Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is my mother’s birthday – and I am at a bit of a loss for words as to the best way to share my wishes… I feel like Mom has GIVEN more than she has ever taken.  And she has taught so much not just to me, but to her grandchildren… and to those around her.  When people mention Mom’s name, there is one thing that I always notice: they smile.  Mom is one who gives and loves and helps and… well, she doesn’t sing, but she encourages those who do. 

For the past few years, Mom has insisted on celebrating her 59th birthday, and anniversaries thereof.  This year, my daughters turned eleven, so they celebrated their first palindromic birthday (one that is the same forward and backward – like my Uncle Otto or friend Hannah).  They informed their grandmother that she had to celebrate the real number, as she has a palindromic birthday this year also.  (I won’t mention which one, but let’s just say that her fifth one was the year the girls were born.)

Age is certainly not an issue for Mom, though – it’s not an excuse or a crutch, though she has come to appreciate age-related discounts.  I hope I can aspire to my mother’s zest for life and encouragement when I reach my xxth palindromic birthday, too!  Have a great day, Mom – I love you!

Two and a half years ago, I posted a blog for Mom as part of her Christmas gift.  Since that site is no longer available, I’ll repost part of it below.  It also gives a picture as to how she is so special in our lives!

The Gift of Mondays

Some might do a double-take after reading this title – how can Monday be seen as a good day? Karen Carpenter sang of how “Rainy days and Mondays” always get one down; the Bangles let us think of how “Just another manic Monday” made us wish for Sunday, our fun-day; the Mamas and the Papas sang depressingly of “Monday, Monday.” So why, again, is this a gift? What is it about Monday that would make it any different?

Let me tell you a story. After two little girls were born more than eight years ago, there were two very tired parents, and wonderful friends and extended family members who helped them survive the world of twin infants. When the girls were around six months old, their mother started taking an MS medication, given as a weekly injection. Not too bad, except… the said medication made the mother feel like she had the flu for the following 24 hours. Every week.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I was the MS patient. I took this medication for three years, and when I first started, my mother had an idea: my parents live under an hour away, and I could take the medication on Sunday night, with her coming each Monday morning to care for the twins and let me rest and snap back a bit. After those three years, my neurologist decided with us that I might benefit more from one of the other MS medications, so I was thrilled to switch to a different injection that may have been more frequent but didn’t cause me to “have the flu” every week. Mom offered, and I accepted her generosity of continuing to spend a day each week with our family in Upland, as her part-time job allowed her to leave Mondays free. And so it is that the girls see Monday as “Grandma day!” while I get to spend precious time with Mom most every week, as she assists with various mundane tasks, helping make my life immeasurably simpler.

This little blog post is part of Mom’s Christmas gift from me. On Monday, Christmas Eve, our family will be at my parents’ house with my brother, sister-in-law, nieces and nephews. More than anything under the tree, I appreciate the gift of Mondays, one I’ve received from my mother. Though I’m not too fond of rainy days, Mondays do not “get me down.”

Back in the classroom again…

It’s been a decade since I’ve been in a classroom on the “student” side of things… I know so much has changed! In just a week (eight days, actually) I’ll be stepping out in that direction.

Even though I don’t foresee myself entering an elementary or middle school classroom in the near future, I will be taking six hours of coursework to renew my license by spring. But I’m really excited, as the four hour class I’m taking this semester is a “professional writing” class, a senior level course about freelance writing. My textbook is ordered (and shipped, Amazon says); I have a folder with paper, pen and colored highlighters; and I have the syllabus printed out.  And I know where the class is, down to the room number. (Those who knew me during school years will likely not be shocked. 🙂 )

It’s neat to see how God uses little snippets of our past to make things work in His Master Lesson Plan…I had thought I would need to take Education courses for my license renewal, but my teaching license is for elementary with middle school endorsementts in Science and Language Arts.  I ended up teaching middle school science, even though I first thought I would teach English.  So even though my teaching experience doesn’t lean toward language arts, those classes are still viable for credits I can use.  A requirement this semester will be for writings to be submitted to a publisher – talk about impetus!

