I’m aware – what should I do?

Disability-Awareness-Month

As I face life with disability, T.R. and I frequently hear a passing comment, “Let me know if I can help.” Folks mean well, but it can be hard to pinpoint “help” that can be done. Like many of you, we like to live our lives, feel that everybody else has plenty on their plates also, so it seems lazy to ask for assistance with everyday things. And specific ways to help just don’t cross our minds.

We realize that friends really do wish to help, so as this month reaches its end, I thought I’d share a few examples of ways one can reach out to those facing physical issues (and their families!).

Groceries – Sometimes, we don’t even realize what little parts of our lives we take for granted.  For me, grocery shopping was one of them.  It didn’t seem big until it grew a little more difficult to maneuver all of the grocery aisles, fill the cart, wait in line… and have any energy left. Then my friend Christa, about fifteen years ago, said, “Hey Angie, I go each Tuesday to get groceries at Wal-Mart – if you want to get a list to me before then, I’d be happy to pick up yours, too.” She brought the receipts and groceries, and I paid her the appropriate amount, of course, but it was astounding to me how much of a help this was! Christa and I continued this for about two years, and I now have a similar deal with nearby family. I love viewing the grocery ads online and creating a list of what I know our family would enjoy – and sales are a bonus! When people asked how they could “help” our family, this had simply not occurred to me. If not with groceries and such, a simple “I’ll be in — at —, is there anything you’d like me to pick up for you?” can be a help.

Garden help – If a person has problems that involve energy, movement, or heat, helping with planting and/or pulling weeds can do a lot to not just physically assist, but to lift a person’s spirits. And if pulling weeds or helping children do so, make sure you can all determine what NOT to pull. Planting times have arrived this year for early seeds, and it takes dexterity and strength to correctly prepare and plant a garden bed. (Huge kudos to my dear husband for doing amazing prep work and then planting this past week!)

Food – This is especially true if the main “cook” in the family is one who is now facing physical troubles. When friends knew my MS was acting up more nastily than usual, a friend sent us a message that she was going to make a pan of lasagna for us – she just wanted to be certain of food allergies and such first. Then we’ve had notes with gift certificates for area restaurants with take-out and delivery… so kind! None of these are things we’d ask for, but I assure you they were all appreciated. [Angie note: if you wish to help with food-related things, make sure to find out about allergies. Even something as simple as black pepper can set off an allergic reaction… says the lady with the irritating black pepper allergy.)

Your presence – Sometimes, just having a friend drop by to say hello and chat can be welcome! Call (or email or text) first to be certain the time works – but a visit from a friend can help a person who spends a lot of time alone feel less isolated. And more loved.

This month has been one for developing awareness of those with disability issues, and I hope it can help us each give thought into ways we can reach out to and encourage our friends and neighbors.

 

 

Nineteen years – still saying “Goodbye”

rich-magI realized this evening, after seeing a note from my older brother, that this is indeed September 19. “Yes,” you say, “you can read the calendar. And your smartphone… and this matters because…?”

Nineteen years ago today marked a loss from which I’ve still not fully snapped back. But as I contemplate this evening, I think that’s okay. I think Rich would have liked knowing that his steps ruffled things up a bit.

I’ve written of Rich Mullins’ impact on my life several other years also, and I’ll do it here again. His own life was filled with “invisible issues,” some of which he shared in ways only he could, and many of which he kept hidden.

title page - ElijahOne song of his, “Elijah,” was particularly poignant, with poetic Rich's preface for my photo essayimagery that touched my heart as far back as my high school years. Take a look at my 2012 reflections on Rich’s special forward to my high school photographic essay. (Step back in time for a look at school projects completed with paper, pen, crayola markers, scissors, and scads of rubber cement. Color printers? Not in 1988.)

I continue to hear Rich’s music in my head at various times, but I find it happening most when T.R. and I are reading scripture together. So much of the imagery, the stories can be tied to scripture. As we’re trodding through Revelation, with its fantastical and frightening imagery (though I know a triumphant end is coming before the book is complete), I find myself offering the same prayer as Rich in his song,  Be with You: “…when the sky is crossed with the tears of a thousand falling stars as they crash into the sea, can I be with You? Can I be with You?”.

Yes, it’s been nineteen years. And I thank Rich and the legacy he has left for continued little lessons I learn, from reflecting on teenage times to hearing the scriptures continue to sing today. May his songs live on.

