Friday, July 31, 2015

Vacation Plans

Arriving early Saturday morning, we had a wonderful breakfast before setting up camp and spending a good portion of the day at the beach. The traditional Fourth of July Blue Hill Brass concert was excellent as always, and all drifted off to sleep with relative ease, not even bothered by the familiar call of our friend the whippoorwill. Everyone, that is, except me.

We dropped off the three teenagers at Resident Camp following breakfast, worship, and lunch on Sunday and continued enjoying all Camp Calumet has to offer. The two youngest especially enjoyed the Welcoming Campfire, a rousing game of Clue-u-met, and some serious marshmallow roasting. Excitement over their first day of camp battled the marshmallow-induced sugar crash, sleep finally winning the battle. My husband drifted off quickly as well. Me, not so much.

Monday morning dawned with two tired but giddy children who could barely wait to get to breakfast, then from breakfast to Day Camp. While Daddy took them to Camp, I enjoyed some quiet time before delving into a wonderful Celtic Christianity Bible Study. Walking with my husband back to our campsite, we discussed which of the many things we would do this day and settled on hiking Jackman Ridge, the trail basically across the way from our campsite. 

Emerging from our screen tent after eating lunch, we made it as far as our camp chairs a few feet away. Once there, we came up with a new and daring plan. Something so out of the ordinary it was nearly mind-blowing. Something that went against every fiber of my grandmother-induced tendency to want to fill every moment of vacation with one exciting experience after another. We opted for a nap. In the middle of the day. With no children waking us up every 3.42 minutes to ask a question or inform us that someone is bothering them. 

After our nap we discussed the possibility of going to the beach, again making it as far as our camp chairs before giving up on the idea. So we sat. After a while, I remembered I had a book with me. I read several chapters of the book in one sitting - a feat beyond anything I'd accomplished since our last camp summer a year before. 

Eventually it was time to pick up the children from Day Camp. After hearing the amazing tales they had to tell about their first day, they asked us what we did. At first they failed to believe our answer of "nothing." One even said, "but didn't you have a plan?" It seems I always have a plan, especially for vacation.

'Vacation plans' took on a new meaning for me this year - one that it took me more time than it should have to comes to terms with. Pain, exhaustion, and expectations clouded my enjoyment of our first couple of child-free days. It wasn't until I relaxed into relaxing, reduced my expectations to general life-sustaining activities, and ceased comparing my top of the world Summer two years ago and my downhill but ok Summer of last year to my barely treading water Summer this year that my new vacation plans of relaxation and peace were able to bring me joy. 

Funny things happened when I started actually taking a vacation ... but tales of those adventures will have to wait for another day.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Having heard the story of the Lake Ossipee Monster many times before, my attention instead turned to the beauty surrounding me. The sun set as the pontoon boat made its way back to shore, pinks and purples dancing on the water, my youngest daughter snuggled up next to me.

This is why I go to Camp Calumet. 

This view.

This story.
This beauty.
This connection.
This peace.

This is where I find my center.

This is where I find balance.
This is where I find myself.

In this place, God speaks in the lapping of the waves, the laughter of the children, and in kindnesses shared, as well as in campfire songs, in worship, and in prayer. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pain Block

I sit and try to write. On paper, words come quickly, but my hand tires easily. Darts of light from the computer screen bore into my migrained brain as I type, letters too small, the process too long. My head pounds, neck is wracked with pain, back on fire. Hands slowed by numbness and pain, writing falls to the wayside as I opt for quieter, less arduous pursuits.

Some people have writer's block. Me? I have pain block. I sit, myriad thoughts swirling in my brain, but once I start to translate the thoughts into words, pain takes over and my mind fogs.

Would that someone invent a device that could transcribe my thoughts to typed word, I could put my insomnia to good use and compose while I attempt to slumber. Instead, inspiration gets sucked into the void of my overtired, overburdened mind come daybreak.

My to-do list is miles long. Waking every morning with the best of intentions to get things done, I'm excited about the tasks at hand. An attempt at movement immediately overwhelms my body with pain and all plans fall to the wayside until movement and medication lessen the agony. 

I used to procrastinate the mundane. Now I'd love to tackle the everyday duties that pain blocks me from starting. 

This blog post has taken months. I've started, stopped, updated, reworded, and then finally gave up and decided to worry less about the language and more about the post itself. 

