Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tales from Kindergarten

Four weeks ago, Allyson started Kindergarten. She was beyond excited. Here she is on Meet the Teacher night, which our whole family attended.

She Picked Her Dress

Getting Her Supplies Organized

As you can see, she didn't dress up nearly so much on the actual first day; she was about the only girl in Kindergarten who wasn't wearing a dress:

She looked so little walking into the school next to Daddy:

Ethan wanted to come along too, which warmed my heart. Of course, it wouldn't be cool to act like he was enjoying it...

We stood around watching Allyson settle in, but she soon forgot we were there and got to work on her very first assignment, "Summer Fun":
She Drew a Picture of Our Pool

As ecstatic as she had been about starting school, her first impression wasn't all that great. "There's lots of rules," she complained. One thing she does like, though, is buying her lunch in the cafeteria.

Bill helped her read the first week's menu, and she laboriously wrote down her choices:
Wednesday: "NO"; Thursday: "TAKO"; Friday: PIZZA (of course)
Each morning she consulted her little calendar so she'd know what to order for the day. She did have one bad experience. On Tuesday, they gave her baked potato to another kid and she got a ham and cheese sandwich. She tried to tell the lunch lady, but I guess it's hard for a five-year-old to get someone's attention. At her table, she told her teacher about the mixup, but either she didn't believe Allyson, or there wasn't enough time. "Just eat it," she said.

"But I hate ham and cheese," Allyson protested. So all she had was milk and some graham crackers. By the afternoon she was ravenous, but we had to head straight over to the high school to pick up Ethan. We got trapped in an absolutely ludicrous double line of cars, maybe 100 of them, and the 107-degree heat (42 Celsius) quickly overwhelmed my car's crappy air conditioning. It was literally blowing hot air, so I had to roll down all the windows.

We were both streaming with sweat, and Allyson wailed incessantly that she was hot and hungry and she wanted to go home. When the bell rang, over a thousand teenagers streamed out, but then they all milled around aimlessly. "Find your ride and go home," the vice principal hollered through a bullhorn, but the kids ignored him and went on with their conversations. We strained to find Ethan, but it was impossible in that crowd, and even if we could find him, there was no way out of the gridlock.

When Bill phoned to inform me that Ethan was staying late for band practice, I started wailing louder than Allyson. "I'm hot and hungry and I want to go home!" We sat for a total of 40 minutes in that inferno, and Allyson and I were at each other's throats by the time we got back home. But after a snack and some water, we loved each other again.

Since then, we've settled into a routine. I work at home for the seven hours that Allyson is in school, and then I start my daily taxi run to the two schools. I think Allyson is enjoying school more now. She comes home saying words like "hypothesis" and telling me all about Leonardo DaVinci, whose paintings "look like music."

Maybe Mom and Dad
Last week she brought home her first fundraiser: $15 boxes of cookie dough. Can you imagine, in this economy? She came home full of plans about all the prizes she hoped to win, including some sort of electronic floating shark. Bill gently explained that she would have to sell 40 boxes to get the shark, and there was no way she would sell that many.

"Will you buy some, Daddy? And Mommy? And will you give Ethan money to buy some too?"

"We'll see," I said. "They're pretty expensive, baby."

She sat down and made a list of her prospects, all on her own:

She figured the neighbors might buy some--we never asked--and "mabey" Mom and Dad.

"Aw, that's so sweet," I said later when I found the list.

"Poor thing," Bill said.

Budget or no budget, there was no way we could say no to a box a-piece after reading her forlorn little list. Bill hit up his friends and she sold four more boxes, not too shabby at those prices.

Bill's First Kindergarten Project
Another first she had last week was a big art project. She had to make a model of our house with our street name and house number, with a picture of herself in her bedroom window.

Bill spent hours building a scale model out of cardboard boxes, Duck tape, and construction paper. I reminded him that the teacher said it needed to look like a Kindergartener made it, but he just couldn't help himself.

She did draw the bricks, and she did most of the cutting and gluing. She also selected, cut, and glued the photo of herself. She picked a rather old picture, and she cut off almost all her hair, but it still looked cute.

Isn't the house amazing?

Well, I think that's all the Kindergarten news.

