Yes, it is!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Jackie Sang Her First Solo Today!

I am so very proud of Jackie.  I always knew she had a talent for singing even as a toddler.  She sang on key most of the time.  I used to sing to her all the time when she was a baby so perhaps that is how she knew how to stay on pitch. 

 Knowing how much she loves music but would more than likely struggle with playing an instrument due to the motor coordination required, I started early on to encourage her vocal talent.  I also encouraged her to be a part of the children's choir at church.  Jackie tends to be a little bit shy in front of crowds (she's too much like me) but she enjoyed being part of the choir.  

A couple of months, Jackie had the opportunity to audition for a solo.  When Jackie told me about it, I encouraged her to audition.  I admittedly was doubtful that Jackie would even be considered for several reasons, one of those being how shy and quiet Jackie can be.  As good as Jackie can sing, she sings very softly.  When Jackie told me that she got a solo part, I was surprised but so happy for her. 
As the time got closer, Jackie started to get anxious.  I encouraged Jackie and told her that I knew she could do it.  I have to admit that I was afraid that she would get so nervous and have stage fright.  Well, tonight, Jackie proved that she could do it.  I could tell by her face that she was so nervous but she nailed it.  It took everything in me to hold back tears of joy for her.  I was one proud mom.  I still tear up when I watch the video.  I am so, SO, proud of my baby girl.  She is such an inspiration to me.  And by the way, in case you don't know, she does have mild to moderate hearing loss in both of her ears but that didn't stop my baby from being gifted with such a beautiful, angelic voice.

I hope you enjoy this video.  You do not need a Facebook account to view this: Jackie's solo.

Friday, December 13, 2013

One Year Ago Today...

It's hard to believe that it's already been a year since I had my life-changing surgery.  Not only do I feel better physically, but it also helped to boost my self-esteem.  I don't feel like such a freak now, either.  My back and shoulder pain is much improved and I no longer feel like I'm suffocating from all that weight I carried around on my chest for so long. 

The surgery was something that I had long considered and when I finally decided to pursue it, it turned into a 3-year battle with three attempts through my insurance coverage.  The third attempt was the charm.  I think it also helped that this last surgeon really advocated for me and worked hard to get my insurance to cover the procedure.  He agreed that it was truly a medical necessity, especially considering my body size v. breast size.  I feel like I owe my life to Dr. Reid and I was very sad when he moved away from this area.  He is definitely a top-notch doctor with a great bedside manner, too.  I wasn't just a number to him. He treated me with nothing but kindness and compassion.  His nurse was the same way.  

It feels so good to be able to wear just one sport bra to work out, run, or do Zumba.  It's such a nice feeling to be able to pick out a cute bra off the rack for less than $20.  Gone are the days of having to pay $60+ for a bra at a specialty store.  My clothes fit so much better and I no longer feel the need to adjust my clothes constantly to try to hide myself.  I can breathe better.  I can see my belly now and it's bigger than I ever realized (those old ones were good for at least that!). The dents in my shoulders rarely hurt and they are no longer bright red.  My posture is improved, too.  Shoot, even before I left the hospital after my surgery, I felt so much lighter.

This past summer, I was finally able to enjoy taking my children to the beach without feeling like I needed to cover up my swimsuit with a shirt.  I didn't feel like people, men and women alike, were staring at me.  I felt "normal" for a change. 

I'll never understand why some women pay thousands of dollars to be so large-breasted.  It's not comfortable, at all.  But to each, her own. I remember as a young girl when my breasts started to grow (they were normal size back then), I dreaded it.  Even when I graduated high school, I was considered average bra size but I looked large because I was so thin, less than 100 pounds.  (Oh, to have those days back). Having children, unfortunately, caused me to develop macromastia. 
Before I went in for surgery, I told a few of my friends (who I knew would be supportive) so they could pray for me.  I am an anxious person and my anxiety level leading up to the surgery was a bit high.  I really believe that because of the prayers and support of those friends, my recovery went so well.  I had very little post-op pain after 48 hours passed.  I felt so good that I had to keep reminding myself to take care and not overdo it.  A huge thanks goes to my surgeon, Dr. Reid, as he took great care of me not only before the surgery, but during and afterward, too.  

Having the breast-reduction surgery truly has been life-changing and because of that, I am much more open about having had it done because I want to be an inspiration for others who are in need of or are considering having it done.  I read that this type of surgery has one of the highest satisfaction rates and I am a true believer in that. I am definitely one very satisfied patient. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

My Baby Is Six!

My sweet boy is 6 today.  These years have gone by so quickly.  I still remember like it was yesterday, how it felt when the nurse held my baby boy's face to my cheek.  I had a c-section so I was unable to hold my new baby right away. But I'll never forget how his skin was so soft against my cheek.  I still find myself snuggling my cheek to his sometimes just to remember that day of his birth.  Ah! The memories.  I never want to forget. 

Despite the challenges of raising a little boy who has a severe speech disorder and a sensory processing disorder, I love my Ben with all of my heart. He truly is a blessing to our family, an unexpected blessing.  He was our little surprise, completely unplanned.  I know I've written about this before but when we found out I was pregnant and nearly 8 weeks along already, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It just completely took us by surprise.  I mean, we were in shock, such shock that Tim had the nerve to ask how it happened.  Heheheh.  I was all set to start a new and different graduate program that summer and those plans went out the window immediately.  I have no regrets, though. 

Ben has grown so much this past year in many areas.  His speech has come so far.  Just 2 years ago, he had difficulty putting together 2 word sentences.  This past year has seen tremendous growth with his speech. What's better is that Ben's frustration level has greatly improved because he is much better understood by us.  He still has at least a couple more years of therapy, though, to get him to where he should be.  Despite the speech disability, Ben is a very smart little boy.  He has always scored higher on his receptive skills and he learns things very quickly. I'm thankful that Ben has not let his disability get in the way of learning.

Ben started Kindergarten this year and he absolutely loves it. I was a bit worried about how he would adjust to being in school for a full day but he has done fantastic.  He has, so far, received green marks on his folder every day.  He has also been a "star student" several times already for good deeds.  Just this week, he received another "star student" certificate because he picked up a piece of trash in the library and threw it away when everyone else just walked around it and ignored it.  It's a big deal to him to be a "star student."  

Ben has become a very sensitive little guy in this past year.  He does and says some of the cutest things and Tim and I can't help but laugh.  Ben gets so upset and has been known to run to his room, slam the door shut, and hide behind his bed.  He doesn't quite understand that we're not laughing at him but that we're laughing about his cute-ness.  Ben also is also sensitive toward those who are disabled in some way.  He really has a heart of compassion and that makes me so proud.

Ben is such a funny little boy, even when he's not trying to be funny.  I still laugh when I think about the time he left the dinner table while Jackie was in the middle of one of her meltdowns, and he came back to the table with his ears stuffed with tissue.   The past month, Ben has talked constantly about going to O'Charley's for his birthday dinner.  Finally, today came and he was excited about going to O'Charley's.  The waiter asked Ben what he wanted to eat and Ben said "I don't know."  Funny kid. 

It really has been quite an adventure these past 6 years, raising a boy.  Ben definitely keeps us on our toes.  He always has us laughing about something. He is also my very affectionate child.  He loves to snuggle and rub noses and cheeks with me.  I love it! He has also matured some.  Up until recently, Ben would freak out and cry if he had to go on stage at church for any reason such as children's choir or Awana award night.  He would be fine up until the moment he had to go on stage.  I've had to go "rescue" him more than once.  He made me so proud this past Sunday when he got up on the church stage with the children's choir and sang along. I was beaming because he did so well up there.  He's such a big boy now.

Ben has his own group of fans.  He is very well-liked, both at church and at school.  He seems to have no problem making friends.  Even the senior ladies at church have a thing for him.  During church, Ben has been known to make drawings as gifts for his older lady friends.  They're smitten with him. Even some of the teen girls gush over Ben.  He has lots of girlfriends, for sure. It makes me very happy that my baby boy is loved on and cared for by so many people. 

It is my prayer that Ben will continue to have his sensitive and compassionate heart.  He just makes me so proud when I see that part of him in action.  It helps me to know that I'm doing at least one thing right with him. 

