July 29, 2010

Pet Therapy

Our hospital recently launched a new volunteer program that’s proving to be a howling success. Sure to bring a smile to everyone’s face, our new therapy dogs come on site three days a week. Administering a special healing balm that only canines can provide, they arrive wearing their own photo ID badge clipped to their collars and commence meandering their way to each unit spending time with patients, staff, and visitors. Nearly everyone lights up when they arrive and our office is no exception. In fact, we’ve given strict instructions to the program leader and dog owners alike to always stop by for a visit whenever these special paws step onto the premises.

Yesterday Chance stopped by for a visit. The last time he came he was a bit nervous as we showered him with attention. It was his first visit to the hospital and he missed his canine brother and sister at home. I felt sorry for him and wanted to do something to make him feel a little more at home the next time he came, so I placed a bowl of dog biscuits on my desk. This time when Chance arrived I escorted him back to my desk, placed the bowl of treats on my chair, and let him sniff away. I knew he was beginning to relax when I felt him lean on my leg. Soon he laid down, closed his eyes, and enjoyed a little massage.

Bless his little heart he even nibbled up a last crumb from his biscuit as he soaked up the attention. His soft coat was white, black, grey, and tan. Cute as a bug's ear. After his time of TLC in our department he went on to the Emergency Room to visit someone in need and then headed home for the day. I suspect he bragged a bit about his hard day at work when he got home to his brother and sister.

We can't wait for another dose of pet therapy!

July 26, 2010

Holy Squash!

I'm almost scared to go to the garden these days. We have but a modest compost pile that somehow manages to grow "Promised Land" type vegetables. This baby below is the third gargantuan squash we've harvested in the past two weeks. You should see the looks I get when walking to work with one of these beauts. Today I walked into the office, holding this squash's big brother like a baby, and said to our new secretary, "Look at the new baby I just delivered." She glanced up and was so surprised she blurted out laughing.

HOW TO COOK: Cut this hefty Hindenburg in half, coat with olive oil, salt, pepper and any other of your favorite spices, grill for 3-4 minutes each side, and you have a delicious and healthy side dish for dinner.

What fruits are you harvesting from your garden this year?

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July 24, 2010

Running the Race

In two weeks many of my friends, co-workers, and women of Kansas City will be participating in the Susan G. Koman run for a cure. Breast cancer took my mother's life, so this event holds a special place in heart. I will be running in honor of her.

Ecclesiastes and I usually head out for a run at 5:45 am, before the sun has a chance to team up with the already existing humidity. It took a while to get used to it, but I've learned to love running before dawn because there are so few travelers out at that time. We jaywalk/run whenever the urge hits, I don't have to put on sunscreen, which makes it harder for sweat to evaporate and cool off the body, and Ecclesi gets to see all the rabbits busily running about, giving him lots of free entertainment along the way. Most of all the quiet pre-dawn hours seem to magnify the presence of God, making it a great time for prayer.

Training in the heat and humidity is terribly challenging, especially for this new and rather mature runner. The days of running a compete course without stopping to walk, rest, and take a sip of water are a distant memory as the dog-days of summer faithfully oppress each day. I remember when the first heat wave of the summer arrived I thought something was wrong with me as my stamina suddenly evaporated away, making a once easy route painful and daunting. I began monitoring my heart rate and discovered the heat and humidity was more taxing on the body than I had imagined.

I continue to run outside in order to adapt to the climate, so Ecclesi and I set out this morning for a long 4.5 mile run. Thinking it would be a luxury to sleep late for just one day, we left an hour later at 6:45am. The sun was coming up and the humidity was as thick and oppressive as usual. It was 80 degrees and we did fine 2 miles out, then the heat began to takes its toll. Ecclesi began to slow and before I knew it all I could do was walk at a snail's pace with a hand on my hip. I wasn't short of breath and my heart rate was decent, but I was so dog-on tired. I'd drink ice water and pour it down my neck, but neither would refresh. Then, I began to get goosebumps, something I instinctively knew wasn't a good sign.

Walking longer than usual, Ecclesi was working hard at prompting me to run. He was just as tired but must have figured running would get him home to the pool sooner. The same logic was in my head but my body would not cooperate. I was glad I had my cell phone with me and wondered more than once if I'd have to call Jimmy. "Dear can you come get us? I'm laying on a grassy strip behind the hospital just off the highway near McDonalds. You can't miss us we're by the doggy poop trash can. It's awfully hot can you hurry?" Part of me cautiously hoped Ecclesi would begin limping temporarily so I could call for an escape, but he seemed to be getting a second wind. Mustering up the will to carry on, I walked, ran, trotted, and gimped the way home in fairly good time, but it was no fun. No fun at all.

The more I run the more I see how it mirrors life. Sometimes we feel as though we can run a marathon, while other times there are so many factors against us we can barely limp along. The key to surviving and even thriving in both is perseverance, that tenacious will that refused to give up. We may fall or fail but quitting is never be an option. It isn't a sin to walk, rest, or take a sip of water along the way and it doesn't ruin the race, it merely gives you what you need to carry on. Some races will be better than others but each serves as a building block for the next, which is where we find our hope for the future. A bad day is bad but soon will pass. In its place will be a new one, better than the last.

