Friday, December 2, 2016

Time is not our friend.

Where in the world has the time gone?  I beginning to realize that, once we reach a certain age, time speeds up so that each year races past faster than the previous one.  Doesn't it feel like we just made our New Year's resolutions and then decorated for Valentine's Day?  Wasn't Fourth of July, like, last week with all the brilliant fireworks accompanied by a large stomachache from overeating hot dogs and baked beans?  It seriously feels like I'm finally settling in to this new school year....and now we're twenty-three days away from Christmas???  If anybody out there is debating whether or not a time machine is really that good an idea, I say, "YES! PLEASE invent one!  Quick!!!" :-)

To be completely honest, I feel like time has not only sped up but is slipping away from me.  My children are no longer babies; my husband has more gray hair than when I married him (he grayed early); even my dog is starting to show signs of age.  I, of course, am as fresh as a daisy....lol.  I've seen so many changes, both good and bad, over this past year that it's both precious and painful to recall the months past.  The very fact that time rushes by and brings with it change is one reason I am so glad that God is constant.  He never changes:  I never have to wonder what kind of mood He's in or whether He'll be too busy to listen when I need to talk---like I am with my family sometimes.  He always is, an attribute I've come to appreciate more since I started teaching high school English.  God calls Himself "I Am"; this is stated in present tense, the here-and-now.  God always is because His condition never changes; He never ages; He is the same now as He was when He walked in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.  He will continue to be the same for eternity.  This brings such comfort to me, one who doesn't enjoy change or uncertainty.  I can rest in His Word and believe Him because He is constant; I can trust Him because He will never be any different.  Ever.  What an indescribably beautiful truth!  I'm almost in tears just thinking about this.  Thank You, Lord, for being You.

An update about Senior Trip:  Bro. Goltiao, the class sponsor, and the seniors have cooked up a wonderful idea for us!  They decided that they wanted either my husband or me to go on Senior Trip with Dale.  This would solve a couple of issues:  who would be in the hotel room with Dale to assist him with everyday life and who would be the one to sit out of the too-crazy rides with him.  A few different ideas were batted around as to how to pay for Chad or me to go on the trip, and then Bro. Goltiao had the idea.  He talked to Preacher, then talked to the seniors, then talked to Preacher again.  Final decision:  Chad's ticket is fully paid for through Preacher's generosity, and the seniors are raising extra money to pay my way too!!!  Isn't that amazing?  I almost hugged Bro. Goltiao when he told me!  Ha!  So we are all working hard with every fundraiser that comes along to raise the extra money needed.  Dale is able to help out, and Chad, Katie, and I have all been steadily involved in helping make this dream come true.  We're so blessed by Preacher's and the seniors' love and generosity....and we're going to Disneyworld!!!

Do you remember I mentioned back in September that come Christmas I would need to scour those papers given to me at the neurologist's office concerning Dale' future as an adult?  Well, that time is almost upon me, and I'm starting to get uncomfortable flutters in my stomach whenever I think about it.  I realize time marches on (see top of post!), but I kind of wish things would simply stay this way forever so I would never have to think about possible futures.  I'm asking for a little extra prayer---I realize y'all have been praying for our family since August 5, 2011, and possibly before---but I truly need God's wisdom as I approach the reading of those all-important documents that will give us a glimpse into possibilities for Dale.  He will officially become an adult on January 6, 2017 (his birthday), and momentous choices must be made shortly thereafter.  So, please pray with us that God's voice will be heard and we humans will be listening.

Let's all make the special effort to bring God's cheer and God's light to those around us this wonderful time of year.  We Christians are God's presence to the world, so let's be sure we represent Him well.

Matthew 5: 16  "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

Saturday, September 17, 2016

This is it---Dale's senior year!

Wow! It's so hard to believe that Dale is a senior in high school this year! It seems like just yesterday he was a toddler in the nursery while I taught my first year of school, and now he's finishing his high school courses and preparing to graduate.  How time does fly!

This is a big year of changes and new horizons for all of us.  On August 23rd, we saw Dale's pediatric neurologist for the last time. (Sniff, sniff.) This is the same man who came to see Dale when he was in Good Samaritan Rehab about three weeks after his accident.  Dale had spent about 2 1/2 weeks at OHSU in Oregon, slowly making progress after the drowning.  He was transferred to Good Sam where he would undergo extensive therapy to try to establish how badly injured his brain was and how much of his natural abilities he would be able to regain.  We had only been there a couple of days when Dale had a full grand mal seizure, scaring the physical therapist and me half to death! We were on a cement staircase outside in the garden, and I was so thankful that she had already had a solid grip on the therapy belt Dale was wearing (worn for that specific purpose), for that was the only thing that kept my son from tumbling down the stairs and sustaining further injury. Dr. Al-Mateen was called in to assess Dale's neurological status, and our relationship with him was born.  He is the kindest man, very wise and respected in his field, always ready to listen to the ramblings of this mama when trying to explain Dale's symptoms (or jokes!). We've had the privilege of seeing Dr. Al-Mateen twice a year or so for the last five years, and it was incredibly difficult to say goodbye without crying.  I feel like we're losing a member of the family, one whom I could trust with the details of my son's condition.  But, since Dale will have turned eighteen by the time of the next six-month appointment, he can no longer see a pediatric neurologist; instead we were given a referral to an adult neurologist whom Dr. Al-Mateen works with to transition his patients to when they become adults. Another door closed….

