Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Life and School, or LifeSchool!

The past couple of weeks we have been getting back in our homeschooling routine, which these days seems to have no real routine at all!  I say that, and yet we always seem to accomplish way more than it feels like in the moment.  We have learners who are eager, incredibly responsible and self-motivated, which makes my job far easier than it otherwise would be.  We are actually far more rigorous than most would realize, and probably more rigorous in most areas than our local public schools are if our test results are any indicator.  Though I find it hard not to constantly doubt myself, our kids are learning, and in some cases, performing far above what we were told to ever expect!

One advantage of homeschooling is that our kids are able to fit in electives and volunteer opportunities that might otherwise be too difficult to do with a traditional school schedule.  Right now, the girls are beginning online art lessons via Skype with a wonderfully talented artist and very kind friend from Salt Lake City, Raynola Dominguez.  You have to check out her artwork here:  Raynola Dominguez Portfolio  We are SO blessed to have her working with the girls, who were incredibly excited about this opportunity.  God continues to show up for us in all kinds of ways, and this was one of them, for sure.  Here are pictures from their first lesson:

The subjects I teach directly to the kids are literature, with our long time co-teacher and dear friend Miss Mary coming in a couple mornings a week to work on book studies while I work with an anthology textbook.  I also teach writing, and my best friend Candi is Skyping in to also help so we can have lots of one on one assistance which is really needed with the learning disabilities in the mix as well as the English Language Learner component.  I teach history, Contemporary Living (Life Skills, Marriage, Family, Relationships) and though we don't have a credit course titled for it, we also have a Spirituality/Character Development class every year which we explore in a variety of ways.  Right now we are reading the Tao Te Ching, working our way through it slowly and having ongoing conversations with our friends, Beth and Bob.  We have read The Road to Character and really chewed on that one, we have also studied world religions, and I use a variety of news articles to pull from for topics to discuss.  This year we are also doing a review of grammar one last time (Oh puuuuhlllleasssssse let it be the last time!).  I am using videos and worksheets from a variety of sources to teach science this year, and am discovering that science topics illustrated in video form are helping with retention, so we may look at that again in the future.  We are just getting ready to use a another of The Great Courses (We LOVE these!) to learn about engineering during the Greek and Roman era, taught by a professor at West Point.

Often though, I am merely the facilitator, finding resources, outside courses, and people who have areas of special knowledge to share with our kids.  We have been particularly blessed in that area, and I will forever be grateful for the influence and knowledge shared by a wide variety of folks, almost all of whom have donated their time to be with our kids.  It has made a tremendous difference for our little Academy.

Right now, Joshie has totally, TOTALLY kicked it in math!  No, I am NOT teaching it, they are all well beyond my skill level.  Josh is in 8th grade, and finished Algebra 2 in one semester this fall, and is doubling up on math at his request, taking Geometry and, get this, College Algebra online.  If he completes the course with a 70% or above, he will have earned college credit in 8th grade.  Watching how Josh has matured this past year has been a little astonishing.  At times I have to remind myself that he is only 14 years old, as he is such a self-directed and responsible young man.  Honestly, "boy" doesn't come close to fitting anymore.  Every morning for months he has awakened of us own accord at 6:00 AM, goes to the garage to work out, then comes in and does a couple extra math lessons before school begins, that is how he finished the course in one semester.

Basketball is Josh's passion for the second year in a row.  He is enjoying it so much and has shown a lot of improvement over last year!  However, as he himself admits, he is never going to be all that good at it, and yet his attitude is wonderful and he has said it doesn't matter at all, that his job is to try hard and be a strong encourager to others.  That he goes out there not able to really meet the skill level of many others, and yet give it 100% every game and care so much is a testament to his sweet spirit.  It is that very sweet spirit that is probably keeping him from being as good as others on the court, as we giggle all the time about how he is pretty tall compared to others but he simply doesn't have the heart to get in there and scramble for the ball, afraid he will push others around :-)  A fighter, he is not, and super competitive would never describe him.

Go Joshie!!

Larry, Mo and Curly are here checking out dining room chairs we desperately need but can't quite afford:

This may sound odd to many parents, but we really appreciate the kids' input when we go shopping for major purchases, and we use it as teaching moments for "Life Skills" about looking for value and quality, sticking to a budget, and purchasing right the first time.  We have explained that the wiser one is in spending their money, the less pressure there is to earn more to make up for mistakes in spending.  Buy once, buy right.  I can't even count the number of times they have talked us out of a purchase, or pointed to wiser options.

