blessing

Washington's Thanksgiving ProclamationIt’s tradition…looking at your life on Thanksgiving Day, to give thanks for the many blessings that you have received over the year, and the years past. We take stock of everything. The sad things are set aside for review on another day, and we focus on our family, friends, homes, and jobs. And we look to the future and what it promises to bring for us. It isn’t all about things, and in fact, things are often the furthest things from our minds. We are much more focused on our loved ones. Of course, this isn’t the only day we give thanks for our loved ones, nor should it be, but sometimes we find ourselves so preoccupied with our daily lives, that we don’t really notice the blessings that are all around us every day.

This tradition was felt to be so important, that on October 3, 1783, President George Washington issued a proclamation making the 26th day of November as a national day of prayer and thanksgiving…a day to give thanks to Almighty God with grateful hearts for all He has done for us. While the date has been changed to the 4th Thursday of November now, the tradition has remained intact. Somehow though, many people have forgotten the prayer and thanksgiving part of the day, and remember only the food part of the day. There is nothing wrong with feasting…in fact God set aside feast days for His people too, but we must remember that the feast part of the day is supposed to coincide with the prayer and thanksgiving part of the day.

It is my belief that most people are thankful for what they have, but there is a difference between being thankful for things, and giving thanks for things. I believe that difference is acknowledging the one who gave all these things to you…God. I Thanksgiving Dinnersuppose that people who don’t believe in God would see no reason to be thankful to Him, but for me, with my deep faith in God, blessing couldn’t come from anywhere else. God loves me and He is the one who blesses me. Therefore, it is to Him…Almighty God that I give thanks on this Thanksgiving Day. I, like so many other people, neglect the need to thank God in the way that I really should, and maybe having a national day of Thanksgiving, will give us all the opportunity to step back from our busy lives and take a good look at all we have been blessed with. And maybe we can all take a few minutes out of this day to acknowledge God’s grace and loving kindness toward us…and give Him thanks for all he does for us. Happy Thanksgiving to all…and thanks be to God for His loving kindness and all the blessing He has given me and my family.

imageimageThree years ago today, our family was blessed, with a little miracle. For some time during my niece, Cassie Iverson’s pregnancy, they weren’t sure that little Lucas was going to make it. Nevertheless, he arrived on July 3, 2011, a healthy baby boy, who’s only health problem was Down’s Syndrome. I suppose that many people would consider that to be a significant issue, but Lucas’ parents, Chris and Cassie find their son to be a great source of joy and laughter. His smile lights up their world every minute that he is awake.

Now that Lucas is more mobile, his antics have changed in scope, but not in how much joy he brings to his family. He loves to play in a pile of pillows, crawling all over them and diving into them. Then he laughs and laughs. The videos are so much fun to watch, because you can’t help but laugh too. This happy little boy is so delightful, that he is irresistible. There is no regret in his family’s hearts, because he makes their life so rich with the joy of watching his uninhibited, happy moments. I suppose that most 3 year olds would be doing things differently than Lucas by now, but that doesn’t matter, because each child is unique and goes at their own pace.

Even though Lucas is a happy, smiley boy, he still has the ability to let his parents know when he is not happy about something…but then what child doesn’t. The main thing is that those imageIverson familytimes are not the main part of their child’s life, because that would be tough. You can handle those crabby moments, when they don’t turn into hours. As for Lucas, the majority of his time is spent happily entertaining his mom and dad with all of his silly little antics. That is probably one of the biggest blessings of Lucas. Today is Lucas’ 3rd birthday. We are so happy to have him in our family. Happy birthday Lucas!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!

Dad 1978Today marks the first time in my life that I don’t have a dad to celebrate Father’s Day with. After my dad passed away in 2007, I still had my father-in-law that we celebrated Father’s Day with. Nevertheless, it was very lonely, because I missed my dad. And yet, I was blessed in that I still had my father-in-law. Now, those days are over, and I feel very sad again. And when I think of how my sisters-in-law and brother-in law and my husband must be feeling, my heart aches for them, because this is their dad and they have never had to deal with those feelings before…the emptiness that only comes from the loss of a parent. I feel sad for my sisters too, because we know that the death of your parent is not something you ever get over. You simply have to go on with life…because time marches on.

