Friday, April 30, 2010

Update 04/30/10 - Day 172

Hello, you faithful readers of this dear blog - and any new readers that might be joining us tonight (or today, or whatever it is where you are). This is Stephen, filling in for my bride tonight. She is on a ladies "advance" with some other wonderful women from our church, the awesome Delmar Full Gospel. Between you and me, I doubt if there's another woman there who could use this retreat at this particular time more than my wife. This past week has been rather stressful for her. Last weekend we had company, and Loriann always puts so much pressure on herself when we have company, and I think that the pressure is increased when the company includes my mother. (Loriann loves my mother, but I think many women feel that way when their mother-in-law is involved. They want everything to be perfect - and as we know, very little in this life is! [The Mets record in the last eight games is a happy exception!]) On top of that, of course, was the fact that a surprise party was planned, and the pressure of not revealing anything at the last moment, and having to come up with a convincing ruse as to why we were stopping at our church on the way to our restaurant reservation - all of these little things added up to give Loriann more stress. And then, of course, looming ahead of us during the week was the sentencing, which you read about yesterday. Loriann was nervous about that as well, and in the morning I came upon her crying as she was thinking about Oscar Lewis saying goodbye to his children before going off to prison. You got to read her Victim Impact Statement in yesterday's post, and I know you'll agree that she did a wonderful job. It also showed beautifully what kind of a special person she is. Loriann and I want to thank the various people who came to the courthouse to show their support of us, and the many others who couldn't come but who held us up in prayer. It was all of that love, along with the unfailing faithfulness of God, that got us through a difficult morning.

Since Loriann wasn't home tonight you probably guessed that we had something simple for dinner, and you'd be right. We had "picky foods" - mozzerella sticks, two kinds of boneless buffalo wings, and I made rice as well. See, and you were afraid I couldn't cook! My daughter had a guitar lesson today and then went to a friend's house, and Joseph and David both had a friend over as we continue our journey back to "the new normal". A couple of recent landmarks along the way . . . yesterday was the first day I was able to take a shower standing up since November 8th, thanks to the grab bar that Tom Terrific put in on Wendesday, as featured right here on this blog. I don't really need to hold on to it during the shower, but it's a blessing for when I want to get in and out of the tub to take the shower. Another recent landmark is the fact that last week I began taking walks again during my lunch hour. At first it was only for fifteen minutes, but then I moved it up to thirty and I hope to get back to walking for the whole lunch hour soon. I miss my Corning Preserve, though, and I scouted out how to get there from my new job location. Turns out I can make it in about seven minutes, so I think that on some (most?) nice days I will drive myself down there and walk in my old stomping grounds. Nicer than the parking lots that I've been walking in lately.

Back on April 16th Loriann told you how we went to our friends' house, Tracy and Jim, and played euchre with them and with "One of a Kind Christina", as Loriann called her that night. (And believe me, she knows whereof she speaks! Christina is a unique woman and a joy to all who know her, even if it did take her a couple of hands to remember all of the nuances of euchre. Christina and I did win the night's competition, although Tracy later claimed that she didn't want to beat me in my current condition.) When we left Tracy and Jim's house that night it was getting late and we knew we wouldn't be home until 11:00 or so, and Loriann mentioned that she'd have to do the blog when we got home. Christina said, "I can see it now: 'Short post tonight. Your friend on the Pilgrim Road, Loriann." That cracked us up. Of course Loriann didn't do that on that night, and had to fill you in on all the fun we had. I couldn't do it to you tonight, either. I figure you've had all the bad news you can handle once you knew I was pinch-hitting for Loriann.

Speaking of the B, can I take a moment to make an unsolicited statement about my bride? I've got to say, one thing that's been unsaid is that a big part of the fact that I've been healing so well has been due to her. When I first came home from Sunnyview she willingly changed my bandages, ferried me to various doctors' appointments, helped me to shower and shave and loved me. When she began doing those things she had no idea if she'd be doing them for a month or for long years, but she was committed to do them for me. I'm thankful that God's healed me enough that she doesn't have to help me with all of those things, but I'll never forget her willingness to do them and the blessing that she was to me. She continues to be a blessing to me, every day, in many ways. If you have someone in your life who blesses you, and who you love completely, make sure you tell them that today. As we were reminded back in November, this life is a vapor and we never know when or how it might end. A word of thanks and of love is never out of place.

Your fellow traveler on the pilgrim road, and honored to be walking it alongside of Loriann,

Stephen

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Update 4/29/10 Day 171

Dear friends,

As warned, this is a long post. It is simply a transcript of the victim impact statement I delivered today when Oscar Lewis was sentenced to 3-9 years in prison. There is much to say about today, but not tonite. Here goes:

On November 8, 2009, the life of my family changed forever. That change plowed into us like a hurricane, and the wind continues to blow.

It was an unusually warm day for November. I was working my part time evening job at Albany Medical Center, when my friend called me at work to ask where my husband was to pick up our 12 year old son from his afternoon of playing with his buddy. I was surprised Stephen hadn’t arrived – he was almost an hour late. That simply never happens. I was unable to reach him, or my 14 year old daughter Hannah, on their cell phones. My older son wasn’t answering either. Finally I called my neighbor to go to my house and see what the problem might be. She arrived to find an East Greenbush police officer at my door. At about 6:30 I got the call. Stephen was on his way to Albany Med via a rescue helicopter, and Hannah, who had simply wanted to ride with her dad to pick up her brother, would arrive by ambulance.

The next few hours are difficult to describe. Both my dear ones were intubated, unconscious and catastrophically injured when they arrived at the hospital. My 14 year old had a frontal lobe subdural hemorrhage, which is a serious brain injury, an orbital fracture over her left eye which would ultimately necessitate surgery, a liver laceration, and multiple cuts and abrasions requiring sutures on her face, legs and hands. She also lost 2 front teeth, and another 2 had to be removed in December because they were loose. Hannah was in a coma, and no one could tell me when, if, or how she would wake up. Stephen arrived having lost an enormous amount of blood. Medical personnel struggled to keep him alive as his blood pressure dropped to 50 in the ER. Nurses squeezed blood from packaged units into his body to pump it into him quicker than he bled out. Dr. Dailey finally came out to tell me he wasn’t sure if Steve would make it through the night.

Stephen’s injuries included a punctured lung, 2 broken legs, 2 broken pelvis bones, a broken right shoulder and elbow, broken right foot, and multiple lacerations. He also sustained a concussion. His legs, elbow and foot fractures were compound and external, putting him at serious risk for infection.

Meanwhile, my two boys, 16 and 12, in the care of wonderful people, worried, wondered and waited.

I will not go into all the terrible details of the next few weeks and months. A book could be written about the threat of death, amputation and infection to my husband. As for my daughter, there are no words to adequately describe the agony of brain injury, or the combination of pain and hope as I watched her emerge with the usual impulsiveness this type of neural devastation brings to the surface. Her emotions were completely flat, she picked mercilessly at her scabs, she endured the pain of extubation, IV’s, medicine side effects and confusion and fear. She lost 2 months of school, and has permanent scarring on her face and legs. Her 4 front top permanent teeth are gone for good. By the great mercy and grace of God, she continues to make her way back, with personality changes and relational changes that are heartbreaking to her father and me. But we hold out great hope. And we love her more than we can say.

Stephen was intubated in the ICU for 8 days. He received 4 major orthopedic surgeries in 16 days. He was fitted with an external fixator, which was on his right leg until January 21. He was not able to bear weight on his leg until February 4th. He did not walk for 3 months. He has a large skin graft on his left leg and a rod in his left tibia. His left leg is permanently shorter than his right. His right femur is fitted with a permanent internal fixator, and his right foot is also full of pins and screws. His right elbow has lost function, is loaded with metal, and according to doctors will never fully bend and extend. He continues to receive therapy for all of his injuries, and unfortunately his risk for arthritis is sky high. He has pain and stiffness every day, but his attitude is outstanding.

Officer Ernie Tubbs informed me that awful night at Albany Med that it was an intoxicated Oscar Lewis who had crossed the yellow line while driving his 6600 pound truck 70 miles an hour at 5:15 on a Sunday afternoon and nearly killed my husband and daughter. This is not hyperbole. These are the stubborn facts. Mr. Lewis’ decision to get in his vehicle with a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit has meted out consequences on my family. These consequences are forever.

It was important to me to tell the truth here about what has happened as a result of this crime. I have not exaggerated the harm done by the crash on November 8. If anything, I have left out mountains of details on the sufferings of not just Stephen and Hannah, but of my boys, our extended families and friends. I don’t know if Mr. Lewis was aware of any of this prior to this court sentencing. But there is more to say as well.