 

Day 30 – Thirty Days of Thanks – Year five finale

thankful2

Five years ago, I decided that my “Invisible Issues” blog would focus on something besides disability difficulties. Why? Mom battled a breast cancer diagnosis, and I was so inspired by her beautiful outlook. When one faces deep struggle, there is still so much to be thankful for! Mom had a special little way of simplifying these thoughts, so leave it to me, her wordy daughter, to complicate the issue.

As the days, weeks, months, years have passed, I have continued to be wordy … why use one word, when two will do? (yes, that’s my attempt at levity.) I have so enjoyed these windows of thankfulness, time to focus on the beauty and blessings that are a part of life. Even life filled with “invisible issues” has its bright spots.

On this thirtieth day, I have struggled to narrow down today’s “Thankful list.” As I keep beginning this post then deleting and restarting, I decided to look back five years. On Day 1 in 2012, what did I say? How has my list changed (or not changed) since then?

Today’s 5 things of thanks (and those from July 3,2012)
The 2012 thoughts are italicized.

  1. IMG_2155My husband: friend, lover, father, caregiver – an amazing fellow – T.R. continues to fill each of these roles even more richly – I love you, Sweetie!
  1. Air Conditioning I cannot emphasize enough what a hugely meaningful factor air conditioning is in the summer life for a person with multiple sclerosis!
  1. The hummingbird feeder outside our window – I still adore watching hummingbirds hummerfeed through our sunroom window! About six weeks ago, our five-year-old glass feeder fell onto a brick path and shattered, so I found a replacement through our friendly Amazon account. This new feeder sports a perching bar that these birds really seem to enjoy. In fact, just today I watched a bird perch and drink for at least a minute. She came back and repeated this at least three more times. So fun to watch!
  1. Grandparents: this is the home where our daughters are now. Our parents! – My parents and T.R.’s parents play such an important role in the lives- of our children – and our lives! Five years ago, the girls had been at one of their homes, and I’m so incredibly thankful that Dad, Mom, Dave and Connie are in good health and still run life’s race with us!
  1. Electricity (for the AC, lights, this computer, and so much) – Again, we so often take these things for granted!

Five years ago, I wished to leave simple lists, without lots of description. Nice try, Angie. But I have had such fun taking a closer look at life’s blessings! You may recall that the beginning of this journey was also a response to Mom’s cancer experience. With other blessings, I am quite thrilled that Mom’s most recent follow-up appointment showed that she remains cancer-free!

Today does mark the end of my “Thirty Days of Thanks” blog adventure. What this has taught me is that every day is packed with blessings, so many we take for granted if we’re not careful. So my challenge to myself and to each of you: let’s continue to take note of life’s blessings, living lives of thankfulness.

Day 29 – Thirty Days of Thanks – Goodbye summer break, hello garden blessings

thankful2

What a joy it has been to focus on thankfulness as the summer continues on! With just two days left in my “Thirty Day” journey, I’ll make certain to highlight a few that are particularly timely.

Today’s Five Thankful Things:

  1. firstday16.JPGFirst Day tradition – Since our daughters were in preschool, we have taken a “first day of school” photo each year. And our lovely girls agree to hold up a sign and smile each year, with the promise that we will not follow them to college with these signs.
  1. Caring, intelligent teachers – Our daughters have attended public school since kindergarten, and we have been blessed each year with special teachers who really do care about their students. At a time when public schools face budget and political struggles, I have so appreciated Eastbrook Schools and the caring faculty and  at its heart.
  1. berriesBerries still! – Our blackberry bushes continue to be fruitful, and I try to enjoy them when I have the chance. Looks like we’ll be making at least one more batch of jam! And we have several quarts frozen. Fresh berries just can’t be beat!
  1. Fresh veggies from the garden! – Today’s lunch at IMG_0689home came from our garden, picked over the past couple days. Other than the large okra (should have been picked before it grew too large), I enjoyed sweet peppers, smaller okra, cucumber, and tomatoes. Then berries. Oh – and watermelon from our garden!
  1. Rose of Sharon’s first blooms – A few months ago, we planted a few saplings of “Rose of Sharon,” shared by my friend Ellen. Her bush is a combination of white, lavender, and pink blooms, as the bushes grew tightly into each other. But these were just planted here in April, and I hadn’t even expected them to bloom on this first year. What a beautiful surprise to find out this morning that these were both blooming!

