Category Archives: Life

Second chances..

Second chances have a way of making you thankful for so many things. Even thankful for things you could never see a reason to be thankful for.

While I was sick with Covid this spring, I wasn’t sure if I would survive. There is a tiredness that comes with being extremely ill.. that has a lot to do with oxygen levels being so low.. and struggling for each breath.. and a lot to do with your body being exhausted in its battle. I found myself wondering if my body had enough strength to give the medicine a chance to work.

I was content with whatever decision God had for me… and very thankful that His decision was for me to finish what I started on this Earth.

With each baby step of healing came Second Chances to do things I may never have gotten a chance to do again.

Second chances to do things I love.. like stand outside … or listen to my kids talk and laugh and sing… take more photos… sing while I cleaned…

Second chances to snuggle with my family on the couch and tell them how much they mean to me.

I also got Second chances to be thankful for things I was not thankful for before. Like Dairy-Free/Gluten-free fake cream cheese in jalapeño poppers. Or Gluten-free/Dairy-free Oreos ..

I know.. I know..

WHY would I be thankful for something that sounds so tasteless?

I completely agree.. and I felt the same way…

… before…

.. but after spending a week in the hospital where we struggled to find food on their menu that I could eat?

I was so thankful for a second chance to fall in love with foods that replaced the 49 food allergies/intolerances that I have.

Over the last 6 months?

I have found so many second chances to love my crazy life within the crazies.

But the second chance that I am the most thankful for?

They say that procrastination is the arrogant assumption that God will give you another chance to do a specific task.

I have arrogantly assumed that I would have a tomorrow to do the things I love most.

“I can write later.. I can be me later..”

“Today I am too busy doing what everyone else has asked… tomorrow I will do what I had intended.”

Finishing the books I had started… now I have that second chance.

Sharing the joy I have found through my Faith and my family… now I have a second chance.

Sharing the knowledge I have found through all my research.. now I have a second chance.

Sometimes… in this busy world?

… we put off what means the most to us because we feel the things we “should” do are more important…

…but what is the point of being us.. if we never enjoy who we are..

… what is the point of having gifts… if we never use them..

I’m not saying I’m going to stop throwing a frisbee for my huge puppies… and I’m definitely not going to stop taking care of my kids…

… but I am saying that I am thankful for a second chance to carve out a chunk of the day to ALSO do things important to the core of Julie.

What about you?

If you were lying in the hospital .. concentrating on each breath?

What would you want a second chance to finish?

Now..

How can you fit that into your day?

Collecting leaves…

This time of year has always been a reflective time for me.

With all the leaves falling and changing colors? I stop to think about the year so far.

Some of the leaves falling are bright colored and fascinating. Others fall already dark and dull.

Some of leaves fall right next to the roots of the tree .. and some travel quite a ways.

Sometimes those leaves can be pretty messy.. and not fun to clean up. But I cannot help but be thankful for the trees anyway.

The bright colored leaves are fun to collect. I’ve often thought about making a collection of them. But then I always toss them back into the wind.

In many way, the memories from this year are like those leaves. Some of them shine with bright colors and bring a smile to my face.

Some of them?

Some are darker moments.. and take a lot more time to process .. They are still part of my year but not the memories I want to dwell on.

But today?

Today, as I watched a brightly shining leaf fall on a dried up dull one…?

I wondered… would that leaf look so bright…?

… if it hadn’t just fallen after the darker one?

As I picked up the bright red leaf…

I remembered the moment I put my feet in the grass for the first time… after I had been too sick and too weak to do so for weeks.

That grass.. that ordinary grass… looked like the most amazing of God’s creations to me .. in that moment.

But would it have looked as amazing to me? If I hadn’t struggled to get down the stairs? If I hadn’t needed to carry an oxygen tank to get that far?

No. The grass would have looked ordinary to me.. without the dull colored leaf to compare it to.

This November, I am going to post my thankful posts. But they may look a little different. I’m going to be thankful 2021 style.

I am going to collect those brightest colored leaves before they blow away… and maybe a few dull colored ones while I am at it.

