Monday, December 30, 2013

Goodbye 2013. You were not my favorite...

As far as years go, on the whole, and although there were lost of positive and fun things about it, 2013 can jump off a cliff.

Looking back it was a frustrating year of physical challenges and the emotional challenges that came with them. I remember being so miserable as early as February, with April being the month where I finally said, "Okay, it's time to do something about this pain again" and things just going downhill from there. It was the year of the physicians' appointments. Sitting for multiple visits each in the waiting rooms of my rheumatologist, nutritionist, general practitioner, a healing doctor of some sort, a vascular surgeon, and of course dentist visits and mammograms. Horrible bronchitis that lasted way too long, varicose vein surgery that I was glad to have done, and describing the symptoms of this autoimmune disease all over again to way too many new people.

It was the year of the anti-inflammatory diet and all that came with that. Loads of information to sort through. Tons of websites visited. Tons of recipes tried. Lots of tears. Lots of weight lost. Lots of energy lost. And no real strides toward eliminating anything.

I went back to eating what I've eaten all along (keeping several things that I genuinely was glad to have found) and I am back to my normal weight and probably plus some (after eating next to nothing, I got a little too celebratory when reunited with bread, pasta and potatoes). And strangely, I feel the same and possibly a little better. I've come to expect that the pain I experience comes in waves and when it flares, it flares. But it recedes for a period of time too. I can just never predict when or for how long. I just don't think that food has all that much to do with it anymore.

But who knows. I'm gearing up for trying another round of something or other in 2014 to try to find some answers. I just needed the mental and physical break at the end of 2013.

So, while all that was going on, I barely ran at all in 2013. The bronchitis made it so I felt completely wiped out all of the time for a few months. Then I had lost too much weight and had no energy. Then I had my vein surgery. When that was all over it was cold again outside and I cannot drag myself out in the cold to run. No matter how much I want to. I just can't. I was feeling really squirrely and mentally down about it. However, our friends just gave us their almost new, Mac Daddy treadmill, and I started running again. 2014 already looks better for that reason alone.

And I had a realization. Jimmy gave me a gift this Christmas. He went through years of photos and printed out lots of photos of Quinn and me. He put some in a frame and some in a photo album. He always wants to take photos of Quinn and me together and we both generally hate it. We occasionally tolerate it. And I'm so glad for the times he has asked and we complied. I always want the perfect picture with the perfect background and the nice outfits with brushed hair and makeup. But that so seldom is the case. Jimmy just wants to take a picture of us just as we are, just where we are. Like the photo above. We were freezing at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new PAWS shelter that will be built this coming year. I'm wearing a huge sweatshirt with a big puffy vest, sunglasses and a mushroomish hat. Quinn is wearing cropped pants, long socks and a cat hat. We're standing with no real background except for various people we don't even know behind us. But when it's all said and done, it doesn't really matter. It's Quinn and me, at 47 and 11. We won't be that forever, and here's proof that we were. And that we were together. And that's what matters. So I am grateful.

Bring on 2014.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Well, that stung a little...

If I tagged my blog entries, or if blogs could be hashtagged (can they?), this one would go with several others where I write about how I am humbled by my daughter.  Or maybe #watchwhathappenswhenyoupray.

Or something like that.

I've spent some portion of every day since the day I knew I was pregnant (and really, probably before that because the idea of being responsible for raising a responsible human being seemed so daunting to me I didn't think I ever wanted to do it) praying for this child.  For all sorts of things.  And all of the sudden I am standing back and watching my prayers being called forth in my daughter with authority.

And I am humbled.

Do you ever get cynical when you see a report of a four year old who ran a lemonade stand and raised enough money to build a school in an impoverished country?  Or some such story.  I mean, I just exaggerated quite a bit, but do you know what I mean?  I immediately think, "Really?  How much did they think of, plan, carry out, etc. on their own, and how much was their parent involved and the driving force?"

One of my prayers has always been that Quinn walk out her faith and convictions on her own.  I figured if she were witness to it in my life, it would catch fire in hers.  And she would think of her own ideas, and plan her own ways to serve, and be independent in sharing her faith.

So when she came to me with the idea to do this...

I was really proud of her.

And really nervous for her.

So we bought 30 candy bars and Quinn designed the tags, printed them out, cut them, and taped them on the candy bars and decided how she would anonymously pass them out to the kids in her Middle School classroom.

For the sake of background, Quinn attends a small, private, secular school.  Middle School consists of 29 kids in grades 6, 7, and 8 together in one classroom with two teachers.  Since it's not a religious school, there are children of many faiths, and no faiths, that attend.

