Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Trying to live simply

Way back when we first married, my husband and I decided to try to live simply. In some ways its worked in others it hasn't.

Now I am cleaning out my mother's house. She wasn't an extravagant person by any means. But she lived in this house for almost 25 years and reared three children here. That leads to a lot of stuff accumulating. We've donated 14 bags already. (No one in the family wears her size.) We also found plenty of junk to toss. We are each also keeping some things for remembrance and most of the furniture will go with one or the other of us, although we are selling a bedroom set.

I may be moving soon, perhaps into my mother's house. If I do, I am going to try to clean stuff out, let go of what I don't need or really want. My thought is to try to go by William Morris' quote, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful," with the caveat that some things are useful for play.

I don't know how well I'll do, because I do have an attachment to some stuff and may have trouble giving it up. Perhaps recognizing that will help. I have heard that there are many benefits to our health, our emotional state, our time mangagement and the environment to living simply.

Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and ruste destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." That's what I really need to keep in mind.

Will you join me in trying to live more simply?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I hate cancer.

The title of this blog is a quote from my cousin on the day she learned of my mother's diagnosis.

I responded, "Me, too." that day. Now I am beyond that. Cancer brings so much pain and sorrow with it that I can't be rational about it.

My Mom has now passed. Cancer took her quickly. She was on hospice for only two months after her doctors determined that treatments simply wouldn't work.

My friend, in some ways my second Mom, passed away yesterday. From cancer. It was lung cancer and she had never smoked. Eventually, it went to her brain. Then chemo made the ten tumors in her brain disappear. Unfortunately, six new ones grew. She went back on chemo and fought til the end.

This morning, an older woman in our church wants me to take Jordan out of the service while the pastor announces that her cancer is terminal. They are close.

I am actually not sure how to handle that. Jordan was upset by my mother's diagnosis and was horrified when she went on hospice. During his own hospitalization, he told the Chaplain, "They've basically given up." He was sad when he realized that Gammie would no longer be living in her house when we moved in. But then....he participated in her end of life care with little emotion. And since her death he's had no reaction. To the point that I was asked if he had made an emotional connection to the event. I don't know. I think he did all his processing beforehand and maybe he will react later. Kids, I understand, often deal with such things in small increments over time.

As we clean out my mother's house, I reflect on how much more she wanted to do, how she wanted to see Jordan grow. My mother spent more than a decade as a full time (24/7) caregiver. Cancer caught her just 18 months after my grandmother passed away. It seems so unfair.

When my father was diagnosed with ALS back in 1993, a church member said, "Life is unfair, but the God, he is good." It is hard to keep that in focus. We live in a world out of balance. It needs restoration and that will only happen at the end of all time.

All I can do is trust that, ultimately, all will be well.

Blessings on your day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kirill's Story --Re-posted from Tesney's Blog, "Our Eyes Opened."

As a parent I am heartbroken because of this story. As a disabilities advocate, I am outraged. Find the original posting here.

Please feel free to share the following on your blogs. It is a summary of our adoption journey so far. Please help us spread the word. We are hoping somehow someone will be able to help us.

Two years ago Greg and I began praying for God to do whatever he wanted with our lives. We handed him a “blank check” so to speak, and told him to cash it. He opened our eyes to children with disabilities wasting away across the ocean in Eastern Europe. We joined God and started our adoption journey.

Our family is more than equipped to handle a child with special needs. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education. I am a member of the Board of Directors of Best Buddies of Alabama. I have volunteered for RISE and Eagles’ Wings. All of these organizations serve individuals with special needs. My husband I have close friends and family who have special needs and we are a big part of each other’s lives. Our wedding party included some of these special people. Our involvement with individuals with special needs led us to adopt a child with special needs; specifically, we chose Down Syndrome.

As we prayed over the faces of thousands of orphaned children with Down Syndrome, we ultimately chose a little boy named Sergey from Russia. Eight months later, as we neared the finish line of our adoption, one of Sergey’s family members in Russia stepped forward to adopt him. We were heartbroken for our loss, but God showed us that we were following him, and his ways are perfect. We knew we still wanted to adopt, so the way we saw it, two children would find homes because of our journey…Sergey went to his family and now we would choose another child to come into our family. We took great comfort in knowing that God could see this when we first committed to Sergey! We were honored to be a part of his plan.

