Yes, it is!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I Think My Friend Is Right

I fractured my right foot.  My friend, Lisa, made a statement that I was not too sure about.  She said that this was God's way of getting my attention.  I was a little confused by this. Why would God want to get my attention by causing me such great physical pain?
The problem actually started this past Friday evening.  I had been taking care of our tenants' dogs.  I took the dogs for a walk on Friday evening.  Everything went well with that, the dogs were well-behaved, and I didn't trip or fall.  But later that evening, my left heel started to become extremely painful.  I had been having pain for several months but I just attributed it to the plantar fasciitis.  I quit running several months to try to help the condition improve.  However, I continued to work out and go to Zumba and Kickfit classes.  As long as I didn't land hard on that heel, I was fine.  Until Friday night.  By Saturday morning, it was painful to walk on it.  But I was determined to get some house-cleaning done.  Tim had taken off to do his thing and left the kids with me.  I tried to clean house but after a couple of hours, I had to give up.  Between the extreme pain in my heel and the kids fighting and whining something fierce, I just collapsed onto my bed.  By Saturday evening, the pain had subsided some with the aid of ibuprofen.  The tenants had 4 window blinds that needed replacing so I decided to get that done that evening.  I got the kitchen blind done and 3 of the bedroom blinds finished.  As I went to put the curtain back up on that last bedroom window, the step-stool gave way beneath me and I landed on the floor. I started to get up but fell back to the ground because of the extreme pain in my right foot.  I barely made it down the stairs.  I quickly gathered everything and cleaned up the mess and hobbled out to the car. By this time, it was after 11 pm.  As I drove back to my house, I had a feeling that I may have done more than sprain my foot, especially because it really hurt when I pressed my foot on the pedal in my car.  I made it into the garage where Tim greeted me at the door, thanks to the dogs waking him up.  He helped me get into the house and onto the couch.  I noticed my foot was very swollen.  Great, now I have 2 feet in extreme pain.  I took a couple of ibuprofen and I ended up sleeping on the couch where I kept my foot elevated on a pillow.
When I woke up this morning, the pain seemed to be slightly better. Last night, I wasn't so sure about going to church with my family.  But this morning, I thought that I would be okay.  Lisa was going to drop off some crutches for me to use.  We got to church where Tim was kind enough to drop me off at the front door before he parked the car. By now, both of my feet were really hurting again.  It was almost impossible to walk without hobbling.  Of course, people noticed which made me feel a bit embarrassed.  I was able to get us a seat and within a few minutes, the rest of the family joined me.  Then suddenly, Tim and Ben were gone.  It was just Jackie and I.  It appears Ben was having bad behavior again so he spent most of the church service in the car with his daddy.  By the end of church service, my feet were in much more pain, probably because I was unable to elevate them.  The pastor's wife, MaryLynne, insisted that I go to the emergency room.  Tim, of course, agreed.  I was trying to justify not going.  I hate waiting in ERs and I was hoping to just wait to call the doctor first thing on Monday morning.
So after church, we went home for lunch.  Then Tim took me to the ER.  Surprisingly, there were no other patients in the waiting room.  I was seen immediately for triage then taken to a room.  (I was in and out of that ER in little over an hour.)  X-rays were taken of both of my feet.  The verdict:  a serious fracture of the 5th metatarsal on my right foot and serious bone spurs in my left heel.  No wonder.  And both of my feet are pretty useless right now.  So, I have a boot on my right foot and I have a pair of crutches.  It's still difficult to maneuver, though, because the weight bearing still causes pain on my left foot.  I have to all an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow.  It's very possible that I may have a cast placed on my right foot, although I am hoping the doctor agrees that the boot will be sufficient.  The bone spurs?  I don't know.  Several people have already told me that so-and-so had to have surgery to remove the bone spurs.  Mine are pretty bad, so who knows?  I hope I won't need surgery and the doctor can recommend a more conservative treatment.  I do know that I need to have one of my feet pain-free.  I've always been thankful for good health.  But I've always taken my feet for granted.  No longer will I take my feet for granted.  Believe me when I say that it is almost impossible for me to walk on either of my feet.
This morning, when I was talking to Lisa, she shared my concern about my fear of not being able to go to the gym.  Then she stated that God was trying to get my attention.  At first, I was a sort of confused.  Why would God get my attention in this manner?  And if he was trying to get my attention, then why couldn't the fracture occur in my already lame foot?  The thought of missing out on Zumba, Kickfit, and working out was depressing me.  This past week, I made it to the gym just twice because the fitness rooms were closed all week for the floors to be refinished.  I am usually at the gym 5-6 days each week.  So, I was already feeling a bit bummed about missing my workouts and classes.
Tonight I was talking to another Zumba friend/instructor and she was so encouraging.  Having been a professional ballet dancer in previous years, this friend could understand what I was feeling and what I was worried about.  She has incurred injury that had sidelined her, too.  And she came back stronger than ever.  I sure hope that happens for me.  While I was talking to her though, it suddenly occurred to me that Lisa might be right.  Maybe this was God's way of getting my attention.  If I had not fractured my right foot, I would not have gotten a definitive diagnosis of bone spurs.  I had not planned on seeking treatment for the pain as I figured the only thing the doctor would say is to rest, rest, rest. And possibly some physical therapy.  There is no way that I can just rest, rest, rest.  Maybe for a day but not for an extended period of time.  So, thanks to my fractured foot, I was also forced to seek treatment for the left foot.  But I would still like to ask God why he couldn't just let me break the left foot instead of the right foot.  Because now?  I walk like a 90-year old lady. And I have double the pain.
So, hopefully I can get an immediate appointment with the orthopedic surgeon tomorrow.  It's going to be extremely difficult for me to be sidelined for 6 weeks.   But I will never, ever take my feet for granted again.

