My littlest love…

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most space in your heart.” – Winnie the Pooh

A pudgy dimpled hand curled around my pinky; big blue eyes staring so bright and alert; chubby, silky cheeks that beg for a kiss; a soft sigh escaping after a full belly; ten tiny toes that wiggle when tickled; a little button nose that is the same as his mommy’s newborn nose; happy coo’s responding to my voice; and the warmth of his little body snuggled up against my shoulder as he sleeps so contentedly.

Innocence. Newness. Freshness. Simplicity. This is the precious stage of a newborn baby. For me, it is my favorite stage of life. Who can deny that there is a God when you look at every intricate and perfect detail of a newborn baby who grew in his mommy’s womb for nine months? It is an incredible miracle that points to the artistry of our Creator.

So clearly a new baby has entered my life. My daughter, Morgan and her husband, Jaiden had a baby boy almost two months ago. This little man made me a first time grandmother and he captured my heart immediately, as quickly as my own precious babies stole my heart many years ago. He lights up my day and makes my heart smile. He’s a perfect gift from God alone.

Bringing home my own children was amazing yet also overwhelming. The responsibility, the exhaustion, the unknown of being a first time, second time, and third time mom brought with it a set of anxieties and fears. Did I makes mistakes? Definitely. Did I do some things right? Hopefully. Did I screw then up? Probably. But there are therapists for that, right?

Becoming a grandmother is just amazing without the overwhelming. I loved being a mom and raising my children, yet I must say being a grandmother may be even better. All of the love. None of the exhaustion. Lots of fun. Much less stress. My job is simply to spoil him, cherish him, nurture him, enjoy him, teach him, listen to him, and love him unconditionally. I look forward to watching him grow and discover his world, listening to him chatter, reading him stories, taking him for rides on my lap, baking cookies (or buying Oreos more likely), picking Halloween costumes, waiting for Santa, going to Easter Egg Hunts, and watching Fourth of July fireworks. And then I can hand him back to his parents and head back to my quiet home.

The ordinary becomes extraordinary as you see the world through the wondrous and curious eyes of a child. That is what I am the most excited about as a new grandmother… watching this little one explore his world in one adventure after another.

One thing I was not prepared for was how stinking sweet it is to see your baby have a baby. Morgan is the youngest of her siblings by several years so she will always be my “baby girl.” To see her pregnant, labor, and deliver an 8 pound, 4 ounce baby blew my mind. She was so strong, brave, and controlled. Now to see her love this little boy, speak sweetly to him, gently cuddle him, and care patiently for him is an indescribable blessing. And the same goes for Jaiden as I watch him delight in his son and enjoy every little development. Watching your children have children is a gift. A priceless treasure. A small thing that fills my heart.

As a bragging new grandmother, let me tell you about this little bundle of joy. Lee Michael is 8 weeks old, chubby, content, smiley, and sweet. His temperament already seems calm and chill without fussing too long or too often, unless he wants food. He is content to look around and loves when you talk to him. He even answers with sweet little coo’s. He smiles a lot in the morning, especially if you tell him he is cute so vanity may be an issue down the road. He’s always kicking his little legs and moving his arms which makes me think Morgan will have two energetic boys in the house. It’s fun to look at him and see physical characteristics of his mom and dad (like Morgan’s nose and Jaiden’s eyes), but I can already see little mannerisms that take me right back to Morgan’s baby days like his calm disposition and the happy spirit. And I am sure Jaiden’s parents can find resemblances to Jaiden as a baby boy too.

Picking a grandma name was the hardest task for my new life role. As a paraplegic, I don’t define myself as just handicapped yet I do know that my 28 years of sitting in my chair has changed me completely. And I am thankful for the lessons I’ve learned and the people I’ve met from my paralysis. Therefore, I can honestly say that my chair is an integral part of who I am. I always wanted to have my grandchildren call me “Wheelie G,” but I was worried people would think it was weird; that maybe it would be too hard for Lee Michael to say; or maybe I should just be traditional and go with a normal grandma name.

But I am not a normal or traditional grandmother. I will be the grandmother racing him on his bicycle, letting him stand on the back of my chair when he’s too tired to walk, and speeding down ramps at top speed. So I will be Wheelie G to Lee Michael (and any other grandchildren that may come along some day) and this new adventure will be one thrilling ride!

Now look below for photos of the cutest baby on earth… my littlest love, Lee Michael. And I am not at all blinded by love. ❤️

Little Lee Michael
He loves his Mommy!
And he loves his Daddy!
My little bud!
Adventure is out there. -UP

I’m over it…

  • Covid 19
  • Coronavirus
  • Quarantine
  • Stay at home
  • Essential/Non essential
  • Pandemic
  • Social Distancing
  • Clusters
  • Hot spots

Those rarely used vocabulary words have now become our updated jargon. Our new normal is so different than what we could have ever imagined when we celebrated the start of 2020! And to keep it real… I am over it. Totally over it.

Over the winter months I was very busy and I kept saying, “If only I had time…” Suddenly I have more time than I know what to do with, and I wish I was busy again. When I was constantly on the go, I had lists of things I wanted to accomplish at home like cleaning out my closets, organizing my cabinets, decluttering my rooms, deep cleaning all the neglected corners of my house. My to do list was longer than hours in my days.

Now I’ve been at home for about 2 months and besides gaining ten pounds, all I’ve really accomplished is binge watching 16 seasons of Gray’s Anatomy and several seasons of Survivor. I have also read a few books (just to keep my mind working at minimum capacity) and slept around 12 hours a day. I feel like such a sloth, my new spirit animal. Please tell me there are others feeling the same way. Others who have not tackled their to do list and instead are sitting with a bag of chips in front of their TV. It cannot just be me, can it?

