December 31, 2010

Much Needed Break

With my last blog entry having been over two weeks ago, it appears I slipped off the edge of blog-land. Truth is I haven't fallen off anything, I haven't been ill, my fingers type fine, and all faculties are in working order. We haven't been overly busy or stuck in a snow storm like some poor folks. We've simply been enjoying the holiday break with family and catching up on some much needed rest. I guess I needed a break because I feel more refreshed and ready to hop back on the blog wagon. Amidst the respite, however, life carried on; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Jimmy's bathroom is mostly complete,
now my bathroom is in surgery.
I lost my sink yesterday...

But the new couch arrived!
We took the tree down the day after
Christmas to accommodate.

My vanity came too.

The VCR died just as we loaded the movie
Inception, so we pulled the
DVD player from downstairs.
It delayed our start but it was worth the wait.
(Great movie but pay close attention
or you won't understand a thing.)

Jimmy bought a Blu ray to replace the DVD player.
I'm quite sure this piece of equipment is over my head.
I don't want anything to do with it yet.
(It's the black thing in between the two silver things.)

All in all we had a wonderful time celebrating the Prince of Peace's birth. So, I'm curious, what did you do over your Christmas break?

December 11, 2010

Festive Details

Now that our Christmas tree is reassembled and ready to usher in holiday cheer versus sorrow and pity, I'm enjoying the enterprise of assembling presents for family and friends. Since mom and dad passed away our family seems to have shrunk dramatically in ways, while admittedly expanded in others. We continue to keep in touch with nearly half of the nine puppies our son's dog delivered in our home two Thanksgivings ago and it's always a joy to wish them a dog-on Merry Christmas. We exchange dog pictures and invariably go gaga like proverbial grandparents. Just this week I arrived at work Monday morning to find an interdepartmental manila envelop on my desk. I couldn't imagine what it could be since most communication is done via email. A huge smile washed over my face to see it was a birthday card from Cocoa Bean's sister, Molly, whose grandma works at the hospital with me. If dogs could smile Molly was laughing in the picture. She is clearly very smart, quite happy, and nothing short of gorgeous, which is an answer to the prayers I prayed over each pup when only days old. God is so good and only He knows the heavy burden that weighed on my heart at the daunting task of finding homes for nine little pups. Somehow He did it and I have not forgotten his faithfulness to this day.

Then there's the tradition my best friend and I established years ago. Every year in mid-December we meet for lunch and exchange birthday and Christmas presents. My birthday is the 13th and her's Christmas day. We both look forward to our time together and this coming Thursday is our day. Oh how I thank God for her too. She's a faithful, rare, and godly friend. Through Debbie I've learned I don't need a large number of friends. One friend like my her far exceeds a legion of half-hearted acquaintances.

And who could forget the friends God has so richly blessed me with at work. Our department is wonderfully unique and rare as we partake in a year-round tradition of going all out for every birthday, holiday, and special occasion. It's not unusual for us to bring treats in just to make an otherwise regular day special. We don't keep hospitality to ourselves either. We reach out to other co-workers in both good times and bad. It's a ministry of sorts and I'm proud to be a part. I've been thinking and planning what to give my co-workers for Christmas since summer. We don't spend a lot of money or give extravagant gifts, just enjoy giving to those who have become extended family in many ways.

I have a few presents to start wrapping today and I'm looking forward to it. I'll be thinking and praying for each recipient, as well as thanking God for those He's brought into my life.

I'm curious. What holiday activity are you now undertaking? Whatever it is I hope you enjoy it and are blessed in the process.

December 8, 2010

Christmas 2010: Take Two

We've had our Christmas tree for about 18 years. Artificial trees suit me well because their size never changes, they don't drop needles, and set up and take down can be accomplished rather quickly and at my leisure.

We didn't always take the fake route though. We gave nature a good college try at first. In fact it was our first Christmas together that taught me my eyes were bigger than our home. Jimmy and I picked out a tree so big that by the time we got it home and in place, it looked as if we'd slain Goliath and brought him home for the holidays. Not only was the tree way too big for our narrow town home, but the tree farm failed to shake it before we took it away. We didn't understand the importance of this vital holiday step, so we brought it home in ignorant but temporary bliss. Within a week it began to unloaded more needles than our vacuum could handle, prompting us to recruit a wire coat hanger to coax one obstruction out after another. Why that tree farm didn't shake our tree before we took it home I'll never know.

After having our no-needle-dropping fake tree for nearly two decades, I feel as though I could put the thing up in my sleep, which is exactly what it looked like I did a week ago. So lackadaisical in the set up, it wasn't until I was done decorating that I noticed something was wrong. Easing my hands atop my hips, I squinted at the tree and said,"Somehow she doesn't look right but I'm not sure what it is." Jimmy agreed but couldn't put his finger on the problem either.