Shortly after losing Sergey, we received a new referral with a grainy photo of a four-year-old blond-haired boy wearing pink glasses named Kirill. We were instantly in love with him. We had to re-file a lot of our paperwork because of the change in referrals and regions of Russia, but we were fast and we thought we were looking at three more months at the most until we would have Kirill home.

That was well over a year ago.

Since then so many things have happened. A tragic story of an adoptive mother sending her child back to his country alone on a plane with a note pinned to his shirt rocked our world…he was from Russia. Adoptions in Russia came to a screeching halt. Kirill’s region stopped processing adoptions for eight long months. The judge refused to accept any Amercian adoption cases until an official treaty was signed between the United States and Russia.

Even though we wouldn’t be able to finalize the adoption in court until the treaty was signed, we were allowed to go visit Kirill and sign our official petition to adopt him in August 2010. We fell more deeply in love with him. This was our son.

During that time, we found out that Kirill is the first child from his region EVER to be adopted with Down Syndrome. A birth mother keeping her child with Down Syndrome is unheard of in this area of the world. Adoptions of children with Down Syndrome just don’t happen there, these children are literally hidden away from society in orphanages and mental institutions. As our process continued, it became apparent that Kirill would be a pioneer. If our adoption was approved, it would pave the way for other children with special needs to be adopted from this region.

Then, a miracle happened around Christmas and the judge in this region suddenly changed her mind and began processing American adoptions again. We were elated. Could this be the light at the end of a very long tunnel? I was somewhat nervous about Kirill being the first child adopted with Down Syndrome from his region, but our agency was very confident that if we got a court date, our adoption would be approved. In seventeen years, they had never had a case rejected IF the family was issued a court date. We were told not to worry, so I didn’t. After meeting the judge’s requests for several supporting court documents, we were finally granted a court date-March 17, 2011. St. Patrick’s Day…I was thrilled. This would be our new favorite holiday! Our son was coming home!

Our other son, Clayton, who had just turned three when we started this adoption process, has prayed fervently for his brother. He is now almost five. When we told him Kirill was coming home, oh my…we had an excited big brother on our hands! At one point he even went to his room, dumped out his toy cars and divided them into two stacks…one for him and one for Kirill.

Last week, as we sat in the courtroom and suffered through five agonizing hours of difficult questioning, we were not prepared for anything but an approval of our case. Two doctors, two social workers, and the Minister of Children’s Services all made very strong statements on our behalf. They fought for us. Hard.

But when the ruling was read, the judge said, “Your application to adopt is rejected.” The basis given was that Kirill was “not socially adaptable” due to his “medical condition” and he was better off in an institution than in a home with a family. As the judge read her ruling, she stated several times that we were a good family, that we met all the criteria to adopt a child, but that she would not approve our adoption because Kirill has Down Syndrome. She told us that we could adopt another child, because legally our application had no problems according to Russian adoption law. She said she would approve our adoption for a “typical” child, but not this child. Why? The only reason? Because he has Down Syndrome. Even though we were approved by our home study and by the USCIS to adopt a child with special needs. It makes no sense whatsoever. Denying a child a family because he has Down Syndrome is a violation of human rights at its most basic level!

It was like a terrible dream. We were so unprepared for this outcome. As we left the courthouse in a mental fog, the doctors and social workers that had testified came to us and said, “If you appeal, we will fight for you. Appeal. Fight this decision.” Of course we were going to appeal…I could no more walk away from our biological son, Clayton, at this point. Kirill is just as much my son.

So here we are, asking God to move the mountain that is standing between Kirill and us as we appeal to the Supreme Court in Moscow. There are also three other families who are in various stages of adopting children with Down Syndrome from Kirill’s region; one of the families has a court hearing set for next week.

We are hoping that someone will hear our outcry and help us bring our son and these other waiting children home. His adoption will set the precedent for many other children in his region. There are 98 children in his orphanage with special needs alone. It is one of many orphanages in this region that houses children with special needs. This is about more than just one child, the lives of hundreds of children with special need are at stake. Please help us.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Feeling Better

My son emptied the dishwasher tonight. Just because he decided to. It's not his regular chore -- we don't even have a dishwawsher at home, no one asked him to and he didn't want anything.

This made me happy. I even posted about it on my Facebook status.

It also made me think of other good things that happened today.