Before we left the doctor's office, I was able to meet with a sweet, helpful lady whose job it is to answer all the myriad questions exploding in my brain---like "Does Dale qualify for some sort of disability that might help him take college classes online?" or "How do we know what paperwork to fill out?" She gave me a healthy sheaf of papers to read through which should help us when Dale turns eighteen.  We can't actually do anything until then, so I'm already planning on taking some time over Christmas break and getting ready to send in whatever forms are appropriate.

Please pray with us for Dale's future.  We honestly don't know what is going to happen, and there are so many unanswered questions right now.  I'm not one of those "go with the flow" people; I like order and answers and preparation.  This time of waiting is seriously causing me (and, thus, my family) stress, but it's also pushing me to my knees.  I need God's mindset and timing, but most of all I just need to trust.  Never easy to do but always the right idea!  So much remains up in the air, including any possible future online classes for Dale, job opportunities for him, my job situation, and so on.  Just pray that I, especially, will be willing to do what God wants when He says, not fight for what I think is best when He may have something better in store.

Dale's senior year started off with a bang.  Dale's neurology appointment was the same morning as the start of Teacher Orientation for this new school year.  Naturally, I could not be in two places at once, so I missed that morning's talk. Chad and the two youngest girls, Ashley and Emily, left to go camping for a few days that afternoon, leaving the house strangely quiet….and clean. Dale and I wound up staying until 8:00 that night at school, trying to get some work accomplished.  The following morning, Wednesday, Dale and I were getting ready to head for school for the next Teacher Orientation session.  Dale had not had to get up too early on Wednesday because my meeting didn't start until 9:00, which was a blessing since he had had to get up at 6:45 the previous morning to get to his doctor appointment! He seemed to be a bit unsteady on the stairs going down to breakfast, and when he reached the dining room, things absolutely fell apart.  Instead of turning and sitting on the chair, his foot caught and he landed awkwardly sideways on the chair.  His bottom was almost sliding off the chair, and his head was jammed up against the table.  I was trying to steady him, keep his head from hitting the table, and prevent him from sliding off the chair onto the floor when it happened---the dreaded seizure.  His brain couldn't handle the overload of panicked messages it was being flooded with, and it couldn't correct the problems, so it just shut down for a moment.  I had hold of Dale the whole time, but I shouted for Katie to come stand behind him, since I was really scared I couldn't keep him on the chair.  This seizure wasn't any longer than the others, but it was frustrating for Dale since we had just been able to tell the neurologist the day before that he hadn't had any seizures for a long while! Anyway, once the seizure released its hold, I was able to brace Dale better in his chair and wait for his senses to return.

Any time Dale has a seizure, he loses all abilities and is virtually paralyzed for a time until feeling returns.  His involuntary functions work steadily (lungs, heart), but he can't move his limbs, he can't see, he can't do anything except cry.  Having a seizure is scary, and Dale gets so upset about having to go through another one that he spend a few minutes crying at the top of his lungs in fear and frustration. Imagine how you would react, knowing all control was being forcibly wrested from you, plus not knowing what you might not get back.

So Dale's senior year (actually the week before school started) got off to a rough start.  Yesterday, also, Dale struggled in the morning.  He fell twice in the bathroom within a five-minute time period.  After the second fall, he just lay on the bathroom rug and had a short pity party---and I let him.  Everyone needs a feel-sorry-for-me time, even if just to get it out of their system.  I made the decision to slow things down, not continue the rush to get out the door to school, for Dale's sake.  He already knows that our family arranges our schedules, activities, and lives around him, for necessity's sake; this time, he needed to know that we do it because we love him and want what's best for him.  We took it easy getting down the stairs and made sure he got a good breakfast before actually heading for school.  The rest of the day was easier, since we had a home Football Jamboree, and the seniors (Dale included) got to man the concession stand all day.

I'm so excited about this next announcement!  We are currently working out the details/arrangements so that Dale will get to go on his senior trip!!! Chad and I didn't think this was possible until Preacher approached Chad and said he didn't think it was any great difficulty.  He referenced another disabled student who had been able to go on his own senior trip; this other student simply needed help getting into and out of cars and such, but the chaperones and other students made it happen.  So, we talked to Dale and the chaperones for this year, and we're working toward the goal of Dale getting to go.  I'm so excited for Dale!!! He's concerned that he will not be able to raise the kind of money it will take to go (because they've chosen Disneyworld as their destination), but he's working every concession booth he can to raise money, and he's going to participate in as many fundraisers as possible.  Praise the Lord!

