Thursday, July 21, 2016

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

My body isn't reliable. For that matter, neither is my brain at times. And yet I've found myself saying yes to huge commitments twice in the matter of a couple months. My logical brain reprimands me for taking on such things, causing doubt to reign supreme. What have I gotten myself into?

First, I said yes to taking on the position of Team Leader for Social Security/DSS for New Start Ministry, which is sponsoring a refugee family and helping them resettle locally. Well, we are as soon as our paperwork is approved by Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) and we're assigned a family. 

I felt called to do this - to do something new...something amazing, life-changing and extraordinary for someone else. It is good to research and discuss things other than medical issues, homeschool stuff, and parenting or breastfeeding issues.

And then today I filled out an application for the School of Lay Ministry - a two year commitment to learn and grow spiritually. I've been wanting to do this for a few years, but have doubted my ability to find the resources within myself to complete the work required. With greatly-appreciated financial help (thanks Mom!) and a lot of prayer, I am brushing doubt aside and taking a leap of faith. 

I feel called to grow in my faith; to learn more about the Word and Lutheran Theology; and to discover new ways to use my spiritual gifts in my church and my community. 

Due to a bit of anxiety surrounding taking on these projects, I need to remind myself often that both of these commitments work within the reality of my life - much of what I need to do for both, I can do in my own time. The meetings will be good-for-me outings where I get to work with others to improve my life through faith conversations and the lives of others through the work of refugee resettlement.

Doubt may continue to creep into my thoughts as I move forward with both of these wonderful experiences, but I know that God will get me through. And deep breaths. And prayer. And coffee. 

Throughout the next few months and years, I might again question what I have gotten myself into, but I have a feeling my answer will be one of joy and excitement and peace. 

(The photo at the top? That's me on the left, before a gymnastics recital thingy. Nothing to do with the post...just a photo that came to mind in relation to the post title.)

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Moondragon at Camp

For months, this child had been in tears almost daily with anxiety over going to Resident Camp at Camp Calumet. Even though he knows Camp Calumet well, knows much of the staff, and is comfortable there. He wanted to be dropped off last and picked up first. 

There are things at Camp that aren't compatible with this high functioning autistic child's sensory issues... like sand and showers. And then there's the fact that a week away from Mama and Daddy seems incredibly daunting.

And then drop off time arrived. He chose to be dropped off first. After a brief chat with and a "shoe five" from his counselor, Ben, who happened to have the exact same footwear, he let me know it was time for me to go. No tears. No hanging on.

Mama, of course, spent the first few days of camp trying not to worry about this child. Not that I didn't have full confidence in him or in the Camp Calumet staff ... it's just that it's difficult for this Mama to not be completely sure that her adorable child is having the time of his life. Then the first letter arrived.

So all was going relatively well... whether or not this child was hit in the face several times. Apparently even that is all good at Camp Calumet.

As the week wore on, I figured no news was good news. And then on Thursday...

Having received the note on Thursday, I realized he'd written it during rest hour on Wednesday - the day of Camp when time seems to stand still for the even-sightly homesick. Somehow, though, I knew that he was going to do fine for the rest of the week.

And he did. 

Having the opportunity to give us a hug and chat for a couple minutes after his performance in Androcles and the Lion, he opted for quick hugs, a "Camp is good" update, and then ran off to Snack Bar. No tears. No hanging on. 

He was excited to see us when we picked him up, and did do a bit of hanging on to his Mama for a while. I didn't mind at all. 

Over the next few days, stories from his Camp Calumet experience were shared. Four square balls don't hurt too much when they hit you in the face. Showering had been avoided until the "Car Wash" which was the only reason his hair was clean. Drama Camp was awesome. Camp Food was great (thanks, Adrien!!!). He sat next to Lily every day when doing gimp. And after that Wednesday rest hour weariness, he found himself too busy and having too much fun and it was time to go home before he knew it. 

The biggest news of all - he's looking forward to returning to Resident Camp next year!

Thank you, Camp Calumet Counselors, CITs, L&S, and Staff for providing such a wonderful environment for a child who navigates the world a bit differently. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Z to the 16th Power

It's happened again. 

Another child has reached sixteen-hood.  Sixteen. Old enough to get a tattoo (with parental consent), which is what we're doing today. I'm taking my cute curly headed little boy second oldest son to get his first tattoo on his 16th birthday.


Zachary is such a joy to be with ... at least most of the time. If he's gotten enough sleep. And if his siblings aren't driving him up the wall. Especially after a conversation with Laila. *insert hearts and smoochy faces here* I love the conversations we have, especially when it's just the two of us driving somewhere and we can not only speak uninterrupted, but about everything and anything. We always end up laughing ... and wondering how we landed on the topics we're discussing. 

