Tag Archives: Life

…still warm…

Coffee in hand, I headed to my couch this morning.

The sun shone through the window and illuminated my favorite spot.

The pillow was still crinkled. The blanket was still rumpled.

In fact, it looked as if someone just got up from this spot.

It looked like it was still warm.

Instead of sitting on the couch? I sank onto the coffee table.

Too often in our lives… we take fore granted the people that sit on our couches. We expect to see our loved ones sitting in their favorite places.. forever..

.. because they are always there…

Earlier this week? A man in our community died suddenly.

One minute? He was where he always was. Running his boys to practices, helping out in the community where he was needed, calling his wife…

.. he was where he always was..

.. and now?

Now there is an empty couch cushion that is still crumpled. Like he just got up for a moment and walked from the room..

.. like he would be right back.

His spot in this world still warm.

For awhile that spot is going to feel so empty for his kids.. for his wife…

And not just the spot on the couch.

There will be an empty place in the bleachers.. an empty place in the church pew.. and empty place in the car for road trips.

.. so many empty spaces…

But the truth is?

This Dad’s presence was so strong in his family..

.. so strong in his community…

He left his presence so strong.. that those places are still warm.

And they will stay warm.

His time here was shorter than he would have wished. But he made good use of that time.

Once the pain and shock has worn off?

Once the grief starts to lessen .. a little?

We realize those empty places .. are not really empty at all. The spirit of our loved ones stay with us and occupy those seats still.

And if we keep the memories of their spirit alive?

Then the spaces will still be warm..

.. decades of work..

My son turned 20 today.

My baby boy.

My little man with autism and a side of mood disorder…

..is 2 decades old.

When I look at him it seems like yesterday that I started researching digestive disorders while my family .. slept.

It seems like just yesterday that I read every book on parenting kids with Autism.. and every book on Childhood Bipolar.. Reading 4 inch books on the “science of the chemistry of the mind”.. while my friends read a funny romance.

It seems like yesterday when I questioned whether I was doing a good enough job … with tears running down my face.

And I can remember it clearly when Simon leaned his head on my shoulder and said “With God, all things are possible.”

How is it possible that this young man has come so far?

No longer a boy that is silent.

No longer a boy that hides his face in my shoulder.

No longer a boy who watches from the doorway.

Here stands a boy that walks confidently through doors. A boy that sings in front of a whole auditorium of people.

Here stands a boy who easily orders his own food at a restaurant.

Here is a boy .. who amazes me in every way.

Two decades of work have flown by…

… I can’t wait to see where the next 2 decades take him …

Self …

Last night.. a mom hurried onto the stage. It was late and she looked exhausted. But she took off her jacket and rolled up her sleeves and asked what she could do to help.

In that moment, I had a moment of clarity.

This mom was tired. She had just come from a commitment that involved small children .. and it was 8 pm. She really needed to go home and rest.

But yet?

She was ready to work to help the kids’ theatre stay on schedule …

Who was I to tell her to go home and take care of herself?

How could I tell her that when I can’t say ”no” to anything.

I can’t say “no”…

Anyone who knows me.. Knows that..

And when I get tired? Really, really tired?

.. my friends? They try to coach me ((once again)) on how to say “no”..

They tell me to spend some time on myself. To selfishly take care of myself for a few moment..

But that is not how I work.. I am the happiest when I am helping others.. when I am working towards making the world a better place for others..

..there are definitely days that are more full and more tired than others.. but I manage..

Even society tells us that good moms .. and especially moms with special needs kids.. need to be involved.. really involved..

AND .. every moment counts because they grow up so fast..

So I skip a calm moment for myself this time.. so that I can do one more task for someone else.

I skip all those moments for myself.. until I’m exhausted and my head is full of noises.

Julie noises..

.. wanting to write.. wanting to paint.. wanting to read.. desires to explore the world around me.. to create .. to write some more…

.. so many voices…

But there are things to be done.. responsible things..

Committees that ask for help.. chores that need to be done.. messes …

So I put my “noises” on the back burner.. and square my shoulders and head off to a meeting..

For holidays this year, I received 2 willow figurines as gifts.. I love Willow figurines and these both were beautiful as usual.

And they were to represent me..

The first .. Simple Joys.. represents my love to give things to others.. gifts of time, gifts of work, gifts of love.. all of the best of me..