Now, if only somebody would have warned me about all the "boy part" situations... there have been plenty of them recently and Daddy is no help with that.  I can't help but wonder who's going to give "the talk" when it's time. 

But, Happy Birthday to my boy!  We love you so very much and we are so happy that God unexpectedly blessed us with you.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Beautiful Night... In More Ways Than One

Wow, what a night!  I had the privilege of performing with the Masterworks Chorale tonight.  This is such a talented group of people and I am thoroughly enjoying being a part of the Chorale.  Tonight, our concert consisted of 2 parts.  The first part included a candlelight processional while we sang along with the children's choir.  Then we filed on stage where we continued to sing old and traditional Christmas carols.  The children's choir performed after us.  What a beautiful job they did.  I am now inspired to consider having Jackie audition for the children's choir.  (Jackie can sing beautifully).

After the children finished their portion of the concert, we had a short intermission before we finished out the concert with Handel's Messiah Pt.1 and the Hallelujah Chorus.  The orchestra did a fantastic job (hired professional musicians).  The soloists also performed beautifully. I just feel so honored to have been a part of this beautiful concert tonight.  

I think I have found my niche here. The chorale members make me feel so welcome and a part of the "family". They really seem to like me.  I am looking forward to getting to know my new chorale friends.  The director/conductor is also very kind and patient, and he has made sure that I have everything that I need to be successful in the Masterworks Chorale.

I was so excited to have a few friends come to the concert to support me.  I know at least a couple of them were praying for me because they know how nervous I can get.  And guess what?!  Their prayers worked!  I wasn't nearly as nervous as I thought I would be.  In fact, I hardly felt nervous, at all.  The thing that made me feel the most nervous was that I was in the front row on the end where I felt I would be more visible.  But I got over that quickly.  Of course, it did help to keep my focus on the conductor.  So, if those friends are reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming out on such a frigid and icy night to see us perform.  It means more to me than you will ever know.

The most beautiful thing that occurred tonight didn't even have to do with the concert.  But what happened there has given me a renewed hope.  See, a friend whom I haven't seen in nearly a year came to the concert.  There was a lot of hurt between us this past year and I had grieved over the distance that came between us. This precious friend came tonight to see me perform.   During intermission, I was able to quickly say hi to my friends and when I caught up with this other friend, we embraced and I didn't want to let her go.  It was so good to see her and hug her.  And my kids, especially Jackie, were all over her.  (There are certain friends of mine with whom Jackie has a special connection and this friend is one of them).  I never wanted to let this friend go because I had considered her to be my closest friend here.  We had good times together and I missed that this past year and a half.  I am so glad that God is working on us to repair our friendship.  I love this friend and even when we weren't talking, she was never far from my thoughts.  That must have been God's way of telling me that it wasn't completely over and that time would heal our hearts.  Seeing my friend tonight and the way we embraced made me realize that I truly was an important part of her life before we let hurt feelings fracture our friendship.  I'm looking forward to the next step to healing in our relationship.  My prayer is that God will continue to work in both of our hearts.  I especially pray that God will heal my friend's heart as she has been through so much pain this past year.

It really made my night to see this friend and to be able to hug her.  It made me so happy!  Thank you, Lord, for such a beautiful end to a most beautiful night (despite the frigid cold and snow/ice).

Thursday, November 28, 2013

2013 Edition of Thanksgivings

I have so much to be thankful for this year.  I'm going to share just a few of the things I'm thankful for.
 
At the top of my list of thanks has to be the life changing surgery that I went through nearly a year ago.  Not only did this procedure relieve a lot of my physical discomfort, it also gave my not-so-great self-esteem a huge boost.  I am so very thankful for my surgeon and his nurse who always showed compassion and respect toward me and never made me feel like a freak.  They were truly interested in helping me.  Because of this top-notch surgeon, not only do I feel better physically but I feel much more comfortable with my body now.  Except that I need to get back on the bandwagon with my fitness routine.  My clothes have been letting me know that lately.

I am thankful for my children.  I am especially thankful for Jackie and her faith.  She enjoys going to church and being in the children's choir.  She auditioned for and was given a solo part in her church's Christmas program. Jackie is my inspiration for wanting to restore and grow my own faith.  She often asks me questions that cause me to pause and ponder my own actions.  She is also not ashamed of her faith and I hope she continues not to be ashamed.  (Except, she says we embarrass her when we discretely say a blessing for our meal when we're at a restaurant).  This past week, she had an assignment at school that just blew me away when it was sent home in her folder.  She wrote with a wisdom that I've never seen in a 9 -year old.  Jackie definitely has a very unique way of thinking about things.  Here is that assignment:


I'm also thankful for my sweet little boy who is also developing his own faith.  Just recently, he woke up very late one night and joined me on the sofa.  Usually, I would get annoyed that one of my children is "interrupting" my quiet time, unless they were sick or had a bad dream.  This was not the case for Ben that night but for whatever reason, he woke up and was wide awake for about an hour.  It ended up being a very precious time with me as he shared with me all the things that he was learning at church.  He was especially focused on how Jesus died on a cross and how he was in a "cave" but he rose after 3 days. 

This past year has brought changes in some of my friendships.  Some of it was not good but most of the changes were positive.  Very positive. In recent months, I have become fairly close friends with a couple of ladies who I never dreamed I would even have a friendship with.  These ladies have rallied around me and have gone to bat for me.  My appreciation for them is more than I can even describe here.  Another friendship that I thought had gone out the window earlier this year has recently turned a corner in a positive way.  When I received a text from this friend about a month ago after us not communicating for several months, I was ecstatic.  We've been texting occasionally since then and each time, it brings a smile to my face.  And today, on Thanksgiving day of all days, I got a call from her (albeit accidentally).  It turned out to be a wonderful conversation.  I think it's the longest conversation that we've held in months even before we quit talking for awhile.  I'm so thankful that we able to talk today and catch up a little. She really is a wonderful person and I was so sad about it when we weren't talking. That phone call this morning was the highlight of my day.  Forgiveness is a powerful thing and I'm so thankful for the ability to forgive (that's to say that I don't have boundaries with certain people in my life, though) and the ability to accept forgiveness from others.  This has helped me to get through a recent situation involving another so-called friend.  That one is a very different situation and if she extended an apology to me (which I'm not counting on), I would gladly accept that.  Actually, I forgave her long ago but unfortunately, she had her own ideas. That's okay, though, because through all that, I've gained much more than the loss of her friendship. 

I'm thankful for another friend who has been spending a short amount of time with me each week to go through a Bible study.  I've often had people offer to do an individual bible study with me but nothing ever came to fruition.  I'm not one to pursue people because I don't want to be a burden.  So, thank you to TZ for committing to and staying committed to help me through that bible study.  I appreciate it more than you'll ever know.

This year, I have the honor of being a part of chorale/ensemble called MasterWorks.  It's an awesome group of singers and orchestra that performs several concerts a year.  This year, our repertoire includes the first part of Handel's Messiah (which I am so excited about) and some of the old Christmas songs.  I love singing classical pieces and this is just up my alley.  I auditioned for the group several months ago and since then, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it.  Since moving here 9 months ago, I have really missed being involved musically.  I really missed being a part of my choir in Florida and nothing here quite fit what I was wanting to be a part of... until I discovered MasterWorks.  I discovered the group a few years ago and had wanted to audition for it but taking care of my children and just life in general got in the way of doing so until recently.  So, if any of my local friends read this, please come out and hear us on December 8 at 7:30 at St. Clare in O'Fallon.

I've had the pleasure of tutoring a young man at my family's church.  This young man has autism and he is working hard to obtain his GED.  I've spent many hours, so far, to help him accomplish his goal.  I've always been a compassionate person but this young man has taught me much more than compassion.  I'm thankful that I have a desire to help those who have special needs.

Today, my family and I volunteered at my family's church where they were serving a Thanksgiving meal to the community.  I am not very good at just going up to people and introducing myself and talking to them.  (I still deal with fear of rejection, I guess).  But, today, I was forced to get out of my comfort zone by being assigned to talk to people as I walked them to a table after which I was also responsible for serving their meal then sitting down to talk and get to know these people.  I have no problem serving people but I have a difficult time starting conversation with complete strangers.  That is way out of my comfort zone.  But thank you to Tony (and Brenda, too) for forcing me to get out of my comfort zone and encouraging me when I started to get inch toward the ledge during the rush. It ended up being a good experience.  And it made me realize why I never became a waitress.


