…blank page…

img_1690So often, lately.. I have sat down to my computer to write.. and I simply stare at the blank page.

It’s not that I haven’t had a lot to say…

..and it’s not that I haven’t experienced enough to keep my mind racing…

…but sometimes? Sometimes even writers are too tired to write.

Spring time is Musical season in my house. As soon as the musical is chosen, my life is overtaken by set designs, character lists, auditions… and then rehearsals every day (it seems like), choreography, set build days on the weekends, painting the set, costume designs, costume runs, sewing costumes and searching for props…

.. and that doesn’t include encouraging the cast and crew to learn their lines and blocking.. and to be the best that they can be.

This year I added a full time job to my list of jobs. Even with the help of our amazing Music Director and all the parent volunteers? There were days that I worked from 8 am to 11:30 pm.

Yes.. I have been tired.

Recently someone asked me why I do it. If I get so tired? Then why keep my extra jobs?

Well?

Quite simply it is the kids.

Some of these kids come into the theatre with a lot to say.. a lot of experiences to talk about.. but they are staring at a blank page..

… not knowing how to express themselves..

I love to watch the musical come to life and to see the kids’ talent shine on our stage..

..but the MOST amazing thing?

The most amazing is watching these young people relax into themselves and learn to let themselves shine. They have the opportunity to help with building the set, working with lights, painting the set, designing costumes, organizing the backstage area.. some choose to step forward and take on a leadership role.. or help with choreography..

Endless opportunities..img_1501

.. and they rarely disappoint..

Ok.. ok… there is a week (ish) that we get a little worried (alright.. a LOT worried) that we will pull it together in time.. That we will have all the costumes and the props we need. That we will learn the sequence of lines in a tough scene… or that the choreography will be fluid…

.. but there is always that moment…

…the moment my veteran performer nails a tough character role… and blows us away..

… the moment you get chills from the emotion a student pours into their solo..

… the moment you forget the kids are acting because they are so genuinely in character…

.. and (of course) the moment the quietest person on your cast says their first line on stage with confidence …

… and they EXIT that stage with another page written in their own story. They exit with more confidence than they started.. more high fives… (too many bottlecaps.. more than likely).. hopefully a new skill… and a lot of memories.

I always remember the blank pages we started the season with.

Those blank pages?? They keep me going.. the writer in me is too curious to see what will be written next.. too hopeful of what will come … too amazed to look away…

Those blank pages will keep me coming back each season.

Cousins weekend…

Ever since my family moved home to Michigan, I started a new tradition where I picked one weekend, over the summer, and invited all of my nieces and nephews to my house for a sleepover.

Now.. one of my nephews was too old to enjoy this.. and.. some were too young..

..but every year I get a few to come..

Ha! By a “few”.. I mean 10 or more..

This year.. I had 18 kiddos at my house..

Age range .. 4 years to 20!

Doors were left open… noses were skinned… heads were bonked… snow cones were spilled.. a bean bag lost its beans… shaving cream in the eyes… stubbed toes… there were hurt feelings.. disappointment over the rain.. and cancelled bonfires..

…but there was also.. laughter .. games… late night talks.. talking in sleep… snow cones.. sundaes on Sunday… frog hunts.. snuggles… hugs… movie time… swimming… a small obsession with the kitten.. good food… some amazing fairy/gnome/snake houses craft time.. and a lot of new memories made…

Some people ask how me how I can do it?

Well?

I don’t do it by myself. My husband stayed this year for some of it. A couple of my Sisters-in-law stayed and pitched in. This helps with the mixed aged groups. And everyone sends food.

But over all?

I go into this weekend EXPECTING them to act like kids.. and then? I expect chaos. I plan certain activities to give them focus. I provide spaces for them interact.. I give them my expectations.. but give them the freedom to make choices.

And I don’t know? It just falls into place..

But what I do know?

I know that these kids all look forward to it every year… counting down the weeks until it happens.. talking about “next year”…

And every year.. I fall in love with these blessings who create huge messes a little bit more.. until my heart is near to bursting…

So this morning as I clean up beanbag “beans” in my living room.. mop my kitchen floor.. kill the flies buzzing my head… clean up the craft supplies in the garage.. and put away the bounce house..?

I find myself planning for next year…

.. our own luck..