Matt has been doing an exemplary job of showing us just how he intends to handle the next few years of his education.  Electing to self-study and craft his own post-high school course of study in computer technology and business, he couldn't be working harder to prove to us that our trust in him is well placed.  He, too, finished an entire year of Trigonometry in one semester, while concurrently taking Pre-Calculus, which he intends to complete in the next couple of months, then move on to Calculus.  This kid has worked at a fevered pace (Well, Matt never, ever looks like he is working at a fevered pace, instead appearing to be slow and methodical but somehow getting an extraordinary amount done.) and has committed to finishing a three year textbook course for World History in one year, and thus far is half way through the second textbook.  He also took a step outside high school and into his post-high school career work and received his first COMP-TIA certification for computer fundamentals.  He had to test at Colorado Mesa University's testing center for proctoring and passed handily!  For those unfamiliar, COMP TIA provides internationally recognized vendor neutral certification for a wide variety of computer technology skills.  It is these sorts of certifications that Tech Departments are looking for in hiring folks for IT positions.  So I guess you might say we now have a true certifiable nerd in the family! Haha!  Actually, having an in-house "IT Guy" is coming in handy in many ways.

Then there is Kenny, who has had a rough few weeks, well heck, a rough year as you all know, and yet some successes as well!  We needed one after an experience this week which was unsettling and difficult, and yet necessary.  I recently contacted our local transportation company about training Kenny to use the local bus system.  We live in a small rural town with essentially two main streets.  Our thinking was that we could provide Kenny with more independence if we could get him using the city bus.

This past Thursday was our first training day, and I went along for the two hours along with a Trainer to show Kenny how he could ride the bus from our liquor store to Walmart and back.  Kenny was handed a map, and had the signs explained to him, and within 10 minutes it was clear to me he was confused.  I tried telling him to look out the window for familiar landmarks, rather than at the map, thinking that might help.  We did the route, he had to transfer buses once, and then we ended two hours later.

Quietly we got into the car, and then I turned to him and said, "Sooooo...what do you think?", and he was very quiet.  I knew what I had to say, someone had to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

"Kenny, you can feel safe to say this feels too hard for you.  It may be that it is too hard for you right now and later it will be easier, it may be that you are scared to attempt it by yourself, even if the drivers are super helpful, or it may be that you really can't do this, but you need to share your feelings so we can be on the same page."

Kindly, he looked at me and said, "Mom, I don't want to let you down.  I know you want a break from driving me places."

"No, honey!  That is not what this is about at ALL!  I want you to have the independence you are ready for and not feel held back by us making assumptions.  I will never mind driving you, and would much rather you feel safe and confident!"

Then, with great courage, he looked at me and responded, "Well, I learned something really important today.  I really, really can never drive.  I really am unable to pay attention even on a bus and figure out where I am, let alone where to get off, and now I know more than ever I should never, ever drive...I will kill someone, but we've always known that.  And also, mom, it is really scary to me and I don't feel ready.  I know I am 18 and I should be, but it was a lot more confusing to me than I expected, and it bothers me a lot that something as simple as riding the bus is something I honestly can't really do."

I explained that his Dysmaturity (the technical term for a person with mixed maturity...maybe 6 years old in some areas of development and 12 years old on another.  In Kenny's case, it is hard, because we really would put him at 10 or 11 years old in some areas of development, and 40 years old in others!) means that his younger developmental self may need a few more years to gain confidence and be able to try such things, that he understood he was younger in many ways and if his younger self was scared that was just fine, there was no rush ever.  Watching the relaxation of his entire body made me feel so quietly heartbroken for him.  FASD is profoundly handicapping, and yet is invisible.  Kenny can not form a mental map, and he can't remember streets he has been on two or three times a day for ten years. The issue of riding the bus was set aside for now, and probably for a couple of years.  He isn't ready and there is no sense pretending he is.