I do not hold any anger or hatred in my heart toward Oscar Lewis. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have been forgiven greatly in my life. Because of God’s mercy to me, I freely extend forgiveness to Oscar Lewis. My great hope for him is that he will find the love of a kind and forgiving God as he pays the price our state requires for his criminal actions. I will pray for his freedom from alcoholism, from guilt and from shame. Perhaps, like me, he would give anything to turn back the clock. I don’t know if he is sorry or not. I know I wish no ill to this man. I have no malice or vengeance toward him at all. But there is a great deal of difference between vengeance and justice. That is why I both forgive Oscar Lewis, and support his incarceration.

No amount of time in prison will rewire my daughter’s brain. It will not make her scars disappear, or give her back her original smile. No one really knows the long term affects for her either. Jail time will not grow Stephen’s leg back or enable him to cast a fishing line, or run on the beach with his children. Justice on planet earth is rough. But imagine living in a world where there were no consequences for breaking the law? We would be like a corrupt, third world country where power is to the strong and innocent people have no earthly recourse. Justice is a beautiful and righteous virtue. It is our laws, with all their earthly limitations, that will hopefully protect Oscar Lewis’ children from the ravages of drunk driving. I pray he will never have to experience with his loved ones what I have with mine.

Though the impact of this crime on my family has changed our life paradigm permanently, I must add that it has also shown us the power of love in ways we could never have imagined. People in this courtroom, people across the country, indeed over the ocean, prayed, helped and cared for us and continue to do so. To them I owe a debt of gratitude I can never repay. As I have said before to all of them, I can’t pay it back, but I will do my very best to pay it forward.

To Oscar Lewis, I say there is hope for your future. You will lose your freedom, but you need not lose your soul. The Great One loves you, and will forgive any transgression. If you want to know Him, if you need Him, you have only to ask. The choice, like it was on November 8, is entirely up to you. It is my sincere desire to see your life changed for the good, and raised up from the ashes. To see you completely restored and ready to live the life your Creator meant for you to live. I know with God’s help, this can be.


That's it, my dear friends. This was a big hump to go over on the pilgrim road. This part, anyway, is officially in the rearview mirror. I'm dead tired. Goodnight.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Update 4/28/10 Day 170

Dear friends,
Thank you for your kind and beautiful messages to Hannah today. Between the comments, emails and Facebook, not to mention Generation Church tonite, Miss Rejoice is being submerged in love from all sides. What a special birthday for a sparkling light.

I made a vat of homemade spaghetti sauce today, Hannah's favorite and high on the list for the other Smitty's in these parts. Thank goodness I spent an hour on the elliptical this morning, because the pail of pasta I ate for dinner is probably good for double that amount of workout time. At least I avoided the donut/coffee trap this morning for breakfast. But there's always tomorrow...

Tonite's post is going to be short. My brother is in town from Massachusetts, and yesterday's entry was on the long side. Tomorrow's post promises to be quite long, quite long indeed. Hopefully though, it will edify and inform, as much as is possible for my mortal powers anyway.

Above is a photo of Tom Terrific, more living proof of the kindness and love we continue to receive while we tackle the challenges of everyday life. He put in a shower bar for Smitty, so he can take a shower standing up now. Tom is one of the kindest, dearest folks you'll ever meet, as is his other half, Lovely Lucy. These are the people I told you about who have adopted 4 foster children, and they were already in or closing in on the nifty fifty club when they launched out on that stretch of pilgrim road.

In particular tonite, I want to thank once again my outstanding spiritual kin at Delmar Full Gospel Church for their enduring, plucky love for us played out through hundreds of kindnesses by a wide range of personalities. You all have been what Jesus talked about when He said "Love one another as I have loved you." Our little community isn't perfect, but it is a place of profound love. And isn't that what church is supposed to be? I love that we aren't cookie cutters of one another. That some like the country and some the city. That some prefer pie and some cake. That some like rock and roll and some like Gaither (Brother Barrie!). That some are carpenters and some gardeners, some keep the wheels turning in factories and warehouses, and some can make a simple piece of cloth something beautiful. The more free we are to be who we are, the more God can show Himself in His wide ranging spectrum of color and light. The past almost six months have been absolutely extraordinary. I'm changed by all of you forever. There are no words to tell you how grateful I am, but I can hope you know.

May He who reigns forever give all of you the matchless gift of His presence. Forget all the stuff this world says to clamor for. You can lose it in a red hot minute. Find someone who needs a shower bar, or a cup of coffee, or good joke. Whatever is done for the Great One will last. Forever.
Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Update 4/27/10 Day 169

Fifteen years ago, in just a few hours from now, I had the familiar sensation known to most women approaching their 4oth week of pregnancy. I went into labor at 4:15 am on April 28, 1995, and at 6:56 am (much more quickly than her older brother!) Hannah Mary Rejoice graced the world with her presence. She frightened her father something awful, looking gray and needing oxygen at first because of her overly swift trip from inside to out. She broke her tiny collarbone in the process, and as you all know this was far from the worst scare she would give us, though her father, perhaps thankfully, slept through the recent one.

It is impossible to express the profound commitment we have to our children, isn’t it? We watch over them like sentries, long for their best, pray for their safety, fret over their fevers, rejoice in what makes them happy, sorrow over their tears. They live in our heads every hour of every day. It is dangerous business to have children, because with great love comes great risk. No one knows this as well as the Great One, whose huge, boundless love must set us free to live in a world bristling with terrors, traps and even amusements that can injure us. He would not hold us, like puppets on a string, to keep us from all possible harm, because without freedom there is no love. And without love, life is not worth a spoonful of dirt.

So here I am, pondering life with a beautiful, brilliant, sensitive, daughter, whose value is limitless, and of all the things in the world I wish, I wish I could have protected her from the six thousand pound truck that barreled into her at 70 miles an hour. I wish that on that November evening she would have returned, safe to her home instead of on life support at the hospital. I wish I could carry what is hers to cope with, and that I could say for sure that nothing will ever hurt her again. She is, and always will be my precious baby girl. And there is a world out there in which there are great dangers. Being a parent is perilous indeed.

But I wouldn’t trade a minute of life with her, despite the agony of this experience. And this I do know, she loves her God, and will learn more of His greatness as He takes her down this pilgrim road of her own. This is my consolation:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

Hannah has placed her life in the hands of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. There is no ultimate harm that can touch her. The troubles of this present age can’t compare with the treasures she has stored up in heaven. Not to mention the good things in store for her here, on the unpredictable pilgrim road.

Happy Birthday to the darling girl of my heart. I may not be able to protect you from every danger, but as long as I have breath I will never leave you alone in it. And the Great One, who can never die, will always be with you, as He has been with me, even when the trek gets dark and lonely.

So if you see my baby, wish her a Happy Birthday. Thank God for His mercy, she’s with us to turn 15.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Monday, April 26, 2010

Update 4/26/10 Day 168

Dear friends,

I am astonished that you still want to read my daily scribbles as we progress along the pilgrim road! We're closing in on the six month mark, and lots of what I write about are the mundane details of a family rebuilding after a storm. Still I run across people almost daily who continue to encourage me to keep writing, and to make my goal of the final post on November 8, 2010. In between doing laundry and getting the car washed, we do have moments of triumph, drama, and interesting pit stops along the way. But for the most part, I'm sharing the daily stuff of living with you, and it has been healing in ways I can't adequately describe. Perhaps that's why God seems to be directing me to stick with it until day 365. Even if not a soul reads these words, somehow they are working for good. So I travel onward, delighted that as I turn every corner I see the smiling faces of my bloggie friends. How surprising! How great is God, to not only lead me on, but to send so many to help carry the bags. I hope I have helped carry yours too.

I asked Stephen today if he wished he could have his old body back. He looked at me oddly as if to say (because he would never really say it), " duh, woman, what do you think?" He hobbled up the stairs with his cane and said simply "Yes". What was I looking for him to say? That it's ok, that I don't have to feel bad about his broken body because he's accepted it? That losing function isn't grueling? That going from striding to limping is just fine? I think I asked him because my experience on this road and his are different. Being the wife and mom has its challenges, but my machine is in one piece. I want to know what I can't really know: what is it like for him, really, in a body that simply doesn't do what it used to? Especially being of his particular gender, where strength and function are all tied in with a sense of who one is. In the end, I can't really climb inside his head and understand. But the Great One "knows when he sits and when he rises, He perceives his thoughts from afar". Ultimately, we don't even really understand ourselves, and all the psychology in the world can't plumb the depths of a soul like the One and Only. This I do know; Stephen has taken his halting steps without complaining and with remarkable grace. I'm proud of him.