My Son, the Prankster

My son has become quite the prankster.  Ben has been trying to trick me in a variety of ways, from hiding where I can't find him to hiding a fake snake in my blanket that I had on the sofa. 
 
So last night after the kids were in bed, I went to the hallway bathroom and when I tried to turn on the light, I felt something gooey.  I jumped back and nearly screamed and wet my pants.  I felt whatever it was fall off so I reached out again to turn on the light.  It was this:
 

Of course, at the time, I didn't know who the culprit was and I had wrongly suspected Jackie. When Ben woke up this morning, I asked whose mouse and Ben said, "Mommy, that was me!".  He was smiling and so proud.  I couldn't help but chuckle.  His expressions get me every time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Talk About ADD...

I nearly got myself arrested today. I'm blaming it on my jacket, which I had draped over my arm.

So today, I went to the mall to look for a winter coat for Ben because he keeps complaining that his other one is too big.  Even though the tag shows the correct size, I have to agree that his current coat is a bit big.  So, I found a coat that was on sale at the first store I went to but I decided to check a couple of other stores before I made a final decision.

Since I had a coupon from Victoria's Secret for a free product, I headed over that way next.  Then I made my way over to JCPenney.  I felt like that little kid on Family Circus as I meandered around to several other stores, including Children's Place, Crazy 8's, and Sears.  

Sears is where the trouble started.  I got distracted when I saw a rack of cute puffy vests.  I tried one on and decided to think about it while I checked out the children's section for coats.  I spent several minutes looking around that department before I decided to head back to Macy's to get the coat that was on sale there.  I left Sears and headed toward Macy's and on my way, I had to fend off an annoying salesperson trying to sell me some little back vibrator thing.  I was almost to Macy's when I looked down at my arm, where I still had my jacket draped, and was horrified to see that I had just shoplifted from Sears.  That darn puffy vest.  My heart started to race thinking that, surely, security is trying to track me down so they can arrest me.  How embarrassing would that be? So, as I walked fast, trying not to run, I again had to fend off that annoying salesperson as I headed back to Sears. Can you say short-term memory?  Because she obviously forgot that I had just passed her just 30 seconds earlier.  

So, out of breath and with my heart racing, I get back to Sears and proceed to the nearest register and plopped the vest on the counter to pay for it.  I was shaking a little bit, too, as I explained to the cashiers what I had just done.  One of them chuckled and said that she had done the same thing before.  Oh, good, I wasn't alone.  So, I pay and head back toward Macy's and once again, as I head toward there, that annoying saleslady with the short-term memory problem tried to push her product on me again.  Ugh. I get to Macy's and go to pay for the coat.  The cashier asked me if I wanted to use my Macy's charge card. I have one of those but I almost always stick to using my bank card. because I don't want a bunch of credit cards racked up with debt. When the cashier said that I could save an additional 10% on top of the sale price, I thought about if for a moment, then said sure.  She looked up my account and before I knew it, she had the coat in a bag, handed me the receipt, and told me to have a good day.  I didn't swipe anything and I didn't sign anything so I asked the cashier if I actually paid for it to which she replied that everything was complete.  Okay.  Everything was done so quickly, like less than a minute.  The receipt shows the transaction was complete but the trauma of nearly being arrested has me a bit paranoid now.  So, now I'm just waiting for the law to show up at my door.

Monday, November 18, 2013

ADD?

As most of my friends know, my daughter has mild cerebral palsy.  Thankfully, though, her cognitive abilities have not been affected.  She is mostly a straight A student and she is even in a challenge class once a week.  However, I have noticed recently that some of her test scores have declined and her errors are careless ones.  I often question Jackie about the incorrect answers and she almost always gives me a non-sense answer for her mistake.  It's been very frustrating lately because I know that she can do so much better.  I couldn't help but wonder if Jackie was just being lazy or if she was becoming bored.  Another suggestion by a clinical social worker that I talked to was the possibility that Jackie may have a form of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

Beside the academic issue, there have been several other issues that are making me lean more toward the ADD possibility.  Jackie tends to be pokey with just about everything she does.  She always seems to be the last kid to exit the building when I pick up the kids from school.  Seriously, we're  usually the last family to leave the parking lot because Jackie is just that pokey coming out of the school.  There have been times when most of the other kids have already been picked and still no Jackie in sight.  I have gone to the office several times so the staff could help track Jackie down.  I've been tempted to put one of those collar cameras on her, but somehow rig it to a necklace or even her eyeglasses. It would be very interesting to see Jackie's journey from the time school dismisses until she finally comes out of the building.  On the days that Jackie has therapy after school, I have to email her teacher to remind her to dismiss Jackie a few minutes early and send her to the front of the school building so that we can leave in plenty of time for Jackie's appointment.  I've asked Jackie what takes her so long to come out of the school.  Her answers always vary and most of the time, they just don't make sense.  

Homework has become quite a chore with Jackie.  I dread homework time.  Even with the TV and everything else off, Jackie will find something to distract her from doing homework.  She will complain of some noise distracting her. She will argue that it isn't fair that she has homework and Ben doesn't. And I have to remind her that she was in kindergarten once and she didn't have homework then, either.  It's just a huge battle with her more than half the time. I've had to threaten to just send her folder back to school with a note for her teacher to just give Jackie a zero because I refuse to fight with her (Jackie) about homework.  Jackie has even started to lie about having completed all her homework.  Thank God for those agendas that the schools supply the kids with. 

Sometimes, she is sloppy with her work.  This is a child who has a history of being a perfectionist with her schoolwork, including her handwriting.  This no longer seems to be the case.

I will tell Jackie to go change from her pajamas to her regular clothes or vice versa but when I check on her 5-10 minutes later, I often find her naked from the bottom down and sitting on the floor playing with something or just sitting there daydreaming.  It appears that she starts to get changed but something distracts her in the process. I just shake my head because this happens so often.  Then when I remind Jackie what I requested of her 5-10 minutes ago, she snaps at me and says "I am!" and then slowly resumes what she was told to do 15 minutes earlier... Until she is distracted again 10 seconds later.  If I hover over her to make sure she does what she is supposed to do, she gets angry.  Bedtime is a huge battle.  It doesn't matter how early I start the bedtime routine, it is a miracle if the kids are in bed at 8:30. It doesn't matter if I start the process 2 hours early, it's still a battle to have the kids in bed at 8:30.  It doesn't help that I'm usually the only parent (at least 90% of the time) doing the bedtime routine.

Jackie's bedroom has been a huge battle these last couple of years.  Ben does a fairly good job of keeping his room picked up when he is asked to, but Jackie, on the other hand, can leave her room in a tornado-like state in a matter of hours.   She USED to be my neat kid.  She used to put her toys away and do it neatly.  I don't know what happened there.  I'll tell the kids to clean up their rooms and Ben can be done in a half hour and his room really is neat and clean.  Jackie, again, has usually not even started on her room before Ben is finished with his.  I'll check in on Jackie and she can be found sitting on the floor, playing with some piece of trash and insisting that she was saving it because she was going to use it for something special.  Oh, yes, she thinks a rice krispy treat wrapper is good for something special.  And then she gets upset that Ben is already done with his room (and she hasn't even started) and she wants somebody to help with her room. An hour job of cleaning Jackie's room often turns into a 5-hour plus job.  And it usually culminates in a meltdown by her me.  Well... her, too. It's just plain exhausting.

Recently, the school nurse called me to inform that Jackie had tripped over some stairs at school and acquired a small goose egg.  Thankfully, she was okay.  But the nurse also wanted me to know that while they were in the nurses office, Jackie nearly tripped on a table leg.  The nurse thought it was perhaps Jackie couldn't see that well.  Hmm, nope.  She can see well enough, especially now that she has been compliant with her eyeglasses for the past year.  Plus, she is followed by the pediatric ophthalmologist every 3-6 months because of a couple of issues with her left eye and there has finally been some improvement. So, no, she didn't trip on that table leg because of poor vision. She tripped on that table leg because she wasn't paying attention to where she was going!  She has become somewhat clumsy lately. 

