Growing up, I was really close to my Dad. (I still am.) We talked about everything.. but I only remember him yelling at me once.
Now don’t get me wrong.. I wasn’t a perfect kid.. so there were many times that he was disappointed in me.. and many times that he corrected me.
But he only yelled at me once.
It was my senior year, and I changed my college plans at least 5 times .. and my majors even more. And when I changed to a completely different field of study, my dad told me I was going to have to make a decision. And then he said something I will never forget.. “You have so many interests that you divide your energy too many ways.. and you will NEVER succeed at any of them.”
Wow did that hurt…
At the time? Yeah.. at the time I was mad .. and hurt. I mean why would he say something so hurtful. “..NEVER succeed..?”
Well?? I see what my dad was talking about …now…
I have always had a lot of interests. And I mean.. A LOT!! I volunteer for everything… and I never ask anyone to do something I could do myself..
I get really tired.
These days, I call these interests my “hats”..
There is my Mom Hat.. the one I wear whenever my kids are my biggest priority.. Chaperoning, rides to school, panicked calls from college kids, help with homework.. baking cookies…
I have 2 kids of my own.. and I have had 4 exchange students call me “Mom”… the most amazing of all my interests! These kids amaze me.
My Wife Hat.. (kinda self explanatory)
The Aunt Hat.. closely related to the Mom Hat.. the Aunt Hat is a nurturing Hat but in a fun way. These 17 nieces and nephews are blessings to my life .. and I love to put my Aunt Hat on and invite them all over for Cousin weekends. Hide and seek in the dark, swimming at midnight, shaving cream paintings, watching movies until dawn.. I wouldn’t miss this..
House Elf Hat.. All things having to do with the house.. There is the typical cleaning.. then canning veggies… making jams.. baking bread… caring for the birds.. gathering the eggs .. haircuts.. pool cleaning.. it seems like the House Elf Hat is always on..
Then there is my Author Hat, my Director Hat, my Exchange Student Coordinator Hat, my International Club Hat, and my Substitute teacher Hat.. my Research Hat.. OH .. and My Creative Hat..
I could go on and on..
And I realized my dad was right..
I am not really a success at any of them. I do not focus ALL my energy in any ONE direction.. and as a result everything is mediocre.
So this LAST year?
I tried to put some Hats away.. I put my Author Hat away during Musical season… I put my Director Hat away during off seasons.. I don’t take the Substitute teacher Hat home with me. I don’t even think about my Creative Hat .. most of the time..
But still I find myself not giving my “all” to the things that are important.. because my interests are still divided ..
So I am going to take this next year to put away Hats I can’t wear anymore.. and it will be hard (because I love ALL the jobs I do)..
…but if I want to make a difference in the world?? (And I know I do..)
FIRST? First we woke up late because we all slept through our alarms (hey… it was a great dream) … I barely made myself look presentable for public.. then we all rushed through our morning.. I made a boring lunch for Sy.. rushed everyone out the door and then a bus was parked at the entrance of the school..
And SIMON WENT to school…
Like he physically (and calmly.. I might add) walked IN TO the school with not more than a cross look at the bus in our way (that he deems a “muddy mudslide” that’s in our way)..
Some of you may wonder if I am serious to be celebrating such a “terrible” “mom” moment..?? HaPpY we overslept and I took my kids to school late?
I AM serious..
This is amazing!!!!
When Simon’s Autism was at its worst and his mood disorder was unstable? Everything had to stay on schedule .. and nothing could be out of order.. or he wouldn’t (couldn’t) have gone to school..
Maybe tomorrow he will let me stop and take a picture of the sun peaking through the fog on my favorite road.. lol..
A million years ago.. ok.. it was more like 7 years ago.. I stood on my own doorstep letting the tears run down my face..
Someone had asked me how my son’s appointment had gone for his legs..
..it had NOT gone well.. not even close to well… and I could no longer hold my fears in.. or my sorrow ..
I am a crier.. I am not a loud crier .. ha.. but neither am I a pretty crier .. I do think that I have cried enough tears (in my lifetime) to fill Lake Michigan. Tears of disappointment, tears of sadness.. tear of joy .. and worry.. and often anger..
