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Writing 101 Day 10: Happy Friday Night Pizza Night

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When I was a teenager coming home on the school bus on a Friday night was an especially happy occasion. For one thing, it marked the end of the school week and I didn’t think there was anyone happier than me when Friday came. I looked forward to the quietness of the weekend and freedom of doing whatever I want for a few days. But along the way, my mom found a way to make Friday an extra special family night by having pizza. This did not mean we ordered out for pizza and had it delivered to our home. Oh no, not by a long shot.

Instead, we made the pizza from scratch, or mostly from scratch; that is two thick crusted, large hamburger and pepperoni pizzas. Due to the extra time required to prepare these large pizzas, the fun and the fellowship began in the kitchen long before we sat at the table happily eating this meal. For someone had to mix the dough and prepare the crust. That was usually my mom. Someone else had to brown and sauté the onions and someone had to grate the cheese. Often that was me. What? You thought my mom would buy shredded cheese for these occasions? Nope, my mom was not about to do that. Instead she bought big blocks of cheese that needed to be grated. So, I stood at the kitchen counter using a hand grater to shred and shred the hunks of cheese. I no sooner have one pile of shredded cheese ready when someone would come and take it away. Then I would start all over again. When the crusts were ready, someone would be busy layering the ingredients: pizza sauce (um, yeah, that we didn’t do from scratch, oh well.), hamburger and onion mixture, cheese and finally the pepperoni. That may not sound like very many layers but I can tell you that those pizzas were well loaded on top.  Now, there may have been other ingredients but I am not remembering them.

As we all worked at our different tasks, we chatted, joked, and bantered. It was a time of family fun and sharing. While the pizzas baked we cleaned up the kitchen and set the table. By the time that the pizza was ready, everyone was hungry as the mouth-watery aroma rising from the oven wafted through the kitchen and most of the house. We gathered eagerly to enjoy this amazing pizza feast and became very stuffed. No one left the table hungry.

And the fun of Friday night did not end after the meal but often continued into the evening as we gathered in the living room to watch some of our favorite TV programs. Often these shows included The Dukes of Hazzard, Dallas, and Falcon Crest. We enjoyed seeing how the Duke boys would get away from the sheriff and Boss Hog each time and we enjoyed the drama and the suspense of Dallas and Falcon Crest; especially when those famous cliff hangers started. We never wanted to miss a cliff hanger. It was often an evening of family fun, laughter, and even suspense depending on the TV programs.

For me those Friday nights were especially enjoyable nights with the family where I could laugh, be chatty if I want to or be my usual quiet self, and just feel the blanket and warmth of love in our home.

 

Writing 101 Day Six: A Character Building Experience

 

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I am continuing in this writing 101 course and for Day 6, we are to write about a person we have met just this year and try to study his or her character. Well, this is only April so it had not been a long year yet and being such a quiet and rather shy person who also works all evenings, I don’t get out very much and so do not have a lot of opportunities for meeting new people. However, I do go on long walks, visit a nearby gym, and occasionally browse through the mall.

An Encounter at the Book Store

On one evening after work, I did go wander through the mall and made it a point to stop in a favorite store: the Barnes and Noble book store. I was in the mood to purchase a new book about writing. As I strolled down the main aisle, I became focused on a certain book display which included a variety of books related to the craft of writing short stories, writing poetry, character writing, and sketching. As I continued to look, I also found a book for writing music. This piqued my interest as I have attempted to write my own musical pieces in the past. I want to stress here that I am not an avid music writer but I have dabbled in it. Nevertheless, this book interested me as I opened it and found pages of blank musical staffs. I started to dream of writing music again.

“You won’t be sorry if you purchase that book,” a young and confident female voice called out. StartIed out of my daydream, I turned looking towards the voice and found a young blue eyed lady with long blonde hair approaching me. She walked in a determined and confident stride as she set her eyes framed by square-shaped glasses on me. Being that I tend to be a quiet and introverted person, I immediately wished I had such confidence as she apparently had. When she reached me, she continued in a friendly voice sounding very sure of herself, “What I mean is, that this book is great for writing your own songs because you don’t have to create the musical staffs and then write your notes. I don’t know about you, but I used to draw my own staffs using notebook paper and then write my music.”

Drawn in by her sense of optimism, brevity, and her warm smile, I couldn’t help but like this friendly young lady as finally, I found my voice, “Ah, well, yes, I have done that too. What I sometimes do is buy narrow ruled notebooks to use those lines to make the staffs. And I have used loose leaf music sheets. This is the first time I found an entire book of blank music staffs.”

“Exactly,” she replied cheerfully and, I knew, with hope of make a sale. She repeated, “You won’t be sorry if you buy it.”

In my mind, I imagined this young lady to be a college student attending the local university studying music. With her square-shaped spectacles and working in this bookstore, she certainly looked the picture of a serious and scholarly person. Therefore possibly being a student she might not even be from Minnesota but perhaps from a nearby state such as Iowa, Illinois, or Wisconsin. And quite possibly she came from a musical family and is now studying and honing her own musically inclined talent. She may possibly be in a choir group and play a band or orchestra instrument. I never had the chance to find out but continued to be amazed by her continuing presentation of self-assurance as if she could not be easily shaken.