Can you imagine if we knew all this was coming on New Year’s Eve? If we knew we would be forced to stay at home, watching endless hours of TV, only going out to search for tissue to wipe your backside because crazies would hoard even the one ply. Or if we understood we would all start looking like Sasquatch because we wouldn’t be able to get haircuts, roots dyed, or eyebrows waxed. Or if we realized that we could watch church in our pj’s with no bra on (Yes, I do that now!) or that we would no longer know what it feels like to wear pants with a zipper and button because our wardrobe would only consist of yoga pants and T-shirts. If we knew what was coming, would any of us shouted Happy New Year or would we have been sitting in the corner freaking out inside?

I think the hardest thing about being at home is the isolation. I am a people person. My energy comes from interacting with people. (Maybe that’s why I am not accomplishing much. That lightbulb moment just occurred to me as I typed the previous sentence. 💡) Not seeing or interacting with people, especially not seeing my family and friends, has been the hardest part of the stay at home order. I want to go visit my mom, who is still grieving the loss of my dad and is isolated at her home with HGTV for company several hours away from me. I want to see my father-in-law interacting at church rather than alone in his senior living facility as the anniversary of my mother-in-law’s death approaches. I want to hang out with my sister-in-law wandering around Marshall’s or Hobby Lobby. I want to see my local kids and go out to dinner with them. I want to drive to Virginia to visit my other four kids like I had planned. I want to see the expanding baby bump of my daughter and feel my grandson kick. I want to be planning my daughter’s baby shower that was supposed to be at my house in May. I want to see my nieces and have them over for a sleepover. I want to go to lunch with my girlfriends just to chat for a few hours. I want to go to Target and aimlessly walk (okay… wheel) through the aisles. I want. I want. I want.

Yes, I realize how spoiled and selfish I sound. Trust me, I am thankful that I have a warm and comfortable home to stay in. I have plenty of food, including Oreos. I even have a few rolls of toilet paper left. I have activities like television, books, and games to occupy my time. I have technology and can see my kids, my mom, my friends on FaceTime or in Google Hangouts. I can watch church services online and talk to my youth group on Zoom. No one in my circle of close friends and family has been ill from this horrible disease. I am grateful. I am blessed. I am appreciative.

But today I’ve been blah and grumpy. And I think that’s okay. I think it’s okay to be down in the dumps and sad about the circumstances going on right now. I really think it’s okay to share those feelings and be real that we are lonely, scared, frustrated, bored, anxious, and over this new normal. It’s okay to say I am sick and tired of being in my house. I am tired of watching hours of mindless TV. I’m sad from missing my people. I’m depressed that I can’t travel to see my family. I’m over the loneliness. I’m bummed my daughter won’t get a baby shower. I am worried about my daughters-in-law still working in health care environments. I’m concerned about my daughter who is 10 weeks from giving birth to my first grandson. I’m scared over all of the conflicting news reports, especially as I head off to work in the public. I’m anxious about my friends/family’s safety as well as my own since I’ve already experienced exposure. I’m frustrated with it feeling like Groundhog’s Day. I am discouraged for those unable to have graduations, weddings, sporting events, even funerals. I am disheartened to see small businesses struggle and people lose their livelihoods. I’m grieved over those who have lost their lives or for those who have lost a loved one. It’s such a difficult time.

I am thankful that I can share my real feelings and fears with Jesus and that I can rest in Him when I’m weary and overwhelmed. God knows what is going on during this crazy time. In my life. And in your life. And He is still on His throne. I don’t need to fear. He’s got this. Yes, it’s still scary and difficult. But I will trust Him.

If you are hurting, be real right now. Reach out. To God. To family. To friends. Journal. Text. Call. Just reach out. If you need to talk or need anything, please ask. These emotions are real and it’s okay to say I need some help. I need to talk. I need to cry.

On the flip side, another way to combat those moments of struggle is to turn off the TV for a bit and look up. Take the focus off of you and check in on people. Call someone. Write a note. Drop off some groceries. Run an errand. FaceTime. Skype. Make some cookies for front line workers. Send a gift to a child who is missing school or to an exhausted parent. Thank a teacher, your postal worker, a grocery clerk, a sanitation employee. Send a card to someone in a nursing home. Be creative and give of yourself.

And continuously…

Pray. Pray. And pray some more.

Words

Words have power. They can influence, discourage, build up, or tear down. They can create emotions like joy, fear, anger, peace, or uncertainty. They can transport you back to reminisce on old memories or allow you to anticipate the future. They can inspire one to greatness or bully someone into despair. Words can both ask for forgiveness and forgive. Words can show love or hate. They can give you all sorts of “feels.”

A few of my favorite words include:

  • Fervent
  • Grace
  • Cherish
  • Discombobulate
  • Flabbergasted
  • Relentless
  • Holy
  • Intricate
  • Curmudgeon
  • Pursue

A few words I don’t like are:

  • Snot
  • Shut-up
  • Moist
  • Puss
  • Dollop

However, there is one word that I think changes everything. A simple word. Just three letters. It’s a conjunction. And it contrasts what was previously said. The word is “but.”

I have a friend that often says “I don’t mean to be ugly but….”. I always tease her and say, “Buckle up because ‘but’ means the ugly is coming!” We all say, “Not to be rude but…” which translates to I am about to be rude. Or “I’m not judging but…” well here comes both judge and jury. That one itty bitty word discounts everything that was just said. I do it. We all do.

Yet as a Christian, I love the “buts” that completely transform lives. With Easter tomorrow, the phrase “but God” has been rolling around in my head making me mull over the lives that were turned upside down and sideways because of “but God.” So here a few of my thoughts as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus tomorrow.

It started with Mary, a young teenage virgin, engaged to a young boy-man, Joseph. She was going about her normal life, maybe helping her family by baking bread, cleaning their home, feeding the livestock, helping with her siblings while preparing for her wedding. Maybe she was sewing, knitting, or weaving domestic items to prepare her soon to be marriage. Suddenly an angel appears and tells her she is going to have a baby, and not just any baby. The son of God. WHAT? Who would ever believe that cockamamie story? No one. Not even Joseph. Until an angel appeared to him as well. This was a gigantic BUT GOD! He totally flipped this young couple’s plans, yet they faithfully trusted Him and they became the parents of the Son of God. He took two young, faithful Jewish teenagers and rocked their world in an unbelievable way.

