Sunday, January 31, 2010

Update 1/31/10 11 weeks since crash

Dear friends,

One word has cornered my thoughts today on the pilgrim road: nevertheless. While I worshipped the Great One this morning, that word would not leave me alone. I have besetting sins in my life. "Nevertheless, I love you". I haven't handled this well. I've been crabby and I've grumbled. "Nevertheless, I am committed to bringing you through." I haven't grasped the true depths of love and grace. "Nevertheless, you will see them at work". I stumble. "Nevertheless, your destiny is victory." I have not loved You with singleness of heart. "Nevertheless, there is One who stands in your favor, and knows all about your heart, far better than you do".

Seems all of scripture is one big "nevertheless". How I love the Great One! How boring and uninspired my life would be without His compelling love and passionate grace. Friends, He is our best friend and the One to whom the kings of this earth will bow. He continues to astonish and amaze me every day. All the wealth of all the ages can't match one minute in His presence. And we only see "darkly, as through a glass. Then we shall see face to face..." WOW.

Today my sweet, darling earthly companion turned 49! Here he is with an Entenmann's cake! We had kind of a low key birthday, but we're planning to do some sort of overnight when Hercules is up and about. Any suggestions? I thought of maybe one of those upstate ranches where we could ride a horse, or dance to the oldies, or ride bikes. It may not have been a sparkly birthday bash, but I'm so thankful to have Stephen home! I remember well living at Albany Med, then travelling to Sunnyview... In some ways is seems so long ago. In others, it was 5 minutes ago... And you all have been with me through the intense and the boring. Honestly, that is stunning to me! I sense you will be as overjoyed as I when Smitty takes that first step. I can practically hear the hootin' and holleran' already...

Brave Ben and Sweet Sharon made us a bunch of frozen meals for days when I just can't get it together. (Uh, that would be often). These dear folks are going through their own trials, but continue to help and encourage us in so many ways. I'm asking you to mention them before the Great One in your prayers. He knows all about them, but we know the power of asking first hand, don't we? God Bless You, my cyber friends. As usual, I'm sure I can count on you. And I'm equally sure you have no idea how much you mean to me and my family. Maybe one day you will. Until then, get used to me telling you.

As Scarlett O'Hara says, "Tomorrow is another day". Stephen will work all morning and continue to study for his license exam. In the afternoon, he'll do some therapy at home and we'll probably have a big date at BJ's. We need laundry detergent and a few other things. Hannah starts her new gym program tomorrow. My boys get a fresh start on the 3rd quarter at school, and Cosette will sleep all day on the bed. Such is life in the Smith family. Kind of mundane. Nevertheless, you keep coming back. A plain old stretch on the pilgrim road. Nevertheless, you keep walking the path with us. We're ordinary folk. Nevertheless, you have set your kind affection on us. Nevertheless.

Thank you for being "Nevertheless" kinds of friends. Back at you. Back at you a hundred times.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Update 1/30/10 Day 83

Dear friends,

It's stupifying at times how a day can get away from you. Stayed in bed a little extra time this morning reading "The Count of Monte Cristo", and avoiding getting out of the warm covers to tackle laundry, breakfast, unloading the dishwasher, etc., etc. I declare my lazy nature got the best of me, and at 9pm I still felt behind. Do we ever really catch up?

Stephen is the pancake maker in our house, but since he can't reach the counter I'm the designated flipper. My pancakes are sub par, but edible. The kids, the cousins, the brother and the husband all ate them up, with sausages on the side, and no one seemed the worse for wear. Still, I look forward to seeing my main squeeze standing at the counter, whipping up the batter and reinvoking his status as pancake king. It's just a little sad to rewind and picture him, strong and strident, owning the kitchen at breakfast. On the bright side, I can make a new picture in my head, where Stephen will once again create his culinary morning feasts. It's a while ahead on the pilgrim road, but it's coming.

Tomorrow is Stephen's 49th birthday. I thank the Great One that he is alive to see this many years. It's a reminder to seize the day, because we don't know what a day will bring. Things don't happen to other people, friends. But no matter, because whatever happens, He will "never leave you or forsake you". That truth flashes in neon lights on the billboard of our lives. Happy Birthday, my dearest! Many more joyful years and a few extra as plunder for your trouble! The Faithful and True has been good to you!

We have decided to forgo gifts and save some money for a nice overnight together once Smitty is able. Perhaps to the Adirondacks, or maybe the beach, but somewhere we can take a walk, and hold hands, and eat a delicious meal at a real table in real chairs (the kind without wheels!).
By then the weather will be warmer (MUCH warmer), and the days longer, and the grass green. I always long for spring once February makes her entrance. February may be the shortest month, but it seems the longest. I will do my best to find the good in February this year. But I confess the wildness of my imagination, which takes me someplace warm and sunny, reading a wonderful book and drinking a Starbucks Mocha Frappucino... Dare to dream.

Going to sign off early tonite. So what if today wasn't perfect. So what if it wasn't organized well. So what if I didn't accomplish everything on my list. The Great One is the only One I'm worried about pleasing. And He's way more interested in people than things. Besides, there's always tomorrow...

Here's to relationships over clean laundry!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, January 29, 2010

Update 1/29/10 Day 82

Dear friends,

This dear lady with the coffee cup is one of our own! A loyal member of our blog community, she and I met today, when she came to my house to deliver a camera to me to replace my broken one. She is BrightLite Sue, and believe me, she is every bit of bright and light! If you read the comments, you have read hers. She is just one example of the extraordinary gifts God has lavished on me during the climb of my life. I wish I could put every one of your faces up here! You're all presents under my tree, I mean it. When Sue upgraded her camera, I got blessed with the one that took this photo! It's a Samsung Digimax (whatever that means), and I am so happy to have it. Thank you Sue and Ed! I've really got to post more photos on the blog. They're so much fun, and they brighten up the joint.

This morning I had the delight of taking my daughter to Joanne's Fabric to buy poster board, material and beads for her Silk Road project. This may not sound like a big deal, but it encouraged me greatly to see her motivated to do something creative. That's right brain stuff, folks, and her right brain is what was injured. I've been waiting (and still am) for her to begin cranking out her poems and stories again with the passion she once had. This is a step in the right direction. There's no way the Great One will leave her with less than she came with. To the victor go the spoils. Our princess is destined for victory, and I know our Mighty God won't settle for less. She's in a process like we are, and progress is simply victory in increments. I'll never give up with her, never. I know you won't either. "God is able to do exceedingly beyond all we can ask or imagine, according to His power which is at work within us..."Ephesians 3:20
On this truth I stand. For my daughter. For my husband. For you.

Hercules is working at his new job, looking over papers I haven't a clue about, and studying for something called a Series 4, which sounds like the next generation of mechanical pencils, but has something to do with options trading, whatever that is. In between he's doing his exercises at home and taking care of everything he can manage around here. I've got him doing "laundry therapy" and "bill paying therapy", not to mention "empty the dishwasher therapy". In truth, he has chosen to do those things on his own in his typical effort to serve his family the best he can.

That skin graft, which was so dangerous in the beginning with its infection risk, is healing remarkably. The top of it caused Dr. Bagchi some hand wringing. It looked very iffy in the beginning. If you recall, Stephen was so unstable, that where normally a patient would have those awful wounds cleaned out in the OR right away, he had to wait. His blood pressure kept dropping to dangerously low levels, and the risk had to be taken to leave the wounds alone for a while. Once they tackled that flap wound, (missing tissue and bone), I was warned repeatedly that the risk of infection was sky high. Now, there's a little scab that is hanging on by a thread at the top of the graft. We're still really careful around the whole thing, not messing with anything and keeping the area as clean as possible. But ugly as the scar is, each day it looks better. Progress is victory in increments.

I had a vanilla cream donut this morning! That'll chase the blues away for a minute or two.

The Count of Monte Cristo is an emotionally gripping book, albeit dense. The hero is a man acquainted with intense suffering, and whose life is forever altered by wild injustice. I'm not even half way through the book, but I love the complex, mysterious nature of the main character. No one can be painted with a single brush. We're all a mixed bag. Good literature gives us a mirror to see the diverse pieces of ourselves and those around us. At its best, it is a vignette from the Great Story written by the Great One, in which we are active participants via our free will. We are not chess pieces in a cosmic game, but characters who live and move with the wind of freedom as their greatest gift. Still, The Author has the final say in how it all plays out. But He never twists the plot for His own gain. What can He get that is not already His? He's not looking for robots, but sons to love. And what a supreme love it is.