If you are tired on your journey, take a rest. Call for help if you need it and lay down in the grass along side the road if you must. Look up into the sky and remember God is with you. He loves you and you are never out of His reach. Pray to Him like never before and keep your eyes on Him for He will see you through. Most of all dear friend, never ever, ever, ever give up. To give up is to give in to the enemy. But to persevere is to bring joy to the heart of God!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
Hebrews 12:1

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July 13, 2010

22 Years!

Ahhh...I remember it well, heading to the hospital at 6:30 in the evening twenty-two years ago, not to have a baby but to work the night shift in ICU. With every bed in the unit filled to capacity, the nurses' report room was a mighty tight fit.

Big as a barn I busily took notes of each patient's condition, but soon found it increasingly difficult to pay attention. Coming to my senses after a particularly hard contraction, my eyes lifted to meet the stare of male nurse looking straight at me. "Are you alright? You look like you're in labor. Should you be here?" he said with chin pulled in and eyebrow raised.

All heads turned as his comment effectively blew my cover and in a flash the nursing supervisor was called, my condition was assessed, and I was on my way to having a baby. Our little doodlebug was born that morning at 3:30 am and the rest is history.

The "Queen" as we call her has been a puzzle, pickle, joy, and mystery all rolled up in one. Jimmy and I of course had no clue what our future held the day she was born, but even after 22 years we wouldn't trade her for nothin', no way no how.

Of course, life with disabilities is an exceptionally tough road, just ask someone in our shoes. There are times when grief is a monster shy just one hair of overpowering us as the reality of her disabilities sinks deeper into our hearts. Then, amidst it all we remember two key anchors of hope: God allowed her into our lives and He has a perfect plan.

Happy Birthday little sis.
We love you!

Dani with all her presents.
Brother Drew mailed her a package of candy
which arrived right on time.

Dani's Day Hab had a party for her today. She proudly left this morning with her 9.5 lb cake (no joke that thing nearly broke my back carrying it to the car) and celebrated with her friends. She received a stack of handmade cards, peach body spray (which she's applied 5 times this evening), and a twelve-pack of roller lip gloss. Jimmy said she plopped herself in the car with all her gifts, flipped down the sun visor, and began lavishly applying her lip gloss. She's her mama's girl.

"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb."
Psalm 139:13

July 11, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this morning beauty was more of a beast as Dani approached the breakfast table. Bless her heart our little sweet pea has not one ounce of style, but loves to dress herself and show off her favorite items of clothing. The problems is she tends to wear all her favorites at once, ushering in shocking combinations when you least expect it.

This morning she pranced into the kitchen, pretty as you please, donned in her favorite Pterodactyl socks framed by a pair of my sandals. With mannequin white legs extending out her orange knit shorts, she was quite the sight to behold. No doubt God and His angels smiled and giggled along with Jimmy and me.

The piece de resistance was the hole in the sock over her right big toe.

July 8, 2010

Prom Time

Dani's Adult Day Care program had their prom a while back and the theme was Grease. Since we dressed her to the hilt for the Sweetheart Dance, in a fancy pink dress and black patent leather shoes, we decided to drop prom tradition and send her 50's style. Olivia Newton John would have been proud to see Dani with her T-shirt tied at the waist, pink bandana, and rolled up blue jeans. She was a tad proud of herself as she posed for this picture.

Some of the young men dressed in their finest suits, while the gals wore dresses. Everyone had a great time dancing and enjoying refreshments. No doubt Dani hovered like a humming bird around the refreshment table.

July 1, 2010

If She were a Savant

When an individual with Autism excels developmentally in areas that far exceeds the average, they are called a savant. Our daughter Dani isn't considered a savant but if she were it would be in the area of geography. Her ability to maneuver around the Kansas City metropolitan area is astounding. She not only knows how to get to the airport 45 miles away, but can navigate to it from all different directions. She can also identify where her grandma is buried, even though it's an area we rarely travel. She doesn't often sign "grandma" because she knows my mother is in heaven, but when she does mention her best friend it's on the highway near the cemetery. Truly amazing.

Like many Autistics Dani has a few quirks that are unique and challenging. For instance she hates fringe. Several years ago I mistakingly bought living room rugs with decorative loose ends all to watch her avoid them like the plague. Seems I inadvertently purchased her very nightmare. Now, whenever she enters the living room she takes an alternate route or awkwardly hops over the fringe.

Unlike some Autistics Dani is not overly concerned with the order of things. Her desire for organization seems focused mainly on humans. She can detect an adult who is not in control of the situation at the drop of a hat. The only therapists she's ever fussed with were the ones who were new and unsure of themselves. I kind of admire her ability to assess adults this way. I prefer more grounded folks myself.

Given the fact Dani is not a neat freak, I was shocked the other evening when I walked into her room and saw her play things lined up neat and a precise. Tidy as a store, her play food, bracelets, and other sundries were parked on her bookshelves in exact little spots. I couldn't help but say,"Good job girl!"

She even found the perfect place for her Daniel Boon hat
...atop her stuffed rabbit.
I don't know if this was a late case of spring fever or what, but it was a pleasant surprise just the same.