Ethan is doing very well in high school and still loving band. At his recent parent night, his algebra teacher gave me a fist bump and said, "You've got a great kid. You should be proud."

And I am. Of both my school kids.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Flaming Sword

As you might have gathered from my last couple of posts, I've had the wind knocked out of me, and for awhile I was living in fear. But an email from my mother on Sunday changed everything...

I think the gentleman you encountered yesterday morning was up to know good i don' t believe his story since you felt danger there was danger. When you got to your door and started pounding the door it was anointed with oil on the inside of the frame and he was stopped by that, the Holy Ghost protected you from harm. Remember he stopped in your driveway and came no further. I have been praising God for the protection.
Love Mom

When I read Mom's message, goosebumps broke out all over my body. How could I have missed the connection? I flashed back to a morning three weeks earlier, after I'd dropped Allyson off for her second day of school. I felt compelled that morning to walk through our whole house praying for the covering of Jesus's blood. I took some olive oil and anointed every door frame with oil. As I prayed for God's protection over our family, our house, and our property, I heard myself say something that seemed to come out of nowhere, something wildly extravagant. "God, I'm asking you to post angels at our doors, angels with flaming swords."

Since then, I've searched the Bible for references to angels with flaming swords, and the only example I found was the cherubim who waved flaming swords as they guarded the Garden of Eden. So I don't know why I would have thought to pray about flaming swords; I think it was the Holy Spirit's anointing.

After I anointed our doors, I anointed the stairway banister from top to bottom, and as I climbed I asked the Lord for his protection over everyone who went up and down those stairs. I didn't pray specifically for no one to fall, just asked for protection from injury.

I also anointed each of our beds and prayed fervently for each family member individually, for my marriage, and for my family. I can only describe that prayer experience as thrilling. I felt the Holy Spirit's power coursing through me, and I prayed with absolute authority. I have never prayed that way before or since, and I had never anointed my house with oil, nor had I heard about anyone else doing it or recommending that I do it. It was just an urge that I felt one Tuesday morning. At the time, it felt like spiritual warfare, and I shuddered as I wondered what battles might lay ahead of me. But I felt confident that God would be with me whatever might come.

You know the rest. I never guessed it would be ME tumbling end over end down those stairs. I think it is nothing short of miraculous that I suffered no serious injury. My chiropractor thought the same thing when he saw all the bruises, though he did remark, "You'd think if angels were protecting you, they might have steered you away from the stairs in the first place."
How the Bruise on my Right Hip Looks Today, 9 Days After My Fall

I have to admit I've wondered the same thing, but I trust that God allowed both of my recent trials for a purpose. I may never know why, but I know he has ordained all of my days, and neither incident caught him by surprise.

One of the times that I was crying on the day I was pursued by the man, I was suddenly calmed by the mental image myself on the porch, struggling with the lock. On the porch with me, between me and the man, was an angel with a white, flaming sword. "Is that how it happened?" I asked God. I felt sure that an angel had literally been guarding me, but I still didn't connect it with my prayer three weeks before.

I think the reason I thought of a flaming sword that afternoon was because I'd just heard a story about an angel from my friend Pamela, who recently suffered a ruptured appendix and later an obstructed colon. She very nearly lost her life, and she's a changed woman. After her appendectomy, she had either a dream or a vision of herself in the hospital bed, being guarded by a flaming white sword. She couldn't see an angel, just the sword. She also saw a giant foot, and it seemed the foot wanted to crush her, but it had no power over her. She heard a voice that sounded like thunder. It said, "Not this one. Not tonight."

It had only been three days since Pamela told me that story during our walk, so it was quite fresh in my mind. And the idea of angels protecting me was reinforced later that day when I received a book in the mail about real encounters with angels.

So now I'm going to tell you my new theory about what really happened to me on Saturday morning. I still don't know if the man really had me mistaken for someone else, but regardless, I could feel that his intent was to harm me. Mother is right that he stopped the moment he hit our property. But do you remember what he said, and how I couldn't make any sense of it?

Right after he said, "Oh, wrong person," he said, "What the f___?" As he said it, he threw up his hands, palms facing forward--as if to say, "Whoa, back off."