On my Father’s floor..

When I was a little girl, if I wanted to talk to my dad alone.. I knew I could usually find him in his garage. His garage was well used, so it was a little dirty .. and a little oily… and usually had someone’s car parked in it.

I can still smell it. Like old motor oil combined with the damp… and the smell of the trees blowing in from the open door.

I would walk right in… and sit on the floor of my Dad’s garage.

And I was never more content.

Why was I on the floor?

Because my dad was usually under the car… fixing it… and it was easier to talk to him from down there on the floor.

And talk I did .. from what I remember. But I also remember sitting in silence while he worked.

While I sat there, my dad occasionally asked me to hand him a tool. Sometimes I guessed the tool correctly.. but occasionally he would hold the tool I handed him for a moment… and then ask me for the tool he needed again. That time he would describe it to me.

So patient.

And I’d try again.

Sometimes more than once.

For me.. that memory is what my prayer space feels like.

A garage? …you ask…

Why not the image of a church.. or a sunny meadow…? Or a flower garden?

For me?

While sitting on my dad’s floor… I felt loved, and safe… and heard.

The same way I feel when I pray.

This last year has been a difficult one for me.

So much anger in this world… so much injustice… so much sadness…

… and some of my favorite people getting sick…

I have always told people that I won’t sit and wait for a storm to pass… I’ll find a way to dance in the rain…

… but this last year…?

This year I have found myself sitting on the floor of my Father’s garage..

…talking to God while He works on the world.

I’ve found myself bringing my prayers to Him.. like a child. Bringing my disappointments and sadness …

… sometimes I just sit in silence… letting His love seep into me…

.. and occasionally God asks me to help Him..

.. sometimes I do a good job of guessing what is needed.. but sometimes I need to listen a second .. or even third time before I am success at using my gifts for what He intended.

Especially this year… it feels like it is so hard to use the gifts I have been given.

.. writing..

.. encouraging..

.. all of gifts… left in that tool box ..

But as I sit in the quiet.. on the floor with my Father?

Once again I feel loved and safe and heard..

And His peace fills me..

So that when I pick myself up off that floor…

I am ready to dance in the rain again..

Head in the clouds..

After a long complicated year, I spent the morning taking pictures.

Not carefully aimed photos of kids about to graduate.. not precious photos of new life..

Today was simple.

Anything that caught my eye?

I just focused and shot. The texture of a brick wall.. the shade of the tree… the light through the leaves… the dew on the grass…

Simple moments.. simple tasks…

I was just a girl with a camera.. with her head in the clouds..

What a good thing…

Losing that covid feeling..

… that covid moment…

My dad used to tell me, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.. but you’ll be surprised what you can live through.”

I held onto that thought when I was lying in a hospital .. 5 weeks ago… concentrating on each controlled deep breath…

Controlled… because the instinct to panic and gasp for more air was strong.. but wouldn’t help …

Deep breaths … because keeping my lungs as open as possible would be the difference between a ventilator.. or keep the oxygen “nose leash”…

I will remember that moment for a long time…

… that moment …

… not scared… but respecting the gravity of the illness that I had…

… not panicking… but focusing on each breath in its entirety… like there was nothing else in the world…

… not wanting to leave my kids without a mom yet… but knowing that it was a possibility…

… and trusting… knowing that God had my situation in His hands… in His plans …

… so I thought about that saying my dad would say … I’d be surprised what I could live through… as I felt the ability to breath on my own get smaller and smaller…

And smiled…

That moment was my covid moment.. filled with that Covid feeling … Being so weak in body.. and fading.. but so filled with faith in God’s plan.. and filled with love from my Earthly family… that I took one more deep breath … and then another…

…. and I was able to keep breathing with JUST the help of that oxygen “nose leash”….