What's important here is not the pain. It's the getting up and moving. It's the continuing to write in fits and spurts until some semblance of something comes from it. It's the moving forward and doing things despite the pain as well as the doing nothing all day in the name of taking care of myself and being ok with it. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Four score minus sixty-five years ago

How on earth did this happen?  How did one of the most awesome people I know get to be so old? Who turned the cute kid with the long blond ringlet curls into such a kind, caring, chivalrous, young man with an awesome sense of humor?

Zachary has amazed me this year, handling tonsil and adenoid surgery with grace, working on getting his emotional wonkyness under control and helping me understand it better, and getting great compliments from the mom of the young woman who currently occupies much of his time and thoughts. 

The two of us have had some epic times together this year. Most memorable, perhaps, was our roundabout trip to the movie theater during which we talked about lots of crazy and funny stuff, that ended in sitting in a pitch black theater for a very long time until we investigated and found that the projector wasn't working. And the second attempt to see a movie, which began with a glitch in getting the film started, but thankfully ended in us actually seeing the movie. 

It is amazing to watch my child turn into such a thoughtful, fun, intelligent, and just plain awesome young man. His creativity inspires me, patience with his siblings (especially certain aspie ones, even when it occasionally wears thin) astounds me. That the two of us can sit in silence, or in conversation, or in hilarity, and be at ease with each other delights me. 

So, Zachary, on your fifteenth birthday, I will write to you fifteen things I want you to remember:
1. I love you no matter what.
2. I know you're going to mess up, and I'd rather you mess up and tell me and let me offer help/advice/laughter (whether or not you choose to accept it) than mess up and think you need to cover up your mistakes. Mistakes are nothing more than learning experiences.
3. Our family operates on forgiveness.
4. Buckle up for safety.
5. Call your mother. Call your mother if you haven't spoken to her in more than ten days. Call your mother if you need help. Call your mother just because. Call your mother if you're too drunk to drive or your friend is too drunk to drive or you've somehow found yourself at Camp Calumet and need someone to pick you up after spending a few days there with you having all sorts of fun.
6. Being a friend doesn't mean going along with whatever your friends do. Think and act for yourself, from your heart, with your own good judgement.
7. If you want a tattoo for your sixteenth birthday, you now have a year to figure out what you want, where you want it, and to draw it (or have someone else draw it). 
8. Your mother will always embarrass you, even if she doesn't always mean to. It might just be payback for all the embarrassing things you have done, like the time you were two and took off your underwear without taking your shorts off in church during worship and then shot them at me rubber-band style.
9. Never ever lose your sense of humor. If you do. call me and I'll help you find it. 
10. Sushi is good. Gluten free sushi is better. Gluten free sushi with your mother is the best. We need to do that soon.
11. You are never alone. (Ok, that sounds creepy ... what I meant is that even when it doesn't seem like it sometimes, God is with you and will help you through ... and your mother is always there for you when you need her. )
12. When all else fails, laugh.
13. Pray at least twice as often for others as you do for yourself. 
14. Give thanks upon waking, before eating, and upon going to sleep. 
15. Be yourself. Always. Unless you're in a play. Then you should probably be in character, as the play probably wouldn't go as well should you remain yourself. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Brown Paper

 It was quite an adventure. We basically packed up our house, room by room, moved furniture, and used just about every ounce of creativity, patience (most of which ran out), and more money, time and effort than expected. We're finally done. For now. 

We slept in our dining room for days. We ate wherever we could find space. We ran up and down stairs just to get things out of the fridge. We cooked just about every meal in crockpots for close to a week. We even shipped our kids to Gramma and Papa's house for a night because there was very limited access to our one and only bathroom. 

We ripped up nasty, disintegrating carpet. We pulverized the breakfast bar separating our kitchen and dining room. We tore up underlayment with grooves and bonded-to-it  chipped and scratched up linoleum. We hammered and glued and polyurethaned. 

We laughed. We cried. OK, I cried. We yelled, we apologized, we thanked, we accepted help, we thanked some more, we ran away. OK again, I ran away, briefly, with kids, to my parents' house due to fumes and migraines and stress. We learned a lot about the process, about ourselves, and about each other. 

The result? One continuous type of flooring throughout the main part of our house. Brown paper flooring, to be exact. Flooring that is much more handicapped accessible than ancient carpet and broken and missing stick-on vinyl tiles on top of linoleum. In addition,we now have a much more open kitchen and dining room area - a space that works much better for my family. It took much more work and a lot more money than I'd anticipated, but it still cost a fraction of the alternatives and will meet our needs for now.  

