Time Buffers… It Does Not Heal All Wounds

Four years ago this morning, my dad called me at around 8:00 a.m.  He knew I generally slept until noon (up all night), so I knew it was something different and serious before I answered the phone.  He told me he couldn’t walk right, and asked if I could come to the house and see what I thought (have been an RN since 1985, though disabled for the last 15 years- I keep up with medical stuff by keeping myself alive).  I asked him if I had time for a shower, anticipating we’d be going to the ER, and he said yes, but don’t take too long. Dad had been having back issues and some weird symptoms on and off since the November prior to March 3, 2016.  He needed a better work-up, and at this point, the ER was our best bet.

I took my shower and packed my meds/insulin figuring that I’d be away from home for hours.  Then I drove to the house.  I wasn’t really prepared for what I saw.  Dad stood up when I came down the hallway after letting myself in with the garage door opener I kept for checking his house when he was on vacations.  Dad was standing next to the bed, with ‘balance’ that looked like someone trying to stand on an inner tube in a pool.   He had no clue where his body was in space (proprioception problem).  I told him to sit down, and I’d get what he needed.  First order of business was breakfast, even though I suggested he wait because of any lab tests  that might be done, but if I didn’t feed him, he wasn’t going to the hospital.  OK… food first.  I don’t even remember what I got for him. I do know it was in a bowl, and doubt I made oatmeal, so likely cold cereal.

His lady friend (not going into detail about her, as she was a self-serving “care taker” who was handy on occasion) came over and got some of his belongings together to take in case he was admitted.  I wasn’t going to take him home in his condition, so started getting my speech ready for that conversation with the ER doc.   I got his electric shaver and warm washcloth, as well as his toothbrush- he wasn’t going anywhere ungroomed.  Then I told him I was calling 911, since I knew there was no way to get him in and out of the car safely with what I saw of his balance issues.   He didn’t argue.  I knew he was scared.

The ambulance took some time to get to the house, as his address was in the county (by one block), and the station responsible for sending emergency help was several miles away.  They came in and got him loaded up, and I told them in no uncertain terms that we were to go to a specific hospital that wasn’t the closest.  His vital signs were fine, and he was not in respiratory, cardiac, or any other distress physically.  They agreed.  I followed in my car (and lady friend took her car).

I told the folks at the ER that I needed to be back with dad, since he tended to downplay things to strangers.  They needed to know about the months of erratic symptoms.  They also needed to know that dad would not do anything medically unless he could ask ME if it was legit.  He used to say he was getting a return on his investment in sending me to nursing school.  They let me back as soon as they had him gowned up.  He was terrified.

As with any ER, it takes time to sort through everything and get testing done.  We were there for at least 9 hours, in which time he had several tests done, including an MRI that almost didn’t happen because of dad’s claustrophobia.  He almost changed his wishes for a traditional casket burial because of claustrophobia.  They sedated him (a Benadryl made him loopy for a couple of days, so the stuff they gave him IV really made him blotto, which is what he needed so the MRI could happen).  They found some strange lesions on his spine- not what we were expecting.  There was talk of sending him home (alone), and I pitched a semi-dignified fit.  They said that the ER was for finding problems – and not necessarily to admit people. I told them of his living situation, my disability in not being able to care for him adequately when he couldn’t transfer safely, and the other safety issues in sending him home.  They did admit him, and he never saw his home of 40 years again.

I’ll never forget that day, or the 19 hours on April 3-4, 2016, just a month after he was admitted, and going a rehab facility that repeatedly blew off his complaints of abdominal pain.  On April 4, 2016,  he died after a diverticula that hadn’t been diagnosed ruptured and caused catastrophic infections in his abdomen, extending into his bladder and  filling it with gas.  He was a great dad- and I’m so fortunate to have ‘landed’ with him when I was adopted at 10 days old.  He is still missed daily, though it’s easier to remember the good and goofy stuff.  My mom died in 2003, and I couldn’t anticipate the devastation of losing my last parent, and the one who was constantly looking out for me and my best interests starting from that first day in 1963. I didn’t grow  up with siblings.  My mom did things in her own way to show her love, but dad was more open about it. We had a great relationship when I became an adult, and I could tell him anything.  When I was younger, I didn’t appreciate his work stress, or the ways he made sure that all vacations included things just for me along with general sight-seeing.  He’d go out of his way to make sure I got something special out of each trip.

I now live in his house (was also my home for 9 years as a teenager through nursing school), and I’m so thankful.  I have him, and my mom, in every room of this house, whether it’s some trinket or photo, or memories of things that we did here.  I couldn’t live anywhere else.  It’s home.  It’s my family in a house.  It’s what I have left.

Mother’s Day, Two Ways

Today is Mother’s Day, 2014 (May 11- kind of early this year).  So much comes up whenever there is anything to do with moms and family.  I was put up for adoption at birth, though not at the wishes of my biological mother (by a long shot).  She was nearly 18 years old, but in the early 1960s, the ‘image’ of the family was one to be protected at all costs in most families, totally blowing off the wishes of the biological mother, AND biological father.  The fathers weren’t considered at all- his name isn’t even on my birth certificate, though I know much more about him now.

The mom who raised me, who I just call my ‘mom’ since she’s the one I knew the longest, and who raised me, died on March 13, 2003 after a brief illness (urosepsis that wasn’t treated properly at an ER near Phoenix, AZ).  She had become demented after radiation to her brain after a tumor was removed- that was the last cancer she had to deal with after breast, some suspicious pre-cancerous cells on the other breast, and lung metastasis.  She went through hell with cancer- and it didn’t kill her.  She survived cancer free for seventeen YEARS from the last cancer surgery when she died.

One of my favorite photos of my mom... Taken around 1988.

One of my favorite photos of my mom… Taken around 1988.

Our last Christmas, 2002... we had no idea she'd be gone less than 3 months later.

Our last Christmas, 2002… we had no idea she’d be gone less than 3 months later.

Cancer wasn’t the only thing my mom had to deal with, and that was much less emotionally painful than the death of two newborn sons about 2 years apart, by the time she was 26 years old.  She never got to see either of those babies.  They were a bit early from placental abruption (tearing away from the uterus – in her case, partially), and their lungs weren’t developed. Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s, they didn’t have NICUs, so it was sort of a crapshoot who lived and who died.  They both succumbed to hyaline membrane disease.  Now, they would have had an outstanding chance of survival, especially since they both weighed enough that they had no weight to gain in order to be sent home.  Their little lungs just didn’t work.   My mom wanted kids (so did my dad, but mom was the one who ‘needed’ a baby).  She was the oldest of four siblings, and she wanted the same. I ended up being an only child.