Since this is Dale's senior year---and, as such, a major turning point in his life, I want to make this year as great as possible for him.  He already put lots of effort into making this year easier for himself academically by working so hard during summer school to get caught up so that he has started this year a full senior.  He's no longer making up lost time in English or any subject, just working toward passing the subjects he needs to graduate in June.  This meant he worked for several hours a day, five days a week, clear through the end of July, to get caught up.  His PACEs this year include Bible, English, Business Math, Health (1 semester), and Government/Economics.  He also takes choir in place of Bible one day a week, and he'll get to take Yearbook next semester once his health PACEs are complete, plus he gets to sit in the Government/Economics class hour with his fellow seniors.  I'm thankful he gets to be in at least one class hour with his classmates. I think Dale's mind is still in catch-up mode because, at the pace he has set for himself and as hard as he is already working, it seems like Dale is going to be finished with his PACEs in March!!!

So, as you can tell, our lives are just about as busy as always. It's amazing how much that one day five years ago has affected our lives, and yet time didn't stop for us. God's plan is not to get frozen in one instance or one situation, but to keep moving forward and keep growing and learning and adapting to life.  We were just discussing this in the car on the way (finally) to school yesterday morning: This world is not our home.  Everything we experience in this life, whether good or bad, is only temporary.  Those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour have an eternal home waiting for us which will make this earthly time seem so unimportant.  This is all we know for now, but God tells us to be patient, keep trusting, and tell as many others as possible about His Son, because one day, hopefully soon, we're going Home. The joys, the trials, the failures, the achievements of our time here on earth will pale with one glimpse of our Redeemer. So we keep living, we keep striving, we keep going, so that one day our Lord will be able to say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."  Treasured words, those.  God bless each of you.

II Corinthians 4: 16-18  "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen:  for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Hello, world!

The Ostrander family has been taking a break from life for a while, and that is the reason I haven't posted for over two months.  Frankly, finishing up the last of the school year, planning ahead for next year, and enjoying the beginning of summer have taken up all our time!  You busy parents know exactly what I mean…..

For our family, wrapping up the school year means panicking about grades, typing out research papers (at the last minute), and trying to find enough school clothes that still fit to make one complete uniform per child---which they will then wear for the last month straight!  Why is that children have two major growth spurts each year:  one right after you bought school clothes for the new year and one about a month before school ends?  It's as if they do it on purpose…..

Then, there's the all-important, academically-mandatory, pull-your-hair-out research paper in high school.  You know, the one where the student doesn't do any research except for finding two internet articles; writes two-page, double-spaced drafts, thinking that is more than enough material for an eight hundred-word essay; "forgets" when the deadlines (which are posted beside the classroom door) are; and puts off typing out the actual paper until the night before the final project is due.  Technically, I only had one child at home who needed to do a research paper this year; however, multiply that stress by about fifty, since I am the new high school English teacher.  I get to push and remind and beg and plead to get those projects in---and then I get to grade them.  No wonder I needed a mental vacation!

The "planning ahead" part was focused mostly on Dale and figuring out to a "T" exactly what he needed to take for summer school and next school year in order to graduate with his class.  Just the fact that he is alive is a miracle; add to that all the hard work he, his therapists, and his teachers have had to put in to get him this far, and the miracle swells to the point of taking over all emotion and sensible thought.  Our God not only brought Dale back to life that day almost five years ago, but He has also given Dale hope for the future.  It's still not clear what Dale will be able to do after graduation, but he's alive to do it.  We're looking into college courses he can do online as well as adult therapy programs he might qualify for.  Our focus right now is helping him finish his 11th grade English PACES; then he gets to take an actual break from school work until the fall.

Each year, when planning ahead for the next, I tell Dale, "I hope this next year won't be too hard or too busy for you."  Each year, reality has fallen way short of our hopes and expectations.  Dale basically missed his 7th grade year (he was doing speech, occupational, and physical therapy).  He was able to sit in on his 8th grade classes, but he couldn't absorb much or take notes or perform well on tests.  At the start of his 9th grade year, we put him in traditional classes but also began having him do PACEs; this was an excellent idea since it allowed him to work at his own, new, slow-but-steady pace.  The only drawback was that it took Dale out of regular classes which meant he had less time to socialize with his friends.  His accident and subsequent difficulties had already put a bit of a gap between him and his classmates, and not being in class with them widened that gap.  Dale's 10th and 11th grade years were his hardest.  He (and his teachers!) worked so hard to catch up on missed credits, switching to PACEs almost fully in order to give Dale his best chance possible.  If there were a percentage grade given for effort, Dale would have scored a 100%.  Dale needs to take Bible, English, Government and Economics, Health (1 semester), Yearbook (1 semester), and Business Math next year.  He has finally reached his senior year!!!

