Wednesday, March 1, 2017

OLW 2017

All of 2016 was intense.  To say the least.  Friends and coworkers have commented on "how strong you are."  Come November, I no longer felt strong.  I wanted the year to be over.  You see, my OLW for last year was hope.  I hoped my husband and I could support my mother-in-law through her battle with liver cancer, which ended up being a nine-month endurance challenge until we said goodbye.  I hoped that we could balance support for my family dealing with my father's dementia and the new challenges in our lives.  Then six weeks after my mother-in-law's funeral, my husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer.  Both kidneys.  And so I landed on a new word - Faith.  I continued to hold on to hope and look forward to a new year; a new start when I could breathe just a bit easier and feel as if I was not just treading water, but moving forward.  Come 2017, I told myself, I will I hold on to faith that we will see the blessings in the challenges, faith that we are in just the place we need to be, and faith that God will prove Himself faithful, again.

So as all years do, this one also has begun to pass.  Here we are on March 1, 2017.  On this day I am thankful that: my husband has recuperated successfully from two major surgeries, he is now cancer-free, my friends have continued to be loving and supportive, and how I have seen God's faithfulness repeatedly in multiple areas of my life.

So now, what will faith continue to look like across my life?

Faith might look like:
  - Answering the phone with a smile on my face
  - Leaving work with just a bit undone to spend time with family
  - Being vulnerable with colleagues to admit when I don't have all of the answers
  - Letting go of my worries, again and again
  - Basking in the sunlight, and enjoying that moment

It seems that the impact of 2016 has left me just a bit more empathetic, still, and cognizant of the tremendous amount of blessings in my life.  Hope and Faith are doing their good work in me!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Crayons Are Back!

   The crayons are back!  If you are half of the fan of Oliver Jeffers' work that I am, you need to run to your nearest bookstore and pick up the sequel to "The Day the Crayons Quit."  Drew Daywelt and Oliver Jeffers have completed the sequel to the hilarious text that had students from grades K-9 pointing, laughing and discussing at length.
   Not only is this a fabulous text for a read aloud, it can also be used to demonstrate pathos, logos and ethos in an argument.  Primary students will have strong opinions about the adventures of the crayons and boys will adore the "gross" humor the author provides.
   In my opinion, this is a five star book.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Holding On

  "Mija, will you ask your mom if she has any tweezers?" my father asks as he motions me over to the large chair he is lounging on.
  "Sure, Poppy," I reply.  This is odd. I've probably been here for an hour and a half at this point, and this is the first time he engages with me directly.  And it's to pluck out the hair in his ears.
    I gather the tweezers from my mother and slowly walk back to my father who hasn't moved from his reclined position on the outdoor lounger.  "Here we go Pops," I remark as I take his chin in my hands to turn his face sideways.  He complies.  
    I make small talk with him as we move through the task.  I ask him about memories from his childhood.  He still holds keen details of those days.  "I remember when you called your brother, Brother," he offers.  He brings that up each time we're together and I wonder about the meaning from that tagline, and how it managed to cement itself into his ever-growing-hazy memories.
    As  I turn his chin in the other direction I think of how often he turned me over when I was helpless, changed a diaper, bandaged a scraped knee.  Now the tables are turned, and I'm thankful for this moment, each of us holding the other in shared memories, eyes persisting to find mine and hold on.  
   It's in these small and brief moments that I find my father again, and I know I was prepared for these trying times by the gentle man who held my hand in his, and is still holding on.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Psalm 34:8

I noticed my dog as I was climbing onto my exercise bike the other morning.  You see, we have a routine.  As soon as Pal jumps out of bed in the morning, he receives a few pets, then takes himself to the back door.  The door is opened, and he begins to survey the yard.  He'll patrol all day...bark at the walkers, run to see the other dogs passing by the gate, greet the postal carrier and UPS man with boisterous (and loud) exclamations. Later in the morning, his food bowl is filled and his water bowl refreshed.  The routine stays the same.  Each morning we move through that dance together.
   But this week I've been home.  The routine has changed.  After his morning stroll around the yard, I open the back door once more, and Pal spends the majority of his day in the house, with me.  One morning I noticed that as I lumbered onto the exercise bike, Pal was in the same room, toy in mouth, throwing his stuffed animal into the air and then wrestling with it on the floor.  One word came to mind - Joy.  You see, he knew he was in the house with the master.  There was no need to be on extreme alert.  He wasn't searching endlessly for his food bowl, anxious about the other dogs outside or begging me for a treat.  He knew who he was with.  He had his supplies for the day.  He chose to be content.
   Father, build up my contentment in You.  You are completely good.  You supply abundantly.  May I choose to leave the anxieties that fill my mind behind and instead, take my refuge in You.  You are my rest and in Your presence is fullness of joy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Life Without Boys

Who would have thought that I would befriend the freshman homecoming princess?  Certainly not me.  It all started in homeroom.  Her last name started with a "W", mine with a "Z".  Of course, sorting students by the alphabet must be a research-based approach.  Although we were complete strangers on the first day of freshman year, we finished our high school experience as solid friends.  Now, I'm honored to say that she is truly my soul sister.

