Friday, September 23, 2016

The Gift of Their Trust

As a mother I have always been pretty fearful of the teenage years. I think that this is mostly because I knew how I was as a teenager and also because I believed that teenagers were mouthy. sullen, secretive, withdrawn beings.

When Andy became a teenager and didn't exhibit any of the signs that I was looking for the typical teenager to have I just thought that he was an atypical person and that surely, I would pay for his goodness as the other three came of age. Clearly, I was wrong. Pleasantly wrong.

I now have two teenagers in my home with a young lady quietly waiting in the wings of teenagdom. I don't have sullen, sneaky, secretive withdrawn beings in my midst. What I have is these amazing young men who are generally the same people that they were prior to hitting the teen years.

I have wondered why this is. And I think it comes down to this: My children, but my teenage boys in particular, trust me. They know that they can come to me with any question they have and I will not mock them, laugh at them, be critical of them. They know that they can come to me when we disagree on something and I will hear them out. (I may not always side with them in the end, but they know that they at least had a fair shot a presenting their case.) I don't treat my teenagers as babies or children, but I don't treat them as adults either. I treat them as human beings who will one day become adults (God willing). I don't pretend to "own" them because they are my children and I am their mother. I don't break their confidences. I don't make fun of them with my friends as I have sometimes seen other moms do. I don't air their dirty laundry for all to see and hear as some moms do. I don't try to embarrass them.  Most importantly, my children know that I have their back. I am their safe zone. Do they tell me everything? Absolutely not. Do they have secrets that they keep from me? Of course. What child doesn't? That is part of growing up. But because they know that I will not be betray them, I will not belittle them, and I will hear them when they voice their opinions they trust me. They know that I value them as human beings and that speaks volumes to them.

Trust is a gift. My boys don't have to trust me, but they do because I have proven myself worthy of their trust. I do not take their trust lightly. I do not treat it as some cavalier thing. What we have is a sacred pact with the unspoken rule that this magical relationship will continue as long as I do not betray the bond that we have. (And the same goes with my trust in them.) Breaking this pact with my boys would hurt them terribly as they have only known life with a mother who does not betray them as some mothers sometimes do. Breaking this pact would wound them deeply. I don't ever want to hurt them in that way.

This doesn't mean that they like me all of the time. And this doesn't mean that they are not held accountable for their actions. I am their mother and sometimes I am not very popular with them. It is not my job to be my children's friend. It is my job to parent them. It just so happens that I like parenting them very much. It just so happens that I really, really like the young men they are slowing becoming.

I know how lucky I am to have the relationship that I do with my sons. And I know that they know how lucky they are to have  this relationship with me as they see the relationships that some of the kids they know have with their mothers. But our relationship with each other is more than just luck. It is a gift. A gift that takes time, understanding, patience, and trust.

The gift of their trust is one of the most important things in my life. I will never take that for granted.


 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Oneonta Gorge Trail



Image result for oneonta falls oregon
Photo couresy of: Pinterest)

The Oneonta Trail was one I saw almost immediately when I was looking for things to do in this area and I knew that I just had to do it. The hike is almost entirely in water as you walk upstream to the falls. I say almost entirely because we are coming to the end of the dry season here which has caused the water level to be lower than if we hiked it at the beginning of the summer. The water was cold,but certainly not the coldest we have been in. I think Three Pools still has that spot reserved.

I was disappointed though by how short the trail was. It was only about 1/4 of mile which is nothing around these parts. We went last Saturday, so there were a lot of people around which also made the experience a bit less enjoyable.

We didn't bring our camera as we had read that some parts of the river can be neck deep. We didn't want to chance ruining our camera which is why I am borrowing pictures from others on the internet. There are many pictures out there, but I tried to show the ones that were most representative of what the river looked like when we hiked it.

I almost had a panic attack as the older I get the more afraid of heights I become and the only way into the main portion of the trail was to hike over a huge log jam. The height, the people surrounding us, and the fact that I was climbing on old rotted out logs made me a bit apprehensive that mother nature was not going to be very forgiving should I fall at any moment. Alas, I made it through okay minus one stop on the way back in which I had to take a few moments to gather myself before having a panic attack as I climbed back down the log jam to get to the car. (Thank goodness I have a patient husband.)

