Gus the Deployed Cat

Our oldest son, let’s call him Son-1, has been in the military 3 years.

After moving out of an Air Force base dormitory and into an apartment in New Mexico, he began considering pet ownership.

He talked the idea over with us and his girlfriend (GF) for several months. Son-1 and GF landed on a cat being the best option for them. “But,” he asked me. “If I have to deploy, Mom, would you come get the cat?”

Would I come get the cat?! The words stuck with me for a while. I convinced myself that Oh, it will be a while before that could happen. And Oh, maybe if he deploys, then the timing will work out that his girlfriend or someone else can care for the animal. I won’t really be needed.

We are the type of family that stick with a pet for life. Ultimately I am glad Son-1 got that memo. Pet care is a serious commitment. He’s turning out to be a responsible guy. I think surely my son won’t need me in this way, but if he does, I said, “Yes. I’ll be there.”

I pause here to mention that when our first pet, an insane nearly untrainable and somewhat aggressive 10 lb. dog passed away, then it was a full 9 years before we were willing to have a pet again.

And–once upon a time, I was not a cat person at all. I harbored years of judgement against cats. What I saw and smelled at various homes growing up was not something I wanted in my life. But then one day in 2010 I fell for the tiniest little kitten in Jackson County. I remember our young boys whispered to Hubby, “Mom. Picked. Up. A. Cat.” And Hubby whispered, “Yeah, something’s going down here. She never does that.”

We brought that sweet baby home.

I bought good cat litter. We established twice per day scoop policies. The next year we gave her a friend. Two cats. Clearly I lost my mind.

Fast forward back to last year, Son-1 and GF chose a cat named Gus from a shelter. He had been left behind by other people once or twice. Gus would be left behind no more.

“He is cross-eyed, Mom,” Son-1 said over the phone. “The vet doesn’t think he’ll do well if he is out in the wild.” So Indoor Gus began a sweet life with his new mom and dad.

And Hubby and I felt somewhat like distant cat grandparents.

The first time I met Gus I observed that because of his eye situation he tilts his head back to see when you walk into a room. It looks like he says, “Whaz up?” every time.

Gus out of NM Window

For several months we enjoyed pics and texts about their life with Gus. They were a happy little pet inclusive family.

Then GF received notice of deployment. She had several months to prepare. The couple thought they’d cuddle with their cat until she left. Then we were all surprised when Son-1 received notice that he also would deploy but with only 3 weeks notice. Eek! Gus moved up on the extended family priority list. I had made the promise, so you know what happened next.

We rapidly picked the 24 hours that I would fly alone 3200 miles round trip on a tight budget to get Gus. Hubby and I couldn’t help but feel like I was going to get our grandchild-cat.

G-ma is coming!

[End of part one. Stay tuned for part two.]

Job 12:7 But ask the animals, and they will teach you…

Gus downward pose
*The story of Gus is posted with permission of his 21 year old active duty military parents.

A Little Hungry

If I could assign “required reading” for adults on the planet, then I would put on the list Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, And A Mother’s Will To Survive by Stephanie Land. Buy it, read it, “get” it.

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Stephanie writes about the days when she had a small child, no other reliable adult support, lived in a mold ridden apartment that made them sick, and worked as a maid. For me, as a woman who struggles a bit now and as a daughter of a mom who cleaned houses for 20 plus years on top of her day job, this book echoed through my whole being.

People need to know what it is like to be in Stephanie’s shoes. The juggle is intense. What might seem like the most common things become road blocks. For example, recently a woman asked me if she could use my computer to fill out and print a Section 8 form. When I said of course, her relief was visible. Her forehead, shoulders, and arms relaxed; measurable only in millimeters on the exhale, right in front of me.

If we really want to help people in poverty, then we need to help with things like printing and transportation. And we need to nix the judgemental and marketing manipulative attitudes.

Some people give others the stink-eye because someone who may appear to be poor has what looks like a smartphone. But let me tell you that phone likely does not do everything your phone does. That person may only pay for a certain number of minutes at a time. What may be your daily lifeline is a tool that comes and goes for them. Imagine how quickly you might run out of minutes with no money to get more. Over the summer, a woman called me to help her track the bus route progress. She had a phone but no internet. She was waiting at a bus stop and trying to get to the hospital to see her child. She talked me through how to use my phone to look up the live bus line.