But the deaths of those two babies changed her, understandably so especially considering how infant deaths were handled back then.  She never saw them, never had photos, couldn’t go to their burials (which my young dad had to take care of on his own), and was basically told that it was in the past, don’t bother with it.  She was in the hospital for at least a week, so she was there as long as both of them lived- and never saw them. She was basically told to move on.  It was cruel.  She never forgot those boys.  It made bonding with me difficult for her, but I never doubted that she loved me.  My guess is that she didn’t want to get ‘too’ attached, should something happen to me, especially in my early years.  Later on, beginning when the adoption was finalized in August of 1964, she knew I couldn’t be taken from her, which helped.  But she still had a lot of grief that never was dealt with in a way that was of much help.  Things like that just weren’t considered  an ‘issue’.   And she hurt from those losses.  When I finally understood that, it helped me see her with much more compassion.

My mom did the best she could.  She returned to college and became an elementary school teacher.  Her students loved her, which confused me, since they saw a side of her I didn’t .  They weren’t a ‘risk’ to get close to- they went home every night, and she knew her relationship with them was just distant enough to allow for more displays of warmth and ‘teacher affection’.  Many of her students came to her visitation after she died, and still remembered her very fondly.  She and I had a strained relationship for many years.  I never doubted her love for me, and knew she wanted me. From the beginning, she read stories to me about how adopted kids are ‘chosen’, and how she and dad waited a long time to get me (about 2 years).

She and I had our worst battles when clothes shopping. There were some epic fights that dad learned to listen for the number of slams from the garage door when we got home. One meant one of us was mad, two meant he needed to lie low for a while, since we were both seething.  😮  I’ve never been a frilly girl.  I loved dolls and dollhouses, and also chasing frogs and turtles and climbing trees.  I was NOT cut out for fancy smocked dresses (Polly Flinder’s was her favorite brand), and much preferred shorts and t-shirts, and loathed anything ‘girly’.  My favorite dress as a kid had monkeys on it- no lace or smocking or bows.   But, she and dad made sure I had everything I needed, and then some.  I took all sorts of lessons (ballet, tap, tumbling, figure skating- my favorite, flute, piano, swimming, tennis, horseback riding- at camp), and I got to go to camp for a week every summer before 4th-11th grades (and later worked on summer staff there).  I went to day camps in the summer before then.  They exposed me to all sorts of art (which annoyed me- I much preferred the natural history and geology museum next to the local art museum, where I could look at rocks and fossils). They traveled extensively, and when it was appropriate (like being gone ON Christmas for the Hawaii trip, or when I was older and in my teens for the month in Europe, or traveling throughout the US), I went with them. On several trips, dad made sure that we saw historical and/or National  Park sites, as well as stuff that was just fun (the Olympic Ice Rink in Innsbruk, Austria, where Dorothy Hamill had won her gold medal the year before we were there- he had hoped I’d be able to skate during a public session, but they were doing lessons).

My mom drove me to Texas when  I moved there after getting my RN license in late 1985 (back in the days when they came by mail).  We had a GREAT time going down there.  Whenever she and dad visited, we had wonderful holidays together (usually they came at Christmas, but sometimes in the Spring- either going to or from their winters away from the cold Midwest).  I loved when they came.  The memories I have are mostly good, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become so much more aware at how much pain she must have had when those babies died.  She never had any image to remember them by- just that she had two babies that never got to come home.

My biological mother and I have a great relationship.  Out of respect for her wishes, I don’t post photos of her.  We had a brief connection back when I was 19 years old, but it turned out both of us needed some time to get it all figured out- suddenly connecting after 19 years of wondering about each other was hard.    Then we had many years of no contact, except via word through  an aunt and uncle, and cousins that I got to know during our initial contact and several months of letter writing.  She had wanted me.  Giving me up wasn’t her idea.  She went through a lot, and also had no image of me to ‘know’ after I was born.    We now talk about all of that stuff, and it’s been amazing to find out how much we’re alike in so many ways.  It’s been good to know where I came from, and where I get some of my personality traits and other characteristics.  While I was always accepted by my adoptive family, there’s a gap that can only be filled by knowing about origins- at least for me.  I understand myself a bit better by getting to know her.

It’s been awkward with all of the ‘labels’.  My mom is the one who raised me, yet without my biological mother, I wouldn’t exist.  I call her by her first name, or ‘bio-mom’ when writing.  When looking for Mother’s Day cards, this is the first year I’ve seen a ‘real’ one from Hallmark for birth-mothers. There are some  through some specialty online sites, which are fine- but it’s nice to be able to choose one… and one it was.  :/   They had one to ‘choose’ from.  I had to make a couple of adjustments, since adoptive situations aren’t one-size-fits-all.  And the ‘regular’ ones talk about years spent together from infancy on, and those aren’t appropriate.  For her, I’m her daughter- that’s the only term that’s appropriate.  For me, it’s a little more complicated.  But I’m so thankful for both of them.  I wish my mom could have met my biological mom.  She knew when we were writing when I was 19, and also wrote to her during that time.  But my mom died almost 7 years before my bio-mom and I reconnected.

When I was going through chemo for leukemia, I wrote to her- and wanted to give us a chance to reconnect should the leukemia stuff not go well.  I didn’t want her to hear that I’d been sick from someone else, especially since she’d already buried one son (I still have a very alive half-brother that I’ve met and had some contact with- he’s a hoot, and I really enjoy talking to him on some holidays, and whenever he is en route to see  his dad’s family – who have also ‘readopted’ me; there are also two half-brothers on my biological father’s side).  Turns out, it was the right time for both of us, and we have been in regular contact since then, sometimes spending 3-4 hours on a single phone call !  I love when she visits 🙂

I’ve been blessed.  I was wanted from before my birth, by two mothers. On the day I was born, my mom told my dad that she knew that ‘their’ baby had been born that day (this was in the day of closed adoptions, where there was never any contact with anyone in the biological family at all).   One was forced to give me up, and the other was doing her best to grieve the loss of two newborns of her own while becoming a mom to me.  One wondered about me for decades, while the other created memories for as long as she could.  I love them both.  One gave me life, and the other taught me how to live.  I was able to hug one throughout my childhood and until I was thirty-nine years old, and the other has been in my heart and thoughts since I was old enough to understand what it meant to be adopted- and now I have the personal relationship with her.

I’ll never know what it’s like to be a mom… but I have ( or had) two amazing women in my life in that role- however it’s described.

Blowing Off Steam About Love and Respect

I need to blow off some steam. Some stuff has been bugging me for a while.  And in some ways, even writing this is making me guilty of what I am so deeply saddened and frustrated by.  For that, I ask God to search my heart for my core beliefs and motives,  that can be so hard to describe in words.  I hope I make sense with this and come from a place that pleases Him.