But in that moment?
In that moment.. I felt so many emotions I couldn’t sort them out.
Well.. what I thought were simple growing pains for my son? Those pains weren’t simple.. and my son needed an emergency surgery. The appointment that I had put off because it wasn’t convenient for my schedule? Putting it off those few days had caused my son to be in prolonged pain..
My 10 year old son’s growth plates were too soft to hold up his weight.. he would need a screw to hold that growth plate in place if he wanted to walk..
.. and me? I had been too busy trying to balance everything in my hectic life to notice…
.. so in that moment?
In that moment.. as I let the tears pour down my cheeks..?
I was so angry .. angry at myself for not seeing how much pain he was in (even if he didn’t complain).. I was so angry that I hadn’t made it a big deal about it when I called the doc for an appointment.. I was so angry that the surgery was going to cause him pain..
.. I was worried because.. well? ..worried because it was a surgery.. and worried because my son did not do well with hospitals …
.. disappointed because nothing in his short life had gone easy ..
.. and .. I was sad…
I was always strong.. I always carried my Faith in God’s plan like a Shield.. I always smiled through my tears .. always cheering others on ..
..but in that moment?
I couldn’t breathe.. I was broken..
..but on the other side of those tears? I picked myself up and trudged through the unknown territory that God had planned for me..for my son.. for our whole family..
I have often heard people say that “God will not give you more than you can handle”… I would often laugh and reply that I wish God didn’t have so much faith in me..
..but I think that statement is a lie…
I think that God absolutely gives us more than we can handle.. but NEVER more than we can handle WITH HIS Strength ..
With God .. All Things are Possible..
.. even with my great Faith in my Heavenly Father.. I often find myself thinking I can plow through problems with my own strength.. I find myself not wanting to trouble God with my “little” problems because of all of the BIG problems that deserve His attention MORE than mine do..
..sometimes it takes me falling to my knees in tears .. sometimes it takes me feeling broken and alone… sometimes it takes “too much” .. to show me that I can’t do it on my own..
.. and then?
Then God fills me with His Strength and His Love.. and All the things I have to do? They all become possible..
Parenting any child can be a maze of interesting (and sometimes painful) trials and experiences. Having more than 1 kid means you travel more than 1 parenting maze.. at the same time..
My two kids have carefully molded me into a strong, resourceful, patient adult..
Ha!! By testing every boundaries, terrible reactions to getting their blood taken, sleep walking, night terrors, wondering off in stores, tantrums, illnesses, sassy natures, emergency hip surgeries.. and medical conditions.
By some miracle? My kids and I have survived this thing called childhood and we are ALL doing great..
It’s funny to me that people automatically assume that I had more trials with my Son with special needs then my “typically developing” daughter… Ha.. I have so many funny stories of my daughter testing every rule.. creating and recreating parenting techniques to guide her independent and …spirited .. personality into being successful.. and the awful (often hilarious) situations she got herself into..
In fact.. I often tell people that both my kids (and all kids .. in their way) .. have special needs.. Each child with their own super power.. and each child with their weaknesses.. some “special” Need that we have to pay special attention to..
The “great” thing about my daughter is that she showed off her super powers to the community.. and saved her weaknesses for home.. Ha.. How many times I heard a teacher say, “Your daughter is so responsible and organized.. and so polite all the time..”? Too many to count.. Then she saved her stubborn pride, her unbending determination for us at home. (Sigh)
Years later? We look back and laugh.. Man do I love that girl.. and what a successful adult she is turning out to be..
But with Autism? You can’t hide those “Special needs” ..and you can’t save them for home..
Traditionally the symbol for Autism is a puzzle piece.. because it is a puzzle trying to figure out what causes the symptoms.. a puzzle on how to get through the walls.. how to help them.. how to push them to be a success..
I agree with the puzzle symbol because I have done 16 years of research to figure out how to help my boy with his roadblocks.