I just don't understand what is going on with my daughter.  She used to be a bit of a perfectionist in several areas. Her schoolwork used to ALWAYS be neat. She used to be good about keeping her room neat and toys were put away in the proper places.  It just boggles me. I don't know where I went wrong.  It has been very frustrating lately and I have considered whether or not we should have Jackie evaluated for some sort of attention problem or perhaps even some sort of seizure disorder.  With the type of brain damage that Jackie suffered, even though she has not had any seizures (except for a possible one as a newborn), she is at slight risk of developing them as she enters puberty.  So that is definitely a possibility even though I think it's a remote one at this moment.  As normal as Jackie looks, she does have several issues that we have to follow-up on as a result of the CP and I really don't want to add to her repertoire of diagnoses.  However, I want her to continue to succeed in school and if it means another treatment for yet another problem, so be it.  We will deal with it like we have with everything else involving our children.
 
I'm on a handful of Facebook support groups relating to my children.  One of those groups is for those with children who have Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL).  Through that particular group, I have learned that I'm not the only one dealing with the type of behavior that Jackie is displaying.  I don't know if this could be related to the type of brain damage our children have or if it's just a typical ADD behavior.  I just really don't know what to think but I hope to get answers soon.  In the meantime, I want to ask my friends to pray that we can get those answers soon so that we can help our daughter to continue succeed in school and that our frustration levels will decrease.  Lord knows, we don't need another ADD person in this house. (I'm not naming the other ADD person but it's not me.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

She's Nine Years Old!

I can't believe my beautiful little girl is 9 years old.  Nine!  She truly is a miracle.  She was a miracle from the moment she was conceived.  When I reflect back on these years, I can't help but be so thankful for the miracle of her life.  

Before I got that positive test, I thought for sure that I was not pregnant.  I didn't have any symptoms of pregnancy and on top of that, I thought I was having a cycle.  But when I went to the doctor for a follow-up appointment for a recent issue, the doctor ordered a urine and HCG pregnancy test, even though I insisted that I was NOT pregnant.  After all, I was bleeding.  I was shocked that the urine test was positive and I was assured that it was not a false positive. (Apparently, false positives don't exist, false negatives do). I called Tim and told him the news.  A couple of days later, I had another HCG level taken.  I got a phone call that evening from the doctor's office that I needed to have an ultrasound done soon because my HCG levels were rising higher than typical for the stage of pregnancy I was at.  I was a bit nervous about having the ultrasound.  

Until now, I have not been very open about Jackie's twin.  We never shared about it with our family and only a couple of my friends back home knew about it.  

So, the ultrasound showed that we were expecting twins.  I was very nervous. Since I was still having issues with bleeding, I was told to go back for another ultrasound a few days later. That ultrasound showed that one of the twins was lagging behind in it's development.  I was told to return for another ultrasound the following week.  The twin's growth was still behind where it should be and it's heart rate was very low.  I was warned that the likelihood of this twin surviving was very low.  A few days later, another ultrasound confirmed that this twin had died.  I was very sad but thankful that the other twin, who would ultimately become Jackie, appeared to be doing well.  However, I continued to bleed. I was eventually diagnosed with a chorionic hemorrhage.  This is what apparently led to the demise of Jackie's twin at 8 weeks.  Unfortunately, the chorionic hemorrhage affected Jackie, too, and I was gently warned of the very real possibility that Jackie could end up suffering the same fate as her twin did. Even though I was never too sure of having children until then, I begged God to save my baby.  Our prayers were answered. 

After a somewhat higher risk pregnancy,  Jackie was born 3 weeks early, by c-section.  I will never forget the overwhelming love I felt for my baby as soon as she was placed in my arms.  Unfortunately, post-partum issues creeped in, in addition to a very colicky baby.  I hate that I don't remember very much from that first year.  I remember, though, the fear I felt when Jackie was diagnosed at age 6 months with cerebral palsy, possibly due to in utero or post natal stroke.  Of course, Jackie was delayed with her motor skills.  I couldn't help but hurt for my baby when babies her age were crawling, walking, running on time.  Jackie just sat there, helpless.  I'm so thankful for her therapists at that time who provided so much support to not only my baby, but to me, too.  

Jackie has proved and continues to prove doctors wrong.  I know it's partly because of her strong-will.  She receives top grades. She is very well-liked at school by students and staff alike.  She is intelligent and quite talented.  She is sensitive and compassionate.  She is beautiful and perfect to me.  She is the apple of my eye.  (Well, most of the time).

Time has flown by so quickly. I'll never forget all those people, including strangers, who would say to me to enjoy this time because it passes so quickly.  I never blew those people off because I knew it was true.  Every now and then, Jackie will do something or just have a certain look that will throw me off guard.  And it reminds me... she's growing up so quickly.  It makes me gulp sometimes. I'm looking forward to watching my beautiful little girl grow up into a beautiful young lady.  But I sometimes wish I can turn back the hands of time and have a do-over.  

I pray that her self-esteem will not suffer so severely like I did. That is why it is so important to me that my daughter knows just how beautiful she is, how gifted she is.  And especially, how special she is to not only me, but to God and so many others involved in her life.  I pray that Jackie and I will continue to have a close bond.  I want more than anything to make things different for her than it was for me. 

Jackie is so precious to me and I don't often convey that to her. I want to change that.  Jackie has been my inspiration lately for why I'm so desperate to change some of my ways to be a better mother.  I want Jackie to look back and appreciate the effort that I made to be the best mother possible.  She is the reason why I don't give up completely on God.  She truly is a believer, mostly without my help. 

There have been many times where I have gone into Jackie's room at night just to stare at her.  As I watch her sleep, sometimes sadness overcomes me because I fail so often.  And sometimes, tears will come to my eyes because I'm just so proud of who she is and what she has already accomplished despite some of her adversities.  

Lately, I've come to the realization that the estrogen has started coursing through her veins already.  Her emotions are all over the place.  She is even more moody. And lately, she has become worried that certain friends aren't really her friends. She often feels left out, lately.  She sometimes will even ask me if I love her. She has become so much more sensitive lately.  I have to admit that I get frustrated because I just don't know how handle it when she becomes so sensitive and uptight when it comes to dealing with her friendships. I just try to comfort her.  (I sure wish I had the right example of how to deal with all of this).  I'll have to hold on and pray.

So on this day, November 1, Jackie's 9 year of life, I can't help but dedicate one of her favorite songs.  This song speaks to me as well.  I am determined, with God's help, to be by Jackie's side as she (and I!) navigates her way through what is already promising to be a tumultuous few years as she grows into a young woman.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2qeQ8Z3CLg

Happy 9th Birthday, my beautiful Jackie!

Precious Moments With My Son

Ben has a tendency to wake up in the middle of the night and either crawl into bed with me and Tim.  Or if I'm still awake, he will curl up next to me and go back to sleep.  Then after about 15 minutes, I'll lay him back in his bed. I'm okay with that as I enjoy providing comfort to my children.  
However, if either of my children decide to be wide awake late at night, MY quiet time, I am easily annoyed.  A couple of weekends ago was an exception.  Ben had woken up around midnight, just as I was getting ready to head to bed, and he joined me on the couch.  He tossed and turned like he was trying to go back to sleep but within minutes, he was wide awake. He then moved over to the chair and began a conversation.  It turned out to be such a precious time between me and my son.  
Ben started out by telling me that Jesus died a looong time ago. "Yes, I said, "a very long time ago."  Ben then shared how Jesus rose after 3 days.  Then he told me that Jesus was in a cave.  The part about the cave made me chuckle.  Then I said, "yes, a tomb."  Ben continued to share what he learned at church.  I was so impressed.  I did not realize how much Ben was listening and retaining what he was learning at church.  He continues to amaze me.  When children have such a severe speech disorder such as what Ben had (and still struggles with) along with sensory disorders, it's difficult to gauge how much they are taking in because they are unable to adequately share what they are learning.  I always knew Ben was very intelligent, though.  I am so proud of my little boy.  He has made so much progress in the last year and a half.  He's doing very well in Kindergarten and has become quite a popular little boy.  He has lots of friends who don't seem to care that he's difficult to understand at times.  

