Sunday, December 17, 2017

I found JOY!

It is not a secret that over the last several months I have managed to lose my joy.  I have been feeling overwhelmed by life.  My circumstance have been sucking the life out of me and along with it my joy. 

If any of you have ever experienced a season of "joy drought", you know where I am coming from when I say, life is hard, and when circumstances out of our control, and even those in our control, spiral out of control, life becomes harder than it needs to be.  

I personally would not equate the "joy drought" with depression, as I was still able to function.  I handled all my responsibilities, was able to do all that needed to be done each day including many activities that I just wanted to do, but I just was joy less!  

Additionally, during this time, when there was any sort of incident in my day, it became overblown and would drag me down into my joyless pit further.  I have spent more time in the last three months being cranky, and out of sorts than I ever remember in my life, and you know what?  I do not like this new joyless me. 

It hit me about three weeks ago that there was a huge hole in my life.  I had become a Negative Nancy, a crankapotamus...  looking up from the bottom of the pit I could see the slow progression it had been into said pit.  I made up my mind, I wanted out....  so I purposed to start the slow steady climbing out, one day at a time, attempting to adjust my attitude, roll with life's punches, and trying to keep a bit better of a perspective.  I am not going to lie, it is not going to be as easy as I thought to resurface in a joy filled life.  Each day I made some progress (usually when I was alone, and the house was quiet) but by the end of the day, or the third or fifth interruption of my day... I saw myself backsliding into that stupid joyless pit!! Oh the frustration of knowing you want to overcome something, yet finding yourself close to the same place at the end of the day again!!   However, I was rejoicing that my eyes had been opened to my situation and at least I could see how I was managing to get there... and I had not slipped the whole way to the bottom... progress!! 

Fast forward to this morning.  I went to our church for the annual Christmas program and I was reminded about the joy of the season, and why in my life I need to find my joy again. I love Christmas.  I love the peace, the calm, the reason for the season.  I was once again reminded that I can't continue to make excuses and blame others for my joylessness.  I am allowing them to steal my joy. I have stopped fighting back.  I have become defeated and I allowed life to beat me down.  One can not live that way for long!  It was one more reminder that I need to find the joy of the Lord, the joy of small victories, the joy that comes from being a child of the one true king.  For the sake of my family, I need to regain my joy.  For the sake of my friendships I need to regain my joy.  For the sake of my witness I must regain my joy.  For my own personal sanity I have to regain my joy.  

In the midst of my self reflection the last few days, a funny thing happened to me this afternoon.  I opened JOY.  Joy had been sitting in my house for a week all covered up in wrapping paper inside a HUGE cardboard box.  I opened a box filled with JOY.  I wanted JOY.  I fell in love with JOY last Christmas at our local hardware store, and rediscovered my love of  JOY this year, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when the same store had the same JOY up for display again in the decoration aisle.   

I now own JOY!!  She is all mine!  She is shiny.  She is a light in the dark for all to see.  She is my reminder that I want to be JOY!!  Not only is my JOY large as life, she is a great reminder that when we have joy, we are larger than life to others!  

Our joy can be contagious, just like our lack of joy.  I want to be known for my larger than life JOY regardless of what life hands me, and trust me lately it has been a ton of tough stuff. None of that stuff  is a surprise to my God.  Remembering to trust in Him, not in myself, or the actions or reactions of those I am surrounded by will help me stay grounded in my JOY!!   

I am thankful to my family who heard about my love of JOY, and who made the sacrifice to buy me JOY, even when I was the opposite of JOY, as she now is my perfect visual reminder of exactly what and whom I want to be !  

For those of you that may have been affected by my joylessness, I hope you will soon see the return of true and heartfelt joy in my life.  Feel free to hold me accountable, call me out if you would as I will appreciate it later even if I am cranky about it in the moment.  Rejoicing in the reminders of the Christmas season and the many, many reasons that I have to celebrate JOY!!  

Monday, November 6, 2017

When you can't follow the rules

So there is no need to belabor the point of this story. Sometimes, some of us just can't follow the rules.  We either don't think they apply to us, or we are certain that they shouldn't apply to us, or we just want what we want, regardless of what the rules are.

Here in lies the story of a dwarf that wants to have his ears pierced.  Nope not talking about Grumpy, he made it to 18, and then with much deliberations, a piercing, a removal, and a re piercing and yet another removal and replacement, I think his are in to stay.

This story involves the Bashful. I have not had much to say about Bashful, because frankly, to put words to his behaviors is not comical or even humorous... until last Thursday.

First let me back track a wee bit.  Here in the sunshine state the average temperature during the day is still in the comfortable 80's.  In the early morning hours there have been some dips to the low 60's and early 70's which are now causing my born and raised in the north dwarves to grab hoodies because they are "freezing".

Earlier last week I had a long conversation with Bashful in the car as I was picking him up,  about how when he exits the high school with hundreds of other students, he should make more of an effort to pay attention to those around him, and perhaps take his social cues from the "crowd".  Normally, I am not a propionate of following the crowd as it were, however if you have a dwarf with stilted social skills, perhaps I think that if  they could hone their powers of observation, they could learn something...  Something like at 2PM in 85 degree weather NOBODY is strolling out of the school with their sweatshirts on, much less the hoods up over their heads.   While Bashful attempted to use absolute wording with me and start and argument with me about how EVERYBODY wears their hoods up at his school, I calmly pointed out that there were at least 300 students in the car pool area, and not one other person had their hood up, and as we slow rolled past the bus areas, noted again that there was not another single student with their hood up.  I continued to share with the dwarf in denial, that the hood blocks any and all attempts for someone to talk to you, you miss opportunities to converse with others that you may know, it is in a sense a sign outwardly that you do not want to be bothered, that you are hiding.  Of course I know nothing.  Nothing at all.  Additionally, just like hats, hoods need to be removed inside buildings so I know that a school with a no hat policy also has a no hoodie up policy. 