I really wish I could be more like that. Too often I can be easily toppled or deflated by others’ unkindness. I can shrug off some unkind words and actions but sometimes it is too much. And once this has happened too many times, I seem to go into hiding for a while until I somehow determine to be brave enough to come out again. With God’s gentle help, I do emerge again in an attempt to rebuild myself in the confidence which I had just lost.

Now, right at that moment, I was not ready to purchase the book so I kindly replied to her, “I don’t know yet if I will buy it. Let me think on it while I look around the store.”

“Alright,” she answered and then strolled away to attend other customers.

With the book in hand, I wandered down various aisles thinking about my potential purchase. I gazed at other books that interested me and checked out some of the DVDs that were on sale. Finally making up my mind I went to check out and guess who I found at the register?

“So, you decided to buy it. You won’t be sorry,” the now familiar friendly and confident young lady told me for the third time. She carefully placed my book and receipt in a plastic bag and handed it to me.

And she was right that I never was sorry for buying the book of blank musical staffs. To me it provided another outlet for my creativity. And as I exited I couldn’t help but reflect on this recent but brief encounter at the bookstore. Although I never learned the young lady’s name, I was affected by her positive attitude as well as her sense of confidence and I have kept a picture of her in my memory.

Writing 101 Day 4: Lost

 

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I am continuing in this Writing 101 class and need to write about a loss. It does not need to be a sad story but it could even be amusing or comical if I could pull that off. Hum oh, hum. What sort of a loss should I write about today? Actually I am a day behind but am trying to make an attempt at completing this next assignment which will become a serial assignment with two more installments. I have experienced many types of losses in my life and so has everyone else. From the loss of my parents, grandparents, and others who were especially close to me to losing my keys, my glasses, and sometimes my mind as I forget what it is I am supposed to do today. Once while visiting the Mall of America I had forgotten my purse in the third floor food court and suffice to say, that wasn’t the best day for me.  I have also lost favorite pets, and favorite stories and other poems I’ve written after a computer crash. I have gotten lost just driving from one place to another thinking I know the way but I found out that I didn’t.  In fact, I think that is what I am going to write about today:

Lost in Wyoming (Part 1)

I once went on a journey from Minnesota to Wyoming as I was on vacation to visit one of my best friends and her daughter. Because I have driven this route before, I thought I knew the way by heart. And for the most part I did as most of the route was along Interstate 90 passing through Minnesota, South Dakota, and finally Wyoming. I enjoyed the journey very much as I like the sense of adventure which I experience whenever I travel. It doesn’t matter if I travel by car, bus, or airplane because along the way I relish this exciting taste of adventure; the flavor of doing something new or different and the thrill of having a change from my usual pace in life.

I packed my suitcase and stuffed that into my car with my hiking boots and my laptop and then headed out. I had my trip all planned and most of my route entered into my GPS unit. Since it was about a thirteen hour drive I decided to stay overnight in a small town in South Dakota which would  mark the halfway point of my journey; I am not one to drive 13 hours straight through and tend to take resting breaks along the way. My journey got off to a rough start in that it seemed I had eaten something that didn’t agree with me. Consequently, I needed to stop more often than planned to find a restroom so therefore, I had a dickens of a time just getting out of Minnesota.

But once I had crossed the border into South Dakota, my guest to make to my friend’s was in earnest as I seemed to feel better and could now drive a greater distance. Many described South Dakota as very flat and boring to travel through. To be sure, wide plains of grass and farm fields stretched out before me but I did not consider the scenery to be boring and because the journey was such a simple route, I had great confidence in myself that I would successfully complete this journey with no mishap. With the wide open highway and the sunlit blue sky before me, I bravely ventured on never dreaming that at some point I would become lost.

As I traveled onward, I debated about taking a detour to visit DeSmet, South Dakota as I was an avid reader of the Little House on the Prairie books. DeSmet is where the Ingalls family finally settled after their years of traveling and moving westward. I decided not to do this on this trip because it is such a ways and I am so focused on being timely, but I am determined to visit it on another trip. I make various stops along the way to refuel my car, freshen up and just stretch my legs. After hours of driving, I arrived at my first destination, Chamberlain; a small town situated on the Missouri River. I chose to stay here for the night because this town holds a special childhood memory. Many years ago when my dad and mom took us on a trip out west we had stopped at a campground staying overnight in our pop up tent. The campground was right on the river and my siblings and I enjoyed it very much. We met other children camping there for night and had played a late night of tag with them. Much to my surprise, the motel where I was staying was also right on the Missouri River and it was a beautiful view. After being assigned a room and storing my luggage, I took a walk through the small town and visited a few of the shops there. It is a very warm and relaxing summer evening. Finally, I went to bed feeling very sure of myself along this trek of mine and still never knowing that I would somehow get lost tomorrow.

Stayed tuned for Part 2!

Writing 101 Day Three: Commit to a Writing Practice

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Four of My Favorite Songs

I am on day three of this blogging writing class which has already been challenging. Today I am to work on making writing a habit. Indeed, I need to work more on that. I need to set aside daily time for it and remain committed to it. More specifically for this assignment, I am to free write about three of my favorite songs. I am having a difficult time just selecting three songs because I have so many favorites. One favorite though that keeps popping in my head is an old hymn named, How Great Thou Art. That has been a favorite since my childhood when I and my siblings would attend this Vacation Bible School not too far from the farm we lived on. We rode our bikes there every day and joined all the neighborhood kids and our cousins there. It was always an enjoyable experience where we met teachers who traveled from Chicago to teach Bible school classes in this old one room school house. I loved the words and the majestic music of that song. Today I really enjoy hearing it played by an orchestra. I have a download of it on my computer so I can listen to it anytime I would like. The words of it are very special too starting off with a beautiful appreciation and description of all the wonderful things God had created to the verse of Jesus dying for our sins on the cross and finally the hope we have in anticipating Jesus’ return. That song always warms and thrills my heart.