Now that that's done, I can barely wait to patch walls, paint, and then tackle the bathroom floor. But that will have to wait - we have a basement bedroom to work on next. It should be interesting, the budget having been mostly eaten up by the floor renovations, but we'll figure out some creative solutions to make it work. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rainbow Thoughts

I have so many thoughts running around in my head.

When it was announced that gay marriage was legalized by the Supreme Court of the United States, I nearly cried. And I got angry.

Angry because I knew I would be thrust into defending myself as a Christian who is pro-gay marriage ... who is pro-Love. Angry because this decision had to be made at all - that it had to be a fight for humans to have the right to marry other humans and receive the benefits of legal marriage. Sad that there are people in this world who somehow think that love has limits - that Jesus' love, God's love has exclusions. That there are people who don't understand that Love Your Neighbor means everyone, no matter what. And that people think that gay marriage has something to do with religion or politics or public opinion when, in fact, it has to do with basic human rights. It has to do with Constitutional rights. That's it. 

As a Mom, Aunt, Friend, Christian, and Human Being, this decision hit me hard. My friends and family members can marry whomever they want, legally. How wonderful! Time to celebrate! In this celebration, I thought of the weight some of the people I love have been carrying. At first, I thought how free they might feel, until I realized that this marriage thing is just the tip of the iceberg and there are so many more hurdles when it comes to giving basic human rights to LGBTQIA issues including employment, housing, and other areas of discrimination. 

When we stop seeing differences and discriminating against groups of people because of these differences and start treating every human being the same? 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Three Teen

So much change in just one year. Amazing change. Surreal change. At least from a mother's point of view. 

Another year older, but still the same heart, the same kindness, the same beautiful being emanating from her soul. Over the past year, Haley's creative spirit has soared. She expresses herself so well through her art, photography, and singing, as well as gluten-free baking, caring for children, and her various volunteer activities . She has followed her passions, sometimes making money in the process. In doing so, she is able to treat herself to equestrian camp this summer, where her love of horses will mingle with crafts and fun and feed her spirit. I love it that, during what can be crazy, questioning years, Haley is a confident, passionate young woman. 

My daughter is now officially a teenager. Thirteen. That means I have three teens in my house now. Three. Teens. In my house. I feel like I should feel overwhelmed at this, but I feel more excitement than anything. Teenagers are cool people, especially if you listen to them and encourage them along life's journey however you can.

For my brilliant daughter on her thirteenth birthday, I leave these thirteen thoughts...
1. Be yourself.
2. Nurture your sense of humor, it will come in handy.
3. Nourish your soul with things you love.
4. Pray often for others, for guidance, and for thanksgiving.
5. Talk to your mother ... about anything, even if it's embarrassing or scary. That's what I'm here for.
6. Follow your passions and dreams.
7. Ask for help when you need it, and give help when you can.
8. Celebrate your body, even if it doesn't always cooperate with your. Living with autoimmune disease can be challenging, but if you get to know your body's limits and challenge them every now and then, you may just be surprised at what you can accomplish.
9. Make sure whomever you have a relationship with respects your body and your boundaries. Don't do anything you don't want to do - stand up for yourself and your values.
10. Remember that it's ok to make mistakes - that's how we learn. And to tell your parents if you need help making a mistake right - that's what we're here for. 
11. Listen more than you speak with friends - you can speak more than you listen with your mother. 
12. Remember to nurture yourself as much as you nurture others. 
13. Stop saying mean things to your mother.
Always remember I love you!

OK, so I snuck a fourteenth thing in there, but it doesn't count because I didn't put a number before it.

Thirteen. Wow. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Digging Out

I feel like I'm digging myself out from under life. My brain, time, money, and energy have been consumed brown-papering floors in our living room, dining room, and kitchen. And taking children and myself to eye doctor, dentist, camp physical, nutritionist, rheumatologist, endocrinologist, etc. etc. etc. appointments. And organizing two birthday parties, going to fun events like the Robin Hood Festival school day and Lake Compounce Homeschool Day. And getting tattoos. And going to the ER. And. And. And.

I've also been doing battle with my meds, my weight, my body, depression, and anxiety. Thank God that I have friends and family who are there for me whenever I should need them. It would probably be to my benefit if I were more able to call on them when I need them.

One thing I've missed over the past month - or however long it's been - is writing. I have little bits written or typed here and there. Over the next couple weeks, I'm hoping to pull out some of them and flesh them out and share some of the amazing things, as well as the insanity, that has been my life lately.

Until then, I leave you with this...

What do you do when your seven year old is up at 9:30PM and asks to shave your head? 