Brother Donnie is here, and he and Stephen are watching a movie called "Invinsible". It's an inspiring (and true) story of an ordinary guy who goes beyond everyone's expectations for him. Even his own. I'm kind of in and out, but I get the jist. A most appropriate theme for my dear husband. But where movies are concerned, give me Cary Grant over Mark Wahlberg any day.

Getting tired, and I've got to get sleeping bags and pillows together for cousin children. I had to spend a little time with you, my dear friends, before I tuck in for the night. Not talking to you would be like not brushing my teeth, or not putting on the electric blanket, or skipping locking up the house. I just wouldn't feel right. And as we have learned, no one knows what tomorrow will bring. So I want to tell you each day - I love you, and I thank you.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Update 1/28/10 Day 81

Dear friends,

I don't know if it's the cold, or that all this is getting old (a rhyme!), but the blues grabbed me today and I'm not doing a very good job of shaking them off. Under the wet blanket, I can kind of hear the voice of the Great One saying "Bear up, it will be well." So it's another turn on the pilgrim road, and this one through a tunnel, and I'm not sure when the tunnel ends. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week. Maybe longer. I did get some good advise from an Oscar Wilde quote: "People are never so trivial as when they take themselves very seriously". Time to get a little perspective, look in the mirror, and have a good laugh. It may not end the thing, but it sure keeps it from getting into self pity. That's a place you don't want to go.

I feel like I need to clear something up, and maybe no one is thinking this way but I've got to make sure. I am more grateful than I can say for the material help our family has received. Money, meals, stuff,'s been amazing. A few times in the blog I've mentioned that something has broken down, or how we're looking for a car, or the scary world of medical bills. I talk about these things because they are part of our life, and I've opened the book to you all. But God forbid I should come across as looking for hand outs or gifts! I hope no one has read about our ordinary mishaps and thought it was a veiled request for help. My gosh, I could never, ever thank you enough for all you've done for us! I am beyond backed up on thank you cards to the people who donated through the Advent Conspiracy. Anyway, please know that I just tell it like it is, and I say truthfully before the Great One that my only motive in speaking of all of this is to be transparent. You are the best friends a girl ever had!

Great meeting this morning at Columbia High School to nail down Hannah's gym program and her 504 plan. I can't say enough about how kind and accommodating Columbia has been to us. Hannah will be able to keep her schedule pretty much the same, only she will take gym in the fitness center with juniors and seniors, working out using her individualized plan. She didn't need adaptive gym, only a protective environment to keep safe that precious gray matter. Miss Rejoice is being carefully watched and "momma henned" by a team of truly fine teachers. I have been more impressed with this large public school than I ever imagined. I did lots of worrying, sending Joseph and Hannah from a small private school to a large public one, but it has turned out to be absolutely the best fit. Steve and I sought God heartily before we made the decision, and practicality played a role too. But the Almighty saw the whole picture, and His sight is perfect. Hallelujah!

So here I have this Hercules, this Bionic Man, who can undergo the pain of external fractures, 4 orthopedic surgeries (in 16 days), open wounds, and countless other unpleasant pains and procedures, and he acts like he's 5 when I pull off a band aid. I kid you not, if you could have heard the yelp he made when I removed that hanging strip, you would never have guessed how strong and resilient the guy really is. I have been abusing him about it since, and I encourage you to do the same. Gotta love him!

Thinking about those great saints, who "wandered about in sheepskin and goatskins...the world was not worthy of them". They gave up all for the truth. Our little problems hardly compare. That's perspective. Not that ours don't matter, but they find their place in the dynamic of a fallen world, of which the scriptures say : "Man is born to trouble, as surely as the sparks fly upward..." So I will take Oscar Wilde's advise, and above all humbly listen to the Great One, and go through the tunnel. Wow, you're still with me! Whatever you do, don't let me take myself too seriously. There's so much to laugh about, even in the veil of tears!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Update 1/27/10 Day 80

Dear friends,

David didn't win his spelling bee, but he gave it the college try! What a kid. My camera broke (this seems to be a running theme in the Smith family- cameras, freezers. vacuum cleaners, legs, arms...) so I couldn't take a photo, but dear Melissa will send me one I can post for you. The esteemed Andrew Catalon, sports guy for channel 13, was the M.C., and a good time was had by all. Well, except for the agony as each child spelled their word, and you held your breath hopefully. Such bravery in our midst! Such heart! I love those OSL kids. I miss them so. In my former life, (pre November 8) I worked as an aide at Our Savior's Lutheran School. A visit to the first grade there is like sunshine in human form.

The term "aggressive" accurately describes Smitty's physical therapy today. The scar tissue in his knees needs to be stretched and released so he can get some range of motion there. Once he can bear weight, he's going to need his knees to, uh, bend. That's what joints do. Only they don't like to do it after almost 2 months in bed and lots of men with screwdrivers fooling around in those bones and ligaments. The poor guy was white as a sheet when the therapist put an ice pack on top of his knee to straighten it for about 5 minutes or so. This is work! He's doing a fine job! How hard do you push to get where you're going? I have no idea. A little bit more than you think you can, I would venture to guess. That's the way it usually seems, doesn't it? The muscles of the body and the soul both operate that way. Push em' a little further and you'll get strong. Might hurt a bit, though.

We had an hour between therapies, so Hercules requested a couple of slices of Union pizza for lunch. I ran out to get it, and got myself a Greek salad, which totally hit the spot. My family tries to keep it in the closet, but I'm not much of a pizza person. It's ok. I used to love Frankie and Johnnies pizza in Springfield, MA, but that had everything on it and I was young so I could pound it down at midnite and still feel okay in the morning. If I ate pizza like that now I'd wind up in the ER at Albany Med.

What a bunch of sweehearts in the DFG cell group that meets at my house every other Wednesday. I can't even begin to describe how graciously these folks have walked this rocky road with me! Tonite they brought the man a birthday cake. Kind Connie, who has 4 kids of her own, her dad living with her, and who helps take a dear blind friend of ours to therapy twice a week, managed to get a cake and make a pretend fixator to put on it. Homeric! What a troupe this is. I have no idea why they hang out with me. And that's not pretend modesty. This group of people is astounding. I'm honored to have them in my house.

I'm really, really tired tonite. The blog's a little shorter tonite for that reason. Gotta get the electric blanket cranked, and the oral hygiene taken care of. Then we trust the Great One for the shut eye. Last night, S. slept wonderfully. It's a little unpredictable right now, but surely better than the fixator days. I'll put on Jack Benny and fall asleep laughing. How great is that?

I thought about you, my dear cyber friends, a lot today. I've tried to tell you how much I appreciate you, but I feel so inadequate in expressing my gratitude. The encouragement of your comments, notes, emails and phone calls are comforting beyond my capacity to describe. The Great One knows each of you by name, and sees all the unseen acts of sacrifice and prayer you have given for my family's sake. I would have never made it up this hill without you. People are not only what make the world go round, but what make life worth living. Thanks a million - you are truly beyond compare.

The drama of midterms continues tomorrow with Joseph and chemistry (a less than cordial match!) We'll see how it all goes. We shall see.

Your petering out friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Update 1/26/10 Day 79

Dear friends,

You've probably heard of the novel "Around the World in Eighty Days"written by French novelist Jules Verne. In the story, Englishman Phileas Fogg wins a bet that he can circle the globe in 80 days. Well, that was fiction in 1873, but 16 years later a female reporter named Nellie Bly took a real trip around the planet, and she did it in 72 days! In the midst of her feat, she received 2 marriage proposals, avoided a smallpox quarantine and bought a monkey. Her accomplishment took less time than our road since November 8. But we, like her, have a goal, and all sorts of interesting things happen along the way. So much can happen in 79 days. For one, you find out how steadfast your God is. You find out how greatly you love your family, immediate and extended. And you come face to face with the rock solid friends going "around the world in who-knows-how-many-days with you. It's a trip I never asked for, but one where I have seen great sights and amazing feats of love and kindness.