Still, today is Father’s Day, and in our hearts we will all celebrate the men who were our dads. The fact that they live in Heaven now, in no way diminishes the blessing they were to us in their lifetimes. We were so very blessed to have them in our lives for those years that we had them. We were very blessed that they each lived to be over 83 years old…long lives each one. We were very blessed that each of them had sound minds right to the end. They gave us their wisdom through the last conversations we had with them. So many of the elderly have had their minds and memories Dad Schulenbergstolen from them by dementia, so this was a blessing beyond measure for us, and one I wish everyone could have.

My dad and my father-in-law were both hard working men. Their families came first in all things. They would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it, because they both walked in love. We were so blessed to have witnessed the kindness they showed to those around them. It sometimes amazes me just how very much alike they were in so many ways. How I came to be so blessed in that way…overwhelms me. I was blessed beyond measure by the two dads God placed in my life, and my heart acutely feels the pain of their passing to this day. I know that it will feel that way until I see them both again in Heaven…a day I look forward to with much anticipation. Happy Father’s Day in Heaven to my two dads. I love and miss you both very much.

Mom SchulenbergToday is my mother-in-law’s 82nd birthday. If you ask her how old she is, she will likely tell you that she is 65. Alzheimer’s Disease has taken away her memory of the more recent years, but she is still here with us, and that is a blessing. She was recently in the hospital, and the doctors did not expect her to survive that stay. Nevertheless, she fooled them, because they don’t know what a fighter she is. They said that she would not be able to swallow again, and that drinking water would be impossible. Now, she is eating and drinking and getting stronger every day.

When a person gets into their 80’s, you learn to cherish each birthday, holiday, anniversary, and basically every day, because you don’t know how long you will have them with you. And when they are sick, you pray that they will, make it to the next holiday, or until someone in the family can come from another state to see them. Each moment that they are sick finds you praying for just a little more time with them. You begin to understand just how precious life is…how precious each moment is.

This birthday finds us thankful that my mother-in-law will reach another year of age. The age of 82, is one that we would not have expected her to reach, just a few short weeks ago. Now, she will get to celebrate one more birthday with the great grandson, her first great grandchild, Chris, who was born on her birthday…a very special birthday present. She gets to spend one more birthday with my father-in-law, the love of her life, who himself is recuperating from pneumonia. She will get to spend one more birthday with her family, who all love her very much.

At the age of 82, we all know that this could be my mother-in-law’s last birthday. She has lived a good, long life, and she is getting tired. Nevertheless, we will rejoice in the victory that she has achieved. We will celebrate her strength to fight her way back from the brink. We will laugh and sing and smile with her in celebration of one more birthday, and just a little more time. Happy birthday Mom!! We love you!!

Little RonWhen you are one of two brothers, in a family of six children, your life is spent with a whole lot of female influence, and with most sisters, that means being bossed around a lot. Now if you happen to be the youngest boy and the youngest child, you usually get a double dose from each sister. Such was the case for my brother-in-law, Ron. My in-laws essentially had to families, even though all the children have the same parents. Marlyce was the oldest, with Debbie following 3 years later. Bob is 17 months younger than Debbie. Then it would be 7 years before Jennifer came along. Brenda would follow 2 years later, and Ron was born 5 years after Brenda. So the older kids were like one family and the younger kids were like another, even though Ron is 5 years younger than Brenda. That put the two brothers 14 years apart.

Now, you would expect that so many years between them would have made it impossible to have a very close relationship, but you would be wrong. I think that by the time Ron came along, Bob had pretty much given up on the idea of having a brother, so when Ron was born, I think Bob decided that the brothers needed to stick together, since it was them against all the women in the family. Bob moved out of the house when he was 19, and Ron was almost 6. It was about this time that I met Bob.

Our dating days were different than some, I suppose, because often times we took Ron along. He was a happy little 6 year old boy, and who wouldn’t be, when his big brother and his brother’s girlfriend allowed him to go along to places like Dairy Queen. He was a Ron nowgood little boy, and the three of us always had a great time. Little kids can be so funny, and we enjoyed his joyful presence. I had never had a brother, so to me,  Ron has always been that brother I never had. And like most siblings, I could almost say that I have known him since birth…although not quite.

I know there may be other brothers who got to do the things Ron did because their big brother liked having them around, but I don’t know of any. Most big brothers just want their kid brother to leave them alone. For Bob and Ron, their relationship then, and now is a blessing to both of them, and therefore very cool. Today is Ron’s birthday. Happy birthday little…ok, big now…brother!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

From the time they were just little kids, my grandchildren have loved to visit me at work. Grandma’s work was a cool place to go, as well as a place they could go when they didn’t feel well, and their mom’s had to be at work. They would bring a blanket and pillow, and camp out under my desk, often sleeping the day away with no one but Jim, my boss, and me knowing that they were there. It was a place of refuge for them, and their mom’s and I knew they were looked after. Not many children got to go stay with their grandma at work, and we all knew what a great blessing it was, and what a great boss Jim is.