Oh I am not stupid.  I know that you are not a fan of yourself Bashful, that you are conflicted about who you are, where you fit in and what kind of group you want to make your homies, however the thug life was not intended for you.

Fast forward the the second 85 degree day in Florida on Thursday.  Here we are once again at the school pick up line.  Out strolls (I think, he thinks he is swaggering) Bashful in full on hoodie up mode.  Pulled so forward I might add that in order to find my large RED vehicle he has to move a hand to the side of his face to scan the vehicles in the line.  He spots me, hops in the vehicle and I say "are you cold?"  "No," is his reply," I already told you this week EVERYBODY is wearing their hoods up."  I challenge him to find me just one other person that day with their hood up.  He is unable.  I let the situation go.  Really in my mind I feel like I have made a yeoman's effort to help him understand that he now just looks ridiculous and that people are making fun of him.  If this is the look he's going for, fine it is not a reflection on me.

It happens that we are scheduled to go to a  RAD therapy appointment at 5:30 that afternoon.  So there are several hours at the house where the dwarf can be observed, and he is hard core, not budging on the hoodie removal.  At one point as he is doing a chore I can see that he is literally sweating... in the air conditioned house.  The other dwarves have throw in with snide comments and retorts, usually a great peer pressure source, yet the hood is firmly in place.

We arrive at therapy.  Bashful, knows the rules; and while he usually attends therapy with his father, there is not a hat or a hood worn, the posture on the therapy sofa is appropriate, outward signs of showing respect even if his insides are revolting. This day he choses to divert from all the known and preferred behaviors.  He refuses to remove the hoodie at my request, he refuses to remove the hoodie at the therapist request, and he refuses to sit up straight at our requests as well.  He begins to curse and tell us how he really feels about the rules of society, how he can do whatever he wants, and how all this is just stupid.  Mostly he shares that I am stupid, he should live with his friends because their parents are cool ( well frankly, I was just shocked to hear him say he has friends) and that if it were not for me, basically his life would be his own.   Finally after 15 minutes of this, I ring his father, who calls, and we place the Prince on speaker.  To make his point that he doesn't respond differently to his father than I, Bashful takes a full five minutes and three request to remove the hoodie.  However he only removes it partially and pins the hoodie on his right side to the side of the couch with his head.  Alas, I know what he is thinking... He wins the battle.

Sadly we wasted an hour of everyone's time and energy because Bashful is a hot mess.  It is in the last 5 minutes of the session after he is highly aggravated, that he sits up and the hoodie falls to the top of his shoulders that the therapist, says, "Bashful, is your ear pierced?" 

I am not sure what the dwarf's plan was.  Spend the whole rest of his life until his 18th birthday living in the sunshine state with his hood up... or maybe he figured he would just wear the hood for six weeks non stop until he could take the earring out at home and put it back in at school.  I can't pretend to know the mind of this dwarf at all.  My suggestion would have been all along, wait until  you are 18 to make the decision.

Most upsetting to me is that this happened at school.  In the boys bathroom.  Can I ask where the supervision is?  How do children have enough time to pierce their ears in the rest room and no one misses them.  Hallway and classroom switches are two minutes in duration.  Even if he left with a pass to use the restroom in the middle of class, would someone not have noticed an extended absence where the yellow headed dwarf left, and came back with a throbbing red and inflamed earlobe, casually sporting a new piece of bling?  Sigh, this rant could be an entire post on it's own.

When the therapist discovered the earring, I gathered my things and got up and left the session. I made my way to the car to call the Prince, plotting ways to leave the dwarf where he was to fend for himself  and figure out how to get home, as I raged not so silently about how he was such a jerk.

To Bashful's credit, upon the therapists discovery of the earring (that she knew was against our house rules) he had some sort of realization between whatever her words were, and the time he got in the vehicle (with his hood off).  He was able to state that he pierced his ear because his "friends" were all making fun of him because he did not have it done.  Then one of the "friends' brought a home kit to school, and so to save face Bashful had to go through with the plan of piercing his own ear, because he doesn't have enough confidence to just simply say, no thank you.  By the time the end of the day came, he was torn between doing the right thing, and how we would respond when we saw the earring that he so desperately wanted so that he could fit in.   He was able to under his own thought processes state that probably these were not true friends, and that he should perhaps try to find another group of kids to hang out with.  He invited me to come with him this week to his session so that we could make up for the horrible waste of time last week.  His father will be joining us just to keep an eye on the situation.

I am happy to report that he is back to earring free, and I have not once observed him looking like a thug since Thursday... Baby steps!

You really can't make this stuff up!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hurricane Irma, What a Fickle Storm She Was!

              Hurricane Irma, what a fickle girl! 