Another favorite is an old Christmas hymn called Hark the Herald Angels. Again, this song sounds very majestic and beautiful and gives a sense of joy and hope whenever I hear it. I make sure every Christmas that I get to hear this particular song. I can’t remember the first time I heard this one but I make sure to listen for it at the end whenever I catch the Merry Christmas Charlie Brown program on TV. It also tends to show up on other old Christmas programs. Again, it is another favorite song resounding from my childhood years.

Hum, I need to consider another song yet. I do have two favorite patriotic songs; This Land is Your Land and God Bless America. Again, they both are from my childhood days when I attended elementary school. I liked This Land is Your Land so much that I had memorized three verses of it and never knew there was a fourth until recently. I liked the idea it conveyed of all of sharing this land, our home, in peace with each other. The first time I heard God Bless America, I was spellbound by it. I just loved the gentleness of this song and to me it is gentle prayer in which we are asking God to in his never-ending love, to bless our country. Every time I hear it, I feel a sense of calmness, peace, and a desire to be closer to God.

Guest Writer Kathy B November 15, 2014

 

 

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Today, i am showcasing a timely article written some time ago by my cousin Kathy B. She had written this piece while taking an online course  and was required to write about her birthday month. In her research, she managed to discover  very interesting historical facts and information all relating to the month of November. I was quite taken by this article and so enjoyed reading it. I hope you also enjoy this timely article about the month of November:

November in a Nutshell

     November means the ninth month as it was the ninth month in the Roman calendar. The zodiac or astrological signs for November are Scorpio for those born up until the 21st, and Sagittarius for those born in the last part of the month. The birthstone is the topaz and its flower is the chrysanthemum. November is the end of the harvest season and the unofficial start of winter. Our presidential and congressional elections are always held on the first Tuesday of the month.

Historical Events in November

Several states joined the Union in November including North and South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Washington and Oklahoma The U.S. Marine Corps was founded on November10th, 1773, an important day in my family.. November11th, 1918 marked the official end of World War 1, also called the “Great War” and the “War to end all wars.” {I wish that was true.} In 1938, it was first celebrated as a holiday called Armistice Day, it was later changed to Veterans Day to honor all the brave men and women who have served in the Armed Forces. The Vietnam Memorial, a list of all military personal who were killed or were missing in action was dedicated on November 13th, 1982 in Washington DC. The “unknown soldier” was also buried there in 1921 at the Capitol Rotunda.

Inventions in November

Several inventions were patented or introduced in this month including the artificial leg in 1846, the first cash register in 1880, and the stereo radio in 1955. The National Broadcasting Company {NBC} first went on the air in 1926. Coincidently, Walter Cronkite was born ten years earlier, perhaps he worked for the wrong network.

  Abraham Lincoln and Thanksgiving

November was a very important month in the life of Abe Lincoln.  He was elected as our 16th President on November 6, 1860. Several things happened in 1863 during November. Sherman let Atlanta burn, Lincoln delivered his famous Gettysburg Address; Lincoln went to a play starring the man who would kill him 17 months later, John Wilkes Booth. What a bit of irony!  Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a National holiday in the midst of The Civil War in November, 1863. However, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated within the colonies on November 22, 1789

The history of Thanksgiving began about 150 years before with the voyage of the Mayflower carrying the Pilgrims. The Mayflower Compact was a way to set order to avoid more mutiny aboard the ship, it was a loose form of government to restore order. The Indians shared an autumn feast with the Pilgrims in 1621.

President Kennedy and other Historical Facts

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in an open car in Dallas, TX. While on the plane back to Washington D.C. Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as our next President with Jackie Kennedy at his side. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested the same day for his murder.  Oswald was shot and killed a few days later on his way to court by Jack Ruby.

Other random facts about November are hard to categorize.  Queen Elizabeth 11 married Prince Phillip on November 20th, 1947. In 1979, 63 hostages were taken by Iran. Utah was the second state to give women the right to vote on November 5, 1895.

Conclusion

I think my birthday month is an interesting one. A number of states were admitted to the Union: Colorado, North and South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma and Washington. Many events of the Civil War and Lincoln’s life occurred in November as well. One of the greatest tragedies ever to our country was the assassination of our President Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving are the important holidays.

Kathy’s References:

Sanders, B. (2006). November: Facts about November, Barbara’s Entourage, God, Family, and Friends: Welcome to my Humble Abode. Retrieved from http://www.entourages.com/barbs/november.html

Zalevec, K. (2009, October 31). Trivial Facts about the Month of November: it isn’t just about Turkey, Stuffing, and Pumpkin Pie, Associated Content from Yahoo. Retrieved from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2338016/trivial_facts_about_the_month_of_november.html

 

 

 

Sunday Drive Roundup October 26, 2014

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Well it is one day past Sunday but I am determined to make a trip around the blogosphere and see what interesting things that talented bloggers are blogging about. As I travel on today, I am finding some insightful and practical sites which provided helpful tips and encouragement in the art of blogging, nature photography, poetry, and encouragement.