I wasn't sure how this was going to go over.  But Quinn seemed to have no hesitation about her idea.  So I supported her, and we left for school early yesterday morning so she could put the candy bars inside of everyone's lockers before they arrived.

Long story short, it was a bit discouraging.  Middle School kids are Middle School kids and some joked about it, some ridiculed the statement, and most just were obnoxious about trying to find out who did it - all while Quinn was there among them with her own decoy candy bar and message.  I thought she'd be really upset that it turned out differently than she imagined (even though I have no idea what she imagined), but she seemed okay with it all.  (This itself is HUGE!)

However, today I got a call from the director of the school.  It seems a family with a student in Quinn's class was quite offended by the message and called the school.  I'm not sure what all was said, but I could tell the director was bugged by the sentiment and was very apologetic to even have to let me know about it.  The teachers were asked to discuss the event with the class.

And honestly, I understand every bit of that.

However, just last month, one of Quinn's Muslim classmates gave everyone treat bags of M&Ms with a message about Happy Eid (or whatever the message was).  I asked the director if this family was also offended by that.  She said nothing at all was said about the Eid treat.

All that aside though, Quinn is walking through real stuff in a real world, and I'm proud of her willingness to walk boldly and with conviction.  The understanding will come a little at a time.  She's learning, and she's less bothered by it than I am.  Which is so great because her personality has been stretched so much and she's grown so much, I tend to forget she's not quite the cautious and meek child she used to be.

And I'm so amazed.

And I came across this today and wanted to share it.

Sarah Kay:  If I Should Have a Daughter (just the first three minutes)...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It's December 14th...

1.  I'm already DONE with sugar.  Yet Quinn and I are still making peppermint bark, peanut blossoms, fudge and buckeyes.  WHY?
2.  We've received two Christmas cards.  TWO.  I really can't complain because I no longer send them out.  I loved it for a while and would make them by hand.  But at nearly 100 cards, the money for materials and postage that went into sending them seemed better put toward gifts.  The time better put toward spending it in kitchen with Quinn.  See #1.
3.  I'm done decorating and shopping and just have some wrapping to finish up today. and Ebates, I love you both!
4.  We've had two days of school canceled so far for ice or snow.  Quinn is loving it.  She's spent days out there with friends, and she and Jimmy love playing in the snow together too.  They've been out sledding on the hill across from our house.  I love staying inside while they do this.
5.  I started volunteering in a different capacity at PAWS this week.  I'm learning the donor database and doing data entry from home.  I went to a training this week and felt like a COMPLETE idiot.  The learning curve is never comfortable for me.  Yet, I think it's such a good thing to do for our brains, and to remind us how our kids feel with all the things they attempt for the first time.  Like idiots.  Isn't that great?
6.  I have not been taking many photos lately.  I think we have baked and decorated and played in the snow with ZERO photos this year.  I need to get on that.
7.  I've been organizing photos from 2013 and from Jimmy's phone downloads though, and here is:

My friend Jill visiting from Nova Scotia in August.  Of course, if you're visiting us, we'll show the highlights of where we live.  PAWS being at the top of that list.

One from canoeing this summer in Lake Placid.  This was one of my favorite afternoons there.  Quinn wore her kitty hat everywhere - even in July.  You never know what's lurking in his phone.  I saw this and instantly thought, "Sigh, I wish it were summer again."

Sylvia, the destroyer.

Hiking in the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg in April.  You can't see it in this photo, but it is pouring rain.  Quinn is not happy.  Not due to the rain, but because we like to take pictures of her.

Now I feel like getting my camera out more often!

Happy December!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I've got a few minutes...

I really used to love writing here.  What happened to that?

Sometimes I think I'll come back and share a cute picture and a quick paragraph.  Maybe that's what I miss.

But then, it happens.  I start to want to share things that are really important to me.  And those things sort of take over.  Story of my life.  I love a good cause.  I love getting involved.  I love DOING something.  And I love sharing about it.  

But that can easily detour into territory that is often misinterpreted.  It can start to seem like one big advertisement for attention.  And there is really no great way to be convincing that it isn't.  And, to be completely honest, I've done my share of eye-rolling over what I see posted on blogs and on facebook.  I really really don't want to be interpreted that way.

But then I think of how easily sharing an idea can become viral these days.  And how posting even a small idea can inspire someone else's even bigger idea.  And how sharing a photo of 35 hats made by my friends and their daughters one afternoon to donate to The Healing Center isn't a brag at all.  It's an idea that anyone can run with.  My facebook feed is heavily weighted toward the positive.  I see many more encouraging posts, thoughts, quotes, ideas, and actions than I see annoying updates and attention-whoring.