This Simple Joy figurine? .. it very much represents the essence of me..

But the second?

The second was a gift from my daughter.. it is titled Shine..

Shine..

.. my daughter .. encouraging me to reach for my dreams.. to take time for myself..

..my daughter… the one I encouraged to always shine for herself.. now turning my words back to me..

.. giving me permission to think about my own needs…

But it feels so .. selfish.. to think of yourself ..

It seems selfish to take time away from making the world a better place.. take time away from helping others…

… just to write my thoughts down on paper…

Balance ..

Looking at these 2 figurines.. I realize I need balance…

Looking at the tired mom standing before me last night?

I realize we all need to find balance..

Balances between being selfless and being selfish..

… a balance somewhere between simple joys and shining

.. the balance between the selfless and the selfish is where we will find our true self…

.. and then all that remains?

It’s to give ourselves permission to accept it.

Heroes

Some people look at my son .. and see a disability.

They look at his face and his mannerisms.. and they see Autism Spectrum disorder!

When I look at my son?

I see a strong boy. I see love, compassion and a love for our world.

When I look at my son? I see my hero.

Here is a human being that has been dealing with extreme medical issues since he was 6 weeks old.

A boy that had to have casts to hold soft bones in place. Screws to hold soft joints in place. Medicine to allow stiff joints to move.

Here is a child who learned to read labels to avoid 30 of his favorite foods.. because he wanted to walk without pain.

Here is a young adult who is enduring countless treatments to heal a painful skin condition.

Here is a boy who has always been in pain.

And yet?

…yet he greets people with a smile. He never mentions his pain. He will walk on painful feet to cook for his sick mom. He sees beauty and art all around him…

.. and he sees his future as bright and exciting…

He is in constant pain…

And he sees his future as bright and exciting…

When I look at my son?

I see my hero!

And when I grow up? I hope to be just like him.

Beautiful encounters ..

Yesterday I went to my great aunt Shirley’s funeral.. and today we are off to celebrate the life of my husband’s cousin’s husband’s father.

I know.. I know.. it sounds like the plot line of a sitcom … but as an author?

I don’t think I could make up souls as beautiful as these.

I bet you all believe me that my great aunt touched my life..

.. but I also bet that your eyes keep drifting back to the line my husband’s cousin’s husband’s father in doubt..

Well I’ll admit that I didn’t know a lot about this man’s past.. and he was very likely not perfect. None of us are.

So if I didn’t know him well … why do I want to take time to celebrate Mick’s life?

When I saw this man at a family function? There were always a lot of people around. Family and friends gathered around having a good time. People he knew really well. Yet he walked around and had great conversations with everyone there..

He even made time for his son’s wife’s cousin’s wife..

.. even though he wouldn’t have needed to..

He always asked about how my kids were doing and how I was doing.. listening closely to what I answered. He always listened so carefully. He had this way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the room to him at that moment.

I spoke to Mick a couple weeks ago .. as we celebrated an auntie’s life. He told me about some of his medical conditions and told me about the miraculous way he pulled through them.

Not bragging..

Mick explained how Blessed he was for every moment he had on this Earth with his family .. and that he would only admit defeat when God told him he was done. Not anyone else.

He used that story to encourage me to keep reaching for the stars for my son. To not listen to anyone who said I should accept limitations.. until I saw the limits myself.

He always ended our conversations with a hug. He always told me to let him know if I needed anything because that was what family was for..

Family..

His son’s wife’s cousin’s wife…

Family.

Watching Mick walk away that last time reminds me of a beautiful butterfly I saw this summer. It landed next to me on my truck. And sat there forever allowing me to enjoy its colors and take pictures of it. The miracle of something so beautiful is so much better than anything found in fiction.

And then?

Then the butterfly took flight .. off to brighten someone else’s day.

Leaving me to feel so Blessed at that Beautiful encounter.

I am so thankful for every single beautiful encounter I had with my husband’s cousin’s husband’s dad.

.. and that is why I am going to celebrate his life today.

.. the best gift..

Last night we sat in the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree during the last moments of New Year’s Day. The last moments of the holiday week.

Knowing that I should be a responsible human this week and take down my Christmas decorations, I sat back and enjoyed the beautiful glow while I still could.