Pulling into the driveway the next evening her pretty lights in the living room window caught my eye. I felt hope grow in my heart thinking she'd for sure make it through the holidays with whatever problem that was ailing her. Then I saw another fateful flaw. She was was leaning like a midwest Tower of Pisa. What more could go wrong wrong with this tree? After closer inspection we discovered I'd done a lot of things wrong. Seems I'd placed her long lower limbs in the middle and shorter limbs below, skimped on the lighting, and propped her up lopsided. She had become a Charlie Brown tree that was too pitiful for even the cheeriest souls. Too many things were wrong so it was time for a makeover.

Note the long limbs in the middle,
short limbs below, and skimpy lights.

Even Poopsy had to get off for the redo.

Ornaments in the holding bay.

The naked tragedy.

Redone and doubly bright
with a total of 400 lights.
Even the dogs were proud.
I prefer not to focus on my inept attempt at decorating for the holidays. Amidst the remodel I feel blessed to have put up a tree at all. Let's just say my joy has been doubled with the gift of reenacting this fine holiday tradition twice in one week.

How about you? Any festive faux pas you care to share?

December 4, 2010

A Pure Heart

Jimmy and I were cleaning out the basement the other day when we uncovered a Bible I received in junior high. Believe it or not the school handed them out to each student and no one ever protested, got arrested, or filed a complaint. The precious gift of God's living Word was simply handed out pretty as you please. Seems like a miracle to me today.

Dani, our 22 year old daughter with Autism and deafness, was with us at the time and the moment her eyes lit on that little red Bible, she snatched it up quick as a whip. Holding the treasure inches from her face, she frantically fanned through the pages as a spark of excitement began to erupt within her. She had found a treasure that meant the world to her.

Amazingly enough she can identify a Bible out of a thousand random books, even when it's 1/4 normal size, bright red, and one she's never laid eyes on. With a heart fine-tuned directly on God, His word holds top rank in her heart. Whenever she sees a Bible she enthusiastically signs "Jesus" over and over and it always warms our hearts to watch her turn the pages of His book during church service, even though she can only read a couple of words. By the grace of God her limitations do not hinder her ability to commune with her Lord. She knows Him, He knows her, and it excites her to no end. She cries when she listens to Christian music and during communion, which no doubt immeasurably delights the heart of God.

When I was a little girl, Holy scripture amazed me too. I used to lay in bed at night looking at the New Testament red print and think, "Wow! Jesus actually spoke the words I'm holding in my hands." I'd scan my fingertips across the page as if absorbing its vast wisdom, while a feeling of wonder would invariably filled my soul. Since those early years I've learned first hand the rich blessings His word has brought into my life; comfort, joy, peace, wisdom, and guidance just to name a few. How wonderful it is to know it does the same for our sweet little Dani. He is faithful to his children and I praise Him for never forgetting even the least of His.

His love is vast and abundant for you too. May you feel his wonderful blessing of love for you today and through this holiday season.

"I tell you the truth,
whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine,
you did for me."
Matthew 25:40

November 27, 2010

A Fresh New Look

For several weeks the inside of our home has looked as if giant hands descended from the sky, picked it up like a trinket-filled shoe box, shook the living day lights out of it, and then placed it back on its foundation. The kitchen table is so jammed packed with odds and ends we can barely make a clearing for Dani to eat a meal. My cell phone, which normally charges by my purse on a desk in the living room, has relocated next to my toothbrush in the bathroom, while my purse meanders hither and yon with no set place to roost. Our main computer (a big juicy "Apple" which I'm gleefully tapping on this very moment) had been out of commission for way too long and if that isn't enough to make me want to pull my hair out, there is a fine white dust in, on, and around every item we own. It's been a very frustrating time and I'm happy to say it's almost over. A big portion of our renovation is nearly complete.

Our home, once modern and new, wreaks today of the 70's with its dark wood trim, bland flat-faced doors, half wall dividers with accommodating spindles, and paneling that'll swallow you in one gulp. The fixtures are older than the hills and dark as their wood counterparts. Our hall light had a bad habit of subtly flickering in a way that made it feel as if my eyes were failing. It wasn't an obvious strobe-light effect, just an unsteady light that was hard to put your finger on. I don't believe in euthanasia, but we were eager to put this particular light out of its misery. It felt so good to have a strong light in our midst we took Genesis 1:3 ("Let there be light") literal and replaced all other fixtures in the house. It's made all the difference in the world.

We've needed a facelift for quite some time and for some reason this winter seemed to be the right time to begin the process. With a design and plan fully hatched in his mind, Jimmy eagerly began work on this project that'll surely last till spring. We don't have a huge abode so every square inch is highly valued and put to good use, which is why renovation began with the front living room. Even though most of Jimmy's photography sessions are done on location, he needed a place to sit and consult with clients, so we figured what better place to create a studio than in our home. With clean white wood work, new carpet, fresh paint, and modern furniture, clients now have a place to meet with him and see his work on display, right in our very own home.

Here's a few pictures of the process.

Old wood and walls coming down
and dated green carpet about to come up.

Fresh paint and white wood work all done.
Now it's time for the new carpet.

Almost done.

Fresh furniture with canvases
ready to be hung.
Ecclesiastes loves the carpet so much he refused
to move for this picture.