I scrolled through my own facebook page a little bit ago and noticed I hardly post random silly thoughts anymore.  Lately, I've been posting mostly things I really care about.  Some might even say ad nauseum.  Some may have even hidden me.  Some may rather poke their own eyeballs out than see one more post about Quinn's class trip to PAWS where they delivered the donations collected from her entire school - close to 500 pounds of pet food and over 200 items from their wish list.

Or the 93 coats donated by the families in her school that will be delivered to The Healing Center.

But that's how we've been spending our time lately.  And if I didn't write about those things, I'd go off on a super crazy rant about what I really truly believe about Christmas.  At that point, my blog would probably vaporize along with my facebook page and I'd be left all alone in the corner of a padded room in a straight jacket.  No friends.  Real or on my computer.

Although I do have this photo from Quinn's closet that I took after I posted the photo of all the striped shirts in my closet.  It says so much.

Have a wonderful December.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I made this video for Quinn.  There are approximately a dozen things I'd change about it if I could, but my learning curve was great and I decided to leave it as is for now.

Thanks for watching.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Show me how big your brave is...

Say what you want to say,
and let the words fall out.

So proud of this child.  The Mighty Quinn.

Though she be but little, she is fierce.

But first...

The first photo is the day Joseph was rescued from his yard.  He weighed 60 pounds.  The second is just three weeks later.  He now weighs 77 pounds and is living in a foster home, finishing up treatment for heartworms.  His ears are free of infection and his hair is growing back.  Can I get a hallelujah?

I emailed Quinn's teacher to explain why we were keeping Quinn out of school the day of the courthouse rally.  I included background of Quinn's involvement with PAWS so we didn't seem so much like hippies.  Leslie emailed back saying she had no idea of the backstory and would be happy to have Quinn share her experience with her class.  They had been working on creating Power Point presentations, so Quinn created one with photos of PAWS and of the rally - focusing on what can be done politically and practically to help animal issues.

Her school does a food donation and coat drive in November that usually benefits the local food pantry.  This year, when contacted, the food pantry expressed that they generally get so many donations around Thanksgiving that they can barely process them with the staff they have.  So Leslie suggested the donation drive this year benefit PAWS.  So Quinn's entire school will be bringing in donations from the shelter's wish list - cat and dog food, cat litter, cleaning and office items, etc.  And to familiarize the students with the shelter and the cause, Quinn is giving her presentation in each classroom of her school.

My girl, who still does not like placing her order with the server when we go out to eat.  She'll be speaking in front of hundreds of her schoolmates.

Her brave is big.  And her words will fall out mightily.

I wrote an email to the director of the school, offering to organize the donation drive for her.  She said she had already arranged everything and had the email to families ready to go home.  She was just waiting to find a place that would accept the coats.   I wrote back telling her that another place Quinn and I love and have volunteered at is The Healing Center run by our church.  I told her we generally have more families coming in to ask for coats than we have coats available.  She wrote back minutes later saying, "The Healing Center it is!"

Quinn and I were talking about how everything came together for some places that we love and where have invested our time, and she said, "And we could really make a difference in my school."

And I am reminded of Moses.  Who stuttered and had no confidence.  Chosen by God to lead a nation out of bondage.  And I wonder why I have ever spent one second worrying about my child.

She's already braver than I was at her age.  And she's more in tune with God's will.  And she's more in tune with the passions God has placed in her heart.  I can't imagine where God will take her.  I just know I don't have to worry about it.

Say what you want to say.
And let the words fall out.
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Joseph...(animal cruelty mentioned)

If you still opened up this post, I thank you for allowing me the privilege of introducing you to Joseph.

Named for Joseph in the bible, who was left for dead but ended up ruling a nation.  God has plans for Joseph's life.

Now, you may think that's silly.  But God tells me differently.

Joseph was rescued from the backyard of a home in Middletown, Ohio.  He was "improperly tethered" outside in this yard for four years.  We have hot summers, rainy seasons, and cold, snowy winters here.  Joseph endured them all.  I have no idea how.

Joseph should weigh 120 pounds.  He came to the shelter where Quinn and I volunteer weighing just half of that.  He had never been vaccinated, had horrific infections in both ears, has heartworms, was missing most of his teeth and the remaining ones were broken from "trauma", and the areas where hair remained on Joseph's body were covered with fleas.  His back is just skin due to hair loss from malnutrition.  It is hard to say that, after he had been in the care of a veterinarian for over a week and had gained 11 pounds, Joseph looks worse than the above photo in real life when we met him.  I was shocked.  I don't know how a heart beats in that frail body.

But it does.