Seems the Dynasplint has increased Smitty's flexion by a few degrees. And we can't discount the role of Sweet Sandy, "the pitbull", who tries to make Stephen believe he's Gumby with the way she works that limb. But always with a smile, always with a smile... Unfortunately his extension (straightening his arm) has not seen any improvement so far. He's got a few more weeks with the Dynasplint, and of course Sandy won't quit, but how bout a prayer or two for a little more? And the shoulder needs motion too. He loves fishing, and casting will be impossible without some grease in the hinge. Perhaps he needs an oil can like the tin man in "The Wizard of Oz". If only that would work, I'd be willing to dance around like the scarecrow singing "If I only had a Brain"...

Don't forget to keep praying for Miss Rejoice, whose struggles are much more subtle and who has teenagehood on top of it all. She's brilliant, but she's been through the war. More than anything, I need to trust the Great One to bring her through. I know she's the apple of His eye.
So are you, by the way. Otherwise, why would He risk loving so many who wouldn't love Him back? But we'll do anything for true love. Anything. And so would He.

Time for a little leftover cake from Grandma Smith's 80th. Later on, we've got a date with Jack Bauer, who I think is going to be spitting mad over the recent developments with terrorists and bad guys. Only a few episodes left. But rumor has it there's going to be a movie...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Update 4/25/10 23 weeks since crash

Dear friends,

There is an initiative at Albany Med to promote hand washing. The sign over our sink says to “lather hands and rinse under warm water for 20 seconds.” Try it. It’s going to feel like a long time. While I washed my hands this afternoon, I concentrated on the frosty-fresh smell of the soap, the comfort of the warm water, and the pleasure of 20 seconds of rest in the midst of the hustle bustle. It was experiencing life instead of racing through it. (As an aside, 23 weeks ago I hid in this very bathroom, running the water and sobbing, hoping no one could hear me). I remember reading something that said “there are things we pass by every day, which, if they were missing, we would pay millions to have them back. But in the main, they mostly go unnoticed.” I believe I’ve missed far too many of heaven’s kisses because I’ve been captivated by my own agenda, or snared in the world’s pace. Washing my hands was another one of those everyday symbols the Great One made use of to show me an invisible truth. Slow it up, take it in, be grateful. Did you ever think soap and water could be so significant?

Here’s a thought provoking quote from the book I’m currently reading, “The Hobbit”:

Gandalf:
“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”

Bilbo:
“I should think so – in these parts! We are plain and quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner. I can’t think what anybody sees in them…”

I kind of think this could be a conversation between me and the Great One. In my more imaginative moments I fantasize about being a brave soul, willing to answer any call of the King. But when the proverbial push comes to the actual shove, I’m really just like Bilbo Baggins, needing a good, solid thrust out of my comfort zone. Difficult circumstances are the push. They bring a new perspective. They bring light to see the afflictions of the souls around us who inhabit our days, and who we otherwise might overlook. Troubles can be our best (gulp) friends. So, 23 weeks out from disaster, I’ve taken some tentative steps on the adventure road. And I’ve learned that the One I trust is completely worthy of it. So, if he wants me to share in the adventure, I’m willing to go. Even if it’s just stopping to talk with the kid at Starbucks. Or calling my elderly aunt (this week, if I can find Sharon or Pam’s phone number)! Or picking up the slack for a coworker without needing credit. God is in charge of the adventure. He may ask you to do something big and dangerous. But most of our stretches on the pilgrim road are about doing “small things with great love”.

Bilbo goes, by the way, and though I haven’t finished the story yet, I can already see him toughening up and becoming the “man for the job” (or should I say “hobbit” for the job) that Gandalf believed he was all along. Walk with the Great One, and he’ll make you the “hobbit” for your adventure. It might not look like a meaningful narrative at the time, but history reveals all sorts of examples of folks who were in the middle of one without realizing it. I’m praying you’ll have great courage and great focus. Courage to do what He says, focus to know what it is. And to enjoy the feeling of soap and warm water and the like along the way…

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Update 4/24/10 Day 166


Dear friends,
Exhale.

The Great One shined down on us today in ways too many to be counted. The theme He has replayed over and over for me in the past 5 plus months plus made its round again in the form of Smitty's mother's 80th birthday. That truth: Relationships are the central orb of life. First with God. Then with the other people who dwell here below with us during our short waltz on planet earth.

Fourteen cousins who see each other fairly infrequently because of distance, were as usual best friends for the day. Brothers and sisters of multiple generations shared those wonderful inside jokes and stories from their childhood (like the one about Steve's twin brother's "french fry cake", a result of John baking with his mom's leftover Crisco in the fridge that she reused to fry potatoes). Aunt's Doris, who is one of the most generous souls inhabiting this cosmic ball, reminisced about her many travels with her sisters and brothers which she both organized and funded. (Though she would never tell you about the latter). Steve's Uncle Tom was the life of the party as is typical of him, and was found washing dishes toward the end of the day in the kitchen. Everyone was filled with joy, no one more than my mother in law, and I know a great deal of that hard earned happiness was a result of the many hard spent tears from that fateful day in November... It really was uplifting in a "open the window and let in some fresh air" kind of way to see my husband and daughter enjoying their simple lives, with the people they love and in the wake of truly miraculous recoveries. Though Steve couldn't play the rough and tumble games with the kids today, and though the road to wellness is still ongoing, we felt the most blessed of people. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" He is so very for us, friends. You all know families have their ups and downs, their relationship struggles, their misunderstandings and their hurts. But if we do what Jesus says, forgive and love, there can be grace and peace. And lots of fun! I am privileged to be related to these folks.

Having said all that, I am glad to be home, without planning or plotting in front of me. My pillows await, and maybe a little DVD of "The Life of Riley" before I sleep. My nephew and niece, Benjamin and Monica are sleeping over before heading back to Virginia in the morning. And Stephen's mom will go to bed tonight, having experienced the greatest of joys for her: time with all of her children.

By the way, Smitty was the twin on the far right in yesterday's photo. Check out how much he looks like David too. We really are "fearfully and wonderfully made."

To all my brother and sister in laws who read this blog, and to Smitty's aunts and uncles and cousins who do the same, I love you! Thanks for making a beautiful memory for all of us. And to the rest of you precious Bloggies who hang with me here in cyberspace, I love you too. Our party is coming...

Hope you like the photo of Steve with his mom. She's so happy he's alive to celebrate her 80th. And the other picture is of the 14 grandchildren. We were fruitful, and multiplied!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Friday, April 23, 2010

Update 4/23/10 Day 165

Dear friends,
Good gravy, I'm losing it. Too much to do in one day! I snuck off for a couple of minutes to check in and say hello, but this may be my shortest post ever. Steve's Mom and sister Debbie are here (and staying tonite), and his sister Laura Jeanne, her husband David and their 3 kids are here too (staying in a hotel after dessert). We've drummed up a cockamamie story about why I'm going out early tomorrow morning (to set up for the big surprise). I really am so very happy for Smitty's mom. It was a terrible 5 plus months for her. She seems clueless about the big plan, and certainly has no idea her brother and sisters will be here. The Great One has blessed her with many years and many children, and also many grandchildren (Joseph being the first!) Please pray for all to go smoothly. I'm a little off the hook. Poor Steve...

I'm sure if you asked my mother in law, she would tell you those 80 years went by like a shot. Another reminder to me of the brevity of life, and the singular need to keep my priorities straight. As the book says, we have "seventy years, eighty if we are strong...". I want to live it, love while I'm here, and die well. Only locked on to His grace can I navigate the pilgrim road. If I live to be 80, I want to still be saying "The Great One is Unrivaled." As an old song says "He's the all time, undisputed, undefeated champion of love..." No matter the birthday, there is One who knows us from womb to tomb. May He be praised forever!

They're all clapping to Nicole's song and dance performance out there, so I better get back to the festivities. I posted a photo of Steve and his twin brother John and sister Debbie for your viewing pleasure. Can you guess which one is Hercules? I'll let you know tomorrow:)

Love you to bits!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Update 4/22/10 Day 164

Dear friends,

Things are hopping here in the Smith house. This weekend, Smitty’s mom is coming to town, along with all Steve’s brothers, sisters and their offspring, to celebrate his mother’s 80th birthday. It’s a surprise, but I’m not quite sure how we’ll pull off all the details. I think this will be a happy birthday for Grandma, especially since her son and granddaughter will be alive to share it with her. I’ve mentioned it before, but Stephen’s mom calls him every night since the accident. When she first arrived in the ICU the day after the crash, Stephen responded to her voice and squeezed her hand even though he was unconscious. That primal voice, that voice you heard even from the womb, must be very powerful. Anyway, I hope she has the time of her life. Her brother and sisters are coming from parts afar as well. Normally we would do this type of party in Virginia. But as well as Stephen is doing, a 7 hour car ride is still a bit much. I hope to post a picture of the whole gang on Saturday night.