Studio's nearly done.
Just waiting on a black leather sofa for the bay window
due to come in January.
Ecclesi still refusing to move.
Jimmy you did a wonderful job and have once again proved to be handier than a pocket on a shirt. Your studio is beautiful!

Next project...the bathrooms.

November 20, 2010

If It Isn't One Thing...

If it isn't one thing it's another. Such is life, but I haven't given up. The cyst in my right knee has given me fits off and on since the Autism 5K on September 4th. When it will go away I do not know. I simply respect its wishes by running shorter distances so as not to aggravate. In the mean time I try to not get discouraged, feeling old enough as it is.

As if dealing with this temperamental vesicle wasn't enough, my left knee had the audacity to give me so much trouble I could hardly walk a few weeks ago. Oddly enough it had nothing to do with running either. One day I was simply sitting in a conference and felt a sore spot on the inside of my knee. Naturally I massaged it thinking I was doing a good thing, totally unaware I most likely popped what my chiropractor thinks was another cyst. The next day it seemed to take forever to straighten my knee and once I did, I could hardly bend it again. Each day proved progressively worse in spite palliative efforts of ice, heat, ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Aleve. Forget running. I could barely lower myself into the tub. Over night I had become a full fledged geriatric case. Fear I'd have to hang up my Bikilas loomed on the horizon.

The thought of quitting running has crossed my mind, but only on rare occasion. As young as I may feel at times, life reminds me daily that I'm no spring chicken and more fragile than my younger counter parts. It isn't likely I'll be able to run as much or as long as I'd like to and I'm sure to meet road blocks along the way, but that's no reason to quit. Life in general involves the process of solving one problem only to have another come along to take it's place. In fact, one advantage age offers us more seasoned folks is the ability to look back on life events that once seems insurmountable, but are now nothing more than a distant memory. I remember when Dani was outgrowing her crib we needed to buy her a new bed but couldn't afford it. It seemed like such a big deal at the time, but looking I see how futile my concerns were. In time God provided the funds, we purchased a real bed, and she was no worse for the wear. If only I had saved my energy for something more positive.

The last run I went on was a killer on my right knee. Ecclesiastes kept trying to prompt me to run but the cyst slowed me to a crawl just shy of two miles. I not only felt old but knew I was letting my little buddy down. By the time we got home I was discouraged with my limitations and had to work hard to remind myself that this too will pass. Eventually the cyst will either go away on its own or have to be dealt with directly. Either way, when all is said and done, it's no reason to worry or get bent out of shape. A good dose of humility never hurt anyone and for sure when this problem is solved another will arise.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday may our hearts be focused on all that is good. Let's thank our Lord for what given us, pray for those less fortunate, and look for opportunities to bless others. If someone seems at the end of their rope, remind them that this too shall pass, lend a helping hand, and point them to God. What greater gift can we give amidst the holiday season.

Have a great Thanksgiving week dear one!

November 5, 2010

PJ Day

I still remember the dreadful nightmare I once had of going to junior high in my nightie. It was a cold winter's morning. I road the bus to school, made my way through the crowd of kids to my locker, when suddenly it hit me. I'd forgotten to get dressed! I remember the frosty cold air whipping up my legs clear as a bell. It's a vivid memory that can still haunt me today. My only solace is that it was only a dream.

Times have changes and it seems greeting the day in your PJ's is the thing to do. Dani headed off to her Day Hab happy as a clam the other day because it was pajama day. More of a dream than a nightmare, she had a blast in her silky poodle designed night wear. She thought it was the neatest thing since sliced bread and I must say I got a kick out of it too.

It was cheap fun that spiced up her day.
Hope your have a great day too!

October 31, 2010

A Little Help from a Friend (part 2)

I was getting ready for work the other morning carrying out the morning ritual of putting in my contacts. Now, I've worn contacts since junior high so putting them in is as fast and easy as taking a breath. I never need a mirror and can put them in or take them out any time and anywhere. Not long ago I had each contact in the wrong eye, so on the way to church Jimmy held one in the palm of his hand as I made the switch. Having only lost one or two over the years, my record is stellar.

This particular morning, however, threw me for a loop. With my right contact in place, I proceeded to take the left lens out of the case and place it on my left eye. I blinked only once before watching it descend as if in slow motion. About three quarters of the way down, just before landing on the wash cloth, it disappeared. Like an episode of the Twilight Zone, it vanished from sight.

After an awkward search with one good eye, I took out the remaining contact and donned my glasses. With both eyes working in tandem, I looked high, low, left, and right. I scanned with my eyes and felt with my hand, searching every inch of the crime scene. After several unsuccessful minutes, I decided it was time to risk disturbing the site by leaving to get the flashlight. Gently jostling my house coat as I looked for falling debris, I hunted down a flash light and returned with renewed hope.