I love that Zachary has confidence in who he is and that it shines through when hanging around with friends. He owns his uniqueness and isn't afraid to think or to do things that are "out of the box," Like help Laila with Nail Art class at Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op ... and keep the polish on afterwards ... or bring his unicorns and rainbows blanket to Camp Calumet. 

In the past year, Zachary has been a zombie, a blacklight reactive wolf, done tech for Dinner Theater and Beautiful Things, agreed to go onstage at nearly the last minute for the Arts Response on Addiction performance, and so much more. I am in awe at the level of responsibility he is willing to take on and the great help he is in all that he decides to do. 

I love his church bulletin doodles, too. 

Happy 16th Birthday, Zachary Thomas Jack Bucka Steyer! 

I was soooooooo tempted to put the bear picture here, but it's your birthday, so I'll be nice.

Thursday, July 7, 2016


Some days something happens that just takes your breath away.

It was a normal day. I got up, did stuff around the house, caught up on email, went to my rheumatologist's office for my Cimzia injections, met a friend to deliver heart necklaces made by my husband and chat for a few minutes, and stopped at the dollar store on the way home to pick up last minute items for Camp. Along the way I fielded calls from my husband about financial matters and my children about things we needed from the store. Not a stressful morning per say, but a busy one.

With my seemingly endless to-do list on my mind, I pulled into our driveway. I noticed something at the top of the stairs in our back yard. Pulling out my phone, I hoped to get a picture before it flew away. Instead, I got treated to ten minutes of awestruck admiration of this majestic creature. 

I was blessed to be able to share some of this astounding event with Alia. Here's a bit of what we saw.

I am so grateful for these moments of God's beauty amidst the chaos that is my life...the reminders to stop, breathe, and take in nature's artistry.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Not the Circus Type

As I absorbed all that was going on in a recent play, something jumped out at me. One of the characters, Ash, entered a once-destroyed but now cleaned up garden. The "misfit body of believers" from the Kingdom Circus was there, asking her if she'd come for the show ... the show for change. Ash responded that she loved to be entertained and asked where she could sit. The response she received was an unexpected one, at least for her...
"No, more like...join. Where do you join?"
Ash's response was pure gold...

"I don't want to join a circus. I'm not the circus type. Have no skills, nothing to offer. Why don't you just show me what you got. Go ahead, entertain me."
This scene popped into mind the following Sunday during the prelude as worship began. You see, it's usually during the prelude that I first read through the bulletin to see if we're singing any of my favorite hymns and if perchance there's an amusing sermon title before centering myself in prayer. I wondered what others do during the prelude. Are they praying? Or are they wondering how interesting or humorous ... and how long... the sermon will be; why the hymns have so many verses; what addition to worship there might be that will delay their departure; or what food awaits them during Coffee Hour... all things I find myself doing from time to time? Perhaps they're mulling over the latest gossip they plan to share after worship. I wonder how likely it is that most are essentially wondering how much they'll be entertained - what the church is going to provide for them today. 
I don't want to join a church. I'm not the church type. I have nothing to offer the church. Why don't you just show me what the church can give me. Go ahead, entertain me
That's what I heard, recalling Ash's lines. Do we (the church...not a building, but a people) gather for worship to be entertained or to praise God? Do we attend worship only to do what we're supposed to or get something out of it... or should we offer something more than money in the offering plate - help build community inside and outside of the church? Are we just going through the motions? Are we creating a superficial church that, should a storm hit, will wither and fall, or are we taking the opportunity to each plant a seed and do the work it takes to help it grow? As Claudia, the elephant in the garden, says...
"It is the planting, replanting, the time taken, the getting your hands dirty again and again that seems to be forgotten. It's the work, the greater mission. The faith that says to keep on planting, keep on working. And maybe someday it will grow healthy and will flourish and maybe produce new seeds themselves."
Perhaps instead of worrying about how much we'll be entertained or what we'll get out of being part of the church... we can consider what seeds we can plant, how we can get our hands dirty, how we can fulfill the greater mission of the church. 

Where do we start? 

Perhaps with prayer.

Perhaps with Beautiful Things (a song by Gungor, look it up!)...

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You.

You make beautiful things.
You make beautiful things out of the dust.
You make beautiful things.
You make beautiful things out of us. 

What beautiful thing is the Spirit leading you toward?

Are you ready to join?

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day

Today many will celebrate Independence Day. There will be cookouts, parades, fireworks, and lots of American flags. Today we celebrate freedom.