Yes. That's my seven year old shaving my head at 9:30PM on a school night. School nights don't mean much to our unschooling family, so that she's up at 9:30 is fairly normal. I did need my head shaved, as my falling-out hair due to a medication side effect was driving me crazy. So why not? She had so much fun!!!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

For Your Consideration

The consideration of others is a lost art.

How easily we get angered at all the inconsiderate people in the world - the guy blocking traffic; the noisy neighbors; the lady holding up the line counting out change; the whiny child interrupting our phone call. Why don't they consider the needs of those around them? Don't they know we have our own lives to live, places to go, things we'd like to be doing, uninterrupted? How could they be so inconsiderate?

Or are we, perhaps, the ones who are being inconsiderate?

The guy blocking traffic may be helping someone across the street or protecting an injured animal. His car might have stalled. He could have gotten devastating news and it could have just hit him, sitting at a traffic light. He could be ill and in need of help. Would it be more beneficial to get angry not knowing the reason, or to hope the man is ok as you make your way through traffic?

The lady holding up the line could be counting out change from her purchase because that's all she has. Or perhaps her debit card didn't work and she's doing the best she can to pay for her purchase. Or maybe she has some sort of physical issue and is struggling just to pick up the coins. Why not assume she's doing her best and pray others would have patience with you should you be in a similar situation? Being upset with her won't help anyone. 

The whiny child could be ill or injured or just need to be heard. The child could be seeking attention, and that's ok, because that's what children do. What would happen if you paused your conversation and took twenty seconds to listen? More than likely you'd meet the child's needs and they would move on, allowing you to continue your conversation. 

Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the feeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other's nerves you don't snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.  1 Thessalonians 5:13-15

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spring Cleaning

A second mattress swiped from the other single bed and a memory foam mattress topper on top of that make the bed only slightly more bearable. My back spasms as I try to relax. Laughter wafts through the cabin walls as Enya serenades, well, only me, as everyone else has finally fallen asleep. 

Too tired from a day of homeschool co-op followed by five hours of driving, a delicious dinner at the Yankee Smokehouse, and then catching up with friends at Camp Calumet, I decided that my t-shirt and shorts would do for pajamas. After a run to the bathroom with a child in the 40 degree New Hampshire night, I soon regretted my choice. 

Battery operated tea lights flicker as I coax my body into a semi-comfortable position. Among other things, I pray for at least a couple hours of sleep to find me in preparation for the long day of work ahead of me. 

My toes burrow into the cool sand as the fog begins to lift from the lake. Just two weeks ago, we were told, ice still inhabited Lake Ossipee. Watching a pair of ducks diving after their breakfast, I breathe in the cold morning air and give thanks once again for this place. Picking up my crutches, I call to my children, encouraging them off the beach and toward breakfast. 

Staring on freezer number three, a walk-in freezer, after cleaning out and cleaning countless cabinets, shelves, and carts, I realize that my body is still functional and I'm not in agony, as I thought I'd be six hours into Work Day. Getting Camp ready for the Summer isn't an easy task by any means. It feels good to be working. 

Done early cleaning the Lakeside Dining Hall, we escape back to the cabin where children decide it's time to take the plunge. I grab a towel and a camera and we're off to the beach. The temperature just twelve hours ago was 36 degrees and the ice left the lake two weeks prior, but that doesn't stop my children from wading in. I giggle at the sight of my two Aspie children in the water wearing hoodies and gasp as Danger Girl dives in, completely submerging herself in the frigid water. 

Campfires are near the top of my favorite things at Camp, and this one surpasses every expectation. Joy and contentment permeate my being, driving out thoughts of the pain that wracks my body. It feels good to be here, to push beyond my limits for once, to contribute, to have fun... to be normal for a day. As the sky grows dark and the fire dies down, I close my eyes for a moment as we sing a round of Beautiful Savior. I love this place, these people. Two more months, I think. Two more months and we'll be back.

She sits on the bench, so sad. She's just realized we're leaving today and it tortures her entire being. She reluctantly makes her way to breakfast, where her sadness is short-lived as she greets friends, old and new.

The shed by the lake cleaned out, squirrel nest evicted, swimming area lines and buoys untangled, beach chairs set up, we head to worship. Every song I need to sing is included and the Message preached is just what I need to hear. My heart and soul are full as we sing a last chorus of "The Trees in the Field."

It's time to pack up and clean up our cabin. I feel sad, but at peace. We will return after getting our house in order, my mind more at rest for having done so.  I will have time to coax my body into better shape for hikes and kayaking and other camp fun. I give thanks, once again, for this place.