But now that we have overcame the most difficult of these roadblocks..? Now that we have solved the mysteries of vitamin deficiencies and self stimulating behaviors..? Now that we have come back from the abyss of aggression and irritability??
Now that I just have my son back?
I realize that my symbol for Autism is a little different than just a “puzzle” piece.
When you see a sunrise coming up behind the trees? It can be a little frustrating because the trees are blocking out the light.. blocking out the beauty of the sunrise on the horizon..
But I love to see the sun peaking through the trees..
To me? To me the sun peaking through the darkness gives us the promise of better things… Hope for tomorrow .. a peak at what’s behind the shadows..
This is my symbol for Autism.. the sun peaking through the darkness..
When my son’s Vitamin deficiencies reached their lowest levels? The light in his eyes all but disappeared. He was malnourished (even though he ate enough to keep an army alive), he was unhealthy (despite the best medical attention).. and he was so miserable. He couldn’t focus, he could no longer make eye contact, he was aggressive and you couldn’t have a conversation with him.
But in the midst of a storm of emotions?
The rage would pull back.. the curtains would lift from his eyes.. and all of the sudden? All of the sudden the sun would shine from his eyes.. and I could see my boy again.
I could see that he was still in there.
He was still there.. Shining from behind the shadows of Autism..
and it was THAT sunlight that kept me going.. The hope that kept me pushing on..
Now that we solved so many puzzles, we get to see his sun shining every day.
There are days like yesterday, where his sun disappeared behind a clump of trees.. a little grumpy.. a little stubborn.. and a lot frustrated..
.. and I found myself annoyed.. annoyed because it was bad timing.. Bad timing for me..
But when I took a step back.. and took a few deep breaths.. (..ok.. ok.. a LOT of deep breaths)… ? I could still see his light begging to get out from behind that frustration..
So to me? Autism is so much more than a puzzle..
.. it’s a light.. that insists on shining through the darkness..
The number one reason people give for NOT hosting an exchange student? It’s that the “good byes” would be too hard in the end..
..and today I would agree..
..the good-byes when I send home an exchange daughter are hard..
But the alternative would be hard as well..
In order for me to never hurt.. in order for me to never cry.. never hesitate.. or miss someone?
I would have to NEVER grow close to any one .. not a pet.. not a child .. and not an exchange student..
I would have to NOT live..
…and BOY have we lived..
Today my 3rd exchange daughter carried her luggage out of my house and loaded it into her mother’s rental car..
A year’s worth of memories and living were packed into those suitcases.. A year’s worth of holiday gifts and souvenirs… and some chocolate covered pretzels too..
..but what weighs more than those suitcase?
The love that we shared over the last year.. the laughter … the inside jokes.. the memories.. the songs we sang in the car.. the movies we watched.. the hugs.. and the tears we shared..
I can’t say that I would give back that “living”.. just to save a few tears .. (ok.. a LOT of tears)…
I thought about that as I watched the sunrise this morning…
..sometimes we only appreciate how beautiful the day was as we watch the sun set at night.. and sometimes we are sad to see it end..
Then if we watch carefully (and get up early enough).. we can watch the sun RISE on a new day.. a day full of promise and full of new possibilities..
So today as the “sun sets” on the time my exchange daughter stayed in my home.. I am a little sad that it’s over.. and I am spilling more than a few tears remembering how much we have lived this year..
..my cup runneth over tonight..
..but tomorrow morning?
Tomorrow a new day will dawn. A new chapter with my borrowed daughter.. a new life where we exchange pictures and video calls.. and ridiculous snapchats… where we continue to share in each other’s joys and sorrows.. and plan visits.. and I think that day will be just as beautiful (in its own way)..
So tonight I will enjoy my beautiful sunset.. with a few tears of love..
I loved my “day” with you here Bea.. can’t wait to spend tomorrow with you..
Our lives are made.. in these small hours.. these little wonders.. these twists and turns of fate.. time falls away.. but these small hours.. these small hours .. still remain..
Our family is a very busy family..
We are involved in Theater and Choir at school.. the international students .. Dance.. trombone lessons… cheerleading for a time.. and a big BIG family…
We don’t really end up with a lot of free time ..
