Happy Thanksgiving

Holidays can be hard for some people, especially if we find ourselves alone. As my kids enjoy Thanksgiving at their grandma’s in Nebraska, I had to find something to do for three days. One day was dedicated to cleaning out the house, one day for baking (with a friend this year, a whole different post later!) and one early morning of Christmas shopping. I am left with Thursday, Thanksgiving, and I did something a little unusual this year.

I decided to volunteer somewhere to serve lunch. The Rescue Mission took their clients to Applebee’s, so I found somewhere else to be helpful. I helped set up tables, get the food ready to be served, and cleaned up afterwards. I didn’t plan on eating the meal, but it sure was a great example of Thanksgiving dinner. Yams, mashed potatoes, turkey, pie, pie, pie, everything!

I sat with some of these clients during lunch, where all these women were recovering and trying to get back on their feet in some way. As an introvert, I was hesitant to open up, but I figured I would never see anyone there again, so I went for it.

I laughed, I joked, I listened, and it was really neat. They were all very appreciative with my help, but I enjoyed it as much as it was volunteer work. These women lived in a different world than I do, but they’re not all that different. Heck, just last weekend I was with an entirely different “class” of women and the conversation paralleled today’s.

I just decided that I need to open up more often, and I will have more good experiences like I did today. And to appreciate the people around me more. While I cannot wait until my family’s Thanksgiving celebration in a few days, I’m confident that I was right where I needed to be today.


Joseph’s Journey

Joseph wasn’t born deaf, but somewhere between the ages of 3-6 he developed single-sided deafness (SSD) on his left side.

Joseph’s auditory nerves for both ears were abnormal since birth and somehow his left nerve was damaged and quit functioning.  Perhaps it was his numerous trips to the hospital due to pulmonary illnesses during that age. Or it was the time he bumped his head and had to get stitches. Even though we will never know why he has SSD, because of a recent surgery, Joseph’s right nerve will soon receive all the sounds around him through the Baha, or a bone-anchored hearing aid.

Joseph has been through a lot. He deserves this and we were finally able to help him.

Joseph, a 12 year-old going into the 7th grade, had an osseo-integrated device implanted into his skull on his birthday this June. The Baha will be fitted onto the titanium post after it ossifies and is solid enough to safely support the 2×2 inch device. This may be 4-6 weeks after surgery, depending on how well it heals. The hearing aid will receive the sound from the left side and, through the titanium post, his skull will transmit the sound waves to his inner ear on the right side. Technology also allows him to have directional awareness so he will be able to determine where the sound is coming from. We are thankful for Dr. Kryzer of Wichita Ear Clinic for his skill during surgery, for his enthusiasm to help those who are hard of hearing, and for giving Joseph another chance.

Dr. Kryzer performed the surgery at Via Christi at St. Francis. Joseph’s dad and I were with him throughout. We stayed at the Ronald McDonald house the night before since he was admitted at 6:30 a.m., which was a neat experience in of itself. We only stayed one night because, despite the fact that the procedure included drilling into his skull, it was outpatient surgery.

“I was very excited. But nervous that they might screw up,” Joseph said.  Joseph was only nauseous for a little while in the afternoon so he was discharged at 6:30 in the evening. He was greeted by his younger sister and brother, Elizabeth (10) and Cole (7) who were with their aunt Amy. (We sometimes call her Crazy Aunt Amy, a title that she should be proud of!)

Via Christi

These people were amazing.

He is now recovering nicely. “I can’t go swimming yet,” he said. “That’s no fun.” Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Cole feel bad that he has to take it easy for a while, mostly because they can’t rough-house yet. But they are excited for him, too.

Even though Joseph’s dad and I are not together anymore, we worked together to provide this opportunity for him. We were proud of how brave he was before, during, and after the surgery. Everything went so well, we kept looking for what was going to screw up so we could prevent it, but nothing has so far.

Throughout the whole process of doctor appointments, setting the date of the surgery, saving money and gathering funds to try to meet the co-insurance cost of $3500, we have received support from both of our families and people in the Bennington area where I live and the Lincoln area where I work. This came in the form of donations, words of encouragement, prayers, suggestions and ideas.

In fact, I couldn’t keep up that day with all the text messages and communication on Facebook and Twitter. Of course, I kept posting pictures and updates on how he was doing to share with everyone. I was pretty excited for him. I still am. Joseph is not finished with this journey. His healing is ongoing until he’s ready for the Baha.

It will change his life. People don’t realize how much he misses every day from SSD. Even I forget to speak to him on his right side at times, and I’ve been around it for seven years. Most people ask me how he is doing since this is about all I’ve talked about for a month now. I’m very thankful for everyone who has supported him.

He was able to try out a tester Baha on a headband in March 2014. This preview of how it could be for Joseph motivated us to try surgery, something that all parents are weary of for their children. His reaction solidified our decision, though, as I smile through tears to see his face light up when he tried it out, something that will only be better as the real thing. “It was amazing. My dad said my name and I turned to my left,” Joseph said. “I can’t wait to get it for real.”

Things My Dad Says, part 2

While attending a funeral recently, my kids and I hopped in my dad’s car for the internment. There are not many times I get my dad to myself. He’s always working, or there are 20 other people around. I got 10 minutes each way all to myself–if you don’t count the rowdy kids in the back.

