Accept Help

Things are better for our family today than they were one year ago.

Or, today compared with the last seven years, seven years that got progressively worse until I thought my brain and heart might implode.

I felt fear typing the word “better”, but it is true.

Thank God.

And, thank people.

A key thing I learned especially the last three years was that help comes from the most unexpected places: complete strangers, acquaintances, neighbors, some friends, some family. There was a time when I would have refused help or tried to do it all my own.

I stopped being embarrassed of our mess and started saying yes.

Someone I trusted but did not know well sorted my jewelry and personal items. A team of painters from a church different from our own church came to our house for over a week, most that I did not know. Someone I barely knew out of town paid our electric at just the right time when I was debating the order and deadlines of bills. Grocery gift cards arrived. Encouragement came in the mail from both sisters (by blood and marriage) at just the right time every time. Someone ran a marathon to fundraise so that Hubby could get a mobile scooter. A friend spent 36 hours removing stubborn wallpaper at the condominium. One room had four layers! Eight women over 60 years old showed up to pack their cars with Rubbermaid containers to transport from garage to garage so that we could save time and money on moving day. This paragraph could be much longer with stories of miracle people showing up, but you get the idea.

One thing that rolled around in my head was that people do what they can when they can. I did not expect anyone to help. I think it is dangerous and mean to expect people to be there for you. For example, I am not a fan of Facebook chain posts that end with “and I think I know who will respond.” Yeah, no, at any given time, you do not know what someone is really experiencing or what they can make time for this minute or in this season of their life.

If you are going through a tough time, just be open without judgement. Say yes to those who emerge from the clouds. In addition, when you can, make sure you help others too. There are plenty of opportunities to be there for people when you can. Over the years, I have really enjoyed giving quietly when I was able. It was humbling to be on the receiving end. And, it was necessary to accept help. We would not have made it otherwise. Thank you to many.

When we have frustrating days now, I observe how quickly my mind thinks, “Thank You for my problems.” Right now involves acceptable water treading with a little space and capacity to roll with the waves. I feel the physical and mental stretch daily but nothing like recent years.

Last summer I was fortunate to visit Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The building is constructed with glass walls that provide a sanctuary in the woods.

While there, I thought about its openness to nature. I considered my openness to surrender.

Surrender means saying yes to God through the stress. Surrender says, “Sure you can sort these items in my bedroom. Seems like a personal place, but let’s go for it.” Surrender says, “Thank you for adopting my son to celebrate his high school graduation in ways that I would not have been able at that time to provide.” Surrender says, “Yes, please interview and find us the best realtor for our situation.”

Surrender is also the word that came to mind back in 2016 when I was out of shape and said yes to a near week long hike on the Appalachian Trail with a team of women.

I knew the ground was sliding under our family’s footing. Something was wrong. I thought I was losing my mind over our oldest son going to the military at 17 years old. Maybe if I ran away to hike and sleep outside, then I could get alone with God to work out my mixed up feelings.

However, there was more.

And, God was preparing me.

“Surrender on the Trail” became the title of the manuscript I wrote about our wild experience in the woods. Imagine four women committed to staying outside to maneuver rocks and mountains for 35 miles. Imagine getting lost in the rain at nightfall. Imagine tears and flies buzzing with an incredible 4,050 feet view above sea level.

I am thinking about publishing one chapter a week here on the blog. What do you think?

The manuscript has been complete and edited for a long time. Something in my heart does not feel like continuing to query publishers or literary agents right now. What if I make it available here?

People from 34 countries read this blog last year. What if I simply share?

If you have comments or ideas about this idea, please let me know.

Thanks,

Psalm 121:1a ~ I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD….

Capture

When a baby comes along, one hears “Enjoy them, they grow so fast” on repeat.

I took mental pictures of our tiny babes, memory videos of their first steps, wrote down funny things they said, and worked as late as it took to pull off birthday surprises and holidays.

But almost no one tells you how fast your marriage will go. One thing I do recall someone say at our wedding, “Look around. You’ll never see this many people who love ya in one place again until your funeral.”