Today is Friday the 13th .. one of the most superstitious days for some people…

As I sit here drinking my coffee, I started to wonder how many people are waiting for something bad to happen…

Not that I don’t believe in bad luck..

.. in the theater, we have a “tradition” where we have one performance where EVERY THING falls apart backstage. Costumes disappear.. buttons come off vests.. props break.. someone falls apart emotionally… the lemon/orange water springs a leak all over the floor…

.. every season it is the same..

.. we learned to expect that “bad luck” show..

.. and we laugh during the absurdity of it all…

So I can’t laugh at people who are superstitious.. and go into the “Friday the 13th’s” of this world.. prepared for the worst.

..in fact? Maybe it is foolish for me to go naively into the world .. ASSUMING that I will be able to handle any bad luck that comes my way.

Naively thinking that my Faith in God.. my faith in my family.. my faith in my friends.. and my faith in myself will get me through any luck that life throws at me..

But honestly?

The curve balls that life has thrown me aren’t things I ever would have expected.. let alone things that I could have prepared myself for..

yeah.. I’ve had an accident.. and a flat tire.. and some car issues.. and I even locked my keys in my car once..

.. but having a kid who has Autism?

I didn’t even know that was a possibility 19 years ago.

… having to have my son’s hips screwed back together?

I didn’t even know that was a thing.

.. having severe food intolerances be the cause of my kids health issues?

That only happened in movies.. right?

… a pack of raccoons wiping out my whole bird flock?

Ok.. I probably could have expected that one..

Recently my mom was in the hospital. It was pretty scary. The nurses needed to draw blood from her but they were finding it to be nearly impossible.

When another nurse came in to try to find a vein that would work..?

Well? Someone wished him luck..

Without looking up? He stated, “I make my own luck.”

And he was successful!!!

At the time, we were all simply grateful for his confidence.

But since that day?

Since that day, I have found that this simple statement is true.

We do make our own luck.

There is a saying out there..

Life isn’t about surviving the storm…

Life is about learning to dance in the rain..

I laughed when I saw it because this was how I approached raising a son with special needs…

… this was how I approached raising a very independent, strong willed daughter..

.. this is how I approach life…

I could let bad luck hold me back.. or I can focus on the good things that are still there..

Through everything? Through every tough situation I still have 2 beautiful children.. I have an amazing family… a Merciful God.. and some pretty spectacular friends..

… through everything we choose to laugh through the tears… sing through the frustrations .. and dance in the rain..

After all.. can it really be bad luck if we are all together? Or can we change those bad situations into good luck by finding the good around us? Can we change that bad luck to good luck simply by having Faith in ourselves and those around us?

So today?

Today I won’t worry about what bad luck this “Friday the 13th” has in store for me…

.. because I make my own luck…

.. mosquitos ..

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind here in our house..

.. graduation and family vacations …

… emergencies…

.. new pets…

It was so busy that I almost cancelled one of my author events. It seemed selfish to do something for me, when there was so much to do at home.

But in the end, I kept my event. And I spent a marvelous couple days with my girl..

.. even though my girl didn’t feel well..

.. even though the hotel was less than we had hoped for..

… even though the weather was a little too cold for the sunset..

Still???

Still we had a marvelous time..

.. we laughed and talked as the sun went down..

.. we shivered and talked as we took pictures of the seagulls..

… created works of art and had a few laughs as we watched the sun go down a little more ..

As we limped across the sharp rocks to the warm car, we laughed at each other’s gasps of pain..

BUT when I got into the car.. it filled up with mosquitoes..

when I left the door open to get one more pictures.. ?? Even more mosquitoes flew into the car..

ok.. more than few.. it was like a cloud of mosquitos… and they were biting me through my sweatshirt..

This surprised me…

We had sat on the beach for over 30 minutes.. and I had not noticed ONE mosquito..

.. NOT ONE…

.. but then? Then I realized .. I had been focusing on the moment. Focusing on my girl and what she had to say.. focusing on the laughter.

There could have been a million mosquitoes.. and I wouldn’t have seen them.

Life is like that..

If I let the mosquitoes bother me? The bills.. the busy schedule ahead.. the housework.. conflict.. ??

It blocks out the “present”..

But when I write down those worries .. and schedule a time for them? Then maybe… JUST maybe.. I can focus on the present …

MAYBE I’ll even find time to write more..