I’m a fairly conservative Christian,  though I don’t consider myself to be an ‘extremist’ – I don’t believe extremism is beneficial for anything. (Matthew 6:1…”Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.”… ‘Appearances’, and not compassion, scream hypocrisy, and push people away from us- and the chance to share Jesus….Matthew 5:22 talks about anger, and the emotions that destroy relationships and spirituality – we’re to be in control of our actions, but our thoughts can also degrade our relationships spiritually… Life Application Bible notes).

It’s one thing to have a firm belief in God and His Word, and quite another to use it as a weapon against those who are either struggling, or have different beliefs- or are not Believers at all.   Nothing about God is  a weapon for destruction.  We’re instructed that our relationship with God is to be used for GOOD, not divisiveness.  Divisiveness is a tool of Satan.  James 3:5 “Likewise, consider the tongue as a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”  And it can be incredibly difficult to figure out how to love the sinner and hate the sin, and do it from a place of love and compassion for the person, without being judgmental.

Every week there is something else in the media (not from God) that turns on the “judgement switch” of a lot of Christians… and that’s not our job as Christians. I see it in people I know,  people I don’t know in articles and interviews, and I see it in myself at times, and must stop and ask God to help me deal with the situation in a way that pleases Him. I’m not always very good at that.  Every time ‘WE’ judge ‘the other side’, we do *exactly* what we accuse ‘them’ of doing.  I’m so tired of it!  I strongly believe in having a solid core belief system, and mine happens to be that of a conservative Christian. My goal from my heart is that  I become stronger with the  characteristics of a Biblical Christian (not humanly manufactured judgement spewers).   Living the Fruit of the Spirit is my daily goal (and I fail regularly)  😦  … Galatians 5:22… “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”  When I disagree with someone, or feel I’m not being heard or treated fairly, those are the responses I am to have.  And it ain’t easy!

I have enough of my own character defects to work on to have ANY right to call out someone else.  Even if something is in the Bible as sin (and we are ALL sinners), I can only live and grow my own relationship with Jesus.  Even Jesus didn’t come to point fingers and judge- He came to save us; judgement will come at its due time, only known by God.   If Christians are so busy worrying about the actions/thoughts/beliefs of someone else, who is left to love them to the Lord?  Matthew 7 is a great chapter on judgement and forgiveness.

We have all sinned (Romans 3:23).  There is no hierarchy of sin.    I believe we  ALL need Jesus- every single day for our OWN spiritual lives. I understand that not everybody believes that- and God gave us free will to believe or not, so who am I to demand more than God? He wants genuine believers- not robotic, loveless stalkers!   We are commanded to go into the world and spread the word of God… How can we do that if we’re so busy condemning others?  Romans 12:18… “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”   Salvation, and a relationship with God is a choice- we can’t earn it, we can’t lose it… but we must sincerely desire and choose it.  And I can only choose for myself.

Does that mean we condone everything? Of course not !  But we aren’t responsible for the actions and beliefs of others- and if we’re so busy being pious and judgmental, who is left to share the Gospel?  We are known by our actions first.  And there are many Christians who send non-believers running for the hills from the hypocrisy and absolute intolerance of various groups of people, or those who even believe differently. Some send ME running for the ‘hills’, and we’re supposed to believe the same thing !
There is not one person on this planet who can truly know what is in the heart of someone else- their struggles, pain, frustrations, BELIEFS, etc.  Christians are generally taught to appear like everything is wonderful- which is VERY hard to do 24/7.  And it’s disingenuous.  God gave us emotions.  But we do have to be careful about not directing them AT others, and instead using them to encourage and uplift others.   ‘Loathing’ is not from God.  Constant mockery, negative comments, and complaining are in direct contrast to what we are told to do in Philippians 2: 14-16… “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God , without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of Life- in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.”  That’s hard !  But it lets me know that getting involved in negative ‘conversations’ isn’t anything I’m doing to praise God.  It’s purely self-serving when it’s not done out of love, and to offer something positive and encouraging.
I believe that there are a lot of Christians who truly love the Lord, and are still struggling with various issues.  When I worked drug and alcohol rehab, we saw a LOT of Christians… and had a special sub-group of recovery options for them in addition to the traditional  12-step treatment (which is completely spiritually based, and strongly reflective of the Sermon on The Mount).  Christians are not immune from continuing to (or starting another)  sin; for some it’s easier than other to ‘reform’ and/or recover. Some have condemned themselves much more than anybody else could- and are afraid God couldn’t possibly want anything to do with them. (So let’s throw some disdain their way, eh?) And some have lived their entire lives believing that they are guilty of something that was done TO them.
I’m so glad that the  God I know is more loving and forgiving than many of my fellow Christians- known personally or not. And HE knows MY heart!  He has access to the secret corners of my being, and loves me anyway!     Other humans only know what they assume- and that is dangerous ground for basing a relationship (or opinion) with anybody.   John 8: 2-11 is an outstanding example of how Jesus dealt with a woman accused of sexual sins.  He came from a place of love.
I spent many years with severe eating disorders –  clear abuse of the body God gave me, and where the Bible says the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians.  I was living in a state of daily sin by focusing on the flesh– and yet I still loved God deeply, and dealt with the shame of not living fully for Him when I was focused on something so destructive, and felt so stuck.  It’s painful to see Christians assume that because someone is ‘pro’ this or that, or in some sort of addiction (food, drugs, alcohol, etc.)  that they aren’t Believers.  “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”… remember that one?   I’ve met a lot of Christian addicts (recovering, and  just going through detox)… some of the most solid Christians I’ve ever met.   Being a Christian never removes the fact that we’re still human.  We fail. We get up. We move on. And sometimes (a lot of times) we fail again, with the assurance of a loving God catching us in His arms.
Some (a lot of ? ) folks do appear to be clearly anti-Christian.  There’s someone on the news, other TV shows, radio, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  pretty much daily that come  only to verbally mock and shun Christians.  (one program last night had me fairly heated !). God has that covered !  We’ve been told about those who persecute Christians- it’s been going on for a couple of thousands of years now !   And it’s not our fight.  God will take care of those who harass His Children in due time.  I find comfort in that- I don’t have to waste time being angry or even hateful !  I can try and find things to be thankful for.  We’re instructed to be thankful in ALL things.  We’re instructed to have a very specific mindset about our ‘enemies’. ****  It is so much more freeing to not be worn down by things that I have no control over, that will be dealt with by God in HIS timing, and to look at the wonderful things I’ve been blessed with- however great or small… they are more uplifting than the negative people and situations :
****1 Peter 3:9…” Do not repay evil with evil, or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”  
Matthew 5:44… “But I command you all, love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.”
Romans 12:14… “Invoke blessings on your persecutors, blessings- not curses.”
1 Peter 3:15…”But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for evil.”    Hmm… ‘in your hearts’ (don’t need a billboard).  Gentleness and respect…. (wow- don’t see much of that).  Is it good or evil to single out assorted ‘hot topics’ and make them a thermometer of morality and gauge of someone else’s heart?  Or would it be more in keeping with Jesus, being the definition of love, to reach out and show compassion?  I don’t have to agree with anybody to  be kind to them.
I can anticipate some who read this getting upset that I’m not focusing on pointing out  specific ‘hot topic’  sins of others  that they feel are clearly stated in the Bible.  I’m really not interested in pointing out someone else’s sin nearly as much as I am showing them the love that Jesus came to show us; the Holy Spirit  will convict someone of sin- I’m not that powerful, so why not show love and compassion?  I’m not always good at it- but that is my goal.   When anything comes across as hate, it will drive someone away who God loves, and wants a relationship with.  That’s not being obedient.  I don’t have to change my beliefs to show someone else what I believe- and I don’t have to do it with condescension or spite.  Neither of those are from God.  I don’t have to jump on every bandwagon that comes along to ‘prove a point’.  I know what I believe… I don’t have to repeatedly and frequently drive the point into the skulls of anyone I encounter.  My friends know what I believe, and IF someone asks me, I will aim for the gentle and respectful explanation.  🙂
Sometimes, there are people who will only know one or two ‘known’ Christians… do you want to show someone the love of God, or tear them down by talking about specific sins?  We are all sinners, and Jesus came for all of us.  There are no prerequisites for loving Jesus.  He takes us as we are.  All of us.  As. We. Are.  The miracles of being new creations happens after someone discovers Jesus, and the ultimate meaning of love.
So, what is my hope that I show people?  It’s very clear…  🙂  And it’s an ongoing process.  So, I’m really not at liberty to judge someone else.  I’ve got my own work to do.
I Corinthians 13:4-8a….”Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and New Year filled with peace, compassion, and joy of knowing that God supplies all of our needs.