Since I'm on the topic of my son, I just have to share some recent stories about him because not only can he be so precious, but he can also be a very funny little boy.  As I said, Ben often wakes up late at night/middle the night.  One night, not too long ago, he came into the living room where I was still awake and listening to music while reading.  He curled up next to me for several seconds before he climbed up onto the back of the sofa and promptly fell asleep.  How did I know he wasn't faking?  Well, he started to snore within a couple of minutes after positioning himself on the couch like a cat. Here's the proof: 

Ben is such a sweet boy.  A couple of nights ago, as I was tucking him into bed, Ben told me that I looked skinny.  Aww!  I certainly wish that was the case but since I've actually gained 10 pounds in the past year, Ben earned some extra points with me.  I almost wanted to give back his toys that were in time out due to Ben's bad behavior a couple of days ago.  But I resisted the temptation.   
One might ask why Ben's toys were in time out.  Ben has had a problem with hitting and biting in the past.  And it goes beyond just being a boy.  The victim is almost always his sister with me being his occasional victim.  This past week, Ben lost a few of his toys to time out and he was not happy about it.  At. All.  In fact, he was quite violent a few days ago when I took his toys.  After school that day, I talked to Ben, again, and explained how hitting his sister hurts not only her but his parents and his friends.  I told him his friends won't like having a friend who hits girls, especially in front of said friends.  I then told him that we're going to keep track of the days that he is nice all day and has not hit.  Ben just finished day 2 of his goal and he is so proud of himself.  He keeps reminding me how he's been nice to everyone.  He really wants those toys back.  He'll get one back if he can go for 5 days without hitting.  I'm so proud of him because he has not gone a single day without hitting at least once. 

I know that despite the hitting, Ben loves his sister.  He often will go to her for comfort if I'm not available.  He misses her when she's not home.  He thinks of her when he gets a little treat from somebody else.  He always tries to snag an extra treat for Jackie.  Ben really is a very sweet, thoughtful little boy. But there are some things that, just like me and Tim, he does not tolerate very well.  Like Jackie's dramatic meltdowns.

Ben is also a very sensitive little guy.  A couple of weeks ago, I subbed at the kids' school. At lunchtime, Ben saw me in the hallway where he was waiting in line with his class.  He saw me and said "hi mum".  I smiled, waved, and said "hi".  As we parted ways, Ben suddenly looked down in a shy manner and gave me a shy wave goodbye.  I couldn't help but chuckle that my son had suddenly become shy with me.  At dinner that night, I was telling Tim about this and Tim got tickled and started to chuckle.  Then Ben left the table and went running to his room and shut the door behind him.  I figured he would be back out in no time.  But 5 minutes passed and no Ben.  So, I went to his room where Ben was hiding behind his bed. I told Ben that we missed him and that we wanted him to come back.  He yelled at me because he thought we were laughing AT him.  I tried to explain how we were not laughing AT him but that we were laughing at his cuteness.  He didn't quite understand how cute could also be funny.  But he did come back out to join us.  He's such a sensitive little guy.  I just love him so!  And I'm looking forward to sharing these stories with his own family one day.

Some Things Really Make Me Wonder

Recently, I have written about a certain situation between me and another person.  This person did something very hurtful but I was never angry.  Nevertheless, that person doesn't have much to do with me anymore.  Which is just as well because of some realizations that have come to me.  

I have not discussed this issue with my children as it has nothing to do with them.  And it's none of their business.  I have talked to my husband a little bit about it.  I also talked to a trusted (hopefully) friend about it because this situation has escalated to the point where it has upset a couple of other friends with whom I've developed very good relationships with lately.  It was nice to know that I have friends who really try to stand up for me.  

Interestingly enough, this friend knew who I was talking about without me even mentioning a name.  In a way, I felt validated.  To this day, I am still not angry at this other person.  I never was. Actually, it makes me very sad that this person continues with the behavior.  Apparently, this person also thinks I'm angry.  I say this because my son asked me a question today, out of the blue.  He asked me why I'm mad at (his friend)'s mom.  I had to ask Ben what he meant, to make sure that I didn't misunderstand him.  Sure enough, he thinks I'm mad at this particular person.  For the record, I do NOT discuss such personal matters with my children.  They don't even know about this blog, so they don't read it here. In fact, Ben isn't even an efficient enough reader to be able to understand anything I write on here.  With this particular situation with this person, I have not even discussed it in the presence of my children.  Which makes me believe that somebody said something to Ben.
I asked Ben who told him I was mad at this particular person.  I couldn't quite understand his response (he still struggles with a severe speech disorder). I explained to Ben that I was not mad at this person nor was I mad at anybody else.  I also explained to him that even really nice people aren't always very nice to certain others.  And that includes myself.  

I can't help but wonder what sort of lies and garbage my kids are being told when they're not in my presence at their church, especially by the children of certain people.  I especially can't help but wonder how Christians can be so vile toward each other.  In fact, I think Christians are worse about this than those who don't subscribe to Christianity.  This just adds to my internal tug-of-war with Christianity.  

Thankfully, I have those couple of very good friends at my kids' church and because of them, I continue to be encouraged to push forward contrary to what certain people would like to see of me.  I will also continue to be cordial to this particular person although I can't help but continue to be cautious.

Daisy

Eight nights ago, on October 23, our little rescue dog, Daisy went missing.  I feel terrible about.  We still have not found her.  I wonder where she is, if she's safe, or if she's just enjoying her freedom.

We adopted Daisy this past February as a companion for our other dog, who was grieving the loss of our beloved Lucy who had died just a couple of months prior.  Daisy was a very timid, easily frightened little dog.  Over the past few months, she started to come out of her shell but she was still very easily frightened.  We never heard her bark.  We never even heard her whine until 3 weeks ago when we came back home from a funeral in Florida.  Daisy whined with excitement that we were home.  I was thrilled to finally hear that she had a voice!  She was really starting to become a real member of our family.

After Daisy slipped out through an open door last week, I went searching for her right away.  I looked all over our neighborhood.  I put word out on several pages on Facebook.  I filled out a form online with Lost Dogs Illinois.  I searched until 1:00 am that night.  We still have not found her.  One thing that gives me hope is that I have not found her body as I scan the roadsides while I'm driving around.  One thought that comes to my mind is that perhaps somebody found her and decided to keep her despite the fact that Daisy has a tag on and she's microchipped.  She acts like an abused dog so perhaps that person thought she is abused and decided to "protect" her.  Another thought is that maybe the neighbors who don't like us have her.  They have quite a collection of dogs over there.  If that's the case, then I know she'll be safe because even though they may not care for a lot of people, they do care about animals.  I'll give them that much credit.  

Whenever I read or see reunions between long-lost pets and their families, my hope rises.  Perhaps that will be us one day.  I don't know.  I just have to continue to pray that she is safe somewhere.  I miss her terribly, though.  In fact, I got so used to her keeping me company in the bathroom when I would shower and I really miss that.  Please help me by continuing to pray that she is found safe and sound. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

No Wonder She Had A Nightmare

Tim and and I woke in the middle of the night last night to find Jackie had crawled into bed with us. That was odd behavior for Jackie as the only time she will come into our room in the middle of the night is if a loud storm woke her up.  Ben, on the other hand, is the one who usually finds his way into bed with us.  

This morning, after the kids left for school, I got a call from the school that Jackie had forgotten her lunch and she didn't want any of the school choices.  I got Jackie's lunch ready and planned to drop it off at the school after I went to a morning Zumba class.  As I left the Zumba class, I received a phone another call from the school, this time letting me know that Jackie had gotten injured when she tripped on a step and hit her head on the floor.  After being reassured that Jackie wasn't in need of emergency care, I told the nurse that I would go ahead and check up on Jackie when I dropped off her lunch.  

