Other’s Colors

Do you remember that old song, Color My World, sung by Chicago?  I’ve always LOVED that song!  The meaning of those lyrics takes on a different hue when I think of our life with Aaron, and how he most definitely puts his own color on everything that we do. 

For instance, on Sunday after church I took Aaron with me to our local Dillon’s.  The grocery store is one of Aaron’s very favorite places!  Every aisle is full of discovery to him.  And since those discoveries involve his taste buds, he is especially eager to go along if offered the opportunity. 

Sunday was a chilly day, but not a super cold day.  However, Aaron decided that it was super cold, no matter what I said.  So he walked outside to the van with his toboggan perched goofily on his head and wearing his thick winter gloves.  I could have insisted that he take them off, but after suggesting such, he still wanted to wear his arctic garb and so I just let it go.

We went in the store, and as I headed to the pharmacy, Aaron veered off to explore the candy and snack aisle.  No surprise there!  When I veered up the same aisle to join him later, I had to laugh at the sight of him standing there examining the selection of peanuts. 

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He did not think it at all unusual to still be wearing his hat and his gloves.  Nor did he think it at all unusual to talk loudly when he saw me coming toward him. 

“Mom!!”  he bellowed.  “I’m looking at the peanuts!!”

And with that update, he proceeded to bend over to examine the jar that he thought he wanted.

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And then he had to stretch his arm out to retrieve the perfect jar.

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“See, MOM?!” he continued to bellow.  “These are lightly salted!  Is that good?”

I assured him that this jar was a great choice, and off we went to the self check-out…where he proceeded to talk to the attendant there about his lightly salted peanuts, in his commanding voice and his even more commanding presence…hat and gloves still included.

Sometimes it’s easy to be embarrassed by Aaron.  He doesn’t need the funny hat and gloves to be noticed, trust me!  So on this day, as he was even more noticed than usual, I just smiled and tried to see Aaron through fresh eyes…to relish how unusual he is…and to enjoy the moment.

The colors of that moment could have been red from my red face, and maybe my face was slightly red some of the time.  But that’s OK.  A little red doesn’t hurt me one bit! 

Another aspect of my colorful life with Aaron has been the joy of getting to know other moms of special needs children and adults.  The special bond we share is a rare treasure.  It’s very encouraging to walk the same path with others, though none of us would wish our circumstances on them.  But here we are, together on this journey, and our shared experiences make us all stronger. 

One of those friends, Joyce, has a particularly rough path as she mothers two adult sons with very significant special needs.  I truly am in awe of what she must handle on a “normal” day, much less on the kind of days she has had lately.  One of her sons had his wisdom teeth removed.  Then sickness hit the family, including Joyce and both her special sons.  Intestinal…respiratory…fevers…seizures…many, many sleepless nights. 

Her world is most certainly colored right now with the colors of poop and puke and puffy eyes, to be honest.  So on Sunday afternoon, I called her and I asked if she might want to escape for a bit…go somewhere and catch a breath of fresh air.  Change the colors a bit.

“Yes!” she said.  And a short time later, when I pulled into her driveway, she strode out to my van with a big smile on her face.  I was amazed, though knowing Joyce, I shouldn’t have been.

“Look at your smile!” I told her as she climbed in. 

“Well, I know what I want to do!” she happily declared.

I was expecting her to name a restaurant…or a park…or maybe the mall. 

“I would like to go to Dollar Tree,” she continued, “and get five vases.  Then I want to go buy some tulips and take them up to Oxford Villa.” 

And again, this woman amazed me.  Oxford Villa is a senior assisted living center where her mother used to live.  Joyce wanted to take some vases of flowers there for some of the residents who might not have anyone who loves them and brings them flowers.

Wow!! 

Joyce, I thought, needed some color in her life.  But instead, she wanted to GIVE some color to others!  I was so touched by her unselfishness!  So impacted by yet another lesson taught to me by this dear friend!

Instead of sipping a coke or coffee while eating a piece of dessert somewhere, I watched Joyce buy pretty colored vases and then examine the beautiful colors of tulips at another store.  We realized that Sunday was not the best day to deliver the flowers, though, so that job will be completed another day.  I hope I can help make that delivery!

Sometimes the best way to mix up our colors in this all-too-demanding life of parenting special needs children…or any other part of life that is draining you…is to look beyond yourself and see the needs of others.  To reach out and help carry their burden while taking your eyes off your own for awhile.

There was joy for me in watching goofy looking Aaron find just the right jar of peanuts.

There was joy for me in watching Joyce’s delight in finding just the right colorful vases for some unknown, needy seniors. 

Looking beyond ourselves causes us to see so many stunning colors that otherwise would have remained hidden. 