How about Simon Peter? He was a common fisherman, an ordinary guy, seemingly impulsive, and maybe a bit brash. He was the one who cut off the ear of the soldier who was arresting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He also was the one who denied knowing Jesus three times after Jesus was arrested. How could he follow so closely to Jesus for three years, listening to Him teach, studying His ways and then declare he did not know Him? Not once. Not twice. But three times. I’m guessing it was fear. I imagine after Simon Peter heard the crow caw, he was ashamed. Deeply and bitterly remorseful. We know Peter wept. To me, wept emotes the concept of crying to the point of mourning (or joy). It signifies an emotion that is palpable. You feel it in the depths of your soul. So what happened to this disciple who walked and talked with Jesus and later denied knowing Him? It’s certainly a but God story. He denied Jesus but God later used him to lead thousands to Him. He was temperamental but God used Him mightily until he was martyred for Christ’s sake. He didn’t deny Jesus again. He was a loud, boisterous, crass fisherman but God changed him to a humble, obedient fisher of man.

Don’t forget about Mary Magdalene, a woman who had seven demons in her which Jesus cast out. Imagine living with demons controlling your body and mind… talk about mental health issues. Dr Phil would have done a TV show about this woman. But God had other plans for her. After Jesus healed her, she followed Him without hesitation. She was present at His death and burial, and Jesus Himself talked to her on Easter morning when she found the empty tomb. He took a woman who was filled with demons giving her life a total metamorphosis. She was a true example of a life changed.

The thief on the cross is a great but God testimony. Jesus was an innocent man being punished next to two guilty men. One mocked him yet the other recognized that there was something different about Jesus. Something he wanted. Something he asked for. He deserved punishment for his crime but God showed mercy, knowing that his heart was repentant and his belief was genuine. Even in Jesus’ darkest moment of pain and sorrow, there was still something in Him that stood out to that thief. Now that is a great but God story as I believe that thief gained eternal life as he drew his final breath.

Not to mention the leper’s, the blind, the lame, the bleeding, the woman at the well, the rich man’s daughter, the deaf and mute man, Lazarus, Zacchaeus, the women caught in adultery, and the list can go on and on. People who Jesus met where they were, and they experienced but God moments that altered the course of their lives.

My favorite but God story is the one we celebrate this weekend. Good Friday is the day we remember what Jesus did for us. He endured unbelievable suffering from being beaten more times than one human could bear to having a crown of thorns jammed deeply into His head, afterwards being forced to carry His cross in His weakened, bloody state. Then He was nailed to a cross all while people who recently followed Him now mocked Him. He took all of our sins and shame and guilt onto His body willingly… He agreed to do it. He gave up life in Heaven with His father to do this. He gave up His kingship to become a human. His deep love for us held Him on that cross! Crazy. Unbelievable. Incredible.

But God didn’t end the story there. Yes, Jesus died on Friday but God knew what was coming on Sunday. The tomb was empty and Heaven rejoiced. Jesus arose because death was not the end. It was just the beginning. Because if we believe that Jesus died and then arose from the dead, if we repent from our sins and trust in His forgiveness, we will have our own but God story. Once we believe in the truth of both His death and resurrection, we are promised eternal life in Heaven. Are you ready for your but God moment? Are you up for a radical transformation that will flip your world upside down? Because He will!

A pair of shoes…

My dad died in his sleep on Thanksgiving morning, which was one of his favorite holidays. I got the phone call that morning from my brother and as soon as I heard his voice, I knew. While I couldn’t really wrap my head around it, I knew just from the tone of his voice as he said “Debbie” why he was calling. I wasn’t ready for that phone call. I guess I would never be ready for it. You can never prepare for losing a parent. While you know it will happen someday, you always assume someday is down the road. Losing my dad has been difficult. I will be fine one minute and then suddenly it hits me and sadness and grief rock me.

I had seen my dad ten days before Thanksgiving. My husband and I were going to be visiting two of our children and their spouses in Virginia for the holiday so we wanted to see my parents around Thanksgiving since we wouldn’t be there on the actual day. I remember my dad not looking quite right. As I hugged him before I left, I said, “Take care of yourself Dad. Your coloring seems off to me.” I told him I loved him and waved good-bye as we pulled out of the driveway.

I had no way to know that it would be the last time I would see my dad on this earth. I would have stayed a little longer. Hugged him a little tighter. Asked him to tell me a story from his childhood. Told him I loved him one more time. Thanked him for being a “dad” and not just a father. If only I had known… I would have said so much more.

Recently I was staying with my mom for a week, helping her as she struggles to find her way without the man who was by her side for over 54 years. I noticed my dad’s sneakers on the floor, next to the TV and close to his recliner. She said he took them off the night before Thanksgiving and she could not bring herself to move them. I have been unable to get those sneakers out of my mind. Those sneakers are a lesson to me. Actually to all of us.

I wasn’t there that night, the eve of Thanksgiving, but I imagine my dad taking off his shoes, sitting in his favorite recliner, turning on the TV (most likely channel surfing) and chatting and laughing with my mom, brother and his fiancé. He didn’t bother taking those shoes back to his room because he thought he would put them back on in the morning, excited about Thanksgiving and ready to eat all day long. How many of us leave our shoes thrown by the couch when we head off to bed knowing we will put them on tomorrow? Expecting there to be a tomorrow? Taking our tomorrows for granted?

But as my dad drifted off to sleep, he didn’t realize that God would be calling him home that night. He fell asleep on earth and woke up in Heaven. My dad didn’t have a tomorrow here but instead an eternity in Glory. He didn’t have a turkey dinner in Altoona but instead a banquet with the King of Kings. He went to bed with congestive heart failure, declining kidneys, diabetes and woke up whole, healthy and in the presence of Jesus. WOW! Can you imagine?