Well, that was encouraging. Eek.

I’ve considered lately how much I cannot remember about the years with Hubby in the way I can with the kids. While there are some thoughts to revisit, it is not as easy to find the rewind button or scene selection.

So, these days I take time to freeze the frame when we laugh at a show together, when he talks the boys through a decision or when he reassures me that I’m doing pretty well considering. I even capture the kindness when he shuffles away to give me alone or reading time. He knows I need the quiet to recharge.

No one tells you that there may be a season of marriage when you feel a ping of jealousy seeing random people much older than you walking around together at a mall or on the street.

I remind myself that everyone has unseen burdens. Life sprinkles the challenges out to folks.

Still. It can be difficult to play out your hand while not wanting the game to end.

So, we’ll capture in each day what we can. The mundane is no longer dull. The hurdles mean we are breathing. It is the life we get to live each day.

Scorpions & Snow Plows

The subconscious mind is a place for truth though we may not recognize it at first glance.

Three nights this week included the constant noise of a mechanical bobcat in battle with the snow. I felt gratitude for the man driving the machine 12 hours at a time. I felt challenged by 3am continuous “beep, beep, beeps” that prohibited my ability to sleep.

I have struggled with bad dreams and waking up a smidge anxious for months anyway. Changes and stress have a way of demanding attention even when waking hours seem fine.

This weekend I have been able to sleep. And, I have been able to tackle neglected writing projects. It feels good to dive in where I felt stuck for a long time.

I suppose no one takes next steps until they are ready. Creativity calls. Only some hearts answer.

Then last night in my dream I was with Hubby, a wheelchair, and we were in what I would call the universal church fellowship hall of the 1970’s and 1980’s. I bet you can visualize the paneling, folding chairs and posters that were hung on walls far too long. Church was done for the day. Hubby was pleasant but tired. It was time to go back to where we were staying in Florida. Bonus: it was a travel dream.

Then I look down and see a scorpion. It seemed bad. But was it? I wondered.

I went to get a church deacon type to help. A young person ended up walking in to confirm that the creature was what we thought.

We weren’t afraid. There were simply things that needed to be handled.

Once awake, I looked up dream symbols. Sometimes dreams are pretty obvious regarding what’s on one’s mind. And other times a random symbol stands out. I mean, it is not like I see routine scorpions where we live in the upper Midwest.

I found that the scorpion can mean making peace with a challenging situation and moving on.

So the scorpion symbol added up fairly well. Life is semi-hard. Mostly I give thanks for my problems because things could be far worse. I try to be happy in the right now. And, the moving on part is likely because I am able to work on special writing projects that have waited for me patiently.

Thanks for reading and sticking around all these years. The best is yet to come.

Valentine Antidote

It is that day when I promise once again that next year I won’t be in town on Valentine’s Day. I will be with girlfriends or on a beach, on a mountain top, anywhere else doing something–anything–not so ordinary.

Valentine’s Day is a double whammy. It’s also my birthday. Growing up, I loved celebrating with red hearts, white paper lace, pink streamers, balloons and all things Valentine.

As an adult, I realized many people have jumbled emotions linked to February 14. Happy feelings, angry feelings, dread, anger and so forth.

Then I married someone who expresses love inversely to what I anticipated. Let’s just say his first romantic gift was a bright yellow personal alarm to wear on my waist so I could pull the cord for it to wail and screech if someone nefarious came too close to me on my college campus.

We’ve worked it out. It’s taken a lot of tears and years. I’ve learned that the antidote to my occasional sad feels is to have less expectations, ask for something specific if desired, support or help others.

These days, ALS-21 plus a Pandemic make it so Hubby can’t get out to shop, or walk much, or feel good for a full day. I am happy simply when his words are kind. I like thoughtful and kind. Lately, I’ve been quietly thanking the writers of Call The Midwife. Hubby really likes that show. I call it his daily empathy exercise. Women have been through so much and that binge worthy series does not shy away from hard topics.