The man worked hard at PT and OT today, stretching out those stubborn muscles and joints to gain range of motion. Sandy the Sweet, his Occupational Therapist, has an amazing way of aggressively rotating the shoulder and straightening the elbow (as much as possible) with a gentle smile and tender heart. Here she is, going for it with all her might to get Stephen as much function as she can, but doing it with extreme attention to how much he can take. Now you already know I'm going to spiritualize this, and I certainly don't want to disappoint you...Isn't it like the troubles of life? The Great One wants his children to have the most freedom, the most fulfillment, a depth of passion for life and people. So He takes the rickety, stiff, unpliable spots and uses the trials to stretch and change and expand us. He keeps a close eye to know exactly how much pressure to allow, and I can tell you first hand He's going for it, but always with compassion. "Count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds, knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance...." James 1. Perseverance. I'm quite sure Nellie Bly needed it. As does anyone with a job, a dream and a passion.

My kids survived day one of midterms. I'm incredibly proud of Hannah. She missed 2 months of school. She's been fighting her way back. And she finished her Geometry and AP History exams within the allotted time. She has been studying like an Oxford scholar for the last few weeks. She writes many things out (on her fabulous yellow laptop) as she cultivates all that knowledge, and in so doing compensates for some of her short term memory issues. What a trooper! She's a lion in a bunny rabbit suit.

To make a long story short (and you can ask me about it in person, because it's really kind of amazing), Stephen has a new job with a new company and has been given the great opportunity to work part time from home until he's able to get back to an office full time. (Ain't technology grand?) I am really so thrilled for him, and he is excited about the opportunity. At some point in the near future, I too will have to return to work. Sigh. I don't know how it will all play out, but I trust the Great One to show us the way. Soon we will begin looking for a second car in anticipation of Smitty being able to drive not too long after being able to walk. We may need a little help along the way here and there to get our kids to and fro. You have all been such a help in every way. I am humbled every day.

Speaking of which, time to go pick up the girl at music practice for the Gen Church worship team. I love you dearly, my friends, and we'll pick this up again tomorrow, Lord willing and the creek don't run dry (pretty sure that won't happen!)

BTW, today is the anniversary of Miss Bly's arrival in Jersey City after her amazing trip. Ours continues, all of ours.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


P.S. Fab Phyllis made fab meatloaf, and oh those banana cream puffs...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Update 1/25/10 Day 78

Dear friends,

Thought old Noah was going to pay us a how do you do today. What a deluge! If all that liquid was snow... Yikes! I was soaked after our errands this morning. I believe the technical term for all of this is "January thaw". Soon January will be over. February is a big month for the Smith's. If all goes according to plan (ha!), Stephen's bones in his right leg should be ready to bear weight. Most likely later in February, but that's the target month.

Corn muffins just came out of the oven. An asiago parmesan bagel is thawing on the counter. Somehow, I must get my teenagers to eat breakfast tomorrow morning. Joseph loves corn muffins, and Miss Rejoice is a big asiago parmesan bagel fan. They both have midterms on Tuesday, and I hear breakfast gives the brain a healthy shot of glucose to get those synapses firing. They'll be testing all week long, and studying too, so you can imagine the mood upstairs in the man cave is not jolly. I tried to explain to my firstborn that perseverance is required for all the testing times in life. He got that glazed over,"mom is philosophizing again" look on his face. So I shut up. I think I need to do that more often.

The Great One continues to uphold us on the road. David came home from school very overwhelmed today. We put our arms around him and asked why he was so stressed. He broke down and sobbed "Dad is still in a wheelchair". I'm so glad he told us how he was feeling. It all feels very long to us, but to a 12 year old it must seem like an eternity. We reassured him that Dad will indeed walk again (praise God!), and that the Lord will help all of us to persevere until the wonderful moment when walking commences. Even then, there will be a long process of getting strong enough to walk unassisted. This adversity in the life of my baby boy is heartbreaking, but I know it will produce something excellent. Nobody in history with any kind of gumption had an easy road. I love gumption. Judging by the characters and their stories in the Book, God loves gumption too.

Take Daniel for example. Teenager, exiled from his home, separated from all the familiar people and comforts, and by a series of events, becomes a prophet to the king himself. When said king demands Daniel bow down to him, the plucky youth refuses. No dice. So, miserable king throws Daniel into a pit with lions. Not an easy experience. Not a pleasant, lovely stretch on the pilgrim road. But in the end brother Daniel survives the night, and the pagan king sees the power of God and the beautiful character of Daniel. Gumption.

Look at Teddy Roosevelt. Amazing man of character. But he spent much of his youth deprived of the joys of a normal, active boy. He was sick much of the time, with asthma attacks and a weak constitution. But Teddy's father wrapped him up, took him out in the fresh air, and encouraged him that he had a duty to do his best to be a contributor to his world. Adversity was the platform T.R. built on. He trusted God, and served his fellow man. Is there a better legacy than that? Gumption.

As for all of you, whatever your adversity, work it! Or better said, let it work you. Don't go looking for trouble. Without a doubt, in some form or other, it will find you. (Not trying to sound pessimistic. Lovely things find us too)! Sometimes I think living gracefully with the small aggravations is more packed with character development that the big earthquakes in life. But feel free to take all I'm saying with a grain of salt. If it helps you, use it. If not, throw it out. I think I write it to remind myself of the benefit of climbing this mountain. Eee Gads! (Music Man quote), I'm glad to climb with all of you. Pray I'll gain some gumption!

See you tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel. (If that makes no sense to you, you are young.) God Bless all of you, my friends, young and old.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Update 1/24/10 10 weeks since crash

Dear friends,

The lunches are made, baths are in progress and Smitty is elevated and iced. Besides the fact that my house is a bit of a pit, I am content. Housework has moved down yet another notch on my list of priorities. Watching more pictures of Haiti, I am again face to face with the foolishness of worrying about desk clutter and dirty cups. I'm not saying we throw all sanitation to the wind, but having perspective keeps one from being an idiot. Better I leave the dishes and read David a story (we did that tonite!) Better I slow down and accomplish less and keep from snapping at my children in aggravation. Dear Jesus, help me with this! People before things. That's what the Great One is always saying.

Those "Dobbsie" girls are a wonder! They decided during church they wanted to make us a meal tonite. So after the service they zipped to the grocery store, then to Schenectady to cook meatballs, ziti and toss up a salad (home made dressing, no less!), and at 3 pm they were at our doorstep with the goods. I wonder if they had a genie in a bottle or something. God bless those wonderful young women. And you should see their Dad play the bongos! I get where they get their go-to-it. Momma is no slouch either.

Sorry about the Jets.

Stephen turns 49 next Sunday. How I wish I could give him locomotion (on two legs) for his birthday! I asked him today how he was feeling about everything, just checking on his emotional health. He said it would be easy to get discouraged about the wheelchair thing, but he's working hard to keep on the sunny side, and trusting his God to carry him along the pilgrim road. His perspective is healthy; he feels for the ones in a wheelchair permanently, and is grateful for the temporary nature of his trouble. We'll take each day as it comes, not borrowing tomorrow's trouble. We've heard ominous words about "injuries of this sort leading to terrible arthritis". No one really knows, do they, what tomorrow brings? Often life takes unexpected turns that no one expected. Stephen was not expected to have even the range of motion in his right arm that he has. Granted, he is limited, but remember, Dr. Uhl was talking about him being "left armed". Hannah's report (which I received yesterday) from Dr. Hess showed her with a "moderate to serious traumatic brain injury". What does that mean? Is she completely well yet? Not yet. But is she far beyond the expectations of mortal man. Yes. No one knows except He who reigns forever. And He is always up to some good amid the evils of this present darkness. Better to look to Him, and see how it plays out. He will give ample grace no matter what.

Sweet Jessica took Hannah to the mall today to spend her gift card to Macy's. She used it to get some make up to cover the scars from the accident. How beautiful my darling girl is! How hard for a mother, and especially a dad, to see their only precious daughter scarred through no fault of her own! Still, scars, internal and external, can serve as altars of remembrance. Remembrance of ill or of good. We choose to remember the mercy of God through our tears. She lives! And her lovely soul will surely prosper as time and grace do their mysterious work. No great thing happens without time and process.

Please pray for the favor of the Great One as we go about some insurance business this week. It's my least tolerable part of this whole thing.

Joseph and Hannah have midterms coming up this week too. Oh boy.

You dear ones are truly in my prayers. I pray all of you will notice His "grace like rain" in this upcoming week. We need only look up. He is ever for us.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Update 1/23/10 Day 76

Dear friends,

I was recalling my wedding song today, "Stand by Me" by Ben E. King. It's really a simple song, but I think it reflects so much of what a marriage is all about:

"When the night has come, and the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we'll see
Oh I won't be afraid, No I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me..."