I would definitely do this trail again, but I wouldn't come out here just to do this trail as we did last weekend. I would add on a hike to another of the waterfall trails that are within minutes of this one. Overall, the 75 minutes it took to get out to this spot was just not worth it for what I got out of it. I think this is the first time I have been disappointed by mother nature out here. Hopefully, it will be the last.


Image result for images of oneonta gorge
Photo courtesy of:pdxhiker.wordpress.com


Image result for images of oneonta gorge
Photo courtesy of: roadtrippers.com

Friday, September 9, 2016

For Lily

It's funny the things that change you. The things that you don't forget. The things that you carry in heart with you where ever you are. 

I met Lily about a week or so after she was born. I was a bit nervous to meet her as I knew that she was born with a list of medical ailments that weren't what I have ever encountered or seen. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if I would be taken aback by her physical condition or by the wires that I knew were going to surrounding her like an inescapable web. What I did know was that I loved my friends dearly and I wanted to be with them and support them in any way that I could. I also knew that somehow this little girl had captured my heart before she was even born. I cannot tell you why other than there was just something magical about her. I know that description seems so ridiculous, but I think that among those who had the honor of meeting her there would be others who agreed with this statement. She just had this way of drawing people to her...I have never experienced it before or since - this magnetic pull. 

Lily's mom was able to get special permission for Sarah to meet Lily in the NICU as well. 2014 was our hell year with Sarah and she happened to be admitted in the hospital as well for part of Lily's time spent in the NICU. Sarah was so excited to meet Lily. I don't know why, but she had an attachment to Lily ever since Lily's mom and dad found out that Lily would have an uphill battle to survive beyond pregnancy at their 20 week ultrasound. I don't know if Sarah became attached to Lily because Lily was the only other child that Sarah knew of that was facing an uncertain medical future in which doctors had no answers and no direction to offer as to why this was happening or what the certain outcome would be. I never took the time to ask Sarah where this attachment came from because it wasn't really important. All I know is that with regularity Sarah peppered me with questions about Lily and how she was doing and how her mom's doctor's appointments were going, etc...


How I could have ever been worried about my reaction upon seeing Lily for the first time I do not know, but hindsight is always 20/20. From the moment I first laid eyes upon Lily I can say quite certainty she was the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. She was the most perfect baby I have ever seen. Yes, she was surrounded by wires and tubes and machines. Yes, she had a list of medical hurdles to overcome that would eventually prove to be too much for her to sustain any semblance of living, but when I first laid eyes on her I didn't see any of that. I saw the sweetest baby - the most angelic baby - I have ever seen. She had the softest skin & the longest fingers. And she was hairy to boot! (Hairy babies are my favorite thing. I love when they have hair on their ears and back. I don't know why, but I just love it. )

Watching my friends go through the pain of having hope that their daughter could somehow survive and then watching as that hope was extinguished was one of the hardest things I have ever had to witness a friend go through. What do you say? How can you ever make things better? How can you help to carry their burden or lighten their load? How can you even begin to express the sorrow that you feel in your heart that they have to go through this? As a mother, I can only imagine the depth of hurt, anger, pain, fury, despair that they must have felt and in my imagining I know that I can only have capture a small percentage of what they actually went through. 

Lily died on September 10th, 2014. I got to meet her twice. And I am so thankful that I did. 

The day after her death her father, who is a beautiful and gifted writer, posted the most heart wrenching post regarding her death I have ever read in my life. I read his word with tears pouring down my face. I read them with blurry eyes and realized just how cruel death can be because death is not easy on the living and it is not easy on the dying either.  

After Lily's death I carried her around in my heart. I thought over time her impact on my life would fade, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I still think about Lily quite a bit during the course of the year. I think about her daily during the weeks of birth to her death. I usually smile when I think of Lily because her life was a gift not just to her mother, father, brother, and family, but to all of us who got to know her. Because of Lily I can truly say that I realize just how fragile life is. Because of Lily I hold my children tighter and love them more fiercely. Because of Lily I know that life is a gift. Between Sarah and Lily I know that life is not guaranteed. Yes, I knew those things before, but there was a catalyst that helped ignite a fire under me that allowed me to begin living what I knew. 