Speaking of writers, my feel better about Valentine’s Day activity this year was to support authors I care about. I directed Hubby to my wish list and he placed the order. I was excited to open the packages.

Janine Rosche is an author who picked me up off the floor when I received a bad news phone call at a writer’s conference. She prayed with me. Then I found out she was looking for a certain agent to meet. I am thrilled to say they met indeed and are three books into a successful journey. I now have a trifecta of inspirational romance to read:

William Klein’s book was lost in our move so I needed a replacement copy. This is a timely fictional story about a painful border experience.

And Jessica Terry is a writer that cracks me up with her Instagram stories. Like me, she was a basketball player in her youth. We’ve never met. I appreciate her work ethic and passion. So, I soon will read:

Who would you like to support? Someone creative? An organization that does something you value? Church? Someone elderly or ill? Doing a little something for others could brighten your Valentine’s Day. Earlier in the week, I called a couple people who I hadn’t spoken with in a few years. It was a good time on old fashioned phone calls.

Frequently, I think of the verse Love One Another (John 15: 12). Loving others does not result in only one direction of good vibes even when that should be our intention. When you love others, the good feels return to fill your heart and strengthen the weave of the universe.

Still in town,

P.S. Hubby also visited the Shari’s Berries website. Winner. Yum.

Still Here

There is “a lot of togetherness for families right now”, a friend said–knowing how people at home can get on one another’s nerves after nearly a year of social distancing.

I dream of hopping in the car and taking long drives. Drives that land me in other states, on a mountain or on a beach. The sound of ocean waves is high on my YouTube search list.

Our family is fortunate to have moved just in time to our condo where accessibility for Hubby is much better overall. Our youngest is attending college online this semester rather than returning to a dorm. It has been a comfort to know Son 2 is home when I mask up and go to work. If Hubby falls, Son 2 is here to help at least for now.

While things are far from perfect, I count blessings daily.

Hubby and I have opposite personalities. Often I either have a different viewpoint altogether or am mentally translating that we just said something similar in a different way. I usually recognize the style difference first while he argues his point. I wait, then eventually say, “we said the same thing” which he may or may not ever believe. This fact has worn me out for near 3 decades–long before ALS added to our mix.

I notice a lot of couples end up on opposite sides of the picket fence so I want to encourage those who end up as spouse, friend and caregiver. Caregiver is a twist of sour lemon, but you can carry on and survive. I even believe thriving is possible. Not there yet, but I’m considering what “thriving” might look like. Stay tuned.

Occasionally I have a little island moment epiphany. This week I was knocked over by the thought, “He’s still here.”

And, I’m glad.

I can still figure out how to hug him–awkward and on me to initiate, but it is possible. I can still ask his opinion about something. I can still find a moment to catch up about our sons. Once in a while something on TV makes him laugh, and that is my favorite few seconds of eye crinkling. Last night he was able to sit in a chair long enough to play a couple rounds of a board game. That was a win.

Still here is a lot better than not here.

So, we carry on.

Savor the Pour

Time to close the year 2020. I have written very little since moving into our new place this fall. However, I am beginning to feel a creative flow return.

Like many, I welcome 2021.

In recent days, I take time to enjoy the red tea pot that our son gave me a few years ago.

Whether adding hot water to a mug of chocolate or tea, it is the moment when the spout tips into the ceramic that I savor the most.

Steam, pour and stir. The stillness. The seconds just for me. The peace.

I feel mindful in those brief moments. Present and alive.

And that is my wish for you. May peace fill your soul.

Happy. New. Year.

But Not The Baby’s Wagon

Once upon a time, back when I thought I was tough, when I believed wholeheartedly that life will be what you make it, when I never cried at movies or much of anything besides a broken heart, my future husband and I took a road trip.

He played his favorite songs through the car cassette player. “Listen to Sammy Kershaw,” he said. “If we are going to get married, then we have to promise never to let this happen.”