Can I tell you my precious friends, that my husband has always stood by me through all my ups and downs, my moments of complete stupidity, winter depressions, anxiety attacks and every mess that comes to fallen people in a fallen world. Can I further tell you as I have before, that a hundred years of caring for Stephen would never approach making up for the faithful service he has lovingly given me, and the gracious overlooking of my many faults these past 22 years. He is a friend I trust. It is hard on him to be unable to start a fire in the fireplace. It's hard on him to be unable to make my coffee and schlep the clothes down from the laundry room for me. Broken legs at times give him a broken heart. But he is carried by the Great One, and he continues to persevere through this thing. I am honored to stand by him.

"If the sky we look upon, should crumble and fall
Or the mountains, should tumble to the sea,
I won't cry, I won't cry, no I won't shed a tear
Just as long, as you stand, stand by me..."

How many people get a pizza delivery from jolly old England? Well cyber friends, a family of our own, the dear Petrillo's, were the January St. Nick's behind yesterday's pizza party! All the way from England, where brother Bob is working for a year, those dear folks thought of us and credit carded away (ah, technology!) so we could enjoy an excellent evening of fun food for Friday fare. These folks are the absolute cat's meow. Thank you Diana, Bob, Dan and Gracie! Can't wait to see you stateside and share the joy face to face! By the time they get home, the man will be on his feet. But they have walked with us through the blog, as so many of you dear friends have done. I continue to be astonished by your faithful companionship.

Connie the Caring had never seen "Casablanca", so we had to fix that problem promptly. She's here tonite, watching Humphrey Bogart in this American classic, which ironically takes place in Morocco. If you've never seen the movie, may I advise you ever so gently to do so. One scene in particular, where the German SS begin singing their national anthem and are drowned out by the French nationals stranded in Casablanca, will stay with you for good. This is a picture that deserves the moniker of classic. It also puts on display the virtues of selflessness, loyalty and valor. Peter Lorre makes an appearance too, with his oft quoted line "you despise me, don't you Rick". Ingrid Bergman is a vision of loveliness, and Bogie, well, he's Bogie. Need I say more? Fabulous picture.

Stephen is nursing that bad knee, which is doing better by the hour. Another day of ice and elevation, and he should be good to go for next week. He's sleeping very well. Even when he does wake up, he's able to fall back quickly. What a restorative sleep is! I'm hoping for a Sunday afternoon nap tomorrow. So far those daytime rests have alluded me.

Today is the first day Hercules has worn pants without side snaps! Regular sweats fit over the brace. We love all these little milestones!

The last part of Casablanca features a speech by Rick (Bogart) where he says "the problems of 2 little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy mixed up world..." Bogie was looking at the big picture and made the choice to put his own wants in proper perspective. There was a world war going on, and he knew doing the right thing would stand up to the test of time. Our car crash rocked our little world. But God intends to take the problems of us little people to shed a little light on the big darkness of this crazy mixed up world. My dear friends, whatever your trouble, let it work some good! With the help of the Great One, it surely will. And all the little people with their little light will pierce the darkness. Your selflessness has done that for me.

Thanks for Standing by Me.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, January 22, 2010

Update 1/22/10 Day 75

Dear friends,

Friday nights are fabulous. After a week of doing one's duty, one can, without care, put one's feet up, watch a good movie and exhale. This evening, we have the delightful company of Magnificent Micaela, who you may recall from blog history as Hannah's former teacher and our dear friend. (As a side note, she is beautiful, intelligent and unattached). She and David's bosom buddy Josh C. were here with us for pizza and wings tonite, provided by some wonderful anonymous friend who must know that we always do "Fun Food for Friday Fare". Thank you from the bottom of our full stomachs and happy hearts! As for the entertainment, we are watching Hugh Laurie (of "House" fame) in a completely different role as Bertie Wooster in one of the Jeeves and Wooster programs from Masterpiece Theatre many years ago. If you have never read the Bertie and Jeeves stories by P.G. Wodehouse, you are the poorer for it. My dear brother in law Richard laughed out loud on the NYC subway while reading about the antics of the good natured Bertie and his brainy valet. If you're not inclined to read, try getting the videos from the library, or borrow them from me... Our main feature later will be The Long, Long Trailer, recommended by cyber friend Ann, starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. (These comedies are a perfect counterpoint to the beautiful but difficult "Count of Monte Cristo" on my bedside).

I am so relaxed in the rocker. Stephen is on the couch with his legs elevated and his knee iced, and Micaela is sharing Raisinettes with me. It's the simple things, isn't it. Thanks to the Great One, who commands both work and rest!

Physical therapy was difficult for Steve today, but he trucked through to the end. The PT suggested lots of elevation and ice for the whole weekend to get the swelling off of the knee, and to prepare him for the work that will come next week in increasing the flexibility of that joint in the right leg. The man did sleep much better last night, and I didn't have to worry about bumping into that blasted fixator! We just keep moving in the right direction, and we pick off each day as it comes. We continue to get closer to the point of complete bone healing where the right leg can bear weight. Work and rest are both needed for that to happen. Do you see a theme developing here?

Hannah's visit to the neurologist today came complete with a revelation for me. Dr. Adamo told me today that he was concerned when he first saw Hannah, because she was just a hairsbreadth away from "coma" status for brain injury. He said she was a very sick girl, and just managed to do well enough on the neuro checks to avoid having a pressure meter put into her head. He said he was delighted with how well she is doing at the nine week point, because her very early prognosis was not looking good. Lots of prayers went in to saving my daughters brain, and there is no way to express my gratitude for that. Absolutely no way.

To add to my lovely day, I had lunch with Sister Laurie, who really has been a sister to me, and whose life is an epistle of love. Many of you cyber friends know this incredible woman, but if you do not, I sincerely wish you did. We ate middle eastern food and simply enjoyed the sweet company and conversation of a Friday afternoon. I so needed a day like this, with the blessing of rest on the sidewalk of the pilgrim road. My mind is clear tonite, unstuffed of anxiety and care. He Who Knows has given me a treat this day. I am so glad. It prepares one for the work ahead.

You, my dear friends, have shared this week with me and I am the better for your company. Every kindness and prayer gives me a little more strength for the uphill climb. I hope you know I am praying for purposeful work and satisfying rest for all of you as we rock on.

BTW, loving fixator freedom. Loved your own ways of celebrating. Thank you a million times.

Praying hard for the people of Haiti.

"Be thou my vision, Oh Lord of my heart,
Not be all else to me save that thou art,
Thou my great Father, I thy true son,
Thou with me dwelling and I with thee one...


Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Update 1/21/10 Day 74

Dear friends,

David John called today "away-tion fixation". I dubbed it "fixator freedom fiesta day". "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet". Doesn't matter what we call it, the pins are out of the legs and the hunk of metal is being recycled (hopefully to Haiti). We have another signpost on our road to freedom, and we must be merry despite the long road still ahead. Greatest of all, the Mighty One has been with us every moment of every day, and He must be so very glad as freedom is always on His agenda. When His own people left Egypt, can you imagine the party in heaven? When a soul finds the spiritual freedom that the Savior provides from shame and guilt, can you hear the angels rollicking in the highest? In a little way, don't you think there's a joy parade as the fixator, a material minister of good, loses its necessity to the next rung on the ladder? Simply put, Oh Happy Day.

Dr. Bagchi, my favorite carpenter, (by the way, they do have drills, saws and screwdrivers in the operating room. Yikes!) gave me the low down after today's surgery. Stephen will wear the brace to keep those bones in place, though they are healing nicely! Another month or so and he'll be weight bearing. His knee was repositioned and can bend about 135 degrees (while he's under anesthesia). Dr. B. wasn't able to put it exactly in the right place, so there will be some limitation in range of motion, but the risk of further damage was too great to push it any further. The glass was also removed from Stephen's hand (a reminder of how all this happened). I told "Bob the Builder" that I was glad he is here, but they could sure use his help in Haiti. He said he is contemplating a trip down there. They would be so blessed to have him! Dr. B.'s last note to me was to have the physical therapists "aggressively treat for range of motion." That adjective "aggressively" gets my man a little worried. Can't say as I blame him.