Being in the high school this past year has afforded me the chance to see how the students interact with Dale.  My girls have always given good reports, but this mama bear is always worried that someone will make fun of Dale's condition or consider helping him to the next class to be a burden.  It's been such a blessing to watch the guys consistently offer to walk Dale over to the Learning Center for PACE class or across the gym to choir or Spanish.  The girls have pitched in as well, carrying Dale's backpack to his next class---and his backpack is no featherweight item!  I try to tell the teens just how much seeing their casual, accepting, "this is normal," Christ-like attitude towards Dale means to me, but I can never get out more than three words without tears coming to my eyes.  Even now, at my computer, my vision is blurred, thinking about each one of their loving kindnesses for my son.  And to observe Dale's class with him; they treat him as one of them, as if there is no difference between him and them.  I guess I thought they would treat Dale distantly---you know, acting like they wished he weren't part of their world or wasn't on the same plane with them.  But I've never seen that at all.  His senior classmates have included Dale just as much as possible in their conversations and activities and always seem to look for ways to make him feel a part of the group.  Such precious young people! 

Looking ahead for each of my girls for school is a far easier matter.  I just look to see what books I may already have from past years and check off those items on the book order form.  Boom!  Done.  Trust me, I've put enough blood, sweat, and tears into Dale's curriculum to have earned some relief when it comes to everybody else's.

Now we are in the serious business of summer break.  Those of you who know me know that I take relaxing seriously.  I mean, why have a break from the insanity and pressure of school if all you're going to do is go crazy cleaning, organizing, or sightseeing?  Am I right?  So far our summer vacation has been comprised of sleeping in, getting caught up on favorite TV series, occasional laundry, meals whenever, and staying up half the night.  Perfection!

I'm only half kidding.  We've been a few places and done a few things.  Chad drove us out to the outlet stores at North Bend with a side trip to Snoqualmie Falls.  There is the most fascinating collection of antique train engines there!  Two of the girls swapped bedrooms which required endless trips up and down the stairs with armfuls of whatever.  While cleaning out her room for the move, Ashley decided to bequeath to Emily a lot of her old clothes; this has given Emily a new, more mature wardrobe (sniff, sniff).  This has also given Ashley reason to demand more clothes! Emily turned ten years old in June which meant she got to have a real birthday party with friends and cake and presents and craziness.  All of our children are in double digits now.  I feel old….

We didn't do much for Independence Day, and by "much" I mean "nothing at all."  Chad had to work Sunday night-Monday morning; he got home Monday afternoon, just in time to grill some hamburgers, eat, and go to bed because he had to work Monday night-Tuesday morning as well.  We don't usually buy firecrackers ourselves, preferring to let our neighboring communities display their fireworks for our enjoyment!  Plus, Emily has always been terrified of the loud noises and flashes.  This year, for the first time, she managed to go the whole night of the Fourth (plus the extra days on either side) without crying.  She was still unsettled by the noise but was able to distract herself with drawing and TV.

I know this post has been long, but it serves to show that life continues as it always has for us:  steady, busy, happy, crazy.  When I say that we took a break, it wasn't from life itself; we still attended every service, still worked our bus route, still helped out with various functions, still played---we simply chose not to put any new thing on our plates for a while.  This kind of break is important for any family, and we intend to take full advantage of this opportunity to slow down for a bit.  Goodness knows, in just about six weeks, school gears will need to start grinding again!

God bless you all for your love, prayers, and support.  Take time to hug your children and deliberately plan some unstructured family time to just enjoy being together.

Isaiah 12: 2-4  "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid:  for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation.  Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.  And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon His name, declare His doings among the people, make mention that His name is exalted."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

What a great God we serve!

Our church just wrapped up our third annual Youth Explosion last night, and, boy, was it amazing!  Watching the teens listen closely to the speaker's words, hearing the singing, seeing the excitement when someone's name was announced for a prize---the extra effort put in was entirely worth it!

Our teens handed out flyers last Friday and again this Monday - Wednesday at various public middle and high schools in our area, inviting any teens who wanted to come to be a part of this year's Youth Explosion.  This meant that we teachers had to scramble to get some classes taught in the morning; our day was then basically over, giving us a chance to catch up on paperwork.  But the teens weren't done yet!  They ate lunch, held a prayer meeting, loaded the buses to hand out flyers, came back by the end of the school day, ate a quick dinner, loaded the buses again to pick up the other teenagers who wanted to come, attended the (crazy, loud, exciting) service, grabbed a sack lunch, reloaded the buses to take the kids home, and finally got to go home themselves.  I helped in the nursery Monday and Tuesday nights, but my husband and I got to attend last night's service and see God moving in the hearts of those teenagers, public and Christian school alike.  Over 200 teenagers accepted Christ in those three days!  There were teens who had attended last year and been saved; they brought friends this year who also got saved.  What an amazing feeling to be able to be a part of someone's receiving Jesus as their Saviour and knowing their eternity is settled forever!  Those teens will not soon forget this week, if ever.