But we DO have such wonderful times together.. in those minutes between activities.. our little conversations in the early mornings (before coffee has kicked in)… the conversations in the hall after school before theater rehearsal starts.. our conversations around the dinner table.. my kids jumping in the car to keep me company on the way to errands and meetings.. board games.. and sappy Christmas movies.. funny Snapchat videos.. and quick hugs between activities.. quick chats before bed.. phone calls from college between classes ..
“Our lives are made in these small hours”.. these short moments.. the moments with my college girl.. my daughters across the sea.. my 2 exchange daughters.. my son .. the happy moments.. the sad.. the stressed .. the relaxed.. the laughter.. the love.. the heartaches…
…these are the little wonders of my life…
This week as we prepare to send another “exchange” daughter home .. home to her family.. we are overwhelmed with these little wonders.. the moments that have made up our lives over the last year.. the memories we have stored up…
Our hearts are full..
Love you Bea!!
I am so thankful for all the “small hours” with you.. and with Sabrina, Simon, Mariam, Olimpia, and Basak…
As I tried to find the perfect 500 word excerpt from Shadows this morning, I consulted my daughters… They quickly listed off a couple samples.. but I still couldn’t decide…
So I thought I would ask you..
Which section would make YOU more likely to download a copy of Shadows?
!The first Sample!
“I can’t believe my luck. Sure was happy to see ya walk past my horse. I was jest leavin’ town myself. Now I can escort ya home,” the stranger continued happily.
“You’ll hafta excuse me, sir, I must be hurryin’. My Da will be expectin’ me ta have dinner ready soon,” Emma stated.
“Well then, we musn’t keep him waitin’,” he replied. There was a chuckle behind her. The fair haired gentleman smiled in response to his friend’s laughter. “I’ll come along with ya. Ya can introduce me, so I can git permission ta call on ya. Official like. We can git our courtin’ started today.”
“I believe ya misunderstood me, sir,” Emma replied appalled.
“Misunderstood? Na, I think not. I see that ya waited fer me outside of town, so that we could walk together without all those busybodies watchin’ us and interuptin’.” Smiling, the man reached for her arm. Emma stepped back and bumped into the horse behind her. Feeling panic well up within her, she looked around for help and was amazed to see a pair of stormy eyes walking towards her.
From behind, Emma heard the man on the horse cleared his throat in warning. The fair haired gentleman stiffened in irritation as he turned towards the approaching man, demanding, “What do ya want now?”
Emma could not take her eyes off the approaching help, even though she knew it was rude to stare. The gray eyed man did not look away from her as he answered, “When this young lady fergot ta bring me my coffee before she left town, I started in ta worryin’.”
Looking down into her basket, Emma realized that she had indeed purchased the tin of coffee the man had intended only as a distraction. “I fergot,” she said weakly, trying to figure out why he would want the coffee she accidentally purchased.
Coming to stop a few steps from Emma, the gray eyed man smiled at her. “Ya steal a man’s heart and then ya steal his coffee, darlin’?” He winked at her. “Ya go too far.” The smile that touched his mouth, did not reach his stormy eyes. They tried to convey a meaning to her. A meaning that Emma could not quite grasp. “Ya shoulda waited fer me ta walk with ya. I’ve been wantin’ ta speak with yer Pa,” he paused briefly before continuing, “before the weddin’.”
Gasping as his plan dawned on her, Emma ducked around the fair haired gentleman and reached for her rescuer’s arm. He weaved her hand around his tense elbow and held it there. Wanting to look convincing in her new role, she desperately tried to remember how Abigail had looked at her David all those months while they were courting. Opening her eyes wide, she batted her eyelashes. “Oh do forgive me darling,” she said, attempting to mimic Abigail’s sugary tone. She hoped no one would notice how her voice quivered.
!!The second Sample!!
By the time she walked back from the field and made it to the hill by the creek, she had convinced herself that Thane would have left by now. When she arrived, it was indeed vacant. Emma sat down in disappointment, but intent on looking carefree. “Well Mama, it looks as if I brought ya a sandwich.”