As often happens though, God intercedes and offers up other opportunities when doors close.  Due, in large part, to his care at Shriner's Hospital, Kenny has been interested in Shriner's and the Freemasons.  I have long hoped that Kenny, in particular, might find something to be interested in that would offer him the sort of growth experiences that Civil Air Patrol has for Matthew.  Having something with levels to work toward or accomplishments to point to, an arena all of his own to succeed in has been missing for Kenny.  Knowing that the Masons have levels to work toward, teachings that involve Scripture and history, experiences speaking in public and leadership, as well as a flair for the ceremonial, I felt all of this would be a perfect fit for Kenny's gifts and interests.  When we were in Massachusetts in the fall, he begged us to stop at an Open House for the Masonic Lodge at Lexington and Concord, where he was shown around and talked to several Masons who explained a lot to him.  He came away hooked!

In December, Kenny was introduced to the local Lodge after I reached out via email to a few folks and explained Kenny's circumstances.  The whole family was invited to dinner and shown around the Lodge, and the gentlemen were all very warm and receptive to Kenny, who was so eager and engaged, it was clear we may have found "his thing".  After being interviewed by 3 Lodge members last week, Kenny was notified he was accepted into the Lodge, and that they already have permission to offer adapted versions of their work which will mean far less memorization for Kenny, making it possible for him it perhaps succeed.  He will begin right before he leaves for surgery in February, and wants to be a Shriner and be a clown to help raise funds for the hospitals.

Giving Kenny a sense of purpose has been a real challenge and an obvious need the past year or so.  Over time, we are all seeing he may never be able to hold a full time job, and any part time job will have to be limited and well supervised.  He has an unusual combination of a higher than  normal intellect with FASD, and a true-to-form lack of executive functioning skills and memory that is typically found in worse FASD cases.  We are also looking at various post high school courses, perhaps even college courses one at a time, and at times I am very concerned about helping him steer towards a meaningful future.  We are extremely hopeful that his experiences with the Lodge may help him find confidence and success, as well as see that his life has value and worth regardless of how disabled he is.

To say he is excited would be an understatement, he immediately encased his acceptance letter in plastic and hung it above his desk, a sign that he, too, can do important things in the world.  After the shock of a far more complex surgery than anticipated, and the painful realization and acceptance of how much damage there is to his brain that the bus ride brought forth, this was desperately needed affirmation, and something to look forward to during healing time for him.

So there you have it, a catch up post that is mostly school oriented, but since this is my only "scrapbooking and journal" place, you all have to suffer reading it so I have it recorded somewhere and eliminate mommy guilt! Haha!  Life and School, it's all the same and it is messy and miraculous all at the same time!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Marching to a Different Drummer

Today is the Big Day of the Women's March on Washington, and many other marches are being held all around the country.  With the inauguration yesterday, and the marches today, there has been a lot of talk around our table about values, change, balance...and far less about who is right, who is wrong, or how America is sinking or rising based upon any particular candidate.

I posted this on Facebook this morning, and it was something I quickly wrote to share as thoughts were hitting me while mentally reviewing images and sound bites from the past several months.

I Am Learning

I am learning
That disagreement equals the right to disrespect.

I am learning
That nothing is sacred…not body parts, not beating hearts.

I am learning
That Left and Right, Black and White will never live in harmony.

I am learning
That money and power always usurp poverty and impotence.

I am learning
That discourse must be in loud tones with harsh words.

I am learning 
That “equality” today often means “getting my way”.

I am learning 
That stereotyping is self-serving and permission giving.

I am learning 
That all sides lump together and make assumptions about entire groups of people.

I am learning
That “isms” are somehow elevated above others, that pointing out differences is preferred.

I am learning
That fear speaks more loudly than rational thought, and it wins when we let it.

I am learning
That Armageddon is claimed as having arrived by both sides, though a different version for each.

I am learning
What you are teaching me…by your words and your actions.

Teach me well.

What are we teaching our youth?  What messages have they learned throughout this hostile, antagonistic four year election cycle?  For some, this past four years has been the entirety of their "awake" years, spending the prime teenage period listening to an onslaught of attacks, name calling, finger pointing and derision that has been unprecedented...and it was on both sides of the aisle.

Do any of us really get it, that on both "sides" we are providing awful role
modeling?  Do we see how our animosity toward the other, no matter how justified we may feel it is, teaches our children that "Divide and Conquer" is the only way?  We point the finger at "those people" and spew vitriol that is disgusting, disrespectful, and filled with half truths (as proven over and over again) that fit our argument but dismiss any issue as being cut and dried, when few American issues are really that.  