Today, though, is a different story.  We are all exhausted!  I've had kids in almost every class trying to sleep.  This has simply been a busy week, and we are all ready for our day off tomorrow.  The lady staff members get to go away for a special retreat, leaving behind our students, husbands, children, grade books, classrooms, and messy houses!  Praise the Lord for some time to just relaaaaax.

I have spent the last month in and out of the school office, trying to get Dale's schedule for next year nailed down.  There have been some slight changes to the Washington state requirements for seniors graduating in 2017, but, praise the Lord, nothing that will prevent Dale from marching with his class.  (As a Christian school, we always strive to match and then exceed state requirements for graduating seniors and also include Bible classes as required credits for high school.)  Dale has been working SO VERY HARD this year to catch up on some credits he missed in his first years in high school, mainly due to his mental limitations at that time.  As I stated in my last post, his mental abilities have improved while his physical abilities have declined.  So, our school leaders decided to waive Dale's P.E. requirements and count his Bible credits as needed electives so that he is able to finish his high school education next year and walk with his class.  This summer, Dale will need to (possibly) do a Social Studies PACE or two to complete that subject and continue to work on his English PACEs since he's only partway through his 11th grade English work.  But....it looks like his schedule next year will, finally, be a little lighter.  He'll take Bible, English, Government/Economics, Choir, Health, and Math.  I am so thankful for all the help I've received in creating Dale's IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and in making sure he stays on track and completes his assignments.  We keep telling Dale (and ourselves!) that "next year your backpack won't be as heavy" because of a supposed easier classload---but so far that hasn't actually happened.  I am determined to make his backpack lighter, which will ease the strain on those of us whose backs and shoulders ache from lugging it around!!!

We are so blessed to be in this church and school, among friends, church family, and coworkers who care about our family and show their support any way they can---through prayer, through physical assistance, through arranging special circumstances or gifts, and sometimes through explaining to their children Dale's limitations so that those young ones can grow up with an appreciation for a handicapped individual.  I feel like our whole church and school has grown through Dale's accident and can now understand those who are physically disabled or mentally challenged because we see a living example every day.  I know my husband and I reared our children with a gentle concern for disabled people before Dale's accident, but now we understand what they go through a whole lot better.

I'm also so thankful for the many people across the nation and the world who have followed Dale's progress since that fateful day in August when our lives changed.  You have prayed and wept and cared and given, and we can never thank you enough.  I feel like some might think we mention this all the time, but I believe we cannot say it enough:  You have filled our hearts with your love, and we could not have gotten through these hardships without the knowledge that we were not in this alone.  Yes, we have our God and always will, but we also have each other to help us through.

Philippians 1: 3 and 7a  "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you...Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart."

Monday, March 7, 2016

Happy Easter, y'all!

Can you believe Easter is almost upon us?  I really don't like it when Easter comes in March; it seems almost as if the year is being rushed along too quickly, and we can't take the time to enjoy any breaks between seasons or holidays.  I mean, I just took down the penguin and snowflake window clings at my house, and now I need to put up bunnies and eggs and such!  That being said, Happy Easter to everyone!

I believe it is time to give you a realistic update on Dale's condition.  Our family tends to "put on a good face" whenever we are asked how he's doing, without going into any details, but somehow I feel the time has come to be completely open.  Please know that we are not asking for any sympathy, nor do we wish to sound like we are complaining---just stating facts as they truly are.  We appreciate your prayers and continued support for us; it's so good to know we are not alone as we face each day's challenges.

Dale, quite simply, is not getting any better.  In fact, he's getting worse.  As time progresses, Dale's abilities decline and he becomes more dependent on those around him.  There was a time during his recovery that Dale could walk without assistance, that we could stand at the bottom of a short flight of stairs and watch him walk up rather than assist him on each step, that he could get ready for bed on his own and turn off his light and climb into bed, that he could put away his own clothes into dresser drawers and closet without difficulty.  Those times are past.  Now we walk up and down stairs with him without being more than two steps away.  Now we stay upstairs with him while uses the restroom and brushes his teeth before we walk him into his bedroom, and then wait in the hall for him to get dressed for bed before we turn off his bedroom light.  Now we walk him down the hall to the bathroom from the living room, and back again when he is finished.

Dale needs my help getting into and out of the bathtub.  He needs my help most times with washing his hair because he has to sit in the tub and try to scrunch down to a reclining position to rinse his hair, and this movement causes him to jerk violently.  He cannot step into the tub on his own, and trying to get out of the wet, slick tub after his bath is almost always a wrestling match between him and me!  He cannot stand for a shower because he no longer has the motor control to keep himself from jerking and then falling.  So far, Dale does not need help using the restroom, but I honestly don't think that is too far down the road.