 I carry a part of Lily around with me in my heart where ever I go. I imagine that all of us do. There are some people who go through their entire lives and do not make a positive difference in as many people's lives as this little girl managed to do in a little over three weeks time. 

I wish for my friends that Lily was born without the hurdles that she faced. I wish for them that they never had to experience the pain of losing a child. I wish that there could have been a cure for all of her ailments. But to live in that place of wishful thinking without the ability to actually do something about it would be a disservice to life of this amazing young lady. This magnetic and magical young lady. 

Lily, where ever you are - thank you. Thank you for making me a better mother. Thank you for changing me. I will not take your life for granted. I will carry you with me for ever and always. 




Thursday, September 8, 2016

Of This I Am Sure


Laughing with her dad. 























A lot of times loved ones and friends will send me a link of a story featuring a successful person who
happens to be thriving in life despite being blind. I always love stories such as these as it is a gentle reminder that that Sarah will one day be among those who are thriving in spite of an illness that would like to keep her down. Oftentimes, these stories will render me to tears partly because I am emotional person to begin with and partly because there are still times in my life when I look at my daughter and the deep scars of all we have been through threaten to reopen into the blistering wounds they once were.

But, alas, our story will never be one of permanent sorrow or defeat. We will always find a way to thrive no matter what the odds are that are stacked against us. Sarah's life will never be a tragedy. It will always be a triumph. She is a ray of sunshine to me, to her father, and to so many of you. Like many of you, I worry about her. Is she doing okay? Is she adjusting to life as a blind person? Is she adjusting to life as a person with an autoimmune disease? Is she adjusting to life just as a normal average adolescent on top of all of the other stuff? Is she learning what she needs to to thrive? Is she lonely? Is she depressed? Is she scared? Is she....? The questions never end. They run around in my head all of the time.

Having some alone time at the top of Multnomah Falls. 
 And so, I am happy to write, Sarah is thriving in Portland. She is blossoming in ways that I dared not even dream about. She is making friends in the neighborhood. She is coming out of her quiet shell. She is crossing the street by herself. She is playing outside every day with her peers. She is acting like a regular 11 year of girl. She is learning contracted braille so she can read on her own again. She is taking risks and getting out of the house more. She is cooking by herself all the time. She is doing her chores - just like everyone else. And she is laughing. Really laughing. A lot. And it is go good to hear. There is nothing quite like seeing Sarah smile. A deep genuine smile and a hearty belly laugh. God, I have missed hearing that sound. Sure, we would hear her laugh and see her smile from time to time, but not like this.

Here's a throw back from several years ago. Mouth full of food and all  - this smile and that twinkle in her eyes is one of my favorite things about her. I miss that twinkle so much.  This pictures was taken two weeks after her first hospitalization and about 1 week before her second hospitalization. 

I no longer see a little girl who feels that she can't. Can't do this. Can't do that.  I see a little girl who now sees what we all have seen since the beginning - that she is a fierce thing capable of everything  that you and I are capable of doing. She feels empowered. And you can see it in her demeanor. That is a beautiful sight to behold.

Working on an outdoor project.
Going to camp and being with other blind children, but more importantly successful blind adults worked wonders for her spirit. That camp was the best chicken soup for the soul I could have asked for as it filled her belly up with warmth and goodness and made her feel better in so many ways.

There are many times when I wonder if Sarah is going to be okay as an adult. Will she thrive? Will she be happy? Will she love and be loved in return? Will she be independent and secure? Will she know her worth? Will she be strong enough to not take shit from anyone? Of this I am sure - she will be all of the things that she wants to be. And she will have all of the things that she wants to have. And the plans for her future that she talks about now have every bit of chance of happening blind or not.

If you think about it - Sarah is the best kind of person to be abled differently because she is able to show the rest of us how to live a life with unplanned speed bumps with hope, dignity, gumption, and grace.  She is able to take an illness that you or I would have been crippled under the weight of and turned it upside down and is an example of how to make the best of the life you have been given.  She truly is a beacon of light. Her life an example of the true definition of HOPE and all that it encompasses.

 God has amazing things in store for her.

Of this I am sure.


Chillin with her sister.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

U-Pick On Douglas Farm



There really are a lot of cool things about living in the Pacific Northwest. I would be a fool not to acknowledge how much I can learn and experience while living in this part of the country. One of the things that I am really beginning to enjoy is the fact that I can get almost all of my food directly from the farms surrounding the area in which we live.