It is in our very nature to "otherize" those whose opinions don't align with our own, and yet where does that really get us?  We call politicians "weak" if they want to work toward compromise, admonishing those who readily admit that there are probably valid arguments on both side of an issue.  "Moderate" or "centrist" perspectives are viewed with disdain and are called dispassionate, rather than judicious.  Instead, we uplift confrontation and partisanship, we applaud closed minded leadership, as long as it is on "our side".

Maybe the next generation will guide us out of the mess we have made.  Perhaps they will grow weary of the angry rhetoric heard throughout their childhoods, the "tit for tat" attitudes, and unreasonable lack of restraint exhibited by the leaders of our nation.  

If so, they will have managed to acquire balanced perspectives with no help from us.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Paradoxical Unity

Kenny's favorite phrase lately, "Paradoxical Unity", has emerged from our ongoing study of the Tao Te Ching.  Today I think I grasped the reasons why.

We are in Chicago on this blustery winter evening, ready to take our leave tomorrow morning after a longer than expected pre-operative appointment at Shriner's Hospital today.  Due for surgery late next month, this was to clarify the procedure after ongoing conversations with our orthodontist back home.  

Clarify?  How about horrify?

That's more fitting, particularly for a cleft lip and palate patient whose childhood in an orphanage included "dental care" consisting of a cup to hold your tooth after being extracted with a pair of pliers.  


Kenny's first dental procedure at home was a mere week after arriving as an infected molar had rotted almost to the gum and had been hidden from caretakers.  A hearty combination of Valium, Novocaine and Nitrous Oxide did nothing to soothe the anxiety as Dental Demons from the past caused the fight or flight response to rise up as if he were walking toward the gallows.  

Today's reaction was, thankfully, far more rational and contained as we listened to the details of his next surgery which will be no walk in the park.  Our special young man "won" the lottery by being one of the 25% of cleft lip and palate patients who will need to have corrective jaw surgery, and he will need not one, but TWO!! Ding Ding Ding!  Where were the showers of balloons and ticker tape?

What we thought was going to be a far more minor procedure has turned into a much harder one.  Nine teeth will be extracted.  Yes, you read that correctly, nine...five wisdom teeth (See, I told you he was special!!) and four others toward the front.  That is bad enough, but wait, there's more!  And no, it is not a cool Ginsu knife set!

He will need surgical assisted palate expansion, which we knew about prior, but were shown today that it will be more involved than originally thought.  They will cut through his upper jaw bone under his lip and slice his palate in three swaths all the way to the soft palate, then horizontally across the outer upper gum line as well.  

Sounds like fun, eh?

Kenny's Upper Jaw and Teeth.  Looks like the kid never had braces for four years, doesn't it?  What is missing is the two other molars that erupted from the middle of his palate that were removed awhile ago.

Kenny's lower jaw mold. 
A couple of years from now, this will all look very, very different!

One might think that was the most difficult part of the day, but there were more painful moments that spoke to a lifetime of difficulty ahead, not the temporary medical treatment.

At 18 years old, we are trying to nudge Kenny toward owning pieces of his life.  Things one would expect an 18 year old to manage on their own are beyond Kenny's ability, as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has robbed him of so much.  He and I are taking baby steps to learn how we will team up to allow him to be as self-directed as possible, while still having the assistance he needs to succeed. We are learning how to comfortably present his disability to others and explain my intervention from time to time, and my presence in places and spaces where it would no longer be expected.

Walking up to the registration desk today, I stepped back and let Kenny handle the process.  I can't begin to explain how painful this was to witness, how impossible it was for him.  He couldn't recall his birth date or Dominick's phone number for the forms, he was going to blindly sign everything without knowing what it was asking of him financially, he couldn't remember how to spell his own middle name.  Then he walked away from the counter with their pen in hand, having left behind the plaster impressions and CT scan disk which was needed for his appointment.

Nasal airflow testing as a baseline pre-surgery.

I stepped in, of course, as the Registration clerk looked oddly at him, and I explained that Kenny had brain damage and was practicing new skills.  The quizzical expression softened and compassion arose, and I thanked her as I slowly walked Kenny through the process, dipping in and out as needed to explain what he needed to do, and reminding him to use his new iPhone (Thanks Madon!!) as his second brain to look up information he couldn't recall.  Having an invisible disability means others have no idea why you are unable to perform ordinary tasks.