Today is a different kind of independence day for me and my husband. We celebrate our independence in Freedom, New Hampshire at Camp Calumet. We celebrate not just our country's freedom but also our personal freedom. Today is our first full day at Camp Calumet without children. Yesterday we successfully dropped off all five children after Resident Camp, where they will remain until Saturday morning.

We're not quite sure what we're going to do with ourselves, but I'm fairly certain it will involve lots of peace and quiet...the type of peace where you know your children are being well cared for and are having fun and the type of quiet where no matter the amount of noise around you, you know your children aren't making it and don't need your attention.

Happy Independence Day!

Friday, July 1, 2016


I find it interesting, sometimes a bit annoying, and somewhat amusing that people think I'm whining when I comment on social media that I have a migraine or am having mobility issues or that when I post something like When You Look At Me. It seems like no matter how much I explain, people just don't understand.

When I post these things, I'm mostly trying to point out the humor or the fun I find in living with chronic illness ... or warning family and friends that I may be incommunicado for a while dealing with a migraine or other issue. Or commenting on what a beautiful day it is...and that I got to have a medical procedure that improves my quality of life - a blessing, not a tragedy. 

I find it fun to decorate my crutches. I find it simply a fact of my life that my health has its ups and downs and I'm on a downswing at the moment while I await my change in medication to take effect. I don't see a post of my newest DIY project (decorating my crutches with duct tape) as sad or whining. Just having fun preparing for life happenings. My life happenings just happen to involve mobility devices and getting through life as I anticipate a new medication taking effect. 

When I write blog posts about living with chronic illness and pain ... or about parenting, for that matter... I write them not to whine about my life, but to let others in similar life situations know that they are not alone. To help them see things in a different, and hopefully more positive light.  And to perhaps give some perspective to people who are blessed to live their lives in healthy bodies. 

Trust me, if I was whining, I'd have a lot more to whine about. For example, I, at this very moment, could whine about the fact that I got 2 hours of broken sleep last night between 1:30 and 7AM.; that just sitting here typing this, I have ice on my swollen throbbing knee, heat on my seized up hip, and it feels like a knife is wedged between my shoulder blades; that in addition, my neck hurts, my head is throbbing, my right hand hurts, and my feet are sore; and that although I'm looking forward to attempting a hike tomorrow, I'm scared I'm going to have to turn back after just a few minutes due to the pain.

And I could post similar things every single day  ... and much worse things on bad days. Yes, today is a relatively good day for me, all things considered. 

I'm not whining. I promise. At least not usually. Not until I get to week three of a migraine... or am craving chocolate or cheesecake and don't have any. Then I might just be whining. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

When You Look At Me

We live our lives making assumptions ... judging others by what they look like on the outside before getting to know them. We look in the mirror and judge ourselves. We assume others are judging us for our "flaws."

Over the past few months I've encountered negative comments from people who don't know me well, or at all, about my physical appearance. The negativity has been slowly eating away at my own self-image. I'm tired of feeling horrible about my appearance. I need to get to a place where I can practice on myself the same non-judgement I practice on others.

When you look at me, you see my tattoos. 

You judge me because of them. Perhaps you like them. Perhaps you assume they were something I did in my rebellious youth - a bad decision that I must regret, or will regret in the future. Perhaps they look horrible to you.

What you don't see is the meaning behind these tattoos for four of my babies, born into God's hands, not mine; two tattoos covering scars from abuse and self-harm, God's Word covering the wounds, reminding me how I strive to live my life; my family, friends, and memories etched onto my arms and legs. I love my tattoos. As a matter of fact, I was blessed to have a talented young tattoo artist do many of them over the past year. 

When you look at me, you see my weight.

You judge me because of it. Perhaps you don't mind it. Perhaps you assume that I overeat, eat fast food daily, or survive on junk food. Perhaps I look disgusting to you.

What you don't see is my struggle with multiple autoimmune illnesses and all that entails. You don't see the steroids and other medications that help keep the weight on and the lack of mobility that adds to the problem. You don't see that I get very little sleep due to extreme pain and medications - sleep deprivation messes with your digestive system and causes weight gain. You don't know that untreated Celiac disease caused damage to my gastrointestinal system that is healing thanks to a gluten-free diet. You don't see all that it working against me when it comes to losing weight or that I rarely eat out, and do eat healthy foods in proper sized portions. 

When you look at me, you see me walking like a healthy person.

You judge me because of this, too. If you know me, perhaps you're impressed. If you don't, or don't know me well, you might ask why on earth I would have a handicapped placard if I can walk. Perhaps I don't look disabled to you.