The song was Yard Sale. The lyrics played:

Cardboard sign says yard sale
Real estate sign says sold
Family picnic table
Holds all that it can hold
On the grass and on the sidewalk
Well there must be half the town
Ain’t it funny how a broken home
Can bring the prices down

Oh they’re sortin through
What’s left of you and me
Paying yard sale prices
For each golden memory
Oh I never thought
I’d ever live to see
The way they’re sorting through
What’s left you and me

You left two summer dresses
In the backyard on the line
A lady just brought them to me
Says she thinks they’ll fit just fine
Well there goes the baby’s wagon…

By the time the baby’s wagon is sold, my lips are quivering.

Tears. What the heck?

And ever since that 19 year old day, I joined in on his idea of divorce not being an option.

When Hubby was diagnosed in 2017 with ALS-21, soon could no longer work, and he had to crawl if stairs were involved, I saw the dim light arrive over the home we once were determined to grow old in together.

I knew we’d have to leave.

And I knew our very real children’s wagon was in the garage. Do our sons need it anymore? Uh, no. Did we love it and use it a lot? Yes. That wagon toured the neighborhood many days, helped with Halloween, Cub Scout popcorn sales, and gardening.

I have cried about leaving our home for weeks while keeping my body sorting, packing, dragging, etc. Moving out of a home you’ve lived in over 20 years is more of a feat than a project. Plus, when leaving is a “have to”, the work can be extra painful. My heart resisted while my body ran the metaphoric marathon.

Then I learned that a 5 year old is part of the new family who bought our house. Turned out, she would like to have the wagon.

Take that, ALS-21! You can not have our babies’ wagon!

And that made me feel good. The wagon will live on in our neighborhood for a little while longer.

We are 4 hours into condo life without overlap with the house. There is a peace in seeing Hubby get around much better here. My mind & tired body will settle into the peace soon I hope.

Speaking of marathons, next Sunday Lisa Zupan is running 26 miles for two causes. One of the reasons is to help purchase a scooter and car lift for Hubby. If you would like to donate, click here.

God bless you through the many chapters of life.

Love,

Glenna

Goodbye, House.

Have fun, Wagon!

Grieving A Place

This may be the last blog I write from the home we have lived in over 20 years.

I knew the uphill battle of grief kicked in when random tears began showing up at various times of the day two weeks ago.

Anxiety woke me up in the mornings via a scary dream or a feeling of panic or a headache well before my alarm. If you know me, this is wildly different than my zero problems with sleep usually.

How will I manage the calls that need to be made? Will contractors show up at the new place or old on time? Have I packed enough? What still needs to be thrown away? How will I do this physically, at this point, mostly on my own in the time of Covid-19?

And then sadness: Our grandchildren will never walk through the same doors our kids did.

I tell myself it is just a place.

Then I Marie Kondo try to honor and thank the house for the time we’ve cherished together.

I pray. I dream of an easier lifestyle.

I feel nervous about the multiple pages of condo rules. There’s no vacuuming after 9pm, for example. I kid that I am moving into assisted living at 48 years old.

Then I try to visualize a much simpler way of being. The idea seems serene to soon be able to write or exercise over yard work any day of the week. I am leaving yard tools behind–that feels out of control for this girl! I ponder if friends will allow me to occasionally pull their weeds. Seriously.

I read author Bill Klein’s blog post about Change after a startled 5AM awakening. He writes “The trick in dealing with change is in fanning the flames of optimism and possibilities that exist. How do we get the mind to recognize the power of possibility to inspire the imagination to arrive at new possibilities when we are facing fear at its most daunting?”

So I will try to fan the optimism and the thoughts of Hubby being in a safer situation. It is scary to live here currently with stairs, etc. I am frightened when I leave for work, and I stress about missing time together in the hours I spend working on the house.

Soon all the rooms he needs will be handy. I like the idea that we will be able to leave the condo behind any time we want for a short jaunt or trip. In some ways, we will be able to spend more time together. The next chapter will be more manageable.