Crazy, Crazy Week

In more ways than one, this past week was CRAZY!  It was full of ups and downs, good and bad.
Jackie enjoyed her first full week of school this past week.  She seems to really enjoy and she really likes her teacher.  I also received a note that I have been selected to be the head room parent this year.  I'm looking forward to having a bigger part of Jackie's school year this year.  Jackie has been bringing homework home.  It's mostly stuff that she learned in Pre-K and Kindergarten.  Jackie complained that she's done this before and the work is too easy.  I had to explain that Mrs. W just wanted to make certain that everyone else knew how to do the work before she started on the harder stuff and that she just needed to be patient.  But I can tell you one thing for sure.  I am so glad that I do not have to homeschool and that I can take advantage of the free public education.  Jackie is soooo pokey with her work and I just do not have the patience for it.
Jackie never ceases to make me laugh with some of her expressions lately.  This past Monday, Jackie started back to gymnastics. I picked up Jackie after school and she asked if I bought her a new "what's that thing called? A body-tard?"  Her words.  It took everything in me to stifle the laughter.  Jackie was just too darn cute.  Then before dinner time, Jackie asked what I was making for dinner, then she proceeded to look in the crockpot in which I had prepared crockpot turkey.  Jackie:  Ew, I don't like that.  Can you make me something else? Me: No.  Jackie: Why? Me: Because I'm not a short order cook.  Jackie then had this perplexed look on her face for a few moments before she asked me if I was a long cook.  She was on a roll that day with her kid-isms.
Ben started his school this past Tuesday.  He was excited and I was so ready for him to start.  Ben's speech has really picked up lately and he's becoming much more intelligible.


Wednesday, Tim started to prep the area below our deck so we could fill it in with concrete rock.  It was also a day of confirmation that Tim's ADD is not a figment of my imagination. As he was looking high and low in the garage, Tim asked if I had seen the sledgehammer. I told him that I had just seen it a couple of days ago.  Now by this time, Tim had made his way to the area where we keep the lawncare equipment.  Lo, and behold, I see the sledgehammer, right where it was just days ago. And Tim was standing right directly in front of it as he asked me where I had last seen the thing.  I pointed and when Tim saw where I was pointing at (right in front of him, in plain sight) I could see Tim sort of jerk his head back, mumble "oh", grab the sledgehammer, and walk out the side door of the garage.  Not even a "thank you."  But I did secretly thank him for the good laugh. 
Thursday was Jackie's therapy day.  I had a routine dental appointment that afternoon and I had just enough time to pick up Jackie from school and take her to her appointment in St. Louis.  If Jackie works hard at therapy and the therapist gives me a good report, I usually reward Jackie with one of her favorite candies, Laffy Taffy.  That day was no exception.  Jackie started to enjoy her candy while the therapist went over that day's appointment when suddenly, Jackie appeared back in front of me with a look of shock on her face.  Then she said that she lost her tooth.  I saw the gap where the missing tooth used to be.  But where was the tooth?  I figured she probably swallowed it with a piece of the candy she was eating.  I tried to reassure Jackie that the tooth fairy would still visit her because the fairy would know that the tooth was in her belly somewhere.  Then the receptionist handed me a tissue.  I placed the remainder of Jackie's Laffy Taffy on the receptionist's counter while I helped Jackie with the tissue.  A few moments later, I heard the receptionist asked "Is that it, in the candy?"  I looked and, sure enough, there sat Jackie's tooth.  Thanks to Laffy Taffy, Jackie lost her 5th tooth.  And to top it off, this was the 2nd tooth that Jackie lost at therapy.  She lost her very first tooth at therapy.

Isn't she cute?  I just love that little girl.
Here is a picture of Dumb Dog aka Lucy.  She is so goofy.  This is how I found her, asleep sort of under the coffee table in the living room.  No dignity:

Friday afternoon, as Ben and I waited at the bus stop for Jackie to come home, he and I played in the grass.  We were having a good time until Ben suddenly grabbed the bottom of my top and lifted it up.  Way up.  Like indecent exposure-way up.  And... a neighborhood boy just happened to be riding his bike in circles there (I assume he was also waiting for the bus).  Yep, my son caused me to indecently expose myself.  
For the past week, Tim had been picking up concrete rock so we could fill in underneath our deck on the back of our house.  Ben had a blast helping his daddy move the rock into the back yard.  He had his own little wheelbarrow.


Isn't he just so cute?
Saturday was a rough day with the kids.  My left heel started to become extremely painful the evening before.  I tried to clean the house for a couple of hours but had to give because of the pain in my heel.  On top of that, I was left alone to deal with 2 very unruly children, especially Ben.  I am just about at the end of my rope with him.  He hits me and his sister and he throws things or pushes things off of tables when he gets  angry.  He has also been getting into everything (food, glue, knives) even when those items are out of his reach. Ben has been figuring out ways to gain access to these items.  I have my knives placed way high in a cabinet, food placed high in the pantry, a child safety lock on the refrigerator, etc. but Ben is outsmarting us.  This behavior does have me a bit worried.  I have placed Ben in time out, taken favorite toys away, etc. when Ben hits me or his sister or throws things/pushes things off tables, but to no avail.  I've done everything I can think of and he still continues this behavior.  It is really getting out of hand.  With the pain I was experiencing, my tolerance and patience with Ben on Saturday was almost nil.  We have an appointment this week for Ben to see a behavioral specialist.  This behavior continued this morning to where Tim ended up sitting with Ben in the car during church.
Saturday evening, Jackie was back to being her cute self again.  In fact, when I tucked into bed and kissed her, Jackie informed me that I have a sweet little head.  What?  I don't know where she got that from. I've never called her head sweet and little.  Jackie has been really cracking me up with some of the stuff she is saying.  
Then Sunday afternoon saw me visiting the local emergency room.  That story will be in a following post.

Monday, August 22, 2011

One More Funny

I nearly forgot to share another Jackie funny from today.  The girl is on a roll. 
After nearly 2 years off from gymnastics, I finally enrolled Jackie to go back.  It's been so long since Jackie has worn a leotard. When I picked her up from school today, Jackie reminded me that I needed to get her a "what is that thing called, a body-tard?" 
Jackie was so excited about getting back into gymnastics that as soon as she got home from piano lesson, she immediately changed into her "body-tard" and begged to be taken to gymnastics "now".  An hour and a half before the scheduled time.