What if he saw something on my porch that he couldn't interpret? He might have seen my angel, or a flaming sword, or an unexplained flash of light. Or maybe he didn't see anything with his eyes, but maybe his inner being saw something that made him throw up his hands and take a step back. I guess I will never know this side of heaven. All I do know is, after he said that he took off in a hurry.

Last night when I came home from Bible study at 9:15, I started to feel a hint of fear as I climbed out of my car and stood on the very spot where the stranger had stood. But then my eyes lifted to the porch, and I strained to see my angel there with his flaming sword. My eyes saw nothing, but I believe my spirit recognized him.

"Thank you," I said as I climbed onto the porch. "Thank you so much."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Angels Working Overtime

Can you imagine anything more terrifying than tumbling headlong down a flight of steps in the pitch black? Neither could I--until yesterday morning at 6:05 A.M.

In the days since my mishap on the stairs, I'd been trying so hard to find the balance between taking it easy and staying active. I did four small walks with Allyson to her school, totaling 8 miles. With each passing day, the pain in my right hip diminished a bit more, but walking still felt like a sacrifice. I remember thinking, when my hip started throbbing halfway home from school on Wednesday, It's good for me to suffer a bit. No one said this 3-Day Walk would be easy. My discomfort is nothing next to what Laura suffered, and she never lost her smile through it all.

When Saturday rolled around, I was both excited and apprehensive about my four-hour training walk. I planned to start walking in my neighborhood at 6:00 in the morning and then meet up with my friend Marie at 7:00 to finish the last three hours in the park.

When the alarm went off at 5:30, I rolled resolutely out of my comfy bed. I shut off the backup alarm on my cell phone, which I'd stored safely away from the bedroom, and then I completed my entire ritual. By 5:57 I had taped up and lubed my feet, loaded the canteens onto my belt, and swallowed my last bite of peanut butter toast.

As I stepped out the door, I noted with pride that I'd made it out at 6:00 on the nose. The near total darkness was a bit scary, but my street was comfortably familiar, so I pushed down the anxiety and started walking at a gentle pace that didn't cause my hip much pain.

I hadn't made it past our neighbor's driveway when I noticed a car farther down the street that made me unaccountably uneasy. It just didn't feel like that car belonged. All I could see was the headlights, but the engine sounded rather souped up, with a loud muffler. That doesn't sound like an upstanding citizen on the way to a Saturday morning job, I thought, slowing my pace. And why are they idling like that on the side of the road at 6:00 in the morning?

The car pulled away from the curb then and drove slowly past me. I didn't know if I'd been seen, but I shuddered anyway and picked up my pace. I was about six doors down from my house when I heard that same engine coming back down the street. I immediately pivoted on my heel and started back toward my house, a sinking feeling in my gut.

As the car came back by, I noted that it was an older red car that looked like a Camaro, maybe early 90s. My heart started hammering when the car stopped just behind me and I heard the window rolling down. I figured I was about to hear the dreaded line you hear in movies just before someone is abducted: "Say, can you tell me how to get to _______."

I paused for just the fraction of a second, wondering how rude or silly it would be to take off running, and then I decided I didn't want to wait around to see what this person thought. I rocketed off down the sidewalk for my very first run in my Five Finger shoes. Running in Five Finger shoes is like running barefoot, and you can injure yourself if you're not careful while you're learning the stride. On your toes, on your toes, I reminded myself.

Behind me I heard a man's voice calling to me in a foreign language I didn't recognize, most likely not Spanish, which is common around here. He was calling out a woman's name, which I seem to remember as Miriam though I can't be sure. From his tone it seemed he was saying, "Miriam, Miriam! Wait!"

I yelled, "You don't know me" and kept running.

After that his voice became more insistent, a little angry and bordering on desperate. And it sounded louder, closer. Surely he wasn't pursuing me on foot!

Faster, faster!  my thoughts ordered my body as my house loomed larger. But I couldn't go any faster because each time my right foot struck the sidewalk, pain radiated up the back of my thigh and coursed through my hip. An oddly detached portion of my mind reflected that, though I'd heard that adrenaline dulls pain in an emergency, it didn't seem to be true for me; maybe I wasn't terrified enough.

"Go away," I cried plaintively.

The man yelled something unintelligible. He was definitely gaining on me. But now I was in front of the neighbor's house... Now I was at my driveway! I stumbled up the hill and onto my porch. Home! Safe!