 

 

 

Sharing Christianity With Love and Warmth

Sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously as a Christian, as so many Christians come across as painfully judgmental in their tone and overall intolerance- towards those who don’t believe exactly in what they do. We can be our own worst enemies when trying to encourage non-Christians see how Christianity really is an amazing way to get through this life, and that it just gets better!   This age of so much communication being done between strangers with no interpersonal connection doesn’t help much. Reading comments about online articles, stories, etc. are horribly mean and hateful- and the Christians are among the worst at times.  It makes me sad.   I try SO hard not to be one of ‘those’ Christians (and also not to judge them– they have their reasons for their beliefs, even if I disagree with how they come across, at least with how I’ve perceived them in specific online conversations or about specific topics… and I’m not good at that).  I want to be used by God, not drive people away from Him.  That can be a lonely place.  The ‘holier-than-thous’ have no tolerance for ME, and I don’t fit in anywhere because I see approaching people out of love and respect being more important than being ‘right’.

I’m very limited physically in how much I can interact with people (Christians and non-Christians), and so much of what I am exposed to is lacking the ‘in-person’ body language and non-verbal subtleties needed for complete communication. I base my fairly open and ‘cleaning my own side of the street’ approach to a lot of topics based on my belief that Jesus spoke much more about love than He did about judgement.  Jesus loves everybody, and took the ragtag bunch of people around Him to be the ones He kept the closest to Him.  He didn’t look for the legalistic Pharisees. He didn’t take the ones who could recite ‘rules’ twenty-five ways to Sunday.   He chose the hookers, thieves, the poor, and later, even those who used to persecute Christians to help spread His message. Paul was a huge factor in the spreading of the message of Christianity in those early years, and he was horrible to Christians prior to his conversion !   Who am I to only seek out the superficially ‘acceptable’ people to care about?  Appearances mean nothing, both good and bad. (I LOOK very unfeminine, and pretty ratty a lot of the time. Because of some medical issues that make having hair actually a safety issue, as it gets me overheated very fast, and that triggers a lot of unpleasantness, up to losing consciousness… so I look stereotypically ‘butch’, because my head is shaved, and I don’t wear a lot of girly clothes… a t-shirt with flowers is about as ‘foo-foo’ as I get… that’s just me.  I’ve gotten a lot of nasty ‘looks’  and comments over the years about that).  God can use anybody who is willing!  Even if they don’t ‘seem’ like they’re capable of a meaningful relationship with Christ, or ‘look’ like a bonafide Christian 😉

It’s kind of a lonely place at times to not ‘tow the line’ in some very rigid manner. God meets us where we are, and I think we, as Christians, need to show the love of God in ways that fit the person we’re interacting with.   I don’t ‘fit in’ with how I view some very controversial topics in the conservative Christian community.  I believe in the Bible, and that it’s the inspired Word of God.  I also look at the social, scientific,  and cultural norms at the time the Bible was written, and look at ways to learn more about how that translates into today’s society. I am very aware that I don’t know everything.  But no matter how I view something or someone, I feel an obligation to love the person as someone God created in the womb first, and do all things in a way that doesn’t make them run from any message I may have about how God can have a real place in their lives, no matter what any person’s beliefs, strengths, or weaknesses may be.  What good does it do to judge someone, and push them away?  That isn’t the goal !  Jesus told Christians to go into all the world and preach the Gospel… not judge those who will benefit from hearing it (as in everybody !).   God didn’t appoint me, or any other human, to be judgmental.  Matthew 7 is very clear on that.  The Bible is also very clear on doing all things in love.  Focusing on the good, and showing everyone the definition of love in I Corinthians 13, and the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians.  Those are our standards.

God has been a huge refuge for me during some really hard times.   When I was raped, He was Who I called out to (silently, in prayer) to give me the strength and wisdom to get through it, and escape.  With the chronic medical disorders I’ve got, God is Who gives me the strength to just deal with another day, even when I just want to curl up and sleep until things get better (problem with that is that the disorders are chronic, progressive, and not going to get better).  When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, my comfort came in knowing that no matter what happened, I’d go on in eternity if I died.  I’d be able to reunite with fellow believers who have died, such as family, friends, and people I’ve read about over the years.  I’d like to share that comfort with others.  I’d like others to know that no matter how alone they feel, God is always around.  When I was in the middle of the last eating disorder relapse, I’d ask God every night literally to just let me wake up in the morning.  He answered all of my prayers during all of those times.  I’m still here.