Another Jackie Funny

Lately, my kids have been turning their noses up at whatever I prepare for dinner.  And I don't even cook weird stuff like my own mother used to do.  I try to pick child-friendly but healthy meals.  Tonight was no exception.  I cooked a turkey breast in the crockpot today.  And boy, did it smell yummy!  As I started to get the table set, Jackie came in and asked what I cooked for dinner.  Knowing she would turn her nose up at it anyway, I told her that I just cooked food and that I'm sure she won't eat it.  Jackie looked in the crockpot and asked if it was turkey.
Me: Yes.
Jackie: Ew, I don't like that.  Can you cook me something else?
Me: No.
Jackie: Why?
Me: Because I'm not a short order cook.
Jackie: (pauses)... Are you a long cook?
Yep, all 5 feet, 4 inches of me. 
It took everything in me to not bust out laughing. Jackie is a kid after my own heart. She takes things so literal much as I did as a kid. And I just love her so!
By the way, Jackie liked the turkey and even asked for seconds.  Perhaps telling her she had to have the protein to help her do good for her first night back to gymnastics tonight did the trick.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Compassion Continued

Some of my readers may remember when I first wrote about a precious little girl named Carrington.  I have her blog button on the side of my own blog. Her parents adopted her from Europe.  Little Carrington was rescued just in time.  As soon as her new mom arrived with her on US soil, Carrington was immediately taken to the children's hospital where her condition brought doctors and nurses to their knees.  Carrington was so close to death.  But this little girl is a fighter.  And she has taught so many people about compassion.
Here is my original post about her: http://thestewreport.blogspot.com/2011/03/pray-for-carrington.html.
Here is the latest update on Carrington: http://carringtonscourage.blogspot.com/2011/08/5-months-and-10-pounds.html.  Carrington is truly a miracle.  This latest post brought happy tears to my eyes.
Even though I consider myself a compassionate person, this week has been eye opening for me.  I've had more opportunities this week than any other to interact with the special population.  Today was no exception.  Soon after I arrived at the commissary to shop for groceries, I noticed another mom with her son in tow.  It was obvious to me that her son had some special needs.  I knew by some of his behaviors that he was somewhere on the autism spectrum.  His mother was so patient and so loving while she shopped.  I could tell that some customers were probably annoyed by this 10-year old boy.  But, my heart went out to this mom because I can relate to the stress and to the stares that she was probably experiencing from others.  I kept hearing her call him by his name, which happens to be my own son's name.  Eventually, she and I exchanged pleasantries and ended up talking about our special children.  Her son has Asperger's syndrome. She was so kind and I could see that she was relieved that at least one person at the commissary didn't look down on her and showed compassion.  Her son was precious and I told her so.  It made me feel good that this mom was encouraged by my comment.   

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 5 Bible Reading Plan on Compassion

Today's devotion is titled The Stewardship Implications of Bodily Resurrection. I'm not quite sure I understand the title but I understand the devotion much better than the last 2 days' devotions.  The devotion mentions how God is not only concerned about the salvation of souls, but He's also concerned for the relief of poverty, hunger, and injustice.  Whatever wealth any of us has is a gift from God, no matter how hard any of us works for it.  In the end, it all belongs to God, according to this devotion.  According to the devotion, those who are able to give generously but do not, are lacking in compassion and are unjust.  I must admit that I pretty much agree with this statement.  I read an article several months about charitable giving and which segment of the population was the most generous.  I was pleasantly surprised and a bit saddened at the same time.  You can read about that here. I've been witness to the lack of generosity within the upper class.
My family is by no means rich. And we are not poor although, our income takes a substantial hit due to out of pocket expenses for our childrens' medical needs. Nearly $500 just for this month plus we had some car and home repair expenses.  It gets stressful at times but I feel so blessed that we are able to even provide for our childrens' basic needs.  Sure, it would be nice to be able to just go out and buy whatever fancies us. Or to buy a bigger house.  But our childrens' needs take precedence.  But we also still find it within us to give to our favorite causes.  I want our children to learn compassion and generosity toward others.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Speaking of Compassion

So, I started a new Bible reading plan on compassion.  I am a compassionate person so the title of this plan piqued my interest.  So far, I'm on day 4 and I've only understood how how day 2 relates to compassion.  The other days?  I'm not so sure.  But that's beside the point.
I was really touched yesterday afternoon when I attended a Thursday afternoon Zumba class.  I rarely am able to attend this particular class due to Jackie's therapy appointments on Thursday afternoons. But since Jackie's physical therapy was canceled, I had the opportunity to go to Zumba.  And I am so glad I did.  I was touched by the 3 special needs individuals who attended the class. They brought a smile to my face, especially the young man with Down Syndrome. 
have occasionally seen one person with special needs come to Zumba but I had not seen her in some time.  I have overheard a couple of people say that the skirt she was wearing was a bit annoying.  The "skirt" happens to be a belly dancing scarf with those metal chime things.  I never let it bother me, especially since this girl kept to herself and did her best to move along with the class.  This girl was at Zumba yesterday as well as the young man with Down Syndrome.  This young man was having so much fun.  He was way over on the side where a helper kept a close watch on him and where he wouldn't bother anybody.  Even though he didn't move much along with the class, he did move in his own way and he was having a great time.  It really warmed my heart.  I couldn't help but smile and even chuckle at his cuteness.  After a half hour, his helper led him out of the class.  During one of the breaks in between songs, I noticed this lady walk toward me saying that she was trying.  I recognized her as a worker at the YMCA and she is somewhat developmentally disabled.  I'm not sure how old she is but she is really cute and so sweet.  And she always has a smile on her face when she greets people at the YMCA( Part of her job at the Y is greeting people and handing out flyers.) I reassured her that she was doing a great job in Zumba.  It was her first time. She wasn't getting all the moves but she kept her body moving right along with the class. I was so proud of her for sticking it out for that entire hour and afterward, I encouraged her to try it again.  My friend, G, and I told her that we would help her learn as best as we can. Her face lit up.  I wonder how many people actually take time to show kindness and compassion toward her.   I look forward to seeing my special friend at Zumba again. 
I've been thinking about becoming certified to teach Zumba so that I can teach Zumba Gold and Zumbatomic.  Zumba Gold is for those who have limited mobility or just don't like the faster pace of regular Zumba.  Zumbatomic is geared toward children but I'm certain that it could be tailored for the special needs population, too.  Yesterday's experience with seeing those 3 special needs people having such a fun time despite being "different" from the rest of us really stirred a deeper desire to get that Zumba certification.  I would love to start a class for this special population where they can just dance to their hearts' desire without the awkward stares. When I woke up this morning, that was one of the first things on my mind again. I just love these special people.  So, I guess I better get a move on and get that certification. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Costly Sacrifices?