It’s so worth the effort, even with red cheeks or through tired eyes!

Thank you, Joyce, for your wonderful and colorful friendship!

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Have a Tootsie Roll!

My writing about life with Aaron has taken a back seat lately.  Actually, more like the back car on a very long train.  Traveling over Thanksgiving and then returning to the mad rush of Christmas preparations have certainly been major factors.  But there’s more to it than that.

I feel overshadowed.  Living under a dark cloud of Aaron issues.  Increased seizures…..medicine decisions……doctor visits.  But even heavier than those concerns are the disruptions caused by his behaviors, which honestly have at times been far from nice.

Autism……family therapist…..psychiatrist……investigating alternative medical helps…….phone calls……meetings.  It can get overwhelming sometimes.  Keeping our cool can also be next to impossible, sometimes as impossible as understanding what makes Aaron tick.  But we must understand that Aaron operates with a very unique mindset, without most of the filters that others have, and that he is constantly bombarded with sounds and ideas and stimuli that you and I never have to handle.  His day group is a perfect breeding ground for noises and irritants and unusual people that can aggravate him quickly.  We rarely see the behaviors at home that they see there.  It can get messy.

Today I saw the side of Aaron that I wish he showed every day.  It’s there…..just sometimes not seen as vividly as I saw today.  Yeah, he got mad at a game this morning before we left for his dentist appointment.  But he and I had a good discussion about it as we drove to the dentist’s office, where he also relished discussing his angry experience with the office staff, and with anyone else who had ears.  He has no shame…..really.

As we left the dentist’s office, he gladly grabbed a cookie that was offered to him by the staff.  And Tootsie Rolls that were in a bowl.  Did he ever take Tootsie Rolls!  I had no idea.

He ate one or two in the car on the way to Pizza Hut for lunch.  The Pizza Hut buffet, heaven on earth for Aaron.  All You Can Eat…..anything…..is heaven on earth to Aaron.

As we left Pizza Hut, paying for our All You Can Eat buffet……where Aaron really didn’t get to eat all he could eat because Mom stopped him way too soon……

Anyway, as we left and were paying at the register, Aaron pulled out yet another Tootsie Roll from his pocket.  “Here,” he said to the smiling lady behind the counter.  She was smiling because Aaron had tried to hide from me while I was in the bathroom.  He was standing near the exit doors, peeking around the edge of the wall, grinning from ear to ear and then laughing loudly when I saw him.  All of this in full sight of a banquet room full of people who were supposed to be listening to a speaker, but who were instead looking at Aaron and me with grins on their faces.  Story of my life.

So Aaron pulled out the Tootsie Roll, handing it to the now laughing employee, and said, “Here.  Because I liked the food today.”

When does he never like the food today?

But she was so happy to get his Tootsie Roll!  She took it and thanked him, telling him that she loved Tootsie Rolls.  Aaron was super pleased at her reaction.

“Look!!” he loudly said.  “See how many I got at the dentist?!”

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Oh dear.  He pulled out a whole fist full of Tootsie Rolls.  All I could think about was the fact that the ladies in the dentist’s office probably saw him take that stash while my back was turned to Aaron.  When will I learn to never turn my back on Aaron when there are cookies or Tootsie Rolls involved?!

I gave him the “Don’t Be a Tootsie Roll Pig” lecture on our way to TJ Maxx, while he unwrapped Tootsie Rolls and enjoyed his free dessert.  He offered me one and I accepted, feeling like a hypocrite.  I stopped the lecture.  Shouldn’t talk with my mouth full.

We walked into TJ Maxx, where I told him that I was looking for a gift for Nora.  Nora is my little elderly friend that I take out once a week.  She was our neighbor for 15 years before moving to assisted living.  Aaron knows Nora.  Sometimes he’s been not so nice to her, but other times he’s tolerable.  Today he surprised me.

“Mom!!  I want to get Nora a Christmas gift!” he exclaimed.  “Here!!  I want to get her……this!!”  And he grabbed the first thing he spied, a Christmas candle holder that I knew Nora wouldn’t need or want.

Aaron’s desire to get Nora a gift just made me very happy, so I told him that we would look for something.  We were browsing in the perfume section when I heard Aaron talking to someone.

“Here!” he was saying.  I looked over to see him offering the employee manning the dressing room……you guessed it……a Tootsie Roll!!

This young lady looked a little uncomfortable as big Aaron held a Tootsie Roll out to her.  At first she declined his offer, but then for some reason she said yes.  She looked at me with a smile and at Aaron with a smile as she accepted the Tootsie Roll.  And Aaron laughed with delight as he bent over and rubbed his hands together, oblivious to shoppers who were looking and this new friend whose mind was full of questions, I’m sure.

