Triangle School

I think inspiration struck when Chad Sansing posted a link to a maker assignment from last year about creating an album cover. One of my favorite magnets in my classroom is my “rockstar” magnet.

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William Shakespeare, aka Billy Shakes in my classroom, never fails to bring a smile to my face, no matter how bad my day may be going.  And a few months ago, I was having a lot of those.  These days, my rock star is a completely different person.

My family has been touched by tragedy more than many families have. Death is not a stranger to us.  And in April, the woman who holds us all together despite those tragedies got a phone call that would change our lives forever.  Words like “Stage 2” and “Triple Negative” don’t enter your vocabulary unless someone you love is fighting that big “C” word, ya know?Life-Insurance-for-Breast-Cancer

So. Family has been on my mind a lot lately and my mother is THE rock star.  The hippest, coolest, most rockiest rock star ever in my life.

What better way to honor her than put her on an (albeit fake) album cover right?  (Okay, there are better ways to honor her, but go with me here.)

I could rack my brain for a cool band name and album title or just be lazy and use the randomizers on the assignment.  Yep.  Be lazy.  It’s summer.  Oh SNAP!  The random band name and album title actually have meaning?

SCORE!

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Source: http://tinyurl.com/odth2kl

Triangle School

I am one of three daughters.  My mother is one of three daughters.  Her mother was one of three daughters. My surviving aunt (tragedies, remember) has three daughters.  Are ya sensing the pattern here?  I come from a long line of sisterhood who have learned a lot from each other.  We’re all pretty tight-knit women.  Do I need to go on or do you get the significance yet?

Good, Clever, or Amiable

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Triangle, right?  Do you have sisters?  A trio of sisters can be quite a daunting thing growing up.  They contribute gray hairs to their parents (my mother’s is a lovely silver color and she’s hoping it will grow back curlier than it was because the literature says it is so.)  They fight worse than brothers, trust me, but woe to you if you are the one picking on a girl in the hearing of her sisters. And their personalities are always, ALWAYS distinct.  My middle sister is known for her goodness. She’s pretty straight-laced. She’s a youth minister, criminately. My youngest sister, she is way clever.  She’s the prankster and is not above letting go a particularly noxious fart even today to put her family through a little torture.  And me? I’m the oldest and the peace keeper. I’m about as easy going as it gets.  My name is Amy, after all.

The Red Devil

Because she would have to have chemo anyway, because of her type of Breast Cancer, and because it would mean an easier surgery when that time came, the doctors opted to start with chemotherapy and then operate later.  They started with every-two-week infusions and the biggest baddest drug in the chemo world there is.  They call this drug The Red Devil.  No kidding.  Chemo nurses everywhere call it that. Go Google it.  My mother said that it must be a good sign that you will be a survivor because the first time youtext tinkle after a round of it, you pee pink.  Guess who is bigger and badder than this big bad drug?  You guessed it.  That rock star I’ve been talking about.  No nausea. No fevers or shakes.  She wishes she didn’t need to do the shot they give you the day after to pump up your immune system because that is what makes her ache.  We tease her to quit whining and take her medicine.  The mouth sores have made it difficult to eat her favorite foods, but the nurses have given her some hints on those too. She’s going to sit at the end of the strawberry row when we take our kids picking at our favorite place, even though she will probably only be able to eat one or two. Her biggest side effect has been the insomnia. I tell her to call me because I get insomnia too and we can tell each other stories, but she hasn’t done so yet. It’s a great excuse to take naps she says.

Last week she had her last infusion of The Red Devil.  My sister texted me from the outpatient clinic that she goes to.  We take turns sitting with her for the hours it takes to medicate her.  Right before the infusion she went to see the oncologist again.  The cancer has shrunk from 3 cm to 1 cm and she still has a few more weeks of chemo, but on a lighter drug.  We celebrated with some of the clever one’s famous cupcakes. My mother’s hair will start growing back now and her grandkids will miss the colorful scarves, but maybe not the wig.  I’ll let you know if it gets curlier.

TA DAH!

Here it is in all its glory.  Don’t everyone go rushing off to contract me for your next album cover art, you couldn’t afford me anyway.  The good one took the picture last weekend when we were all over at the clever one’s home for Father’s Day.  It captures my mother’s spirit very well.

Album Cover

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photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/127130111@N06/19084406552/

And the flip side, complete with song titles.  My sisters and I will let you know when we hit triple platinum.  You can follow us on Twitter and pay way too much for our concert tickets.  Groupies will get to meet the real rock star, though, so be sure to add those back stage passes.

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This boat I’m in…

Bible Study Reading – John 4-6:24

http://youtu.be/KwsvqVmFV6Y

One of the band members of my favorite Christian band, Casting Crowns, just had surgery to remove a cancerous kidney. He and his wife post reguraly to FaceBook for believers to pray.