Looking off to my left, I saw the cat peacefully slumped on his perch.. also staring at the tree. The writer part of my brain instantly started a narrative… A story of how this cat was sad to see the holiday season over. How all the work to make the holiday special.. made the next few weeks seem empty and hollow. Depressed at having to return to his work schedule..

Ha.. this particular cat was only exhausted because he had used all his ninja skills to evade the preschool age kids who just wanted to “love” on him.

… and his only longing glances at the tree? Involved wondering if he would be left alone with the tree long enough to make it to the top before I called his name.

I think everyone deals with holiday “hangover” emotions as their holiday week comes to an end. Whether it is exhaustion because they worked too hard .. worked at keeping up with the messes.. or keeping up with the activities.. or exhaustion from socializing. Or frustration because the holidays weren’t as magical or as smooth as they imagined.

Sometimes that emotion is reigning in the peace gained on vacation.. steeling yourself for returning to work. Or being lost with no holidays to look forward to …

HA!

… and I know there are a lot of people who are looking forward to the peace that a “break” in the holidays with give them. Looking forward to the stability of getting back to a normal schedule.

As I watch Miracle Max give a yawn before stalking off to the kitchen to see what holiday treats were left on the counter… I think about what emotions I am recovering from.

Over the seasons in my life, I have been the over achiever mom (where we did EVERY holiday tradition we could think of).. the crafting mom (where we made so many crafts and cookies)… the exhausted mom (where we did .. almost nothing).. the sick mom (where I wanted to be more but we were stuck in quarantine)… the responsible mom (where I was trying to see if schedules would help keep our “special needs” in control).. the budget mom (yeah.. well..)…

At the close of each of those seasons? I sat just like I am now.. looking at the tree. First running through the memories of the last weeks. Then carefully thinking about what worked well and what didn’t. Making mental notes on what to take with me into next season.

The 2018 season of life was a good mix. We prepared and then rested.

We worked hard to clean up for family events.. and then relaxed into enjoying them.

We crafted gluten free treats and homemade gifts.. then we sat by to watch others enjoy them.

We worked and planned and decorated.. then played games and watched Christmas movies together..

We had big family gatherings where we had loud noisy fun…  then enjoyed quiet discussions over coffee..

Holidays are more than the magic of a full stocking on Christmas morning .. more than lights and decorations.. and even more than the extra calories in the Christmas treats..

.. and I have learned to celebrate family all year long.. so Christmas isn’t the only time to do that..

What I will take with me into this next season?

Balance…

The balance that we learn during the holidays? I want that balance for all year long.

I love to celebrate family… I love to find joy in each season.. I love to find small things to look forward to… to share gifts of the heart.. to follow passion and dreams..

Those gifts I have already learned..

.. but I don’t always remember to relax into enjoying … often forgetting to enjoy the lights and the quiet of each season .. or remembering to rest..

So the gift of this season for me is finding Balance.

What gift did you unwrap this Christmas?

Good bye 2018..

This year..?

This year had its fair share of sorrows.

Well .. more than its fair share really..

Hard decisions… overly full schedules.. sick family members… missing family members … hospital stays… guardianship paperwork… disappointments… extra expenses… broken appliances…

…family members who won’t move into 2019 with us…

… and I didn’t quite finish writing the sequel in my book series like I promised myself.

To many people my year would look like a disaster.

But there were also moments that shined brightly. Laughing with my kids… watching my daughter shine on stage … watching my son gain confidence.. dancing in the waves at sunset… directing 2 great casts to showcase their talents.. a fabulous family vacation or 2… finished projects.. watching my nieces and nephews grow into amazing souls..

Our moments are NOT confined to the years that they occurred in..

I will still miss loved ones tomorrow.. that doesn’t stop today.. with the end of 2018..

We will still be figuring out my son’s future plans tomorrow .. that won’t be confined to this year..

My unfinished book.. will still be waiting to be finished in 2019…

Soo?

…if our moments aren’t confined to the year.. why should the year be defined by them?

The moments in 2018 weren’t completely bad. I got to have one last sweet hug from our Auntie.. I sat and talked to a wonderful man for a long time.. not knowing it would be the last time I talked to him. But it was beautiful.

I could go on and on..

My 2018 won’t be defined by the good and the bad … the easy and the hard… the wonderful people who lifted me up .. the people I helped in return.. the finished and the unfinished..