As the organic movement continues to gain steam I am finding myself becoming more and more  cautious about what I buy that is organic. I am fearful that what I think I am buying is actually not at all the product that I have in mind as big corporations are cashing in on the organic cash cow. I am fearful that those same corporations are going to influence how the government determines organic food guidelines and practices (more than they already have) and that the lines will blur so much that what was once deemed as organic food now resembles nothing of that original concept.

Because of my distrust of the government's ability to have my best interest at heart against big corporations who will eventually corrupt the organic movement all in the name of the mighty dollar I have been looking for what my alternatives are. This has led me to take a look at my local farmers to see what I can purchase from them.

In this light, the family and I went to a farm today where we were able to pick a variety of fruits and veggies. We all L-O-V-E-D being able to pick our own tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, and other veggies and fruits. It was fun. A lot of fun. Who knew that getting your hands dirty could make you feel so empowered? Plus - nothing beats the smell of a tomato plant. It reminds me of my grandfather's garden when I was a girl. And the best part about it was that it was so much cheaper than the grocery store. We spent $48 for: 10 lbs of apples, 4 pints of blackberries, 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, black beans, two different kinds of green beans, 3 large tomatoes, 2 roma tomatoes, a handful of tomatillos, 4 cucumbers, 3 bell peppers, a handful of cayenne peppers, two handfuls of banana peppers, carrots, an eggplant, a beet, 2 zucchini, and my flowers,

  We had so much fun that we made a pact to go back next week.




I got these beautiful flowers for $0.25 a stem!


Elizabeth loved pulling the carrots from the ground. 

Sarah is shelling black beans to soak overnight for tacos tomorrow. 



Friday, September 2, 2016

Soccer & Josh

One of the hardest things about moving this time has been Josh's inability to find his soccer groove. When we moved to Las Cruces his soccer transition was smooth and easy. We quickly found a soccer family and he found teammates that became like brothers. It was the perfect fit.

Moving here has been a lot harder. There were over 122 kids that tried out for 4 soccer teams at the local high school. Varsity and three JV teams. Josh is not used to playing with kids who come from money and who have that stereotypical snobby rich kid attitude. Not everyone is like that here, but there are more kids like that than not. They don't seem to want to work hard for anything and feel that everything should be handed to them. Josh doesn't view soccer in this way and it has been unnerving and annoying to him that these scrubs (his term, not mine) think that they are above the team mentality and being coached. He doesn't feel comfortable around kids with that type of mentality. I don't blame him as I don't feel comfortable around adults who act that way.

There were over 40 kids cut from tryouts. Josh ended up making a team. Varsity and JV are solely upperclassman. Sophomores and Freshman make up the bottom two team being comprised of JV Red and JV Blue. (Why is the color Blue always denoted as the "worst" team? I don't get it. I think the color blue is an outstanding color, but anway...) Josh is a starter on the JV Red team, so in essence he made the top underclassman team and earned a starting spot. Each roster is pretty full with about 22 kids per team.

He doesn't really like playing for the high school and cannot wait for the season to be over so that he can play club ball again. (Although he is quickly learning which teams he doesn't want to tryout for based on where these snobby kids play.)

In this respect, I am grateful that we are only going to be here for a little while as soccer so far has been no fun. I feel badly for him, but I know that playing in all of these different parts of the country will make him a better player overall.

Tonight is his first game. I am looking forward to watching him play ball as it is one of my most favorite things to do. Hopefully, this season will get better for him. If it doesn't, then this too shall pass.

Fall


Fall has always been my favorite time of year. The beginning of school and football season. The cooler temperatures. The changing of the leaves. The crisp fall nights. Pies and cookies in abundance. Halloween decorations. Soccer games. All of it. I love it. I have missed the Fall season while living in the Southwest. I am excited to welcome it into my life again.

I am eagerly awaiting fall routines and rhythms. It seems like it has been so long since we have had any sense of a routine with the whole job interview/moving process taking wwwwaaaaaayyyyy longer than I ever imagined it would.

I am very excited to be getting back to normal. It feels like it has been way too long.

One of the trees right off of our porch. It will be awesome to watch as this tree (and its neighbors) change to the hues of fall colors.