But the real story of the shoes is a reminder… a reminder that we do not know our last day on earth. We don’t know when we will take our shoes off for the last time. Or the last time we will say good-night to our spouse. Or the last time we will hug our child. Or the last time we will talk to a friend. We just don’t know those last times. So we need to make the moments count. We need to say “I love you” more often. We need to hug a little tighter. We need to put our phones down and have actual conversations. We need to stop rushing everywhere and start noticing those around us, whether it’s friends, family or even strangers. It seems cliche to say “time is fleeting” but maybe this phrase is overused because it is true. We aren’t promised tomorrow so maybe today is the day to BE

  • BE encouraging
  • BE forgiving
  • BE generous
  • BE gracious
  • BE compassionate
  • BE loving
  • BE honest
  • BE trustworthy
  • BE appreciative
  • BE genuine
  • BE patient
  • BE sincere
  • BE present
  • BE MORE LIKE JESUS

I miss my dad. I always will. He taught me many lessons during my life and with a simple pair of shoes, he’s still teaching me.

Mom, thanks for leaving those shoes where Dad left them. I know this is the hardest thing you have ever endured, yet you continue on with grace, showing all of us the true definition of strength. I am blessed to call you mom and friend! I love you!

Hmmmm…

Things that make me, a paraplegic, go hmmmm…

Handicapped Placards – Who decides who qualifies for a placard? I have sent in FIVE applications over the past two years and still have NOT gotten a renewed placard. Mine literally expired in March, 2017 and I cannot seem to get one. Yet I constantly see people who hop out of their cars from a handicapped space and stride into stores. I saw a woman come out of Target in 5 inch heels and get into her sports car parked in a handicapped space while I am driving around in my 12 year old, $63,000 Dodge Caravan retrofitted with a ramp, power seats and hand controls trying to find a space that will work for me to get out in my power wheelchair. Hmmmm…

Handicapped Dressing Rooms – Yes, I understand these larger rooms are spacious and prime real estate amidst the smaller rooms. But if you can stand, walk and don’t have children in a stroller, take your possible purchases into one of the many smaller rooms and leave the one large one for someone who actually needs it. This also applies to bathrooms. Because speaking for many people who have paralysis, if you feel you have to pee, you need to pee almost immediately or you will wet your pants. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost peed my pants while waiting for someone who just likes a taller toilet and more space to pull up their pants. Hmmmm…

Handicapped Hotel Rooms – Honestly this is one of the most frustrating issues I’ve dealt with over the past 27 years. If I am going away, I immediately begin the search for a “wheelchair accessible” room that includes either a roll in shower or a bath tub with a tub bench. Yet often I arrive to my destination, only to find out there is not an accessible room available any longer. Recently I was told my reservation was simply a request and did not guarantee me a room. I replied that I called the reservation department and not the request department. This hotel then agreed to place me in a room designed for a deaf person but not for a wheelchair. It had flashing lights on the telephone and doorbell but not an accessible bathroom. They also told me that they only had one wheelchair accessible room left but they didn’t know if someone checking in later might need the wheelchair room. Now remember… I am sitting in a wheelchair in front of them at the moment but someone who wasn’t there could possibly need it. But hey… while I couldn’t take a shower, I could do my disco moves to the doorbell. Hmmmm…

Wheelchair Friendly – This is a phrase often used in small print when traveling. It means… if you are in a wheelchair occasionally but can walk, this building might possibly work for you. It’s kinda accessible but not fully. And if you are unable to walk and use a wheelchair 24/7, you’re screwed. Hmmmm…

In Case of Fire – Every time I ride an elevator and see the sign, “In case of fire, don’t use elevator,” I have to shake my head. While I get the theory behind the sign, I have to ask… am I just supposed to stop my chair at the top of the stairs, drop to the ground, and roll down the staircase if a fire ensues above the first floor? Hmmmm…

The Companion Seat – Every theater, show, movie theater or concert seems to have a handicapped seating section nowadays. People in wheelchairs are resigned to sitting in that one small section. But there is often a companion seat next to it. While I am sure it is meant to be thoughtful, it also means that I can never sit with a group of friends or family members whenever I go anywhere special. Apparently the disabled are only allowed one friend! Hmmmm…

Curb Cuts – I am quite certain that it is a job requirement for non wheelchair users to design curb cuts. In busy cities, they are often steep, bumpy, and slightly dangerous but add to it a 20 second count down clock to get up/down and across the street with a throng of hurrying people to make your heart pump a little faster. In NYC and DC, it is quite exciting when you are still crossing when the “walking” time runs out. Driver’s will not wait for your chair to make it across the street before horns start beeping and the “international sign of displeasure” is given. Hmmmm…

These are just a few things that make me shake my head as I venture into the world in a sitting position. I didn’t even mention the things that make me say “hmmmm” that have nothing to do with my life as a paraplegic. Maybe the next blog…

What makes you shake your head?

Beauty in the sadness

I haven’t written a blog since Mother’s Day. I have tried so many times but have been completely unable to put my thoughts and emotions down onto paper. My last blog I shared was about my mom and mom-in-law… two of the most amazing women I’ve been blessed to have in my life.

Shortly after that post (less than one week later), my husband’s family had to make the hardest (yet surprisingly easiest) decision to take the matriarch of their family, my mother-in-law, Donna, off of life support. It’s still hard to fathom how a seemingly healthy 78 year old woman could go from a sinus infection, to pneumonia, to Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome to organs beginning to fail. How can you wrap your mind out of sinus issues leading to oxygen masks to being intubated and having a machine breathe for you? And then realizing that we needed to make a decision to remove the machines that were keeping her alive. That may have actually been the easiest decision. The entire family agreed that this feisty, independent woman would never want to live hooked up to machines. If she couldn’t be watching golf, going to her grandkids events, visiting her family and talking with her friends, she would rather be in Heaven with Jesus.