This is the title of today's devotion of day 3 of the 14-day Bible reading plan on Compassion that I'm following. The scripture reference is I Chronicles 21:15-30.  I have to admit that I was a little confused about how this had anything to do with compassion.  I felt that it had more to do with stewardship.  The devotion included this quote from the late Larry Burkett: It's a sad commentary today that many christians give into God's kingdom things they simply don't want. God wants the best of what we have - not the leftovers."  Larry Burkett may have applied this to christiandom but isn't this true for so many of us, christian or not?  There are many people out there who could give well above what they're giving.  And there are those who give way beyond.  
I've read this devotion at least 3 times to try to better understand what it has to do with compassion.   I still don't understand all. I just know that even though we are considered to be a rich nation, the sad truth is that there is a very large population of people living in poverty. Some of those people are just lazy and expect others to bail them (i.e. my parents' son).  They have no problem receiving government assistance instead of trying to better themselves. I have no tolerance for financial laziness and so I have very little compassion for those people.  There are those who, through no fault of their own, must depend on the government and the kindness of others to help them afford to live.  I have great compassion for those people.  There is the working poor.  These are the people who work so hard in order to be independent and self-sufficient but are still barely able to.  I have compassion for those people because I've been there. When I first began to live on my own, I was barely able to do it on one salary so I got a second job because I was very determined to be self-sufficient and independent.  Through all of this, I continued to pay for my own college tuition until I was awarded a scholarship to finish my last 2 years of college.  I like to believe that my generous giving paid off.  It definitely wasn't what I would consider a costly sacrifice. There were some difficult times but I still continued to tithe at that time and give charitably.
Despite us being a rich nation, we are still separated by classes; higher class, middle class, and lower class.  Unfortunately, all too often, the lower class is looked down upon. No matter what class each of us live, we all need to have more compassion (and perhaps generosity) for the poor disabled, the working poor, the senior citizen on a tight budget.  And most importantly, for the children who live in such abject poverty that they go to bed hungry at night.
Hopefully, tomorrow's devotion will be better for me to understand and do a review.  If anyone can help me better understand today's devotion and how it relates to compassion, I am open to some feedback.

Jackie's First Day of First Grade

My beautiful baby girl is a first grader now.  Open house was this past Monday.  We all got to meet Jackie's new teacher for the year and see the classroom.  I really like the teacher and she seems to be very organized and very warm toward the kids.  And what makes it even better is that Mrs. W is a fellow animal lover!
Yesterday was the first day of school, albeit just an hour and a half.  I don't understand why such a short day other than for the students to understand where they are supposed to go and to meet their teachers if they had not already done so.  I let Jackie ride the bus to and from the school.  Jackie was so excited about getting on the bus that she insisted on waiting at the bus stop 10 minutes before the scheduled arrival time. When it was time to get Jackie from the bus stop after school, Ben and I went out to greet her.  As soon as the bus rolled to a stop, I noticed that Jackie had a long face and she looked as if she was about to start crying.  She started down the steps of the bus toward me and as soon as she was completely off the bus, Jackie started to sob.  She said something about getting into trouble.  I looked up at the bus driver who explained that the boy sitting next to Jackie was complaining that Jackie wouldn't leave him alone and so she moved him to another seat.  The bus driver tried to reassure Jackie that she was not in trouble and then she reassured me that Jackie actually had not done anything to the boy.  The boy was just trying to start trouble, apparently.  My heart broke for my baby girl.  The last thing she wants to do is cause trouble at school or on the bus. (I wish that was the case at home) After the bus driver tried to reassure Jackie, it took just a few more moments for Jackie to calm down.  I then took Jackie for a celebratory lunch at Chick-Fil-A. 
Today was the first full day of school.  Jackie was excited again.  I was afraid after yesterday's incident that she would be hesitant to ride the bus but she was not, thankfully.  After school, Ben and I went to the bus stop to wait for Jackie.  And as usual, Ben charmed the bus driver when he wrapped his arms in a tight hug around Jackie.  I want to get a picture of that but Ben always moves away quickly whenever he sees me trying to take his picture.  But here is a picture of my sweet girl on her first official day of school. She's growing up so much.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Compassion: A 14-Day Journey

