On Columbus Day, my husband and I spent a wonderful day just driving around and enjoying the autumn scenery. I don’t know about you, but I seem to have an unusual sensitivity to the beauty in nature, and was once again overwhelmed by the beauty of the bright white and yellow streaks of sun streaming down through the white puffy clouds. Such a sight always encourages me as if reinforcing the fact that yes, there are clouds, and yes there may be rain, but that sun is still up there in the sky, overseeing it all, just waiting to break through and make things better. As an added visual treat, the sun shone so brightly on the tapestry of peak autumn leaves: oranges, reds and yellows, that I felt a need to wear my sunglasses, but with them on I would not be able to fully appreciate the effect of the over-the-top, gasp inducing colors. No photo, piece of artwork or beautifully sung song could have replicated the intensity of happiness that brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.
My husband and I sat, holding hands as he drove. There was no need to say anything. We were at peace, pleased to have such a respite after a hectic week of raising children and dealing with problems. We were in our own beautiful bubble, cell phones turned off so as not to ruin the interlude. It was a wonderful day!
Upon pulling into the driveway of our home, I spotted the two small maple trees which Marie had planted a few years ago. She had excitedly dug them up when they were fragile saplings with broken branches, and planted one on each side of the driveway. She had added gravel at the base of each, and attached a tall, straight, thin stick to keep them growing upright. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed them before. I had NOTICED them, of course, but I had never really SEEN them. They had grown to be about four feet tall, straight and strong. My breath stuck in my throat as the brilliant, bright yellow leaves danced happily in the gentle breeze. They were a growing metaphor for my daughter, blossoming and beautiful and holding the promise of a bright future in their little yellow leaves. Despite once being fragile and broken, they would grow tall and amazing and fit perfectly in this world, reassuring me that my daughter, who was also once fragile and broken, would grow tall and amazing and fit perfectly in this world.
Archive for the ‘amazing’ Category
I led a very eclectic lifestyle when I was a child, traveling around the country with a vagabond family. It was a wonderful life, made all that more meaningful by a mother who possessed a natural spirituality. We may not have gone to church Sundays, but our life was naturally filled with the presence of God.
Because I feel that I know you all, I am going to share a personal, life altering childhood experience. We were camping high in the mountains, a favorite spot for my father because he could sit and look out over the valleys and little towns below. For him, it seemed to minimized the stressors of life. How could life be so bad when the people were the size of ants and the lakes the size of large drops of water? For whatever reason, he seemed to feel safe in the mountains Things were good. Things were peaceful. We were content.
One night while I was sleeping, I was awakened by an extremely loud, earth shattering noise. My body shook with such a ferocity I thought I was going to fall out of my top bunk. Although it was later determined to be a nearby bolt of lightning, I will never forget how I felt immediately when I woke up; I thought it was the end of the world! I thought life as we knew it was over. My immediate reaction was such profound joy and love that my heart wanted to burst with happiness. I was deeply disappointed when I found out it was only thunder, and not a joyous entrance into the world beyond and an opportunity to meet God.
As a child who had never read the Bible or been “religious”, in retrospect it is surprising that my first thought was not fear at the concept of the end of the world but joy! It was not something I had learned about in catechism, or had even thought of before. My first feeling was automatic and unbelievable happiness and love. And it is that feeling that I carry with me to this day. For I know that the heart of that child so many years ago experienced a true and prophetic revelation…that God lives in the hearts of all of us, we just don’t always see it. Wouldn’t the world be different if we all knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a joyous eternity awaits us? I was so very fortunate to have learned that at an early age…
Actual conversation overheard while I was driving children who are blind to activities during the summer program with which I have been working:
Her: “What street do you live on?”
Him: ”Main Street”, (which is 5 miles long.)
Her: ”What color is your house?”
Her: ”YELLOW?!? I used to live on Main Street in a yellow house.”
Him: ”Wow! Maybe it is the same one! Did it have two bedrooms upstairs and one bedroom downstairs right next to the bathroom?”
Her: ”YES! That sounds just like the house I used to live in! Does it have a driveway on the side of the house with bushes by the front steps?”