Thank goodness for Vicodin. Stephen had quite a bit of pain in the knee from all that rearranging. As you know, he barely takes Tylenol. But in this case a narcotic is a blessing. And tonite, he'll be able to turn over in bed and won't have to sleep solely on his back for the first time in 2 and a half months. Yipee!

On the way home from the Ambulatory Surgery Suite we stopped at Panera to pick up some take out soup for Hercules. Out of nowhere, I started to cry at the counter. I stood there alone, waiting to order his chicken noodle, and a lady I don't know simply smiled at me and left. That started the floodgates. I felt happy, sad, relieved and overwhelmed all at the same time. It was her small act of kindness that unleashed a whirlwind of emotions that came from the invisible place inside that only the Great One sees. "Man judges by the outward appearance, but God sees the heart..." I haven't sorted out what that was all about, but it's been such a new and uncharted road we're on that I never know what emotion will pop out from around some bend on this highway. Maybe someday I'll get it. Maybe not. I'm too close to it to see it, if you know what I mean.

I heard Pastor Chuck Swindoll on the radio today say something I've pondered: "Confidence in God does not mean we tell Him what to do..." God forbid we should try. I am so confident in His purpose to show Himself strong through this trouble, and to make a "public spectacle of the powers and principalities, triumphing over them by the cross..." The only thing is, I don't know how it will all play out. It unfolds day by day. I think if I was of a mind to "tell Him what to do" I might have planned a different road. But no way would I dream of it. He knows best, and I have trouble stacking the plastic containers, so wisdom dictates I let Him tell me what to do. Yeah, I think that's the way to go.

Thinking about Coast Guard Beach today, and the sound of the surf pounding on the warm sand around my bare feet. We're going to get there, friends, and if I know you, you"ll keep banging on heaven's door til we do. So aggressive physical therapy it will be, because we are going to run with endurance this race marked out before us, and we're going to play paddle ball on the world's most charming beach. And we are going to seek and find the suffering and bring light and we are going to uncover injustice and bring truth. When I say we I mean all of you too. I love the "we" we've all become. We're ordinary people, but we have a Great and Awesome God.

Thanks to dear cyber friend Kate who has an extra vacuum cleaner she's giving us! The love just keeps coming. I'm speechless (almost- well, as close as I can get...).

Started reading "The Count of Monte Cristo" today at the recommendation of our dear Brooklyn Hugh. I'm already crazy about the hero (after only 8 chapters, and this is one long momma of a book), and I'm already seeing the cosmic story in this earthly story.

I saw something really cool today on TV in the surgical waiting room. There's apparently this place in Quebec called the "Ice Hotel". People actually carve it out every winter, and folks stay there overnight. This is some groovy thing! I never heard of it before. Anyone out there familiar with this. Way nifty!

Thanks to the many of you who celebrated with us today with our small victory. I'm praying for you for yours, large or little.

I'll be back tomorrow, to report on the physical therapy, the visit from brother Don, Hannah's neurology check up, and other various and sundry details, important and mundane. I so look forward to "talking" to you each night. I love you to bits! Thanks for sharing the wonder of it all!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Update 1/20/10 Day 73

Dear friends,

If only I had my camera today at the eye clinic. The contraptions on Stephen's head made him look like something out of a Jerry Lewis Nutty Professor movie. I actually laughed at the poor man, there in his fixator, stuck in the chair. He really did look like a robot between the scaffolding on his leg and the goofy looking metal circles around his eyes. Good thing the husband has an excellent sense of humor, with his life's companion chuckling while he is poked and prodded yet again. We learned Steve has astigmatism on his cornea, and most likely his brain was able to compensate for it prior to the concussion. So the blurriness is probably caused by something that was already there (since there was no trauma to the eye), but was previously dealt with by the brain. He sees a "cornea specialist" in a few weeks, and then he'll be getting glasses. How awesome is the human body, that corneas are complex enough to merit a specialty?

Since my freezer broke last week, it was the vacuum cleaner's turn today. Must everything happen at once? Still, lets keep perspective. Remember Haiti, Loriann. Remember Haiti.

Today's exciting outing was to Jiffy Lube for an oil change. First I went to the dreaded Walmart (remember the Drano story?), but there was an hour wait and we had to get to Sunnyview on time. So, not trusting Walmart to get done in a timely fashion, I branched out. I even got a new rear window washer blade since the other one hasn't worked in a month. I was delighted to find I get a free car wash with my oil change (I was only 1,000 miles over), and believe me when I tell you the van is standing in the need.

As many of you already know, tomorrow is the Fixator Freedom Fiesta for all of us cyber pals. Please celebrate with us! Say an extra thank you to the Great One tomorrow for all He has done! Go out with your favorite friend for ice cream. Crack your glasses together. Blow up a balloon. Marvelous Mike and Dear Karen gave us a gift card to Applebee's so we can celebrate. Thank you so much friends! We are hoping to go out depending on how Stephen is feeling. If he's groggy our tired we'll do it another day. Or order from Applebees Carside Pick Up. At any rate, thanks so much for all the prayers for him all along this bumpy road. His likelihood of infection was so high, and a wall of protection surrounded him, protecting his limbs. He arrives for ambulatory surgery at 8:45 am (pre op) and the procedure will commence at 10:15. The operation should take about an hour, and recovery about 90 minutes. At the end he'll wear a special brace, and the fixator will be history. I could cry thinking about it. Some of you remember him in the SICU, unconscious, with fixators on both legs. God is faithful to pull us up Recovery Mountain. This is just one more landmark along the way. How bout a Hallelujah!

And how about this: Steve shaved standing up today, first time. No little mirror at the table, but the big boy sink. He sported a grin from ear to ear. What a guy.

My heart is full of the blessings of progress, which is simply victory in increments. I do believe that Hannah will gain, and Stephen will gain, and my precious boys will gain too. I have already found the gem of joy in the mine of sorrow, and I know there are many more to uncover. I am reminded today of the countless people who have been the hands and feet of the One and Only for us. I've said it before, but it's been too long so I say it again; We can never pay it back, but my life's ambition is to have the privilege of paying it forward.

Don't forget to take a minute for a little cyber fiesta. If you feel inclined, let me know what you did. I'm asking the Great One to give you some wonderful moments tomorrow. Mine will come when the pins are out.

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up on wings, as eagles. They will run and not be weary. They shall walk, and not grow faint..."

He'll run friends. So will you!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Update 1/19/10 Day 72

Dear friends,

Before the crash, Stephen had gotten himself into good shape. I mean 6am and the exercise bike was humming in the basement. Everyday. Forty five minutes per day. So it was kind of a happy moment at Sunnyview this morning when the man used that titanium laced arm and rode the "arm bike". He rode hard for 10 minutes and worked up a sweat like in the "old days". (Strange how everything prior to November 8 feels like the old days). At least I'm not saying "in real life" anymore, when referring to the world before the crash. I guess I've finally accepted that this is "real life", as peculiar as it is. Steve's getting some new exercises to do to get some range of motion in that right shoulder and elbow. Still not much that can be done with his legs, except strengthening with leg lifts and bending for joint flexibility. I'm sure you are all waiting with us for that go ahead to bear weight on the right side. About another month or so to go, and believe me you'll hear about it as soon as the proclamation is made.

Miss Hannah went to Dr. Falk again today to have an emerging piece of glass removed from her cheek. The good doctor said we may see more of this over the next year, as foreign objects may have become embedded in her skin during the accident. Eventually the body begins pushing them out. She is handling all these little humiliations with an excellent attitude. She doesn't like the discomfort of course, but she doesn't complain. The Great One has given her, indeed all of us, a great grace to cope with all the small annoyances that arise daily as fallout from the wreck. It still messes with my head when I think about the consequences of one poor decision. I don't typically think too much about that part of it, but once in a while the thought floats to the front of my consciousness. No matter, this is not "Back to the Future". I don't have a Delorean to travel through time with, and what's done is done. Now onward to how the Great One will redeem it all. No question on that one. He's doing it already. I need "just enough strength to live for today". Any more than that and I'm out in an unknown future. The present has plenty of balls to keep in the air.