Time was wasting and I needed to get ready for work. I scanned the bathroom like a forensic scientist high on caffeine, but found nothing. Absolutely nothing. A little ticked by this time, I pulled out two new contacts and stored away the good old one, which still had two week's life yet in it. Since I change out my contacts at the first of each month, pulling out new ones mid-month was bugging me something awful. I could feel my innards tighten so I gave myself a pep talk. "Ok now, don't get upset. After all these years I can't recall the last time I lost a contact. I have no idea what a single lens costs, but it isn't enough to ruin the day. I'm gonna let this go, move on, and not let it get the better of me." Coaching myself down the hall, I entered the bedroom to put on my make-up and get dressed for the day. I flicked on the light and waited for Jimmy to stir. I couldn't wait to tell him all that had transpired while he slept.

"Well this morning was a first" I said tossing out the bait that would enable me to vent this frustrating event. Emphasizing the outlandish odds of this happening to me, I pointed out to my sleepy one-man audience how seasoned a contact wearer I was and how long I'd worn modern eye wear. I described the forensic search and my witnessed to this mysterious vanishing and once satisfied the facts were out in the open, I sat down to put on my make-up. I felt like an attorney who had just blown away the jury, barely noticing Jimmy as he slipped out of the room. Returning some 60 seconds later with his right thumb up in the air, he sleepily announced, "Here ya go."

I thought he was joking. He had to be. After all, who carries a contact lens on their thumb? What a novice. He hadn't fooled me one iota. But then, as I leaned forward to humor him, I saw it. My little round blue-tinted escapee perched on his big ole thumb."Where did you find it!" I exclaimed. "On the top ledge of the door of the vanity. When you told me how you lost it, it was the first place that popped in my mind. When I went to look it was sitting right there, just as I envisioned." he said rather unimpressed. "But I looked there a million times, and with a flashlight no less. This is a miracle. Why in the world did God use your eyes instead of mine to find the silly thing?"

I still can't help but wonder why God used Jimmy to find what I had so intently searched for myself. Seems to me Jimmy was bothered for nothing and my efforts were wasted. But then again stranger things have happened when it comes to God's plan. Suffice it to say for some reason the Lord wanted someone to lend a helping hand, even though I could have easily found it myself.

This early morning experience reminds me of the importance of a little help from a friend. Sometime an encourager needs encouragement, a prayer warrior needs intercession, and the one who is always the strongest needs a little help themselves. As they say, what goes around comes around. Sometimes we are called to give, while others times we are called to receive. How especially important it is to know when God is calling us to receive, even when we feel capable of doing something ourselves. I think it's God's way of keeping us connected, humble, and a bit mystified all at the same time.

I wonder. Who needs your help today? On the flip side, who might God be sending your way to assist you in your time of need? Whether giving or receiving, God calls us all to love one another as He loves us. Pride holds no place in this call, only the humility and servanthood of Christ. As you go out this week look for the ways God has you to give or receive and then thank Him for the friend He's placed in your life. Friends are an invaluable jewel. Love them each with His everlasting love. Who knows, it just may improve your vision as it did mine!

October 26, 2010

Running in My Bikilas: Week 3 Update

I've had my "monkey" running shoes for three weeks now. With a busy schedule week after week, I haven't had time to run as often as I'd like but progress has been made nonetheless. My toes are used to having their own sleeve, my calves have strengthened in new and different areas, my feet have adjusted to running without padding, and the instinct to land ball first, instead of heal, is completely natural.

The greatest news of all is that these barefoot buddies have, so far, rid me of a left knee strap and right knee support. It appears the theory that running barefoot (eliminating heal strikes) does indeed optimize body mechanics and reduce wear and tear on joints and ligaments. I remember clear as a bell just a few months ago, while still in running shoes, my right knee would begin to ache at 2.7 miles. Each consecutive run shortened the distance until I could barely run over a mile without pain. Today I ran 2.07 miles, it felt great, and I'm very excited. I plan to gradually increase my mileage and as I do, I'll keep you posted.

If you use Vibram running shoes please share your story. I'd love to hear from you.

October 20, 2010

A Little Help from a Friend (part 1)

It had been an exceptionally long day at work and felt good to be home. I didn't know it at the time but my arrival home had commenced with a trading of sorts. Challenges at work were about to take second seat for a much bigger one waiting at home.

Before having a chance to rest my purse on the desk, Jimmy told me the news. Dani had been crying all evening and told him, in distinct sign language, she wanted to go to the hospital so a doctor could help her talk. I stood dumbfounded at her clear request.

Glued to his side, she huddled next to him on the couch as I stood purse in hand. My heart ached for her as I looked into her red teary eyes. She was truly down in the dumps and I could see it on her face. Suddenly drafted into the think-tank, my mind began racing for a solution. I could remember them all clear as a bell. We'd tried every enzyme, vitamin, biofeedback, OT, PT, and speech therapy under the sun, all to no avail. No matter what we tried, her ability to speak remained illusive and out of reach. I was at a loss for what to do next.

I once felt this way with our son Drew. He had recently entered kindergarten only to discover his classmates didn't have brothers or sisters like his. As I tucked him in bed one night, he cried uncontrollably over this new revelation and I felt the same pressure to ease his pain. Tonight was like deja vue all over again, only this time it was Dani craving for words of wisdom.