The Art of Blogging:

Some great blogging tips and ideas from Hugh’s News and Views:

http://hughsviewsandnews.com/2014/10/23/an-insiders-guide-to-planet-blog/

Apparently there was such a great response to this very helpful blogging tip article that Hugh’s News and Views posted a second installment:

http://hughsviewsandnews.com/2014/10/27/more-blogging-tips-from-the-insider-on-planet-blog/

Nature Photography and Poetry:

I also found some wonderful photography illustrated with beautiful poetry by Leaf and Twig:

http://leafandtwig.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/color-is-the-light/

And more beautiful poems posted Forgotten Meadows:

http://forgottenmeadows.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/lullaby-2/

http://forgottenmeadows.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/chasing-clouds/

Inspirational Poetry and Encouragement:

Here is a deep, heart-touching poem by Christian Blessings:

http://ptl2010.com/2014/10/27/he-lifts-us-up-can-these-bones-live-have-you-ever-felt-so-broken/

And here is some inspirational encouragement that is sure to boost your spirits today posted by ANGELMD45:

http://angelmd45.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/you-are-a-materpiece/

I hope you find something in this post that encourages and lifts you up today.

 

A Letter, a Journey, and a Gift of the Heart

 

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Time frame: late 1980’s. While attending college in Minnesota I embarked on a quest to find my cousin, Kathy whom I last seen at age 10. I had told my roommate about her and she encouraged me to try to find her. We last saw each other when we were 10 years old. When we were five, my mother took a photo of us in the kitchen. When we were 10, we visited on the front lawn on a warm summer evening and I piled kittens on her lap. I thought those kittens were so cute but I am not sure she liked having them all on top of her. While I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, Kathy lived in southern California. Kathy’s parents divorced when she was 11; she could not return to visit her Wisconsin relatives. She also couldn’t travel easily because she had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair. My immediate family never traveled as far as California. We lost contact with Kathy during the years following the divorce. Although I only met my cousin just a few times in my life, I often wondered about her.

Determined to find Kathy, I met with my grandmother who had written her occasionally and she had written her. But, time again passed so my grandmother could only give me Kathy’s last known address. To make things more complicated, my cousin had married acquiring a different last name. My grandmother couldn’t remember her new last name. Not wanting to give up, I wrote Kathy a heart-felt letter using the wrong address and the wrong name mailing it with a stamp and a sincere prayer. I needed to believe that God would answer my prayer.

Weeks and even a month passed. One day, I arrived at my apartment and found a letter from California.  The return address contained an unfamiliar last name but as soon as I saw “Kathy”, I knew it was from my cousin. I could hardly believe it.  Eagerly, I opened the letter and found that Kathy had poured out her soul in that long, detailed letter. She described some incredible events in her life. She unexpectedly gave birth to a baby girl.

A number of doctors told her that she couldn’t get pregnant. Sometime later, Kathy began experiencing extreme pain and was taken to an urgent care clinic. She was misdiagnosed as having a kidney stone or a bladder infection. The very next day and while on medication for a bladder infection, she returned to the clinic due to increasing pain. She was in labor and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Kathy and her husband were shocked, amazed, and overjoyed giving thanks to God for the unexpected and miraculous birth of their daughter, Kristie.

Later Kathy told me that she and her husband tried to revisit her urgent care doctor who had misdiagnosed her.  With her newborn daughter in her arms, Kathy wanted to show him her beautiful “kidney stone.” They were promptly told that the doctor was no longer at that clinic. Can you imagine the shock and surprise of everyone in that waiting room?

I wrote again and we began corresponding; by letter and by phone. We became more than cousins but friends who could talk about anything.  While Kathy told me about her married life and cute stories of her young daughter, I told her about my job working with adults with developmental disabilities, family in Wisconsin, and my personal life.  We shared about our common faith in Jesus. While Kathy had married, I had remained single which enabled me to do some limited traveling taking in time and limited budget considerations. At this point though, most of my solo journeys were short excursions to Wisconsin to visit family and friends. I had made occasional trips to Iowa too. Like I said, limited traveling.

Several years later, Kathy invited me to visit her in California and I was terrified, “I actually have to get on a plane?” Later and with lingering fear I was up for the adventure of traveling cross country. My first journey to San Diego was a direct flight taking about a three and half hours across mostly sunny skies; I watched from my window the changing view of cities, forests, and mountains.  Farms resembled quilt blocks of grassland and crop fields.

When the jet journeyed downward, the rising topaz-tinted desert appeared on one side of the plane and the deep-blue ocean on my side. Sun rays brightened the clear sky and glimmered on the ocean’s surface making the scene sparkle like a sapphire gem. This picturesque view showed me God was there and was blessing my journey. Apprehensive though, I braced for the final approach as the jet glided towards land and jolted as it touched ground.

At the airport gate, I gathered my belongings, and walked through a curving tunnel. With nervousness, I rounded the last corner stepping into the terminal. The afternoon sun glistened through the airport’s vaulted windows and in the midst of a blinding glow; I glimpsed my cousin in her wheelchair. After 17 years we had reunited. I hurried to give Kathy the warmest hug I could.