So, I arrived at the school in time to have lunch with Jackie. As we're sitting there, Jackie began to tell me that she had a nightmare and that's why she got in bed with us.  She told me the nightmare was about how the neighboring house (the ones who hate us) had people who would come out with knives and try to steal her (Jackie).  These particular neighbors get very into Halloween with their morbid decorations.  I figured that's what got Jackie so scared. I reassured Jackie that I would never allow anybody to steal her or threaten her with knives.  

We got home and as I went through Jackie's folder, I discovered something.  It's no wonder she had a nightmare last night.  One of Jackie's assignments was to write a story.  Even though I always check Jackie's homework after she's done, I somehow missed the story map.  Apparently, the assignment was to write a scary story.  I'm not too keen on that, especially if it caused a nightmare for Jackie. Take a look:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cautiously Optimistic

It seems lately that for all the good things that have been happening for me, there is always one bad apple that tries to bring me down. 

I recently wrote about some healing changes that have been occurring in my life.  I also wrote about some things that have been on my heart about a couple of issues and people.  I am so thankful for those friends who have stood up for me.  Unfortunately, even though these friends went with their heart to include me in certain things at church, there are some people whose ultimate goal is to make things as difficult as they possibly can.  It's all about control.  Somebody at my family's church recently got into trouble because they approved me to help these friends with a children's ministry on Sunday morning.  Apparently, somebody at this church got wind of it and reported it to the top brass at that church.  The main reason?  I'm not a member, although my husband and daughter are members of that church.  I have my suspicions about who reported me. Am I angry?  Not really.  But considering who I'm suspecting, it's very disappointing, especially because I have done nothing wrong to this person except feel betrayed.   I've had background checks and fingerprints done as a substitute teacher in the public school system.  I'm safe.  If all it takes to be able to work in any ministry at my family's church is to go through their own class and background checks, I'm all for it.  But church membership is of utmost importance there.  I will NOT allow this to keep me from my children, however.  Unfortunately, that church has too many rules and regulations that I'm not in agreement with.  (I recently got a copy of the church's constitution and I have some concerns about it). So, I'm apparently not allowed to do anything at that church until I agree to become a member and be baptized as a baptist.

During this discovery, I have learned who my friends really are.  They stood up for me and were just dumbfounded at this turn of events.  The staff person who actually approved my friends' request for me to work with them went with his heart because he knew that I would be good and that I have a heart for children, especially those with special needs.  He has seen me in action.  He also knows that in order to work in the school system, I have passed the background checks that are required to work around children.  Beside that, working with a group of people, it wasn't as if I was ever going to be alone with any of those church kids.  After being told that I can't help in any ministry there, I started to panic at the thought of not being able to be near my own children at church but this staff member reassured me that I can be with my children at any time, even in their own classes.  I have to shake my head at this.  I can be around all those children when I go to check on (or even sit with) my children but I can't help with any ministry.  And in case you're wondering if I do check on my children, yes, I do.  I enjoy looking in on them to see how they are interacting with others and vice versa.  With the issues that my children have had (Ben has a severe speech disorder with sensory issues and Jackie has CP), I feel the need to make sure that my children are having a nice time. 

Despite feeling a bit depressed about this past week, I am feeling optimistic variety of reasons.  My friendship with these couple of friends who tried to defend me has proven to me that they are true friends.  They care about me and find value in me.  In fact, these friends have struggled on my behalf with their feelings about this situation and for that, I feel honored but also a bit guilty.  If it wasn't for me, none of those people would have gotten into trouble.  

One of the things that glared out at me on the church constitution is that there is to be no tattling.   I think some of those church members need to read their constitution because there is plenty of tattling going on there.  And this one, slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.  I'm all for reconciliation with this particular person but the ball is now in her court.  I've done my part by reassuring that I was not angry and that I had still considered her a friend.   Here's an interesting one, We also engage to maintain family and secret devotions.  Secret devotions? What in the world?!  Also, I've never heard of a church requiring church members to abstain from the sale and/or consumption of alcoholic beverages.  I know a lot of churches recommend against it but I've never heard of the requirement against it.  So that there would exclude me from becoming a member as I enjoy the occasional glass of wine.

In light of this crap that has been going on, I've been feeling optimistic about some things.  I recently had the opportunity to audition for a vocal group that puts on concerts throughout the year in the metro area.  I am proud to say that I am a member of the Masterworks Chorale.  It is such an honor to be a part of this.  Even more exciting is that we will be performing one of my favorite pieces, Handel's Messiah, during the Christmas season. 

This afternoon, another event made my heart feel so encouraged.  My day was made brighter after I received a message from somebody who has been missed very much during this past year.  This person was never far from my heart and it meant so much to see that message.  I feel hope.  I feel optimistic.  I know healing can and will take place.  Now on to the next step...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Feeling Blessed


These past couple of months have been an encouraging time, for the most part.  Recall during the summer that I have had a friendship restored that required healing on both of our parts and am I ever glad that this has occurred.  This person really has been a blessing to me.  She has been encouraging to me and has prayed for me.  Since getting to know her better, I have found her to be fun and funny.  I love that our children get along so well when they're together.  Even when we weren't friends, I always appreciated that she was so sweet to my daughter.  Her daughter was, and still is, a very sweet friend to Jackie. I really look forward to developing a closer relationship with this friend.  

There is something that I've been wanting to express for quite some time that relates to this particular friend.  When I first met her, I thought she was nice but I purposely didn't pursue a close friendship with her or anybody else.  It's difficult for me to get close to anyone, especially when they seem to have it all together.  This person seemed to have it all together.  She has the looks, the sense of style, the friends, the strong faith that I knew I would never have.  In fact, she never seemed to lack self-confidence.  Frankly, I felt inadequate next to her.  I knew I could never measure up.  About a year after we met, I wrote about something that she didn't like and it caused a rift between us.  I found out later that even though the comment was not about her at all, she felt hurt by it because it was about a topic that she cared very much about.  The comment was just an honest (not malicious) opinion about something that happened at church.  I never intended to offend anybody. I figured that since I was already not a valued friend, it didn't matter that we were no longer talking after that.  But... deep down inside, I had regard for this person, mostly because she was (and is) always so sweet to Jackie.  Knowing a little bit of this person's background already, I couldn't help but wonder how she had such confidence about herself.  I found it intimidating at times.  I realize now that part of my problem with her self-confidence is because I wanted that for myself.  I wanted to feel good about myself like she did. I wished I had that ability to exude such confidence like she did.  In the past few months since we've allowed healing to take place between us, I have really enjoyed getting to know her and learning more about her story.  I have learned that she and I have more in common than I ever knew.  I can relate to her in many ways.  I sincerely hope and pray that we can continue to develop our friendship and that by hanging out with her, that I can learn how to exude a good self confidence, too.  And learn to be bubbly.  And sweet.  And everything else positive like this friend.  I really look forward to us being life-long friends and that our children will also be life-long friends.  

I have also been blessed to get to know another friend better, thanks in part to the above mentioned friend.  This particular friend has blessed me in so many ways.  She has been encouraging and has prayed for me along with the above mentioned friend.  She is also so very sweet and loving with my Jackie. She also has a neat story of redemption. And I enjoy being around this person for just about the same reasons as friend above.  Together, these gals have made me feel more comfortable at church, they have listened to me, they have helped to make me feel like a part of something.  They even invited me to help them occasionally with Sunday morning skits in the children's department.  They have helped to give me a sense of belonging around them at church.  They have welcomed me at their homes.  They are such a joy to be around.  And they help me feel more confident around them.  

I have been blessed by another person who has recently stepped up to "mentor" me.  She offered to do a private study with me which I accepted.  I've never really felt comfortable attending large group studies so I'm really looking forward to this one-on-one time and learning more from the bible and how it applies to me.  I have enjoyed getting to know her better, too. 

Even though I have been feeling so blessed by these friendships that I've developed, there is one person who has been on my mind so much during these past couple of months.  She was one of the first "real" friends that I met since moving here 9 years ago.  We're no longer in touch and I don't know what is going on with her but I do miss her friendship.  Recently, Jackie has been asking about this person and why she hasn't seen her.  So, Jackie misses her, too, which makes my heart hurt more.  Another friendship recently came to an apparent due to a sense of betrayal on my part.  Despite the betrayal, I was never angry at this person.  That's not to say I wasn't upset, though.  I still considered this person a good friend until I realized that she had written me off.  That hurt but after some realizations, I'm starting to feel okay about it.  I still care about this person and I don't feel resentment toward her but the ball is in her court now.