The first conversation was about boys.  What would life be like without them?  Perfect! We agreed.  She offered a marvelous suggestion.

"Let's form a new type of nunnery.  Instead of wearing black, we'll wear white habits.  We don't have to stay at the church all of the time...just when we really need to do something there.  And the hats are definitely optional."

I was hesitant.  Let's face it.  I liked boys.  I agreed with her philosophy in theory.  But to really give them up completely?  Now that was a bit crazy.  Like something my parents might have dreamt up.

Still, she was pretty excited about this idea of hers.  No sense bursting her bubble.

"White habits.  I like it.  How about we get to accent the habits with a splash of color?  Red shoes OK?  I'm not sure about the whole rosary thing.  Can we ditch that too?  Just a necklace with a cross?"  (After all, we were proposing this idea on a private school campus after all.)

She considered my thinking seriously.  "I guess that's OK.  Yeah, that'll work."

After a couple minutes of quiet contemplation, we both burst into laughter.  And then the conversation quickly turned back to our favorite topic of late.  Boys.  Who we liked.  Who we didn't.

It's almost impossible to believe that now, thirty-two years later, our conversation still revolves around our "boys".  Her husband and three sons, my husband.  We've both said we're thankful we changed the plan on life without boys.  In fact, we've enjoyed the journey so much more on this side of our "nunnery."

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Full Life

As I walked in the door my eyes landed on his shoes.  He was wearing his clogs.  The new ones.  The ones he bought just for cooking.

Yes, he had been to the market.  Fresh broccoli and potatoes sat in anticipation on the butcher block.  A white-wrapped steak waited neatly on the kitchen counter.  He's at it again.

One hour earlier I had texted in the middle of a mild meltdown.  Just three words:  "I'm feeling overwhelmed."  Those three words immediately set him into action.  And here he was, in the kitchen, doing what he could to make it better.

Isn't that just like him?  Over the twenty-eight years that I've known him he's rode in on various white horses to assist by bringing dinner to the college parking lot, programming a new cell phone at midnight and even purchasing a reliable car the morning after my freeway breakdown.

Twenty minutes later we sit together to a fresh dinner of homemade bread, grilled steak, sauteed broccoli and potatoes.  Comfort food eaten together at home.  And it completes the therapy the hour-long drive home began.

I am loved.  My stomach, but more importantly, my life, are both full.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Face to Face

We sat at a small table, just the two of us.  He eagerly devoured the hot cocoa in front of him.  I sipped on my tea.  I took out the large sized art paper I brought with me for the occasion.  With ceremony, I displayed the array of colored pencils and markers I anticipated he would enjoy.  He smiled haphazardly.  

For the next hour and a half we waited.  I decided this morning that my dad and I would journey through the normal routine chores of my life together.  What can be more routine than an oil change?  I knew this morning would not be filled with personal and lingering conversation.  I knew he may forget where we were, why he was with me, and sometimes ask for my mother.  What I wasn't sure about was how anxious he may become.  How uncomfortable would he be away from his couch and television set?  What difficulties might he have with eating or walking?  When would he ask for me to take him back home?

He glanced out the window of the restaurant and hurriedly sketched the tree just outside of the restaurant.  He looked up at me, "This one's for you, Mija."

"Aren't you going to sign it for me?" I teased.

He bent his head down towards the picture and awkwardly signed his name.  "There," he stated.

Over the next twenty minutes, we bantered over his drawing.  Each time he attempted to move it towards my side of the table in a gesture of finality I asked for more detail.  "What about the umbrella on the table?  I think you left out the flowers.  Where's the sky?  How will I remember what the weather was like?"

Each time he hesitantly obliged.  

Spending time with this changing man, my father, is not yet completely normal for me.  I'm still letting go of the patient, soft-spoken and extremely personal "Poppy" I grew up with.  He's been exchanged for this anxious and detached man who I love, and am working to get to know, understand and accept.