And how about the environmental marketing that impacts people in poverty? If you go into Kroger in a fancy neighborhood, the alcohol may be in a separate side store or tucked in a pergola looking back section of the store. If you go into a Kroger in an area with higher poverty, then the alcohol is in front and often near the checkout like candy for the young and old to see all year long. Cigarettes and E-cigs? Where do you think the most vape shops are and the most colorful nicotine addictive luring posters?

If we really cared, mental health and self care learning options would be accessible at the unemployment office and government offices that give assistance. We could teach better options. We could make healthy resources easier to connect with. We could.

The prolonged brain strain begins to physically hurt. I know first hand the constant pressure of trying to pay bills with no way to save toward the inevitable broken appliance, car repair, etc. I must write down every little to-do item or I will forget. I think of this time in our lives as either go-to-work or shelter-in-place and allow time to pass until the next paycheck.

When Hubby needed help today he said, “No because it’s not fair to you.” I replied, “Thanks for the acknowledgement. And this is not fair to either one of us. We’re in this [ALS-21] together.”

People say you either get better or get bitter. I think that is true, but my brain hurting likely will not go away until we sell the house and start over. I cast vision daily in my mind of what it will look like when we are no longer slave to a mortgage after losing his income, and when we are in a more accessible location so I can stop worrying about how Hubby will make it up or down stairs.

My “getting better” is in the appreciation of many small things. I notice beauty around me. Every time there is hot water I am thankful. When I open the fridge door to cold food, I am delighted. Groceries are golden. When a friend bought me two tacos, I felt joy to ditch tuna and peanut butter on a long pre-paycheck week. I have hugged the washer and dryer in appreciation for their endurance. I marveled at this sunset Saturday night:

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If you struggle, you are not alone. Stephanie Land reminds us of that.

What would you place on the required adult reading list?

Love,

Glenna

In the Stillness

Chronic illness and caregiving are lonely places to be. And a lonely place can be smack dab in the middle of your own house. It is easy to be forgotten when you don’t show up hardly anywhere social anymore. It’s easy to miss friends even when you talk to them a lot via text.

This is one of those posts that is scary to write because I certainly don’t want to hurt Hubby’s feelings; however, he has said to me before maybe if you write the truth it will help other people not feel as alone.

I try to look at our situation like we’re lucky because we have each other. If you’ve ever lived this type of life, then you know that’s just as funny as it is true. I hold onto what I can. I miss him. And I hate that he feels (in my opinion) sick 80+% of the time. We each silently regret some of the things we could have been out doing in our early years together.

There is sweetness too. When he verbally appreciates my weak effort to do house chores. When he offers me quiet time in the house because he knows the silence soothes me. When he will go to the end of the Google search engine to research anything the boys or I need. And, I have my thoughts about him always being a man of integrity. That is one of the things that attracted me to him long ago. Recently he agreed to do an audio book club with me. I am hopeful the first book discussion will be fun from our different perspectives. I’ve listened through chapter 9 so far.

I ponder if this time of both rest and stress ultimately helps me focus more time on writing projects. The quote below got my attention this morning after waking up from another nightmare for the sixth morning in a row:

quote

Writers need a platform. Mine is growing. I am thankful that my Twitter followers are 18 away from 1,000 (as of the time of this post) which I read is an important step in jumping onto a propulsion algorithm. We shall see. Fingers crossed. It’s not about “likes” for publishers. It is about “would anyone buy her book?”. Since I am 60% introvert and 40% extrovert, this writer life climb is filled with internal conflict–hence the nightmares? Being on a team is joyful for me. Putting my neck out there solo causes a touch of angst.

I enjoy getting to know a little bit about people in the writing world who live around the globe. That part of the journey is fun. I just cyber-met someone who is on number 200 of her 300 bucket list items. How cool is she? Go girl, @VickyJones7.