But then I realized with horror that the man was scrambling up the driveway behind me! Though my keys were dangling from a band around my wrist, I realized there was no way I could fit the key in the lock and get through the door in time.  Am I about to die? I wondered, a sick feeling in my gut.

I jabbed the doorbell repeatedly with my right hand while my left hand fumbled with the keys. And I began to scream the only word that came to my head in that moment. Was it "Jesus!!!"? No. Nothing like that. It was "Hey!!!"

"Hey!!! Hey!!!... Bill-Bill-Bill!!!" I screamed, so loud that my throat was hoarse afterward.

Just then the man apparently got a good look at me under the glow from the porchlight, which I'd thankfully forgotten to turn off.

"Oh--wrong person!" he exclaimed. I risked a glance at him just as the door finally unlocked. He was short and dark with a clean-cut haircut and no facial hair, and he looked to be in his twenties.

"Bill!" I screamed again.

"What the f___!" he yelled at me. "Sheeze." And then he ran back the way he'd come.

I slammed the door shut and twisted the deadbolt. What the f____? I thought. That's all you have to say to me? As if I'm a crazy freak for screaming my head off when a strange man pursues me through the dark?"

For about two minutes, I stood there frozen and wild eyed. I had to talk to someone, but amazingly all was quiet upstairs, and I hated to wake Bill (and most likely Allyson too) so early on a Saturday. So I phoned Marie.

"Are you about ready?" I asked, my voice trembly.

"Yes. Are you okay?"

My chin wobbled, and I burst into tears. "No-o-o!" I wailed.

"What is it?"

Pacing back and forth in front of the front window, I told her the story between sobs.

"Do you still want to walk?" she asked.

"Yes! Please come as soon as you can," I pleaded.

"I will," she promised in a soothing voice. "I'm getting into the car in just a minute. You just drink some water and sit down and try to relax. I'll call when I'm getting close."

After we hung up, I unhooked my water belt and took a swig from one of the bottles. And then I sat on my favorite nap chair, my feet splayed on the ottoman. But I couldn't relax because I was trembling all over and my hip was absolutely throbbing from the short run.

I hit Redial. "Can you bring me some Advil?" I whined. "I'm out."

"Of course," she said.

She arrived at 7:00, right on schedule. I showed her the hole on the stairway landing and my bruises, and then we set out. After walking and talking for three hours--only 8 miles at my slow pace--I felt so much better that I gave her a kiss on the cheek before she left.

But I kept dissolving into tears all day long, like at Allyson's 10:30 soccer game, where I told Bill the whole story.

"Why didn't you answer the doorbell?" I sobbed.

He explained that it had only rung once; apparently I pushed it so rapidly that it couldn't respond. And because I'd closed the bedroom door, he had not heard my screams at all, which disturbed him. "I thought it was Marie coming to meet you," he said. "I had no idea you'd even left at that point."

Several hours later, he frowned as he posed a question of his own. "Why on earth didn't you wake me up when it happened?"

Fresh tears streamed down my cheeks. "I know I should have," I said meekly. "But I was safe. I just wanted to let you sleep."

"If something like that ever happens again, know this: I would want you to wake me up. Maybe I could have gotten a license plate number or something."

He also gave me lots of other good advice, like never to walk alone in the dark (no warning needed there!), and to carry the mace and whistle he'd given me a couple years back, and to run to the gate instead of the front door so Lola could protect me. We both agreed that I need to take Lola with me on my solo walks, which could prove quite an adventure in itself.

And then he thought of the most obvious thing of all. "You were holding your car keys," he said. "Why didn't you push the panic button? I definitely would have heard that."

I wanted to kick myself for not thinking of that. The man had been right next to my car. I could have scared the crap out of HIM!

Of course, I am beyond thankful that I was not harmed. I really think it was a simple case of mistaken identity, but I shudder to think what could have happened had the man caught me. It makes me angry that I can't seem to shake the terror, that I feel so vulnerable and weak, afraid to do my training walks even in the daylight. It makes me angry that the same people who I see every week in the park now seem menacing to me. And I can't believe this week that I've had! Two brushes with death in six days! Surely my angels have been working overtime protecting me.