It was really very, very sweet.  Sometimes in these moments it’s tempting for me to be too embarrassed to enjoy what just happened.  Today, though, I really relished what Aaron was doing.  I loved it!!  I loved how happy it made him to share with strangers.  And how happy these strangers were to have received such a spontaneous little gift from unusual Aaron.

Aaron had not forgotten that he wanted to buy a gift for Nora.  We looked here and we looked there, and finally I saw a perfect box of chocolates.

“YES!!” Aaron said when I showed him the box.  “Let’s get that!”

Later, at supper, Aaron had a thought.

“Mom?  Can Nora eat that chocolate?”

I told him she could…..that she loves chocolates.

“But does she have fake teeth?!”

I told him she does not have fake teeth as I tried not to laugh.

“Good!” he answered.  “I thought she might have fake teeth and couldn’t eat it.”

Aaron wants to give the gift of chocolates to Nora, in person.  I am quite sure that he will ask her if she has fake teeth.  She still hasn’t forgotten how he once said that she was old.

See what I mean?  No filters…..no shame.

But Aaron has a big heart.

Here.  Have another Tootsie Roll.

I need to give the dentist a bag of Tootsie Rolls at my next visit.

 

 

Another “Sorry Card”

I pulled up in front of Aaron’s day group today, waiting for him to come outside and wondering as I always do in what mood I would find him.  He wasn’t very happy to go this morning.  Mondays are often difficult for Aaron, like they are for many who must return to work or school.  Problem is, Aaron isn’t always able to filter his frustrations, so he may be angry and rude as he expresses his Monday morning blues.  But he did go this morning, carrying his bag as he got out of the van…….his bag holding two bottles of water from the house, two sausage biscuits and two boxes of Hot Tamales from Quik Trip, and two cucumbers from our garden.  The water and the food was for Aaron.  The cucumbers were for whomever he decided to give them to today.

Aaron’s language of love toward others is definitely sharing.  I have to watch him or he might try to sneak things out of the house that I don’t want him to share.  Or he might bring a smile, as he did a couple weeks ago, when he put a few okra from our garden into his pocket…..and gave several of the staff at his day group AN okra.  One okra.  I’ve wondered if they think me a bit stingy.

Anyway, I sat in front of Paradigm today trying to prepare myself for whatever form of Aaron would soon be climbing in the van beside me.  Happy Aaron?  Sad Aaron?  Tired Aaron?  Angry Aaron?  It’s so much like still having a kindergartner in school, going to pick them up and waiting for their stories of the day, and seeing what frame of mind they are in.  Except that all the clients at Paradigm are adults, not young children.  My Aaron is nearly 32 years old and weighs 225 pounds!  He is grown up, but sometimes still his issues are not. 

He walked out today with Barb, his very loving staff, holding Piper the resident therapy dog.  Along with Aaron and Barb walked one of Aaron’s friends who often comes to the van with Aaron to see if I have brought our big Jackson.  I could tell that Aaron looked like he had been crying at some point, and I was right.  As the van door opened, Aaron’s mouth also opened as he told me that he had gotten mad at J for telling him to be quiet so that another client could sleep…..and Aaron thought that J was being bossy…..and Aaron didn’t like a hand motion that he said J made (nothing bad – Aaron just really doesn’t like other’s hand motions)…..and so Aaron hit J in the back…..really hard. 

Oh dear.  Children’s issues but in adult bodies.  Barb was kind and supportive as Aaron declared that he did not want to come to Paradigm tomorrow, telling him that she hoped he would come, but not pushing the issue.  I said a little but not much, knowing it’s best to let the dust settle first.  More soft words from Barb and then she mentioned that he gave his two cucumbers away…..and his little friend standing behind Barb brightened, opened her purse, and pulled out one of the large cucumbers.  Aaron brightened, too, and my heart softened for this man/boy who has so many conflicted emotions in any given day, today included.  The moment suddenly turned sweet and funny, his little friend happily holding up her cucumber with a big smile on her face.  These special adults can touch me so deeply if I just pause to soak it all in.

Reality hit again as Aaron and I drove away.  He told me once more that he didn’t want to go back tomorrow.  I was seeing a long evening ahead of anger and sadness, with Gary getting hit with it as soon as he unknowingly walked in the door.  So I calmly talked to Aaron for probably the zillionth time about not hitting people, about how that holds him down in life, and how someday he might get hurt. 

He turned on the CD of Zac Brown.  “Don’t talk, Mom,” he instructed.  “Let’s just listen.”

This suited me fine.  We hit the three lane and rode in silence in rush hour traffic.  Finally, he reached over and turned off Zac Brown.

“Mom?” he asked.  “Can we go to Dillon’s and let me get a sorry card?”