That is the title of the Bible reading plan that I started last night.  The title of today's devotion is Compassion for the Disabled.  In Ecclesiastes 9:4 says "Anyone who is among the living has hope - even a live dog is better than a dead lion!"  Now, I'm not quite sure why the comparison between a live dog and a dead lion but it is so true that there is HOPE for EVERY one.  I'm proof of it.  At one point in my life, I felt so defeated, so weak, so worthless, and most of all, I felt hopeless. I wanted to end it all.  Why go on when there seemed to be no hope for me of ever living a happy life?  But thankfully, one person who saw value in me, intervened and pretty much carried me to professional help.  Unfortunately, I don't know where this person is to this day but I am so grateful for her presence in my life at that time.  But that's beside the point.
There is hope for everyone, including the infirm, the disabled, even the most profoundly disabled.  As someone who is drawn to special needs people, I could share so many stories of hope when some of these individuals were given no hope for living at one time in their lives.  And today, so many of these people have better opportunities at life than past generations.  I would like to think that our country's growing compassion for this particular population is attributable to this.  Sadly, this is not the case in so many countries such as Eastern Europe. Psalm 41:1 says that those of us who have regard for the weak are blessed.  I am following a friend's blog which illustrates the perfect example of this verse.  She and her husband, already having 3 living children and 1 in heaven, adopted 3 special needs children from Eastern Europe. If she and her husband had not adopted these children, they would have been deemed eternally worthless and transferred to an institution where they would surely have died an early death.  My friend's life has been enriched because her family had such compassion enough to rescue these children, one of whom has Down Syndrome. Oh, so precious and such a beautiful family.
The author of today's devotion talks about how we marginalize people who are disabled in some way, who lack the "right" skills or the "right" stuff, or even the "right" connections. Some of these people are so severe that they will never be "productive" members of society.  But I truly believe that there is a purpose for every person who has been given life.  You can read about the perfect example right here
Today's devotion asks a couple of questions that may be tough for far too many "normal" people to answer. In regard to the disabled, where do we stand? And do we stand with them?  Just like I said before,  I believe that every person who has been given life has a purpose while they are here on earth, even if it is for just a fleeting moment.  That's where I stand.  And yes, I stand with them, too.  I have always had compassion for the disabled.  And as a mother of 2 special needs children,  I have even more compassion for the caretakers of those who are disabled.  I know personally how difficult it is and at times, how rewarding it can be.  These special people are just like you and me.  They bleed the same blood, breathe the same air, share the same planet, and they experience pain like you and me.  Our skills and talents, needs and desires may vary drastically but they are just as worthwhile as you and me. 
One of my earliest memories of myself showing compassion occurred when I was just a young girl. The memory is seared into my mind because it was such a traumatic event for me.  I was walking with a friend in a neighborhood next to wear I lived at that time. We saw a lady who was always so kind to me and when we went over to say hello, I could tell the lady was a bit frazzled.  Then suddenly, I saw her husband tear out of their home with a foam cooler.  He threw the cooler into the car trunk that was already full of belongings, then the lady and her baby got into the car right before her husband drove off.  My friend and I had noticed that right before this man closed the car trunk, a couple of kittens had climbed out of the cooler and tumbled out of the car onto the ground.  The kittens started to climb onto the car tires and before my friend and I could rescue the kittens, the man ran completely over one, immediately killing it.  The other kitten was partially run over and as I held it in my arms, it took it's last breath. I wanted that kitten to feel love and compassion before s/he died.  Of course, my friend and I cried and we buried the kittens right there in the dirt where they died.  I have never forgotten that memory.  And I always wondered where the lady was and if she was okay. She was pregnant at the time. 
Another memory that influenced my desire to get my undergraduate degree in Speech Disorders involved a middle age lady whom I met in a nursing home.  I first met her when I went with the Jr. Civitan club from school to do an event at this nursing home.  And it just so happened that my mother also worked at this facility.  I remember going into this beautiful lady's room and asking her some questions.  I noticed tears in her eyes.  I sat next to her and asked if she was okay.  She nodded but I soon realized that she was unable to speak.  My heart broke for her. Later on, I asked Mother about this lady and discovered that she had had a stroke which resulted in her having aphasia, the inability to speak. I began to make occasional visits to this precious lady.  It broke my heart because she would develop tears in her eyes every time I would visit her.  I knew she wanted so badly to be able to talk.  I think it meant so much to her whenever I visited her, even if it was for just a few minutes, because I would just sit with her and sometimes even comfort her. Just to have somebody show her compassion touched her.  I knew I wanted to help people like her one day. 
I think compassion came naturally to me.  I certainly was not taught it at home.  Even though I had known several kids during my childhood who were "different", I never really saw them as being that much different from me.  In fact, they weren't much different from me. I was just as weak as they were.  Or just as strong.
And I'm so thankful that we live in an age where people with more severe disabilities are not automatically relegated to living in an institution only to be forgotten by an unforgiving society.  Because if that was still the case today, I would never have met my favorite friend at church who has Down Syndrome. And I would never have had the pleasure of being the favorite cashier of the young man with Down Syndrome.  I was 18-19 years old and he and his father would always come through my line, even if the wait was longer than the other lines.  I'll never forget his big, toothless smile.  It meant the world to his father that I would even talk to his son.  I'm also thankful for the fond memories, still as a teenage cashier, of the older man who had a tracheotomy and a fake larynx.  I was also his favorite cashier because I would talk to him and he, too, would wait in my line however long it was.  I loved it when he would converse back using his "microphone". Looking back, as insecure and shy as I was, my compassionate side brought the best out of me and helped me to meet some of the best people around.  Ah, reminiscing makes me miss that time of my life.  Thank you Jesus, for my compassionate heart.  Even if I am cantankerous around "normal" people. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bible Reading Plan

I recently started reading the Bible again.  I also recently got a new cell phone with this cool app called YouVersion. It has many different Bible plans to choose from.  I really like my phone because it makes it much more convenient to read from my daily plan, especially when I don't have access to my hard copy Bible.  And I really like this app because it's just so much easier to decide what to read on a daily basis. 
Somebody recently suggested that I try to blog about each day of whatever Bible reading I am doing.  I think that is a great idea.  I finished my 15-day plan on Finding God last evening.  But today, I started a new plan titled "Compassion: A 14-Day Journey."  I can't really explain why I chose this particular plan other than that I think I am a fairly compassionate person.  So, I will try to write a daily update on this Bible plan.  Tonight's reading was primarily just an introduction and it talked about God's covenant with creation.  We are supposed to take care of not only our fellow humans, but the earth and all inhabitants.  I love this reminder.  As I have gotten older, I have become more conscientious about taking care of our earth by recycling and reusing whenever possible.  I am passionate about human life (well, maybe not my own so much) and I have no problem rooting for the underdog over the popular one. I have a heart for special needs people, well before I was gifted with my own special needs children.  I love sweet, old people and I enjoy hearing the stories they tell.  (This makes me miss my Great Grandma).  I love animals and have been known to make Tim stop the car so I can rescue a turtle from a busy road.  Snakes? Well, that's a different story. For all I care, God can make those creepy things extinct.  And spiders, too. 
I glanced at tomorrow's reading and I must say that I am excited to read it in full.  I may even have a lot to say about it.  So stay tuned.