If I could flip the switch and be on the other side of moving and the other side of these feelings, then I would. Instead, life demands that one feel the grief for a little while.

There’s no way out but through. Keep going.

Love,

Glenna

Please Don’t Kill My Husband

Yes, my title is a bit extreme. And yes, Please don’t kill my husband, is what I think when I see posts on social media about people not taking COVID-19 seriously.

Is that trip out necessary? Are you really stir crazy after one day at home? Have some Americans already tuned out to the reliable updates and articles about this illness?

Allow me to share an example of how being a little sick can become extreme sick for someone with underlying health issues. This story is from when everyone in our immediate family seemed perfectly fine. We had no idea anyone had a compromised immune system. We were young, healthy, had young kids, life was busy.

It was the fall of 2008. We loaded up our littles to head to Disney. In the airport, Hubby started to have the sniffles. Seemed like no big deal.

By the time we got to Florida I was beginning to worry about him. We attempted to carry on. He tried to fake like he was having fun for the boys’ sake.

Then in the middle of the night, he could not breathe. We had no car and no adult family who could help. I called 911 around 230AM.

The paramedics said maybe he should see how he felt in the morning. But Hubby knew something was terribly “off”.

We were supposed to be in the happiest place on earth, yet there goes my husband in an ambulance while I stay in Disney’s Old Key West Resort with our sleeping kids.

At 530AM I use my Nokia 3310 phone to call the hospital. The nurse on the other end says, “Can you get here soon? We are not sure he will make it.”

I was in shock. He had double pneumonia, a possible collapsed lung and was in ICU.

Sidebar: Disney was not helpful to this stressed momma during that time. This was a surprise given their reputation for customer service.

That horrible trip was 9 years before we knew Hubby has ALS-21. His weak immune system makes total sense now, but we had no clue then. It was a long week and then months before he felt decent again. We were lucky.

So please, if you can keep your possible carrier body home, please do. What may or may not harm you could be lethal to someone else.

Wash those hands. Clean out a closet. Wash your floors. Play board games with your kids. Read verses and share verses that provide comfort. Nap. Rest.

Pray that people take precautions now so that this does not get worse. I think there is a way to both exercise faith and practice safety for yourself and others at the same time. Remember all the healthcare workers who need us to flatten the curve.

Psalm 94:19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Uber Conversations

Me, Myself and I spent extra time in the car together this week: after work four evenings, before work one day and once again Saturday night.

I try to be a quiet driver unless the passenger seeks to engage. There are lots of new people I can pray for. The 22 year old trying to figure out which direction she wants to go in life. The 58 year old with occasional seizures so he needs to let someone else drive. The couple who try to communicate but circle into frustrated dead ends over and over. The silent. The headphones. The laundry and the women who lug it home up flights of stairs. The young man who wanted to know what the heck flying pigs have to do with Cincinnati.

Now that I understand how to use the Uber App, the job is becoming more fun. I invested $6 into a handsfree device for the dashboard. I love it as in, “Where have you been all my life?”

Probably most fascinating are the Uber Eats runs. I find these are helpful to stretch my legs and to boost income for the night. I do worry about car wear and tear with the stopping and starting but try to remember that I have been running these same errands for free for my family for years.

I wonder why someone who appears to be able bodied needs Subway delivered from one block away. I am amazed by a delivery charge that cost more than the chicken rings they want from White Castles.

“Stop judging any of it,” I tell myself.

“Practice not thinking at all.”

“Everyone has reasons they do what they do.”

Then, “Ok, this delivery makes sense. The person lives in a place that is a difficult distance from the restaurant.”

Hubby says I need to remember people spend $8 on a daily cup of coffee without thinking about it.

Mostly I think, “Good for them. Time is money. Maybe this delivery helps the person with their self-care or maybe this helps their family spend more time together.”

And my second most often thought is, “I am grateful.”

Extra thanks to those who tip which is only about 15% of people so far. Your generosity helps.

Matthew 7:1 Judge Not….