As we drove away from the beach that night.. we laughed at the mosquitoes swarming around our heads..

… then decided to stop .. and get one more picture…

..footprints..

I watched my son run down the shoreline today.. kicking sand in the direction of his sister. He didn’t even try to be sneaky about it. Laughing at his own antics, he would wait for his sister to splash him in return.. My daughter would pretend to be offended .. and then they repeated the whole scene again.

.. as I watched them play fight.. I noticed the footprints that my family left behind them..

.. the footprints that weaved in and out of the ones that stayed straight and steady…

.. the deep twisting prints of my kids’ playful actions..

… the steady footfalls that others left behind…

It got me thinking…

…it doesn’t really matter what path we take in life… it doesn’t even matter where we are going…

What REALLY matters?

What really matters is how we are getting there… Are we enjoying life? Are we enjoying our family? Are we living each moment to the fullest?

And most importantly?

What are we leaving behind?

Are we leaving behind happy memories? Memories of laughter and playful water fights on the beach? Are we leaving behind feelings of love and being cherished?

What will people remember us for after our walk through life is finished? Will they remember how hard we worked? Or how we enjoyed life? Will they see the impact we had on others?

When I looked up from those footprints in the sand.. I watched my kids with a tear in my eye… (maybe more than one tear)..

I think both of my kids will leave some pretty special footprints through life..

both sets different ..

but equally beautiful in their own way…

That makes me one proud momom…

A lifetime in a moment…

Last night, I watched the beautiful colors fill the sky as the sun set behind the trees. The brilliant display was only accentuated by the play of lights and shadows.

And then in a few moments?

In just a few moments it was over and the light faded from the sky .. and the moment of beauty was over.

There are days where time speeds by in much the same way.. and you wonder where the time went. Hours that passed in a moment.

And then there are moments that last hours..

I have experienced a lot of moments in my lifetime. Some great moments and some.. well? Some not so great moments.

The moments after the doctor confirmed my son had autism?

That moment felt like it lasted an hour. As your mind categorized every thing that diagnosis would change for his life .. and ours…

The moments after the doctor told me my son needed a screw to hold his hip together..? Felt like hours…

But mostly I remember the happy moments.. like watching my son dancing in the waters of Lake Michigan as the sun set behind him.. watching my daughter perform in any one of her performances, watching my kids laugh, laughing with my nieces and nephews, watching a shy student shine on stage, early morning talks with any of my exchange daughters..

So many moments that could fill a lifetime..

.. and then I realized …

Life is like that sunset…

Sometimes the most beautiful moments are the shortest.. and if we don’t enjoy the beauty while it’s there? If we don’t keep our eyes glued to the colors playing amongst the shadows? If we don’t stay IN THAT MOMENT.. we will miss it…

… and life is already too short..

We blink and our kids grow up too fast.. We blink and months pass by..

We blink and we miss so much.

So.. we get to choose…

Do we turn our moments into lifetimes?

Or turn our lifetime into mere moments?

It humbles me.

For me? I will continue to live in each moment .. waiting to see the beauty life has for me.. waiting to make memories in each of those moments..

..eye catching

Yesterday was Easter.. and we headed out into nature to recharge..

Our family parties were done … the Easter baskets opened.. and my daughter headed back to her campus.

And.. well?

And the sun was shining. We didn’t really need any OTHER invitation.

As we entered the woods, we were reminded that Spring really hasn’t arrived yet.

The landscape was beautiful. Rolling hills… sloping roads… lazy rivers…

So beautiful!!

But nature is still sleeping here. So everything is brown. So many different shades of brown… but still just brown.

And SO cold!

Then?

Then every once in a while, we would go over a hill.. or around a bend… and something would catch my eye.

There amongst the dead leaves and the cold wind? There would be the brightest green moss growing.

I know.. I know…

Moss isn’t really that pretty.. and it isn’t SUPPOSED to be growing on the sides of trees and rocks.

But the bright green of that moss against the shades of the sleeping nature around it? It was so startling. It caught my attention every time.

That moss?

That moss reminds me of people who show happiness and positively impact the world around them .. every day.

Not just showing their green color when the sun is shining and the warmth is all around. But glowing a bright green when the winds are cold enough to make your nose hurt and cause your lungs to burn. Glowing green when nothing else is even growing.. when there feels like there is no hope of hope.

So today I wonder?