I found Jordan's curriculum. It had been missing for weeks. It was in a closet at Mom's. What it was doing there is beyond me. But today was the day I had planned to get us back into the school routine, with back up activities, and it appeared. Yay! Now we can get back to French, and planning for Jordan's historical role-playing game about Ancient China along with more traditional topics like arithmetic and handwriting.

A friend of mine called up and offered to babysit tomorrow. So now I get to have a grown-up lunch and start planning for my mother's committal service without an active boy providing distractions.

With all this to be thankful for, I am feeling pretty good. Which is a far cry from where I was last night when I posted on Facebook that I was "Crashing. Big Time." No drugs were involved. I was coming down off the adrenalin I had been running on for the final days of my mother's life and in the aftermath of her death. Last night, I got hit with the sense of grief that shock and busyness had been masking. I began to feel overwhelmed with all that needs to be done to settle Mom's estate. And I realized I was plain exhausted. This morning I woke up to a flooded basement. Not what I needed.

But then, Jordan emptied the dishwasher. I looked back over the day and found so much to be grateful for. Not just the blessings I mentioned above, but also what I had accomplished. I cleared the water out of basement and took care of the overflowing oil burner. By myself. I dealt with Mom's car at the registry and her accounts at the bank. I even squeezed in a few lessons and some preparation for this weekend's house clean-out.

So I'm better. Oh, I know that grief will come in waves and I am sure there will be more times of exhaustion and frustration. But we'll do what we need to do and God will remain faithful. That's enough.

Blessings and peace to you.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You learned that where?

This afternoon Jordan started telling me about the Great Depression and asking me for more information. As we talked, I discovered that he knew that dollar bills were worth a lot more then and that the Depression ended because the War started and people got jobs making guns, among other facts. I have never taught Jordan about the Great Depression. We haven't covered that period of history yet. So, I asked him where he had learned about it. "Little Lulu Comic Books," he told me.

Comic books written to amuse teach history? Apparently.

My mind flashed back to a conversation Jordan had with his pediatrician at his last appointment. He told the pediatrician that he likes to read and the pediatrician told him that whenever he was reading he was learning. "There's nothing you can read that you won't derive some benefit from," he said.

Looks like he was right.

Actually, I see Jordan learning all the time. Whether he is reading, interacting with others or playing alone in the backyard, he is discovering something. Sure some types of activities are more efficacious than others when it comes to academics. But rarely is what my son decides to do with his free time completely valueless. (It's a good thing because he has had very little formal schooling in the last few weeks. We'll try to get back into our routine tomorrow.)

I am finding the same thing with my own reading. Currently, I am reading The Mongoliad, a serial internet novel set in Europe in 1241. ( ) I have learned a lot about the mongol invasion, Ogedei Khan, the death of Pope Gregory IX and monastic military orders of the period. Sometimes, I have been spurred to do my own research and fill in gaps in my education.

God has given us minds and the ability to develop them. I hope you enjoy finding learning opportunities everywhere.

Have a blessed day.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

War and Loss

So, we go to war again. In a new place for a new reason. Or maybe it's a new front in the same old war.

Whatever, our troops are in danger and we are spending millions on weapons to protect our interests somewhere -- happens to be Libya this time. Same old story. It just goes on and on.

Not that I am necessarily against what we are doing, especially if it really will stop the mass murder of the Libyan people. I don't really know enough to judge. I feel the same about Iraq.

The verse comes to mind, "When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come." (Mark 13:7) There have been plenty of wars since Jesus spoke those words. Some were believed to be so horrible that no one would try battle again. In an episode of M*A*S*H, Col. Potter asks, "What war is this?" and Hawkeye responds, "The latest war to end all wars." I suppose based on this verse, we are to leave war in God's hands, knowing someday he will bring an end to it. But more young people still fight and suffer injury and die.

On a personal level, this new war is overshadowed by my own loss. We are preparing for my mother's memorial service tomorrow. There are a million details to work out -- speakers, food for the meal after the service, seating, arrangements for family from far away. (We are so glad they could be with us!) In a sense, despite the sadness, I look forward to tomorrow. I know that I will feel in a tangible way the support that has been offered by so many as they gather to honor my mother. And it will be a time to pause from all the rigamarole, to worship and remember. I am deeply grateful that I will have that opportunity.