What?!  Aaron’s mood had dramatically changed.  As he has in the past, he wanted to once again get a “sorry card” for someone he had hurt.  But this change had happened quickly.  He was sincere and quiet as we talked about it.  I told him that we had cards at home he could use, and he was satisfied with that. 

“And can I bring Barb an okra?” he continued.  I suggested a green pepper instead, and he was excited at that idea.

“Mom?” he asked again.  “I’d like to bring S a stuffed animal.  That’s why I wanted to bring her my spider.”  But I reminded him that his cute stuffed spider was a special gift from Bruce and Glenda, from Hawaii, and he shouldn’t give that away.  I told him we would look for something else to give S…..his very special friend who is wheelchair bound, all bent over, and the girl with whom Aaron loves to share his food and his conversation. 

I can’t explain the positive change in Aaron’s mood, but I sure have been praying lately about his hitting and his anger at times.  Praying, too, as Gary and I get so tired some days.  So I may not be able to explain Aaron’s happiness tonight, but I can say thank-you to God for allowing it. 

I ended up finding an ancient little “sorry card” that I had saved in my ancient container of cards……two “sorry cards,” in fact……so Aaron chose the one he wanted to give J.  Later, he saw the Burger King coupons from yesterday’s paper that he had cut out.  He asked if he could give one to J, so we chose one to cut out and include with the “sorry card.”

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Then I showed him one of the green peppers from our garden that he could give to Barb, and it met his approval. 

Finding something for S was a little more difficult, but I remembered a very soft pillow stuffed with tiny microbeads, a pillow that Aaron never uses.  He set it aside in his room, ready to take to S tomorrow. 

I was happy that I had started supper early because Aaron wanted me to play the Frog in the Pond game on the Atari system that Gary hooked up to Aaron’s computer.  We laughed and laughed and laughed at me trying to get the frog to catch the bugs.

Aaron offered to set the table for supper.  He fed Jackson a piece of asparagus stalk.  He didn’t dump bad news on Gary when he came home from work.  He told Gary all about our Atari game and all about his sharing plans for tomorrow, but barely was mention made of his rough spot today and why he needed to give J a “sorry card.”  We watched Wheel of Fortune, and we laughed ourselves silly at the Nexium commercial with the man who was made into a burrito.

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I pray that tomorrow morning, when Aaron wakes up and is tired, that he doesn’t change his mind about all that he has planned for tomorrow.  I pray that he is excited about all the things he plans to take to give away, especially the “sorry card.”  That’s the most important of all. 

I’m grateful for this happy evening, and I know that it is one to which I can direct Aaron as an example of how to handle life’s rough patches.  I can honestly tell Aaron that he was a wonderful example to ME of how to overcome anger and frustration. 

Sharing touches a loving chord in Aaron’s soul.  It always has.  I need to work with that more, and get creative.

I can see a trip to Dollar Tree in our future.  We need to restock Aaron’s “give away” items, or I may be missing some dishes…..towels…..jewelry……

 

 

 

 

Giving Away Kindness…..Aaron Style

In the last blog I wrote about Aaron, I talked about how much it means to us when others treat him with kindness.   Simple Kindnesses   Even the smallest kindness shown to Aaron is just huge to us, and to him. 

On the flip side of kindnesses being shown to Aaron is the issue of Aaron showing kindness to others.  Sometimes we’re happily surprised at how Aaron will be kind to others.  Sometimes we’re sadly embarrassed at his total lack of kindness.   We never know what a day will hold.  We never know what an hour will hold.  We actually never know from minute to minute what Aaron will display toward others. 

Aaron is pretty self-centered, which is common for those with Asperger’s.  Empathy doesn’t come naturally to him most of the time.  For instance, if I’m crying it makes Aaron either angry or scared.  He doesn’t ask what’s wrong or ask me if I’m OK.  Instead, he might make fun of me or get very agitated.  I know that about him, so I try to never let him see me cry.  I can’t invent that sort of empathy in Aaron, try as I might. 

Therefore, when Aaron shows that he cares about someone, those of us who live and work with Aaron are delighted.  I wrote a few months ago about how I saw Aaron walking to Quik Trip with his day group.   Pictures of Kindness   He purposely waited to be the last in line so that he could walk with his friend, S., who is in a wheelchair.  It melted my heart to see that about him. 

We make it a purpose to help Aaron see practical ways that he can be kind.  For instance, when we eat out I make sure that Aaron always says thank-you to our server.  The same goes for thanking those who help us at Wal-Mart or the grocery store, Great Clips, or anywhere else we go where we receive assistance from others.  I don’t think Aaron would do that by himself if we didn’t remind him over and over to do so.  Verbal kindness is very important to all of us, and we want Aaron to be verbally kind to everyone.  Trust me, sometimes his verbage is anything but that, yet we have to keep reminding and reminding. 