My sister, a youth leader in Michigan, just lost a student, only fourteen years old, to cancer, too. They held a candlelight vigil for him a few days after his death so those who loved him could mourn and pray.

One of my good high school friends has been battling ovarian cancer for many years now. We all wait breathlessly with her for every bit of news, praying along side her through the long wait. 

I am no stranger to death. The desperate prayers of a parent for a dying child are something I know well. If Jesus has said “go, your child will live,” (John 4:50) and He was standing right before me, would I have the Faith, knowing who He was, to trust and walk away? Or would I hold onto Him and beg him to still come with me, just to be sure?

What about the parents of that beautiful young man? Those, like us, whose desperate plea, unlike the officials’, was not answered with healing? Can we trust?

It’s not in the book of John, but in the book of Matthew where Peter steps out of the boat to walk on the water with Jesus. What must it have been like? To walk on water? Not calm placid water, but turbulent, heaving water. Frightening, unbelievable, incredible, I can only believe. And Peter loses faith and sinks. He reaches for Jesus, grabs His hand and is restored. He touches and is touched. 

I don’t know all the answers. In the boat, everything appears safe, until conditions change. Then all bets are off. No one knows the answers and anyone who tries to pretend to know is a liar. But Jesus is not the ghost we sometimes believe He is from the boat. He is real, calling to us in the midst of the storm, ready and willing to grasp our hand. 

In the book of John, right before His walking on water, just before His feeding of the five thousand, Jesus gives us two full chapters of exactly who He is. We can trust that He is who He says he is. Even in the midst of the storm. When He tells us to come, we should come. When He tells us to go, we should trust and go. Even when our dear child’s life hangs in the balance. Even when the waters are rushing to drown us. 

Even more than the Old Testament “to everything there is a season” is Jesus’s promise of who He is … And He knows when to grab our hand, and when to send us forth … Because regardless, He is right there beside us, every step of the way.

The “Misfire” — Writing Into the Day

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I was so excited to use Google Docs about five years ago for the first time.  I discovered it on one of the tech in education blogs I love so much and immediately fell in love.  “This will be so cool in my English classes!” I thought, forgetting that dubbing something “so cool” is sure to mean that it will immediately be an epic failure.

What I didn’t figure was that our broadband internet at my large urban high school was, at that time, massively under strength for anything more than Googling period.  Getting five teenagers typing on the same document through that pinhole of an internet connection was a task that I had not figured on giving me a massive headache.  The “this isn’t working” — “I can’t get on” — “it won’t connect” was the worst cacophony I had heard all year.

Here’s what was interesting: those who *were* able to get on were exciting the rest of the room so much that the “misfire” was generating more noise and frustration than normal.  I can’t really call that a “misfire” then can I? Anything that excites young minds is not a misfire, but a learning opportunity.  And that is what we have to consider each and every misfire to be.  The story gets happier.  I tried again the next semester, with fewer kids on each document and half the class at a time.  It went beautifully and I’ve never looked back — students love Google docs every year and it has raised accountability in group work because I can see what edits each user has done.

I am excited about this opportunity to reconnect with “Assignments Matter” and I hope to come away with a wealth of ideas to give to my teachers in my high school.

The enemy prowls

 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

A few days after my daughter passed away, I began to see dark shapes flickering in shadows out of the corner of my eye.  A few days after that, I began hearing a dark voice in my head, one that I didn’t recognize but which also seemed vaguely familiar.  Sweet and sophisticated, rich and deadly.  What he said, repeatedly, made my insides ache and my panic rise as a choking vapor to beat my heart like a small bird in my rib cage.  What he said, repeatedly, was “there is no heaven, there is no God, she is just gone.”

All my life I have been what I call “soul sensitive.”  When I read Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness it felt a little like coming home.  I can remember as a little girl feeling like things beyond my comprehension were swirling around me, but that whenever I prayed, I would be calmed.  I wrote a story about my engagement to my husband, based on the potter and clay analogy in Isiah in which I talked about the voice of God speaking to me throughout my life.  I was lucky enough to have it published in our college’s literary magazine and I had hopes that it would help others to see Christianity in a different light. I had always had a peace of mind because of my faith, that I wished that others could know — that not everything “religious” had to be hypocritical or judgmental, but could truly be interwoven into the very being and fabric of your life.

To have the devil hunting me, for that reason, was a shock and frustration.  Since I learned in Sunday school of calling on Jesus’s name to ward off evil, anytime something was giving me the heebie jeebies, even if I was sure it was just my own mind playing tricks on me, saying a quick prayer “in the name of Jesus Christ be gone” always made me feel better.

It wasn’t working this time.  I didn’t know if it was my faith struggling or the enemy fighting harder or both.