Dale's ability to walk correctly is severely limited.  He continually hunches his shoulders, juts his neck forward, stares at his feet, clenches his free hand and grips his pocket or jacket, and takes smaller steps that his natural gait should allow.  Walking across the gym can take a short minute or a long five minutes.  He no longer has the ability to control any shaking or jerking that his limbs frequently exhibit, nor does he have the strength to walk more than a few steps without becoming winded.  What's worse is he doesn't listen when anyone tries to give encouraging hints or suggestions to help him walk better.  Dale does what he thinks he needs to and absolutely refuses to change.  Going into a store with him is always a trying experience.  I am usually the one to hold him by the hand and walk, for two reasons:  no one else has the patience for it, and I know how stressful walking with him is and I don't want anyone else stressed out.

Dale cannot do most household chores.  He cannot stand to unload the dishwasher.  He cannot bring down his laundry hamper or take his clothes upstairs when they're clean.  He cannot help clean the bathrooms or take out the garbage or vacuum.  His sisters get frustrated because Dale's chores have been divided among all of us, while Dale sits at the table with his tablet.  He does what he can, but that's honestly not much.

Because I am usually the one to walk Dale around, Dale has become more dependent on me.  He seems to have decided that I am the only one he can ask for assistance of any kind:  taking his plate to the sink, walking him to the restroom, answering a question, etc.  Other family members have bought into this philosophy as well, for the most part unintentionally, by thinking that I can handle Dale's needs better than anyone else.  So I have become Dale's primary care giver, thus assuming the lion's share of the responsibility and the stress.  Naturally, this has made me feel burdened with caring for my handicapped son, rather than blessed to be able to still have my Dale alive and with me.

See what I mean by being open?  I know we're not the only family to be struggling with caring for a disabled member, and we are definitely not looking for pity or tears.  I'm also aware that circumstances could be a whole lot worse, and I am grateful that Dale can do what he can do.  There may be some who will criticize us for complaining about "God's miracle"; please don't think that's what I'm doing here.  God did indeed perform an amazing miracle when He gave Dale back his breath and heartbeat and life, and I do not wish that had been different.  I do wish Dale had not given up once he realized God was not going to heal him fully, completely.  I do wish Dale had not gotten angry with God for not allowing him to live the life he had decided on.  I do wish Dale had not stopped trying to improve his physical abilities, because that is when he began to decline.  However, I praise God for the wonderful works He has done in our family, and I continually pray that my spirit will be right so that I do not ever think how things might have been if God had only.....  No---that kind of thinking is dangerous; it leads to discontent, complaining, self-pity, and the like.

Now you know what life in the Ostrander household is like.  Simply put, it's all about Dale.  Every thing we do, every outing we wish to take, every household chore we have to do---it's all centered on whether Dale can do it or not, or whether Dale can go there or not.  Every thump we hear, we jump and worry if Dale fell and got hurt or not.  Every time Dale falls, we worry if he put another hole in the wall or not.  The older girls and I take turns walking Dale up the stairs to bed each night.  We take turns getting Dale his medication each morning and night.  We are versed in how to brace Dale when he falls so as to mitigate any injuries he may receive.  We are always on alert in case Dale goes into a seizure.  We literally don't make a move without considering Dale first.

Now, for the good news:

We've discovered, as people with disabled children do, that life continues after an accident.  We've reorganized our lives to include the need for more time getting to/from events or locations.  We've learned to stop and wait for Dale to slooooowly get the words out that he is trying to stay.  We've decided to take each day as it comes and enjoy what we can.  Some days, Dale can walk fine and talk fine, and our family kind of forgets that he's different now.  Some days, it's all too obvious.  I'm thankful beyond measure that Dale's mental faculties have returned to the point he is doing well in school and is on track to graduate next year with his class.  I'm thankful that he still possesses his sharp wit and crazy humor.  It's funny to us to see the looks on people's faces who, when Dale starts to speak, expect him to say something obtuse or irrelevant and are surprised to hear him "talk like a normal person."  Oh, he has his moments when nothing he says makes sense---but then again, he is a guy!

There are days when we are screaming in frustration at our situation.  There are days when we are overwhelmed with gratitude.  But, most days, we just are.  Most days, we just deal with it.  We strive to remember:  God's grace is sufficient for our daily needs.  We are the ones who forget to use it.

II Corinthians 12:9  "And He said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee:  for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Goal: Absolute Perfection!

How in the world has it been so long since I've posted anything on this blog?!  The amount of time between entries might be attributed to medical concerns, busy schedule, lack of available writing time, holidays, or whatever excuse comes to mind, but the truth is, I haven't written because I haven't wanted to.  I've been somewhat depressed lately for various reasons, and I haven't felt like being cheerful and upbeat and coherent for my next post.  Let me explain….