In our time together, he spoke about how different people approach life. He spoke about how people make things happen. He spoke about how people allow things to happen. He spoke about how some force things to happen. He spoke about this while telling me a story of some “real” cowboys acting a notch too aggressively while herding cattle into a corral.

Working cattle for over 40 years, my dad has seen the consequences of forcing cows and calves into a corral or through a gate. Most of the time they go in, but some times they jump over the fences and break things. Or they get hurt or injure someone on the ground. Either way, the stress on the animal is unnecessary, digressive to the health of the animal, and eventually takes away from the rancher’s profit.

My dad’s philosophy is to let the animal figure it out with a little nudging and visual and audio pressure from the cowboy or cowgirl. This leads to fewer accidents and a lot of time saved in the long run. And animals that are less stressed.

He said that he prefers to let it happen, and to let the cows figure it out where the gates are.

Who knew that my 15 years of working on the farm was invariably a lesson in life in that way? No one likes to be forced, but to be allowed to figure it out themselves. In friendships, relationships, as a parent, as a daughter and sister, I can never force someone else to see things my way or do things that I want them to do and maintain a healthy relationship.

I have to maybe apply a little pressure and let them figure out which gate they want to walk through.

Sculpture Tour, Summer 2013

On one of our many ventures to “town”, my kids and I decided to walk the four blocks of the sculptures and then back the other side. They were great posers, except grouchy Cole who at times is only represented by a hand. I’m glad I remembered to take pictures after missing only the first one, but here is a sampling of the rest.

What is Joseph doing???

What is Joseph doing???

I told them the first time to not step on the statues…

Push him back!

Push him back!

But then they were getting creative, so I let them carefully touch them.

...and Cole was getting grouchy.

…and Cole was getting grouchy.

But we soldiered on.

I tried to get everyone in all the pictures.

I tried to get everyone in all the pictures.

Joseph’s enjoying the flowers…not looking at a pretty “girl”!

I guess that's how they swim.

I guess that’s how they swim.

Or how to Rock On, right Cole?

Cole's a slow learner some times...

Cole’s a slow learner some times…

But he made up for it:

I told them to stop and think.

I told them to stop and think.

There's Cole's hand! (and feather)

There’s Cole’s hand! (and feather)

I thought Cole was finished, but he caught his second wind.

I loved this one.

I loved this one.

Although I’m not sure what they are trying to do.

And I made them look for the ball.

And I made them look for the ball.

I think we missed a few sculptures but I wasn’t going to tell them that today.

Joseph's idea. I don't think Liz was convinced.

Joseph’s idea. I don’t think Liz was convinced.

Cole didn't care for this one.

Cole didn’t care for this one.

Joseph and Lizzy were great sports, and I rarely had to give them an idea on how to pose.

My favorite pose of the day!

My favorite pose of the day!

The point of this post is to mark of an item on our “to-do” list for this summer, 2013. I will post the entire list later, but the sculpture tour is finished!

UPDATE: Here is a link to the online information about the sculpture tour.



Wherever you go, there you are

We always take what we’ve learned with us, and much of what I’ve learned came from my parents. Not to displace my mom’s lessons, I want to focus on my dad this time. It’s his 60th birthday today, March 23, but you wouldn’t be able to tell his age from looking at him.

As an athlete, he took the number 23, a number later made famous by the great Michael Jordan. I always thought it was fate since I felt he was easily comparable to such greatness. He epitomized the mix of hard work and ethical standards. He even surpassed Jordan in that respect. He always did things with other people’s concern in mind. His compassion and respect for life always led to an insightful decision. Once when I was a young teenager, we missed mass to get a few head of cattle out of a bad situation. I was concerned that we missed a Sunday of worship and when I voiced my concern, he told me that God put us in charge of His creations and it was our responsibility to take care of what he gave us. I instantly felt better because I knew he was right.

As a farmer, he cited the best satisfaction was from seeing the results of his hard work coming up through the fields. As a rancher, he appreciated spring time when the new calves were running and playing in the pastures. As a father, he selflessly watches his children with pride play sports, win contests, get married, have kids, yet not take credit for himself.

His strength comes from wisdom. His ability to listen to anyone’s problems does not come from words, but rather to see what is really going on, voiced or not. He understands why people do what they do even if they can’t see it. Then, instead of judging someone, he quietly shows them why it could be that way. He leads by example and has the patience to let us figure it out ourselves.

Proof of his patience comes from the fact that he raised seven willful girls to become strong women. In the mix, he helped two boys become very impressive men. The strength of faith, self-confidence, and love that his children now show comes from his and mom’s parental decisions. He set the bar high, and I am grateful for his expectations that we felt growing up.

His example lives on in the nine of us, and now nine grandchildren. Watching him hold my six-year-old son’s hand while taking a walk on the farm reminds me how much he loves children and how much they love him. Everyone, young and old, knows that they will receive a kind word from him, sometimes in the form of a joke. His humor allows those around him to feel at ease and people sincerely enjoy being around him.

Until I became an adult, I didn’t understand how truly blessed I am to come from such a strong and loving family with no hidden agendas attached. Simply love. Hard work. Respect for one another. And God.

Thank you dad, and happy birthday.