Saturday, March 26, 2016

Slow Down and Enjoy

Yesterday I made what I thought was going to be a quick trip to Walmart.

Note to self:  Going to Walmart on Good Friday will not be a quick trip. Ever.  There will be people swarming every aisle.  Said people will stop and look and ponder, for ridiculous lengths of time, every possible candied egg or bunny or duckling.

Having just returned from vacation, the house was void of a few essentials..... milk, lettuce, fresh fruits and vegetables, all the things that go bad quickly after a week away.  And......having been a week away from Moise,  I decided to take him with me, which instantly banishes the idea of "quick."  Moise and "quick" are not words that can often be use in the same sentence.  By the time I find an available parking space which will accommodate his wheelchair lift--not an easy find at Walmart-- and lower the lift, release the wheelchair from it's straps, unload him and raise the lift back up, "quick" is nothing more than a nice idea. So I embraced the outing with my boy.

As I maneuvered through the aisles, pushing wheelchair with one hand, pulling cart behind me with the other, I noticed one particular woman that repeatedly passed by.  She was attractive, stylishly dressed, young, early thirties maybe, and appeared to be on a mission to get through the store as quick as possible. She was clearly irritated by the number of people so I tried to make sure she had room to quickly move past Moise and I whenever I saw her approaching us.  When I got to the checkout she was in the aisle next to me, anxiously tapping her foot as she waited for the customer ahead of her.  Tension practically oozed from her. I watched, intrigued as she hurriedly unloaded her items.  Two cases of diapers in two different sizes, four brightly colored sand pails with shovels, and an assortment of Easter candies, 4 of each, told me she is a busy mama with 4 little ones. That's when I realized that she reminded me of  myself 10-15 years ago.  Uptight, stressed out, working too hard for things that don't really matter.

Sometimes I wish I could turn back the hands of time. Go back and do things over, knowing what I know now.  I'd move more slowly, enjoy my children more and worry less about things out of my control.  When I think back to the short time I had with Laynee, I never think of the things I bought her-- the Christmas gifts or Easter baskets or sand pails.  Never.  I remember reading her favorite books, her soft hugs, dancing with her in the kitchen, walking next door with her to see her beloved horses.  I remember the house being in disarray because that's the way she played.  Those are the things I remember.  Those are the things I miss.

I don't know all the things that are going on in the young woman in the store's life, but chances are they aren't as important as she seemed to think.  They probably weren't worth all the stress.  For the briefest of moments I considered saying "I've been where you are.  Slow down.  Enjoy them while you can." I said a prayer for her instead.   I remember people telling me the same thing.  I heard them but I think I didn't really know how to take their advice.  This lesson is one that can't be learned by telling, it can only be learned by living.  I pray the learning isn't too hard for her.

We returned home form the south to find that spring has come to Illinois.  We welcome her with open arms.

 One of the best things about spring coming is that Moise's swing is back in business.  That means Moise's radiant smile returns.  He teaches me to slow down.

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

Happy Spring!! Happy Easter to you and you and you.

God is good, all the time.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Vacation With Grown Ups

We're vacationing this week-- taking a brief reprieve from the stresses of every day life and relaxing on  Orange Beach in Alabama, a place that has begun to feel like home away from home.  We've been here, walked these beaches, so many times I've lost count.  We've raised our children vacationing in this very spot.  There are so many memories that they start to blend together with time.  We remember the time we tried our first Dippin' Dots and the time Grant's back got sun burnt, the time a crab clamped onto Jamee's foot and another crab that "chased" my sister. There was the year of the jelly fish, the year of the sea anemone and the year of the duck on a leash.  There were times with extended family and times with good friends.  Some years we played lots of sand volleyball or built sea creatures out of sand or painted ceramic dolphins.  One year Moise hated the sand and many years we rented the beach wheelchair monstrosity.  There were a couple of years when dad stayed home due to work, a year when my best friend came along and the year we introduced our young Finnish friend to this place we love.  Our kids connect Whopper's Robin Eggs, Twizzlers and chocolate Teddy Grahams with our trips to the Gulf.  I can't say exactly the years that all of these things happened.  I only know that they've all melded together into one long beautiful chapter in the story of my children's growing up years; a chapter punctuated with sun kissed faces, wind blown hair and layers upon layers of white sand.