Do any of y'all feel depressed around the holidays?  I've heard that statistics are through the roof about the suicide rate, alcoholism, and drug abuse during what should be the most festive season of our whole year.  One would think someone who attends church faithfully, teaches in a Christ-centered school, hears God's Word on a regular basis, and surrounds himself with godly people would have no problem keeping his eyes on Christ for daily uplifting, no matter the time of year.  In a perfect world, this would be so.  But none of us live in a perfect world with perfect spouses and perfect children who get perfect grades and have perfect behavior records. Not one of us has a perfect house or perfect job or perfect, Barbie-esque figures; we don't have perfect teeth or perfect hair or present perfect appearances.  I know for a fact my cute little fur ball doggie isn't perfect---I regularly have to clean up after her when she decides going outside to relieve herself is just too much work.  (Side note:  Thursday night, I took the garbage can to the street for the following day's pickup.  Peanut [aforementioned dog] accompanied me, intent on exploring any previously unmarked territory.  I completed my task as quickly as possible and turned to call her.  She had disappeared behind the neighbor's car, parked in their driveway.  When I rounded the back of their car in search of my errant dog, I discovered her "doing her business" next to the back tire of their vehicle.  In their driveway!  And #2, not just #1, which might have some chance of drying overnight and thus being undetected by said neighbor.  Stupid dog!  I had to go through the back gate, struggle to latch it, pick my flashlight-aided way along the side of the house around the corner to the back door, shoo my dog inside before closing and bolting the door, and then make my way---armed with paper towels---out the front door and over to the neighbor's driveway where I squatted down and carefully cleaned up the deposits my "man's best friend" had left for the poor, unsuspecting neighbors. I certainly hope no one was watching right then because I'm sure I looked like some creepy sort of stalker!  End of side note.)

My point is this:  I am not perfect.  Does this come as a surprise to anyone?  You are not perfect.  I don't think there are many people in the world who would even claim to be close to perfect.  God Himself tells us, "There is none righteous, no, not one."  And He goes even further than that when He says all our "righteousness" is as filthy rags.  (Think:  dog poo-covered paper towels!)  I'm pretty sure we're all in agreement that none of us is perfect, right?

So, why, then, are we so bent on achieving perfection?  Why do we try so hard to reach the impossible?  Why do we set ourselves up for failure by striving for that which, until Heaven, is out of our reach?  And why, then, do we berate ourselves so bitterly when we fail?  Why do we chastise ourselves and criticize ourselves when we repeatedly show that we are, indeed, human?

The more spiritual among us would wish to answer that we strive for perfection because we wish to be like God, and I would agree.  We should try our utmost to be like our Heavenly Father in every way.  But, in my life, I know the answer to the question posed is a different one.  And….the answer is quite telling.  I try so hard to be perfect because I don't want to admit I'm not.  I don't want to admit I'm not perfect because I want to be perfect already.  And, I want to be perfect already because I don't want to have to wait for God to make me perfect.  I want it now.  I want perfection now because I don't want to have to admit day after day, hour after hour, life event after life event, that I NEED GOD.  I need Him.  I am only complete through Him and with Him in control.  Do you see?  If I can do everything perfectly on my own, then I'm not as hopeless a sinner as I really am.  If I can achieve perfection right now, then I don't need God as desperately as I really do.  It's simply a matter of pride, isn't it?  My desire to be perfect has nothing to do with being like God; it has everything to do with living my life without God.  I want to be in control.

Somehow, I have created a fictional world where I am in charge and everything and everyone around me flourishes.  In my fantasy, I am perfect and do all things perfectly:  I am a perfect wife and mother and teacher and friend and daughter and sister and caregiver and cook and housekeeper and grocery shopper and meal planner and so on and so forth.  I believe that if I were just perfect, everything around me would be perfect.  I would have perfect kids and a perfect husband and a perfect job and perfect students and a perfect house that was perfectly clean.  Nothing would be amiss in my perfect world because I would be the center and I would be perfect.  And, in my thinking, since I obviously don't live in a perfect world with a perfect life and perfect children, then I am to be blamed for not being that perfect center.

If God Himself doesn't expect perfection, why do we demand it of ourselves?  I have admitted that my desire to be perfect stems from my desire not to have to depend on God for daily stability and guidance.  It took a lot of thinking and honesty and prayer to reach that point where I was willing to confess my pride.  But confession, though good for the soul, doesn't change my thinking.  Constant contact with my Father does.  Talking with God (prayer) and listening to Him talk to me (reading my Bible) will change my wrongful thinking and help me be a better person.  This will, in turn, make me more like Christ….Who is, remember, perfect!  Eventually, I will get my wish and be just like my Heavenly Father.  For now, I will strive to be as close to Him in prayer and Bible reading and actions as I---humanly---can.

Please continue to pray for Dale as he struggles with trusting God with His life, too.  Dale is always willing to talk about his trust issues, but God is still working on his heart to help Dale see how much He loves him.  Dale has good days and bad days physically, but we all keep plugging away and doing our best to help him.  He's up-to-date in his school work so far, and I'm kind of excited about finishing this year (I know we're only through the first semester!) and looking ahead at his senior year.  God is always good, even when we forget to remember that.  It's wonderful to know that God doesn't have good days and bad days; He is a steady, solid Rock that we can always lean on.