Throughout these past few months, I have discovered once again, what real friendship is about.  I have learned what makes a real friend.  Friendship is about trust.  It involves time. It involves loyalty. And love, and compassion, and having fun together.  It's about encouraging one another and being there in time of need.  Friendship is like a flower; you have to water and nurture it in order for it to grow and stay healthy. With neglect, it withers away until it eventually dies.  

When I first moved to this area, I intentionally avoided developing close friendships because I just knew that we would be moving away in 3-4 years.  Beside, nobody could replace my friends back home.  Well, that was 9 years ago and since it doesn't look like we'll be moving away anytime soon, it's about time that I allow myself to develop close friendships here.  So, I'm going to go nurture these new friendships so we can weather storms together.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I Wish I Knew His Story

Wednesdays are typically very busy days for my kids.  After I pick the kids up from school, we go to Jackie's physical therapy appointment which is about a half hour drive each direction.  Since the kids have AWANA on Wednesday nights, we get dinner somewhere close to the church before AWANA.  Tonight was no exception and we ended up at one of our favorite places, Chick-Fil-A.  

While we were sitting, I noticed a young man with a dog sitting at one of the tables outside of the restaurant.  I noticed a lady talking to him and letting him use her phone.  I was sitting with a friend and her kids.  Finally, knowing how much my friend also likes dogs, I told her to look outside.  We both wondered what his story was. 

Noticing how young this man is and how his dog had a thick heavy rope for a leash and a too-big harness for a collar, my heart broke for this pair.  Suddenly, I remembered that I had a bag full of leashes, collars, and dog brushes in my van. I had recently bought them on clearance very cheap and was going to donate them to an animal shelter. I told my friend to watch my kids while I went out to the van to see what I could offer this young man.  Thankfully, I had a matching leash and collar in just the right size for the dog and I also grabbed one of the brushes.  I came back inside the restaurant to join my friend for a few moments so I could gather the courage to go back outside and present the items to the homeless pair.  When I came out, the lady got up and went inside the restaurant.  I then told the man that I wanted to give him the leash and collar because it would be easier to use than using the rope.  I was able to talk to him for a few moments and found out that his name is Ethan and his dog's name is Bridget.  Bridget is 3 years old and is a very sweet, well-mannered dog.  The love Ethan has for his companion was so evident.  Despite their situation, Bridget seemed to be well cared for and in good health. Ethan told me that he was traveling from Colorado to the Shawnee National Forest.  He then told me that he was originally from Pennsylvania.  I noticed on the table behind him that he is traveling with a guitar, a huge duffel bag, and what I'm assuming is his bedroll.  I just felt so strongly that Ethan is not your typical street person begging on a street corner.  He didn't reek of alcohol or cigarettes.  He just smelled like he hadn't showered in 3 or 4 days.  He was a bit thin, too.  I offered him an extra coupon I had for a free sandwich at Chick-Fil-A.  I also offered him a little bit of money that I had in my pocket. He refused at first saying that he has some money.  Before I could even think about it, I asked him how much to which he responded $45.  I told him to take the money to buy food for Bridget.  He quickly showed me that he had food for her but it was a small amount, perhaps enough for another 3 days.  I nearly begged him to take the money to buy food for when Bridget runs out. I don't care if he uses it for himself or for Bridget.  I was just glad that I was able to finally convince him to take the money.  I wished Ethan luck on his journey and told him that I would say a pray for him.  After I petted Bridget one last time, I went back inside to join my friend and the kids.  Meanwhile, the lady who Ethan had been talking to earlier, went back out there to join Ethan (she was also a kind stranger to Ethan).  It then started to rain a little bit and I watched as the restaurant employees went out there to retract the umbrellas at the tables.  All, except the one that held Ethan's worldly goods.  I don't care what the critics may say, most Chick Fil A employees have hearts of gold.  They could very easily have told Ethan tough luck and then proceed to retract the umbrella over him.  But they didn't.

 My heart breaks for people and animals like Ethan. I don't typically give money to homeless people. I'll give them food or some other essential.  I just felt very strongly that Ethan was different.  He's so young and soft-spoken and he seemed so humble.  And his reluctance reassured me, in a way, that he was going to do his best to use whatever money he had wisely.  

I'm such a sucker when it comes to homeless people and their animals but today's encounter left me humbled.   And feeling sad.  But it also made me happy to see Bridget sporting a brand new matching collar and leash.  I wish I knew Ethan's story.  If I had the time earlier this evening, even though it would be outside of my comfort zone, I would have sat with Ethan and Bridget to learn more about him and how I can help other people in his situation.  Please keep this pair in your thoughts and/or your prayers for a safe journey.

Depression

Depression is awful.

 It feels terrible. 

It makes everything feel dark and gloomy. 

The gloomy looking weather makes it worse. 

Missing my friends and family back home makes it even more worse.

Of course, it doesn't help that there have been a couple of situations in the last couple of weeks that have set me back. 

I will get beyond this. 

I really need to get back to the gym more often. My gym time is nowhere near what it used to be before this past year. 

I'm deficient in Vitamin D again and the nurse practitioner put me on a high dose of prescription Vitamin D.  I really hope this helps to not only make me feel better physically but also emotionally.

My praying friends, please pray for me.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Beautiful Day

Today was so beautiful and the weather was perfect for a family bike ride.  I actually didn't want to go initially because I was so tired after a late night last night meeting up with a friend for a drink and then having to be at church this morning at 8:00 to practice a skit.  My body was yearning for a nap.  However, Jackie wasn't going to go without me so off we all went to go riding.  

I don't know how many miles we rode but I was very impressed that Jackie was a trooper to ride for so long and with just a handful of complaints.  Of course, the stop at McD's for ice-cream was an incentive for her, too.  I would guess that we rode somewhere between 8 and 10 miles total.  
We followed the bike trail through lots of neighborhoods, around several parks, and through some wooded areas.  We stopped briefly at a skate park so Ben can show off his budding BMX skills. (Daddy bought him a BMX bike last summer).   We stopped for a few moments to observe some dogs at a dog park.  We encountered several different critters including groundhogs and badgers.  We stopped at McD's for ice-cream and a much needed break for Jackie.  

Jackie tends to lag a little bit behind on activities such as walking and bike riding.  I don't want to blame it solely on her CP (although it is a factor) because she also gets side-tracked so easily.  Plus, even though she has been riding on a 2-wheeler for over a year now, she is still a little unsteady sometimes.  So, for the first part of the ride, I stayed back with Jackie.  On the second part of the ride, Ben and I rode ahead of Jackie and Tim. And was it ever a work-out.  (I hate to say it but when Jackie rides along with me, it is not a work out). I loved it.  Going up some of those hills were challenging and at one point, even my little Ben had to walk his bike up one of the hills after he couldn't keep up with me.  (He was NOT very pleased with me).  Going down the hills around the twists and turns was THRILLING! And Ben was in heaven on those.  He is such a dare-devil on his bike and scooter. 
This was the first time that I have gone on the bike trail with the kids and Tim.  I'm usually cleaning house, cooking dinner, or busy with something else when Tim takes the kids there.  I enjoy riding my bike but I mostly ride around the neighborhoods here.  

It was the perfect weather for riding the trail today and I'm so glad that I didn't let my tired body overrule. There were some really beautiful parts of the trail, too.  I also enjoyed riding past some of the historic homes, even the ramshackle ones.  It was just so perfect today and so enjoyable.  Just perfect. I will be doing this again soon.



Sunday, September 8, 2013

On the Topic Of Church Membership... Again

I just don't get why it's such a big deal that I am not a member of the church that I currently attend with my family.  Tim and Jackie are members but I have not felt the desire to become a member.  Somebody whom I have a lot of respect for recently explained their perspective on it, which helped me to better understand the idea of becoming a member of one church.  This was after I wrote about how several people have asked me why I'm not a member. 