Last Tuesday began a week in which I feel like I have lived in a hamster wheel.  Spinning around and around but not accomplishing much.   Actually, not entirely accurate, we did accomplish a lot but at the same time, nothing.  It is an odd position you find yourself in when you prepare for a natural disaster.  Working fast and diligently at certain tasks; searching for water, fuel, staples, and at the same time, trying to do normal without doing much of anything in the way of normal.  And oh so much uncertainty.  To stay or go.  Let's go.  No we can weather this, let's stay.

While Doc and our son-in-law evacuated Wednesday, we still had a pile of dwarfs and a dog in the kingdom to consider and the reports of Irma Tuesday and Wednesday were indicating that the full brunt of the storm was going to be making a strong CAT 4-5  impact on our community.   I attempted to gauge my neighbors and their responses, as they are all veterans of the neighborhood for over 25+ years, as well as get current updates from the Prince's employer as they tried to make good choices for their 2500 employees.   One set of neighbors left for vacation, and the others seemed to not be pressed at all.  So we just took it one day at a time.

Tuesday while the kids were in school, I went out with Dopey and we filled up the gas tanks in our cars and I went to the store to purchase some basics.   It was about this time that I realized preparing for a hurricane is not anything like preparing for a snow storm and I may be a bit out of my element.
On Tuesday morning, there was no water, no canned goods, no propane, no dog food, no garbage bags and no storage tubs,  but plenty of milk and eggs and bread.  I purchased snack foods, paper products, and created some meals in my mind that I could prep in advance that we could heat on the grill or cook in the smoker.   I purchased the 2 most expensive cases of power-aide known to man as after a trip to the grocery yielded me no bottled beverages or water.  But with my new Speedway rewards card I know have 10 free power- aides to collect on!!   After school I had the dwarfs each pack a bag of clothing, as well as any items of a personal nature that they would want to always have (awards, trophies etc) and place them in the truck.   I also needed to run a pile of packages to the post office, and so as I was on the way to make a post office drop I spied a Pepsi truck off loading water and soda at a mom and pop gas station and store along the way.  I quickly dropped the packages and returned to find that while they did have water, I could only purchase one case, which I happily purchased!   Count on beverages for 8 people and a dog - 2 cases of power-aide, and one case of water - now I am starting to feel like I am making some progress in my hurricane preparedness!

All of this unrest in the kingdom,  lead to numerous meltdowns and attitudes because in the world of parenting special needs adolescents and adults, one must remember that processing is not a strength of theirs so their inability to rationalize or prioritize is not strong.  I sat cross legged in the yard for 47 minutes Tuesday explaining to Bashful why his shark fishing rod was not a item that would be evacuating with us should the need arise.  There were no amount of words in my vocabulary, or phrases that could help him understand that a fishing rod (shark or minnows) is made for the water, and that if the rains come and we flood in the kingdom, his fishing rod would be just fine.  His shark rod is easily 8 feet in length and while I now have the Hot Tamale (Yukon XL) , I did not want to be evacuating with a shark rod poking me in the back of the head, nor did the other family members in our vehicle wish to have to step around it or balance it on their shoulders for the duration of the ride to where ever we were potentially evacuating too.  This was all a precursor to the fact that he just could not understand what was happening, or was about to happen.  To make matters worse, at school that was all they were discussing as they prepared his high school for an emergency shelter.  He was angry because his days were not ordered and easy to understand in light of Irma.  His meltdown was the start of many more, and even as I write this and we are home safe, he has not been able to regulate back to a standard or normal.

While the Prince kept sending home updates and we kept making plans to evacuate, I began the torturous process of arranging my home by priority.  Pulling all decorations and photos out of the window sills around the house, boxing photos and photo albums, relocating furniture to the second story that would be damaged by water if the first floor flooded.  Elevating items that were of "lesser" value but still of importance on to counters and furniture of less value.  As you can imagine in a home, with 7 people living in it,  with a business running out of it, this was an extensive list.

Attempting to get as much product out of the house for the business, I would alternate working with evacuation and emergency preparedness action steps.  Wednesday we found ourselves calling neighbors to work for us, as I ran to last minute appointments for the vehicle and for the kids.  On Wednesday, we were still in the mindset that based on the reports from the Prince's office we were ready to evacuate,  but we were prepared to stay and ride out the storm as well.

During this day, I learned two very valuable lessons.  In both of these lessons, I sat in lines of traffic, on main roads thinking it was slow or no go because of people evacuating.  Nope - first one was a gas line ... I spent 7 minutes in that line on the road until I noticed the gas station signs and that the other two lanes of traffic were zipping right along beside me.  Second time I was sitting, was a line on a back road (because going North on the main highway was a non starter) and since it was a two lane road and I had no other choice but to sit, 37 minutes from a .4 mile right turn towards home in what turned out to be a free sand bag line... always know where your municipal buildings are before going out!  Most important lesson, besides just being aware of your surroundings and landmarks,  always use the facilities before running any errands during emergency preparedness by an entire community! Waiting in any lines for any amount of time with a full bladder is the worst!