As they got older, the kids often came into my office after school, so they didn’t have to be home alone. They sat and read a book or did their homework until the day was over and then went home with their parents. I suppose it was a strange office in the eyes of many people who knew what went on there, but to me and to my grandkids, it was a blessed office…and a blessing to those in it. Yes, it was unconventional, but ours is an unconventional office. We are real people…not a corporation. Jim understands that sometimes life collides with the office…sometimes in bigger ways than others. Sometimes that means being away from the office, other times it means having an extra person in the office. Jim always allowed me to make our office a safe place for my grandchildren, and they in turn think of him as an uncle.

Sometimes, the turn of events can be strange to say the least. When you open the doors in a time of need, even such a small need as a sick child, you also open the door to what the future can bring. As Jim got to know my children and grandchildren, and allowed me to help them with their needs, he has also found several employees among them. Two of them, Amy and Shai work in our office now. Caalab is our part time maintenance man, mowing the grass at the edge of the parking lot and emptying trash, as well as helping with other odd jobs around the office. Corrie designed our website, and her husband Kevin took the pictures of the staff for the site. It’s funny that what began as a one man office, has now become a family affair, and the only non-family member is the boss…but, then again, we consider him family too…maybe by adoption of sorts. Not on paper, but in our hearts.

I have been caregiving for my parents and my in-laws now for almost 7 years. In the last couple of days, I have spoken to clients and business associates who know about my situation, and as we spoke, the conversation turned to the blessing of my girls and my grandchildren. I don’t know how I would have made it through these last 7 years without them. Each and every one of them has gone above and beyond the call of duty, and their husbands have given up time with my girls and their kids to make sure that I had the help I needed. How do you ever re-pay such love, kindness, and compassion? You can’t, of course. You are simply forever in their debt…and forever grateful that they answered the call of duty and took on a responsibility that was bigger than any they had ever known, and one for which none of us had any formal training.

As I told of the help I received, I felt such a sense of pride in my family. I am able to count on my whole family to step up and help me in caring for their grandparents. Right down to my teenaged grandchildren. In fact, my grandchildren have been helping out in the field of caregiving since the youngest was 7 years old. They were not squeamish, or grossed out by blood or any of the other things they saw. These were their grandparents, and they love them. The rest didn’t matter. I was and still am so proud of them. Words cannot say how proud, because there are no words big enough. I am also grateful beyond words to each one of them, because they never let me down…not once in those 7 years, and I know I can always count on them. It was not with a sense of gloating that I told of the help my family stepped up to give me, it was more with a sense of gratitude and pure awe at all that they had done. Talk about heroes!!! Heroes don’t come in a finer form than my kids and grandkids.

No one ever wants to be in a position of having to make life changing decisions for their parents, but the harsh reality is that before this is all over, most of us will have to make those decisions….and I’m not just talking about life support and nursing homes. Many of us have to make the decision as to “do we go to the doctor or the hospital” over and over. Many of us have to help out with daily activities too, such as dressing, bathing, meds, shots, and bedtime. Sure, these are hard things to take on for your parents, in-laws, or grandparents, but for me and my family, the decisions are a no-brainer. Do everything to help them to live, and live life to the fullest extent that they possibly can. And when it comes to doing that, I know that my kids and grandkids are right there with me…on board in every way. I just can’t ever thank them enough for the awesome support they have given me and their grandparents at this difficult stage in the lives of my parents, their grandparents. I love you all…more that I can EVER say!!

My parents always liked to travel, and sometimes they didn’t have vacation time coming, but wanted to feel like they took us someplace. So along came going for a drive. I know lots of people who, like my parents, love to go for a drive around town, just for the pleasure of the road trip…even if the road trip is only 10 miles or so. It always took longer, of course, because we would stop and look around at all the sights. My favorite ride was up to the mountain, to look out point, or up to the hill where the Events Center now sits (though it was not there when I was little). We would always end up one of those places at night, so we could see the city lights.

Dad and Mom always liked the view of the city lights, but I think they also realized that with 5 girls, twinkling city lights would always be viewed with a sense of awe. It was the highlight of the whole drive. Sometimes we had to look quickly as we headed on into town, but other times we got to stop and just enjoy the beauty of the lights. We girls always called the lights The Jewelry Box, because the lights seemed to form sparkling necklaces and other pieces of jewelry. Sure, you had to use your imagination, but we were quite good at that.