Now.. I know you all see me joke about the oxygen “nose leash” as my son affectionately named it.. that’s because laughter is the best medicine…

oxygen “nose leash” mess…

… I won’t lie.. sometimes that “nose leash” is the source of so much frustration.. The puppies get tangled up in it… it gets caught under something … and it pulls my face back.. or at the very least makes me stop in my tracks and fix the “trap”…

… not to mention that I’m limited to 50 feet from my machine… unless I hook up a tank that I have to pull or carry…

… but I’m still so thankful for the “nose leash” .. because the alternative? A ventilator… in the hospital wasn’t as appealing…

… or worse yet .. now that I’m home… if I didn’t have the oxygen.. I wouldn’t be able to walk to the kitchen to get my own coffee … or do any simple activity without getting short of breath.

This Covid thing isn’t limited to breathing though…

It was obvious things.. like coughing up red “junk”… the swollen neck… abdominal swelling .. leg swelling… the horrible headaches… the heart pounding… the massive bloody noses.. the face swelling….

… but I learned later.. there are the “not so obvious” Covid things too… the short term memory issues… the loss of being able to sign my name… learning to walk without a walker again… keeping my blood sugar above 70 … learning how to be less active … how to ask others to do things for me…

… you’d be surprised what you can live through…

Slowly, my family is losing that Covid feeling…

… the worry that mom will go back to the hospital… my son worried to let me out of his sight… my daughter exhausted from being “the mom” to us all… everyone too exhausted to do much beyond eating and surviving…

But I never want to lose all of the Covid feeling… I hope I keep the joy in the little things…

… the love I feel when I remember the things my parents taught me…

… baby steps

… the happiness I get from little notes tucked into much needed food delivered to the hospital…

… the way my cup overflows with the generosity of friends and their front porch drop offs…

… the joy of being able to go home… even with “oxygen nose leashes”…

… being content surrounded by my little family…

… the feel of grass beneath my feet

… the accomplishment of walking to the chicken coop with a portable oxygen leash

… wearing jeans for the first time in a month…

Being able to see the baby steps of healing as blessings during the storm… means the storm didn’t win…

… so for me?

I don’t want to lose all of that Covid feeling…

.. and I will no longer be surprised what I can live through.

Joy is fun Snapchats with my family…

Best view in the house…

If I had to pick a house to be in this week.. it would NOT be the Covid floor of this hospital..

It IS a pleasant enough place.. but the pneumonia.. and the coughing.. and the struggling to breathe.. being so sick I can’t be home…

.. not to mention new iv’s at 1 am when the old one fails..

But the people here are amazing and patient… and brave. Suiting up everytime I need a toothbrush or a potty break.. or a water…

From Elise and Brooke and Melanie… to Chris, Matt, Erin, Erica, Tessa, Gabby, Crimison.. and so many names I didn’t catch… just the care they showed.

And everyone who walks into my room to poke and prod and encourage me to get better…? Looks out my window, “They gave you the best view in the house.”

And it’s true… as I lay here doing controlled breathing to expand my lungs.. I get to look at this idealic picture to calm my breathing…

And I got to thinking about all the blessings around me..

Covid is nothing I would wish on anyone. It’s horrible… but we knew what to expect from our doctors because they helped us to know what to do. What vitamins to take.. what precautions to take.

I got some great covid treatments .. that were NOT available a year ago. So for me? The year of quarantine life added a WHOLE year of research that made a difference in my life.

One of the nurses here said most everyone is fully vaccinated… that makes me feel calmer about accidentally infecting anyone. Something I never want to do.

So much love from family and friends .. and prayers from everywhere..

The packages of love delivered to my sick kids at home… from color books to gluten free Oreos … and fruit baskets … mean so much to a mama far from her kids…

So even if I’m eating the same 2 things off the menu… because they can’t cater to my crazy allergy diet… ?

The view from my window is still the best in the house…

Love you all…

Covid diaries day 6

All year I heard people say Covid is just a cold…

I’ve have Covid now for 6 days…


I’ve had 3 episodes of 105 temperature… where the shivering is so violent that I thought my bones would break.
I cough up so much solid red junk from my lungs that I can’t move afterwards.

On day 3, I went to the ER for X-rays and CT scans… where I was diagnosed with Covid pneumonia.. I was scheduled immediately for antibody infusions….