In the nick of time God gave me words to speak to Drew that proved to helped him accept his role as Dani's special big brother once and for all. By faith I trusted the Lord to do the same for his little sister. Sitting hip-to-hip on the recliner, I put my arm around her as she began to sob uncontrollably on my shoulder. This was truly serious and I couldn't imagine what to tell this poor child. The Lord hadn't yet spoken to my heart, so I held her and acknowledged her pain. "You wish you could talk and that's why you are sad. Right?" Her big nod propelled tears down her cheeks.

"I'm sorry you are sad sweetie and I wish you could talk too. All I can say is we all have troubles that only the Lord can help us with. Your brother, daddy, and I all have weaknesses that we cannot overcome without God's help, so we do the best we can with His help." Fearing this might sound like I was making light of her serious disability, I knew I needed more than these tidy words of comfort. Even from my perspective, comparing a quick temper or streak of laziness with her inability to speak seemed cold and uncaring. About that time the Lord gave me words.

"Sissy I know you can't talk but it's important to always remember what you DO have. There are some of your friends at work who not only can't talk, but are in wheelchairs and can't walk. Some are so disabled they cannot even use sign language. You on the other hand can walk, turn on your T.V. and DVD player to watch your videos, dance, and get your own food. You can feed yourself and communicate through sign language and lots of people admire how smart you are for knowing sign language and wish they knew it too!"

Suddenly, as if a storm had lifted, the tears were gone and her sunny smile filled the room. She lifted her head off my shoulder and appeared light as a feather. With a heavy weight now off her shoulders, she stood up and began to dance around the room. In a flash she was gone from sight and off to her bedroom to watch her favorite video. She was happy the rest of the evening, having made a complete turn around.

Two things amaze me. God's perfect words at just the right time and Dani's sweet little heart. She didn't have to listen and accept these words of encouragement. She could have decided to stay in the storm and wallow in grief. Instead, she chose to release the pain and embrace God's truth. What a wonderful example.

I couldn't begin to count the times I too have been so blinded by what's wrong that I fail to see all that is right. These are the times God sends a friend my way to help me through the storm. Interestingly enough, it often takes very little on their part to turn me around. Their mere presence seems to work wonders almost instantly. A good friend mixed with God's truth always draws me back into His warm light.

Are you or someone you know in a time of distress? Storms can be intimidating from afar but we need never fear approaching a friend in their time of need. God will provide you with just the right things to say and sometimes the simplest thing like sitting with them during their darkest hour will turn someone's world around. Your presence alone can work wonders. Our little Dani can attest to that.

October 16, 2010

Running in my Bikilas: The Theory

My chiropractor said it best, "Adam and Eve didn't wear shoes, so barefoot running has to be the most natural and healthy way to run." This of course is true but so much has changed since the garden. While the first couple walked in grass and on dirt, we predominantly tread on concrete and hard wood floors, not to mention I don't suppose Adam and Eve felt peer pressure to buy expensive athletic tennis shoes or stylish pointy high heels. They simply walked on the two feet God gave them and that was that.

Today even newborn babies go home from the hospital with at least something on their feet. Seems nearly the moment we're born our feet are covered and destined to stay that way the rest of our days. Some experts, however, feel this isn't always a good idea, especially when it comes to running.

The theory behind barefoot running is it's most natural and therefore more conducive to healthy ligaments, joints, and tendons. By altering our natural gait, padded tennis shoes essentially cause us to run unnaturally by allowing heels to strike the ground first. Repeated heel strikes over time can begin to take a toll on a runner's knees, hips, and spine causing aches and pains an alternate form of running may likely avoid. Running barefoot, on the other hand, prompts us to land on the ball of the foot in order to avoid landing hard on the heels.

Natural though it may be, I can attest to the fact that having worn tennis shoes nearly all my life, this method of running feels very odd and takes a great degree of concentration to pull off at this early stage. Should I ever forget to land on the balls of my feet and by chance land on a heel, my Bikilas remind me toot sweet. With no cushion in the shoe whatsoever, a heel strike in these five-fingered beauties is most unpleasant and not easily forgotten.

I was warned adapting to these shoes would be slow so I'm in no hurry. I wear them each day just to get used to the feel and have worked up to running outside in them for a whopping six minutes. Interestingly enough the first thing I notice about these shoes, beyond the void of cushion, is lack of support. With absolutely no arch support, each foot left is on its own to strengthen and adapt in a new way. Eventually the intricate muscles of the feet grow and develop to meet the demand so the feeling of running barefoot becomes more comfortable and natural. Until then I must limit my workouts and keep patience close at hand...or should I say foot.

Oh. I almost forgot. My last six minute run worked my upper, mid, back calves so much I couldn't run for two days. They were sore as could be. Clearly these calf muscles are not the predominant muscles used propel me in my tennis shoes. Everything is so different now.

October 13, 2010

Running in my Bikilas: The Purchase

I took up running in May of this year and have enjoyed participating in three charity 5K's. All in all things have gone pretty well. I've developed the discipline of going out for a run before the sun comes up, when every cell in my body begs me not to, and when the humidity is so chokingly thick that even my contacts go on fog alert. I've enjoyed getting into shape and been rather impressed with how this five-decade old body has adapted to the challenge, unfortunately it hasn't all been peaches and cream.