So in this life filled with challenges, I say: Carry on in the stillness. Carry on in the Light. Carry on, dear readers, carry on.

Much love,

Glenna

Exodus 14:14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.

What We Think vs. What Is, Plus Tea

Dear People,

I admired her. I wanted her to like me. I hoped we’d be friends.

And–I was fairly sure she didn’t think anything at all about me.

That lady was busy doing important things that I liked being part of even if on the fringe. She might not have known my first and/or last name.

I attempted a conversation or two. I doubted my spoken words connected to her brain.

Isn’t that how it goes sometimes? We like someone. We share similar ideas with them. They do work we think is cool. We are confident they have zero interest in getting to know us.

Years later she calls me. Wha…wha…what?

She wants to meet at a restaurant.

So I go.

And it turns out she likes my brain too.

She has been reading my blog and asks me to help her think through a couple things.  Then she asks me to pray for her weekly in the months ahead as she works on a project.

I say…ok.

Like, O and K together softly, genuinely.

Before agreeing I took a few seconds to think about whether I could fit her request into my life. Which, I gotta say, is one of my most grown up moments. To consider if I could make time for something new, to think about if I could honor her and my word, ah, yes, that is an adult moment for me.

Connection isn’t always obvious, dear readers. Sometimes less is more. We don’t have to force anything. Be present. Be kind. Carry on. Don’t compromise. Be you. Things come around if they are meant to be.

This example gives me hope that a relationship with a literary agent will come into my life too. It’s happened for others. It will happen for me too. I’ve written two novels in three years (dog gone it) while in the midst of serious life changes.

The pressure is on and off at the same time. My coal is being pressed. I’m learning all I can about who might be my #DreamAgent. It will happen. I know you’re out there.

Until then I am sipping Hot Cinnamon Spice tea on a Sunday morning. I’ve learned that quality tea and taking time to breathe is valuable. I’m putting my mug out there and wishing peace for you and your dreams too.

Love,

Glenna

 

Bestie Mantra Weekend

Driving 3 hours to her house, I think of all we might do in a 24 hour getaway. I will go as far as karaoke. I’m all in.

Good food and laughter are guaranteed. I need a minute away. Home is stable. This is my chance. Hubby wishes me well with my favorite, “Have fun.”

I appreciate and love my girlfriends so much. They keep me sane. I could listen to stories about what goes on in their lives forever. They listen to me too. And this bestie, Bestie B, was my college roommate. We survived living together, studying together, random outings, heartbreak, and the dawn of adult living. She knows the recipe for my go-to final exams breakfast omelet. She knows I clean to alleviate stress. I have not seen her in many months. Every second will be savored.

After visiting with her daughter and a tour of her new place, we moms go out to eat Mexican. We dive into life stage ponderings and problem solving which leads to a weekend project and of course, duh, the craft store stores. We visit JoAnn’s, Target, Walmart, & Michael’s. Shopping is something I hardly ever do these days. It feels good to wander.

Back at her home, the project ensues. We seek words that will lead to a personal mantra. A mantra is a slogan or phrase that one can use to meditate. It may be for a season or a lifetime. We hope creating a mantra will help steer our brains in a healthy way. Through conversation, we write down positive words and watch for the most important words to elevate. Our intent is to have a ready thought to help with current challenges.

I mean, my gal is an engineer and I consider myself a social scientist, so this was fun. Hours unfold. Words emerge. We are well past our usual bedtimes. I anticipate she will land on 3 separate words, but I am wrong.

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With a sound effect of introduction well after midnight, a word phrase moves to the top of the post it note chart. We agree to sleep on the results and see if the mantra sticks. She has a mantra statement “Manage My Mind”. I have a mantra question “Is that thought helpful?”.

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I wake up in a different place and watch Netflix undisturbed for an hour. As if I wasn’t already in Heaven, then I share in a bestie chocoholic breakfast. Yum.

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Our fresh minds agree that the mantras fit even after sleep. These are our phrases for this season.

We move into craft time. She makes vinyl stencils with her Cricket (Thanks Daughter M for helping Bestie B figure it out over the phone). We place the stencils on decorative wood from Wal-mart ($2.97ea). We use one of the 12 paints in a set from Michael’s ($9.99set) and sponge brushes ($4.97set) to paint the words.