Our family believes in Jesus and that He died on the cross for us. Accepting His free gift of grace allows us to have the hope of an eternity in Heaven with Jesus. So if you have that hope and promise, why would we selfishly want to keep this woman here suffering and no longer the strong woman we knew? We didn’t. We couldn’t. The family agreed to say good-bye and let her go. To see Jesus face to face. To reunite with her mom and her little son who died at age five. To walk the streets of gold. To worship Jesus with other believers.

But while the decision was easy, the act was not. I’m not going to lie… I was afraid. Terrified even. I had never experienced removing someone from life support. I was not sure what to expect and my biggest fear was that she would struggle to breathe. But in a way, as sad as it was, God brings beauty in the ashes. There were about 19 people in her hospital room surrounding her. Her husband, children, grandchildren, sister, friends, pastor and we all began singing songs of worship. Tears were streaming down everyone’s face as we began the grieving process yet at the same time celebrated the hope of what she would soon experience. Mourning and celebrating. In unison. It was sadly beautiful.

As the day went on, stories were shared, tears were shed, laughter was encouraged. We fellowshipped and reminisced around her bed, thankful for this woman who touched us all. After people began to leave, only her immediate family was left. Trying to decide what to do, the nurse said often the patient will pass away once everyone leaves. We didn’t want to leave her yet it could still be hours or even days. Quietly sitting in her room, just her three children and her husband and me, my husband leaned over and asked if I remembered the name of a song about Heaven we had recently heard. I didn’t remember but suddenly it came to him. He began to play the song called, The Other Side,” and at that exact moment the nurse came to to say she was passing.

It still makes me cry to remember her last moments with just her children and husband surrounding her bedside, crying and saying good-bye as these beautiful lyrics played.

It isn’t easy to say goodbye
But I know it’s only for a little while
Run up ahead and I will catch up
‘Cause I’m gonna see you when tomorrow comes
On the other side
On the other side

I bet you feel you’re finally home
Running down those streets of gold
The kind of peace you can’t explain
Looking into Jesus’ face

I know that you’re in a better place
I know I’ll be joining you someday
.

Once again, mourning and celebrating. Sadness and beauty intertwined. I’ve never experienced death that closely. Like I said I was afraid. But I am so thankful that God once again showed His compassion and love by taking her peacefully and without struggle. I did not want her to struggle or suffer. And in difficult times, it’s amazing to see God’s hand. He took her HOME peacefully, without any struggle and surrounded by the people she loved the most.

I miss her. I still cry thinking about certain things. I cried when I realized I ordered her the last meal she ever ate. Or that she never finished her book. Or that I can’t text her to update her about my kids. I want to tell her about Zach’s training or send her photos of Katie’s finished library. I want to tell her about Alex’s new entrepreneur center and Mandi getting accepted into grad school. I want to show her pictures of Morgan’s new craft projects and her and Jaiden’s new house. I cry when I see old photos of her with my children. I miss seeing her at church sitting in her regular pew. Or stopping over for lunch because she had to use up her monthly money in the tavern. I miss seeing her interact with my kids, knowing how much she loved them. Or hearing her call my husband “my boy” or “Stevie.”

She was a woman who loved her family deeply. She encouraged, loved, supported and cared in her no nonsense way but I felt it. And I know my children felt it too. We know we were loved by her. Immeasurably. Unconditionally.

I am thankful I know how much she loved us. It gives me comfort. But yet still it hurts to know she’s gone from this earth. That loss will always be present as our family grows and expands. We will feel it at holidays and weddings and graduations. We will feel it in the daily moments when we can’t share exciting news or bad news or ask for advice or wisdom. The loss will hit randomly when we see a red Volkswagen Bug or converse shoes or recess peanut butter eggs. Somedays we will remember something that makes us laugh or smile. That’s the thing about grieving. It’s unpredictable and doesn’t follow a pattern or time table.

But while these moments are heartbreaking for the ones left behind, it’s also time to be joyous. Because she is in a place where there are no tears. No pain. No sin. No evilness. But rather… Peace. Worship. Fellowship. Joy. Holiness. Home.

And we will see her again. So it’s not good-bye! We will catch up… one day… on the other side!

Do you have the hope and peace of eternity? Life is fragile. If you want to know more about Jesus and His gift of salvation and promise of Heaven, feel free to contact me!

The real superhero’s…

Until I became a mom, I did not appreciate my mom enough. I took for granted the years of packed lunches waiting on the kitchen counter every morning; the clean laundry that automatically appeared in my dressers each week; the never empty bottle of shampoo in the shower; the warm dinners served before a million evening activities; the papers that were always filled out when the school needed them; the doctor’s appointments that were somehow made without me worrying about it; and so many more things that I never gave a thought!

And then I became a mom… and realized that it was now my job to juggle three kids, 1 husband (who is usually just a fourth kid), laundry, meals, housework, shopping, activities, bills, paperwork, appointments, birthdays, holidays, and everything else that falls on us mom’s. And I admit, I wasn’t always the best juggler… I was always dropping one ball or another. My mom always made it look so easy. How did she do it?

My mom was truly Wonder Woman. I just never noticed her cape until I was older. She was, and still is, such a strong woman who always seemed to be able to do anything and everything. I have memories of her planting and picking fresh veggies from her own garden. I couldn’t even always manage to buy and microwave a bag of frozen greens for my kids.

I can still see her standing at the ironing board after school, ironing our clothes as the aroma of fresh cookies filled the house. What? I threw our clothes into the dryer until the wrinkles were a little less and the smell of pre packaged Oreos did not fill the air.

As a kid, I would climb into sheets that smelled like fresh air from being hung outside on the wash line. Meanwhile there were times I told my kids to just sleep on top of their comforters because I didn’t feel like putting their sheets back on the bed after running them around all day and night.