For the most part running has been a positive experience, until a couple of issues with my knees developed, the left issue and the right issue to be exact. I settled the problem with my left knee relatively easily. I wear a strap that stabilized the outer tendon and I'm good to go, but then the right knee felt left out and began dishing out a much sharper debilitating pain. It was so bad during last quarter mile of the Autism run I thought I'd have to walk across the finish line. It hurt like the dickens, giving me a sneaky suspicion it wasn't going to be such a simple fix.

About the time my right knee and I were becoming bosom buddies, dad's health was rapidly declining. Taking care of him during his last few weeks essentially forced me to rest from running, thus giving the knee a chance to heal and restore. An MRI confirmed no major damage, only a little aging and one small cyst. My doctor instructed me to continue training, wear a knee support, and let the pain guide my training. So here I am back on track hoping my body will cooperate with my goals.

With the gut feeling mechanics is the core issue behind each knee's problem, I began doing a little research. One thing led to another and soon I was reading (and hearing) about the benefits of barefoot running. It's all very interesting so I'm giving it a try, only I won't be running totally barefoot. I'll be wearing Vibram Bikilas and blogging as I go.

While these "five-finger" running shoes look silly, they require a hefty dose of patience in the beginning. They are not easy to get on because your body has to learn to maneuver each toe into its own tiny little sleeve. Believe it or not I've heard some folks have taken up to an hour to get them on at first. Once you master the skill of getting them on, your feet, ankles, and leg muscles have to then adapt to running with no support. Even though this is the most natural way to walk and run, it will take a few months to get used to this newfangled footwear. Nonetheless, I believe it's going to be an interesting journey and I invite you to come along for the ride.

So go ahead, live vicariously through my Bikilas and let's see how it goes. I'll do all the "foot work" and you can prop your feet up on the desk and read along. It'll be fun and I look forward to sharing my progress.

Here is what Vibram Bikilas look like.

They look like monkey feet.

October 10, 2010

My Baby Boy

When life gets tough it's good to have my not-so-little baby boy, Ecclesiastes. Happy, obedient, and eager to please by nature, he was a good sport donning these whacky sunglasses. He had to wonder why the spectacles were placed on his head, but sat quiet as a mouse just the same. As a result, I have this priceless treasure.

I'd be a rich woman if I had a nickel for every time I've told Ecclesi he was a gift from God. After all, nearly three years ago God put it on my heart to begin looking for a yellow Labrador puppy to name Ecclesiastes. It seemed odd, but I couldn't get the vision out of my head. We hadn't had a dog in years and I was ever so busy with Dani, yet felt compelled to search for this specific dog. On the heels of my mother's passing, the desire to better understand the meaning of life had suddenly grown exponentially. Naming a dog after King Solomon's book addressing this very issue seemed most logical and fitting, so I complied.

I'm glad I listened to the Lord's tug to get a little Lab pup. At first some thought his name was too long and awkward. Many still can't pronounce it correctly, but it fits him perfectly and possess great meaning. Ecclesiastes has enriched our lives immeasurably and I'm convince God created animals to do jobs humans cannot fulfill.

Lord, thank you again for my special gift!

October 6, 2010

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September 30, 2010

Notes to Glen

Funerals serve the valuable purpose of bringing closure for surviving family and friends. Gathering loved ones together amidst a time of grief and sadness, it helps us move toward greater healing and acceptance. Unfortunately funeral ceremonies primarily revolve around adults, providing little for the children who have suffered loss as well.

With this in mind our family decided to add a children's event to the end of dad's funeral. Sparked by an idea from Calvin, my sister's six-year-old grandson, we wrote notes to dad and sent them off in balloons. Calvin's mom, Jeanna, brought a portable tank of helium and all the supplies for the little ones to write their own note.

Using a classroom off the gym, she set out the supplies so that after the dinner we could help the children write notes to their great grandpa. A funny thing happened in the process though. As we helped the kids with their notes, the adults began writing messages to dad too.

Just before launching.
Calvin (the idea man) is far left.

The launch.

God's beautiful day.

The balloons clung together until
we could no longer see them.

What a wonderful way to close a funeral. The balloon messages provided closure for both young and not-so-young. We couldn't help but smile as our notes ascended into the sky. One day we'll see dad in heaven, until then he is resting in God's arms fully healed and restored.

This little event turned out to be one of my fondest memories. Thanks Calvin for your wonderful idea!

September 27, 2010

Missing Dad

Six days after dad was put on hospice, he went home to be with the Lord. My brother, sister, and I spent the last three nights with him at my brother's home since he was so short of breath. We knew congestive heart failure was taking his health but had no idea his time was so short.