Day 28 – Thirty Days of Thanks – celebrating the life of Uncle Otto

In “Day 27” of my thankful journey posts, I promised I would continue with “Day 28” on August 9. The past week and a half held many blessings, but one calendar addition came a little unexpectedly. How so? Allow me to explain.

Today, August 9, my uncle’s funeral is taking place as I finish typing this post. Uncle Otto  passed away at the age of eighty, and his final few years held the extra challenge of Alzheimer’s disease. For a strong farmer/businessman, a leader in his church and family, understanding and coming to terms with this hard-to-understand I malady weighed hard on Uncle Otto, Aunt Donna, his children and grandchildren. I know all of the family is thankful that they had the opportunity, while his mind was still here, to share final words with him. Then over recent months, we were all thankful for a loving “memory care center” that offered needed support.

But Uncle Otto’s life was beautiful and rich, not defined by his later struggle. So what to be thankful for on this day? I was unable to travel to the funeral, but I have no doubt that much will be shared about family, as children, grandchildren and cousins banter with a smile.

Five Thankful Thoughts in honor of Uncle Otto:

  1. Family roots – My mother’s only brother (with four girls in the family), Uncle Otto followed my grandfather’s farming footsteps. The farm carries on with my cousins Tim and Scott, then their extended families. In a world where family roots sometimes struggle to take hold, Uncle Otto’s legacy will carry on.
  1. ottofaamFamily man – Five children in the Otto and Donna Wuethrich family were neat cousins to grow up with, though I was much younger. I never really got to know the oldest cousin, Jerry, as I was only ten years old when he died in a car accident. The photo here is one Scott posted on Facebook – isn’t it a lovely image of Uncle Otto and two of his happy kiddoes?
  1. Man of Faith – Otto Wuethrich held strong to his faith, and I know he was a part of the leadership at the Apostolic Christian Church in Francesville, where my mother attended when growing up. Though the more formal, traditional church may seem unusual, the heart of this church is pure on a level often not seen in less formal houses of worship. After Grandpa Wuethrich passed away when I was in elementary school, I recall Uncle Otto leading a prayer at a large family gathering. And his voice sounded exactly like Grandpa had sounded, with as sure of a prayer.
  1. Outdoorsman – Uncle Otto loved to fish – and he even stocked fish in the pond behind their home. And young relatives who love to fish were able to do so! I appreciated him sharing this bit of his life with us.
  1. Aunt Donna – his high school sweetheart! I’m thankful that he brought into the Wuethrich family a gem of a sister-in-law for my mother. Aunt Donna, later in life, developed a sweet yet sardonic humorous routine, a la Erma Bombeck, and we’re so blessed that she is a “Wonderful Wuethrich Woman.” The long goodbye of Alzheimer’s was especially hard for Aunt Donna, who also faces Parkinson’s, but she stood by Uncle Otto even when it was tough. We love you, Aunt Donna!

Day 27 – Thirty Days of Thanks – nineteen years and counting

thankful2

Nineteen years ago on this date, the air felt decidedly hot. And quite humid. And very sunny. (Of course it was… it was July in Indiana.)  So what made it memorable? July 30, 1997 was the day of the official word, the day that Dr. Stevens confirmed that the preliminary June diagnosis was correct: I have Multiple Sclerosis.

Nineteen years later, this journey continues. Few wish for struggles, and I admit that I do not enjoy them, but my MS path does indeed contain pieces for which I give thanks. Today’s list will focus on that:

5 things I’m thankful for, highlighted by MS in my life:

  1. Embraced Slowness –I’ve never been super speedy (as my parents and brothers can vehemently attest), but MS has enforced a movement level that has me running races with snails, and sometimes they win. But you know what we’ve discovered? When you refrain from being speedy, you notice and appreciate things you may have missed otherwise. It can be refreshing.
  2. Connections with others –More people than I can count have contacted me for assurance or advice – or commiseration – after receiving a frightening diagnosis. This was never a lesson I had planned to teach, but I’m thankful that I’m able to step in here at times.
  3. Little everyday ADA blessings –I credit the ADA for many bits of blessing, and I am thankful for things like not-too-steep ramps, early boarding for an airplane, and special seats at the theater. I read last year that we are now a part of “Generation ADA” – we have indeed come a long way. I have an understanding here that I never would have before!
  4. Learning the blessing of giving AND receiving –For some of us, giving is a lot simpler, more comfortable, more joyful than receiving. And rightly so… but I have finally realized that by being an appreciative “receiver,” I bless the life of those on the other side of the equation. For a proud and independent type of person, this wasn’t a simple lesson, but I feel that I am experiencing this truth more fully after nineteen years.
  5. Deeper family relationships –Life as it is in the Knight house requires a level of giving, understanding, patience and love that I don’t think would be if not for challenges MS brings our way. My husband and daughters are so very special, and there are bonds within our family that have been strengthened by this thing called MS.