I don’t run around with my religion on my sleeve (though I do have a few cool t-shirts with messages on them ),  but I will be specific about my beliefs when asked, or when I decide to write about it.  I strive to live my beliefs (and I can always improve !).  I believe that salvation is  a choice.  It is not possible to be ‘good enough’ or ‘earn’ a place in Heaven.  Believing in Jesus, His death on the cross, and resurrection as a payment for our sinful nature -by simply being human- is how I believe people get in to Heaven.  The Bible is very clear on that.  But, there are no pre-existing criteria to ‘qualify’ as a Christian. It’s simply telling God that I know I’ve sinned (we all have, and anybody who is at the age of accountability- which varies with individuals and developmental stages and capabilities needs to make the choice for themselves to seek forgiveness), I ask for forgiveness, and I believe that Jesus died to pay the price for my very human nature and choices that have grieved God, and separated me from Him.  I believe that  Christ physically rose from the dead. I believe that He’s going to return one day to gather Christians still alive here on earth, as well as those who have already left this earth. A lot of really ‘good’ people will be left behind.  I believe that when my earthly life is over, my eternal life begins. And I know that no matter how other people, including  Pharisee Christians, see me, God knows my heart.  That is more important than human acceptance.  I don’t ‘do’ legalism…  I cherish my relationship with the Lord, and other Christians.

I also believe that people have the right to decline God’s offer, and by not making a choice, they actually do make a choice.   They have the right to their beliefs as  I have the right to mine.  My beliefs mean that I only see one way for someone to be ‘saved’, and eligible for eternal life.  But it’s not my place to ‘judge’ someone for not wanting or believing that (I can be sad they don’t choose the same beliefs, but it is NOT OK for me to judge that person).  Those who don’t believe as I do will say I’m being judgmental for saying that there is only one way to Heaven… my answer is this: what is in the Bible didn’t come from me.  God made it a choice, whether to believe or not.  He didn’t create us to be robotic followers.  He gave us all free will. But He wants everybody… He won’t push anybody away for any reason…. so how could I possibly think it’s OK for me to judge anybody for making their own decisions?  🙂

Humans (often Christians) screw up the Bible, and how Christianity is perceived, more than any other factor on earth.  The Bible itself is fairly straightforward, and with religious and historical scholars having written volumes on the various cultural, social, and scientific things, it’s easy to see that God’s plan for our salvation is timeless.  It was seen as heresy when Jesus died and rose again- a conspiracy of major proportions.  Some people still see it as such. Some just think it’s bogus.  That’s their right.  It saddens me, but I still accept that they have the choice to believe what they will.  Faith comes with continued belief, and it’s different for everyone.  God didn’t make us all identical cookie-cutter people (pretty great, eh?), so we all ‘do’ this journey in our own way.   And, we can pray for those who don’t believe, and continue to be kind and compassionate towards them.  How will they ever find Christ if Christians are the first to bail out on them?

To me, the requirements for salvation are absolute; there is only one way to become a Christian-  BUT there are as many ways to BE a Christian as there are people… . It’s a choice.  It’s an active belief, not a passive assumption.   God can use ALL of us 🙂 

I believe that God can use anyone who makes him/herself available to Him.  He doesn’t demand perfection. He doesn’t demand we ‘speaketh’ in a completely unnatural way when we talk to Him.  I am not a fan of religion at all (mindless rituals and rules)… God wants a relationship with every single person on this planet. 🙂  He waits until we seek Him, but then we are His forever.  He won’t force Himself on anybody.  He gave us free will.  And, He has a single requirement for being with Him forever…. belief.  Faith grows over time, but belief is a choice.

I can’t imagine NOT believing what I do.  I can’t imagine NOT believing in Jesus, or His death and resurrection.  I can’t imagine NOT believing that He is coming back.  I can’t imagine NOT having the absolute assurance of Heaven when I die. To me, it takes a lot more faith in “nothing” than it does in a loving God whose Son walked the earth in human form over 2,000 years ago.  I also don’t see humans as a lot who are higher up on the reliability scale.  I couldn’t believe in a mere mortal.  Just wouldn’t work for me.   I’m glad for my upbringing in an evangelical church.  I’m thankful that I had good experiences with how God was taught to me, and that I had several outlets that were wonderful experiences to reinforce what I’d learned (youth groups, summer camp, working at the same camp during 2 1/2 summers, choir, etc).  I’m also very glad I read through the BIble cover-to-cover on my own a few times, so I saw what is in there for myself…. not JUST how a pastor saw it. I’m thankful for study Bibles with amazing notes from reputable Bible scholars to enhance my understanding.

I wish that for everyone. 🙂

Shelby the Hairy Tornado

Shelby is 10.5 weeks old now.  She has energy that my ‘closing-in-on-50-years-old’ body isn’t used to (especially with the disabilities I’ve got).  She IS a hairy tornado.  She wakes me up in the morning by pawing at the inside of the tent she sleeps in (on my bed- to keep her contained and safe, but next to me) to go potty.  She has learned how to paw the zipper from the inside and get the door all the way open- well at least enough to poke her head through, so I can’t dawdle.  I’ll carry her to her potty papers, and insist she unloads both tanks before moving on to feed her (I keep a baby gate up until she’s done).  Otherwise, it’s like a Tootsie Roll dispenser malfunctioned and left ‘gifts’ in a trail on the floor.  She’s a mobile pooper.  According to the puppy training information, she’s doing well.  She gets it right about %80 of the time already; the info says that most pups aren’t totally trained until they’re 6 months old.  In the meantime, there are barricades all over my apartment, and I bring her to her papers about every hour, when she wakes up after a nap, or after a period of psychotic playing.

She’s into the piranha-teeth phase now.  One of her favorite activities is to sink those sharp little puppy teeth into the back of my fuzzy slipper and just hang on for a couple of steps. Then she waits to sink those teeth into the other one. Walking (for me) has become a hazardous situation. So, I shuffle.  I look like some sort of deranged Parkinson’s patient with a short,hairy stalker behind me. And she follows me everywhere ! The puppy training info tells me that ‘communicating’ with her as her fur-mom would do is the way to go… growling an intense and definitive ‘no’ growl is what she’ll understand.  What I understand is that I look like an idiot.  I don’t have a good growl. Go figure. I don’t even holler/yell all that well.

Her ‘guard dog’ attributes need a lot of work.  She barks when someone is leaving. When my dad came over yesterday, he took off his coat and hung it on the back of one of my dinette set chairs.  OK. No problem. Once Shelby got some love from her grandpa in the form of ear scratching, she turned around and eyeballed his coat (the only different thing over there), and proceeded to bark at it until she got up enough courage to slowly approach the ‘dangerous’ coat and give it a good sniff. Then she was fine. But barking once someone is already inside and comfortable enough to remove their coat is a bit backwards from alerting me when they’re trying to enter. Granted, I let him in.  But she’s done this with a friend who was here… let her come right in, but then gave her the business when she was getting ready to leave.  Uh huh.  She’s a scary one!  But I can’t bark at all, so I guess she’s one up on me there.