I would always have a balanced lunch packed and ready as I rushed out the door to the bus. If I threw a Fruit Rollup, a cheese stick and a bag of chips in my kids lunchboxes, I figured that was hitting at least some of the food pyramid. Good enough!

She could even serve a meal that was on the table all at once and still warm! Now that is mind blowing because I am always still microwaving something as we pray for our meal.

My mom was a caregiver. She took care of all of us. Even when she had breast cancer, when I was 14, she would get up after her treatments to ask how our days were. Exhausted from chemo, she wanted to know how school went that day. She was selfless. She loved with endless love. She was brave. She was the epitome of strength. She was/is my hero!

Today it’s Mother’s Day and we take time to honor our mom’s! I am thankful to not only have my mom, but to have a mom-in-law (Donna) who has always treated me like her own daughter. She accepted me into her family immediately and loved me unconditionally since day #1. She also taught me how to be a mother-in-law. It’s not always easy to merge families but I am grateful that she made me feel so welcome in my new family 29 years ago. But even more, she was my example on how to love my kids-in-law as my own! (And I do love you unconditionally Katie, Mandi and Jaiden!)

Today finds Donna in a hospital room in the Intensive Care Unit with a machine breathing for her. She has been there for 12 days unable to breathe like you and I are so naturally doing. Starting with pneumonia, damage was done to her lungs and she needs an intubation tube and sedation so she can rest her weak and tired lungs while she sleeps. Before she was intubated, she wrote my father-in-law (Norm) a detailed list of tasks to do since she usually takes care of the many details in their lives. Cancel dental appointments, do the laundry, run the dishwasher, don’t forget anyone’s birthdays. We, as women, even sick, think about all of those little things which keep our families on track. If my mom is Wonder Woman, my mother-in-law is Super Woman! These two ladies both have capes and super powers. And like Clark Kent, they are often unrecognized for their strength, courage and devotion.

I was able to visit my mom yesterday for Mother’s Day. My mom has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. She is doing great compared to how she was before her diagnosis. But watching these mom’s get older and experience some physical trials, it makes me see what is important and what is not. Gifts, cards, and flowers are a great way to show appreciation but time together is what is valuable. Just time to talk and laugh and share and encourage. That is a gift. Irreplaceable. Priceless.

Today I just want to thank these two super hero mom’s who taught me how to be a mother! You both encouraged me, loved me, listened to me and supported me. You’ve prayed for me, cried for me and guided me. You love my children as deeply as I do. And you both would do anything, and I mean anything, for my family. On my many hospital stays, I was comforted knowing one of you was at home caring for my children in my absence.

I cannot begin to thank you… there simply are not words to express my gratitude to you two amazing women who I have the HONOR to call Mom! I think the best tribute to my mom’s was to raise my kids to embrace all of those super hero characteristics that you both encompass. Here are a few traits that I got from my mom and mom-in-law that I tried to instill in my own children.

    Love of God
    Love of Family
    Faith
    Truth
    Prayer
    Forgiveness
    Joy
    Understanding
    Kindness
    Compassion
    Listening
    Serving
    Humor
    Patience
    Determination
    Empathy

So while a simple thank you cannot express the gratitude and love I feel, it’s all I can think to say. Thank you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the superheroes who silently serve without always getting the recognition or appreciation you deserve! Know that this 24/7 job is the both the best and hardest job you will ever have and the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

Donna… please get well soon! We all need you and want you around for many more years! You are one of the strongest and quietly serving women I know. You love others deeply without looking for attention or acknowledgement. For now rest peacefully and let God heal your body.

Mom… thanks for always taking care of all of us so well! Even when you are weary, you selflessly give of yourself. You always have a listening ear and a kind word whenever I need it. I wish we lived closer but each moment I get with you, I treasure!

Surprising my mom for Mother’s Day with all of her kids.

My mother-in-law with some of her girls.

And to my favorites who made me both a mom & mother-in-law.

Insomnia

It’s almost 3 am and I am wide awake. I am not the slightest bit tired, but I am bored as I lay in my bed in the dark watching the hours tick by. I have been struggling with insomnia for months now and have even begun to take a sleeping aid each night. It hasn’t kicked in yet tonight despite the fact that I took it five hours ago.

I could read. I could watch TV. I could scroll through Facebook. But instead I am thinking. Yikes. My 2am thoughts range from “I miss my kids” to “Gosh, I want a popsicle” to “Dang, I need to pee but don’t want to get out of bed.”

The past few weeks… actually the past few months… okay the entire year has been hard.

I’ve said good-bye to my daughter and son-in-law as they moved out of state.

I have heard close family members get bad news about their health.

I have watched two parents struggle just to breathe.

I’ve listened and watched dear friends go through really tough situations.

I have watched young people that I love experience and feel loss.

I’ve watched people just walk away from something I helped grow.

I’ve been hospitalized.

I’ve learned people I thought were my friends really aren’t.

I’ve been confronted.

I’ve been overwhelmed.

I’ve been disappointed.

I’ve been lonely.

I’ve been hurt.

I’ve been sad.

I’ve cried.

Why am I telling you this? Because I think we have all had these feelings. And tough situations. And bad news. And hurt feelings. And good-byes.

And you know what? It sucks. I’m not going to sugar coat it, sometimes this world and this life just plain old sucks. And truthfully, I am weary. I am just downright tired… not physically but emotionally drained.

BUT…

(And but means something is coming… something that changes everything… a game changer!)

BUT…

My God still has me.

And I will trust Him.

My God is in control. He knows my innermost feelings and struggles. He loves me. He cares for me. He will comfort me. He will give me peace. He will give me strength. He will carry my burdens and give me rest. He’s got my back. And I can, I WILL, trust Him!

If you are a man, stop reading…

This post is really for certain women who are about 50 years old or older. You know who you are… The cranky ones. The hot ones. The saggy ones. The non sleeping ones. The emotional ones.

The women who are on the verge of going postal at any moment.

Otherwise known as… MENOPAUSAL women.