While paint dries we listen to the podcast “My Favorite Murder”. On the second round of paint drying, I nap a little and have to Google the rest of the podcast story. Then it is time to remove the stencils and fill in any missed spots.

I want to add glitter. We find cute large rounds of glitter at Walmart ($3.99). I use Elmer’s Glue to apply the sparkle.

Wah lah! Our mantras are ready to be placed in a spot where we will be reminded daily.

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When it’s time to depart and without discussion, she finds a Ziploc bag to keep my new favorite sign from leaving glitter in my car. #Love

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My mantra “Is that thought helpful?” reminds me of the Bible verse that talks about taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).

I’ll pay attention to how my brain functions over the next few months with this mantra hanging in my office. I don’t want to get stuck on “thinking” that is not useful. I want to train my brain to keep moving my thoughts and actions in a good direction.

If you get a chance to do a mantra making project, I would love to hear about it. I hope it is as fun and useful to you as it was to Bestie B & me.

Love,

Glenna

2 Turtles in Rush Hour

On the way to work I see a turtle halfway across Dudley Road hill. There’s no safe place for me to pull off and safely move him to the other side. At that hour with so many cars I might cause more harm than good. His outstretched neck on the double yellow line haunts me as I blink my lights at oncoming traffic.

Then on the expressway onramp I see a similar turtle crossing with head held high.  What in the world? Two within one mile? Neither I can help safely. I pray for their protection.

I think of those two turtles for days.

Today I ponder the two perspectives in my marriage. On selfish days I wonder if Hubby can possibly see or care about my inner struggles.  I only need his encouragement and an atta girl once in a while (ok, every 1.5 days please) to keep going. I’m “fine”. Everything is fine.

On less selfish days I ponder what life is like from his perspective.  I may never know completely what ALS muscle loss feels like, his struggle to walk, or the occasional cognitive glitch. How frustrating it must be.

We have opposite personalities to begin with so perspective sharing has long been a challenge.  Of the many things I’ve learned from two opposite wired brains over the years, I am certain there are at least two ways to do most tasks and both can feel like the right way at the moment until one considers the other person’s point of view. Many of our brief spats involve arguing the exact same point from different angles.

“You’re saying the same thing.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Ok.”

What I hold onto year after year is that God’s love is greater and more fulfilling than any love I might find or desire on earth.

We are lucky.  We choose Jesus to be at the center, our Translator In Chief. Time after time our hearts soften and we hear one another eventually.

I saw this on a Lysa Terkuerst Instagram story  post:  “If lesser love ever fulfilled us, then we would have no need for God.”

So true.

We are all turtles daring to cross the road.

Romans 15:13 NIV:  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Gas Pedals & Mommas

Accelerating on an interstate entrance ramp, I think about how gas pedals are small yet mighty.

Then I consider how the go of the gas pedal is balanced by the stop of the brake pedal.  I ponder how cars have seats, steering wheels, mirrors, lights, and all the many parts that work together for the cause of convenient transportation.

My mind spins in a thankful vortex. How wonderful it is that we have little gas pedals that can do great things. I can go down a mental rabbit hole, I tell ya.

I asked a friend what she is doing for Mother’s Day.  Her mom passed away recently.  “Do you have a plan for Sunday?”  What I really am asking is does she have something to be distracted by that day?  I try to be there for those who face fresh grief during emotionally charged holidays.

In my own world, I am getting better at zero expectations for special dates.  A different friend pointed out that as long as they’ve known me (since childhood) I’ve been overcoming something.  A parent leaving or coming back, sicknesses, multiple deaths close to me, and so forth.  They are not wrong.  It’s been a mountainous road.  I once had romanticized hopes for days like Mother’s Day, birthdays, etc. which of course leads to disappointment.

Now I have learned small gestures are bonus moments. I enjoy surprises that pop up in ways I don’t anticipate. I allow part of every day to be a celebration of the life I get to live. Yes, I’ve been known to turn up Mandisa’s Overcomer song on the car radio.