“Ya’ve already given my sandwich away?” asked a voice that made her jump guiltily.
“Ah—No, of course not,” Emma replied, willing her heart to slow down. “But I almost dropped it in the water, ya scared me so,” she scolded. Thane sat down a couple paces from Emma. She handed him a sandwich, wrapped in a towel.
Thane took a bite of the sandwich. Looking thoughtful, he asked, “Ya gonna introduce me ta yer Mama?”
Emma looked up at him. She couldn’t decide if he was making fun of her. Finding no hint of teasing in his face, she replied, “Mr. Hawkins meet my Mama, Lilliana Wells. Lily, to those that loved her. Mama, this is Mr. Hawkins.. He’s taken ta savin’ me lately. Even promised ta marry me ta protect me from an ugly mess,” she ended with a smile.
“Pleasure ta meet ya ma’am. Please call me Thane.”
“Mama wants ta know where ya come from that we shouldna know ya already? We thought we knew everyone here in the valley,” Emma asked innocently.
“Well ma’am, I live in those hills,” nodding his head across the creek, “tucked in a valley. I come this way a couple times a year but spend most my time on the trail huntin’ and trappin’.”
“So yer a trapper?” Emma asked between bites.
“Call me Emma –,” she reminded him.
“Beggin yer pardon, ma’am, I thought I was talkin’ ta yer Mama,” he said with a lopsided smile.
She chose to ignore his teasing and looked toward the hills.
“Yer mama seems ta belong in this spot,” Thane observed.
“She does,” she stated simply. “A fever took her and my baby sister ta heaven a few years back.” Her final words were barely above a whisper.
“I’m sorry,” Thane said softly.
Emma blinked back a tear before she looked at him.
“Where is yer sister’s stone?” he asked.
“Isn’t one. She was so small, I couldna bear fer her ta be put by herself. Mama had wanted her so. And Da– well he couldna bear ta name her. So she sleeps in Mama’s arms, here in Mama’s favorite spot.” She waved her arm to indicate the hill top overlooking the little creek. “Da brought this rock here. When he dug it up outta the cornfield – he decided ta roll it here so Mama wouldna have grass stains on all her skirts. She always was sittin’ in the grass. She tried ta make them stop before they hurt themselves. But Da had jest teased how “embarrassed” he was ta have a wife with green dresses. She finally relented then …but wouldna come down here fer weeks,” Emma laughed sadly. “But when she did, she sat on the rock.” She paused, remembering. “She kept one skirt with an especially bad grass mark though. She hung it right in their room. It’s hangin’ there still. Da won’t even let me wash it.” She didn’t notice the tears on her cheeks until Thane handed her his towel.
“What about yer Ma?” Emma asked, trying to lighten the mood as she dried her cheeks. “Will I know her if she’s in town? Or will I have ta wait `til the weddin’?”
Thane looked back towards the hills. “Awhile beyond that, I expect,” he answered softly. “My Ma died when I was young. We went out trappin’ and when we returned.. she was gone.”
“Oh,” Emma replied, not knowing what to say. “How old were ya?”
“Not sure really. Probably 9 winters ago.”
“Ya don’t know how old ya are?” Emma asked incredulously.
Thane shrugged his shoulders. “Pa doesn’t keep track of such things-says they’re nonsense. I stopped askin’.”
Wiping her eyes again, she cleared her throat. “Maybe we should jest start plannin’ our weddin’ before I start cryin’ again.”
**Please Vote in the comments below**
… if you haven’t downloaded Shadows yet.. you should… It’s a bargain at 99 cents..
A year ago, I was so proud because my first novel, Shadows, was finally published and was LIVE for sales.. At the time, I thought that the long road to publishing was finally over..
Man was I naive..
Publishing is just the first leg of the journey for book writing. Then comes marketing.. And getting reviews.. And recognition..
But it is rewarding too..
When Shadows placed as a Finalist in 2 categories of the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.. I was so happy.. (Yup.. I cried)…
As I move into my second year of marketing for Shadows.. And finishing up the sequel (Road Home).. I am looking for feedback..