I am writing this blog because hormones have plagued me for quite a bit of my life. First, in my teens, I began with puberty. You remember those early days when you would be laughing one minute and literally crying the next but you had no idea why. Those days when you were miserable and you could hear your parents whispering, “It must be hormonal.” What the heck were hormones? And how did I get rid of them? Then suddenly you get your monthly period and you are besieged with pimples, cramps, more moodiness and bloating. Then it’s blamed on PMS. ( aka Pass my Sweatpants, Psychotic Mood Swings, Perpetual Munching Spree, Pissy Mood Syndrome… should I go on? Nah… you get the picture!)

As you finally spend years getting used to that maddening monthly cycle, you soon have to deal with pregnancy hormones, which is really a 9 month roller coaster ride that has stops at nausea, breast tenderness, fatigue, anxiety, heartburn, non stop peeing, swelling, constipation or diarrhea, and general discomfort. This little miracle makes your organs squish, causes you to piddle a little when laughing and makes you crave mashed potatoes at 2am which you then vomit by 3am. (But truly growing a precious human inside of you is actually amazing and miraculous.)

But that only lasts 9 months, right? Oh wait… don’t forget about those postpartum symptoms including exhaustion, constipation, tinkling a bit when sneezing or coughing or laughing, weeping at Hallmark commercials, leaking breast’s which are now the size of Dolly Parton’s, sagging body parts that were once perky, and sometimes depression can really hit hard. Add a newborn baby who is dependent on us for everything, complete lack of sleep and feeding this sweet child from your aching, saggy, leaking breast’s. Most women do this cycle of pregnancy and postpartum more than once. And we celebrate it as we should but seldom talk about the challenges of all of it. Baby blues. It’s real. It’s hard. It’s wonderful.

Now at age 50, I am an empty nester. My kids are all grown and married so no more carpools, school conferences, dinners in the car or mounds of laundry and empty pantries. This should be a wonderful time to focus again on myself and my husband.

But hold that thought… now it’s time to welcome menopause.

My internal thermometer is busted. I am either freezing and sitting with a space heater on my lap or sweating from pores I didn’t know I had. Most likely I am so hot that I can’t take enough clothing off as I lay under a ceiling fan, have another fan aimed right at me with the AC set at 60 degrees in February. Meanwhile my husband is sitting on the couch with long johns, a parka and wool socks shivering as I am stuffing ice packs in my bra. If I hear his footsteps dare walk towards the home thermostat to turn up the heat, I turn into the girl from the Exorcist as I growl, “Don’t you dare touch that.” He can put more clothing or blankets on but I literally cannot take anything else off. I’ve waited my whole life to be hot, but this isn’t the hot I hoped for! Oy vey!

Once I heard someone say, “I asked for a smoking hot body but this is not what I had in mind.”

Add insomnia to the list of menopausal symptoms. Some nights I am still laying awake at 3am. I look at the clock constantly and think… if you fall asleep now, you will get 5 hours of sleep. Okay, now you will get 4 hours of sleep. And I keep counting off the hours as I lay there agonizing over my lack of sleep all the while watching my husband happily sound asleep next to me. Some nights I just want to smack him so he can share in my misery. I don’t but believe me, I have thought about it. Finally I fall asleep and then hit the snooze button 72 times in the morning because then I cannot wake up. My days now begin around noon since they don’t end till 4am.

Forgetfulness is another fun aspect of the “change.” I spend half my day going into a room only to wonder why I went there in the first place. Of course two hours later I will finally remember what I needed only to forget again five minutes later. One day I spent 20 minutes searching for my cell phone only to realize I was talking to my mother on it the entire time I searched my house. My mom actually told me once that she purchased vitamins to improve her memory. I asked her if they helped at all and she said, “No because I never remember to take them.” Yep… that’s the menopause fog.

Let’s talk about weight during menopause? I want to lose weight and can stick to a diet for awhile but then suddenly I want to eat something sweet, something salty, something sweet, something salty… until before I know it, I consumed 20,000 calories in one sitting.

I definitely no longer have the body of my youth. I seem to gain inches in width and lose inches in height. Bloating, wrinkled and flabby replaced skinny, firm and youthful. Plus the body parts that were once perky are now saggy. Gravity is no longer my friend. I would like to wear Spanx to keep things in place but geez… they are like wearing a sauna suit and then you sweat even more in areas that are not meant to sweat.

Depression, anxiety, impatience, irritability and mood swings are one of the worst parts of menopause. I can be happy one day and the next day want to stay in bed all day with a sad movie, box of tissues and no contact with others. Or I can be smiling one minute and snapping the next. I could liken it to being Cinderella and suddenly turning into Cruella D’Ville.

Poor Steve has probably witnessed that transformation more than he would like to admit. Some days just his chewing makes me want to climb out of my skin. Steve… hopefully I will return to normal eventually. Hang in there. (Although you were supposed to stop reading so maybe you won’t even see this part of my rant.)

Thankfully this season will pass and then I will no longer have to deal with these pesky hormones. Sadly though I will then have to deal with senior moments like waking up 3 times a night to pee, passing gas whenever I move, falling asleep in my recliner as I watch the 5 o’clock news, eating dinner at 4pm and saying “Back when I was a kid…” My mom always says, “Getting old isn’t for sissies.”

In closing, I will just share a quote by the funny cartoon Maxine…

“My greatest fear is that menopause doesn’t exist and this is the real me.”

Thanks Eve… 🍎🍎🍎

Excuse the naughty word but it was too funny not to share.

Feeling loved

Last week-end I drove myself to the emergency room. I had some sort of bug for a few days and was finally feeling slightly more like a human. So why the ER? Well my right leg swelled up so big that I knew something was wrong. And since I don’t feel it, I figured I better get it checked out.

My husband was teaching Sunday School so I took myself to the hospital, checked myself in and called to let him know there I was. I thought I would just quietly go… no fuss necessary. I was feeling down as my youngest child moved out of the state that morning and I knew I was going to miss her like crazy. I knew I needed to go to the hospital but didn’t want to talk to people.