Four of the best strategies I know for getting through tough times are:

1. Identify a gratitude anchor.  Is there a memory you cherish? Hug the memory and thank it for being part of your life. Is there an object of wonder? Take time to be thankful. Fill in the blanks: “I appreciate _________ because _________.” Repeat.

2.  Help someone.  You might be the bright spot in someone else’s day.

3.  Give yourself permission to check out of a situation especially if you are recovering from a tragedy or grief. I am new to giving myself time-outs from people, places, or things. I’ve found time-outs helpful in 2019.

4.  Do something you enjoy and fully relish it.  My go to the last two weeks has been listening to Journey’s timeless music Faithfully and with Open Arms.

Romans 8: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.

Deep, slow breaths.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Love,

Signature GSE

 

What Swirls In Your Head

Are there negative comments made by others about you that come to mind easily or often?

And worse, were those words said many years ago, but still linger today?

Yeah?  Me too.

I’ve chosen to address some of the aforementioned.  To follow is one example.

Shortly after Hubby and I were married my mom said, “I know he must love you because I know what that (me!) looks like in the morning.”

Some might think that she was jovial or meant her over share for fun, but in that moment I felt her words pierce my newlywed abdomen. Deep.

Over the decades I barely noticed that I heard her say it over and over within the swirling sauce pan on my mental health back burner.  Her sentence low level impacts my ability to function.

I don’t want to see me in the mornings.  I can be slow to rise post alarm clock.  Her words are there even when I mostly ignore their existence.  I take way too long to get out the door.  I dread the daily get ready ritual.  And frankly, I’d like a blue ribbon for managing to get me from bedhead to work while also getting children to school for much of the last 20 years.

Recently I allowed myself to tune in to the slow burn frequency.  I decided that every single day for the month of February I would take a morning selfie within minutes of being awake.

Maybe if I head on face my own face and wild AM hair, then I could find release from those stupid words?

So the selfies began.

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I challenged her comment.

And I felt annoyed mostly.

I laughed at frayed ponytails.  I dared to whisper “make up free is beautiful” or “lingering one eyed eye liner is hot”.

I hid sometimes.

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I took a pic daily no matter what.

I guessed by my birthday mid month surely I would be past carrying the hurt.  I am a gosh darn Valentine Day born person filled with Love and Light.  I am done with holding myself back.  Right?

Nope.  I did not feel better the 14th, 15th, 16th, and so forth.

I continue with my selfie promise and determine that I will learn to love all this.  After all, God loves me.  And there are plenty of people who may not be traditional magazine cover material, but I find them gorgeous inside and out.  Could I admire the undone me?

Along the way I accept that I may complete the month without feeling any breakthroughs on the subject of my morning time look.  I pondered verses like:

Psalm 139:14 I will give thanks to you because I have been so amazingly and miraculously made. Your works are miraculous, and my soul is fully aware of this.

Ephesians 5:29 For no one has ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, as the Messiah does the church.

Proverbs 19:8 To acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.

Then one night last week I had a dream.  A detailed dream.  People I trust and value greatly were there.  I was invited to go on a hike.  I had to pack quickly borrowing some supplies, grabbing what was available, and choosing to do without some items.

My hiking buddy was a young early 20’s gal with red hair.  As we passed an amusement park on our way to nature she said, “I may not be or feel pretty,  but I always have adventure.”

Yes!  Something shifted in my body.  I connected with the free to roam, always have adventure statement.  When I woke up, I no longer felt linked to the negative feelings.  I felt change.

I thanked God for my sense of departure from the negative weight.

Since that dream I have continued the February commitment while also noticing my improved ability to love the person I spend the most time with: me.

The 28 pictures have formed into an art collection.  I appreciate both the humor and seriousness found in the pictures.

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I am pretty excited today is March 1.  No more morning selfies and no more need for morning selfies.

What swirls in your mind?  Is there something you can address with the intention of breaking free from it?  I’d love to hear how you creatively kick certain thoughts or words to the curb.

Wishing you health and freedom,

Glenna

 

For the Broken

I did not see that coming.  Twice, in fact, I paused in awe within the last seven days.