“Welcome cousin,” she said in such a warm voice that I forgot my shyness.  Kathy, a sensitive and loving person and we soon felt like sisters and even best friends. During this visit I became acquainted with Kathy’s husband and daughter. While I visited that first time, we managed to visit both Disneyland and SeaWorld. Surprisingly, Disneyland was a disappointment especially for Kathy. Many exhibits and attractions would advertise that they were “handicap accessible” but they really weren’t so; at least not for someone who is in a wheelchair. We did find one interesting attraction that was truly accessible; the Mark Twain Steamboat ride. Kathy was easily able to maneuver onto the boat and find a safe place to park her chair. We all enjoyed the gentle and scenic excursion along their makeshift “Mississippi River”.

SeaWorld proved to be more interesting as all wildlife exhibits and presentations there were truly accessible for Kathy; this made our visit much more enjoyable for all. While there we saw two orca whales, Shamu and Baby Shamu who we learned was just a few weeks old.  We could see Mother Shamu teaching Baby to swim and turn in the large pool. Another highlight was seeing the splashing, playful dolphins. As I held onto my four year old cousin, Kristie, one eager dolphin flew in to water to our side showering us in a huge spray of water. My little cousin was soaked from head to toe but she delightedly reached out to pet the friendly animal.

This one visit turned into many. We went on adventures together forging new memories and deepening our relationship. We also shared bus-related misadventures and trips to the beach on warm, sunny days. In one bus related mishap, Kathy was stuck, mid-air, on a broken bus lift and we waited hours under a steamy summer sun for her to be rescued. In another misadventure, we boarded the wrong city bus but did not realize this until the bus turned onto Eucalyptus Street heading in the wrong direction. We then got off the bus as soon as we could and endured a long walk home in the dark as no more buses were available that late in the day.

Also taxis were not an option as I was not strong enough to transfer Kathy into a car seat. During this time, accessible transportation options for my cousin were very limited. To keep ourselves calm, we kept up a steady conversation and prayed for God to keep us safe. Today, I don’t remember what our conversation entailed; I just remember the long walk along those California streets in the darkness like venturing through a dimly lit and unfamiliar tunnel. Also, Kathy at this point used a manual wheelchair so I pushed her along until we were safely home. I have no doubt that Jesus was watching over us during that journey in the darkness.

Some years later, we camped on Mount Palomar where the sun-filtering forest surrounded us like a colorful, woven blanket handmade by God; it was a quiet refuge from the demanding world far below us. We basked in nature’s peacefulness venturing through the woods, picnicking, and relaxing around a campfire.  We visited Mount Palomar Observatory and stayed up late looking through large telescopes, set up in a mountain meadow, to view stars, planets and nebulas. Kathy’s husband and I took turns pushing Kathy’s wheelchair through the long grass so she could gaze through as many telescopes as she wanted. It was a special evening of admiring God’s glowing creations, glittering like jewels embedded in the deep night sky.

The tranquil, emerald-colored mountain was a vivid contrast to the traffic-filled streets, and the sun-scorched climate of Kathy’s everyday life. Years later, she and her family moved to Washington State where they’re amid perpetual greenery. Kathy’s daughter, Kristie, who is an artist and nature lover often shoots photos depicting nature’s inspiring beauty. She once asked me, “Do you remember how green it was on Mount Palomar? Well, it’s like that here but it’s everywhere.” The experience of Mount Palomar affected us all and remained a cherished memory in our hearts.

Over the years we’ve persevered through life’s heartaches and disappointments praying and encouraging each other. In the same year, Kathy’s father passed away, my mother unexpectedly died; together we faced each family holiday with grieving hearts and feeling the emptiness of our parents being gone too soon.

We also encouraged each other in new aspirations. In recent years, Kathy, growing in confidence and a desire to do more in her life, took on the tasks of completing her college degree and exploring professional work opportunities. We both embraced academic challenges and will often challenge each other in trivia and word games.

Several summers ago, I visited Kathy in her Washington home and we again indulged our adventurous spirits by hiking around woodsy Lake Padden. It was a long, winding journey with a paved trail circling the shimmering lake. The thick green forest surrounded us like a warm and familiar cloak. I instantly remembered Mount Palomar. Kathy now used a motorized wheelchair and could easily propel herself up and down the sloping hills of that curving trail. However, I worried about the battery losing its charge as we wandered along.   This had happened before with one of Kathy’s previous motorized chairs. Thankfully, that had been a lighter wheelchair; I just needed to switch the gears to manual and push her home.

But now if that battery died, I realized I wouldn’t be able to push her back home again. Not this time as the chair was much heavier. But Kathy knew her wheelchair and her battery readings better than I; she was confident and eager to continue our trek. We finished our journey and with a beaming smile, she exclaimed, “That was my first rolling hike.”

When I think of Kathy and the friendship we share, I am reminded of God’s words about treasures in heaven when in Matthew 6:20-21 of the Holy Bible we are told, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will also be”. I went on a quest to find a lost cousin. In return, I had found a new sister and a lifelong friend. Kathy’s friendship is an unseen treasure granted from heaven and a precious gift instilled in my heart.

 

My Life as a DSP

 

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Here is a story about what my work life is like working as Direct Support Professional also known as a DSP. I thought I would share this to give others an idea of what work life is like for me. I hope you enjoy reading about it and can be supportive of other DSPs you might see working in your community.