Am I showing a bright green color of hope and love against the dull colors of today?

There are always “dull” things going on around us..

..extra bills… health concerns… raising kids.. car issues… and messes to clean up..

..not to mention world troubles…

…but amongst those shades of “brown”…?

Among the lifeless colors… am I shining some green into the world? Am I handing out genuine smiles.. holding open doors… sharing my resources with the world around me… lending a hand where I can…? Am I looking for hope?

Am I offering to share the small amount of hope that I hold in my hands?

Because that is what I want.. I want my love and my hope to shine brightly against my surroundings.

What color are you today?

This …

Every once in a while something comes along to remind me of the start of our journey we call “Autism”…

This….

http://on.today.com/2opmM7q

As a parent of a kid with special needs.. you have to go through a grieving process.. You have to give up your expectations for your child.. you have to give up those dreams you had FOR them… and it’s hard…

Really hard….

..and then you create new dreams. Ones that feel like you are giving up on them at first…

… but it’s really hard…

People often tell me how strong I am… but.. there isn’t really a choice. I move forward and we push for every goal..

.. and it’s been hard..

…but it was worth it all..

At 19? My son is amazing and I see the dreams he has.. and I see a future that will be good.

…but it’s still hard.. and I remember feeling where this mom is at in the video… and the memory makes my heart hurt.. wondering what My boy would be like if Autism hadn’t altered the course of his life.

.. but for me?

.. for me, I began to think that maybe Autism was supposed to alter mine.

Wherever my son goes?

He spreads happiness and hope through his smiles and his struggles…

… and he doesn’t miss the dreams I had for him at all…

…because you see?

He has his own…

..the game of life..

.. this Christmas Eve I had the pleasure of playing the game of Life with my nieces and nephews…

..now…?

Most of these nieces and nephews were well below the suggested age bracket of “8 and up” that was printed on the box…

But they all wanted to play… so we opened the box… and put the board together.

… when I pointed out the starting place on the board.. one of my nephews looked at it with doubt.. and said that it looked more like the end of the game…

HA ha…

I think more than one person would say that starting a career or starting college would be the end of their life.. or at least the end of all things “fun”…

.. as I tried to get them all focused on setting up the game to play… they were FAR more interested in filling their cars full of kids … or visiting their uncle Tim in Jail.. or picking out their houses.. and definitely running over their little people…

.. finally I gave up trying to show them the rules and just watched them play.. I watched them drive their cars backwards on the roads.. ha .. that is IF they stayed on the roads at all..

As I watched them play?

I couldn’t help but think how they represented the world around us.

Not everyone wants to follow the rules of Life..

.. and some people don’t get the option of starting at the beginning.. OR following the road exactly..

Some of us start OUT doing things according to the rules.. traveling the roads in the directions we are supposed to.. ONLY to find a detour (or two) that takes us off the main stream road..

…special needs

…widowed

… job changes

… house fire

The point is?

The point is.. that there is no “perfect” road through life. No rules that apply to every person..

Who was I to tell them that my game “rules” were more fun than the “rules” they were playing by… ??

…so I laughed.. and pointed out to my nephew that it didn’t matter if he was driving backwards on the road.. but that Jesus wouldn’t want him to run over his kids…

… He looked down at the game pieces and scowled..

“Those aren’t my kids.. that’s my wife.”

I silently vowed to never loan him my keys as I helped his poor wife back in his car.

.. ‘‘twas the day…

…”Twas the day after Christmas

.. and all through the house

… were the clutter of memories

… as Mom sat on the couch

Ok .. ok.. I promise I won’t do my whole post in rhyme..

…but as I sit here this morning.. I feel much like Mary as I “store up these memories and ponder them in my heart”.

As with everyone this season, I think we spent a little too much.. ate a little too much..

But this season I also slowed down a little..

For the first time in who knows how long..? I didn’t send out Christmas cards.

We made Christmas cookies.. but not enough to share with the whole community around us..

And my house is clean .. but not immaculate…

As we spent time all over the state with family this weekend, I thought about the talks I had with my mom-in-law.. the laughter that I shared with my nieces and nephews.. the memories I cherished with my daughter.. and all the moments in between..

…and just like Jesus’s mom?

I am hoarding all the memories in my heart to think about later..

What memories are you saving in your heart ??

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

http://bible.us/111/luk.2.19.niv

Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.