.. In the comment section below, tell me what you think stands out about Shadows.. What you think of the cover.. Positives or negatives.. As long as your comments are constructive, then they will be helpful!
If you would like to get a free copy of Shadows in return for an honest review.. Send me an email..
If you haven’t read Shadows and would like to.. Click below!!
I always tell people that you can’t write about life .. if you aren’t out there living it. So I am out there.. living life. But life isn’t just exploring, meeting new people, learning, having a good time, and laughing. Sometimes it is fixing things, moving households, comforting loved ones and saying good-bye. But I wouldn’t give up the “good” living to avoid the “sad”.
In fact… If my life was a cup? It would overflow frequently with all sorts of emotions.. all sorts of activities.. all forms of life…
For the last couple months, my cup has indeed been very full. My “living” consisted of hard work and a busy schedule as we prepared to perform Seussical the Musical at our High School.. During this time, my daughter found that Dr. Seuss must have agreed with our family’s philosophy.. because she found this among his many famous quotes…
“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss
But sometimes I cram too much living into a small amount of time.. Or Life comes crashing into my schedule and overwhelms it. This month? My cup was definitely running over with Life. As much as I tried to stay organized.. YES you guessed it.. IF you came to my house during the Seussical shows, you would have found piles.. Sewing piles.. laundry piles.. paperwork piles… Chaos! All organized chaos.. but chaos just the same.
As Christians, we constantly tell ourselves and remind others that God only gives us what we can handle. Sometimes we wear it like a badge.. sometimes I use it as a cattle prod.. (to get myself out of good book… Or out of bed… or to leave that glorious sunshine.. to get back to work)… but sometimes I think we get stuck on “accepting” God’s Will for us.. Kind of like a “stop your whining” reminder.. I find myself forgetting that God sent a model for us when our Life Cup floweth over.
God sent us Jesus to model for us what He expects… When Jesus was not looking forward to the hard work that His Father had set before Him? Jesus was overwhelmed!! Jesus knelt in prayer and cried out to His Heavenly Father…
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42 NIV
This was not Jesus whining about hard work.. or whining because He knew He was about to die for our sins. No. This was Jesus being overwhelmed with the task before Him. What does this mean? This means that God says He will understand if we need to tell Him we are overwhelmed. God is giving us PERMISSION to ASK if a task can be taken away. We can ASK if He will heal a loved one.. we can ASK if He can change the Path before us.. The answer might be “No”… but it is okay to ask..
Then God shows us that He expects us to accept his Will.. accept his decision in all things. “Your will, not mine.”
God ALSO shows us through His Son that He doesn’t expect us to be strong all the time.. He expects us to fall apart when our cup runneth over with Life.. Then we have to rise.. brush off our knees.. and get back to Living..
How? You ask. How do we know for sure?
“Jesus wept.” John 11:35
Jesus wept when He found that He was too late and His friend had died.. Jesus was so overwhelmed.. His cup of emotions ran right over the top… And He gave into His tears.
This week should have been a relaxing week for me.. Our production was over.. the set cleared away… the stage clean.. Yet my calendar filled to the absolute brim.. My Life Cup filled with Activities.. Good activities… fun activities.. but definitely too many.
And then my mom called.
It seems that God called one of His children home to Him this week. While my uncle was in India.. visiting his grandson.. he had a heart attack and passed away. Now.. I imagine my uncle was one of God’s favorite children… Because he is an amazing man.. and I can imagine God couldn’t possibly wait any longer to call him home…
..still… My Uncle will be greatly missed until we see him again in Heaven.. I can see my uncle standing at the pearly gates.. inviting me in with that Great Smile of his… inviting me to stay at his mansion until mine is ready to go.. and especially offering to help me explore those streets of gold..
Today I think God will understand if my cup runneth over.. and I think God will understand if I ask that my aunt and my cousins have their cup of sadness taken from their lips… I think He’ll understand if I ask Him to pour some of those emotions into my cup.. as full as it is.. so that I might share this heavy task with them.
..but as always.. it is His will.. and not mine..
Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.