…and on day 4… when I couldn’t keep my oxygen above 88… my husband took me to the ER again and dropped me off at the door.

After countless labs and scans… The ER had to call 5 hospitals before they found a hospital an hour away that had ROOM to admit me…

I usually walk 2-4 miles a day in my life…


Today?

Today… I still can’t walk to the bathroom to pee withOUT shaking violently and having to have extra oxygen for the movement.
I almost hyperventilate when I change positions of any type. And then it takes me 20-30 mins to recover.

They found blood clotting factors in my blood work so I’m on blood thinners… and my glucose numbers are abnormally high. I don’t have problems with diabetes…

The headaches and fevers have subsided with the addition treatments… finally

…but my lungs will have a long road to recovery… and that depends on how tomorrow goes.. they say day 6 is pivotal for if you get better .. or worse.

But for me… I think about my kids at home… going through the same illness… doing breathing treatments and monitoring oxygen levels and heart rates… knowing that God has us all in His hands… in His plans…

I’m trusting in Him as I have always done.

But I am so glad that I spent the last year of my life protecting them and the people around me.. from this COVID… This “definitely NOT a cold” virus…

Stay safe out there. And God Bless

… background heroes…

… always in the background

Sometimes, heroes can be someone who doesn’t rush forward into the public’s notice… someone who’s actions aren’t “big” enough to gain applause… or gratitude from others.

Sometimes… a hero’s only photo might not be front page of the newspaper..

…but rather…

… in the background of someone’s selfie…

Anyone who knows me… knows that my life’s work is helping kids. Encouraging them to be their best selves…. helping them to enjoy life… volunteering any way that I can…

Anyone who knows me… also knows that I haven’t been able to work consistently. With my son’s mood disorders, I have always needed to be available to be his support.. and his chauffeur.

Being available? It doesn’t exactly line up with being employable..

(Some of you just argued that I’m an author.. And I agree that it’s a noble and rewarding career. But there is a reason it’s called “starving artist”.. lol)

But the last few months I have had to slow down. Slowed down volunteering. Slowed down all activities…

In these slow times… I am noticing a different kind of hero.

Heroes that hang around in the background.

Heroes that don’t bring attention to themselves… that don’t post what they are doing on social media (shocking I know)…

… heroes that no one even realizes are there.

Lately, I have been seeing these heroes in the most unlikely of places.

But my favorite?

My favorite unnoticed hero is often found in the background of our family selfies. (Often with a reluctant smile on his face..)

This man has supported every club that I have started…

.. he has agreed to every scheme I come up with…

… he welcomed every extra blessing that I have brought home to live with us…

… always adjusting the budget to fit whatever way I feel our family needs …

Supporting my week long “editing marathons”…

..not grumbling (too much) when the kids’ Netflix marathon days affect his ability to work..

… dealing with our artistic “messes” …

… our cooking experiences .. (and disasters)…

… adapting to our gluten free.. dairy free.. yeast free… egg free… food restrictions… and ALL the added expense that comes with it… without batting an eye…

As a mom… I get told that I’m doing a good job all the time. As a volunteer… I get told “thanks”.

But my husband… he stands behind me .. handing me the tools I need… mentally and financially… but he doesn’t always get noticed back there…

He may not get noticed by others… but I see him.

.. and I know that I wouldn’t be able to “be Julie” without his unnoticed support behind me…

… and I don’t celebrate him enough…

So this year… while we are slowed down for a novel virus?

I’m going to be thankful for my heroes..

The Storyteller…

Time Capsule … 2011?

Every family has a storyteller.

In my husband’s family.. that person was Grandpa Bennett.

Stories being told of Uncle Loren and Uncle Erwin… two souls that I never met… But the memories would bring out a fond chuckle from Grandpa..

… and a smile from my husband.

Some of my favorite stories were ones he told of my sweet mother-in-law.

How .. as a child… she had prayed for each chicken before he “harvested” them. He would shake his head at the memory.. and joke that they never raised chickens after that.