What My Relationship With My Mother Has Taught Me

This is the title of a blog dare challenge for today.  This, of course, is a tough one for me.  Although I have a decent relationship with my mother now, it has not always been that way.  She and are completely different people.  I am a very independent person and always have been. 
My childhood was less than an ideal one.  When I was born, Mother was not married and was living with her mother, herself a single parent.  I will always be grateful to my grandmother for supporting us and keeping us off of welfare.  She sacrificed so much for me and my mother. 
My relationship with my mother taught me to be fearful of relationships. Sometimes, I felt loved but rarely did I feel protected.  Actually, the title of this blog dare for me would have been more like "What I Learned  NOT To Do From My Parents".  Now that I am a parent, it has been difficult at times to unlearn what I learned from my parents.  But I am determined that my children will not experience the same fears and anxieties that I experienced as a child.
Mother married my step-father, who eventually became my adoptive father, while I was still an infant.  A year later, Mother gave birth to their son. Growing up with my parents' son, K, was not always pleasant.  As I got older, I always felt K was the favored one, perhaps because he was the biological offspring of both of my parents.  But K had a problem with lying, stealing, and other offenses.  Unfortunately, my parents didn't do much beyond threatening him and the occasional beating.  I, on the other hand, wanted so much to be set apart from that which is probably one reason I became a fairly independent individual early on.  I really had no choice but to be independent as I was pretty much responsible for taking care of most my own needs from an early age.  I often wonder if the presence of K in our family contributed to my lack of closeness with Mother.  Now there were times as a very young girl that I felt sort of close to Mother but as I got older, I began to myself distance from her, although I would have given my life for her.  I remember going on trips and Mother was always the first person who I would buy for.  That is, if I even had any money which was rare. 
Mother rarely faced reality when it came to her son.  Whatever was happening to K was always everyone else's fault.  It was the teacher's fault, it was the neighbor kid's fault, it was the bus driver's fault, it was my fault.  Nothing was ever K's fault.  Looking back, I now wonder if Mother coddled K and let him get away with so much because she felt guilty about our home life.  Or perhaps, she just didn't want to deal with his incorrigible behavior.  At one time, as a juvenile, K was sentenced to probation for allegedly sexually assaulting two small children in our neighborhood.  Mother just would not believe K would even do that even though there were witnesses against K.  I believed it, though.
My dad was an alcoholic and there was a point in time where he was not even coming home until late at night, if at all. I remember sitting with Mother on the couch while she fumed about where her husband was and that he better not come home drunk again.  I remember begging her to just leave Dad alone when he would finally arrive home and to ignore him.  Here I was, not even a teenager yet, and I was trying to be a mother to my own Mother!  But inevitably, Mother would pounce as soon as Dad entered through the door and the violence would begin.  I still have vivid memories of seeing Mother get hit. 
Thanks to Mother, I grew up fearful of men, fearful of relationships, fearful of alcohol, fearful of life in general.  I was full of anxiety as a kid.  And it didn't help matters that I was a wallflower at school and at church.  I was the throwaway kid.  I was the worthless one. 
As I became an adult, I was always good about getting a job and keeping it.  Unlike my parents' son. I finally saved up enough money to live on my own.  I eventually went back to college and paid my way until I received a scholarship to finish my last 2 years.  I was a very independent person.  Mother, at one point, even admitted being a little bit jealous of me that I was able to experience living on my own as a single person. In a way, I felt honored that Mother would admit this to me but in a way, it sort of made me feel guilty because my birth had changed the course of her life.  But I also learned from this that Mother was a hurting person, then and now.  I knew Mother had gone through some terrible things throughout life but I have yet to learn the extent of it all. 
But despite all of that, I still struggled in the area of relationships, including friendships.  I was so fearful of commitment.  I was afraid of marriage and of having my own children.  My relationship with Mother,  unfortunately, taught me those things.  I don't remember Mother telling me how pretty I was or how smart I was.  Not until I became an adult did I really hear those things from Mother.  My relationship with Mother also taught me resentment and anger.  Resentment toward her son, resentment that Mother felt it such a burden to take care of my basic needs, resentment that I felt such a sense of loss at not knowing who my biological father is, resentment that she didn't protect me from the abuse.  So much resentment. 
But my relationship with Mother also taught me some positive things.  It taught me to be independent.  It taught me to never be a burden on anyone else.  It taught me to appreciate the family bond as I have now.  I may never learn the identity of my biological father and I may always feel that sense of loss.  But this has made me even more grateful that my children will know who their family is.  They will always know who their father, mother, grandparents (including those no longer with us on earth), aunts, and uncles are. Family really does mean so much to me now.
Now that I have my own daughter, I have learned how important it is to tell my daughter that I love her, that she is beautiful, that she is smart, that she is talented, that she has a beautiful singing voice (she really does for a 6-year old).  I longed to hear those things as a little girl, as a teen.  My relationship with my own mother has helped make me more determined than ever to form and keep a close bond with my daughter as she gets older. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