Sadly, in the midst of this time sucking, line sitting afternoon,  the dwarfs decided to have another melt down.  Now remember when you read this they are adult-ish not toddlers.   I get photos texted to me about my ceiling fan spinning with laundry hanging from it, and the lamp shade being reassembled from the same ceiling fan by two particular male dwarves.   Additionally, the TV is on in the background  (the house rule is no tv until after dinner) and that they were eating ice cream in the living room.  Yes we have a house rule about that too... no eating in the living room and never is ice cream a right before dinner snack!! I call the prince to explain what I think about the chaos is at home, and he calls to talk to them.  While they respond to him, they are slow about it, and in the midst of it all completely sassy and disrespectful to the other dwarves at home.  Needless to say by the time I roll in I am completely agitated and aggravated, because with so much to do these knuckle heads are just creating more chaos.  I am immediately reminded that when these kids stress out they melt down. What they can control is acting out. Being simple minded and stupid in their actions and breaking as many of known house rules puts them in a position of power and control... but geez already - so there goes another hour and a half of talking them off their cliffs, and attempting to make them see that they really need to use their words and put their energies to wise use.  A fruitless endeavor, but one that none the less, while they live here and I am their momma, I feel it must be repeated in the hopes of some day making an impact in their broken minds.

All of this to say it is about this time, late Wednesday and Thursday,  that Irma decides to blow the other direction and head to the East Coast of Florida.   So we settle into a new normal, preparing to stay at the house and weather the storm, knowing we are packed if we need to leave.  We check in on our friends on the East Coast and let them know that if they need a place to stay they can come and seek refuge here at our house and I go about my day working, topping off my gas tank, running kids to school and work.  The Prince is keeping on top of the storm through his work and helping the employees of his company prepare the best that he can.

Friday is the day we determine to board up the house.  While we have an entire lanai filled with replacement windows that are impact resistant, the windows in the house are as old as the house...30 years.  The prince spends the day searching and purchasing wood for the windows and starts the tedious process of boarding the house up.  We continue to bring in the outdoor plants, secure things that could blow away Friday and into Saturday.  We board up the windows, sink the patio furniture in the pool, stack items indoors, and stack indoor items on top of other indoor items and fill all containers we can find with water.

We are all beat... the team of Prince, Sleepy and Porter have killed the outside prep.  Team Mom has killed the inside prep... as we, Sleepy and I sat on the front porch chatting and enjoying the calm before the storm, we look across the street and see our neighbor is struggling to push around a large pile of mulch.  We watch her for about ten minutes and it seems like the pile is not getting any smaller.  We both put on our shoes and go over to lend a hand.  We spent an hour working on spreading mulch (so that it would not turn into projectiles in the winds) and making new friends. Funny how a natural disaster brings everyone together! 

As we are wrapping up our last attempts to button up the house and having dinner, we get a report from the Prince's office that Irma is now coming back our way and she seems to be pretty angry. Indications are that she is going to hit us with winds up to 140 -165 mph potentially.   

For the record, this is the first time since Hurricane Irma talk started the week prior,  that I see the Prince with significant concern in his eyes.  He is sitting at the table rubbing his head (his great thinking pose), and I know that he now thinks we need to leave. Where do we go, is the next question.  It is no longer possible to get north, the traffic and the gas shortage are a great concern. We are grateful that we have several offers from old family friends in Alabama, strangers in Alabama and of course our family in PA as options for safety.  The Prince calls his life long friend on the East Coast, whom we were offering shelter to the day before, and asked if they would like some company to weather the storm.  Company coming in the form of  8 people and one dog (which potentially could be the end of a life long friendship), and they tell us of course to come on over!   We have a brief discussion of what an evacuation looks like for us and we prep all the kids at dinner about the next steps.  We let the neighbors know we are leaving (because just one hour before we were staying) share our left overs, and within 30 minutes of dinner being over we were in the cars heading to the East Coast.  

If you have been to our home or seen photos, the front door is a double door that swings in, so the Prince determined that we would barricade the front door by pushing the 12 foot kitchen table and chairs up agains the door and then wedging a section of the couch in behind that to make a secure seal up against the kitchen counter at the opposite end of the space.  This would prevent the wind from blowing in the door and deter potential for looters from getting in until we could get back.  We left through the garage, using the garage door opener to close the garage door because we boarded up the side door securely earlier in the day. (Remember this fact for later in the story!) 

We left the house at 7:15pm.  I think in the 3 hours we were on the road, aside from our three car caravan, we maybe saw 6 or 8 other vehicles. Because we were heading to the east, we were able to avoid major highways so it was back roads almost all the way.   It was like something out of a horror movie for sure. "It was a dark and stormy night..."  Business boarded up, no gas stations, no groceries, no restaurants... we drove through a series of rain showers and watched the lightening, as it lit our paths in front of us.  About 20 miles into the trip the Prince calls me to say that we left our lockbox at home.  Ugh, rookie mistake.  We boxed up and carried out tons of things but left the one thing that really held all our valuable papers and documents.  At some point in the journey we also realized that in our grand plan exiting through the garage door, it would be the worst plan if when we returned we had no power!  Rookie mistake #2!!  I believe we arrived in West Palm Beach around 9:30, unloaded in a rush as it was raining and pretty much fell to sleep in moments of making sleeping arrangements (our hosts and their son and dog in their room) four Lingle's and a dog in the second bedroom and 4 more Lingle's in the living room. Not going to lie even Bashful looked huge on the chaise lounge he called his bed!!   

We spent all day Sunday with power, playing card games, watching movies, eating, reading and walking the dogs when it was not raining, enduring tornado warnings from early am through late afternoon, about every hour, napping, and chatting and watching the weather reports.  We dined on boiled hot dogs frozen chicken patties, fresh fruit and bread and peanut butter and Miss Deb's amazing strawberry jelly!  Surprisingly, everyone held it together in such a confined space and did a wonderful job of getting along, and while it is not anything we would want to put on our top ten list of things to do again, if we had to we wouldn't change a thing!  We had power surges and thought for sure we would loose power at any moment mid Sunday afternoon, but woke Monday still having retained power overnight. 