My husband, who has always believed, but not had a very personal relationship with Jesus, was my soul source of strength.  When I told him about my supernatural experiences, he 0h-so-matter-of-factly told me two very important things.  He said: “Honey, all I have to do is look at her picture to know that there is a heaven and that she is in it.” Boom.  There it is.  My daughter’s sweet spirit denies the lies of the enemy.  And he is silent.  No more voices.  No more shades.  As if they had never been.  Truth will always drive out the lies.

The second thing he told me was his own supernatural story, one he hadn’t shared with me because, like me, he was fearful that his intense grief would make the story seem crazy.  He told me that in the hour of her death, he saw his own grandfather.  Jack Didier, paragon patriarch of his large family, had passed on a few months before Larissa.  Jack’s spirit stood at the head of Larissa’s hospital bed.  He said nothing, but implored his grandson, my husband, with beckoning arms.  Give her to me.  I will keep her safe.  And of course, he did.  My husband was the only one who saw him, and I can only think that it was because of their strong emotional bonds in his life.  What a gift that God and Jack gave to my husband together.

What I experienced in those weeks following my daughter’s death was very real.  It was yet another dimension to a very intense time in my life, one that will leave echoes forever after.  It brought a part of the universe that had always been on the fringes of my existence into sharp focus.  Those lines have now blurred again, and I think that is for my own good.  To be sharply aware of the spiritual warfare going on in our world on a daily basis would be difficult to tolerate.

Three months after her death, my sister-in-law, who was also very close with her grandfather, had her own experience to share.  Her own daughter, Bella, was four years old at the time and she smiled as she passed Bella’s bedroom and saw her playing with her stuffies, talking and moving them around.  A few hours later, her mother remarked to her about how well she was playing by herself.  To which Bella replied “oh I wasn’t playing by myself, mama, I was playing with Papa Jack and Larissa with my stuffies.”

Small children see so much more than we ever do.  How can I deny the evidence, then, the evidence to the contrary of the untruth spoken by that rich, sophisticated siren voice–evidence given instead in the sweet beguiling voice of a child?  God speaks to me frequently, in a number of ways.  Sometimes as an angel.  Sometimes as a still quiet voice in my mind.  How can I deny His voice, woven into my thoughts, with me every step of the way? Through death and grief and rebirth into hope.

And if I am accepting of His voice, I can also accede the existence of that other voice, its power and strength, without feeling like a crazy woman.  And I can denounce it as the pure evil that it is, meant to torture and harm my spirit so that I might turn and do its bidding.

We are not alone.  Battles beyond our own senses are waged, over and over. Every day. But unlike the human battles here on earth, with some of the same treacherous, horrendous outcomes — I know the outcome of the spiritual battles.  Victory is HIS and His alone.  Amen.

How to be the Mother of a Two-Year-Old when You are almost Forty!

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Yes, he’s adorable.  I know.  He is also full of energy, completely curious, and a little sponge of anything you say or do, just like any other two year old.  And when you are almost forty, like I am, that takes some special instructions.  So here is a list of twenty things that may help you, if you, like me, find parenting to be a difficult task when you should be able to hit your mid-life crisis in stride instead of spending it changing diapers.

1.  Have a certified nurse insert a permanent PICC line for intravenous caffeine.  You will need it.

2.  Make sure you have the diapers delivered on a re-occuring cycle from an online source.  Mid-lifers tend to forget.  I like diapers.com

3.  Take your vitamin.  Daily.  Toddlers run you ragged and my physical fitness is not what it was in my twenties.

4.  Speaking of physical fitness, be prepared to “donate” money to a gym.  You will swear that you will get there.  Next month.  I prefer the YMCA because I can take the kids to the splash pad in the summer at least.

 

5.  Invest in stock for Starbucks and/or Mountain Dew.  At least then you will receive a dividend check for some of the massive amounts of money you will be spending there. #SBUX #PEP

6.  Know your Disney Junior cartoon characters.  They will be asked for in toddler speak.  Repeatedly.  And you had better know what he is saying or you will be dealing with a melt down.

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7.  Know your toddler speak.  (See above)  It helps when he has an older sister who can translate for you.  She deserves a degree for her translating capabilities.  I love to record this toddler speak on my iPhone to review later so  I can learn the language a little better.

8.  Speaking of the iPhone, be ready to relinquish any and all technology as “mine” or suffer the aforementioned melt-down.  Toddlers give a whole new meaning to Digital Natives nowadays.  Oh, and purchase the insurance for said electronics.  Screens are very breakable.

9.  Keep a digital folder of all those “I’ll read this later” parenting articles and helpful hints.  Recognize that you will never read them.  Ever.

10.  Schedule a wine and canvas outing or spa day every so often.  If Mommy ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.