So as you can imagine, I’m trying to get my house at least a little bit cleaned up for the pre and post party festivities. I washed my kitchen floor today to the Newsboys singing “He Reigns”. I love that song, and it’s great housework music. Check it out on You Tube if you’ve never heard it. I played it a few times, and kind of got caught up in a little twirling while I washed. It was just me and the Great One, happy together in the kitchen, cranking through the mundane stuff of life. My heart was light after unloading some wrong motives and snippy attitudes through the powerful and necessary process of repentance. I don’t know what I would do without a Savior. The rough and tumble of every day life along with the selfishness of the fallen nature create a virtual greenhouse for sin. It stinks. But it doesn’t have to be our boss, because as the apostle says “Sin shall not be your master, for you are not under law, but under grace.” That’s something to twirl about!

A few great things about today:

Judy the Good stopped in for a cup of tea. I was delighted to stop sweeping and mopping to while away an hour with such a fine soul.

The hospital was packed tonite, but we all worked very hard to get every patient the right bed. It felt good to do our little part in keeping Albany Med humming.

Delightful to read the comments and emails about Baggins’ and Took’s from yesterday’s post.

Bilbo Baggins made it out of the Goblin cave in one piece (barely).

Washed that gray right out of my hair.

Do some twirls, friends. And sing, really loud.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Update 4/21/10 Day 163

Dear friends,

One of our fellow bloggies, Susan K., sent me a link for a website that makes me laugh, cry and wonder. It's called "The Rabbit Room" (www.rabbitroom.com), and it is best described as a hang out for creative types who get a kick out of words and are making sense of this fallen world through the prism of the grace of G0d. My favorite author, C.S. Lewis, was one of the writers who inhabited the real Rabbit Room in Oxford, England, along with J.R.R. Tolkien and some other fascinating literary folk, most of them followers of the Great One. I've enjoyed this site, and have learned from the humility and story telling power of the people who post there. I was especially intrigued with one question, and thought I would bring it to your attention, just for fun.

In the book, "The Hobbit", by Tolkien (my current read), the main character Bilbo Baggins is challenged to go on the adventure of a lifetime. Bilbo's DNA is split between two temperaments. His mother, Belladonna Took, comes from a long line of Hobbits who were risk takers; willing to take on the unknown, follow the star, face a possible danger. But Bilbo's father's side was pure, safe, contented Hobbit. Happy by the fire with a pipe and a book in a comfy chair, enjoying the pleasures of home and hearth. Skittish about anything beyond the confines of the sweet Shire.

So the question they asked, and I ask you, are you more a Baggins or a Took? I will tell you that by nature I am a Baggins. I love C.S. Lewis' quote "You can never get a book long enough or a cup of tea big enough to suit me..." The older I've gotten, the more Baggins-like I seem to be. I'm contented to have my world settled. But one thing Tolkien makes clear in all his marvelous stories: you must contend with the fallen world, or it will contend with you. I think since the accident my inner Took has come out. Tookness is necessary when we bump up against the darkness of a world where terrible things happen. It is required that we resist evil and strive for good, or else darkness will surely press down on our broken planet. I think everyone has some Took in them. I love those folks who are natural Tooks, who wrestle down their fears and insist on a life of challenge. I'm glad the Great One gives us both the comforts of home and the excitement of the unknown. Perhaps we're all blends of Baggins and Took, depending on the day, depending on the hour...

I can't wait to hear what the angle is on Steve's elbow. Soon, Sweet Sandy will measure the bend, and we'll find out what that blasted Dynasplint is made of. He's also going to talk to Dr. Bagchi to see if anything can be done to get that right shoulder moving. It's still very stiff and doesn't want to stretch too high. Miss Rejoice continues to do well in school. She's anxious to get back to her regular gym class, but won't be cleared until Dr. Samaio sees her in early May. He wants to be cautious. But she's raring to go. Hannah had so much homework tonite she skipped Gen Church. Now you've got to know she's loaded with it if she misses Wednesday evenings at DFG. She's a dedicated student, always the over achiever. She's got more discipline in her pinky than I have in my whole body! What a kid.

Time for bed, with a little Hobbit to lull me off to sleep. (And I don't mean you, MaryAnn!) I love to read in bed. I love to read period. With a cup of tea. And in the winter, a fire. (But no pipe...) Definitely a Baggins...

Love to all of you dear friends, Baggins' and Tooks alike!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Update 4/20/10 Day 162


Dear friends,

First of all, thanks for the prayers and kind words after yesterday’s post. I got my gumption back. On Congress St. in Troy this morning, I was reminded of why I’m one of the fortunate ones.

I was asked by the Rensselaer County DA’s office to come to the DWI Crime Victims Memorial Ceremony, which honors the families of those who were killed by drunk drivers in Rensselaer County. My friend Bill Dikant was there, and the names of 3 Dikant’s were on the memorial stone – Bill’s wife, son and daughter. The main speaker lost his daughter 12 years ago by the hand of a drunk driver. I’m telling you pilgrims, this was tough stuff. I got the opportunity to talk to Mr. Bodner and his wife briefly after the program, and the heartbreak is deep and wide. It was only a few short steps up the ladder in my head to the realization that I could have been one of these people. But mine lived. Mine breathe the air of earth and sit at my dinner table and watch corny movies with me. Mine can enjoy the taste of chocolate ice cream and the smell of Coast Guard Beach and the sight of our crab apple tree in full bloom. If mine had died, my heart would be broken. I was spared sorrow upon sorrow. But if I had lost them, I know the Great One would have been there too. His goodness is not held hostage by the dark tragedies of a fallen world. He is in the business of redeeming everything. This isn’t some platitude. In real life God intervenes in the affairs of men. His motive is always good, even if we are too wounded or confused or angry to see it.

“Nothing can alter the character of God. In the course of a human life, tastes and outlook and temper may change radically: a kind, equable man may turn bitter and crotchety: a man of good-will may grow cynical and callous. But nothing of this sort happens to the Creator. He never becomes less truthful, or merciful, or just, or good, than He used to be.” --J.I. Packer

I had a cup of coffee with Bill D. after the event, and he regaled me with wonderful stories of his grandparents (immigrants from Czechoslovakia), and his travels on trains, and his love of a good lobster. I couldn’t help but feel lighter after an hour with him at the East Greenbush Diner. He has paid a heavy price for someone else’s sin. But he didn’t crawl into a hole and die himself. He spends his life as an advocate for justice. How I want to make this trouble count for something good! I am inspired by the overcomers I see all around me. Most of all, I am awed by the One and Only, who hasn’t given up on this upside down world; on the contrary, The Book says “where sin did abound, grace did more abound…” Good thing for me. Crazy, reckless love.

I hope you like the photo of my crab apple tree in full bloom. If only I could blog the smell to you. Remember how beautiful it was covered with snow? I guess every season has its Cinderella dress…

I’m grateful for your prayers. Truly.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Monday, April 19, 2010

Update 4/19/10 Day 161

Dear friends,

I have never been so happy to sit down with a keyboard in my life. You have no idea how comforting it is to know you are out there, listening, praying, walking the road with me. Today I had a knock down, drag out with the enemy of my soul. I cried a torrent of tears, and I fought like a madwoman for every inch of ground I took back of hope and faith. The Psalms are always friends to me when the climb gets steep. David wrote them with a brutal honesty that actually frightens me at times. Talk about a man without guile! If anyone wore their heart on their sleeve, it was David. No emotion is spared in his restless wind of words. God, I love the Psalms...

"I love you, O Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths,
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
O Lord my God, I called to you for help
And you healed me.
O Lord, you brought me up from the grave;
You spared me from going down into the pit.
Sing to the Lord, you saints of His;
praise His holy name.
For His anger lasts only a moment,
but His favor lasts a lifetime;
Weeping may remain for a night,
But rejoicing comes in the morning." ~Psalm 30:1-5

If I could talk about the reason for my pain, I would. But it goes into that area that I must keep confidential. Suffice it to say that there is fallout from the accident that is excruciating. I think Niagara Falls was backed up in my emotions, and it didn't take much to open the dam. Emotional expressions are fine. But the raw discouragement and hopelessness I felt I recognized pretty quickly as the dark one taking advantage of a weak spot. Down went my foot, open went The Book, and the Great One once again reminded me of His surpassing eminence. On top of that, I knew once the bloggies started to pray there would be no end of light penetrating the pit. I'm telling you, dear ones, the spiritual battles are ever so real. But there is exceeding grace to fight them. I open my hand and accept the pain, knowing for sure rejoicing is on the way. I don't know when these deep sorrows of the heart will morph into victory, but I know with every fiber of my being that they will. I'll tell you right now, I won't bow down to a lie. Not today. By God's grace, not ever.