We are grateful for the distraction, the electric and cable and friendship.  Most people would have thought long and hard about absorbing 8 grown people and an 80 lb dog into their two bedroom condo... we are thrilled that we were welcomed with open arms! 

Monday we woke to find the house still cool, the power still on and made our preparations to come back home.  In total the three hour trip took us 4. 5 hours from start to finish.  We searched twice in West Palm Beach for gas for the jeep, but could not find any - Sleepy used 3/4 of a tank to make the trip over and we only had 5 gallons of back up gas with us.  Adding that to her tank, only got her to the 1/2 tank marker.  She drove home with the windows down and the air off to conserve fuel.  She literally floated in on fumes and a prayer to our driveway Monday afternoon!  

The devastation that we witnessed on our drive back to the West Coast was overwhelming - sights that none of us would soon forget, and would make us so much more grateful for our intact and unaffected home!  Roads that were missing, sink holes the size of buildings, trailer parks where homes were roofless, and tipped over, campers on their roofs with wheels in the air, miles and miles of fencing down, flooding on roadways and entire areas acres of tree tops because their bases were underwater.  

We were 55 minutes from home when we hit the first traffic issue - downed power lines.  We tried a few detours, however quickly realized that because of Sleepy's limited gas situation and no open gas stations we would just have to wait the repair out.  We swerved around trees in the road way,  drove on the other side of the road to avoid standing water,  earning adventure points! Adding to the adventure points, breaking in to our own home upon arriving home, since there was no power!!  We are glad that we left a lanai door unlocked for our neighbors so they could use our grill while we were gone in the event of the power outage.  The prince borrowed two screwdrivers, and set to work on un boarding our bedroom window and then shimmying Happy in the window to move the furniture and open the front door!!  

The Prince is always about getting to work, we unloaded the cars, and took the boards off every one of the 33 windows in under an hour and forty five minutes!  We also started bringing the debris from the yard to the curb.  Our power was restored by 6:30 PM last night, as we were powering up the grill for dinner of reheated hotdogs and sausage! While there are still many in our neighborhood without power, we feel blessed beyond what we deserve.  

There are no words to describe our gratitude for all our praying friends, for the text messages, for the face book messages and the phone calls.  We are so fortunate in the midst of this storm to have sustained no damage to the house, no damage to the car that we left behind and no damage to the yard or pool cage.   If I have to clean up the yard debris for another week, or it takes me two weeks to get my house back in functioning order,  I will gladly do it with a smile on my face and a prayer in my heart for the thousands and thousands of people affected by Irma!  We are encouraged by the way neighbors and strangers alike are pulling together to serve each other in the middle of all that is going on.  Irma she was a finicky one!  

This is just the start of hurricane season here in Florida!  You Can't Make this Stuff up! 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My True Best Friend, Lucy

First I am want to let you know that Lucy was my best friend and what happened to her is the saddest thing I have experienced for a long time, but i will get to that later.

When we first got Lucy and Lola they were just pups ready to start their adventures,  when they would run to see us, they were so excited and could not stop and then they would start to slide across the tile while they tried to run to us or after us.

While they both liked being outside Lucy was the one who always tried to stay outside when Dad would call her in to come to bed. We always had to get a flash light to try and find her because she always was able to hide under the rose bushes that we had in the back yard at our old house in Harrisburg.  The reason we needed a flashlight was because she blended in with the night sky. During winter Lucy and Lola would always want to be in the snow so they would go outside and run around with snow all over their faces because they loved to wrestle. During the Summer Lucy and Lola would try and attack us while we were swinging on the tire swing that was tied to a tree, I always loved when they would try to knock me off the swing because it helped me create the bond I have with both Lucy and Lola. There were times when Lucy would chase me around the backyard it really wore both of us out because when we got back inside we both were gassed, I would also run with Lucy when I would take her on walks around the neighborhood, these were the times that I enjoyed with her and she enjoyed with me.

While we were traveling down to Florida we had one of the trailers tires pop so we pulled to the side of the highway and waited for the tow truck with a spare tire to show up. While we were waiting Lucy slipped off her collar and was high tailing it down and across the highway, we all chased her around for a good 5 minutes until she came running back to the van.  Once she got back to the van (on the drivers side where the traffic was) Dad picked her up put her in the van and gave her water. Maybe she slept the rest of the way to Florida.   She and her sister Lola also love that in our new home in Florida they could play with turtles from the lake.  They had a funny little bark that always clued us in when they were tossing a little turtle back and forth between them.

Lucy was a great house and family dog that we all loved so much, she was also the best dog that you could have ever had to cuddled with.  She truly meant the world to me. When it was time to eat she would always come running down to her bowl so we could feed her.  When she stopped eating I had a feeling something was going on.

Last Friday morning as I was getting up for school, and she was at the foot of my bed sleeping and I could see that her legs were swollen like gulf balls, so i ran downstairs and told my Mom, who is the Best Mom in the world.  When she saw Lucy,  she called the vet and had a blood test set up thats when I started to be concerned about what may be wrong with her.

Lucy brought comfort and love to all of us in the family.  When I would be crying or upset she always laid down beside me and would always put her head on my legs, she always brought a smile to my face.  Thank you Lucy for being my friend.