Him: ”YES! How about a dining room where it can fit a table that seats ten people?”
Her: ”Oh, my family used to get all together there on Thanksgiving.”
Him: ”MY family gets together there for Thanksgiving! Did your bedroom have a closet door that got stuck?”
Her: ”YES! That was my closet door!”
Him: ”And how about a creepy basement”?”
Her: ”YES! YES! I was always afraid to go into the basement. How about…does it have a cupboard in the kitchen where you could keep cans of food?”
Him: ”OH MY WORD! YES! That is too much of a coincidence! I guess I really AM living in the same house you used to live in!”
Her: That is sooooooo amazing!”
Him: ”Isn’t it!!!!!”
And while they were talking, I drove by at least another ten yellow houses on main street. I wonder if they all have cupboards in the kitchen in which to keep canned foods???
Last week I pulled into a gas station from out of town to, obviously, get gas. I filled it up, (ie put $20 in as it would have cost $100 to really fill it!) Because this station had super cheap gas, a line quickly formed behind me. I started the van up and tried to shift into “drive”. The shifter did not move! I tried again, and again and again as the line of cars behind me now flowed out onto the street. IT WOULD NOT SHIFT! The car was running smoothly, it had plenty of gas, and yet it would not move. I was highly embarrassed now, as the cars started honking at me. However, as it my usual good fortune, this particular gas station was associated with an auto repair business. I ran in and got the mechanic, who took a look at the line of cars, and tried not to smile. I am sure he thought I was just incompetent, and he cockily climbed into the drivers seat and grabbed hold of the shifter, but it would not budge for him either. There were only 2 ways to get my van out of the way…have it towed, (which we all know would be another disaster,) or having him climb underneath my running van and by hand shift the gear into drive, crawling out before it started moving. In other words, a death defying trick. Being the brave man that he was, he choose the latter option. As he crawled under the van, he told me that no matter what I do, DO NOT STEP ON THE GAS UNTIL HE TELLS ME TO. I don’t think I have ever been so scared in my life. My little old, nervous, shaking foot on that break pedal was the only thing between this man and death! He shifted it quickly and rolled out, telling me to “Go! Go!” which I did at a breakneck speed of about 2 miles per hour. I made a loop around the gas station, coming to stop at an empty parking spot off to the side. I put my foot on the break…holding down with all my might. He crawled back under the van and hand shifted it back into park. My hero!
Come to find out, the shift gears were so old that they were very rusty and would not move. He took them apart, sanded them and oiled them, thereby fixing the problem. When it came time to pay, he said, “That will be eight hundred and seventy-two dollars.” But before I could faint, he started laughing and said he was only teasing…it was only forty-two dollars for his labor. This man risks his life and it costs me less than $50! I was so relieved that not only was my van fixed, but that it was fixed for a very reasonable price. Such is my luck in life. Every time something bad happens, it turns out okay. I truly am lucky! (And so was that crazy man who climbed under the car while it was still running!)
Just a reminder…as I am saving up for more reliable transportation, it would be greatly appreciated if you could consider purchasing my book, The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane, which is sold on I-Books, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I have since learned that some days it is easier to maintain my sanity than others…
When Angel recently graduated from high school, (Thank GOD for that huge accomplishment,) I lent him my mini-van for a car. When Dinora graduated from high school, we paid 1/2 the price of a car for her so she could use it to go to work and college. By the time we got to our 4th high school graduate, lending him my car was the best I could do! He has been thrilled with the mini-van, unfazed by the stares from classmates. He can drive and he has a car and that is all that matters!
Fortunately for me, who gave up my mini-van, I was able to obtain a huge 12 passenger wheelchair life van for free. (long story.) It is so tall that I need a step stool to climb up into it. And I am not very ladylike in doing so! But once I get in and start driving, it seems like a regular car to me, as long as I just look forward. I also just drive it forward, of course, because backing up this monstrosity of a van is a little beyond my capabilities.