Kindhearted Al and Rosanne the Sweet brought us a Lebanese dinner tonite, and stayed to eat with us! What a blessing, an absolute joy. I scarfed up that homemade hummus, and Hannah Rejoice tasted her first pecan pie. She was stunned. I mean, her taste buds stood up and took notice. She made us keep the whole pie! I didn't send any home with these dear folks, because Hannah wanted it all. So she'll be eating lots of pecan pie over the next few days. The best part of the whole thing was the pleasant banter with these precious fellow travellers. I love to talk. (Bet you knew that!) I also love to listen to others talk. Communication is my passion. That's why I continue to be encouraged by the generous feedback I'm getting on this blog. I hear from some via email, some via comments, and many as I go about my business. I know I risk talking too much. Forgive me if I do. I want to hear. Especially from the One who speaks what is good, true and right.

Lots of whining around here tonite about homework. The Y chromosomes in my family don't want it, don't like it, and let me know it. Around the time of the accident we had to let some things slide around here. Grades suffered for a while, and grace was widely distributed because of the traumatic nature of the circumstances. But now is the time to adapt and move ahead. Now is the time for the young men on Meadow Lane to wield their pencils and calculators and get a move on. The whining must cease! The persevering must commence! (I'm thinking the Great One says the same thing to me from time to time. How about you?...)

My friends, I'm cooking up an idea that someday we should all get together and have cake! Maybe at the one year mark. What do you think? How cool would it be to stop along the pilgrim highway so I can personally thank you for all you mean to me? I don't know, maybe the mystery of the cyber world makes the whole thing more fun. But who knows? This whole crazy thing has been a wild ride. One day at a time. Just like the Great One says, "Give no thought for tomorrow, for tomorrow will give thought to the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil therein..." I know I've quoted that one before, but that's ok because it's absolutely true!

Just for today, my dear ones. But maybe cake too, someday...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, January 18, 2010

Update 1/18/10 Day 71

Dear friends,

I can't get the Haitian people off of my mind. I heard today that the majority of those alive and hurt are suffering with orthopedic injuries. Broken arms, legs, feet, mostly from buildings falling on them. The first responders and medical personnel don't have enough supplies to treat these folks. There isn't enough stuff to make casts! We've all got to help these people in whatever way we can. When I think of Stephen's broken bones, and the trial he's experiencing with state of the art equipment and protection from all kinds of infection, I simply can't imagine the nightmare on that tropical island. God, we cry out to you for them! Be their comfort.

Hannah had a follow up appointment today with the neuro psychologist, Dr. Andy Hess. Looking at all her testing the conclusion is that she is doing extraordinarily well in this early phase of brain injury recovery. Short term memory and executive functioning are where the healing is occurring and will continue for the next year or more. But the language center of Hannah's brain is highly functional and above the average even for those without frontal lobe injuries. Amazing how our brains are put together. What a wonder! Dr. Hess will see her again in a few months, and he believes the curve on the memory and executive functioning areas will begin to rise to meet the language range. I know the Great One is working even now in her neurons, putting together and rerouting pathways to give her back what she had. She is as wonderful and beautiful as ever. But I won't be satisfied till she has back what was stolen from her. The light will indeed overcome the darkness. It already has.

Stephen had a crummy night's sleep on Sunday, but does that surprise anyone? He wakes up and can't roll over or change position. I'm telling you, when that fixator comes off on Thursday I'm thinking he'll be like Rip Van Winkle. He keeps banging the blasted thing on the kitchen doorway too, and that my friends is not funny. The ouch stands up like a starched shirt. The ouch is profound. I wonder if they give us the fixator after the whole thing is over. Probably not. It's probably worth something in the bizarre world of orthopedics. I really wouldn't mind if I never saw the thing again. But it held my dear one's bones together, and for that I am grateful. Sometimes the ugliest, most painful things in life are doing us a world of good, only we can't see it. It's later when we shake out the benefit. But in the middle of the thing it's a mystery. "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

I almost fell down the stairs yesterday, scaring Hercules, my children, and Judy the Good nearly to death. I was carrying clothes to fold, talking on the phone, and navigating the stairs when one of the sheets got under my feet and I slipped. Some god-awful sounds came out of my mouth, and I punished my shin bone pretty well. Thankfully I didn't crack my head or break a bone. But my ankles are sore today. The whole thing could have been pretty cute if Smitty had to call 911 for me. Thank the Great One for catching me. There's only so much a girl can take.

Thanks to Garden Joan, who brought a yummy meal and TULIPS IN JANUARY. She has a tulips in January kind of heart, and what better symbol of hope than that. (She also brought some kind of creamy cake that I'm about to tuck into). Cake and tulips. Doesn't get much better than that.

Jack is back! 24 premiered last night, but we didn't watch it til today. Jack Bauer has outwitted terrorists and assorted bad guys for 8 seasons now, and no doubt he'll save America again from the powers of darkness. This isn't my normal light fare, but I'll make an exception 1 night a week. Steve's mom got him a DVD set of the old Jack Benny TV shows. That ought to offset the bleak world of international murder and mayhem.

Busy day tomorrow. Who knows what zany adventures await us ? Or what opportunities will summon us to love someone sad, or to comfort someone suffering, or to make someone laugh. Bring em' on, Lord!

Be the light, my friends. You've been the light for me.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Update 1/17/10 Day 70

Dear friends,

It has been 9 weeks since my husband and daughter were hit head on by a drunk driver. The past nine weeks have forever changed my life, and indeed my perspective on it. To be completely honest, I still feel rather bowled over and not quite balanced yet. Perhaps it seems to you like I ought to be more stable at this point. Nine weeks is a long time. But the truth is, I'm still staggering a bit, still a bit foggy, a bit out of sorts. Nothing compared to November 8th, or the weeks following. But kind of like the days after the flu first hits. You're not rolling in the bed with fever and throwing up every few hours, but you just aren't yourself yet. I'm not sure why, but that's the way it seems.

I think today the hardest part is seeing Hannah's struggles. Tomorrow it may be something else, but that's the hurdle right now. She had some trouble organizing while we played "Balderdash" with Steve's family this afternoon. Before the accident she would have whizzed through that kind of thing. So there it is again, a loss, but I refuse to lose heart. The Great Book says "...We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." ~Romans 5:3-5. One of my dear friends is battling MS, and I told her today in church that we are going to dig in our heels and hold on to hope. We will not be disappointed. Whatever your giant is, my dear cyber friends, do not let go of hope. Besides the fact that God will show us His love and might through it, we'll gain perseverance and character. The Great One is, well, Great.

Our Virginia Smith's went home today. Stephen's mom is so incredibly happy to see his progress. I'm posting this picture of them together. I know how she feels. My baby survived this catastrophe too. Even with Hannah's uphill climb, she is doing amazingly well for early TBI recovery. "Hope will not disappoint...".

The word of God and the walk of faith walk hand in hand. Somehow my theology must match my life. Sorry to say there are times they don't. Times when I don't walk out what I believe. It's then I'm most grateful for a forgiving Savior, and for the hope of eternal life where we will zip off this sinful flesh and fight with it no more. Stressful times only show us more accurately who we truly are on the inside. I think C.S. Lewis put it well in this quote about how theology works with life here on the ground: "You will not get anywhere by looking at maps without going to sea. Nor will you be very safe if you go to sea without a map." We've got to do the thing and believe the thing. Thank God He does the thing with us - and gave us the Book as a map.

Watched a little of "Bringing Up Baby" with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn this afternoon. If you're looking for the definition of screwball comedy, this is it. I'm telling you, you'll laugh til you cry. I wish Cary was still alive so I could tell him how much delight he's given me these past few weeks. If you don't watch movies because they are black and white, you are missing so much. And believe me, Cary Grant doesn't need the full spectrum to look good.

Remember, this is national fixator removal week. Put it on your calendars, and celebrate with us on Thursday. We'll keep you posted on the time of surgery. The man will also have the glass removed from his hand at the same time, and Dr. Bagchi is going to try to "adjust" Stephen's knee while he is under anesthesia to get it in a little better position. Risks: rebreaking of bone. Now, we don't want that, do we?

I think I'm about the most favored woman in the universe with a circle of friends like all of you. Pray that my talk and my walk match up every day. I want to hear Him say "well done". Only by His grace is it possible for any of us. Hang on to hope, my fellow travellers!