I want to tell you that I have figured out that I am not cool. I was at Planet Fitness today, where there is an abundance of cool folk. Here's how I know I'm not cool: I walked away from my elliptical without unplugging my headphones (while they were on my head). I dropped my phone (twice) trying to carry out my sweatshirt and keys when I finished the workout. I also dropped my water bottle, and it rolled around in front of several treadmilling cool people. I got some disinfectant spray in my eyes trying to spray it on the paper towel to clean off my machine. And to top it all off, I went out the in door when I left. The only good thing about not being cool, is that when you're almost at the half century mark like I am, you no longer care if you're cool or not. But you would still rather not trip anyone with your rolling water bottle...

Random notes on my son David:

He informed us that he wishes he had a tail.

He thinks it would be interesting if someone was allergic to sneezing.

(You see, my life is full of laughter too, not just tears!)

By the way, Stephen went to Planet Fitness today too. He, however, is a teensy bit cool (at least to me). It wasn't always so. Ask him to tell you how I saved him from complete nerdhood... Anyway, he walked for 20 minutes on the treadmill and rode 15 minutes on the bike. Think about it. Herculean! Then he went to Sunnyview for a little arm twisting (ha!), and then to work. Homeric!

I mean what I said. Typing here has been sweet relief. The Great One takes us through our troubles by various means, but He is always at the bottom of it. Thank you once again for dogging it out with me, day by unpredictable day.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Update 4/18/10 22 weeks since crash

Dear friends,

The problem with keeping a public diary is that you are then forced to actually live your life the way you say you want to, or be completely exposed as a hypocrite. I am put to the test with this on a regular basis, and this evening in my office at the hospital, I again bumped up against the me I wish nobody knew. I think the places we work are the most fertile ground for grinding the nasty edges off of our persons. I had a little chat with a young lady who works on one of the surgical floors at Albany Med (ever in my heart as the world’s best hospital), who insisted she had told me something that I longed to insist she hadn’t. It was absolutely no big deal. But in my heart the “I’m right” worm came crawling out, making its way to my vocal cords and showing up in my attitude. In the middle of it I heard that quiet voice of the Great One (He could shout but He mostly whispers), “Let it go. You don’t have to be right.” Amazing how hard it was, even with this tiny matter, for me to simply say “OK, no problem”. I managed to choke it out, but when I hung up the phone I recognized again my every-moment need for the relentlessly good Spirit of the Living God. The big earthquakes of our lives (catastrophic car accidents, for example), certainly shape who we become. But the little frustrations, annoyances and bugaboos of daily life do their job too, like the ocean smoothing away the shore slowly, as opposed to when the hurricane comes in and takes out the whole parking lot.

The accident was 22 weeks ago. In a couple of weeks, the sentencing will be in the rear view mirror and another boulder will be rolled aside on the pilgrim road. But the day to day will always be with us. All of us. You have your troubles and I have mine. I’m no font of wisdom, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that there are choices to be made every day about what we are going to become. We’re becoming it minute by minute, decision by decision, or as the scripture says “line upon line, precept upon precept…” This is one of the reasons I’m so very proud of my Hercules. He decides each day to deal with the hardship he’s got, without a fuss, and by the grace of God. Now, don’t worry, he’s not perfect! Oh boy, is he not perfect. (Sorry honey!) But he is one who perseveres, and he is one who laughs a lot, and he is one who is willing to say “I’m sorry”. And most important of all, he is one who trusts the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive all his sins and give him everything he needs to “live and move and have his being”. Stephen is always well aware of those far worse off than him. The man, he walks funny, but he lives straight up.

Concerning those far worse off, if I might use this forum for a minute to let you know about some kind of sweet opportunity to help some poor, I mean really poor folks far away in sub-Saharan Africa. Our friends the Guilzons are here in the states for a while, but half their hearts are over there in Tanzania where they are building a medical clinic for the people of the Rukwa Valley, who have no other place to go for help. This is close to my heart, especially given the first rate American medical care Steve and Hannah have received in the past 5 plus months. Mark is a Physician's Assistant who has let go of all the comforts of the West, as have his beautiful wife and incredibly cool 4 kids, to cheerfully care for “the least of these” and to bring them God’s love wrapped up in a very practical package. Delmar Full Gospel is having 2 dessert nights on May 6 and 7, to let folks know about what Mercy Medical does. No arm twisting for money. These are just not those kind of people. DFG is just not that kind of church. But if you'd like to come, I’d love to see you there. And if you'd like to give money, by all means do so. Giving knocks the selfishness out of us like nobody’s business. Mine is always needing a one-two punch.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Thanks for the prayers for young Danny. Turns out he had a miserable case of Salmonella, and he'll be out of hospital soon. Go get em', Danny boy!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Update 4/17/10 Day 159

Dear friends,
The wheelchair ramp is history.

Swell Steven, Jovial Jon Michael, and Brother Donnie (the kidlet) took the thing down. (They even had a little help from Ian the Jubilant with Little Brother Noah on the side). I am so grateful to these dear folks who prove the continued and tenacious care for our family as we "ease on down the road". I felt like I would cry at one point during the "de-construction", because I remembered that cold day in December when the crew came just before Christmas to get the thing up before Smitty got home from Sunnyview. I remember so well wheeling Stephen up the ramp for the first time, and the tears we both shed when he returned to his own home. Every screw unscrewed, every board pulled up, represented so much more than wood and metal. There was love in the putting up, and love in the taking down. And there was plenty of love in between, when that ramp became the bridge between a hospital and home for my beloved husband.

How well I remember turning the corner on the ramp with the fixator leg sticking out, and being oh so careful not to bump the blasted thing! And helping Steve get his coat on to go out in the cold, when his arm wouldn't bend. I think of Smitty hopping with the walker to get in the passenger's side of the car, and me loading the wheelchair into the back, usually getting the wet from the wheels all over my coat. Those memories will stay with me forever. But so will the vignettes of the guys letting their hot chocolate get cold while they figured out the best way to put the ramp together. So will the picture of Tom Terrific putting in those wide doors in my bathroom and bedroom. So will the evenings (very late) when I would write to all of you as a way of making it through the cold, dark winter nights without Stephen at home. These and a thousand other stories are sewn in to the fabric of my life. The Great One alone knows the ultimate design. As my beautiful Aunt Evie used to tell me, "we see the knotty side of the tapestry, but God sees the finished front..."

A symbol and a help has been torn down. The Great One does this all through our lives, as he helps us grow up in to the next challenge. He knows when we are strong enough to leave something behind, or when we realize our weakness enough to hold on to Him, and let go of an earthly crutch. However it plays out, change is inevitable and right. Still, sometimes we have emotions about the fixtures from our pasts. They are the stuff of bittersweet memories, and the steps to higher places where the view will be breathtaking.

Bless you my friends. My heart is full.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Friday, April 16, 2010

Update 4/16/10 Day 158


Dear friends,

"But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored, and sorrows end." ~William Shakespeare

The folks in these photos are some dear members of our blog community, indeed, precious friends and some of the many who have walked beside us on the pilgrim road. They are as follows: Tracy, Rachel, Kim, Jessie, Jim, Christina, Hercules himself, Alyssa and Sam. Christina, Tracy and Kim all have coworkers too, who also read here and have encouraged our family in a thousand ways, especially at Christmastime. Many of these folks are responsible for providing a beautiful Christmas for my children when I was unable to shop for them. It is impossible to tell you all how grateful I am for your elaborate kindnesses. You're the cheese on the cracker, the frosting on the cake, the music during the silent movie.
We had a dashing time at Terrific Tracy and Gentle Jim's home tonite, complete with delicious hamburgers on the grill, a cake from Coccadott's, and best of all, sweet company. Smitty has been itching to play his favorite card game, Euchre, and play he did, with his teammate, One of a Kind Christina, whose Euchre methods are a bit questionable... I was handed my head in a heated round of Go Fish with the spirited Alyssa, who beat me handily at the ripe age of 5. I think the highlight of my evening was meeting Compassionate Kim, who I came to know through this blog, and who I felt a kinship with from early on. Here we are together:

Again the Great One reminds me of the tremendous treasure He has given to me. During a storm, He lashes us together with those who are willing to share our heartache and hold on while the wind blows. He Himself is the anchor.

Tomorrow, if all goes as planned, the ramp comes down. Can you even believe it? I can't describe the feeling I get remembering those strong men coming to my house to put the thing up. Or the feeling I get remembering pushing my helpless husband up that ramp for the first time. I thank God for the love wrapped up in those planks and screws, and for the men who put it up. And I thank the Great One that the time has come to remove it. May He be forever praised!

Thanks for the many great ideas you sent regarding places to go for our anniversary! I'll keep you in the loop on that one.