This morning, I went to an informational meeting about a children's camp that Jackie will be old enough for next summer.  Jackie knows about this camp because she has heard other kids talk about it and has seen pictures of this past year's camp.  Jackie talks about it all the time and has been looking forward to finally being old enough to go.  I am excited for Jackie as this will give her the opportunity to learn more about her faith, have fun for five days without her pesky younger brother, and most of all, make new friends.  Jackie also wants me to be a chaperone.  I feel honored that she wants me to join her on the adventure and I would love to be a chaperone.  However, my excitement for Jackie was dimmed for a fleeting moment when one of the organizers (I assume) mentioned that I need to be a church member to be a chaperone.  That would be the only thing that could potentially hold me back from joining my sweet girl on her first non-family venture away from home.  If that happens, then I'll go on my own and stay somewhere else close-by so I can be close to my baby girl.  Beside, the idea of my baby being 300 miles away (or however far it is) without family causes me a good bit of anxiety.  No matter, I will still participate with Jackie in the planned fundraisers that will help to keep camp costs to a minimum. 

As far as becoming a member, once again, I am not ready to make that commitment.  I do not want to feel forced into making a commitment.  I want my motivation, if there ever is one, to be the right one for becoming a church member.  The more people try to push the idea of membership on me, I feel more resistant.  It pushes me further away from the idea of it.  If I do it, I will do it on my own time.  I'm attending church with my family and that's what should matter most to those people right now. 

Just Some Random Thoughts

Recently, I've been having some random thoughts.  My mind often works that way.  My children have unfortunately inherited that trait.  I know a lot of young people who are home-schooled and they are some of the smartest, some of the best-mannered people I've met.  I think home-schooling is great but it's not for everybody.  However, I got to thinking about this and just found it interesting the number of home-schooled people who go to college to become teachers.  Interesting.

As if my random thoughts couldn't be any more bizarre, not too long ago, I thought with all the controversy surrounding gun laws that surely blind people wouldn't really care either way.  After all, if somebody is blind, they can't see the target.  Right?  Well, as it turns out, the state of Iowa has been issuing gun permits to the blind.  The proof is HERE.  I'm sure the blind folks are lining up for their gun permits as we speak. 

Now I'm wondering how many blind people have joined the NRA?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It's A Real Shame...

It's a shame that my own hearing loss has been used to discriminate against me.  That was recently used against me in a decision making process.  On top of this, the person was a little deceitful with me after recent correspondence regarding the issue.

On top of that, it's a shame that my confidence was betrayed recently by somebody I have a lot of respect for.  I'm not angry.  Rather, I'm very disappointed and hurt that this person did this.  

I really, REALLY miss home.  I want so badly to move out of this state.  Even if we don't move back home, if we could just move a little closer, I know I would be much more at peace. Y'all, help me pray hard for job opportunities for my husband to open up closer to home. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Am I A Christian?

This past week has been a very interesting one.  I have been asked no less than 4 times why I am not a member of the church I currently attend with my family. And to top it off, the sermon this morning had some to do with membership as evident by a subtitle "I am a member".  Hmm, I can't help but wonder. 

 I have also been asked at least 3 times this past week if I am a christian.  My daughter is one of those who asked me if I am a christian.  I have to admit, all these questions about my Christianity have me a little confused.  I don't think I've given anybody any reason to think otherwise. I mean, I'm not a party girl, I've never cheated on my husband, I hardly swear anymore, I've never tried drugs, I hardly ever drink anymore.  I live a relatively clean life. I even started doing a short devotion with my kids almost every night. I've been making some good changes in my life.  Jackie only wants to listen to christian music now so I only listen to christian music around her.   So, I really don't understand why this question has been asked of me so many times this week. 

First, I'll explain the membership deal.  My husband is an official member of this church we currently attend.  So is Jackie.  She automatically became a member when she made a commitment to God and was baptized soon afterward.  Those are decisions that she made on her own and I am very proud of her.  As for why I am not an official member, well, I just have not felt led to become a member.  I remember when Tim and I first started attending another (Baptist) church back home in Florida and I just knew without a doubt that was where we belonged. I could feel it deep down inside that I was home.  And it was home.  It is a very large church but it didn't feel that large.  I became involved in a few areas of ministry there; choir, English as a second language ministry, and women's ministry.  I had great friends there.  I looked forward to going there.  I was very sad about leaving my home church behind when we moved away. I miss my church very much.  After the Air Force moved us here from Florida, we transferred our membership to another Baptist church local to us.  Really, the only reason I agreed to it was because Tim wanted to do so.  I was very reluctant, at first, because I thought for sure that we would not be living here for more than 3-4 years before we moved on. (Unfortunately, moving out of Illinois has not worked out, yet).  Tim eventually felt that was not the right church for him so over time, we visited other churches.  We have been attending our current (Baptist) church for a total of 3 1/2 years now and Tim recently transferred his church membership over to this current church.  I did not.  I just do not feel right about it at this time and I don't know if I will ever feel right about it.  Plus, I don't consider myself a true Baptist even though I was a member of that Baptist church in Florida.   I don't consider myself to be of any one particular denomination.  I've attended churches of many different denominations. 

As for being a christian, yes, I subscribe to the  christian faith.  I made a commitment when I was a little girl and I was baptized a few years later.  Somebody recently asked me about the circumstances around the time I made a commitment.  I remember being influenced to do so because of a nightmare I experienced, which cause me to wake up in fear late at night. I was just a little girl, perhaps a little younger than Jackie is now.  I remember praying for God to be in my heart. Unfortunately, over time, as a young girl, my religious experiences weren't always positive.  That's probably one reason Mother quit going after several years of attending church.(To this day, Mother has nothing to do with religion). I continued going to church, mostly just to get away from home.  However,  I still often felt judged due to my family situation.  I felt judged if I dressed wrong.   Even though I was a fairly good kid, I was not a pretty one and I knew I was definitely not as important as the other kids.  Really, the main reason I even continued to attend church during my childhood was to get away from home.  I entered adulthood very confused about what religious matters.  I actually grew up afraid of God.  Afraid of doing wrong, afraid of him not helping me in time of need because I sinned, afraid of so many things.  I was so confused about religious matters. Over the years, I went to church on and off. I would do good for awhile, then I would falter.  I seemed to falter more than I succeeded.  And nobody seemed to care whether I was at church or if I faltered. But I still considered myself to be of christian faith.

Lately, my daughter has been my inspiration.  She has such a tender heart and is so eager to learn about her christian faith.  She loves her Sunday School teachers and she really enjoys going to AWANA.  It made Jackie very sad when I stopped attending church for awhile with the family.  Jackie has been my inspiration, a reason I have been working hard to be a good christian person. I don't want my little girl to be sad for me.  She shouldn't be sad for me.  As a young girl myself, I remember feeling deep sadness when my own mother did things that were difficult for me to accept.  I don't want that for my little girl.  So, I've been working hard to make changes in my own religious life.  I've been getting more involved at church.  I helped in the kitchen during Vacation Bible School week.  I was actually recruited to help and even though I had planned to keep my distance, I am so glad that it worked out the way it did.  I was able to make a couple of new friends who genuinely seemed interested in knowing me. I'm helping prepare meals with another good friend there on Wednesdays if I'm not busy.  I recently joined the choir but that didn't work out.  Perhaps later.  I'm riding with family to church most of the time now.  Until recently, I would just meet the family at church after they were done with Sunday School.  I still don't go to Sunday School but Jackie is so happy that we are all riding together to church.  It's the little things that really matter to her. 

I've been greatly encouraged in just the last couple of months by a couple of situations in which forgiveness has been key to friendly relationships that had previously been unfriendly between us.  All in all, things have been so much better lately and I don't feel as anxious about going to church with my family.  I love that my kids seem happy there and have made a handful of good friends.  I feel like I'm improving my social attitude there, too. I'm allowing people there to get to know me. Just a few people.  (I admit that I can be hard to read).  And I'm getting to know some really wonderful people there.  

So, will I join the ranks of my husband and daughter and become a member anytime soon?  I honestly don't know.  After talking to a good friend today about that, she provided a different perspective that I had not thought about previously.

Finally, am I a christian?  Contrary to what some people may think, I think I am.  I'm no bible scholar though and probably never will be.  Plus, in case heaven and hell are real, I'd rather go to heaven!