This van is a 2002. Huge. Older model with some mechanical difficulties. Last week, it would not start. It appeared that all of the oil had drained out of the engine. I couldn’t budge it. A frequent user of AAA, I called for a tow to our family mechanic. I told them my van needed a tow. They asked me what kind of van. ”White”, I answered. ”Dodge”. They asked me what model Dodge, and I told them a van. (How was I to know that there are many styles of vans? I’m just a little old mother…) “1500?” they asked. ”Sure!” I answered. I waited the requisite half hour, and along came a cute little tow truck with a lovely driver. He took one look at the van, which towered over his tow truck, and started to laugh. ”They didn’t tell me it was a 3500 model” he said. I took the blame for that, pleading ignorance about vans. He did not look too hopeful that his little tow truck would be able to tow it, but because he did not want me to have to wait any longer, he offered to try. He was very nice. He backed up the tow truck and hooked up the van. As he started to try to lift it, the van did not budge! Instead, the tow truck moved, and the front of the truck was soon lifted high in the air! It was hilarious! As the driver slowly lowered his truck, he apologized that he “did not think” he would be able to tow it. And we both burst into laughter.
I had to wait several more hours for a flatbed tow truck to come to bring the van to the mechanics. I didn’t mind the wait. I giggled the whole time!
I have been fortunate in that my mother loved to travel and she often took me and one of my kiddos “along for the ride.” One of my favorite spots was Discovery Cove, part of Sea World in Orlando. Discovery Cove offered a make believe coral reef with lots of beautiful fish swimming around and huge stingrays that would swim close and touch you. It was so amazing, and was as close to real snorkeling that I had ever been. With a life jacket, snorkel and mask on, Marie, (my 13 year old daughter who is profoundly deaf and has PTSD) and I spent the day swimming around, amazed at the many varieties of tropical fish. It was like being in another world. In one spot, there was a glass wall and you could swim next to sharks. Up until this point in my life, this was as close to real snorkeling, and SHARKS, that I would get! It was awesome!
Near the end of the day, Marie’s medication began to wear off as we had stayed later than I anticipated. She began to get anxious, but she didn’t want to leave. I told her one more swim around the coral reef and then we’d head back to the hotel. As had been happening all day, a stingray came up and touched Marie on her leg. In fact, she had been petting them for most of the day, calling them her “friends”. For some reason, this touch was different than the rest. She became frightened and had a full blown panic attack. She started SCREAMING her high pitched scream and she was signing (in American sign language,) “The fish is going to eat me!” (Why the fish would think she were any tastier later in the day than earlier, I don’t understand.) To get away from the stingray, she climbed onto my back. I tried to calm her down, but it was difficult to do sign language while trying to swim with a child on your back, and she was screaming so loud her eyes were shut and she couldn’t see what I was saying anyway! By this time, we were halfway around the coral reef and as far from the shore as you could possibly get. Marie decided she was not safe enough on my back because her toes were still in the water, so she climbed up on my shoulders to get completely out of the water! Unfortunately, that meant I’d have to sink UNDER the water for her to stay OUT of it. I started screaming along with her. (Albeit alternating choking with water and screaming.) She was truly frightened the fish was going to eat her and I was truly frightened I was going to drowned.
They have several life guards there and our dilemma was not hard to miss, with Marie standing upright and me bobbing in and out of the water choking. Because we were so far out, it took the lifeguards what seemed like an eternity to reach us. When they got to us, Marie refused to let the lifeguards touch her, screaming and kicking at them. (Good old Post Traumatic Stress Disorder shows up when you least expect it!) What three of the lifeguards ended up doing was supporting me in the water while she continued to stand on my shoulders and scream. Of course there was a huge crowd of onlookers on the beach, some taking photos. (We really were quite a sight!) Once on the beach both Marie and I collapsed into the sand. The life guards asked if we needed to go to the hospital, but I was still breathing and Marie had stopped screaming and was crying quietly, so that meant we had both survived unscathed. Well, maybe not totally unscathed, I’ve lost my wanderlust for snorkeling!
If you are interested in reading more, I have written an e-book entitled The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane available at I-Books, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.