A couple weeks ago, when I went to pick Aaron up at his day group at the end of the day, one of his staff came out to tell me that it was a rough day with Aaron.  I still feel like the parent of a disobedient, still learning kindergartner on those days.  Yet we need and want to know what’s going on so that we can help deal with it and address it at home.  A couple days later, this same staff headed for my car as I waited for Aaron.  Aaron ran behind her, all smiles, and opened the passenger door with gusto as I rolled down my window to talk to Melinda.  I was dreading what I would hear, but right away I was all smiles like Aaron as I listened to Melinda tell me that Aaron was awesome and wonderful and fabulous, and all other sorts of affirming adjectives.  I think I was happier than Aaron was to hear those words! 

And there on Melinda’s shirt, like a name tag, was a note that she pointed out to me…….a note that Aaron had written.  It said, “Melinda is cool.”  She was wearing it with pride, all the while confirming to Aaron that sweet behaviors bring sweet rewards of praise and smiles.  Aaron had written a note to another staff that day as well, on her calendar.  It was just extra sweet and funny.

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At his day group, Aaron also loves to give things away.  We’ve really had to work with him to quit giving away his money.  He’ll give others candy, gum, fruit or sliced veggies from home, whole cucumbers or squash from our garden that he has sometimes hidden in his shorts pockets…….you name it, Aaron has probably tried to give it away at one time or another.  And while that’s nice, there are times we have to draw the line and say no.

There are times that helping Aaron to be kind doesn’t necessarily work into my schedule, but I have to remind myself that he needs help with carrying out some of the things he really wants to do.  For instance, a couple weeks ago he wanted me to bring Jackson with us when I dropped Aaron off in the morning at Paradigm.  I wasn’t really in the mood to do that, but finally I agreed and off we went, Jackson sitting on the seat in the back of the van looking all around and Aaron happily talking in the front seat.

Once at Paradigm, I attached Jackson’s leash to his collar and we went inside.  The other clients love Jackson, so he was received with lots of petting and hugs.  But the one person that Aaron wanted the most to see Jackson was his friend S., who is wheelchair bound and bent over with her disease. 

“Mom!!  Come over here and let S. see Jackson!” Aaron loudly told me from across the room. 

So I took Jackson over to S., and I was so happy to realize that big old Jackson was just the perfect height for S. to just reach over and pet his head.  She doesn’t move well, but Jackson was able to stand there and let her pet him easily.  Aaron stood there rubbing his hands together the way he does when he’s very happy, his face just one big smile.

And the smile on her face was worth every single extra minute it took me to bring Jackson with us that morning.  I left there later with a huge smile on my face that matched hers……and Aaron’s. 

Aaron has also shown kindness to S. by giving her food.  He has told me that sometimes he has to put it in her mouth, and that it seems weird to him to do that.  But then we talk about her limitations and I remind him that he is being a true friend to her. 

He is also sad when he sees her sitting alone.  I’m not there to see how much time he spends with her, but he has said that he does talk to her sometimes when she’s alone.  It makes Aaron sad to see her lonely, and it makes us very glad in that case to see Aaron sad.

One other thing we recently did was to make cookies for Aaron to take to his friends.  It was a week ago on Sunday afternoon that we made the cookies after I suggested it to Aaron the day before.  He was very happy about this idea.  I had him help measure and pour and scoop so that the cookies were genuinely from his hand.

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He enjoyed taking them the next day and sharing them, giving the whole bag with the remaining cookies to one of the guys when I picked him up that day. 

However, we got an incident report concerning the cookies, too.  I think Aaron wasn’t so nice sometimes with sharing his cookies.  This is so typical.  I can’t let it stop us from doing this nice gesture that others enjoy, but it is discouraging sometimes to see Aaron take something good and make it an ugly issue.  We’ll talk about it during our next baking session, and I’ll drop Aaron off that morning hoping and praying that he’ll be nice to everyone and share equally. 

It’s all a lesson to me on how we can’t give up on Aaron.  We have to keep reminding……and training……and instructing…….and teaching…..

And putting ourselves out there in order to help Aaron become the young man we want him to be, at least most of the time.  We can’t expect it all of the time, but we can’t quit trying. 

Parenting never quits for any of us with children, but with our Aaron the parenting REALLY never stops.  Other special needs parents can certainly agree to that. 

May as well make cookies, right?  And be sure to eat some while they’re warm!    

 

A Thankful Moment

 

I was winding down a long day of cooking on Tuesday night when Aaron came bounding into the kitchen.  “Mom!” he said.  “Will you print off some cheat codes for me on your computer?”