It's been awhile since all eight of us have been here together and that's okay.  Our children are becoming what we've worked so hard to raise them to be.....responsible adults. They have jobs and friends and other  interests that soak up their time and energy.  It's the first time in many years that Jamee has been able to join us but we're minus Grant and Moise.  Grant's spring break didn't coincide with the rest and he has a big trip of his own coming up this summer. Moise?  Well.... he just doesn't love vacations.  They upset his deep need to adhere to routine and he especially hates the sand. We're getting better at leaving him home. He's always left in the very capable hands of our hired caregivers and we desperately need the reprieve from care giving.

Vacationing is different now than it once was.  With the exception of Kruz, who rarely ventures far from my side, we don't need to know where our children are at all times.  Traveling with adult chilren is much less complex than traveling with small, or even teen, children.  We no longer spend vacation days building sand castles, judging diving contests or rubbing sun screen onto little bodies. Instead we take long walks down the beach, play Yahtzee, Knock Rummy or Farkle with our children keeping score.  I take far less photos than I used to because adult children are far less tolerant of the ever present camera in their face. Still, I manage to capture a few candid shots here and there....shots that tell of real life.

Kruz continues to baffle me with all his quirky ways.  The beach is a sensory warehouse that tests him in mighty ways.  When we got here he would crawl, sit and lay in the sand but the second the bottom of his feet hit the sand his whole body went into overload. We've worked diligently on exposure, gently forcing his feet into the sand.  He still doesn't love it but he's tolerating it.  But the ocean water?  He's not having any of it.  It's a cold, unexpected discomfort and he hits freak out mode at the very idea of contact.  So we're letting that one slide.  We've learned to take baby steps and the ocean is one giant step that we'll tackle another year.

This little boy is doted on.  How can he not be with so very many adults and one very precious little one?  It's hard to know where the line is between spoiling him rotten and loving him with all that we have and, in truth, I'm not sure I care.  I'm convinced that his most important role in this life is to bring hope, comfort, healing to grown up hearts.  

There's a sadness tucked away in my heart amidst all the joy and pleasure that this trip has brought.  On Monday I learned that my long ago friend, Kathy, left this world after a fierce battle with cancer. She and I graduated from high school together and then life happened.  She went her way, I went mine.  We lost touch but reconnected in recent years, thanks to social media.  I watched from afar as she fought hard for life, for the sake of her three beautiful children. But it was not to be.  She was full of hope and grace, dignity, selflessness, and so much beauty.

 Being the first of my girlhood friends to leave this earth, her passing has touched a very deep place in my heart. Death, at any age, causes us to take inventory of our life, to cherish that which is important and weed out that which is not. But this......this makes me realize that, suddenly, I am that age.  That age where cancer and heart attacks and other diseases begin to take parents, friends, husbands, siblings, those who've touched  our lives, whom we have created history with.  In Kathy's final days it was clear that love was the only thing that mattered.  I want to live like that..... not just in my final days, but every day.  

 And as we spend this week immersed in the beauty of the sea, enjoying each other's company, soaking up the restfulness, I feel just a little guilty.  Because I know.  I know that for Kathy's children, for her twin brother and other family members time is standing still.  Their world has crumbled while I am on vacation.  I remember that feeling so well.  I remember riding in the car from the church, where Laynee's service was held, to the cemetery, where she was buried. I wondered how people could be out walking and mowing their lawn and going to the bank on a day like this. How could it be a beautiful, sunshiny day when my soul felt so dark?  How could the world keep moving on when mine had stopped? Yet I know that if Kathy were here she would say "Go."    Keep living, keep laughing, keep loving.  Right up to the very end.  

I'm trying.  Sometimes I fail, but I'm trying my very best to make the most of the time that's left.  

 God is good, all the time.