Then there are the times when she is just too sweet for words. She must sleep near me during the day (her ‘rule’, not mine). She has her own recliner with a soft comforter, but she’d rather sleep on the floor under the leg part of my recliner when it’s up, or next to my recliner on the floor.  If my feet are on the floor, she sleeps between them with her head on top of one foot.  When I pick her up to move her, she just lays in my arms, limp, and lets me do whatever I want to her. She’ll sleep on her back like a baby in my arms to the point when she’s dreaming and twitching. She is very trusting, and as long as she’s able to sleep near or on me, she’s content.  During the first part of the day, if I’m still worn out from an interrupted night’s sleep, I’ll let her play like a maniac until she wears herself out, and then haul her fuzzy butt back to my bed, put her back into her tent, and we both get another hour or two of sleep.

Shelby is  a kisser. When she’s on my lap, she loves to stand up and slurp my face.  Her tail is also semi-motorized, and moves so fast it’s hard to see the actual movement.  It’s just a little black blur on her butt.  And it’s in motion a lot!  She seems to be very happy just about all of the time (unless she’s trying to figure out why I’m growling at her).  It’s sweet to see how curious she is about everything, and that simple things give her joy.  All people should be so content with their lives.

The puppy stage lasts a good year to year and a half.  We’re only two months in.  I love her like crazy, and I’m worn out !  I look forward to watching her grow and learn things she needs to know to be a safe, civilized dog.  In the meantime, I am the hairy tornado monitor, pee pad changer, food dispenser, belly scratcher,  and toy cleaner-upper.  And I wouldn’t trade that for anything 🙂

Sleeping in any position

Sleeping in any position

Killing her toys...

Killing her toys…

In one of her toy bins...

In one of her toy bins…

Introducing Princess “Shelby” Noel Wigglebutt

I finally found a miniature schnauzer puppy !  After 2 months of looking online and in the local newspaper, I finally found a puppy that was exactly what I was looking for.  I had to do a long day of driving WAY outside of my comfort zone with the dysautonomia and joint/pain issues- and it’s only because it’s winter and cold here that it was even possible.  My knees are still not happy- but she is SO worth it.

Shelby (as I call her) is 9 weeks old. She got a good report from my vet, and has been a joy in the 3 1/2 days that I’ve had her home. She has a lot of energy, and is ‘loose’ in my apartment all day (sleeps in a dog tent at night on my bed with me), and is using more energy than she had been, so is having some mild hypoglycemia symptoms. That is common in puppies, and they generally outgrow it. So, to fix that, she’s getting four meals a day instead of three.  She does have several naps during the day, but if I get up, she wakes up and follows me everywhere… one time I managed to not wake her up initially, but she woke up and found me not around, and cried until I called her (she has no clue what her name is yet, but my voice settled her down).

Shelby’s name comes from Julia Roberts character in ‘Steel Magnolias’. The ‘Princess’ part is what her breeder mom called her.  Noel is for being born on Christmas Eve, and Wigglebutt is what her tail does !

It’s been so lonely since Mandy died.  It’s wonderful to have a lively little being in my life again. She’s got a great temperament (and I met her parents, who are sweet dogs as well).  The drive was really hard on the dysautonomia and arthritis, but I’d do it again if I knew she was the end result.

Meet Shelby:

Princess "Shelby" Noel Wigglebutt

Princess “Shelby” Noel Wigglebutt

Shelby

Shelby asleep….

Shelby in one  of her toy bins :)

Shelby in one of her toy bins 🙂

The Night Before Christmas…

…my new puppy was born, though I didn’t know it until today.  My dad was here, and I was going through online ads for miniature schnauzer puppies. Most were either too far away, had something funky going on with their eyes, or some had disconnected phone numbers. Not a good sign.  Then I found an ad that had been posted just a couple of days ago, and I called the breeder. After a few questions, I asked if I could talk it over with my dad and call her back- no problem.

We talked about it for a few minutes, but his fatigue after driving home from Florida over the last several days was catching up with him.  He said we’d talk later.  I called the lady back, and explained the situation, but said I’d be talking to him about me driving the distance to get the puppy on my own. In the winter, I do better, and have plenty of opportunity to stop and rest if needed.  I’d already decided to go by myself- after all, I’d driven over 1200 miles when I moved back here, and while I’m not able to drive very far in just any weather (i.e. when it’s above 50 degrees outside), 35 degrees should be OK.  I got part of the cash at the ATM (will get the rest tomorrow), and made some plans and got the travel crate together.

I talked to dad later, and he agreed; he’s pooped. I told him how I was getting there, and we double checked to be sure he had my cell phone number.  All was well.

My new puppy (Shelby) was born on Christmas Eve- nearly 9 weeks ago.  That was the same day as my last photo of my dear Mandy who died on December 27, 2012.  I like the information the breeder gave me.  And the photos are adorable. Tomorrow, a new phase of my life starts, that will involve patience, some frustration, but mostly a new little life to love.  I’m so ready.  I’ve got puppy teething toys, a ton of stuffed animals, and a new dog bed, along with many other things.

Tonight is my last night in my bed without my new dog.  I’m not sure I’ll sleep !!

The Death of My Best Friend…Who Waits at The Rainbow Bridge

At 2:45 p.m. today (December 27, 2012), my best friend and amazing dog Mandy died in my arms.  About 15 minutes earlier, she had been lying on her ‘TV bed’ and made a sound that was similar to those she made when she’d faint, but not as loud and only one time (instead of the usual three deep, agonized moans). I immediately went to check on her, and she was semi-conscious.  I picked her up and she began to wake up, ears perky, and  looking at me. But something wasn’t right- normally when she started to wake up, she ‘came to’ quickly and was on her feet and steady. She did go over to her pee pads and peed, but she wouldn’t leave that area- she just kind of froze standing up. So I picked her up and brought her to my recliner, to hold her and see if she’d perk up.  I decided to get her onto her comforter with a disposable underpad beneath it (she has had ‘issues’ with bodily functions after fainting).  By then, she wasn’t able to support herself on the floor, so I laid her on her recliner as I got her situated (yes, the dog had her own recliner).  I picked her up to hold her  on my lap and see what was next.  She again picked her head up, but then essentially collapsed, and began some slow, agonizing breaths that became slower and slower until they stopped altogether.  I checked her heart rate with my stethoscope. There was silence. The entire process took about fifteen minutes as she died in my arms.

I’m extremely thankful that she didn’t have any prolonged suffering; just this morning she was looking at me and wanting her Charlee Bear dog treats (which she got), and eating Swedish meatballs (microwaved and low salt, just for her).  I’m extremely grateful that she was in my arms, and not alone or afraid. She just relaxed into my lap and let go. I told her she’d been an amazing friend and dog, and that I loved her more than I could ever make her understand, and that it was OK to stop fighting the heart failure.  I knew it had been hard for her for a couple of weeks, but she had been so alert and interested in what was going on, and had still been eating (though becoming very picky).  I’m so thankful that she took the reins, and it was fast.  I had agonized with the decision to put her to sleep last week, but unlike my last dog, the signs weren’t  so clear.  Mandy was still invested in life…until she wasn’t.  The end left no questions.