Have a wonderful 2016!  God bless you!

Hebrews 13:8  "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."

Friday, November 27, 2015

Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving to you!

How was your Thanksgiving?  Did you get to spend time with family or friends?  Did you have your annual Turkey Bowl/civil war?  Did you stuff yourself so full that you barely had the willpower left to roll yourself to the couch where you lay in a semi-comatose state…..until the effects wore off and you were ready for seconds?

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner.  We actually debated going out to a buffet for our meal this year; my husband wanted to take the stress off of me and the girls, having to spend hours cooking the huge feast and setting the table and finding enough matching dishes to look good….and then cleaning up afterwards.  With the size family we have, it probably would have cost about the same to go out to eat as staying home, but we wouldn't have all those wonderful, exasperating, where-in-the-world-do-I-put-these leftovers that are now crammed in our fridge.  There's nothing quite like the satisfaction one feels when one has managed to perfectly balance two bowls, one cheesecake, and a plate of cranberry sauce in one beautiful, if precarious, tower!  I think most of us did, in fact, pass out on various couches after dinner, hoping to sleep off the effects of holiday overindulgence.  But, all in all, we had a lovely day.

I think one of the highlights of this holiday was the conversation that Dale and Ashley had in the evening.  Dale was extra shaky yesterday and having trouble with, what seemed to us, the simplest tasks.  Walking down the hall to the bathroom, remembering to flush the toilet, sitting down on the couch without falling down….that sort of thing.  Ashley was frustrated with him because he wasn't listening to advice given by her and the falling-down results were the same.  I chose to stay out of their conversation, not because I wanted them to bond or anything but rather because I was tired of dealing with him.  This lack of listening behavior has been going on for a while now, and I was more than willing to let someone else do the talking.  And I'm so glad I did.  Dale began telling Ashley things I've never heard him say before.  He told her how he felt about the falling down, he told her that Dad and Mom don't let him try to do things on his own anymore, and he told her that he didn't see the need to try harder when nothing made any difference.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing!  The realization struck me that Dale's and Ashley's relationship is different than Dale's and mine; after all, they are brother and sister whereas he and I are son and mother.  There are certain things he feels he can't say to me that he had no trouble expressing to Sash.  I let them talk for a bit, just listening in, before going into the other room and joining them.  I realized that, in my efforts to motivate Dale to see all he was giving up on by not working as hard as I thought he should at his exercises (mobility, control of limbs, possible college, future job, life….), I was actually stripping him of any hope for anything better than the present.  I was wiping away all joy and desire and ambition for life beyond high school.  My efforts to prod him to walk better, to think better, to listen better were having the opposite effect; I was pushing him farther and farther into the grip of depression and misery.

Was that ever an eye-opener!  I---the one who believes herself to be the only one who understands Dale, who has the ability to help him walk, who has the patience to help him as he struggles---am the one who is holding him down and not letting him try to succeed on his power.  I realized I wasn't just clipping his wings; I was strapping them to his body and blaming him for not being able to fly.  Ashley, Dale, and I talked for a long time, apologizing and loving and encouraging and bonding together.  We each expressed the desire to see Dale regain lost muscle tone and balance, to help him achieve more independence, to look for new ways he can grow and develop his future, to reaffirm our commitment to help each other any way we can.  Because that's what family does.  We're there for each other, we help each other, we support each other, and sometimes we carry each other.

So, I'm going to be looking into college-level computer courses for Dale to set his mind toward.  He's a junior in high school right now and is on track to graduate with his class.  He is taking Spanish this year through Rosetta Stone, and I was surprised to see how steady his hand in when moving the mouse!  Normally, even with a pencil and paper, he struggles with the jerking movements that sometimes occur; but he seems to excel with the mouse and headphone set he uses in Spanish.  So I'm going to see about other computer-related possibilities for Dale.  I'm kind of excited to see what might pop up!

We're entering one of the busiest times of the year, for parents or children or businesses or teachers or students or anybody.  The rush of holiday shopping, the chaos of Christmas decorating, the panic of last-minute presents.  For teachers, it's the efforts to capture and retain the students' attention, the push to cram in actual teaching around excitement and home games and parties.  It's easy to get so wrapped up (see what I did there?) in the whirl of Christmas activities that we forget to enjoy the simplicity of the holiday.  We need to decide now that, at least once a day, we'll stop and thank God for Christmas and for sending His Son to be born as a babe.  We need to appreciate our families, our jobs, our health, our houses, our cars, our pets, our friends, our neighbors.  We should rejoice in the ability to buy tons of awesome presents or just a simple gift for each loved one.  The lights, the sparkle, the music, the decor, the food, the tree, the gifts---these are all just reflections of our Father's love for us, displayed in the greatest gift of all, the gift of selfless love.  When God gave us Jesus, He gave us everything.  Let's choose to remember Him in the midst of celebrating His birth.

John 3: 16  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."