When I heard we had to put her down because her kidneys were failing I cried so much while I was giving her hugs and kisses for the last time.   I will never forget all the joy she brought to us and the times she helped comfort me in the rough times. We all Love and miss you baby girl. I still cry when I think about you or see you in a photo because you were my True Best Friend!  I hope your new life is full of joy and lots of good times like you had with us.

                      Run free!  We will never forget you!
 Love one of your humans,
 Joseph Lingle

Lucy, A good good dog!

This girl, Lucy and her sister Lola joined our family six years ago.  Today we say a tearful farewell to a good good dog! These liter mates and sisters, my birthday buddies,  have shared the highs and lows of life in the kingdom for six faithful years. 

Lucy lived a life full of excitement and adventure.  With seven kids and multitudes of visitors to the kingdom, she was never without a hand petting her, a hug around her neck or a kid to chase.  She loved like only a dog can love, unconditionally.  No matter the kind of day you were having she was sure to greet you at the door tail thumping, nose sniffing (inappropriately) and if I did not know better, I would say a smile on her face! 

Four and a half years ago Lucy was diagnosed with Lyme.  Never did it cross our minds that Lyme would be what took her from us.  Since our move to Florida, her Lyme "incidents" have increased. She had struggles occasionally with her rear legs, standing and sitting would be painful for a day or two, and with some Benadryl and some love she would be rebound shortly.  Sometimes she would refuse to eat first thing in the morning when she was not feeling the greatest, but in typical lab fashion she would rebound and gobble her meal a few hours later.  

Friday morning she would not get up for breakfast.  Her front paws were swollen and one of her rear legs was giving her pain.  She was lethargic and refused food.  Since this was the first time we had seen outward symptoms, the swelling, we took her to the vet for a visit.   

They checked her over, and gave her some meds, anti inflammatories, penicillin and pain meds.  They ran a blood check, and were concerned that the numbers were not accurate, as her outward symptoms did not match her blood work indicators, so they sent the blood work out for further testing.   

Lucy is a very smart dog... when she doesn't want something, she wont change her mind.  Friday we ran the gamete of creative ways to get her pills in her - hide them in her favorite treat, banana.  She would eat all around the pills and spit them out on the floor at our feet,  wrapped in cheese...same response.  This day we finally got them into her by crushing them and sprinkling the pills on her food. 

Saturday we got a call that we needed to come in and get a steroid medication for her and that she should stop taking the anti inflammatories.  She was still being finicky with her food choices, but did eventually eat.  Sunday she looked like her old self, had a little spring back in her step and aside from resting a lot, seemed to be doing better.   Then she started vomiting.  Knowing this was a potential side effect from the meds we did not panic, but made all good efforts to get her outside when she needed to and spent the rest of the time cleaning up the indoor messes... 

Monday she stopped eating all together.  I stopped by the vet again to discuss this, and they indicated that we needed to get some food into her and her meds.  So we crushed up her meds and added them to her  other favorite treat, peanut butter.  She ate all that.  Tuesday, I found myself back at the vet, again asking what we could do to get her to eat.  They said to keep doing what we are doing with the meds, as she must have them, and try different kinds of food.  However even the crushed meds in peanut butter trick failed to entice her on Tuesday evening.  We made her some boiled chicken and rice.  However,  even the little bits that we got into her, came back up.   She was still drinking, but even that did not stay put for long.  

Yesterday I went back to the vet on my way home from an errand and once again, asked them if there were any other things we could do to get her to eat and keep it down.  We still thought that maybe the meds were making her sick.  They said that we should skip our scheduled 8:30 appointment for Thursday's blood draw and recheck, and bring her in at 4:30 that afternoon.   

Dopey and I arrived at the appointment and when they weighed her we found that she had lost 10 lbs in 4 days.  The doctor wanted to make a plan to diagnose what was happening with her, and in light of last weeks elevated numbers from her blood work, redo the blood work and do some x-rays.   The potential that this was life threatening, still was not really on our mind. She had no fever, and she was no longer in pain.  The doctor was thinking that the x-rays would show that she had a bowl obstruction or some other easy fix.  With this hope, I ran Dopey back to the house so he could prepare to go to his night class, and returned to the vet with Bashful so he could help me get Lucy back home.  
The doctor was prepared to talk to me when I arrived back at the vet.  I had only been gone 10 minutes so I mistakenly took this as a good sign that there would be an easy fix for our Lucy.  We went to the room to meet up with Lucy and started to review the xrays, while it became apparent quickly what the issue was, it was not going to be the easy fix for the ol' girl that I/we had hoped for.  Her kidneys are no longer shaped like kidney beans, rather, they looked more like small heads of cauliflower.  Her blood work had elevated so much in the last four days, that the machine could not even tabulate what the actual numbers were.  Lyme Disease had attacked her kidneys and they were failing.  The best we could hope for was to keep her comfortable until her passing.  No treatment available.  Lucy is dying. 

I was alone with Bashful, so I had him call the Prince, who was on his way home from work, to ask him to stop at the vets.  Then I called Dopey, Lucy's master, and had him come over to the vets before leaving for class, so that the doctor could share this information with both of them.  I did not want to be the one that was solely responsible for processing this information or the decisions that needed to be made and I especially needed Lucy's master to hear directly from the doctor her prognosis.  

We met together as a family and determined that we would get Lucy some medications for the vomiting and some fluids for dehydration, and take her home so that everyone had a chance to say their goodbyes throughout the evening.  Before school this morning we took photos of the kids with her.   This morning, Dopey and I took her back to the vet to have her put to sleep.