State Fair Day

The Illinois State Fair in Springfield is here.  Yesterday, veterans and families were able to enter the fair for free.  I'm not a big fan of fairs or carnivals because I don't trust the rides, it's a perfect redneck atmosphere, it's dirty and dusty, and the food is overpriced and greasy.  The day turned out to be a beautiful, clear day so off we went to the fair. Tim had mentioned the fair a few days ago to Jackie.  She was so excited about the idea and we didn't want to let her down.  All she talked about was getting on the rides. In fact, Jackie was so excited that not even 15 minutes into our travel, Jackie piped up from the back seat, "Are we there, yet?". Tim and I just chuckled and told her that it would be at least another hour and a half. 
Now I've been to the state fair in our home state of Florida more times than I care to know.  The fairground is huge there.  My favorite area to visit is always the animals.  I've even had the opportunity to watch a cow give birth there.  The rides?  Nah, I can forsake those. I just don't trust them.  Some of the entertainment is okay, albeit a bit redneck-ish.  I was expecting pretty much the same at the Illinois state fair.  I was in for a slight surprise, though.  Those fairgrounds?  Are huge.  Really huge.  Much bigger, it seemed, than the Florida state fair.  I had initially rebuffed Tim's idea to take the sit-n-stand stroller for the kids because I figured they could handle the walking.  I'm so thankful now that I still even owned that thing.  It was so handy yesterday.
When we first arrived at the fair, the entrance we came into was on the opposite end of where the midway was.  So, we decided to visit some of the exhibits first.  Poor Jackie was getting so anxious about riding those darn rides.  But she was a trooper as we went to see the horses, pigs, sheep, goats, and more.  Finally, we made it to the midway  where we bought wristbands for the kids to ride unlimited.  Unfortunately, that ended up being a waste on Ben.  Jackie, however, loved it.  She rode nearly every single rode multiple times.  The smile on her face melted my heart.  It made me so happy just watch her being so happy on those rodes. The cool thing about this fair is that there is a section dedicated just to kids.  I don't recall our home state fair doing that. One of the first rides that the kids rode on together was a little kid roller coaster.  Ben got on the ride willingly but as soon as the ride took off, this look of fear came over him.  He hung on to Jackie for dear life.  It was priceless.  Surprisingly, though, he didn't cry.  After that, Tim watched as Ben rode the ever so slow train ride while I took Jackie to another ride that she wanted to go on.  Everything seemed to go smoothly until we got to some sort of bus ride where the bus lifts up and around and back again.  The bus itself stays straight so it looked harmless.  Ben and Jackie took a front row seat and they waited while the other kids got loaded.  Then suddenly, we saw Ben freak out and squirm out of the seat even after the bar supposedly secured him in.  Whew, so glad that he did that before the ride took off and not during.  Of course, after seeing Ben freak out, Jackie freaked out too and wanted off the ride.  Ben then spotted a motorcycle ride so we took him over there.  He excitedly climbed up on the seat while Jackie got on the seat behind him.  Ben seemed okay while waiting for the ride to start until his daddy told Ben to push the button. Ben did as instructed and then he suddenly freaked.  Again.  All over an annoying noise that is supposed to sound like a motorcycle horn.  Jackie enjoyed the ride, though.  We tried to encourage Ben to ride some of the other rides to no avail.  Even Jackie tried to beg Ben to join her on some of the rides.  No dice. However, Ben did go inside the climber thing.  There were actually 2 different ones and Ben loved them.  No movement involved but himself climbing up, on, and over stuff, and sliding. Two of his favorite activities.  I was finally able to convince Ben to ride the tiny ferris-wheel and he liked it so much that he rode it again immediately.  And he rode the little merry-go-round once but he refused to sit on one of the animals.  So I had to sit in the little seat with him.  Tim laughed.  But after that, it was back to the climbing things.  We let Ben climb to his heart's content although I'm not sure we got $25 worth out it for him.  Jackie, on the other hand, was having such an enjoyable time on the rides. 
While I was sitting and watching Jackie having so much fun on the rides, it suddenly occurred to me what might possibly be causing Ben such distress.  Now, he had no problem going on the rides when I took him to Holiday World last summer.  But the atmosphere was a little more subdued then.  But this time, at the fair there were a lot of different noises going on.  Ben seems to be sensitive to certain tones and sounds and will cover his ears and almost cry.  In addition to his speech difficulties, Ben also has some sensory issues.  It appears that Ben was becoming distressed by this low, sort of vibrating noise emanating from all the rides so close together.  We finally took a break from the rides and went to another section where the kids learned about all areas of farming.  Jackie, however, was anxious to get back to the rides. So while Tim kept Ben busy in another section, I took Jackie back to the kid section for a few more rides.  She was so cute as she enjoyed the rides.  Tim caught up with us and we were finally able to convince Jackie that there were many other things to do at the fair than the rides. We walked around to a few more sections but unfortunately, it was getting close to closing time for many of the exhibits.  As we headed toward the gate where we came into, we were excited to be able to see more horses, this time with the carriages.  They were all so beautiful.
The day was so beautiful and even though going to the state fair was not my top preference, I am so glad we went.  I absolutely loved watching my beautiful little girl enjoying herself at the fair. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Need Him: Finding God

