Sunday, May 17, 2015

Just a boy and a girl in a little canoe...

Once upon a time, a young idealistic girl met with the beloved director of her college ministry:

"What if I never meet the man I am supposed to marry?" Young girl implored.

"What if that never ever happens for me?" young girl practically cried.

Wonderful, calm, wise BSU Director placed a calming hand on young girl's shoulder and reminded her that God knew the desires of her heart....and besides, she was only a college freshman.


Barely a year would pass before young girl knew she had already met the one God had carved out just for her. And in her idealistic, naive, maybe-watched-too-many-soap-operas-as-a-teen way, she began to paint the images she was certain would fill their future.

The picket-fence, perfect lawn and three (there was some debate on this point) kids and a dog were imagined in great detail. Our dreams were outlined, modified, expounded during our late late night talks sitting outside the Chapel of Memories on our beloved Mississippi State campus. Young journalist marries brilliant Aerospace Engineer. Our future looked bright. Our dreams attainable.

I can hardly believe that tomorrow that young dreamy-eyed girl and that brilliant boy will celebrate 24 years of marriage. Twenty-four years!

I have to chuckle as I envision our well-laid road map for life at 20 years old.

We have ridden some hard roads in our journey -- roads that we paved with tears when my Daddy died two years into our marriage; roads that we paved with bold courage when we packed all our belongings and moved to Chicago for medical school; roads that we paved with determination and hope when God chose to give us three babies at one time; roads that we paved with joy and grief when our boys were diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy.

And yet, we have held on tight for the ride. We committed to sharing our dreams long before we stood in that church on May 18, 1991.

I would be dishonest if I told you the road map of our 24 years looked like we planned it to sitting side by side drawing our future all those years ago. It doesn't. Most days it would not even be recognizable to those dreamy-eyed kids.

Instead, God in His brilliance, tethered us together in marriage, in commitment to one another and then He wrote a story that only the creator of the universe could write. He drew a road map that doesn't necessarily give me all the details about tomorrow -- but man, the todays are more amazing that my imaginings ever could be!

Even as we celebrate this year, we do so in an empty house, sleeping on inflatable mattresses because all our belongings have already made the move to Mississippi, our new home. Because in this, our 24th year of marriage, we will come full circle as we return to where it all began and begin again.

And so I have absolutely no idea what this year will hold. No idea. The creator of our road map only gives me the slightest glimpse at what is to come. But this, this I know: I will walk whatever road we travel beside the one chosen just for me.

Happy 24th Wedding Anniversary, my wonderful Wade. I can not wait to see what adventures our next 24 years together bring!

I love you.

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Friday, May 15, 2015

One teacher can change the world.

My triplets will graduate from high school one week from today. One week. And though as I sit here, I KNOW that they have successfully completed their work for high school; and I KNOW they have scored high enough on the SAT to not only gain college entrance but to also receive scholarship, there was a season when not only did I not KNOW if these things were possible, I was almost afraid to even dream them.

And then I met Cindy Ramsdell, a second grade teacher at Aldridge Elementary School in Texas.

Outside Aldridge Elementary School -- Mason, Benjamin and Claire

We moved to the area just in time for the triplets to begin second grade at Aldridge. I didn't know anything about the school, the teachers or even the area when we pulled into that parking lot on the first day, but Mrs. Ramsdell's smile alone assured me she was going to be a good fit for my Benjamin.

Mrs. Ramsdell spent less than a week with my son before she asked to speak with me. "Benjamin gets along very well with adults," she said as I nodded in agreement. "I want to see him interact more often with his peers this year."

I was in agreement but frankly had my doubts she could pull it off. The nature of Benjamin's disability required a swarm of adult caregivers circling him in those days -- a paraprofessional who scribed his work; a physical therapist who pulled him out at least once a week for therapy; an occupational therapist who did the same; a special PE instructor who worked with him during PE time....and so on. How in the world was she going to implement her goals for Benjamin?

I should not have wondered. Her smile and diminutive size did not speak to the ferocity of this teacher. Mrs. Ramsdell started by rearranging her classroom so that Benjamin was surrounded by his peers -- not sitting in a corner at a special desk. She brought in the maintenance staff to adapt his desk so that the re-aarangement still worked for him.

Then she did this extraordinary out-of-the-box thing -- she kicked all of the adult helpers out of her classroom. Kicked them out. It was a bold move to be sure. One that might very well only have worked for second grade -- but work it did! If her students finished their work early, they were rewarded by getting to be Benjamin's secretary. Please don't miss that. She rewarded her hardest working students by allowing them to scribe for my son who could not write for himself. Within two weeks, Benjamin was being invited for playdates at the homes of these new friends, friends that 10 years and two states away, he still connects with regularly!