 I won't lie.  I am not really a dog person, or a kid person, but as a mom, this is hard.  It is hard to see your children sobbing so hard that their whole body shakes.  It is hard to see your kids with their red rimmed eyes as they continue to think and ponder their relationship with their family friend and pet, and what Lucy's absence in the house will mean to them personally.  It is hard to drag them to the normal, dinner, school etc when their hearts are breaking.  I have cried more for them and their tender hearts than I have for the actual passing of Lucy. 

She was a good good dog!  She will be missed by her sister Lola and her Master Brandt, as well as all her other two legged siblings and parental caregivers.  We are so grateful for the Doctor Seims and her staff at the Lakewood Animal Hospital for caring for Lucy and our family with such kindness and love.  Her passing was smooth and peaceful.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

It is no wonder....

It is no wonder that Machu Picchu is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  The name itself translated means "Old Mountain" and is often referred to as the Lost City of the Incas.

Machu Picchu made its debut in the National Geographic magazine in 1913.  It is amazing to see the photos from an old Kodak camera in the hands of the man that found the ruins.  (click the link below)

For centuries Machu Picchu was hidden to the world.  In 1867 it is claimed that Antonio Rimondi discovered the ruins without actually understanding or knowing their significance.  It would not be until 1911 when they would truly be discovered by history professor Hiram Bingham.  Hiram went intentionally seeking the remains of the Inca Citadel or the Lost City of the Incas.

While, in my humble opinion, there are no photos that will ever be able to accurately portray the vastness, the details and the beauty of this location, I would love to share some facts with you as you look at the photos that we captured on our visit.

To start with the country of Peru to a tourist is seemingly very large, in part due to the fact that travel and the infrastructure of the country is not what we are used to experiencing here in the states.  We flew from Lima to Cusco the day before our excursion, and spent 9.5 hours of travel the day of our sight seeing adventure for the pleasure of experiencing 3 hours at the ruins.  Please understand it was worth it, but at the same time surprising.

Here, Sleepy and I are in the city of Aguas Calientes (now officially named Machu Picchu), which is the primary access point to Machu Picchu.   We arrived in the city after a 30 minute bus ride to the train station, and a 3 1/2 hour train ride through the mountains.  From this point we had another 30 minute bus ride to the site for admission to the ruins.  

The site is was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983, and is protected as part of the National System of Protected Nartural Areas by the state.    The site is aprox 32,592 hectares.  1 hectare = 2.47 acres. Suffice it to say, this space is expansive!   Additionally, the Incas planned out the site down to the minute details that included elaborate irrigation and drainage systems, and over 600 terraces that were built to protect the city from sliding down the side of the mountain.   

I believe what was most difficult for me to wrap my mind around was that it took between 50 & 70 years to construct the site, and each year it is estimated that 50,000 men worked on the project.  Remember there are no steel tools, no wheels. Ropes and brute strength hauled, nudged, and cajoled massive boulders into place.  

Each piece chiseled to fit snug against or on top of the previous piece.  To this day the structure is still solid and even a needle can not penetrated through the cracks.  Oh, and one more mind blowing piece of construction information, they used no mortar to hold these enormous and heavy boulders in place!   

It is stated that this area was prepared for the king/emperor of the Inca's, King Pachacatec.  He was the 9th emperor of the Incas.   It is said that in 1450 roughly 300- 500 royalty lived in the current day Machu Picchu.   It is astonishing to me that hundreds of thousands of  men would have worked on this project and never lived to see it finished, potentially neither would some of their sons.   Over the years following the death of the King, the city gradually fell away from everyone's official memory. Which is not be hard to comprehend, as there were not roads in place to traverse to the area. Only 169 human remains were found in the early 1900's and 68% of them were women and children remains once the site excavation began. 

These rocks are said to be 250 million years old.  History states that the rocks were formed as deep as 5-10 miles into the earth's crust.  Because of the Andean uplift the rocks surfaced and were prime objects used for building materials. To stabilize these large rocks the Incas had to create elaborate terraces, walkways and platforms which lead to them creating the buildings and irrigations systems.   

See a brief description of the Andean uplift, according to Wiipedia: 
Andean orogeny. The Andean orogeny (Spanish: Orogenia andina) is an ongoing process of orogeny that began in the Early Jurassic and is responsible for the rise of the Andes mountains. The orogeny is driven by a reactivation of a long-lived subduction system along the western margin of South America.

Even before the site was declared one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, Machu Picchu was experiencing many visitors annually.  Tourism from the 1980's until 2013 increased 700% causing the country to create new regulations regarding visitation to the site.   As of July 1st 2017 (7 days prior to our visit) the government started limiting the number of guests to 2,500 a day with specific visitation hours; an am time and an afternoon time.  Additionally, you are now required to have an official ticket for your timed visit and you must be accompanied by a tour guide that can only take you on pre-arranged routes, and there can only be 20 individuals in a group.  You may also not re-enter the site once you begin your tour.  The only restrooms are outside the ruins, so it is strongly encouraged to pay your soles and use the facilities before embarking on the tour.  The only way you can re-enter is with a second ticket.  The grounds have security patrolling the area.  It is illegal for you to sit on the ledges, to remove rocks or greenery from the site.  If you are caught participating in any of these activities you can be asked to leave the park as well as assessed a monetary fine.  I asked our tour guide if you could "rent" the space, like have your wedding there, or use the grounds for other celebrations.  The country forbids such activities on these protected grounds.  Additionally, they do not repair or restore areas of the ruins that may happen to be crumbling or in some other state of disrepair.  The idea is to keep the area as true to what it looked like upon it's discovery and original un-earthing.  