It's very late, and I've had a crick in my neck all day, so I'm signing off. It was a lovely evening with friends. I kind of feel that way every evening, really, because you so graciously allow me to share a little of this trek with you. By the way, another friend in our blog world needs our prayers. 12 year old Danny P. in Merry Old England is in hospital with some sort of as yet undiagnosed infection in his digestive tract. This is some great kid, and may be president someday. So send the Great One your best for him.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann










Thursday, April 15, 2010

Update 4/15/10 Day 157

Dear friends,

Well, May is my anniversary month, and I’m hoping to enlist your assistance to come up with a good idea for an overnight with Hercules. Last year we went early (in March) to the Adirondacks for a stellar day of cross country skiing. Lots of times we like to hike, but that’s out this year. (Canes don’t go well in the Adirondacks. Or the Catskills for that matter). One idea is to go to Oyster Bay, Long Island to visit Sagamore Hill, home of Theodore Roosevelt. But I don’t know anything about that part of Long Island, and I’m not sure there are any pretty places nearby to stay. Anyway, if you have any ideas, email me or comment me or call me! We can stay for one night, possibly two if the price is manageable, and it needs to be within driving distance from home. There is, of course, that magnificent city only 150 miles south, and we do have the dear Hugh and Joelle to give us a temporary home… Mostly I just want not to let my anniversary slip by, especially this year. Especially.

In the final bible study of the spring, Beth Moore read this quote by Teddy Roosevelt. It’s one of Smitty’s favorites:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Whenever I read that quote, I am convicted by my own lack of courage. I’m struck by the many times I have settled for the comfortable road rather than be “disliked”. I am not one who “dares greatly” by nature. But this I can say: I do know the “great devotion” of wanting more than anything to walk with the Great One. He alone can turn my insecurities into trust and my weakness to strength. He’s the hero who gets the credit. No one has ever really gone into the arena the way He did, and for sure no one else has ever done it (or could) for a world of people drowning in darkness. His valiant effort gives all of us the chance to change. If the car accident helps you and I remember that we have a hot 5 minutes on this planet, it will have done some good. With those 5 minutes, we can be a doer of deeds. Even if we fail. Even if we come up short again and again. And remember what Jesus said “If anyone gives just a cup of water to one of these little ones, he will certainly not lose his reward”. The deeds need not be large. Only packed with love. In fact, if there’s no love in them, they profit us nothing. No matter what it looks like on the outside. Motive is everything. That brings me to my knees.

Time for a little Jughead comic before I close my eyes. Told you the intensity level calls for a little levity sometimes!

Thanks again for your comments and emails. I read every one, even on the days I can’t respond. You really do make my day!

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Update 4/14/10

Dear friends,

The maple tree over my head is poking out green leaves. It's golden hour at 7:20pm, with the light a color that makes you feel like you're in Sherwood Forest, or the woods of the Seven Dwarfs. A few months ago at this time it was pitch black outside. Now I'm looking at my crab apple tree with pink buds that are aching to be blossoms, anticipating the growth that must come as the season changes.

We too are experiencing change. What was once immobile and constrained by injury and darkness is now moving and healing. The faith that was real, but too rested, has been (and is being) stretched. The winter of difficult circumstances gives way to the spring of hope, and eventually to the summer of fruitfulness. If I didn't believe this, I would be curled up in a ball somewhere. But I know it to be true. The Great One always steals victory from the hands of defeat. The cross being the ultimate example. "Unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot bear fruit." Back in the fall my crab apple tree looked dead. The little apples fell off, the leaves died. But now there are more buds than ever, and next September there will be more apples for the deer to munch. Nature reminds me all the time of the ways of God. Mysterious and beautiful. Simple and profound at the same time. Even the trees bring Him glory.

Steve got some good news about the scars on his arm from one of the therapists at Sunnyview today. Apparently it's very good that the scar tissue is not attached to the tissue or muscle under the skin. She gave Smitty some kind of adhesive that helps diminish the raised scar tissue and promote skin healing. Steve told me "I don't have enough stuff to have to wear on my arm when I'm trying to sleep, so we got a little more..." If the man can deal with an external fixator (good gravy, that was the nadir!), he can deal with another little scar appliance.

David had to go to the ENT doctor today to get the wax cleared out of his ears. He's one of those kids who has this problem, and goes periodically for an "excavation". Well, I told Dr. Gavin this appointment was anticlimactic compared to all the other doctor visits over the last 5 months. Weird to go for an ordinary medical procedure without lots of questions, papers to fill out, and recounting of events. I still couldn't stand seeing them go into David's ears. It wasn't nearly as bad as when Hannah was extubated, but it was unpleasant none the less.

We have been approached about helping some of the DWI prevention folks with the upcoming prom season. I'll keep you updated as we go along with this. Like I said back in November, the time would come when I would start working toward changes to stop this tornado from smacking someone else's family. Later this month, Oscar Lewis will be sentenced to prison. He knows, as do we, the ultimate consequences of drunk driving. No one knows it like my friend Bill Dikant, who lost his wife and 2 children to an intoxicated driver. It's an elephant in the room and it has to be addressed. It can't be ignored or pushed under some rug. Lives are at stake. People's freedom is at stake. A drunk behind the wheel is driving a loaded weapon. But you already know that...

Thank you for continuing your walk with us along this winding road. I ran into Dr. Rosati yesterday, and was reminded of his words to me "it will take a year to hit some semblance of normal". Not that the year mark will bring us back to where we were. We are changed forever. But we'll keep marching on with this blog til November 8, 2010, unless the Great One shows us otherwise. At some point there will be cake and celebration too. And you will all be invited. Because you are a big part of this recovery. Bigger than you know.

Thanks too for the prayers for Judy W. Keep em' coming, ok? And don't forget to pray for Oscar Lewis and his family.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Update 4/13/10 Day 155

Dear friends,

Working at the hospital tonite, my coworker Cara the Kind showed me a little saying she keeps in front of her. Holy cow, this is for me:

“Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff,
And nudge me when I’ve said enough.”

I’m a communicator by nature. I was born to talk. (I passed this DNA on to my oldest child). But knowing when to stop talking, that’s my weakness. (Ditto on the firstborn). Hopefully as I walk the pilgrim road mile after mile I will be more able to hear the Great One’s voice saying “Speak now. Shut thee up now.” I’m truly grateful for the tolerant family and friends He has put in my life who graciously put up with me while I learn and grow. Especially Smitty. No one has had to be as gracious as him.

On the subject of Smitty, if I could just brag on him for a moment… This man is as excellent as they come. I’ve already told you, he never complains. But way beyond that, he is always looking for ways to serve and love his family and others. Every morning I smell the coffee brewing that he set up the night before. (How I missed that when he was gone for almost 2 months!) He checks baby boy’s math homework each evening, providing instruction when the little whiz misses a beat. He cooks supper on the nights I’m out at the hospital, and cleans up the kitchen after the kids clear the table. No one makes me laugh more than him. I’d tell you about his “imaginary character”, but I don’t want anyone to call the psych unit on us. Mostly, he is willing to do a million little, unseen things to make our lives sweeter. All in the middle of a huge recovery. Blood vessels are still healing. The lymphatic system in his legs is still repairing itself. (His swelling in the evening is way down from 6 weeks ago!) His bones are still healing. Apparently once the bone cells replace themselves, there is a whole process of reforming that goes on for a long time. In other words, bones not only heal, they get back as close as possible to a normal, smooth shape. With injuries like Steve’s, some of that process is iffy. Areas around his knee and elbow joints don’t align perfectly. Let’s face it, his brother Richard is right when he says we’ll have to dress him in red for the family football games. He may not be able to play this year, but just wait til next year! Hercules is so determined and optimistic, and His God is so great, I’m expecting him to run a few touchdowns.

My emotions continue to run hot and cold, but isn’t that just life? Some days I’m really struggling to hang tight to the truth: “God works all things together for good for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Other times, I’m wildly grateful and exceedingly hopeful. I’m a mixed bag. I guess we all are. Except the Great One, in whom there is “no shadow of turning.” Hallelujah!

Things to look forward to:
Tulips coming up in Washington Park
Nursing Supervisor Joe D. making Blondies next Tuesday (YUM)
Stephen’s Mom turns 80 on April 24 (a surprise birthday party with all the Smitties, shhh…)
Hannah Rejoice turns 15 on April 28 (She's amazing!)
Jack Bauer will no doubt save the world before the end of May
Lunch with M.A. on Friday (she manages to do healthy and delicious)
David John to make his debut in Our Savior’s school musical
Joe sings in the Columbia talent show (mother not allowed)

Let me know what you’re looking forward to. I would love to know. It’s fun to anticipate things. But every minute is a gift. Now is oh so good. I think it’s time for me to “shut thee up”.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Monday, April 12, 2010

Update 4/12/10 Day 154

Dear friends,

The Smith family is on the lookout for a kitten. Last October, when Charcoal died, we told the kids we would get a new, very young kitten come spring. Well, spring has come, so the search for a companion for the great Cosette is on. Personally, I wouldn't mind getting a dog. But that's an argument I'm going to lose, and really, there are plenty of good reasons not to get one. But I do love those loyal pups, who seem always happy to be alive. Perhaps you've heard this perfect quote before: "Dogs have owners. Cats have staff." That about sizes it up purrfectly.