I'd spent Sunday night (the night before he died) with him and he seemed to have rallied. In fact early Monday morning he looked so good I offered him coffee and toast, which he gobbled like a starving refuge. The next morning I told my brother I knew dad needed 24-hour assistance but I hadn't done much for him that particular night. The next night proved a different story, however, when my sister called at 1am asking if she could give him more medication to help him breathe. I gave her instructions, then waited and wondered if it provided him with any relief. I assumed it had but still could not sleep. At 2am she called and told us dad had passed away. His struggle to breathe had taken its toll on his tired 86 year-old body. He could no longer take the strain and died in my brother's home with his eldest child by his side. He knew he was loved.

With the heavy news on our hearts, Jimmy, Dani, and I headed out to my brother's home in the countryside after we received the call. It was a stormy night as sheets of rain, flashes of lightening, and claps of thunder surrounded us on all sides. The 30-minute drive brought us to dad who was now at rest; a true light gone from my life and one I will not see again this side of heaven. I wasn't the only one to sense this great loss either. Just moments after our father's body was taken away my brother commented, "we have no parents", to which my sister quipped, "we're orphans!" We giggled at the time but the truth was sobering.

No amount of preparation could have prepared us for the obvious. Dad was our last parent and now we are left to carry on. Absorbing the loss of the generation before us, my brother, sister, and I huddled together like little baby birds in the days following his death. We've laughed, cried, reminisced, and praised God for the wonderful parents He's given us. To be raised in a simple, stable, fun, and funny Christian home is a treasure we each value and carefully pass on to our own families. We are grateful for our past and the parents who made it possible.

I miss you dad. Thanks for the memories!

September 12, 2010

Family First

Life can be filled with a host of many different things; friends, work, sports, and hobbies just to name a few. Lately my main focus has been targeted on getting through a busy season at work and running the 5K's that are dear to my heart. As important as all these things may be, in the end second only to God, family it top priority.

With this in mind, it's time for our family to shift priorities by putting our dad first. Just four days ago he was placed on hospice care and within 24 hours his congestive heart failure had him bedridden. He can barely breathe and needs someone at his side continually to give him medication for relief. Our family's goal is to be at his bedside at all times, so my brother, sister, and I are taking shifts to provide that care. Our presence gives dad great comfort and as difficult as it is to watch his life ebb away, honoring our father in this way is worth it. We appreciate your prayers during this time.

"Honor your father and your mother,
so that you may live long in the land
the LORD your God is giving you."
Exodus 20:12

September 4, 2010

Autism Run

FINALLY... nice weather for a 5K run. Leaving the house at 0645, our drive to the Royals Stadium sparked instant marvel at the spectacular sunrise. With the crisp fall air creating a misty fog over warmer ponds and streams, it was as if God painted the beginning of this new day just for us. Wondering how anyone could ponder the notion that creation was somehow automatic and devoid of a creator, Jimmy and I both agreed without question a beautiful horizon such as the one before us confirmed the great I AM truly does exist.

The beauty of the day was a gift to all running for Autism research. My friend and co-worker Shauna, along with her husband Steven, came along in support of our daughter Dani. We mixed and mingled before the run visiting various booths offering information on Autism and then headed out to run around the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs Arrowhead Stadiums. It was peaceful, fun, and worth every ounce of energy. I don't know how many times I asked God to bless those running in honor of Autism research and pondered how the lives of those around me have been affected by this disability.

Dani's clan

Dani by the "floating" marble baseball

Stretchin' the old bones

We're off

Slugger visits a little girl


Autism Run (cont.)

Slugger entertains the crowd

Royals Stadium


Resting after

September 1, 2010

A Trip with Daddy

Dani's been super interested in nail polish ever since we gave Abby her get-well nail polish and lipgloss gift set. Now, every time she and Jimmy drive past a drug store she signs "Mom" and "nail polish." She so consistent with this routine Jimmy decided to take her to Walgreens so she could get some fun colors. Colors boring ole mom doesn't wear. I thought his idea was a fabulous one, so I wished them only stipulations was black. Jimmy agreed and off they went to the drug store.

Dani ganders the plethora of colors.

She zeroes in on a bottle...

Cocoa Bean gets a peek at her purchase.
Selecting cool blue and refreshing green, I have to admit Dani's picks are darling. She pranced around this week with blue on for days and it's about time to dawn the green. The smallest things make her happy and these tiny purchases will give her joy for days to come.

Thank Jimmy for acting on your great idea!

August 28, 2010

The Tortoise and the Snail

Since it's almost time to flip the calendar to September, I was a bit surprised to note our kitchen calendar still proclaimed July. The sun was coming up and I'd just come in from a run, feeling a bit deflated. Thinking I'd run a clean 3 mile course, I mapped it out only to discover it was 2.5 miles. I keep accurate milage of all my trails and was so confident of this one I never formally looked it up. I don't know what made me check the route today, but I was thoroughly disappointed.

My tardiness in flipping the calendar turned out to be a good thing, however, because July's cartoon did me a world of good. Like a little girl holding a freshly popped ballon, perfect timing prompted me to look up at the happy tortoise donning his little blue sneakers. With the daunting sign on his left that read Marathon Race Today, his friend and co-competator, the cheering snail, accompanied him on his right. Both would traverse the race slow as molasses, but this detail didn't effect their attitude. Entering the race to do their very best, they focused on the task and not their shortcomings.