I’d called my dad when I noticed something wasn’t right, and he came over as fast as he could- thinking at best we’d be taking her to the vet to be put to sleep if she was still ‘not right’, or at worst to the animal crematorium.  I also called my birth-mother. She’s been keeping up with the gradual decline. Mandy  was ‘gone’ when dad got here, which was OK, since it gave me a few moments alone with her during that time when everything changes and the order of my world began the process of adapting to the void left behind without her.  I know it’s a process, and that I’ll be a mess on and off for a while.  I’ll miss her for a long time, just as I still miss the one before her, and the one before her.

I can’t explain in human words how much I loved that dog.  There is no ‘dog-language’ to explain how important she was as the one living thing I saw more than anybody else. Being home 24/7 about %98 of the time, she was my sole companion and closest friend.  All I could do was to do all I could do, and I did. I have no regrets about the level of treatment for her congestive heart failure. I have no regrets about letting her lead the way as far as when she was ‘done’ (and she was quite decisive 🙂 ).   I only know that there’s a hole in my heart left by her absence that will be raw for a while.  I know I’ll get another dog, though none of my dogs have ever replaced her predecessor. They just grew in my heart in their own way.

Thanks to the vets and staff at the Mulford Animal Hospital in Rockford, IL.  You have been so caring, and kind.

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed- my forever friend, who never let me down and always lifted me up. ❤

Mandy Bluebonnet TumbleweedMar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012

Mandy Bluebonnet Tumbleweed
Mar. 28, 2001- Dec. 27, 2012

 

"Mandy

My Crazy, Amazing Schnauzer Mandy

Since my  11 1/2 year old miniature schnauzer was diagnosed with heart failure about six months ago, I find myself looking at her and thinking how blessed I am to have gotten her. As in the very specific and individual her. When I got her, my previous schnauzer had been gone a relatively short period of time. She too had heart failure, and had been put to sleep while in my arms, after a good year of treatment. But her time had come, and the decision was ‘easy’. She couldn’t go on; she was actively dying and struggling. I had already decided to get another dog; being single, I loved the companionship.  I finally found a breeder a couple of hundred miles away in Houston, TX, and contacted her. The arrangements were made that I’d get a female salt and pepper puppy with her next litter, that was due soon. But she needed to be seven weeks old before the breeder would send any puppies to their new homes. I didn’t get to see Mandy before I made the 9-hour round trip to get her, so had to rely on the breeder to pick out my new ‘baby’.

When I first saw her, the breeder was in her front yard, holding Mandy and talking to some guys working on her roof.  Mandy had a bright pink bandana around her neck, and weighed less than three pounds. She was about 6-7 inches tall when she was sitting.  I was instantly in love 🙂  I had to drive through Houston traffic to get home, and during most of that time while still in Houston, I was trying to keep Mandy in the clothes basket lined with a quilted cat bed. She wanted to be in my lap, but I didn’t want to take the chance of her getting hurt, or deciding to explore the car while on I-10, and in 5 lanes of cars.  Finally, somewhere near Katy, TX she settled down and fell asleep.  The drive home was otherwise uneventful.

From the get-go, she was a mama’s girl.  I’d taken vacation time from work when I got her, so had a week home to get her used to being with me. She slept under a clothes basket, on a waterproofed cloth pad, next to me on my bed. Initially, the clothes basket had been right-side up, but the 3rd morning, I heard a little bark next to the bed. She had jumped off of my bed, and was on the floor looking at me. I was scared she’d get hurt. So, I flipped the basket over, and she’d crawl under it every night. If she needed to use her papers in the middle of the night, she’d cry a little, waking me up.  During the day, she slept between my left shoulder and collarbone, curled up.  She’d suck on my earlobe at times, making weird little puppy noises.

I had a desk job as an RN, so I was able to bring her to the nursing home where I worked for several weeks. She stayed in her crate under my desk, and visited with the residents periodically.  The socialization was good for her, most of the residents loved her,  and I loved knowing she was nearby. The first time I left her home in the kitchen I was so sad. I knew she’d be fine with her bed, toys, pee pads, and food and water bowls, but I hated leaving her. The first time I left her home with the run of the place (after she’d shown consistency with using the pee pads), I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I got home. I have a realistic baby doll collection, and they were on shelves where their feet were very accessible. I feared coming home to toeless dolls. What I found was a pile of baby socks by the back door, and all toes intact. She hadn’t hurt them- just removed ALL of their socks. 🙂

Over the years, I realized that Mandy has some odd quirks.  She loves appliances, especially the dishwasher and clothes dryer. When I remove lint from the lint trap she gets so excited!  She actually pays attention to when the dryer turns off, and gets up to trot on over to where it is, looking at me as if to say “Well, get moving! We have lint!”. She also hates when I sneeze, and if I say I’m going to sneeze, she leaves the room.  She understands an eerie number of words. It freaks my dad out a bit. When he tells her the same things, she blows him off. If I tell her to do something, she’s amazing. She does not like the digital camera at all, and leaves the room if I take it off of the charger.  Taking photos of her is a nightmare. She wasn’t like that with my old 35mm SLR, and I can only think that the little noises the digital camera makes must be what bugs her.

Mandy, age 11
Nothing like some good cataracts !

As she’s gotten older, she’s not as good with ‘hygiene’, so I’ve started getting her groomed in a very short cut, leaving only a schnauzer face. It’s either that or use baby wipes on her girly parts to keep her clean.  She also leaks a bit if she doesn’t use her pee pads before bed, so I tell her to ‘go potty’ before turning in for the night, and she will.  She’s rather private about the whole thing, and it’s good that the linoleum entry way is behind a partial wall, or she’d sulk.  She also farts more as she’s gotten older, and I find it all very amusing. She can be in a nice sleep on one of her many places to nap, and suddenly be airborne, landing on her butt and staring at it as if something must be there violating her back door. Then she looks at me in a somewhat accusatory way.  She is fond of simethicone gas pills (for people), and if I ask her if she needs a gas pill, she very eagerly comes over and gets one. I saw the same ingredient  in dog gas pills at a pet store, so I know it’s safe.

Over the past six months, she’s had some fainting episodes that break my heart. When Mandy gets overly excited, and hyperventilates, she tips over- out cold- and lets out some deep cries that sound just agonizing.  Yet, she recovers quickly and goes on about her day.  Last Friday, she had one of these episodes while moving around in bed, so no activity preceded it. That bothers me a lot.  This week, she went to the vet to get some blood work done to check to see how her kidneys are handling the diuretic (water pills) she needs to keep her lungs less congested.  That came back normal, so there’s a good chance she will do well for many months to years.  Her heart failure was caught earlier than her predecessor, so that is good.  She likes taking her pills, as I stuff them in pieces of freeze dried mandarin oranges. If I ask if she needs her pills, she heads for the kitchen where I keep them.