Stephen kept the Dynasplint on ALL NIGHT last night! Let's hear it for the boy. And it was the extension brace, which hurts more than the flexion brace. Usually, in the middle of the night I hear the sounds of Velcro detaching, and I know he's had enough. Both pieces of equipment have to go back to the company in May, so Smitty's doing his best to stretch while he can. We'll see how well it's working when Sweet Sandy measures his range of motion angles. She manually stretches his elbow and shoulder as well, and does a mighty good job of it. So glad to have that dear girl in our lives! She's an absolute peach.

The kids were back at school today, and I missed their presence (if not their messes!) around the house. Hannah got home and went straight to practicing her guitar. David had musical practice, so he didn't get home until almost 5! Joe had tennis practice (his first match is tomorrow), and I picked him up at 5:15, so I was so happy when we sat down for baked chicken together. Listen, it isn't the Waltons, but I simply enjoy being near them all in the evening. It's that recurring theme the Great One has me on: relationship is priority. Since the accident, our relationships have changed. It can't be helped when you go through such a life altering experience. Sometimes I get sad about the change, but we still all love each other! We're just learning how to find our way in the altered landscape of our new reality. Sometimes it's subtle. Other times glaring. But at all times, the Father of All relationships is the compass. He's bringing us up our mountain, and we're going to make it. I'll bet things will look a lot different a year from now. The nature of life is change. Ours may have been dramatic over a short period of time, but I know all of you are ever adjusting to something or other. An older child moves out, a new baby comes in, a job is changed, someone dies, someone gets sick, someone takes a pay cut, someone gets a raise...there is always something going on that is out of our control. One thing stays the same, though. We were made for relationship. First with our Creator, then with His creation. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself." You want peace? That's the simple truth of it. Simple, not necessarily easy....

David is reading the comics, which reminds me I'm halfway through a Betty and Veronica comic book. I never, ever read the funnies before the accident. Ask my family. I read the editorial page, and the news, but not the comics. Then one day I really sensed the Great One saying "You've got to lighten up. Read the funnies." I'm not kidding. No audible voice from heaven or anything, just that inward voice that moves in our minds. And I really think for my intense personality, Betty and Veronica are just what the doctor ordered. But I honestly don't know what those girls see in Archie...

I'm kind of scattered today, going from kittens to Dynasplints to Betty and Veronica. Sorry about that, friends. As I've said from the beginning, I'm not looking for a Pulitzer prize here. Just writing what's real. I know sometimes it gets a little dopey. Thanks for listening. Again and again.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Update 4/11/10 21 weeks since crash

Dear friends,

"If we don’t move to establish and then guard that which matters most, the breathless pace of daily overload will blind us to eternal priorities." ~Richard Swenson

Monday is coming around the bend again, with all its fuss and struggle. I read this quote by an author I enjoy, who wrote an excellent book called “Margin”. In it he brings his readers relentlessly to the point of seeing the consequences of a rushed life. Every day, there are a thousand “important” things that have to get done. Have a catastrophic car accident come into your life, and suddenly all the important things are ever so unimportant. I know that Monday, November 9, was nothing like the other Mondays of my adult life. The to-do list was scrapped, the planner was pitched. All that mattered was relationships. God. My family. Others.

So now, down recovery road a little ways, I will fight like mad to keep my head on straight with this business of what really matters. Pastor Dave the Humble addressed the priority of people in his message this morning on community. If you think you can go the pilgrim road alone, forget it. It was never designed to work that way. And it would be miserable if you did. Even with all the rough edges on people, especially on ourselves, relationships are what make life worth living. And only the Great One can give us what it takes to live with people the way Jesus did - with love, acceptance and truth. Every time I get a judgmental thought, I want a red light to go on. How I need to learn to “love deeply, from the heart!”

I left Smitty with a beautiful pot of Potato Corn Chowder to feed the kids tonite while I was at work. I must say, I do make an excellent PCC. I wish I could have all you bloggie friends over for a bowl! I’m afraid I’m not very humble about this particular soup. Steve adds cheddar cheese. Yum. He is really amazing, friends. He does so many things. And this week, he will most likely be returning to work full time pending the ok from Dr. Samaio. Believe me when I tell you, though, he is still a work in progress. It hurts every time he stands up, and he can’t be in any one position too long. He still depends on the cane for stability, and he moves much more slowly than before. But what a long way he has come!

As for Hannah’s recovery, I’m speechless. She confounds all the statistics. And at 14 years old, she’s handling it all like a champ. (By the way, forget the Potato Corn Chowder. If you want something really good, ask her to make you a cheesecake…) Cheesecake with my daughter, a joke with my baby boy, a drive with my firstborn, listening to the baseball stats from my husband, talking to the Great One about my hopes, talking to all of you about anything. This is the stuff of life. I’ll clean the bathroom later.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Update 4/10/10 Day 152

Dear friends,
That practical (sometimes blisteringly so) book of James says this:
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Some dear old friends visited us this morning from Vermont, a couple of people who put into practice pure religion every day. Pastor Gordy was our pastor a few paces back at DFG, before Pastor Dave the Humble began his diligent watch of love and care. Pastor Gordy and his wife Sue have adopted the little pistol in the picture, Jasmine. She was originally a foster child. They have another little girl who is also a foster child, who for obvious reasons cannot be highlighted on this blog. But take my word for it, she's a sweetheart too! It was great joy to spend a couple of hours with these humble folks who walk out their pilgrim road with an eye toward the dignity of "the least of these". I am honored to know people like them, and our friends Tom and Lucy M., also foster parents who have gone on to adopt 4 children. Gordy and Sue are bloggie friends too! Their church in Vermont has prayed like crazy for Stephen and Hannah. Thank you friends from the maple sugar capital of the world!

It inspires me to spend time with people who put their money where their mouth is on the highway of the life of faith. They make me want to "be a doer of the word, not just a hearer" as Sister Laurie reminds us every week during prayer. Listen, we all fall short. But we can all stretch a little bit. I read this in a book by Mother Theresa this morning:

"It may happen that a mere smile, a short visit, the lighting of a lamp, writing a letter for a blind man, carrying a bucket of charcoal, offering a pair of sandals, reading the newspaper for someone- something small, very small- may, in fact, be our love of God in action."

Of course doing good works out of guilt or obligation profits us nothing. And it certainly doesn't earn us anything! The Great One already did the whole job of redemption Himself. But in conjunction with the true love of God in the heart, the tiniest act of love becomes so much bigger than it seems. I'm challenged by the Gordy and Sue's of this world. Indeed, by the people who have helped us in ten thousand ways over these past five months. I know what it means to have someone simply rake your lawn, or take you for a cup of coffee, or sleep next to your cot at the hospital. I have seen the love of God in action. I continue to see it. And it makes me want to know the Great One all the more. It's a crazy, dark world, full of dazzling pockets of light. You all have been those pockets. Makes me say "wow'.

Also went to the anniversary party of another sweet couple, Ernie and Lorraine the Adorables, married 25 years and beautiful examples of parenthood and grandparenthood. They too are bloggie friends, and have encouraged us greatly during the big storm. I have to pinch myself at times when I look around at all the fine people God has put in the pathway of this family. People are the gold currency of life on earth. That being the case, we are rich indeed.

Time for "North by Northwest" with the original tall, dark and handsome, Cary Grant. We actually watched this movie up to a point before the accident, and the DVD went bad on us half way through. So we've got the Netflix version for the final stretch. Looking forward to snuggling up with that wonderful man of mine, a cup of tea and an apple turnover. Another day closes out, and who the heck knows (right?) what tomorrow will bring. Only the Great One. I think He can handle it. He's the source of the dazzle. Someday, it will be nothing but dazzle...

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Friday, April 9, 2010

Update 4/9/10 Day 151

Dear friends,

Here's Smitty with Tom Seaver. We had a delightful family trip today to Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame. When Steve came home from Sunnyview, I told him to think about a day trip we could take when he was feeling up to it. He chose Cooperstown, and despite the chilly, cloudy weather we had a relaxing and enjoyable time. The kids were good company, and the ride is pretty easy. Afterwards we went to the Fly Creek Cider Mill, and we came home with a delicious half gallon of apple cider. Yum. It was half gone by the time we got home.