Time: 10:00 am on a Friday. I arrive at my office to meet with fellow staff and check messages and I’m prepared for a long day. I am a Direct Support Professional also known as a DSP; I work with individuals who have developmental disabilities. At 11:30 I pick up my first client, who has cerebral palsy and has trouble sleeping; I assist him to go to the Sleep Center Clinic and acquire new supplies for his c-pap machine. He demonstrates to me that he knows how to fill the new water chamber and insert it into his machine. I adjust his new mask so that it fits properly and I attach the long hose connecting it to the machine; it is now ready for him to use tonight. We also pick up medications and stop at the bank.

I meet another client as she is finishing work. She requires support and extra time in learning new work habits and skills. She works hard in the cafeteria at the state university. We review her finances by studying her checkbook ledger and her computerized finance program.  She works on reconciling her bank statement and compiles a monthly cash flow report. She informs me that she has kept up with her apartment bills and I note these in her checkbook ledger. She memorizes when her bills are due and uses the cash flow report to determine if she is overspending or staying in her monthly budget. She often asks me, “I did a good job, didn’t I?” She also works on making birthday cards for family members on her computer with some help. She has been practicing computer skills and is proud of what she has mastered so far. We also review upcoming medical appointments for next week and plans for the weekend. She will be volunteering as a Sunday school teacher aide.

I then return to the office to pick up the weekend on-call phone and review incoming reports. I count the reports finding not all are in yet. While studying them I note that some clients are suffering from colds and one has started a new medication. He is required to call me over the weekend about administering it correctly. Another individual, who has diabetes, needs to call me regarding her glucose readings. If her readings are in normal range then I know she is fine. If not then I instruct her on what to do and assist her as needed to obtain medical care. I note the times she is expected to call.

I leave the office meeting with an individual with cerebral palsy who works on his hygiene and apartment care tasks. He has a grocery list ready so we go shopping and prepare supper. I review weekend plans and any weather concerns with him; I provide training regarding severe weather safety. Living in Minnesota, I train about safety in severe wintry weather which include staying safe from freezing temperatures, recognizing frostbite and hypothermia, and heeding blizzard advisories and warnings. In the summer months, I train on hot weather safety, keeping hydrated, recognizing heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and heeding severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. For his weekend plans, he tells me, “I’m going to the mall tomorrow.”

I asked, “Are you watching the football game on Sunday?”  He grimaces and shakes his head. Since Minnesota Vikings were not playing he wasn’t interested. He is also required to call me about his medical condition over the next few days. I report to the office one more time staying late to update clients’ charting, and collect all on-call reports. I take more notes and check the clock; I know everyone else is off duty. I am now on-call for 50 clients over the weekend and for all the overnight shifts until next Friday. This means I must be ready to respond to any health questions, safety concerns, and medical emergencies.

I work as a Community Living Coordinator (CLC) and as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) in southern Minnesota. As a CLC, I have administrative duties and assist individuals to manage their health care services, finances, and their home responsibilities. I am on-call for emergencies. But most of my work is as a DSP.  In this role,  I work directly with individuals assisting and teaching them in many aspects of independent living such as cooking, planning nutritional meals, shopping, medical appointments, medication administration, apartment maintenance, social skills, exercise, accessing community services (such as the library and the YMCA), and use of public transportation. Each day is different and sometimes I don’t know what the day will bring. I’ve learned to be ready for the unexpected.

The position of a Direct Support Professional (DSP) has only been nationally recognized in recent years and many do not know what a DSP does. As Direct Support Professional, I am trained to work directly with individuals with developmental disabilities assisting them to live as independently as they can. My training covers many areas including individualized program implementation, teaching strategies, CPR, first aid, recognition of illnesses, infection control procedures, work related health and fire safety, and on following state and federal confidentiality laws which apply to all health care related services. I receive training specific to each individual on my caseload as each one has unique health care needs and teaching strategies which work for that person.

I specifically work in a Semi-independent Living Services (SILS) program with individuals who have developmental disabilities and who are trying to maintain their independence for as long as they can in their own homes. DSPs work in other settings including intermediate care facilities (ICFs which incorporate 24 hour nursing similar to nursing homes) and Supportive Living Services (known as SLS which entail 24 hour supervision in group home settings in the community). In the SILS setting, I work with individuals who had lived in state institutions, SLS settings, or with their families. These individuals have cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, and other forms of developmental disabilities.

In earlier years, I’ve worked in an ICF setting which was a 44 bed facility divided into eleven apartment units. Each apartment contained a kitchen, living room, bathroom and four bedrooms allowing four individuals to live in each apartment. I worked with individuals who had autism, Congenital Rubella Syndrome, Prader-Willes Syndrome, and Cornelia Delaine Syndrome.  Many of these individuals had moved to the ICF facility from a state institution where they had lived secluded from society for years, even decades.

While working with individuals who were deaf and blind, I learned American Sign Language so that I could communicate with them in their hands (also known as tactile signing). I needed to determine a name sign for myself so I chose to sign “be” next to my right check. When I signed this to an individual who couldn’t see or hear, then that person knew which staff was working with him. One day, I as I was working with a group who were deaf and blind, one of the individuals, who also uses a wheelchair, was moaning and frantically signing, “Help please, help please.”

I approached him as he was seated at the dining table, tapped on his shoulder and signed in his hands, “What do you want?”

“Boat, please,” he signed as he moaned and frowned.