I didn’t feel the best but I wasn’t in any pain. (0 on the new pain chart.) However, word got out at my church that Sunday morning and my friends texted and called. Three of them, plus my husband, came over to the hospital to be with me. I thought I wanted to be alone but God knew better. He knew I needed friends that day. We probably annoyed the staff but I was quickly grateful for dear friends who made me laugh during the crap that comes along with a visit to the ER.

It took SEVEN attempts to get an IV line in, which made me cry a little. I hate getting IV’s, even after all of the tests and surgeries I’ve endured over the years. For some reason I am a horrible stick and they never get it the first, second, third time. Once it took 14 attempts. This time even a medic with an ultrasound machine could not get that darn needle to work.

Once they finally got that in, the nurse came in to swab me for the flu. I guess that was because I had previously had a fever of 103.8 with the shakes, chills and other flu like symptoms. She asked me, “Are you ready for a frontal lobotomy?” Well how bad could a simple flu swab be, right? Dang… she was not kidding! She put this long q-tip with little brushes on the end up into my sinuses and it literally felt like she was scraping my brain. Holy cow! It hurt. And then she had to do it to the other side which was worse because I knew what was coming. Now I’ve had all kinds of tests over the 27 years of my paralysis but this was about as unpleasant as you can get. I was grateful for my husband’s hand holding mine as I squeezed it from pain. Next time I am saying “no thanks” to a flu swab!

The ER doc came in and looked at my leg. Now my friend, Mari, who was a trauma ER nurse and my niece, Danielle, who is studying to be a nurse, both looked at my leg and said it looked like cellulitis (an infection in your skin). I had googled all of my symptoms and it seemed like a classic case of it. And you know… Webb MD is always right. But this doctor did not think so. She had me tested for a blood clot which came back negative. So she was going to send me home. I seldom question doctor’s or stand up for myself yet I knew my leg would not swell this large for no reason. My one friend, Jeannie, has a son who is in and out of the hospital and Mari, the ER nurse, knew that I should not be sent home so they questioned her. I was very thankful for them because that doctor sent for a second opinion. I probably would have just gone home despite knowing I needed medical treatment.

Well Dr McDreamy (a 27 year old resident) entered, as well as another resident and their supervising doctor who all took one look and confirmed it was cellulitis. The head doctor decided I needed to be admitted and put on IV antibiotics. I tried to negotiate a release time as I was getting a haircut the next day. My normal girl is on maternity leave (Emme who had the sweetest baby girl, Caroline), but I couldn’t wait any longer so I tried to get him to agree to a release time. He, however, said he was keeping me until I was better. Well that was vague and not very helpful. He told me to cancel my appointment. If you know me at all, you know I am not particularly fond of hospital stays and am always negotiating my release. This doctor didn’t budge despite my best negotiating tactics.

As soon as the doctor and residents left, I made my friends shut the door so we could all ogle over the attractive resident. Now we are all middle aged women with sons. And two of us have sons the same age as that handsome doctor. I felt a little creepy but I can still appreciate a cutie patootie, right?

By this point, my husband and two friends had gone home, leaving me with my long time friend, Kristin. They were transporting me to a room, which meant Kristin had to follow us so she could bring my wheelchair to the new room. Once I had asked Kristin to get me a glass of water from my manual chair. Forty-five minutes later she brought me a glass with approximately 1/2 inch of water. So I wasn’t sure how this would go. Neither was the doctor who ended up on the elevator with us. The elevator stopped on his floor before we reached our floor and looking at Kristin, he said, “I will just wait and ride back down.” He had watched her maneuver the chair onto the elevator and felt safer staying in the corner with his feet out of harm’s way.

Once we arrived and I was settled into my room, I needed to take care of my bathroom needs. Afterwards I said to Kristin that I needed a wet, soapy paper towel to which she brightened up and said, “I just saw wipes outside your door. I will grab you some.” I used a few to wash my hands nice and clean and she looked down at the container and gasped. It said, in big letters and pictures on the container, “DO NOT USE ON SKIN.”

Her facial expression was priceless as she realized that she gave me wipes to use only on metal services and were not good for people unless you were wearing gloves. Mortified, she said very concerned and serious, ” Oh my gosh… I am going to give you a skin infection!”

I started cracking up. After all, I was just admitted to the hospital for a skin infection.

I reassured her that I would be fine since I was going to be on IV antibiotics for a skin infection anyway. We both laughed and realized that no matter what was going on, we always managed to have fun together. And just for the record, my hands are fine. No sign of infection there.

She had to eventually leave but Steve came back as well as one of my teen girls, Chelsie; my son, Zach; my sister-in-law, Jenny; and my niece, Danielle. The last two visitors actually came to scold me because I had been very sick for 5 days prior and they had been encouraging me to go to the doctor for awhile. But since my daughter was moving to Virginia, I wanted to spend her last few days in Pennsylvania with her as well as watch her dance one last time at the Reading Royals . I alway say I will probably die, neglecting my health because I don’t want to give up something fun.

This little hospital stay wasn’t really a big deal compared to other stays. Yet it showed me something I desperately needed that day. I was loved.

I have friends and family who will drop whatever they are doing to be there for me.

They will stick up for me even when I won’t.

They will comfort me when I’m scared.

They will make me laugh when I don’t feel like laughing.

They will scold me when I make stupid choices.

They will love me when I’m at my worst.

So for everyone who came to visit, called me, texted me, prayed for me and showed me love last week… thank you.

And to my husband and all six of my kiddo’s, thank you for being there, checking in on me, calling me and loving me. You are truly the most important people in my life!

Living life in a wheelchair isn’t always easy. But knowing I have such an amazing support group to share my burdens makes it easier.

My swollen, rash-y leg

Kristin following me in my wheelchair

The toxic wipes

Neglecting my health but watching my dancer dance in Reading one last time.