While the altitude in the city of Cusco is higher than the highest peak we traversed on Machu Picchu, which is where this photo was taken from, one could still feel the affects of the 8,000 plus feet above sea level.  Again, at this point I was attempting to really wrap my mind around the magnitude of what I was seeing and how it all came to be! 

As with any great adventure, there has to be a fun story to share, and Sleepy gets the great memory to go with seeing an amazing site.  Alpaca's roam free and because of all the tourists are somewhat domesticated.  The certainly do not live in captivity here, but frequent the lush green grasses and hillsides.  On this particular day, Sleepy was photographing this momma and her baby. 

We were preparing to walk on by their location, which was below us as you can see, this momma got it in her mind to come on up to our layer of the hillside.  Sleepy, quickly re-engaged her camera and kept on snapping some up close and personal shots of this beauty! 

I had a different perspective, grabbed my cell phone quickly to captured the moment that Sleepy stepped back quickly to get out of the way of this lovely lady as she sashayed on by...

All in all, a great story for the memory book!  
We finished our visit by stamping our passports with the official Machu Picchu stamp!  

This is one thing that I am hopeful I never forget and the images and memories live on in my mind even in to my old age.  If not I am sure glad I will have this blog post to look back on and refresh my memory!  You can't make this stuff up! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Finding a Place to Serve

            I had no idea what to expect on my first international mission trip in Peru. Thankfully God planned out everything from the start to the finish, and it was better than I could have ever hoped.

After our brief tourism section of the trip and one very long boat ride we arrived at the bank of the village. The welcome was a big celebration of dances and smiles. As we walked down the mile long path to the village with our supplies in hand I was more focused on how heavy the wood felt on my shoulder than dreaming about what was to come. Even then I don’t believe I could have imagined what I was soon to experience.

As soon as I arrived at the church frame that we would be working on, I noticed the small group of curious kids that had begun to gather around. Although I only know a little Spanish, I thankfully remembered how to ask their names. As I struggled to remember names I could barely pronounce, I wondered how I could connect with these kids with our limited shared vocabulary. I desperately wished to ask them further questions to get a feel for what they enjoyed doing and what their culture was like.

Work on the church had just begun and I was eager to do my part. I began to feel disappointed as I looked around and realized that…I had no place. With 37 sets of hands for one saw and four walls, all spots had already been taken. I watched for an opportunity to jump in, but I just felt in the way. As I wandered aimlessly with my eyes peeled, I started to doubt my purpose in being there.

I noticed a group of kids all being entertained by Morgan and a few pieces of wood. I thought about how simply that connection was made without words. A few more were standing close to me, kind of looking around not sure if they should try to interact. So I decided to go for something basic, tickling. Immediately as smiles began, my heart was filled with joy. One girl (who I later learned was named Eloivi) made me chase her all around. I started feeling ok about not having a job. As the day went on I and a few other girls spent the hours running, laughing, and playing games like Pato, Pato, Gonzo (Duck, Duck, Goose).

At the end of the day as we started back to the boat, all of the kids ran up to walk with us. I strutted down the path with a girl holding my hand at each side. I felt like I belonged, like I was home.

As we reached the river, all of the kids decided to go swimming. As I watched them all jumping into the water that was deemed to dangerous for us, I thanked God for the opportunity to be there and learn from them. So even though what I expected to happen didn’t, I enjoyed exactly what God had planned for me to do.

After that day I did get to help some in building the church, but I spent most of my time with the kids. At the end of it all a few things struck me about these kids. The first was how fearless they were. Whether it was jumping in a muddy polluted river, walking a mile down the road with people you just met without telling your parents, or jumping over fire they did everything with a courage that I admire. The second was their selflessness. I watched two little boys grab containers and fill them with water, so that one of our girls could clean her muddy shoes. Another time I got down on my knees to take a picture, and when I stood up two of the little girls wiped the dust off my pants for me. Also some of the kids gave us gifts out of the little that they had. They gave us everything from pieces of gum to handmade necklaces. To be given gifts by people who need to sometimes rely on what little is given to them, was pretty humbling. The last and most important thing I saw was that these kids know who Jesus is. One day we watched the Jesus film, and Eloivi asked me what the movie was. I didn’t know how to respond in a way that she would understand. But then as I struggled with the words to say, she asked if it was Jesus. I was so surprised I could barely get out the word si. The girls also sang songs about opening their eyes to the Lord. It brought me great joy to know that they knew who he was.

Although I am back in America the kids are still in my thoughts constantly. I have faith that God has already been doing his work in that village, and I am so thankful to have been a small part. It brings me great comfort to know that the kids will be brought up with people who fear the Lord all around them. My prayer is that they grow up to be happy, healthy, and love Jesus more than anything else.

Con Dios todo es possible.

                        -Hannah Brady

Hannah and her dad, John went with our team to Peru.  Many things about this trip made my heart soar with joy, but none so much as parent and child serving together.  What a great memory to share with your children, and what a great legacy to build for your family, serving the Lord together.  Thank you Hannah for sharing your story !

I am happy to report that you really can't make this stuff up!