 

Now the last thing I wanted to do at that point was go down to my computer and start looking up cheat codes with Aaron.  So I pretty well told him that.  But Aaron doesn’t take no for an answer very easily when he’s so set on something as important as cheat codes for his Star Wars Legos game.  I know that about Aaron, and therefore I was soon in my computer chair with Aaron hovering over my shoulder.  He instructed me on what to type in order to arrive at the correct site.  We printed a page but it wasn’t right, so we printed again and thought it was right…..but soon I could see that look on Aaron’s face that told me this looking up cheat codes job wasn’t finished yet.

 

I was really too tired for this.  I had reached that point of bone tired frustration.  I just leaned over then as Aaron typed in the correct information himself.  Sure enough, there on the screen popped up the precise cheat codes that he needed.  It was just two pages.  I clicked the print icon while Aaron gleefully rubbed his hands together.  He held the two pages with as much delight as if he was holding the title to a new car.  I stapled them together and we were done.  Thankfully done!

 

“Thanks, Mom!”  Aaron said.  He thumped with his usual loudness up the stairs to the kitchen, while I more or less dragged myself behind him.  There was the counter full of pot and pans and other sundry dishes that wouldn’t fit into the dish washer, waiting on me to dig in and get them washed.

 

“Mom!” Aaron turned and said.  “Since you helped me, I’ll help you.  I’ll dry the dishes!”  This unsolicited offer to help was a surprise to me.  He was so sweet about it and so sincere that I wouldn’t dare say no…..even though the temptation was there.  His drying skills are sometimes lacking, while his talking skills never are.  I knew he would be halfway drying and all the way talking.  My bone tiredness wasn’t looking forward to that scene.  But the look on his face and the willingness he showed kept me from refusing his offer.

 

I told him that of course he could dry the dishes, but he noticed the time then.  Shower time!  So he hurried off to take his shower with the promise that he would return to dry dishes.  And sure enough, he did just that.  After his shower, he stood beside me with the drying towel and dried each dish to some degree.  And he placed them in a stack on top of the stove or on the counter, laughing at how they might fall over and talking all the while about whatever came into his head.

 

I realized that I wasn’t thinking about how tired I was.  I was enjoying this time with Aaron as he did his part to help.  Then I thought about Pastor Bob’s sermon on Sunday…..how the ten lepers were healed by Jesus, but only one returned to give his thanks to the One Who had healed him so miraculously.

 

It would have been expected for Aaron to hurriedly take his shower and then get right back on his Star Wars game, using his brand new cheat codes, without a thought in the world for dirty dishes that needed to be washed and dried.  But he didn’t.  He knew that I was tired and he knew that he could help.  Plus, it was his way of saying thank you to me for printing the cheat codes.

 

In a sense, Aaron was the one leper who returned to give thanks.  Aaron, who usually only thinks of Aaron, thought of me at that moment.  And he saw a way to say thank you…..a tangible way to express his appreciation to me.  How could I say no to that?  I’m so thankful I didn’t!

 

It was another unexpected blessing from Aaron….a side of Aaron not always seen.  We shared some thankfulness that night during this season of being thankful.  It was good for Aaron, and it was especially good for me.

 

May I remember to not only BE thankful in every situation, but to allow Aaron the opportunity to also express his thankfulness in the ways that he can.

 

Happy THANKSgiving, everyone!

 

Lessons From the Random Garden Phlox

In our back yard, Gary and I have two flower beds that I haven’t done much with for the past two years.  Plenty of our perennials still grow there, but some have died that I haven’t replaced.  Gary is planning a patio remodel at some point, and knowing that those beds would be downsized or moved caused me to just let them grow as they will.  Our tall Tiger Lilies bloomed out there recently, but now those bright orange blooms are gone. 

This morning I looked outside as I worked at the kitchen sink.  There among the flowerless Tiger Lilies I saw the bright pink blooms of a random Garden Phlox.  The pink was very noticeable now that the lilies weren’t all in bloom.  What a pretty sight that Garden Phlox was as it stood among all the green leaves of the lilies!  The Phlox is shorter than the all those giant lilies surrounding it, but it stands out beautifully because of its bright, pretty flowers.
 
 

As I looked at that Garden Phlox, I thought of a nurse…..a nurse that I have never met and whose name I don’t even know.  Andrea, our daughter, told us about her last night.  Andrea has moved to a new area of the big city in which she lives, so yesterday she had her first appointment to get established with a family practice doctor there.  The doctor’s nurse who worked with Andrea was not only very nice, but Andrea said that she also gave a clear testimony of her relationship with the Lord.  She was definitely born again, a follower of Jesus, so she and Andrea shared that common bond as they talked together.  She then gave Andrea the name of two good churches in the area for her to visit.