And what's more amazing is that a sweet gentle and trusting soul resides there as well.  Three strangers walked into his room at the veterinary clinic where he is staying, one of them a large man, and Joseph came to us with toys in his mouth and wagging tail.  He let us pet him, and put our faces close to him, and hold his face for kisses, and sit down on his bed with him and hug him.

All things are holy unto the Lord.

Joseph has a facebook page with close to 30,000 friends.  PAWS has received over 2000 applications to adopt Joseph.  Donations have been made and gifts have been sent from around the world.  His story has been picked up on news feeds in other countries.  People drove from other states and stayed in hotels to attend a rally at the Middletown courthouse to raise awareness and to help change sentencing laws in Ohio with regard to animal cruelty.  Ohio is one of the last states where animal cruelty is classified as a misdemeanor and not a felony.  

We kept Quinn out of school on a cold Monday morning and attended the rally.  The owner of a terribly neglected pit bull (details available if you google Dee, pit bull, Middletown, Ohio - add Joseph to that search and you can read more about him as well if interested) was attending his court hearing.  We stood outside on the street, horribly outside our collective comfort zones, peacefully gathering with signs to help support change.

We thought is was important to show Quinn a way to direct her outrage at something she's just barely wrapping her little brain around after volunteering with animals for over seven of her eleven years.  When asked what she wants to do when she's older, she will answer "work at PAWS".  Girlfriend is going to need some strategies to deal with all that entails.

It was a great way to introduce her to the conversations around felonies and misdemeanors, laws, court, hearings, sentencing, affecting change politically, doing it peacefully, requiring justice while believing in the worth and redemption of the human beings involved, and what the opposite of that looks like sometimes.

It actually looked like two of the signs that were being held by others that read, "Put him in jail and withhold HIS food!" and "First stop jail.  Next stop HELL!"  Not at all what we were trying to accomplish.

This was originally a rally for Joseph's owner until his court date was postponed.  So we still met while Dee's owner was due in court.  Because it was really not about justice for one dog, we made a sign to reflect that it was about justice period.  One dog made the story go viral and alerted people to the problem in Ohio, but we wanted to stand for all the cases that so horrifically occur here.

While we were on the sidewalk, I watched as my daughter went from simply standing by my side, not wanting to hold the sign at all, to walking and holding the sign up high and waving at the cars who would drive by and beep in support.  She began to understand that people care.  And caring is the first step.

While we were there, a man walked through the crowd mumbling and passing out flyers to support awareness for domestic abuse.  On his way back past everyone he started saying, more loudly, something that amounted to making us feel silly for rallying for an animal cause when people were more important.

I hear that a lot.  And I understand where it comes from, but frankly, it ticks me off to no end.

I wanted to say, "Buddy, you have no idea.  You don't know what I do in addition to standing on this sidewalk caring what happens to animals.  You don't know what I cry over as I fall asleep.  You don't know where my money goes.  You don't know what I do with my time.  You don't know jack about me!"

Just because someone stands for one issue, does not mean all other possible issues to get behind don't exist.  It doesn't make one more important than another.  I think caring about causes is contagious.  And that was the entire reason I drove up to PAWS with my three year old daughter in the first place.  I wanted her to see what putting your life where you heart is looked like.  And it started there.  It's not as easy to start to involve children in social issues such as the sex trafficking of other children when they're three.  I mean where do you even start with that discussion?

In our case, we started when Quinn was three years old and she thought kittens were cute and picked them up by their necks and held them too tightly.  It began with her caring for the least of these in the form of God's furry creations that had been cast aside.  It began with us filling our house with a cat that had been passed over for five years at the shelter.  With a thirteen year old dog who was blind, deaf, incontinent, heavily medicated and smelled terribly.  With a cat we never saw for over a solid year as she hid, terrified in our basement.

It began there.

She now knows that compassion extends to people.  And that people suffer the same and horribly worse fates.  Babies abandoned.  Children her age and younger horrifically exploited.  Elderly neglected and forgotten.  We care about those things too.

And the key word there is TOO.

God doesn't call us to limit what we care about to what others would tell us is the important thing to care about.  Our hearts are capable of more.  If only our minds were.

I am too lazy to look up the specific bible verses that come to my mind when I think of this, but let me just toss out that a single sparrow does not fall without God knowing.  We don't get to pick which "least of these" God is calling us to take care of.  And when you pray the prayer for God to break your heart for the things that break his, you don't get to pick what he uses to accomplish that.  I've prayed that prayer.  And my heart breaks for Joseph.

I believe a broken dog with horrifyingly protruding hip bones and ribs is being used to teach people that very thing.  Start people caring about Joseph and then stand back.  God will use that to create and spread compassion for things that go well beyond one German Shepherd in Ohio.

Believe it.  It's how we advance God's kingdom here on earth.