Those drives and beautiful view of the city lights are things that we will always have in our memories. Mom and Dad just wanted to give us a chance to go for a drive, when there was not much else to do that didn’t cost a bunch of money for 7 people, but what they really gave us was a lifetime of memories. To this day, all of us love to go for a drive, and I don’t think any of us can come into town at night without remembering The Jewelry Box when we see the city lights.

We will always consider ourselves blessed because of all the places our parents took us on vacations. We have seen so many states, and experienced their beauty. We have camped out and stayed in hotels. We have learned about the Oregon Trail, and just about every other historical marker we ever came across. We have seen both coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. We have been to Canada and Mexico. Yes, we have been very blessed because of our parents love of travel, but one place that has always brought special memories was right in our own back yard…The Jewelry Box.

Few things were as exciting to my sister-in-law,  Marlyce as the day she became an aunt. Marlyce had always loved babies, and these babies were special. She was so pleased to be such a grown up thing as an aunt. These babies were family, meaning they belonged to her.They were her nieces and nephews…hers!! When Marlyce held one of her babies, her face glowed with pure joy. She was in Seventh Heaven!!

Marlyce was born developmentally disabled, so there were some things that she couldn’t do as well as other people, but one thing she could do as well, or better than anyone else, is to be an aunt…to love her nieces and nephews. As the kids grew, they also grew to love their Aunt Marlyce, who never tired of spending time with them. Marlyce never changed. She would always be a child in an adult’s body, timeless and unchanging, and really, that was a big part of her charm. Marlyce simply loved. There was no falseness, no facade…she was who she was.

When the kids were older, they teased Marlyce, and she did get irritated at them. but all they had to do was say they were sorry, and give her a hug, and it was all over with. Marlyce was always forgiving. She couldn’t be angry or hateful. And for those who didn’t tease her much…well, she would do just about anything for them. You just couldn’t find a sweeter person than Marlyce. My girls and their cousins were blessed to be able to call her aunt.

Marlyce has been gone for over 22 years now, and it makes me sad that she did not get to see her grand nieces and nephews. She would have loved them, and they would have been so blessed to have known her. People didn’t come sweeter than Marlyce. It makes me sad that she is gone, because we, her family have lost so much when we lost Marlyce. My grandchildren never got to know her. They never had the chance to witness for themselves what a wonderful, sweet person she was. I  feel especially  bad for them, because as big a loss as losing Marlyce was to our family, it was a much bigger loss for my grandchildren…like a missing piece of themselves.

There are few things that touch your heart more than a person who is so selfless that they would give away a car to someone who needs it. Most of our family was in on what would have to be the best kept secret of the decade. Elizabeth had it on her heart to give her car to her mother, my sister Cheryl, as soon as she bought herself another car to replace the Grand Am she would be giving to Cheryl on Christmas morning.

About 2 weeks before Christmas, she found the Jeep she was looking for. Now the biggest problem was making sure no one spilled the beans, and that Cheryl didn’t know about Liz’s new Jeep. Everyone who was in on the secret did their part, and while it was hard, it went off without a hitch. Liz simply drove the Grand Am whenever she was to be around Cheryl, and we did our very best not to look like grinning idiots.

It was very hard. We were all so excited about this particular secret. I can’t think of a Christmas secret that could get us excited like this had managed to. I found myself walking around smiling every time I thought about the look that would be on my sister’s face this special Christmas morning. I think I was more excited for my sister than for any other part of Christmas.

Cheryl raised her kids as a single mom for most of their lives, and there were some tough times in those years. She did her very best, and a lot of times that meant giving up things you might need for yourself s the kids had what they needed. That fact never escaped Liz’s notice, and she wanted to do something as special for her mom. And Liz, I can say, without doubt…you succeeded.

Bob and I got the privilege of arriving at my mom’s house at the same time as Cheryl did…driving her new car. She was still in a state of stunned disbelief…like living in a dream. Her face was radiant…a reflection of the beautiful outpouring of love that Liz had bestowed on her that morning.

There is no way to thank someone enough for such a selfless gift, but Liz knows that she will be as blessed as Cheryl was because of this beautiful gift. Liz, you are a wonderful person. Your loving kindness brings a tear to many eyes today. Tears of joy at the blessing you have given your mom. It will never be forgotten.