Knowing the fairy tale tortoise was one of the slowest members in the race yet won due to sheer perseverance, my spirits began to lift in tandem with the new day's sun. Staring at the month of July a half mile shy of my goal, this little gem reminded me that though I may fall short in some of my endeavors, it isn't my job to win as much as it is to do my best. I'm not responsible for the result as much as my attitude and effort during the process, a welcome life lesson at any age.

Our kitchen calendar is still paused on July because I didn't have the heart to flip it. I'm sure August has a valuable lesson to learn but I want to ponder the tortoise's perseverance a little longer. My heart needs to carefully meditate on the accompanying verse as well.

"As you know, we consider blessed
those who have persevered."
James 5:11a

The word "blessed" in this verse means: happy, to beautify, and pronounce fortunate. The word "persevered" means: endure, to stay under, remain, bear trials, and abide. With this in mind, we can read this verse with the understanding that when we determine to endure through trials of life, God will pronounce particular blessings upon us that make us happy and beautiful. Like the notoriously slow tortoise and snail, we will not look at our shortcomings or intimidating obstacles, but by faith run the race to the best of our ability with happiness and contentment as our foundation.

What race are you running today? Perhaps you're running up a vicious hill and your legs are killing you or you're in a torrential down pour cold and soaked to the bone. Maybe you are suffering great physical or spiritual pain and feel as though you can't finish the next 15 feet let alone complete the race. If this describes your life's race I encourage you to persevere. Don't give up or lose focus. Keep your eyes on God for He is our creator and sustainer. I pray this all the time in both physical and spiritual runs, "Lord, grant me a renewed strength so that I can carry on. May I not give up but rather persevere for your Name's sake."

Whatever life is dishing out to you today remember God is waiting to pronounce a multitude of blessings upon you. Blessing that will make you beautiful, happy, and content. Perseverance, however, is the key. When we determine to endure through life's trials God's character traits are honed within us, molding us more into His image and blessing us all the more.

Let's learn from the tortoise and snail. No race is too difficult with God at our side for it is because of Him we've already won!

August 20, 2010

Abby Update

I received an update on Abby today and if all goes well she'll be going home tomorrow. She's gained a few pounds for the first time in weeks and her little body seems to be accepting the tube feeding with her new medication. The doctors said the best thing for her now is to get home and begin school with all the other children. After a month in the hospital, that's the least this sweet child deserves.

Apparently after Dani gave Abby the nail polish and lip gloss set last weekend, Abby enjoyed a fresh manicure and began asking for the lip gloss and lip balm. Prior to Dani's gift her mother said they couldn't get her to let them put anything on her lips and it was very frustrating. I'm so glad I listened to Dani's insisting that we buy the little girly gift pack versus the purple nail polish I had picked out. I thought I was being hip and modern suggesting such a wild color. Now I feel like an old fogy.

To all of you who prayed for Abby...THANK YOU...and please don't stop. She faces so many obstacles on a good day and has a long road of recover ahead of her. Nothing, however, will set her on the road toward healing like getting home to her friends and the ability to gain some weight. Continue to keep her family in your prayers as well. They are dedicated but exhausted.

If you have an extra prayer in you, ask God to help Dani learn to smile when a camera comes as opposed to reducing to tears.

August 15, 2010

Dani Visits Abby

A few months ago Dani met Abby at a festival here in town. Abby's mother is a co-worker of mine, so we were sad this week to hear Abby was in the hospital. She's been sick with an unknown intestinal disorder and her mother thought it would cheer Abby to see Dani. Since the children's hospital is familiar stomping grounds for us, Dani happily went bearing gifts and was quite ready to share a little love.

We had sent three Hawaiian leis to Abby a couple of days before our visit, so Dani wore her favorite pink flower lei to the hospital. She loaded her wrists with seven colorful bracelets and I encouraged her to think about giving Abby a few when we arrived. Dani had also picked out a girly gift pack of pink nail polish with two lip glosses and proudly carried her gift bag on her arm through the hospital.

Upon arrival we were greeted by
Abby's wonderful grandmother, Mary.

Dani gave Abby her present
and Abby picked five of her favorite bracelets.
Dani cried when the camera came out,
which is normal for her,
but she was also concerned that Abby had an IV.
She thought it hurt.
Abby was being silly with her favorite doll.
Time to slow down and rest.

The girls said their good byes and
we prayed with Abby and her grandma before leaving.

Please pray for Abby as the doctors attempt to diagnose her rare disorder. Jimmy and I have been where this family is and it's a difficult road. The days are long and the nights even longer. There is nothing like watching your child battle an illness that puzzles the experts as it steals your child. It is an indescribable grief that seems to suspend time.

In the midst of it all, however, we cling to the knowledge that God is good. He never forgets even one of His children. He loves, protects, teaches, and guides us every inch of the way. He has not forgotten Abby or her family and has a special plan for them. Jimmy, Dani, and I feel privileged to lift them up to God during this time and encourage them to the best of our ability. Bringing Dani in for a visit was the least we could do.

"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God."
Isaiah 40:1