His collection of miniature boats and airplanes was scattered on the table. He has memorized his entire collection and one of his favorite boats had fallen on the floor. I retrieved the boat giving it back to him.

“Thank you,” he signed with a bright smile.

In the ICF setting, I assisted people with medications, exercise programs, and physical therapy.  I also taught basic skills in hygiene care, cooking, and family style dining. This is when individuals sit in small groups like a family around the dining table while I assist them to serve themselves and pass serving dishes to their peers. We also engage in conversation. This is often a social learning experience for individuals who formerly ate in large groups in the state hospitals where family dining was unheard of. I also assisted and taught about apartment care responsibilities, communication (modified sign language), leisure interests and community integration.

An example of community integration is when on a bright summer day, I walked with a young lady to a nearby fast food restaurant. This is her first time to visit this restaurant and I teach her the steps of ordering and paying for a meal. As we approach the counter, I read to her food options from an overhead menu. A young clerk is waiting to take her order.

With some encouragement from me, Alice announces and signs her order, “I want a hamburger, fries, and a pop.” Her pronunciation of words is garbled and the clerk’s helpful smile freezes.

I step forward, “let’s try that again. Now you said a hamburger?”

“Hamburger,” she repeats.

“And you said fries?”

“Fries,” she stated again.

“And you said?”

“Pop,” she answers. She also signs “pop” with enthusiasm. The clerk’s smile remains frozen.

I scratch my head, “which kind of pop? There’s coke, orange, or Sprite?’

“Coke,” she finishes her order and I instruct her how to pay for her meal. The young lady behind the counter has returned to life accepting the payment and filling her order.

“Thank you,” she replies and signs as she receives her tray of food.

Each person I work with today in the SILS program lives in his or her own house or apartment in the community.  Each individual is unique and each has an individualized set of goals and learning objectives to work on (such as managing a checkbook, paying bills, preparing nutritional meals, oral care, and cleaning apartment). I support and teach them how to meet their planned goals. Each learning goal is constructed into an individualized program plan. Each person is also encouraged to select personal outcomes.

While program plans address learning skills related to personal health care, managing finances, home care, and independent living in the community, outcomes are unique personal interest goals; they often represent aspiring dreams and desires. For instance, one individual wanted to learn computer skills and digital photography. Another person wanted to go on a vacation in Florida while a third wanted to attend Driver’s Education classes.   One gentleman returned to school to earn his high school diploma. I help write individual program plans and outcomes devising strategies of how each person could meet his or her desired goals. As a DSP, I meet with individuals on my caseload through the week implementing their personal program plans and outcome strategies so they may build on their independent living skills and achieve their desired personal goals.

Time: 8:00 am the following Friday morning. I have completed my week of CLC on-call duties. I report to the office returning the on-call cell phone and the on-call book.  I meet with supervisors and other staff to review continuing concerns. I also prepare a report for the next on-call staff. I gather my keys, my notes, and regular work cell phone. Driving to meet the first client on my schedule, I was ready to continue the day in my life as a DSP. While on this journey, I have learned to look beyond a disability and see the unique person inside. With each person, I see someone with dreams, unique abilities, and personal interests who like me and everyone else I know, wants to be cared about and valued by others and pursue a full and meaningful life.

Thankful Thursday: TYGIAF

 

 

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TYGIAF! TYGIAF! I’ll say it again, TYGIAF! ‘What is that?” you might ask. Well, on Fridays, you often hear “TGIF” meaning “thank goodness (or thank God) it’s Friday. I am starting a new mini feature on my blog that i’m calling Thankful Thursday and choosing to declare, “Thank You God, It’s Almost Friday!” I am making a choice to be thankful on Thursday while looking forward to Friday. I find that during the week, my busiest days are right in the middle; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Often by Wednesday night and especially by Thursday night, I’m very exhausted. And then my tiredness leads to grumpiness and, I have to admit it, grumbling!!

Then after being in such a discontent and complaining mood, I get reminded to just take a moment and let myself enjoy the day. Today was no exception. The last two days were long and tiring, and yep, I was grumbling. I had to deal with some very unpleasant tasks which led to extreme tiredness and a lack of patience. Then, today, I was reminded of the beautiful day we had and I had the opportunity to be outside to enjoy it. I do have a job that allows me to be frequently outside and I look forward to that. Not too warm, not too cold, and the sun was brightly shining. Each person I worked with was cheerful and a treasure to be around. And now, it is Thursday night, a beautiful summer evening with a sliver of a moon hovering above me as I journeyed to my tiny home. God is quietly shining his light along my path. As this Thursday gently ends I am thankful for it while anticipating tomorrow. So TYGIAF; Thank You God It’s Almost Friday.

Geocaching Adventures with my Cousin Part 3

 

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I am still here in this beautiful evergreen state visiting my cousin. We share a number of interests and recently we’ve added geocaching to that list.  My delightful cousin was very aware of my geocaching adventures and asked that I bring my handheld GPS unit when I visited. Along with a friend, we’ve ventured on two successful geocaching expeditions. The challenge and the success of the previous ventures have contributed to a sense of achievement and a desire to continue. Now bitten by the geocaching adventure bug, we planned another hunt.

This time we planned to visit the university which is a larger campus adjacent to a thick and hilly forest.  We consulted a geocaching map to study the hidden cache sites. One was located in the arboretum; we eliminated this one due to lack of accessibility for my cousin’s wheelchair. We studied another possibility which we found required the use of a webcam. We dismissed that site too. We then zeroed in on one near a dry “dock”. I programmed the north longitude and west latitude coordinates into my GPS unit. We then chose another site deeper in the forests which appeared to be accessible for my cousin. We also recorded clues for each site.