Your friend on the pilgrim road (a road on a map!),


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Update 1/16/10 Day 69

Dear friends,

For all the relational pain that has come out of November 8, there has been much more good. My brother in law, Enduring Richard, has become more dear to me than ever. He and his wife, Optimistic Melissa, have been troopers with us on the pilgrim road. They have put feet to their compassion and miles on their car with many visits from Virginia lo these past 69 days. The cousins have been a beautiful source of comfort and fun for my children. Stephen's Mom, who at almost 80 years old rarely leaves Steve's side while she's up here, has had a tough go watching one of her children suffer, and in fact nearly die. And his sister Debbie has been so faithful. As a side note, she's the queen of shoes and pocketbooks. She has a pocketbook collection. I have one. I love her dearly, but I can't keep up with her in the fashion department!

Here's a shot of the Centerville Smith's from today's frolics:

Joseph, Uncle Richard, Colin, Aunt Melissa, Hannah, David, Benjamin, Monica, Grandma, Aunt Debbie and Hercules.

I made a delicious potato corn chowder for lunch today. Is there anything in the world as versatile as a potato? I'm a big soup fan. If you have a great soup recipe, please send it along. However, keep in mind I am a very ordinary cook. Too many ingredients, and these baby greens glaze over. No strange things either like arrowroot, or some spice that costs $50 an ounce. I don't get the food network, but when we visit the Cape I love watching it. I never make anything I see on there (Too many arrowroot recipes. What is arrowroot anyway?) I really like that show "Iron Chef". What a hoot. The old Japanese version really cracks me up. The new one with Bobby Flay is good too, but there's nothing like that campy Japanese dude hamming it up for the introduction. Priceless.

I'm spent at this point. No deep spiritual insights, no high and lofty understanding here. All I know is Jesus loves us all the time. Doesn't matter if we measure up or not. Doesn't matter if we're sharp as a tack or dull as my kitchen knives. I thank you all for tuning in to my doodles each day, even the days when they are pretty dullsville. It keeps me going that you keep going. And the Great One, well, "He never slumbers nor sleeps" and "Not a sparrow falls to the ground outside of His knowing." I'm so grateful that He is faithful even when I'm not.

Hey, check out "The Happiest Millionaire" starring Fred MacMurray. Great fun, and the songs are a blast.

Be back tomorrow, as always. I love you guys!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Friday, January 15, 2010

Update 1/15/10 Day 68

Dear friends,

I do declare this day was made to be an encouragement to me! I love people. I've heard the joke "life would be so much easier if it weren't for other people". Perhaps that's true sometimes (certainly I include myself in the list of fallen people who can be a bit sticky), but aren't people really the greatest? I mean, my cat's a little darling, but she doesn't tell a great story or sing a song that makes me cry. She purrs nicely but that can't compare to a belly laugh from a friend or a cup of coffee with girl talk. We were made for each other, folks. With all our foibles and annoying habits, we still need the other bipeds walking around the planet. So how did I get off on that tangent? Well, today I got an email from Laureen the Brave, who has been down this brain injury road in a profound way. I practically forgot everything she told me during the month of December, and she graciously repeated herself. Her strength blows me away. Her son sustained a brain injury on the weekend of his college graduation, and spent many months at Sunnyview. I can't tell you how much I appreciate her "cyber love". We've never met and she has greatly helped me. She travels with me carrying some of the same luggage.

Then I ran errands with Mary Ann the Dear One. She was willing to scooter with me to Aldi's, Walmart, and Deli Warehouse just to hang around and carry my bags. Talk about an exciting day out! Nothing like picking up a couple of pounds of oven roasted turkey breast for a good time! But we loved being together. Because peeps are what matter.

To top off the day, Our Savior's School had their Epiphany concert tonite. Because we Smitty's missed a lot of the pre-Christmas fun, it was such joy to hear songs like "We Three Kings" and "Do You Hear What I Hear" (my favorite!), as well as watch the kids use string puppets to "Jingle Bell Rock". I cried during Mel Torme's classic "The Christmas Song" (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...). The Great One simply showed me His love again through people all day long. Seems to be a theme with Him. I'm lovin' it, and I am more grateful than I can say for all the precious people in my life.

The concert tonite ended with the hymn of all hymns,(in my opinion, though it is a fact). It's my anthem, and my song of praise. Amazing Grace will surely be playing all over heaven, and when it's sung here a little heaven comes to earth. The verse to beat all is "Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home..." The word of the Great One says "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves but a gift from God." Amen. Through every minute of every day I am humbled to know His grace has been the momentum and eternal safety on the pilgrim road. There is no injury, no emotional pain, no sorrow that is stronger than the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He truly is Amazing.

So are you, by the way. A million thanks for sharing the dangers, toils and snares. You are my dear peeps.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Update 1/14/10 Day 67

Dear friends,

I'm wiped out today, but so what? There are people in Haiti struggling to survive. That's true exhaustion. That's desperation. That's "hard pressed on every side..." I can't describe the pain I feel for these battered people. In my family's "earthquake" there have been plenty of people to help and safe places to be. There was the best medical care in the world, and insurance and clean water and food. Most of all there was hope, no matter what the outcome had been. I knew God would never leave me alone, even if I had lost my dear ones. I knew He would strengthen me for whatever came. So now I'm calling on the Great One for the people of Haiti. Why this happened I don't know. But the Great One is the comforter, who comforts us in all our afflictions. I can tell you without hesitation that is true.

Those of you with teenagers know this time of life can be challenging. Throw a brain injury into the mix and it starts looking like a Three Stooges picture around here. Logic and reason seem to hide under the bed from time to time. I can't get them to come out no matter what I do. It's difficult to navigate these uncharted waters of recovery. My little princess is the sweetest girl on earth, but there are changes that sting. I remind myself that we are still only about 9 weeks in to an 18 month full recovery curve, and patience is required. Sometimes I get mad about the whole thing, I really do. Then I get frustrated because you can't change the past. These feelings don't take away one iota from the truth that "The Lord is my shepherd..." Feelings come and go like fog on the Hudson. But one thing the Great One wants is honesty. Truth in our "innermost being" as Sister Laurie has been expressing these past days. For sure He knows how we feel anyway. Why not be a little healthy and express it instead of sucking it up. I won't feel this way forever. But God will still be God in a few days, and my relationship with Him will be better for the truth between us.

Stephen and I were discussing our need in the future for another car. Clearly the first one is undrivable (massive understatement). We know nothing about cars. We've never owned a new car, and typically drive our cars till they fall apart. The only thing the next car has to have is dual side air bags. I think the reasons are obvious. Sunnyview has a driving component to their rehab. Once Steve's bones are back together and he is ambulatory, someone will get into a car with him so he can get used to driving again. I wonder what kind of vehicular accidents happened before the explosion of the manufacuture of automobiles. People probably got nailed with horses. Some things don't change.

Lovely Lucy made us a true Italian lady dinner tonite. It was scrumptious! My kids are scarfing the brownies as we speak. I think I'll scarf one soon too.

Short post tonite. I've got a date with a couple of Advil's and Cary Grant in "Mr. Blanding's Builds His Dreamhouse", another Smith family favorite requested by David tonite. There's also some Bruster's Ice Cream in the freezer and a soft pillow and afghan on the couch. Kind of boring today. But after the last few months boring is ok. We're looking to round the bend a month or so from now, when Stephen can put weight on that right side and walking becomes a light on the horizon. I can hardly wait...

You've been my friends through thick and thin. This is the thin. Thanks. (Say that 3 times fast!)

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Update 1/13/10 Day 66

Dear friends,

Oh happy day! Here's our DFG cell group, at our first meeting since the crash. Notable by his absence is the one and only amazing Barrie, the glue of the whole operation. Feel better soon, dear adopted dad!

What a wonderful evening, with some of the finest folks on the planet, delicious food, and love and laughter in the midst of life's troubles. Every dear person in this photo is carrying some kind of load, and every one of them walks with grace and kindness on the pilgrim highway. I absolutely love these fellow sojourners. I almost didn't make it up off the floor by the time the Precious Roberta got her photos. God bless our shutterbug in residence!