I could write for days about the ways Cindy Ramsdell changed her classroom to accommodate my son -- she brought in a computer just for him, she changed the timing of his favorite subjects so that he would not miss them during the required Physical and Occupational therapy time each week. She went over and beyond so that Benjamin would understand the value she placed on him as part of her class.

And though I was far beyond second grade in my schooling, this teacher taught me so much. She valued my son. She saw enormous potential that though challenged by his physical struggles was NOT squelched by them. She taught me to not only dream big things for Benjamin but to EXPECT them! She showed me that I was not alone he thinking he was smart. She confirmed that he was smart, really smart and taught me how to help him get his ideas onto paper. She changed our expectations for our incredible boy.

Playing soccer with his friends in Texas.

Today, Mrs. Ramsdell sent Benjamin a beautiful graduation card. He shared it with me -- and I read how she knew how extraordinary he was within days of his rolling into her classroom. She encouraged his dreams and  once again spurred him to aim high.

With tears rolling down my face, I once again -- for probably the millionth time in 10 years -- gave thanks for the life of this second grade teacher. I gave thanks for this woman who has dedicated her life to bettering the lives of not just my son, but of hundreds of young people who are no doubt better for having had this teacher believe in them and push them toward their dreams.

Thank you, Mrs. Ramsdell, for believing, for encouraging, for being a teacher setting the bar high for teachers everywhere! We are grateful that you remain in Benjamin's cheering section! He is going to keep us on our feet cheering wildly -- thanks to you we know THAT!!

Carol - The Blessings Counter

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Because I am having all the thoughts.

The movers are at my house. My home once-filled with all my favorite things is currently in a state of complete chaos with most essentials already loaded on the big truck sitting in my cul-de-sac. I feel a bit out of sorts. Sigh.

Unrelated picture of Pluto...for not other reason than he calms our nerves!

But my brain is swarming with thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, anxieties, philosophies. You know, the stuff that crazed, over-tired brains swarm with.

In no particular order:

1. The baseboards in our empty bedrooms tell a story about the life of the room-dwellers. I am cleaning and vacuuming and yet, wanting to savor the stories. The movers had no sooner removed Benjamin's bed for instance, before I knew immediately where all the rubber bands had disappeared to every single night during his orthodontia years!

The baseboard behind Cate's adorable window seat shares her love of glitter, rainbow loom and even some softball equipment!

I found feathers from theater costumes behind Mason's; and card stock and craft supplies behind Claire's. 

The cleaning in the midst of the crazy has offered a little reminder to take things slow and savor the LIFE moments with my four. Because, as corny as it sounds, those years are vacuumed up in a heartbeat.

Mid-Tournament Game -- this happy face means she made an awesome play!

2. My trio and I just finished The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Wow. What a beautiful book! We have discussed it and then re-visited the discussion repeatedly because it warrants so much analysis. 

Particularly poignant for me was the woman so in-love with her child that she failed to love or be in relationship with anyone else -- including God. I had to re-read the chapter and swallow deep the knowledge that I do not often get my priorities in this area completely right.

The visual image of this woman visiting heaven to decide if she was willing to lay down this obsession with her son in order to fully be immersed in heaven -- and her subsequent refusal to do so -- was a powerful spur to ensure I keep the right perspective on my priorities: God, husband, children, family and friends. (Really, you must read this book!)

3. My trio of graduating seniors performed in their final high school production this weekend. The words about this get stuck in my throat. I am choking on the raw emotion of seeing them perform, watching them shine and remembering, oh remembering the experience of this wonderful theater company that did not blink at included all four!

With Benjamin's beloved Physical Therapist -- she has been to every show!!

Flappers blowing kisses good-bye to my sweet girl....

Me and part of my super-talented crew!

His chair was not very the director transformed it into a "Producer's Chair"! LOVED IT!

Surprise going-away party thrown by the cast for my kiddos!! So so dear!

There are other thoughts -- thoughts anticipating the move home, thoughts of anticipating the first day of college for each of my three, thoughts of gratitude for the investment our friends and family have made in the lives of these little bitty babies born far too early 18 years ago. But alas, the movers are summoning me for assistance, the vacuum has sat idle too long and I think there is quite a disgusting mess where my washing machine once stood. Sigh. I'll be back. And I'm sure I'll over-share about all the emotions once or twice more.

For now....

Carol - The Blessings Counter