It's funny that I was thinking of my guardian angel, because look what came in the mail for me yesterday afternoon:

It was a book of true stories about angel encounters and a lovely journal from Kelly, a friend of Laura's whom I've never met except through Facebook. In her card she said she's wanted to send me the book ever since the memorial service, but things have been busy and she just now got around to it. She said the journal is to record my experiences with the 3-Day Walk, and she mentioned that she has done it twice and would love to join me on a training walk.

Her package could not have come on a better day, and I am quite sure it was no coincidence. I was feeling so overwhelmed with the safety issues and the pain in my hip that I was wondering if all of this is really worth it. After reading this stranger's kind words, I knew. Of course it's worth it! There is so much support out there for me if I only reach out. No way I'm giving up now!

Please be in prayer for my safety and for full healing of my injured hip. I'm going to visit the chiropractor tomorrow and see if he can help. I also went to PetSmart yesterday and bought a special harness that my brother Rick and his wife Diane swear works miracles with dogs that pull. We shall see. You'd better pray for me and Lola, too, while you're at it!

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Public Safety Message From Texty Texterson

While I'm the first person to complain about other people's dangerous texting habits, I like to think that I myself am not at risk. Still, I have to admit I do have a bit of a texting problem. Just yesterday Bill "tsk-tsk'ed" me for texting as we walked to the car. "Alright, Texty Texterson," he said. "Put that away. It's time to go to church."

Naturally, I never, ever text while driving, and I can't fathom why anyone else would dare do it.
But I'm here to tell you that driving is not the only thing you should avoid while texting. I recently noted in the fine print for one of the training events for my 3-day walk that cell phones are prohibited during all official walks for Susan G. Komen, both during training and during the November event. The reasoning behind it is that cell phones are a big distraction and a safety hazard for walkers.

"That's kind of silly," I thought when I read the rule. "I talk on the phone all the time while I'm walking. It's a good way to pass the time."

Now I know better....

Because I came down with a nasty cold a few days ago (a story I'll have to share with you another time), I missed two morning walks in a row. Last night was the first night I ventured out, and I felt amazingly better after a brisk eight-mile walk. So I was looking forward to a morning walk today, though I was not keen on getting up at 6:40 on a holiday.

Since I had overslept last Saturday and left four people waiting in my front yard at 6:00 in the morning, I wasn't taking any chances this time. I set the main alarm, and then I set the alarm on my cell phone and put it on my nightstand.

At 5:45 this morning, I jumped out of bed when my cell phone chirped. It wasn't my alarm, but a text message. I hurried out of the bedroom to keep from waking Bill and Allyson, who had sneaked into our bed during the night. As I stumbled into the hall, I read the note; my walking buddy had to cancel because her daughter was sick. At this point I was still more than half asleep, and I don't know where I thought I was walking, or why I didn't just stop right outside the bedroom door.

But I kept moving and somehow veered toward the TV room. Just as I slid out the keyboard to reply, my right foot hit empty space, and I lurched to the side. What??  I was already tumbling through the darkness when realization dawned in my foggy brain. The stairs! I frantically reached for the banister, but I had no idea where it was as I cartwheeled sideways.

Just like in the movies, I experienced everything in slow motion. I felt each terrifying bump of various body parts against the stairs, heard my cell phone clatter on the hardwood down below and clink into three pieces, heard and felt the slam of my body against the wall, and then heard the dull thump when I sprawled on the landing.

I lay there for several seconds, absolutely still and silent, waiting for Bill to run to my rescue. But there was only the sound of my own breathing and the crush of the carpet against my cheek. I deliberately moved my fingers and my toes. Ah, maybe nothing was broken.

I lay still for another 30 seconds or so until my breathing slowed to normal, and then I released my grip on the edge of the landing; I'd been holding on for dear life even after I thudded to a stop. I pushed myself onto my knees and gingerly pulled myself up using the banister for support. That's when I became aware of the pain in my right knee and ankle. "Uhhh," I muttered as I stepped down onto the hardwood floor.

I flipped on the light at the bottom of the stairs and started searching for my phone. I didn't spot it at first, but I did find a hole in the Sheetrock! What made that hole? I wondered. Maybe it was my phone. I started to reach inside the hole, but it hurt to bend my elbow. My elbow, I thought. It was my elbow that made that hole.