Stephen's brother John came up to visit today, and had to wait quite the while for us while the man was seen by Dr. Bagchi. Between xrays, waiting, pin removal and preop testing, we were at the Bone and Joint center for 3 hours! But it was worth it...because we found out that the fixator is coming off NEXT THURSDAY! You heard it right. Now it's still at least a month before he can bear weight on the right side, but the fixator will be replaced by a brace, which should make sleeping, moving, and LIVING a lot easier. If I have it in me I'm going to make a cake to celebrate. Let's have a cyber party next Friday, ok? We'll call it the Fixator Freedom Fiesta, and you can choose to party in whatever way you please (alcohol free, of course!) Here's a picture of the blasted thing:

If it looks cumbersome, it's because it is! I praise the Great One for the healing going on in my husband's bones. It's a wonder to look at the xrays and see bone filling in the broken spots. It's kind of strange seeing all the plates, screws and pins holding him together on the inside of his body. I asked Dr. Bagchi today if he ate a lot of fish. That man is one large cauldron of brains. And he's compassionate. And he wields a pair of pliers like a true body carpenter, pulling out one-and-a-half inch pins from Steve's foot. Ugh. I left the room for that one.

Dr. Uhl came in to see Stephen today too. He did the original work on the man's elbow, and was very pleased that he exhibited as much range of motion as he has. He can now put full weight into his elbow, and the docs are recommending "aggressive" range of motion therapy for his shoulder. Progress is being made. Thank you, thank you for the prayers. Keep em 'coming.

Wish you all could have been here tonite for the pulled pork, tender bbq chicken, and Amy's mouth watering blueberry pie. I love feasts. They all point to that big one we'll have in heaven one day, when we see the Savior face to face and finally finish our earthly trek. Many years ago, Steve and I hiked the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park on the 4th of July. We were told that at the top of the mountain, after hiking all day, there was a rough camp where we could get a piece of homemade apple pie. When we reached our destination, the pie was gone. That's how it can work down here. Disappointment is part of life for these few years. But the walk through the wilds of Glacier Park was amazing - a gift in itself. Just like our climb here. Hard, yes. Tricky, sometimes. Confusing, true. Tedious, often. But packed with wonder and adventure and a thousand gifts along the way. When we reach the end of the cosmic trail, there will definitely be pie at the end. And yet another adventure, but without the pitfalls. Hallelujah!

Thanks for some of your classic movie ideas. I love it. Send more! We're waiting for our next Netflix picture to arrive, "You Can't Take It With You" directed by the quintessential American director, Frank Capra, starring Jimmy Stewart, Jeanne Arthur and Lionel Barrymore. Can't wait! Wish we could all have pie and watch it together.

Let's keep praying for the people of Haiti. Samaritan's Purse always helps in these disasters if you're looking for a way to send money.

As always, so glad we're on the cosmic trail together.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Update 1/12/09 Day 65

Dear friends,

The man's foot is a mess. Thankfully, tomorrow we see Dr. Bagchi (you remember, Bob the Builder), Stephen's orthopedic surgeon. I once described Steve's right foot as "scrambled eggs". He had surgery on said foot several days before checking out of Albany Medical Center. At that time, various screws and pins were inserted to put his kicker back together. Since then it has been kind of swollen, which is normal given all the trauma on the right side of his body. But now the skin is beginning to grow over the pins, and the swelling has gotten rather severe. He will most likely get the external pins out tomorrow. The pain in his foot has increased due to swelling, and the physical therapist said as the nerves regenerate, the area will "wake up". I wish it would go back to sleep. Stephen took some Tylenol but it's not helping much. This is the hard part, seeing him in pain and not being able to do anything about it.

Today we went to Sunnyview for the first day of outpatient therapy for Hercules. He was asked the same questions many times, as this was the evaluation phase. It was strangely familiar being back there. I had to run up to the third floor to see the nurses I spent so much time with over the past 6 weeks. I recalled that first day there with Hannah Rejoice, when I realized I was on the traumatic brain injury unit, and it seemed as though I had been hit with a brick. How far we have come! The mercy of the Great One is completely over the top. Makes me grateful. Humbles me to the core.

I started the day professing how I was going to eat healthy today, and drink more water, and get out for a walk. Well, after the rush to get out by 9am (no easy task around here these days), I wound up in the car with an empty stomach and a need for coffee. I was jonesin' for some Dunkin Decafe, and a vanilla filled donut. I got the coffee, but had to "settle" for a jelly donut. Now those of you who know me know jelly donuts are never a second choice for me, but always right up there with mocha frappucino's, lighthouses and windy October days in the "best things in life" parade. But today, I just wanted a vanilla cream and alas, boo hoo for me. I topped off the evening with a piece of Entenmann's yellow cake with chocolate frosting and a glass of milk. It's not that I wanted the cake. But I had to have something to wash down the milk. After all, a girl must get her calcium...

Judy the Good let me put all my stuff in her freezer until we get a new one. Unfortunately, 5 half gallons of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream (purchased during a Stewart's Ice Cream sale before the crash) softened to a yucky mush and had to be disposed of. Nothing sadder than wasting ice cream. At least brother John is coming up tomorrow bearing Bruster's frozen confections. Yum. Double Yum. So much for the healthy eating plan...

My heart hit the floor tonite hearing about the earthquake in Haiti. To think of the suffering of those people, their family members hurt or lost in the rubble, or dead, is overwhelming. No advanced life support, no insurance, no high tech medical care. I could just about double over thinking of their pain. I wish I could go there and put my arms around someone in their extreme sorrow. I wish I could find super human strength to move boulders and steel girders. I wish I had millions of dollars to send to pay for the best medical care and sanitation and accommodations money can buy. I pray for the love of the Great One to shine in their darkness as it has in mine. I ask Him to show us how to make His love real to these desperately needy people. Lord have mercy.

Life is unpredictable. How we've learned that. How we continue to learn that. But there is a Rock that does not move. There is solid ground that never shifts. There is a future that is secure. Praise God for who He is. Unshakable. Immovable. Almighty. Wow.

My dear friends, hold on to the Rock. He's always reaching for us.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


Monday, January 11, 2010

Update 1/11/10 Day 64

Dear friends,

Stephen is working really hard to use his right hand. His elbow injury is of the permanent nature, so without some supernatural intervention he will always have limited use of that arm. You should see how well he does, and how hard he tries to do things with it! He can use it to shave a bit, to wash his hair in the front, and to eat (with a good lean in). Today he made the comment when we drove by a bus stop: "See all those people going to work. I wish it was me. I took for granted what a blessing it was to get up in the morning and go to work." I can tell you I definitely take my right arm for granted. I take driving a car for granted. I take getting up and brushing my teeth for granted. But that's changing. I'm seeing through my husband's eyes how many little things are cause for thanksgiving.

Dr. Hesham was absolutely delighted to see Steve today. He remembered well the night of November 8. He smiled from ear to ear to see the father of 3 alive and well, albeit broken. There is no adequate way to thank this dear man for the skill and tenacity he extended to keep my husband alive. The good doctor expressed to us how important family is to him, and how glad he is that ours is still together. All 4 of his children are doctors! I understand why with a dad like him. God bless him in a thousand ways!

It was a little rugged after we left the district attorney's office. I would love to be able to put the crash behind us and simply climb the mountain into the future. But alas, the thing has to be dealt with. It seems part of going forward will inevitably involve going back. I get so sad all over again thinking of my life before November 8. It's almost like another life altogether. I can't really describe the whole scope of the change, because some parts of it are so internal and so personal they defy description. This is where I simply have to dig in and trust the Great One to make all things as they must be. It's not all gloom and doom, it's just a big adjustment. Grieving is apparently a part of it.

My David is the 6th grade spelling bee champ! The whole school is having a bee on January 27, and you best believe Stephen and I will be there. The winner of the school bee goes on to the regional bee. When David was home schooled in 4th grade, I let him jump up and down on the bed while he spelled his words (awesome Amy's idea), and he always did well with spelling. Perhaps there's something to this. Do you think they'll let him jump up and down during the spelling bee?

Winter feels very long today. I told you it was going to get kind of tedious as the months march on. I appreciate you hanging in there with me through the "desert" part of the pilgrim road. It's long. It's boring. It's a lot of waiting. But think about the many people of God who got a stretch in the desert. It refined them. It defined them. Let it be so for us.

Stuff blooms in the desert. I learned that when I worked for Reading Rainbow and we went on a shoot at a bat cave south of San Antonio, Texas. I was expecting nothing but sand and cactus. But there were animals, and all kinds of greenery, and stunning, beautiful flowers. The desert patch of the pilgrim road is the same. There are lovely things growing in the dry places. That's how the Great One is. He always drops off beauty in the strangest places. I continue to be astonished by His grace.

You are those desert oasis', by the way. Bet you never saw yourself that way, but it's true. Thanks for being willing to bloom in the sand for my sake.

Your friend on the dusty pilgrim road,