He then returned to his seat, where he proceeded to put headphones on, rendering him unable to hear his name being called, and watched Sponge Bob videos laughing out loud like a giggly 8 year old, enthralled by the antics of his favorite cartoon.  His dysmaturity is something many people don't immediately catch, as the "Paradoxical Unity" of Kenny is unparalleled.  You see, Kenny is all of this described here, and more, much more.  He is an expert in Biblical history and a keen follower of politics and American history.  He can speak more intelligently on many subjects than most adults can.  He has a sharp mind for business and can analyze P &L's faster than most entrepreneurs.

Kenny is all of this and more.  He is wise, and lacks common logic...he used the aforementioned cell phone as a hammer while we were on vacation and was stopped before doing damage.  When asked why, he said because it made sense to him in the moment.  Kenny is intelligent, and yet lacks the ability to recall the simplest of information correctly.  Kenny is equal parts old sage and pre-pubescent boy.  Parenting ALL of who Kenny is can be an exhausting moment-by-moment job, attempting to keep expectations appropriate for wherever he is developmentally at any given time.

And though very slowly the maturity pieces will develop a bit more, none of this will ever improve.  When making  conversation, a nurse asked if he was in college and spoke about how his mom was doing him a favor making him do things on his own so that when he moves out he can live well on his own and be responsible...and yet Kenny will never have the privilege of safe independence, it will be beyond his grasp if he is to be out of harm's way.  These kinds of casual remarks are painful for our family, and we are only beginning to learn how to deal with them.

There again, the Paradoxical Unity that is Kenny shined through when, over lunch, we talked about that conversation and I asked Kenny if that was hard for him.  He gently smiled at me and with great kindness said, "No, Mom, it was OK.  She has no way of knowing that my life will be different, and in some ways that is good.  That means I am acting normal in the moment, and she thinks I am like every other 18 year old.  I have no need to correct her or embarrass her, it was an innocent mistake and making a big deal about it isn't necessary.  She was a sweet woman."

The Paradoxical Unity of our son is a blessing of enormous proportions.  His graciousness continues to be an example to me, his intellect belies the struggle.  He is the Ultimate Paradox...he has a sense of togetherness and soul deep contentment that many yearn for, when outwardly it might appear he is a scrambled mess.

He is broken...oh so broken...and yet so perfect.

He then went on to say, "Sometimes though, I really don't know what to say and I need to work on that.  I mean, how do I explain when I am 30 that my mom has to be at a doctor's appointment with me because I totally don't get anything?  How can I help other people see that I THINK I am understanding it all, and yet I KNOW I really am not, but I don't KNOW what I don't get so THEY can't know what I don't get."  He then laughed at the circular quality of his statement, and I laughed at the brutal confusing truth of it.

How can we live in despair when we can love and laugh?  We can't.  There are hard things ahead, but we have been spared much of the anguish that many families with children with FASD deal with.  We have not a single behavioral issue, no anger or violence or rages as is so common among this population.  Instead, we have a beautiful, helpful, tender hearted young man who will spend his life dependent on us and others in our family.  He will never achieve traditional success the way other young men do, but he will walk through the world as a gift to others, enriching lives, offering love, and being an example of grace and humility for all.

Kenny's newest pet phrase is as confounding as his brain can be, and it suits him to a "T".  We will face the next phase of his treatment with our "get 'er done" attitude.  We will also face the coming years with the paradoxical unity of our "mismatched" yet still perfectly matched family...acceptance of what is, acceptance of what didn't have to be, and gratitude for what will be.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Difficult Decisions, New Horizons

Exactly three months ago I posted my last blog here at our online home.  I have never spent that much time away from writing, but it became clear I needed some space as I pulled back from Facebook as well.

Many might wonder why the sudden break in routine occurred.  Exhaustion is one answer, but it is not the truest and best response.  Sometimes, when working through hard things, we need to pull inward, reflect without outside input, and listen for that unique inner voice that directs our path if only we choose not to ignore it.  

Sometimes we just need to stop, look, and listen.

The past several months have been painful as we prayed over a decision we felt needed to make, but ached over as the answer became ever clearer.  A growing awareness caused us to ask questions of ourselves that we really wished not to ask, but honesty and authenticity required it of us.  Finally, it became obvious that we could avoid it no longer, that the time had come to admit what we so desperately didn't want to admit...we needed to leave our church.  