But I know what’s coming. I know the time will come when her breathing takes too much effort to make it humane to keep her with me, and that breaks my heart. Each of my three dogs (starting when I was an 8 year old kid) has been special in her own way, and I missed the last two terribly when they died. But being home 24/7 because of various disabilities has created a different bond with this one. Mandy is THE living thing I see the most.  She’s the one I communicate with more than any human.  She understands a lot of what I tell her to do, and has the goofy quirks that have endeared her to me very deeply.  I have been making a mental list of things that signal that it’s no longer right or fair to make her keep going.  So far, she’s nowhere close to any of them.  But when the time comes, I must do what is best for her, as much as it will hurt. And I’ll get another schnauzer. NO dog could ever replace Mandy (or the ones before her), but each has soothed the wound of grief a bit, and quickly made her own way into my heart.

When Forever Breaks

In my nearly 49 year old nursey brain, I know that nobody stays on this earth forever. I’ve seen so many people die, I can’t count them all and I feel badly about that. I do remember some individuals that I’d gotten particularly close to, who had been at the places I’d worked for quite a while,  or who died from something uncommon. But for the most part, they were ‘just’ really sweet people whose bodies had given out.  I do remember feeling that their absence would be incredibly sad for their families and friends.  I spoke to many of them, and sometimes I was the one to give them the news. I always hated those phone calls.  Nothing good comes from a phone call in the middle of the night from a hospital or nursing home.

As I was growing up, I had the incredible fortune to be sent to summer camp for one week each summer to Timber-lee Christian Center in East Troy, WI.  Starting when I was 8 years old, and getting ready to start 4th grade (I was young for my class), I went every summer until I was 15, and getting ready to start my junior year of high school. I met some really neat people, and a few of them left lifelong impressions. When I got to work there in the summers on the ‘summer staff’, I was thrilled. The summer before my senior year in high school, freshmen year of college, and between the spring and fall semesters in college (1/2 of that summer), I spent up to three months working at camp- loving every minute of it. It was my spiritual home, and I learned more  about the love of God through Christians there than anywhere else. I still consider it the place where God became real to me.

I grew up in a solid church. The people there were very nice people, and there were several who were living examples of God’s love- but camp was different. I grew up with a mom who didn’t show much affection. She loved me (it took decades to really understand that), but I didn’t ‘feel’ it. As a kid, I didn’t know if she even liked me. It was all about her own ‘stuff’, and had nothing to do with me, but as a child, I had no frame of reference for what her life had been like- just what I saw in how she related to me.  She had lost two babies a couple of years apart, from the same newborn disorder, and she never even got to see them after they’d been born. That all happened a few years before I was adopted by her and my dad.   The death of a child who was never allowed to bond with a mom  does something to a mom. The bonding isn’t only for the baby. I get that now. But as a kid, I just wanted to feel that I mattered to someone, somewhere. I know my dad loved me- never questioned that. But I needed something different, that I didn’t get from a distant, aloof mother.  I got that for entire weeks at a time at camp.  On summer staff, it was 24/7 for up to three months.  Right or wrong, camp was extremely important to me feeling like my existence mattered.

I guess that’s why the death of a core member of Timber-lee has hit hard. I never really imagined camp without her. She was the constant person year after year- and she made kids feel like they mattered.  On summer staff, I met other people who made me feel like my existence was a good thing, but when I was really young, and into my adolescence, camp is where I really felt like I wasn’t ‘irrelevant’ (not sure what a better word would be), and this one woman was there each year. Camp didn’t exist in my mind without her.  With her death, my frame of reference has been broken.  I know I’m kind of old to still be hanging on to camp memories, but this place had that much of an impact.  It formed a big part of who I am because of the acceptance and understanding I felt there. It’s hard to explain.

So many people have come forward to talk about how Mary Kay impacted their lives. Many spent much more time with her than I did, but there are others who were ‘just’ campers or summer staff members who got the same genuine care and concern from Mary Kay- it’s just how she was.  There wasn’t anything phony about her, and kids can figure that out in a heartbeat. Kids crave adult acceptance. They need that adult to look up to and emulate. They need someone who thinks they are good enough just being a kid.  Those are crucial things to help them along developmentally, as they become their own persons.  And Mary Kay was there every year since 1972, loving every kid (and summer staffer) in a way that most people don’t have the skills and gifts to do; Mary Kay was special.

I don’t mean that I grew up in a vacuum at home. My mom (now deceased) was a ‘good’ person, and had a successful teaching career. Her students felt she was a great teacher, and many loved her. My dad worked hard, and provided for us; I never lacked a good place to live, clothes, etc.  He always had my best interests in mind, even when I didn’t realize it. He’s the person I’m closest to now. There were some key adults when I was a kid that sort of ‘took me in’ emotionally.  But camp was a block of time where I was immersed in love and true Christian living. I thrived on that.  I couldn’t wait to get back to those week long camps where I’d be in a cabin with 5-6 other girls, and a college age summer staff counselor; it was like a week long family based on the love of Jesus. It doesn’t get better than that.

On summer staff, I was surrounded by all sorts of Christians who were also  there for the kids. It was a chance to give back, but I often got so much more than I felt I gave (I worked in the nature center for most of my time on staff- I got worms for the fish and fed rats to snakes, along with doing various nature-related activities, often with a 6 foot boa constrictor wrapped around my waist). Those interactions went on to help me survive some really dark times. Camp formed the core of my beliefs (as did my home church, but it wasn’t the same). It’s something I pictured in my mind as unchanging- however irrational that may sound from someone who will be 50 years old in just over a year.  The core of my beliefs won’t change, no matter whose physically present on earth, and yet there’s a shift with Mary Kay gone.  I’m not sure I can explain it well.

Summers at Timber-lee Christian Center

I’m so glad I was able to reconnect on FaceBook earlier this year, and see Mary Kay and her husband, Greg, at a gathering at the camp this past July. It was the first time I’d been back to Timber-lee in 27 years.  There were changes, but that welcoming, feel-good feeling is still there. I believe it’s a supernatural blessing that presides over the people and property associated with that amazing place. I have never found any other place that immediately brings back the good memories like Timber-lee does. It’s mightily  used by God for so many things, and it touches people’s lives in ways that are for forever.

I’ve been so happy to reconnect with other Timber-lee summer staffers. It’s impossible to explain those summers to people who weren’t there.  I will miss Mary Kay deeply.  But I’m so thankful that I’ve got the memories of her TO miss. She and Timber-lee will be connected in my mind forever.  But now there’s a new frame of reference for Timber-lee moving forward. The ‘old forever’ broke. But I know that in the ultimate forever, it’s all good.