I made a pot of spaghetti, and now we're gearing up for our Friday evening feature, probably "Muppet Treasure Island" with the fabulously funny Tim Curry singing the praises of being a pirate. I think this is the first night all three kids are home since the school vacation started. I'm thinking only the youngest will watch the movie with us, but it's so nice just having them all here, warm and safe and under our roof. It's the simple things, isn't it? I am completely exhausted, but it's the good kind, where you can curl up on the couch and fall asleep carelessly because you don't have to start out too early in the morning. Walking around the Hall of Fame wore me out more than expected.

So short post tonite, just to let you all know that the Smith family continues, by God's grace, to move forward on the pilgrim road. We even have these blessings along the way; simply a day together enjoying the heralding of the great American sport, and driving the highways and byways of unmatchable New York. The Great One has indeed been good to us, when you consider our lives 5 months ago. (Yes, 5 months ago yesterday! Can you believe I didn't post that?)

We have some special visitors coming tomorrow. Tune in then, and hopefully I'll have a photo to show too.

Thanks for reading, friends. I continue to be amazed at the people telling me they read each day. I'm humbled. Truly.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Update 4/8/10 Day 150

Dear friends,

It was one of those days (it kind of reminded me of late November/early December), when it seemed I was in the car endlessly. The van was sparkly on the outside (my boys washed it for me yesterday), but still trashed on the inside. My friends at Cole Collision are going to detail it for me in the near future, but I’m so embarrassed I think I need to clean it out before they clean it up! David told me the other day he hates cars. I think I can figure out where that’s coming from. He thinks he would be just as happy with a horse and buggy. Of course the “good ole’ days” had their own share of problems. And it would take an awfully long time to get to the beach on a horse… The weather has made me misty for Cape Cod. Since Stephen first woke up, it’s been a major goal to get his feet in the sand of Coast Guard Beach. Of course, he may look a bit scary with his crazy scars, but as I’ve said before, it just clears away a little more space for our blanket and chairs. (That WAS a joke! Sort of.) After all, it will be harder to truck down to the less crowded sections than it was before.

Miss Rejoice saw Dr. Noonan today (plastic surgeon), a very personable fellow who probably makes a lot of middle aged ladies like me (albeit much wealthier ones!) smile. While we were waiting I read some of the pamphlets about getting eyes lifted and tummies tucked and wrinkles unwrinkled. Whatever. I haven’t the energy to contemplate my unlifted eyes or my very untucked tummy. Bigger fish must be fried. Life has enough wrinkles for me to unwrinkle right now… Anyway, Dr. N. looked at that beautiful child of mine and told her he wanted to wait a while to see how well Mother Nature did the job of scar healing. She’ll go back in July for a look see, and she’ll have to be careful in the sun this summer. Scars apparently need time to “mature” before traditional or laser surgery are performed. Maybe she won’t need intervention at all. We’re still early on in this. Once again, we must wait…

I can’t help but think about that scripture: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” I have no opinion about cosmetic plastic surgery (unless of course it is in the harmful zone, physically or psychologically). But this is for certain; you can fix up the outside all you want, it’s still going to die someday. You can nip and tuck, and still be a complete mess on the inside. The Book also says “man looks at the outward appearance, but God sees the heart.” I’m all for looking your best and feeling chipper. But there seems to be a huge disconnect in our world. Our souls are left untended, while our bodies get notable attention at the gym, at the makeup counter, at the hairdresser. Again, don’t misunderstand me. Taking care of ourselves is a reasonable thing to do. But it seems strange that we would spend so much more time on something that could perish in a car crash, and so much less on the eternal part of us. Believe me; I’m not trying to lecture anyone! Usually when I’m lecturing someone, there’s a mirror in the vicinity. If you’ve read this blog at all you know very well that I’m first in line at the “I need mercy” door. It just kind of struck me, what with the Botox circular and all. Still, I’m most grateful for people who can fix the scars of a young girl in a terrible accident.

I hope you all are greatly blessed, inside and out. You certainly make my "smile lines" come out.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Update 4/7/10 Day 149

Dear friends,

What a funk I'm in today. There's no one to blame but myself. I majored on the minors and let the truly worthy things lie dormant, so the wet blanket descends. I got mad about things today, not that mad is wrong at times, but it grew into some wormy, festery kind of thing and I wouldn't let it go. I can't give you all the details, just trust me when I say I need a Savior every second of my life. If thoughts could creep and crawl, mine would be slithering about. Today I simply wanted to return to my old life, where I don't think about the blasted accident at some point during the day. I wanted to make it go away. And all the streamers that came with it.

Now I think about those poor, lost miners in some horrible dark cave in West Virginia. And my self pity (ugly, isn't it), has to go back to the dark pit it came from, because as always, there are those whose troubles exceed mine like a hurricane exceeds a merry ocean breeze. Even in this, I can faintly here the Great One saying "Let not your heart be troubled; trust in God, trust also in me..."

Our cell group is coming in about a half hour. I know being around people of faith, true, authentic people who love God and who also struggle with every kind of sin, will be a blessing even in my funkiness. Church isn't a place for "good" people, it's a hospital for broken ones. But the bottom line is that the Great One Himself will come to the rescue. That comforting Holy Spirit will come through and straighten me out once again in that indescribable way. Until I experience the change, I'll simply dog it out in faith, because I've seen Him come through too many times.

I can't give my family back what was lost. I don't have the power. Today it really bugs me.

Sorry I'm not a little more sunny on this gorgeous, seems-like-summer day, but you know I think too highly of you to pretend. Your prayers have pulled me out of plenty of muck before. You know already you mean so much to me, really, and I'm grateful for your comfort.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Update 4/6/10 Day 148

Dear friends,

Jack Bauer couldn’t save the day last night, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Let’s face it, no one can keep saving the world week after week and never miss the mark. Except, of course, the Great One. And even He has to work with that stubborn free will He knit into the fabric of humanity. (He still wins, of course, but I do declare we give Him no end of trouble! For now things look ugly, and the process is messy, but in the end He is the victor for sure!) I will miss 24 next year. We have been watching Jack give it to the bad guys since season 1, and he’s taken a beating for his trouble. You may not agree with his tactics, but his selfless devotion to others is a virtue I want to own. I know he’s a fictional character, but I have learned a lot of truth through stories, fairy tales and movies. Jesus, of course, was the master storyteller. He got through to rich rulers and homeless beggars alike with the power of a story…

Smitty is a rock, I tell you. He killed a spider for me last night. It required that he get up on a stool with those lousy bum legs, and smush the thing without messing up my beautifully painted walls, while I made the noises I always make when there is an insect within 20 feet of my person. It was truly heroic, as he had to hold on for dear life and not kill himself in the process. Of course his right arm won’t bend or reach, so he had to do it left armed, but he got that sucker and didn’t even soil my wall in the process. Homeric! He had some choice words for me as I commented and whimpered while he performed his feat of derring do, but hey, it was nothing compared to the cockroach event. That was many moons ago in Brooklyn, and involved a broom, Stephen, and my brother. Needless to say I was ordered from my apartment while they killed the beast. I was a bit disruptive to the operation…

More OT for the man Wednesday, when Sunnyview’s Sweet Sandy (a pit-bull in a bunny’s clothing), continues her personal war with Steve’s uncooperative elbow and shoulder. I love that girl. With a smile, she tortures for healing, and she has single handedly bought my husband a few more centimeters of motion. It doesn’t sound like much, but every bit matters in the functions of daily life. Ask Steve about tying a tie, and he’ll tell you that another inch or two would mean the world. Don’t ever take for granted the ease with which you gents can do it.

My little princess continues to recover, and her darling friends have been so good to her through this entire process. She’s on her second consecutive sleepover tonite (aka wake over, but Magnificent Mary Louise will pull the plug before it gets too late), and I can only say thank you to these young girls who have loved Hannah through thick and thin. This week we will consult a plastic surgeon to discuss how to move forward with the scarring on her face and legs. I can’t begin to express how proud I am of my daughter. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself ever, and you all can imagine a young teenage girl’s feelings about her face and teeth. The Great One will surely give her more blessings than she could have ever imagined for the things she has had to endure in her sweet soul. Her pilgrim road will be marked forever by the accident. But like Jack Bauer, her battering will make her one who endures. And one who cares.

A quick holler out to my friends at Albany Med, and to our Director, Cathy P. Thank you all for the love over these months, and for making me feel so welcome coming back! All that donated time off was incredible. You guys are simply the best! I loved working with you tonite, Kind Cara. And thank you for the encouraging comments on this blog during my absence.

Time for bed. Hopefully there are no more spiders lurking about. I think we need a cane attachment so Smitty won’t have to stand on something to kill the terrors. We could call it the “Jack Bauer Cane”. Meanwhile, may your bedrooms be clear of all winged or crawling creatures, and know that I will always be…

Your friend on the pilgrim road,

Loriann

P.S. Please keep praying for Judy W. And those poor souls (hopefully alive) in the mine shafts of West Virginia.