This interchange may seem like no big deal, but it was very encouraging to Andrea…..and a huge answer to prayer for Gary and me.  As our two children that have moved far away get established in their new lives, Gary and I pray often that God will protect and lead them.  Part of our prayers for them is that God will bring others into their lives who are believers…..who will be there to encourage and befriend them.  It’s a rough world out there for all of us, but as parents we especially worry about our adult children as they navigate life far away from home and family. 

I just love seeing how God answers prayers in ways we don’t orchestrate at all.  Who would have thought that God would use this nurse to speak her testimony to Andrea, to lift her up in that way, and to give her the names of two churches?  But God knew just where Andrea needed to be yesterday morning.  The first doctor in that group couldn’t see Andrea, so she ended up with another doctor…..who has this nurse….and she was working yesterday when Andrea was there.  Thank you, God!

And thank you, dear nurse, for not being afraid to speak of your relationship with Jesus.  She truly let her light shine, just as Jesus told us to do, so that others will see the Lord in our lives.  This nurse was a huge blessing and an answer to prayers for us…and she may never know it this side of heaven.  But she was just walking in obedience, letting her light shine, and she sure did brighten Andrea’s day and ours as well.

Then I have to think about myself.  Often as I’ve prayed for those who will come alongside our children, I wonder if I might be on the other end of such a prayer.  Could I be the one that God wants to use to answer a mother’s prayer for their child?  Could I be that person who could encourage and bless a person for whom someone is praying?  Am I letting my light shine in the lives of others?  That thought has given me great pause over the years as I’ve prayed for our kids, and now even more so as I think of this nurse…..this random nurse…..who meant so much to our family yesterday in such a seemingly simple way.   

This nurse was like my Garden Phlox showing its beauty among the lilies.  She was a bright spot in Andrea’s day, and she was a bright blessing to Gary and me.  I need to be willing to do the same…..to grow where God has put me and to share the beauty of my relationship to Him because of what He has done for me.  I need to be careful to reach out to ones that God puts in my path, in whatever ways that I can.  Even the simplest acts can be just what a person needs at that moment, and just might be the answer to a parent’s or another’s prayer. 

So may I not let fear or selfishness or lack of caring grow around me so much that I don’t even try to help those who come into my life.  I pray that I will be open to God’s leading and obedient to his command to let my light shine so that others will see God, and thereby be uplifted.  May I shine like my bright pink Garden Phlox amongst all the tall, crowded lilies. 

I’m certainly thankful for that nurse who was a beautiful blessing in our lives yesterday.  May God bless her richly as she shares His beauty with others.

Lessons From the Lone Daisy

 

We have a flower bed off our front porch that has been a challenge to fill with flowers that will thrive.  It’s a mostly shady area because of our large Golden Rain Tree whose branches provide that shade in abundance.  However, through some pruning of the branches over the years, and some further pruning of a huge bush beside the flower bed, there is now a little more light that comes into that area.  I’ve tried a large variety of plants and flowers over the years in that spot, but even now with a little more sun, finding a plant that will keep growing has been difficult.

 

This year I decided to plant several flowers in that bed, flowers that are designed to bloom in shade or partial shade.  I’m still not tremendously pleased with how they have done this year.  I’m just not seeing the huge display of blooms all summer that I had hoped to see.  One of the flowers that I chose to plant are Gerbera Daisies.  They bloomed for awhile….at least enough blooms to give me hope…..but now they are just sitting there in the dirt, living but not blooming.

 

Except for one that put out a beautiful bloom last week.  It was a perfectly formed, bright pink bloom that caught my eye when I walked outside one morning.  Today the bloom is a little worse for wear, but still pretty in that sea of green.  That flower is a beautiful pink splash that still draws my attention when I look outside.  It doesn’t matter that it’s small……it doesn’t matter that it’s alone……it just matters that at least one of my little Gerbera Daisies decided to bloom and give me some pleasure.  I doubt if anyone driving by our house even notices it, but I do, and I’m thankful for it.

 

That small flower reminds me of something that happened recently.  Someone we know was going through a crisis with a family member.  It’s not who any of you are thinking of…..it was someone else.  J  Anyway, I felt compelled to run to the hospital and pay this dear family a quick visit.  Now I generally pull back from going to the hospital very often.  It’s not because I don’t care but it’s because I always worry about being in the way, showing up at the wrong time, or just not knowing what to say or do that would be helpful.  I do care for these sweet people and I felt like the Lord really wanted me to go, so I got in the van and I drove to the hospital.