I love to learn, I enjoy writing, and I like challenges, but… why am I already so jittery? I know I don’t foresee my own future and education, but there is so much nobody can foresee… looks like my prayer life needs to go on overdrive, as I pray to the Omnicient, Omnipresent one. He DOES know what life holds and will give wisdom to those who ask and listen for His still, small voice.  I’m just not always the best listener.  (Something else for me to learn, eh?)

Uncertainty, fear and faith

Every now and then, my mind travels back to June 3, 1997.  Why?  It was a few days after my final day of teaching science to the sixth graders I had come to love.  It was also a few days before we moved across the state, where my husband had a new job and I would be starting graduate school.  But that particular day was the day of THE DOCTOR APPOINTMENT.

Lest you misunderstand me, I have great respect for doctors – my father is one, and even hospitals aren’t scary places to me.  The problem is that I had visited a hospital in May for a test an ophthalmologist had ordered after freakish eye troubles.  I was having headaches, my left eye hurt when it moved, and my color vision was a bit askew.  This particular doctor (not one I remember for his charm or tact, I must say) said I needed to have an MRI.  When I asked what he thought they would find, he him-hawed a bit… so when I cut to the chase and asked if it was cancer, he said that he didn’t think so, but the test would tell.  It could just be “water on the brain,” and a few simple pills would help remedy this.  Right.  (That sounded quite lame to me.)  He might have said other things, but I couldn’t remember, as the big C was where my mind was.

This was the first time in our three years of marriage that T.R. was gone for a week at a conference in another state, about a six hour drive away.  The poor guy had to listen to me weep over the telephone that evening, as I just couldn’t hold back the tears (I did try)… or hide my fears.  This appointment was about two and a half weeks before the end of school, and bless his heart, T.R. came back a bit early from the conference to go with me to the MRI at the end of the week.  So Friday afternoon, I went to the hospital to lie in the noisy tube so that somebody could take pictures of my brain.  As interested as the science teacher in me was, I still had to wonder what this would hold.

The following week, I did get a call from the eye doctor letting me know that the MRI found something, but I’d need to come in and see a neurologist to explain this to me.  Because this was thirteen years ago, before Web MD and Wikipedia, I was relatively clueless, but I had a week and a half of school to go, so my appointment was scheduled for June 3.  I had said goodbye to students, friends, my classroom, and worked on packing (something in which I do not excel), and I was scared.  Among everything else, from that first May appointment, I did a lot of praying.  And soul-searching.  And praying.  And crying.  And praying.  And living.  And loving.  And if I didn’t mention it, I did a lot of praying.

The evening before that appointment, telling me what “the thing” of mystery was in my MRI, I did what I did from time to time, and I sat at the piano and wrote a little song.    I wrote the lyrics first, then picked out a melody and simple little accompaniment.  Because my left eye was still hurting a bit, I did most of this with only one eye open… but my fingers worked just fine.  The song was one that I still sing – and pray – frequently, sometimes audibly and sometimes just in my mind.  But it is a prayer that I mean, just as much today as thirteen years ago:

A Prayer in the Face of Uncertainty

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I can
and add to that strength that I don’t have
to accept the things I think I can’t 

If I can change the circumstances
give me the strength to try
But if it’s time to prove my mortality
then comfort me when I cry 

But above all of this, Lord, I ask for wisdom
just tell me what to do
whether to act or whether to pray
and always to lean on You

For me, I found out on June 3 that I had multiple sclerosis, not cancer.  But you know what?  God has been using this MS journey to teach me – and my family – so many things.  I just found out that a college classmate just received results of an MRI, and something was found.  They don’t know yet what this means, but I will pray for him for serenity in the midst of uncertainty.  And as so much uncertainty faces each of us in so many ways, I pray that we can each find serenity in its midst. 

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippeans 4:7