The end of 2018.

The end of the year is just a moment in time for us to pause and take stock of our lives…

A moment to decide if you like where you are headed.. a moment to decide if you need to adjust your direction before we take that next step..

Then we step into 2019.. and just keep moving forward..

…storms in life..

img_2512Sometimes after a storm, I walk through my yard just to see what blew in. My favorite finds are nests. I find them fascinating!

So intricate.. so beautiful…

.. but when there are eggshells still in the nests.. I remember that what I find fascinating? It’s what’s left of a creature’s home.

This summer I found many nests blown down.. it was hot and dry.. and very windy here in Central Michigan..

.. but I also made a different find!! I found a nest in my Locust tree. High above my head.. on a solid branch.. a solid built nest. It wasn’t as delicate as some of the beautiful nests I had found .. and definitely NOT as pretty..

… and on the backside I found some creepy critters..

.. but it withstood storm after storm… In fact, I found myself checking in with it every day. Well.. at least until my life got busy again..

This morning, I sat and watch news footage of the hurricane destruction in Florida.

So sad.

Putting my phone away… I walked out to feed my chickens, and once again checked in on my nest.

As the wind whipped around me.. I looked up into that tree.. with its branches bending dramatically…

.. and in the middle of the storm.. this nest still held firm.

The tree has fewer leaves now.. and the ones remaining have changed colors.. the feathers have blown away.. and the sunlight isn’t as bright..

..but this nest is still there…

Most of us don’t experience storms like Hurricane Michael.. or Florence.. we don’t see storm surges and wind speeds over 100 mph… we don’t see our houses blown down ..  homes destroyed…

…but we all experience storms in life…

Parenting itself is a storm at times..

.. then add in special needs storms.. a new diagnosis… health issues.. emergency surgeries.. medicine changes.. family emergencies… conflicts in our world.. death of a loved one.. financial strain…

..yes…

…we all have storms..

I have had storms…

…many… many storms..

Today? As I stood there in the wind.. I thought about my nest…

.. my home.. my life…

Some people think that our nests are in a specific location.. some people think our homes need to be beautiful.. most people think our lives shouldn’t have creepy critters in them…

My nest isn’t a place … I have moved too many times…

My home isn’t perfectly beautiful.. we are too busy living life in it…

.. and the people in my life aren’t perfect .. but neither am I..

… but when a storm blows through my life? Will the life that I have built withstand the winds?

Or will I be blown out of that tree.. and into God’s lawn?

.. Will God pick my life up out of debris? Pick off a creepy critter… or two? Will God have to put me back in my tree? Will He move me to a safer tree? Will He put me right back into the storm?

I have fallen in storms…

I have broken down in tears…

I have asked God to put me a different tree…

I have asked Him to take away my storms…

… but I have weathered a lot of storms firmly rooted to my branch…

.. I have come through storms looking for rainbows on the other side…

.. I have formed bonds inside those storms…

… and found happiness.

I will always continue to look for ways to improve my life and make it more storm proof. … But I like the nest I have built…

So today..??

Today.. as the trees bend and twist in the wind… take a look at your nest and consider…

…how will you withstand the storm?

Marinade…

I love to make my own homemade soaps and scrubs… but sometimes?

Sometimes the writer in me comes out.. and my imagination gets the best of me..

… rosemary… thyme.. holy basil… lime…

… wild orange peel…

.. ALL in a coconut oil base…

Let’s face it.. it’s practically a marinade…

If Earth is invaded by predators or aliens? Would they think that I’ve already been marinaded in advance?

Will their mouths water at the smell of the Rosemary and thyme?

…will the Holy Basil be enough to keep me safe if they are demonic invaders?

Ha… as I stir the sugar scrub I’m sending to my daughter? I could write a whole book on whether I’m saving her .. or preparing her marinade!!

But really this isn’t unlike any other parenting question…

I often wonder if I’ve given my daughter the tools to be confident and stand out..

.. does she have the confidence and understanding to avoid predators in her life?

… does my son have the discipline and coping mechanisms to succeed in a workplace?

… Did we teach enough skills to let his light shine brighter than the Autism?

… did I fill my daughter full of enough empowerment.. that she knows she is more than her pretty face and her waistline?

Sometimes I worry that I didn’t put enough Holy Basil in their marinade…

But then?

