and very soon he will be with Jesus.” Then I explained why that was good.

She looked intently into my eyes and said, “I have had a wonderful life. I had wonderful parents. I have wonderful kids. I had a wonderful marriage. How long were we married?”

“Sixty one years. But you will still have a wonderful life. Your kids visit often. You play with your grandkids. You love to paint. You love to swim. You will be okay.” She agreed and did something I will forever cherish.

She walked over to his bed, bent over him and said, “Good bye. Good bye. I love you. I love you. I love you.” Then she blew him kisses and we walked out of the room.

It was dinner time, so she got settled at the table in the dining room, I checked on Ryan and went back to see Grandpa.

It had only been 3 or 4 minutes.

He was gone.

There was no heavy breathing. There was no movement. There was only silence.

For several years, neither one of them had any control over any thought. No ability of recall. No memory.

Yet God, in His infinite grace, let the very last sounds he ever heard be precious words  from the love of his life.

There are times when the beauty in the cracks of my world simply takes my breath away.

This Is Your Moment

Educating my kids is the hardest part of parenting for me.

The truth is that I ended up hating school, as did my son.  And my heart breaks wanting things to be different for my girls.

Three and a half years ago, as my middle was finishing up fifth grade, my hubby and I set out to look at different education options with only one question in mind: Where will she get the most excellent education?

The choice, within that framework, was very easy. That fall our family became part of the San Luis Classical Academy family. It is a hybrid education, where she was in classes with wonderful teachers two days a week, and home schooled the other three. They guided the home days, and we got to add our own stamp to what we learned.

It was the best educational decision we have ever made.

Now she has started high school. And the school is having its very first CIF teams. Ever. It is our first volleyball season as parents, hers as a player and the schools as a team. We love it.

At the game the other day, the senior member of the team started encouraging the girls by saying, “This is your moment.” We were loving it in the stands…every time momentum was going in the wrong direction, she would call it out.

She was right. These really ARE the moments. Life, an abundant life, certainly has grand gestures and big events, but it is the simple of the everyday that really makes things beautiful.

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Right before my eyes, she is changing. It feels like she grows an inch a week, and if I could I would sweep her back to chubby cheeks and endless days right by my side. But I can’t, so I will do what I can to pay attention today…because there is so much to be awed by.

She loves school because she loves to learn. We are watching and rooting her on, as we wipe away the tears when she’s not looking. Seeing my kids grow up breaks my heart with beauty.

We are transfixed. We are grateful. She has read Chaucer and Shakespeare; The Illiad and Beowolf. She has been wrapped in science and loves geometry. She joined the Writers Club. After volleyball she heads downtown to get dinner and then attends youth group at church with her friends.

My heart is overflowing with gratitude that God has blessed this process so abundantly, and I will breathe it in deeply because this moment will be gone all to soon.