I found the phone underneath the couch, next to the staircase. I put the battery back inside and snapped it together; good as new! I sent a quick reply to my friend Lori and climbed back up the stairs and into bed.

I shoved Bill over and tried to find a comfortable position, but every time I moved I discovered a new sore spot. There was an ominous throbbing low in my back, between my hips. My right wrist was smarting, and so were my right knee and hip and ankle. My left elbow was tender, as well as my left shoulder. And there was a wicked carpet burn along the inside of my left forearm.

But the most important thing was what wasn't hurting: I felt absolutely no pain in my head or neck. Thank you, thank you God, I repeated over and over. For some reason I've always had a premonition about falling down those stairs, and every time I pictured myself with broken bones, maybe even a broken neck. But now that my worst fear had materialized--even worse than I'd imagined, actually, because I never thought it would happen in the pitch black--all I had was a few abrasions and bruises. Maybe I fared so well because I'd been half asleep and totally relaxed.

I never did fall back asleep, and when both alarms went off at 6:40, I decided to get up and go on that walk. Part of me feared that I should take it easy with that pain in my back, but another part of me thought, "No way I'm missing ANOTHER walk this weekend." Plus, I reasoned, getting out and moving would probably be better than lying still and getting all stiff.

So I popped an Advil, taped up my feet with moleskin (to prevent blisters on the hot spots), smoothed Body Glide over all the exposed surfaces of my feet, slid on my Five Finger shoes, and filled my water bottles.

I ate a slice of peanut butter toast, stuffed a frozen bran muffin in my pocket, and stepped outside at 7:10, only 10 minutes behind schedule; this time no one was waiting for me, so it didn't matter. Wonder of wonders, I actually had to go back inside for a jacket.

The weather was glorious, probably around 70 (21 Celsius), with a nice breeze. I clutched the jacket around me and lurched down the sidewalk. At first I felt a little twinge in my lower back with each step, but after about a mile my muscles felt much more relaxed.

I figured I'd go three miles and then head back, but it was such a beautiful morning, and the pain wasn't any worse, so I kept going for three hours--only 9.67 miles out of my scheduled 14 miles, but not too shabby considering.

The best thing is the peace and comfort that I felt. There was no one to walk with me but Jesus, and He was all the company I needed. All my senses were heightened, and I stared in wonder at the delicate shapes of individual green leaves and the play of the shadows over the sidewalk in front of me.
One of the Trees I Admired

An old hymn came to my mind and rose to my lips: "Holy, holy, holy... Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning my song shall rise to thee. Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity."

Tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt so fragile, yet so protected. Another fragment of a song played in my head, one I heard at church yesterday: "You go before me, you shield my way." I pictured my strong guardian angel catching me as I fell.

"I am yours, God. Take all of me today," I whispered. "Help me hear your voice so I can obey you."

After about seven miles, I ran into my friend Maria, the leader of our prayer team at church, and her husband. I walked with them for another mile or two, and then at her urging I turned back toward home. "Take it easy today," she advised. "You can make up the miles another time."

The moment I stepped through the door, Allyson asked, "What happened to the stairs, Mommy?"

"What do you think happened?"

"Let me guess," Bill said. "You fell down the stairs?" I nodded. "How on earth did that happen?"

"It was pretty stupid, really..."

After I finished my story, Allyson said, "You have to tell this story on the blog, Mommy. And you have to take a picture of the hole in the wall."

"I will," I promised. "As soon as I finish this French toast Daddy made."

Now that I've stopped moving, I'm tender all over--except for my feet, thanks to the moleskin padding. I hope I'll be able to move when I wake up tomorrow.

Please join me in rejoicing that I didn't break any bones or hit my head when I fell. And please, please learn from my mistake. Don't text while you're walking, and especially when you're walking in the dark. And while you're at it, don't text while you're driving either.

As for me, I've banned the cell phone from my bedroom. And maybe I'm going to give up my title of Texty Texterson. Nah....

Update 9/6/11 8:15 A.M. - Yesterday evening, my mom, my sister Amy, and Allyson laid hands on my back and prayed for me. I woke up this morning with no back pain! Praise the Lord!


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