So “Thankful for MS”? Not today. Thankful for (sometimes hidden) blessings that abound? You bet!

 

[Note about “Thirty Days of Thanks”: I continue being thankful, but writing about days 28-30 will actually begin again August 9. As mentioned above, I am indeed slow, and my energy is limited. I will be attending two conferences, and my writing time and energy will be focused there. I love adopting a mental and spiritual posture of thankfulness, and it will be fun to bring my thirty days to a proper close!]

Day 25 – Thirty Days of Thanks – random summer stuff

thankful2

Summer break is a time for fun mini-adventures, often within the walls of our house. “Fun” for us may not be what would excite others, but isn’t that part of what makes summer break especially lovely? The chance to pause and enjoy unique blessings – I’ll share a few of those below.

Today’s 5 Thankful Things:

  1. IMG_0613New recipes to try – When I saw “French toast waffles” in a recipe email, I decided to give it a try. And family members made it work – this was fun!
  1. IMG_0619Twinkletoes – or at least painted toenails. Though she has lovely blue-painted nails herself, my kind daughter painted my toenails a beautiful burgundy.
  1. Blog adventures with our girls – On her own blog, twin number one examined the inner struggle she faces IMG_0629while finishing an assignment due at the start of school. She has this final paper almost completed, and the last part of it finds her dragging her heels. (It IS vacation, and I wonder how many AP students will have this assignment finished. This girl will, I know. But that doesn’t mean she has to like it.)
  1. Blog adventure number two – The second sister has been continuing to post on her art blog daily. You may recall that she started the blog in early July – how fun to see the growth that has been taking place!
  1. More game adventures – My husband and his friends have been playing a “legacy” game over the past few months, a game where things change and cards are even torn up as they go. It is so fun to hear these four friends laughing and groaning and cheering and lamenting… proof that games aren’t just for kids. Or that “kids” are defined by more than age.

Day 24 – Thirty Days of Thanks – more writing … and chocolate, too

Continuing from yesterday – writing offers more than five things to be thankful for! So moving on, here are five more reasons I have to be thankful!

So here I go –

Today’s 5 Thankful Things:

  1. Online classes – Last fall, I was able to enroll in “Media Communications,” completing coursework at home and turning it in online. Professor Sara Brookshire was very encouraging. Among other things, I learned that I am not so fond of basic newswriting. I’d rather write something that can contain bits of personality, not just fact.
  1. recorder appSmart phone apps – Many thanks to Sara for introducing me to the “recorder app.” When I completed an interview for a course six years ago, I actually used a cassette recorder that I toted with me. (Yes, I was behind the times, but I didn’t own another portable recording device. Yet.) With a new smartphone, I was able to use a recording app that simplified so much!
  1. Siri Life 2 chocChocolate – As Siri told me just today, chocolate adds meaning to life. Even though I admit life has much Image result for Dove Chocolate Wrapper Quotesmeaning beyond chocolate, I do enjoy sharing words and chocolate with “Writers’ Bloc” frequently. I call these “chocolate fortune cookies,” as Dove chocolates have fun messages we read while enjoying our treats at our weekly lunches.
  1. Spring online class – What an incredible blessing my spring class was! “Nonfiction writing” offered many challenges and rewards. As I learned to hone this craft, life lessons came my way also. Remember my comments about March, how my nervous system turned extra-rebellious? This came to fruition the first full week of class. And it gave me extra reason to persevere – would this teacher let something like a burning tongue or uncooperative legs give excuse for missing an assignment? I think not.
  1. Wonderful instructor and new friend – Kim, a professor from a northern Indiana university, showed patience and skill. Thankfully, she believed me when I shared my reasons for schedule changes and such. But she took me seriously and took me to task as needed. My verbs are becoming more active, my sentences less bloated, and my messages more direct. Okay, sometimes … but I can keep trying. And I have a neat book project in the works!