Then I see their smile.. I see them laugh..

I see them confidently go into the world to meet their alien invaders…

.. and I know it’s enough for now..

.. and I’ll be here if they fall.. to help them up..

Ha… then add another ingredient into their marinade before sending them back into the world…

No one ever tells you how dangerous parenting can be…

Sowing seeds

My brother sent me a picture of the pumpkins he is growing in his yard. The pumpkins he had not meant to plant.

You see…?

Last Halloween’s pumpkins….?

Last fall, he was too busy to throw away the jack o lanterns.

Ok.. ok.. his actual words were that he was “too lazy”… but how many of us don’t get too busy and feel too tired to do the small things..

We all get lazy..

Looking at his pumpkins, made me remember that we had planted some in our garden.

Planted on purpose ..

..but then left to defend themselves.

As I walked through the garden… I was surprised by how well the plants had blossomed. How big our harvest was going to be.. with no actual work on our part beyond the sowing of the seeds.

Those pumpkins took the seeds we gave them.. and didn’t just sprout.. and blossom.. they grew into beautiful fruit..

They took the space we gave them and spread their leaves … made a place in this world.. some even grew despite sickly plants and bad soil..

We all sow seeds in our lives..

Some we spread on purpose… our help.. our time.. our smiles.. a listening ear..

.. but we also spread seeds on accident..

Yesterday.. I was researching a concern I have about my son…. when I felt a soft object hit my face. A balled up napkin. Looking up, my son smiled at me and said, “There you are.. you’re being too busy.”

I laughed.. and put my phone down. My son may have a disability (in the eyes of the world) .. but he is pretty smart.

We are all so busy with worries, and tasks… working … and taking care of our responsibilities…

..but the seed I was sowing in that moment was.. I’m too busy.. you aren’t as important as my phone…

Those are not the seeds I want to sow.. and most of the time they aren’t.. but accidentally?

Accidentally we sow seeds everyday.

The question is what kind of seeds.

This keeps me up at night…

I want to change the world.. I want to make it a beautiful place for kids.. a better place..

I listen to kids.. correct them when they are wrong… justify their emotions.. empower them to change their own world..

…but what about the kids I can’t reach.

What about when I am too busy to slow down and listen?

Last night I walked around a football game with my son. The night was supposed to be about him (for me).. Last year’s homecoming king crowning THIS year’s homecoming king.

And it was about my son.

So many people stopped to shake his hand. So many people greeted him. Asked him how he was doing. This boy with a disability… showing the ability to touch so many lives. It is such a beautiful thing.

But what surprised me?

What surprised me were the kids that were excited to see ME. Many of the students from the school I worked at last year.. shouted across a crowd to get my attention. Some rushed to hug me, before rushing off with their friends.. A few gave timid waves before moving on.

Those students are just like the pumpkin blossoms that I find in my garden. So beautiful.. so open to the world.. so ready to grow into their full potential..

What we give them … as parents.. as family.. as a community?

What we give them makes a difference in how well they grow.. what they grow into…

Will they be small but mighty… will they hide behind bigger plants… shy but powerful in smaller groups.. Will they be big? Will they search for a bigger world? Will they grow despite bad soil and sickly plants?

Or will they stay small and sickly on a vine.. forgotten..

After so many hugs, from so many students last night? I realized I had sowed some good seeds. Even some on accident … to kids I hadn’t realized I had affected.

For me..? I worry…

Is it enough..?

What about the young man who timidly waved and then walked on? What about the young lady who stayed back from the group talking to me?

Did I sow bad seeds on accident …?

…or …

…did I not sow enough seeds on purpose?

This morning I looked down at that pumpkin blossom … worrying about those other students..

… and I realized those blossoms looked like starfish…

The story of starfish has been told to me so often.. Starfish that get stranded on the beach with high tides.. People who doubt they can make a difference because they KNOW they can’t rescue ALL of the starfish.. because they KNOW there are too many…

The story of how one rescuer smiles as they toss a starfish safely back into the waters.. “I made a difference to that one.”

Standing up out of that dirt.. I smiled.

As I looked around, I could see the good I have done… and realized I can’t let myself get distracted by worries.. I need to put those worries away.. and keep sowing good seeds…

…because those pumpkins.. those starfish.. are very important to me …