Whether it's war or loss or something else altogether on your mind, I pray you have a blessed day filled with reassurance from the Prince of Peace.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This thing called time.

Time is a funny concept.

In one sense it is very straightforward. Each day we are given 1440 minutes to spend as we like. That's 525,600 minutes a year. Whether we use them wisely or foolishly, they are gone in the end.

But what about other ways to think of time?

Parents of young children know that days can seem like years and years can seem like days.

For a child, an hour long car ride can seem that it will never end, while their favorite TV show is never long enough.

Time flies when we are having fun, but it drags when we are bored.

When you are in severe pain for five minutes, it feels like it's actually hours.

A person who gets a terminal diagnosis is placed on Hospice and told they have six months to live. They have very little time......except that they have a lot of time to put their affairs in order and say good-bye. Whereas as someone who dies suddenly has no time for those things, but up to the minute of death may have appeared to have a lot of time.

And, then, there is God's perspective on time. God, being eternal, of course lives outside of time. Somehow he can be in all "whens" all the time. One verse that explains God's view of time is Psalm 90:4:

A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.

C.S. Lewis also makes attempts to explain God's thinking on this topic. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan tells Lucy that they will see each other again soon and she asks what he calls "soon." His reply: "I call all times soon." It's hard to fathom what it means to call all times soon. Someday, though, we who live in Christ will be beyond the bonds and vagaries of time. We will inhabit eternity and call all times soon. We don't know when that is though. As individuals we don't know when God will call us Home. As a Church, we don't know when Christ will return and put an end to time. All we know is that He has called it "soon." (Rev. 22:20)

Better get ready. We don't know how much time we have.


Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the op’ning day.

~ Isaac Watts

Monday, March 14, 2011


Math geeks and school kids are celebrating Pi day today.

Pi is that mysterious mathematical constant that you get when you divide the circumference of a circle by it's diameter. It probably goes on forever. At least it has been calculated to over a trillion digits and no end is in sight.

It's celebrated today because March 14 (3/14) contains the opening digits of the number. (3.14)

But why celebrate it?

Well, why not?

It's great to have an excuse for a party. Ask any middle- schooler who got out of regular classes to eat pie and play games with circles.

It motivates students to look at math and science in a new way and view them as fun.

Pi reinforces the idea that there is order in the universe.

And it's fun to celebrate things.

I was hoping to have a party for Pi Day with my homeschool group, but circumstances wouldn't allow me to organize it. Next year, I hope to have a potluck pie supper, play games with pi, make crafts with circles and enjoy some circle dancing.

Stuff like this gets us out of our routine and it's an enjoyable way to reinforce learning.

Happy Pi day!

And if you're not a math geek, have a good day anyway. :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why don't you go to bed?

I asked for suggestions on what I should blog about and got "Why we don't go to bed when we are tired and should." There's a question. I'm a night owl. I am up way later than I should be more often than I want to think about. So are plenty of other people I know. There's even a name for it "sleep deprivation." Everything from artificial lights to school schedules takes the blame for it being rampant. Some health organizations refer to it as an epidemic and it apparently has negative effects on just about everything from performance at work to emotional states. Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk-driving.

So why don't we just get some more sleep? I know I should, but...

I'm busy. If I don't stay up, I won't get everything done. Which probably means I should cut back, but I probably won't because I can't imagine what I could cut out and still feel like I am pulling my weight at home, at church, at work, and in the minsistry I volunteer for. Could delegate more I suppose. Have to work on that.

I like to read. A good book is my bedtime's downfall. I get absorbed and forget about sleep. And if I am not reading anything particularly great at the moment, I dip into an old favorite and relive scenes for awhile.

And then there are movies, social-networking, computer games. I don't own a TV or have an internet connection at home but these things become vehicles for sleep deprivation when they are available. I need some good old fashioned self-discipline in this area. With the books, too.

I will also stay up late when I am somewhere with people I care about that I don't see enough of. I suppose that's OK, at least if I'm not driving. Keeping up friendships is important.

In some seasons of life, such as when we have a new baby or are caring for a sick parent, sleep deprivation is inevitable. It is how it is and there is nothing we can do about it. We sacrifice our sleep because we love another being.

Well, there are my reasons. Or excuses. What are yours?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gray Kitten

I had a cat once.