With our plans set, we headed to the nearest city bus stop. We were blessed and thankful for the pleasant bus drivers we encountered that day. Sometimes the drivers are not so courteous for my cousin with her wheelchair. Although inwardly hurt by their behavior, she has learned to quietly endure this with patience. We took two buses before arriving at the university. Once we arrived, I turned on my GPS unit and waited for it to connect to the satellites. Once ready, we followed the arrow image to a campus commons area.

We began the search for the first cache by looking under wooden benches. Having no success we consulted our list of clues and were reminded of a dry “dock.” We journeyed out of the commons area, ventured down a nearby paved path, and soon discovered a long wooden, multi-layer dock on dry ground. I checked my GPS and found it indicated to continue in the direction of the dock. My cousin wasn’t able to get too close to it but she anxiously watched as we conducted another search. We looked along the top of the dock, dove under to check beneath, and wandered all the way around it. No luck in finding the hidden cache. I kept checking the readings which indicated we were very close. We also found that a portion of our search area was sealed off for construction work. The cache may be hidden in that section so after considerable time of hunting for it, we very reluctantly gave up the search.

At this point, I want to stress something important about geocaching. Sometimes the real treasure in geocaching is not finding the cleverly hidden container but often it is in discovering something in nature. While we concluded our unsuccessful search on the dock, a quiet visitor flew in to rest in the leafy foliage of a nearby tree, a lorquin admiral butterfly (according to my research afterwards). He caught my attention because I had never seen such a butterfly. Actually, I haven’t seen very many butterflies at all in recent years. At this cache site, he was our hidden treasure.

 

A Washington Butterfly

We continued on our journey to the other side of campus where the forest started. This university was so covered in trees and shrubbery that it was almost a part of the forest. I had reset my GPS for the next cache site, and we were led down a paved path and through a tunnel. My cousin commented at this point, “Going through a tunnel sounds mysterious.”

We then entered the forest where the terrain was rough with loose gravel and exposed tree roots. We stopped to access the situation. The uphill trail just ahead looked too treacherous with a large exposed tree root. There was no way for cousin in her chair to avoid that bulging root. Any hard, jarring movement of the chair could result in painful muscle spasms. She also didn’t want to risk damaging her wheelchair. Our friend hurried ahead along a narrower path and found an easier route. It was still gravelly and windy with a portion of the trail going downhill. At this point, I gently encouraged my cousin to take it easy on the path and go slow. I feared she may go too fast over the uneven ground and that any sudden jarring movement would hurt her. I also grasped tightly onto the arm of the chair (as if I could stop a 300 pound wheelchair from rolling too fast, oh hum). But I needn’t have worried so much as she expertly drove her chair and gently traversed the rough terrain. Once again we all enjoyed nature’s beauty. There is just something about being in nature which is nourishing to the spirit. When I can I like to just journey to a beautiful place in nature and it seep into my soul

We rounded another bend in the trail and found a small clearing. Here my cousin relaxed in the shade of the forest while we began our search. We soon found out that this would not be an easy find at all. Our target area included rough terrain, with steep paths, rocks, trees, and bushes. Our main clue alluded to a “foundation or lack thereof.”  My GPS kept directing us to a certain tree atop a small hill, so I wondered about the “foundation” or trunk. Every time I climbed that hill, I could see my cousin and I would wave to her as she continued to soak in the greenery and shade of the gently swaying trees. I circled and searched for a hollowed opening of the nearby tree. Found nothing there. I also slipped along the steep and slanting hillside but managed to maintain my footing. We looked for other hollowed out trees and checked beneath the loose base of a light pole. Still found nothing. Deeper in the woods, our young friend found an old and crumbly foundation with large circular openings; we searched inside but only found lurking spider webs. Looking at the GPS again, I retraced my steps back to the first tree upon the small hill and waved again to my cousin. I also shrugged my shoulders to signal that we haven’t located the cache. The tree or that immediate area appeared to be the target. I let myself slide down a steep bank of dirt and found a rock wall embedded in the hillside. We studied and felt along it looking for any loose stones which may hide a container.  Again, we came up empty.

Upon studying my GPS again I arrived at the unfortunate conclusion that my readings were inaccurate.  Therefore we needed to expand our search area. We traveled back towards the crumbly cement foundation hidden in the forest and reached a small wooden cabin. Our friend trekked around the far side of the building and after a few minutes of quietness she suddenly called out, “I found it, I found it.”  The cache was hidden beneath the floor of the cabin where normally would be a cement wall support.

This time it was a large cache; a plastic storage container filled to the brim with small trinkets. With bubbling excitement, she raced through the trees to show my cousin. My cousin was just as ecstatic about our find. We sifted through the “treasure” and opted to make a trade. Our friend added a pin/button to the cache and removed an orange, striped rubber snake. She dashed back through the woods to replace the container for the next hopeful geocache seeker. We are all pleased with our latest success and wish we had time for more such adventures. But my visit here is nearing an end. Thus concludes my geocaching adventures with my cousin in the state of Washington (at least for this visit). Stripe the Orange Snake will be on his way to a new cache in the state of Minnesota.