 

 

Day 23 – Thirty Days of Thanks – about writing

A few words of thanks …

Background to today’s list: when I first decided to become a teacher, I hadn’t been able to decide whether I wanted to study to teach English, science, or general elementary grades (so as not to specialize, and to avoid teenage angst). Thirty years later, life has taken paths beyond my middle school classroom of 1994-97, my grad school years, and my Museum Educator chapter. Even my “adjunct professor” times. And the beautiful Kids Hope adventure.

During this journey, T.R. and others encouraged me to continue taking coursework that allowed me to keep my teaching license current. In order to keep my license renewed, I’ve needed to complete six hours of college coursework every five years. Graduate school classes were staggered enough that the first classes I took for this specific reason were about six years ago. My elementary license also includes middle school science and language arts, so I was thrilled to have the chance to take two writing courses to meet the licensure requirements..

Eight years ago, my writing adventure launched in an unexpected way. Our area newspaper, the Marion Chronicle-Tribune, put out a call for community bloggers. As T.R. and I discussed, we has an idea: blog about the challenges faced by those dealing with disabilities. These topics are often misunderstood, usually unseen. “Invisible Issues,” one could say.

Six years ago, I enrolled in “Freelance Writing” and “Creative Writing.” License was renewed. Five years later, I completed “Media Writing” and “Nonfiction Writing.” Each of these four courses helped me grow in so many ways, and I do feel like a better person because of it! And definitely a better writer. (One who is willing to purposefully break grammatical rules, for instance … but only if she knows she is doing it.)

So my point here? Writing: is this how I am now meant to teach? Without the physical wherewithal to lead a middle school, college, or elementary classroom, shall I hone my writing abilities so that God can use these tools in ways I hadn’t planned? So begins today’s thankful list:

Today’s 5 Thankful things:

  1. Thank you to patient college professorsDr. Hensley and Dr. Householder both tolerated this student, two decades older than the other class members. I felt a little younger myself, and I hope I helped teach them a tad bit. This was in 2010 and 2011, when I was the slow student with the floral folding cane. Doc Hensley taught me to stop splitting my infinitives, among other things.
  1. Thank you to my supportive husband – Though I had planned to attend Gen Con with him next week, he arranged things so that I could also attend Taylor’s Writer’s Conference in August. What a beautiful gift, meaning more than I think he realized!
  1. Business cards – How cool is it that one can design business cards, then have a box of
    image1100 delivered to your door less than a week later? Awesome! Thank you to T.R. for designing them and to Zazzle for printing. (Of course they had a special also. Even online, I try to follow my mom’s example to use coupons and catch sales whenever possible.)
  1. Thank you to Writers’ Bloc – our writer’s group that meets weekly or so, encouraging each of us to continue writing, and offering friendship along the way.
  1. A laptop on which to type – Particularly after my laptop died in early June, I gained an even greater appreciation for this technology. What a wonderful gift this is!

Day 22 – Thirty Days of Thanks

thankful2

This lovely but HOT Sunday held many things for which I am thankful, but I’ll narrow it down for brevity’s sake.

Today’s 5 Thankful things:

  1. Air conditioning! – With today’s temperatures climbing to around 90 degrees Fahrenheit (heat index over 100), I was very thankful for air conditioning!
  1. Willis Carrier – I am thankful for this American engineer who first designed a heating plant, then a lumber drying kiln, and even a coffee dryer before developing carrierthe first-ever air conditioner for a Brooklyn Lithography and Printing company. He was only twenty-five years old when he developed this design, and his invention changed the world!
  1. Blackberry jam – As each new day finds scads of blackberries for us to pick from our garden, I am blessed that T.R. and the girls were able to make several jars of jam for us to save and share.
  1. Blackberries to share – What fun it is to share berries with our friends and neighbors! Picking them becomes a little morIMG_0463e enjoyable when the weather cools a bit… and I will be thankful when it does.
  1. Writing – I am so thankful for opportunities over
    the past year to grow as a writer! Reading today’s blog, I see many imperfections, but I am thankful that I am developing a better eye for noticing those errors. More thoughts here will come over the next few days!

« Older entries