But more than the stories he told … I loved to see the happiness in his expression.

The joy that shone from his face…

… it took your breath away.

Grandpa

Grandpa Bennett turned 98 this last March.

98 years on this earth.

Can you imagine the changes he witnessed in this world from 1922 .. until 2020? It is no wonder he had so many stories to tell.

World Wars…

Great Depressions…

Computers..

Not all of it was good… it couldn’t have been..

… yet every story I remember him telling? He would tell with a happy chuckle.

…and every person he talked to? He greeted with a smile.

This week, Grandpa Bennett lost the fight with his weak heart… and he went to be with His Lord.

He will be missed by so many.

…by so many…

The next time our family can gather..?

He won’t be sitting at the kitchen table.. He won’t greet everyone by name as we arrive..

… but he will be there.

He will be there in our hearts. Alive in the stories he told us of his childhood… and beyond…

And he will be there alive in his children and all of his grandchildren.

Because the love that Grandpa gave freely grows in his loved ones still.

And when we listen carefully?

We can still hear that joyful laugh!

Thank you Grandpa Bennett for sharing your stories with us…

… and your joy ….

.. and thank you for raising such an amazing daughter.. so that I could have an amazing second mom.

May we all follow in your footsteps…

The world I choose to live in…

The world I choose to live in? Is very big…

.. and full of love…

Over the last six years, our family has chosen to bring young people from around the world into our home, into our lives .. and into our hearts.

.. and I have loved every minute of it.

I started hosting exchange students so that I could share the country that I love with the rest of the world…

… what I got?

These beautiful souls… they gave me the world.

A big beautiful world.

But ever since January?

The world has seemed a little smaller. We have been watching as the Corona virus has edged closer.. covering distances that look so far away on the map.

Edged closer to us in the USA..

… but scary for us… closer to my adopted exchange children scattered around the globe…

My current exchange student watched as it affected her country… the beautiful Thailand.

… we watched how it affected the countries on the other side of the world, while we continued to live life … trying to enjoy every moment…

As countries started to go into lockdown, we watched Italy where one of our girl’s family lives.

.. along with the UK where she was at school. Checking in when she was trying to get back home to Italy after the flights were getting cancelled.

At the same time watching Egypt… checking in with my sweet Egyptian girl when I hadn’t heard from her in a while.

.. and South Korea… Relieved that their numbers weren’t as severe, even being close to China…

.. and Turkey… talking with my girl there as she needed to leave her college and return to her hometown. To pray as she took a long bus ride with possible sick people….

… then as it got closer to our part of the world.. I added Brazil to the countries we watched…

… and Columbia… the daughter that just went home…

… And we watched Liberia where my sister was working…

… Not to mention ALL of the pieces of my heart that live in Germany, Spain, Sweden, Belgium…

We watched as this virus shut down each state in the US… one by one. As the sick count grew.. and the deaths started to rise…

…and I could go on…

I have family around the world now…

… and a love for people and places around the world…

… a love for food from around the world….

But this virus has taught me something else…

As I watched all of my daughters talk about being quarantined.. a few saying that they can’t even STEP outside. They can’t go to the store.. or work..

All of them saying they need to stay at home.

I can see so much clearer how similar we ALL are..

We all are a little worried about the virus…

…we are ALL worried about each other….

We ALL miss our family a little bit more when we can’t see each other….

…and….

Ha… and we are all very bored and can’t wait for it to be done.

In this world that I choose to live in?

It is so easy to see how we are all in this TOGETHER…

…together in love and spirit… even if we are separated by miles and oceans…

And even though my heart hurts a little bit more today… having the pieces of my heart divided all around this big beautiful world… I am so thankful for this world that I choose to live in.

Today as I pray for my family here in my house.. my family here in Michigan.. my family around the world…. I pray they stay healthy… but I also pray that they have joy and laughter in their lives while they are quarantined…

…. and a healthy dose of patience with the world… as we ALL are trying to figure out the next step…

.. a whole new world for all of us!!!

Love from my family to yours!!!