For the past 2 weeks, I've been following this Bible reading plan with the same title.  I like it because it is just a 15-day reading plan and the devotions are short and sweet but relevant to today's issues.  Today's devotion talked about the difficulty of leading a Christian life.  Oh, yeah, it's difficult alright.  Especially for somebody who was brainwashed with wrong teachings during their childhood.  I can relate.  Today's devotion also talks about the importance of seeking other SINCERE, Bible-believing Christians to help one sustain their resolve.  Church and Christian friends are essential, according to today's devotion, because God will continue to work in my life through the lives of other believers. Is that really true?  Not so much here.  SINCERE Christian friends are a dime a dozen here. 
I have struggled with faith issues since childhood but my 20s were some of my stronger faith years.  Or so I thought. Looking back, it was actually a tumultuous time for me.  But as difficult as life was for me, I actually depended more on my faith at that time.  I began to experience severe panic and anxiety attacks and I often felt depressed.  But I always asked God to help me through.  And I had a handful of really good church friends who helped me pray and who would encourage me. I always asked God to heal me.  I went to church regularly.  I volunteered in several areas of ministry.  I tithed faithfully. I gave so much to people in a variety of ways.  I never asked for anything in return and I never received anything in return from anyone. However, at that time, I really believed that because I tithed faithfully, I was blessed enough financially to own my own home, my own car, buy decent clothing, and to pay my own bills.  I didn't drink, smoke, or swear.  I was a good person.  Surely, God would answer my prayers and heal me of these attacks of anxiety and panic. 
On the outside, people thought I had my act together when it came to religious matters.  In all actuality, though, I did not.  I was a very angry person inside.  Angry about my past, angry at my parents, angry at those who had previously violated me in some way.  Angry that I kept sabotaging relationships with others, especially with men.  I sought out counseling.  It helped.  I learned how to let go of my anger toward my parents and I eventually redeveloped a relationship with them.  I learned that marriage did not have to nor should it be riddled with violence and dysfunction.  I wrote in my journal.  I wrote letters to my various abusers in my journal, letters that were never meant to be sent out.  They were mostly a way for me to gain closure in some ways.  I was put on medication.  I was on my way to happiness.
For the next few years, I continued to be faithful to God, to church, to other people.  Although I never really felt like that church was where I truly belonged, I continued to rely on my faith to get me through life.  However, a series of events started me on a path of questioning God again.  I finally "wised-up" about my current church at that time (pride issues, divorces, affairs, etc).  I had gotten involved in an abusive relationship, my parents' were becoming increasingly violent with each other.  I just wanted it all to end. 
For some time before I met Tim, I had quit attending church.  I enjoyed my freedom as a single person, no longer being taken advantage at church, and enjoying my time to myself.  I occasionally ran into others with whom I previously attended the same church.  It was always the same, "So, where are you going to church now?"  Me: "Nowhere."  "Well, now, we need to get you back to church."  Nobody seemed to be genuinely concerned about ME. They were more concerned with how many people could fit into the pews.  More people = more money.  Right?
It wasn't until after Tim and I married that we started attending church on a regular basis.  We eventually became members of a very large church in Florida.  I truly enjoyed attending this particular church.  The pastor was phenomenal but yet, he was so humble.  I had never felt like I truly belonged in any one church until we attended Bell Shoals Baptist.  I didn't feel judged.  I didn't feel like I was sinning if I didn't give ALL I had.  I didn't even have to volunteer in the church nursery as one way to earn my ticket to heaven.  I was able to truly enjoy attending church and meeting some neat people.  I joined the choir.  I eventually volunteered in the English as a Second Language ministry.  I finally felt at home.  I grew in faith.  I learned more about the Bible than I had in ages.  I learned that just because I didn't "speak in tongues", I could still make it to heaven.  I really found God there.  My faith felt stronger than ever then.
We moved to Illinois in August of 2004.  At first, my faith continued to stay strong. It had to.  I knew nobody.  I had no one except Tim and we were expecting our little miracle soon.  I had to be strong for her.  And for awhile, I was.  But as time went on, things changed.  I'm not sure where things went wrong.  But there have been some major life situations since our move here.  I started to struggle with my faith. 
People here in the Midwest are just a different breed.  Church people don't seem to be as friendly.  They seem to form more cliques here. They seem to be more judgmental.  I've been confronted about the state of my own faith in a not-so-gentle manner. Perhaps, more like a judgmental manner. 
We have been here for 7 years this month and I have yet to find where I truly belong at any one church.  I have actually made better non-church friends here than I ever have.  The same holds true for Tim and my children.  I really want them to enjoy church and make good friends there, not just acquaintances. But alas, the kids at our current church are already close friends whose own parents are all close friends.  There is no room for one more.  Or two more.  Unless they are related or on staff.  Or popular.  And sometimes, it's all about who is better than who, whose kid is smarter. Or who their husband's rank is.  I know we're judged and I know we're outsiders.  It's been made clear to us. Nobody truly cares about our religious condition. Well, actually, there are exceptions and they know who they are.  I'm so truly appreciative of the time this one person invests in trying to help me stay on track. I can't really explain why but these past 2-3 years have been one of the most difficult journeys in my faith search.  But I just continue to try to find God in my life because I've been needing that lately.   So when I do finally find God, then I can be there for somebody else. Sincerely be there for somebody else. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pool Safety Reminder

 I am so thankful that I chose to go to the pool with my family this evening.  I did not wear my swimsuit as I had not planned on swimming.  I primarily went to be with the family and to help supervise the kids.
Anytime we take the kids on the boat or to go swimming, I am very conscientious about the kids wearing their safety vests. And tonight was no exception.  Except that Daddy decided to give Ben a break from his vest after a little while.  Of course, being the mama bear that I am, I kept a closer watch on Ben.  Then Jackie decided to go down the slide.  Tim swam away toward the bottom of the slide in order to catch Jackie.  In the meantime, I stood with Ben as we watched Daddy.  Ben wanted to go into the water but I reminded him that he had to wait for Daddy to come back for him.  I kept my hand on Ben since he did not have his vest on.  What happened next is a stark reminder of how quickly something can happen around water.  Even though I had my hand on Ben while we waited for his Daddy to come back to him, Ben got away from my grasp and immediately jumped into the water.  My hands and body were not quick enough to grab him back before Ben landed in the water.  I watched in horror for a second.  I was ready to jump in (fully clothed) after him but thankfully, there were a couple of moms close by so I yelled for them to grab Ben out of the water.
By the time Ben was grabbed out of the water, Tim was on his way back over with Jackie after she went down the slide.  I was shaken and my heart was pounding hard.  I didn't yell at Ben but I spoke to him sternly and reminded him that he was not to jump into the water without his vest and Mommy and Daddy had to be in the water with him.  For a moment, I was a bit agitated with Tim since he was the one who took Ben's vest off earlier.  After I spoke sternly to Ben, he went into melt-down mode.  I don't know if it was because of the way I spoke to him or if the incident scared him. I do hope that Ben learned something from this. I know I was shaken up for a good while.
With Tim's history of ADD, I am a little hesitant to allow Tim to take the kids to the pool again if he is going to allow the kids a break from their safety vests. This is one a reason that I did not want to buy a home that had a pool. Unfortunately, pool accidents happen to even the best parents.  Although, at times, Tim wouldn't mind having our own pool, I just do not want that additional risk right now.
My children have taken swim lessons but they were group lessons at the YMCA. Unfortunately, I don't think it was a good fit for my children as they did not seem to learn as much as I had expected them to.  Because of that, I had planned to enroll the kids in private lessons soon.  The incident this evening is causing me to think that I should expedite that plan soon. I realize swimming lessons are not the cure-all but I would feel much more comfortable if my kids would at least learn the basics of water survival, especially during those times when I may not be able to go and supervise and ensure my children's safety. 
I am so very thankful that tonight's incident did not end in another tragic story.  And even as hot as it was outside, I am so thankful that I had gone with my family instead of staying home like I wanted to.  And I am even more grateful for that other mom who heard me and pulled my son to safety. Life is precious.  And God was good to me tonight.