First, I went to spaghetti-a-plenty night at our local Larosa’s restaurant with the young man who has helped us accomplish countless house tasks over the last two months.  He and I have painted wall after wall and multiple ceilings while worship music played.  We sang or talked about life along the way while occasionally saying we’d go get spaghetti when the list of to-dos were done.  He’s done carpentry and plumbing work.  The list is long.  He’s 26 and he could have chosen to be anywhere.  He didn’t know us until he answered a random church text to go help a family in October.

That introduction day surrounded by our mess, he looked deep into my eyes to size up the situation.  He promises that he will not leave our family’s side until the house is ready to be put on the market.  “I’ll care for you the way I would care for my own mom,” he said.  He delivered mercy with a paint brush to my soul.

During dinner he shares, “I look at your husband whose body is broken and it makes me think of how broken I have been on the inside.  Through this time with you I am reminded that no matter how his body is failing him that he has everything I’d ever want:  a wife and family behind him.  Kids that love him.  ALS can’t take that.  He is more whole than I have felt in a while.”

I see the reflection in this young man’s eyes that his heart is healing and he is moving on with God into the next season of his life.  He’s spending time in prayer, scripture, and seeking wisdom.  I hope I get to serve punch at his wedding one day.

Second, yesterday Hubby and I went to church.  Often this fall we watched online as the home tasks were many and his body struggled.  It is Christmas.  We want to be inside our church to worship.

Hubby had a rough morning so we need more than the rollator.  I quickly load the wheelchair into the trunk.  The sun is shining.  The car is old but warm.  We are smiling.  A friend checks in on text and I reply that I feel peace and hope to carry it through the holiday.

And then 10 short minutes later…

As we roll toward the door the gravity of Hubby not being able to walk into church rips open my tear ducts.  We can not get into the sanctuary where it is dark fast enough.

I don’t make eye contact with Hubby for the first half of service.  I look away to wipe my tears and wonder about my mascara status.  I place my hand on his knee.  I hope that he will take my hand.

He doesn’t.  I can feel his pulse.  It’s a strained rhythm like the rhythm happening in my own body so I know he is fighting tears too.  Eventually I peek and see his wet eyes.  I don’t know if he’s missing our son in the Air Force, missing his mom who passed away this fall, or if it’s the weight of simply everything we face right now.

Releasing my stubbornness, I stop waiting for his hand to move and move my own hand to find his.

I am reminded that whatever brokenness we feel, there are many more who feel angst too.  Sometimes the holiday lights amplify pain or grief.  For all who suffer right now I lift up this prayer for you.

Dear God,

We praise your name even when times are difficult.  Lord, lift up the brokenhearted.  Please help the lonely feel your presence this season.  Be with those who long for a loved one who has passed.  Your Word in Psalm 34:18 says you are near the brokenhearted and we claim that promise right now.  Be near us.  Bring joy in the simple things.  Heal the sick.  Give hope to the hurting.  Bless the caregivers.  Ease suffering.  Be with military families near and far.  Help all who feel alone to find joy that can only come from you.  Wrap everyone with your love and peace.

Amen

With love to all,

Signature GSE

Eyeballs On Row4ALS

They finally caught my full attention after months of me casually following them on Instagram.

“They” are a team who is preparing to row across the Atlantic ocean!

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On board will be the first person with ALS to be part of such a feat.  You can read Alan’s story on their website http://www.row4als.org.

As I type the Row4ALS team is in Spain preparing for their December to February journey.  Their goal is to raise money to cure ALS.

I am concerned that they do not have enough social media followers!  Please follow or like Row4ALS on Instagram or Facebook!  They have a Twitter account too, but it does not seem as active as Instagram and Facebook.

As readers know, ALS has hit our family hard.  I am inspired by the Row4ALS team.  Most mornings when I wake up, I pull the covers up and ask for a hug from Jesus.  Then I read verses from the Bible.  Then I look to make sure Hubby is breathing.  Then I watch the latest on Instagram from Row4ALS.

Go Alan & team!  Thank you for seeking a cure!

Deuteronomy 31:6 ~ Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid…; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Signature GSE