His name was Charlie and he was gray and white. He lived with us while he was a kitten. Well for a short time. I was about 10 I guess. I was afraid of Charlie's purring and my parents didn't really like him sleeping in our beds. Eventually, he was put in the bathroom at night with his litter boz and a night light.

You know, I don't ever remember changing that litter box. That must have been my parents' job. Probably fell mostly to Mom.

Charlie could be a bit naughty. He visited the neighbor's a few times amd got their gerbil out of its cage. Fortunately, we were able to rescue the little critter and friendly relations remained intact.

Charlie also put up with a lot. In addition to being confined at night, there was paw trampling and rough handling by a toddler. Finally he ran away. At least that's what we were told. I always suspected he might have been given away. Probably wrong, though. My parents always denied it.

After he left, I looked for Charlie for a long time. I kept finding gray and white kittens, even years afterwards only to find out they were someone elses.

I never got another cat. Or a dog. I had had turtles and fish, but I think Charlie was my last childhood pet. Maybe that's why I kept looking. I liked having a pet. When it wasn't scaring me with its friendliness anyway.

I suppose most things in life are like that. We take the bitter with the sweet, the good with the bad. We learn and grow through each experience and keep going. Perhaps, we look back too much and not forward enough. Or, sometimes it's the other way around. And maybe we are scared away by genuinely friendly gestures. Quite a lot to learn from the memory of a gray kitten.

At any rate, that's my pet story. Anyone else have one?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Now we see but a poor reflection, as in a mirror, but then face to face.

My son and I just memorized this verse as part of the "Love Chapter" and it has stuck with me.

Partly, maybe, because the CYC theme for 2011 is "Face to Face" although it is based on a different scripture. Partly, because it is often used to remind people that we know less than God but some day we will have the answers to all our "whys".

The next part of the verse, "Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." also struck me. First because I am fully known. I used to have a poster as a teenager that read "A friend is someone who knows all about you but loves you anyway." God knows us fully and yet he loves more than we can ever understand or imagine. Amazing. Absolutely, utterly amazing.

Also, because some day we shall know God fully. This is awe-inducing. We will fully know God. Fully. It is impossible to fathom this and yet it will be so. There are no words for how utterly astonishing that is. I can't even begin to explain. I had never realized it before we were reading it the other day. I guess it is true that we can see new things even in the most familiar passages.

So a challenge for the start of Lent:

Read a familiar passage. See what new things you can see.

May it prove to be surprising, stunning, fascinating for you.

God bless.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Living like we are dying.

The Thing About Life is that One Day You'll be Dead ~David Sheilds
This book caught my eye when I was at the bookstore last week. I have no idea what the book is about or even whether it is fiction or nonfiction, but the title got me thinking.

Actually it's hard, when you are a caregiver for a loved one on Hospice, not to think about death and all that goes with it. To remember that you are mortal and your time here will end. And God has been throwing me a few hints on the side, too, I think. I was listening to a different radio station recently because they had been having a radio-thon fundraiser for Children's Hospital, Boston. This song by Carrie Underwood came on at one point:

"This is my temporary home
It's not where I belong.
Windows and rooms that I'm passin' through.
This is just a stop, on the way to where I'm going.
I'm not afraid because I know this is my
Temporary Home."

As a Christian, I know this isn't my final place. God will call me to Him eventually. Part of what I need to do here is learn what He wants me to learn and allow Him to change me so that I am fit for Heaven. ("Bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for Heaven to live with Thee there." has been stuck in my head for a few days.)

The next day, this Tim McGraw song came on, about a man explaining what he did when he learned of a terminal diagnosis:

An' he said: "I went sky diving, I went rocky mountain climbing,
"I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu.
"And I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter,
"And I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
An' he said: "Some day, I hope you get the chance,
"To live like you were dyin'."

How would I change if I got news like that about myself?

One piece of advice I have heard given to young people trying to figure out what to do with their lives is, "Write your obituary. Figure out what you want it to say. That will help you set your goals." It may sound morbid, but I bet it could help center people's thinking and get them to focus on what's important. Maybe I'll try it.

Finally God has brought to mind Psalm 90:12

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."

One commentator explains that having a heart of wisdom, in this passage, means thinking like God thinks. Oh, to be able to do that at least a little. How much better my life would be!

Perhaps, numbering my days and living like I were dying would be a beginning.

How about you?