For those who have left a church where you have been fed and nurtured for a long time, you know it can feel a bit like cutting your heart out.  This place had been our home and extended family for many years, it had supported us through so much, and the people are dear to our hearts.  After a church split almost four years ago, we were still filled with hope, actively involved, and desirous of new ways of being the church.  Sometimes, the new ways of being end up being a poor fit, and that is what became apparent to us over time.  This beloved body of people was moving in a direction that simply was no longer a fit for our family.  There were a variety of reasons, which I will not go into here, but suffice it to say that the decision was unanimous in our family, and I was probably the last heel dragger hoping that miraculously something might shift.  

I will never, ever forget the moment I was sitting on the couch, tears streaming, utterly heartbroken as I poured out how hard this was and how I just couldn't figure out what God wanted and it seemed as if the Spirit was growing ever quieter for me. 13 year old Josh reached over to grab my hand, looked at me with great intensity and said with a maturity well beyond his years, "Mom, this isn't good for any of us anymore.  You have always helped us to see things clearly, and now it is our turn to help you.  You have taught us to follow God and right now you are hurting too much to see things clearly, so it is our turn to lead you.  Trust us now, we will always be there for each other and God is here for us no matter where we are...God isn't just in one place.  We just need something different now, and that's OK."

Three very wise men.  Really wise.

Two lovely ladies.  Really lovely.

How do you leave behind those who know your story?  Those who have carried you for so long but whose lives are very, very different than yours and your needs are not theirs?  You do so as gently and quietly as you can, respecting that they are getting what they need, and with gratitude in your heart for the time well spent with them on your life's journey.  You pray for them regularly, even if they don't understand.    

Beginning anew is intimidating and scary, it truly is.  However, we have taken tentative steps, and the positive changes in Dominick alone were swift and dramatic.  It affirmed immediately that this wasn't frivolous or unnecessary.  We have a wide range of theological perspectives in our family, something I actually relish, but which makes it a wee bit more difficult to find a single place where we can all find what we need that will fill us up.  It may be that it is pieced together and that one single place can not meet all the needs we have as a family.  As was pointed out to me, we have customized our lives in every possible way in terms of work and education, why would we not think that customizing our faith isn't the way to go?  We are not a cookie cutter family, and so thinking of piecing our communal life together with a wider array of options might be the best thing, who knows?

So, we embark on a new journey, one of the heart and soul.  You can't grab hold of the new unless you let go of the old, and so I am working on that.  Safe isn't always best, I know that to be true, and God's timing isn't always ours.  Is that enough platitudes for you?  Acceptance of living in the moment, of being open to new experiences and encounters, and recognizing that God will meet us wherever we are are the keys for the next few months for me.  

These are the heart things that overwhelmed me along with the challenges our kids have experienced these past several months.  I couldn't speak of them, couldn't find words to write, and still struggle to express it all well, so I just stopped.  I needed to breath, to live, and to listen.  We live life in the deep end of the pool, I much prefer it there, but it asks more of us emotionally, it requires a level of authenticity and calling forward of truth that is very, very hard sometimes.  

I wouldn't have it any other way, for this life we lead is a life of great meaning, of real relationship, and of honest assessment even when you don't like the eventual outcome.  We won't hide from truths, we won't fake it, in fact, I don't think we even know how.

For 2017 I have many personal things to work on, but after 2016 I have decided I will reclaim joy!  The world is filled with struggle and heartache, but also with  beauty and kindness.  There are gentle spirits everywhere we turn, there are acts of love and generosity that are never heralded as often as they should be.  We live in a time of great promise and hope, not despair and anguish!  

More importantly, we end up living in the world we choose to see.

Are there injustices to challenge?  Yes.  Are there outcomes we are concerned about?  Sure.  Are there people who are hurt, hungry, and homeless?  Absolutely.

Is your life perfect?  Nope...and Yup.

Perfect in that I am loved, perfect in that there will always be change, perfect in that I have the power to change even small things for others.  God doesn't reside in a building or only in certain people, and half the fun is in finding God peeking from behind the unexpected person or peering over the fence in the unexpected place.   

One other commitment I have made for 2017 is to return to blogging, for I realized with my hiatus that the blog is where my gratitude is expressed regularly, and I need that regular time of introspection to reconnect with my better self, and yes, to spew some of the hard things and relieve the tensions that build.  We have surgeries ahead, unknown futures for five incredibly kind and thoughtful young adults, and limitations that will make discernment a far more interesting and intricate process.

And the family that God built will never be without the guidance of that Spirit which leads us where we need to be, as long as we keep seeking it.

Thank goodness for that.