What you don't see is the pain I'm in with every step, every movement. What you might not realize is that, for me, walking is preferable to being in a wheelchair due to the severe pain sitting for prolonged periods causes ... or that some days my arms don't work well enough for crutches to be an option.

When you look at me, and then comment to me what you see, I start to look at myself that way, too. 

The negative comments do get to me. So do the positive ones. The funny thing is, when the negative comments pile up, they make the positive comments more difficult to believe. 

To those who chose to comment on my appearance...
Yes, I'm fat. I struggle every day not to gain more weight, despite all that is stacked against me.

Yes, I have lots of tattoos. I love them. They mean a lot to me. This is my body, my skin, and I'll do what I want with and to it, thank you very much.

Yes, I'm mobility-challenged. Thank you for standing up for people like me with your concern for me using a handicapped parking space when I can walk on my own two feet. Please believe me when I say I only use the space when I need to. 

What if, when we look at others, we look past their physical appearance and instead offer a kind word, an opportunity to get to know the beauty within? What if, when we look at ourselves, we do the same?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Not Sure What Happened

Six months ago, I was thinking about how calm this new year was going to be. My word for the year was GROW, and I was excited to do just that. Keeping life fairly low key, we'd do a few activities that we love and live our lives to the fullest. My health, although not wonderful, was on somewhat of an even keel.

Now, I can't figure out how six months have passed and how I ended up here. 

We've gotten through two semesters of homeschool co-op, Arts Reponse, Dinner Theater, Beautiful Things, a St. Paul Puppet Academy performance, and homeschool prom. I'm now somehow packing for our time at Camp Calumet, which is less than a week away, while thinking about the 2016-2017 year of Tuesday Night Sunday School, and what I need to work on for the New Start Ministry. 

New Start? I've somehow found myself the Team Leader in charge of Social Security and DSS for the refugee families that New Start will begin welcoming in a month or two.  It's going to be wonderful to be involved in something new and different! Growth requires change and new experiences, after all. 

I'm not sure what happened to the first half of the year!

I have no idea what the next few months are going to bring to me. I've just changed to a new medication (Cimzia), so in the three to four months that it should take to really start working, my health will be unpredictable and most likely in a downward spiral . The Summer full of hiking new and more challenging trails I had envisioned could easily transform to a Summer on crutches or in a wheelchair, reading lots of books and doing tamer things. But that's OK, too. I've prettied up my crutches in anticipation of being as active as I can be. 

I suppose I should stop procrastinating and get back to packing and planning and all that I need to do. I'm excited to find out what the next six months have in store. I'm sure, before I know it, it will be Christmas and I'll be wondering what happened to the past six months...again!

Saturday, June 18, 2016


A Dad is someone who takes you to the driving range when you're home "sick" from school with the chicken pox, and then lets you play a game of miniature golf on the deserted course because you entertained yourself so nicely in the car while he was practicing his swing.

A Dad is someone who answers your calls of  "Mom or Daaaaayaaaad" in the middle of the night and escorts you to the bathroom so the snakes under your bed and the alligators in the toilet don't get you. 

A Dad is someone who lets you curl up next to him on the couch on Sunday afternoons when you're little while he's watching "old movies" and then is surprised when you reference movies such as "The Bridge Over The River Kwai" and "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" as a teen.

A Dad is someone who gets so excited when you and your husband announce you're pregnant that he asks if you've told your grandmother yet while dialing her number and then hands the phone to you when you say no ... and then runs out the door to tell the neighbors. 

A Dad is someone who wears orange corduroy "pumpkin pants" trick-or-treating every Halloween, but is nice enough not to wear them - at least not in your presence - the other 364 days of the year. 

A Dad is someone who, if he doesn't know the answer, will generally make something up. 

A Dad is someone who helps carry on family traditions - like putting the angel on the top of the Christmas tree. 

A Dad is someone whose face radiates joy and love when he looks at your kids. 

At least my Dad is. 

A Dad is someone who, despite insisting he was only having two children, looked into the face of his second child and announced that it would be good to have a third. And then ended up with a fourth and a fifth as well.

A Dad is someone who encourages the kids to do things that make Mama nervous, but usually only when Mama isn't looking.

A Dad is someone who puts the kids to bed by getting them riled up first. 

A Dad is someone who, if he doesn't know the answer, will probably make something up. (Some things never change!)

A Dad is someone who is cool because he knows how to make fire, swords, magic wands, and babies laugh. 

A Dad is someone who takes you on grand adventures, often without going much farther than the back yard. 

A Dad is someone who melted the first time he held you in his arms, and continues to do so even when you're a teenager. 

At least my kids' Dad is!

Happy Father's Day to all the rad Dads out there!!! 

(Originally posted in 2012)