 

The nurse on the floor helped me find the family.  They were in the family lounge, waiting while a procedure was being done on their loved one.  The Mom, my friend, was so happy to see me.  We hugged, long tender hugs, several times.  She asked me if I wanted to stay, to sit down in a nearby chair, but I said no.  I told them that I just wanted them to know that they are loved and prayed for, and that I wanted to give her a hug conveying that love.  I told them that they are not alone.  I was there less than five minutes…..maybe three minutes.  I felt like they needed time together in that otherwise empty family area…time to let down, to talk to each other, to pray….and so I gave one more hug and I left.

 

I walked back to the parking garage and drove home wondering if I should have stayed longer.  I wondered if it looked silly for me to make such a quick visit.  Did they think I didn’t care enough to sit down and talk awhile?  Did I come across as uncaring?  So I prayed and I asked the Lord to use that very brief visit to encourage them, the way that I intended, and I tried to quit fretting about it.

 

I got a text yesterday.  I hesitate to say much because I don’t want to sound like I’m boasting at all, but I want this to be uplifting to each of us.  This mother and friend told me that my visit was the most meaningful to them, and how grateful they were for it.  Now I was the one being encouraged!  And why do I share this?  Because that simple visit was like my Gerbera Daisy in my front flower bed.  That very brief and plain visit turned out to be a splash of loving color in their sad and worried hearts.  I felt like I didn’t accomplish much, but little did I know that God took my small effort and used it as a huge blessing in their lives.

 

I bet no solo I ever sang on that podium for all those years touched them like that one small visit.  And I want all of you to know that you don’t have to do big things to be a needed encouragement in someone’s life.  I’m not trying to build myself up…..I want to build each of you up to know that the littlest kindnesses are really huge, especially when God takes them as intended and uses them to touch a life.

 

My little lone Gerbera Daisy has given me a smile inwardly every time I have seen it for the past few days.  And your little lone touches in a person’s life can make them smile and give them hope to keep going in ways which you may not even be aware.  We don’t have to stand before hundreds, speak before crowds, write bestselling books, or any of the other multiple things that so often spell success to us.  We just need to give Jesus our simple loaves and fishes, and then watch Him multiply them over and over.  We have no idea of the effect of our prayers in our closet, of a card sent in the mail, of an email of encouragement, of a home cooked meal, of a simple hug, or of a phone call.

 

You may feel alone or ineffective, but you are never those things when you give to God your simple desires to bless others.  You can be a beautiful splash of color and hope in someone’s life when you do the simplest acts with a loving heart.  Remember the daisy.  It doesn’t matter that it’s alone…..it doesn’t matter that it’s small….it just matters that it decided to bloom and therefore to give me great delight every time I see it.

 

So bloom today where God has put you.  Look around and see how you can bring pleasure and delight to someone who needs that in their lives right now.  And remember that it’s usually in the smallest, simplest ways that we impart those blessings to others.

Glittery Moments

 

My day yesterday, Sunday, began at 4:12….to be precise, like Aaron.  Aaron had a seizure for the second early Sunday in a row.  Then he had another at 5:45, so I just stayed up then, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep.  This is a very busy, tiring time for everyone.  To start my day off so physically tired wasn’t what I had planned, but as usual my thoughts went to Aaron and how awful he was going to feel when he woke up.

 

I heard him upstairs through the baby monitor later in the morning, stirring and stretching and then getting out of bed.  I knew that he was marking his wake-up time in his notebook that he uses to record all that important information about his life.  Later he slowly made his way down the stairs.  I noticed that he had on a different pair of pajamas than he had worn to bed, and I knew right away what had happened.  I went up to his room after he and I talked for a minute to gather up his wet linens…..all of them, including his waterproof mattress pad.  Poor Aaron.  Such hard seizures take a toll on him, and can be embarrassing as well.

 

So the day began in earnest with mounds of laundry and mounds of Christmas preparations and plans to accomplish.  I was thankful for the time that day to prep and plan, but as the day wore on I was very aware of my fatigue…..fatigue that was probably only going to increase as the week continued.

 

That evening, as I finally cleaned off the kitchen table to some degree, I was looking forward to a little time to chill out.  Catch up on Facebook, look at emails, read the news…..   But of course, I wasn’t downstairs very long before Aaron came thumping down the stairs.  First he talked to Gary about the movie he had finished watching today, and then the current movie he was now watching.  Soon he came to me at my computer, and began the same recitation.  Gary and I finally had to tell him that movie talk needed to stop.  We were depleted when it came to his long movie reviews and endless questions.

 

I had told Aaron earlier that maybe we could play a game of SkipBo……emphasis on MAYBE.  As Aaron left me at my computer, the last thing I really wanted to do was to drag myself back upstairs and play a game of cards with Aaron.  I was tired.  And I was very weary of listening to all the movie talk.  But we hadn’t played SkipBo in a while.  This time of year takes much of the fun time away.  I felt badly for Aaron, who asks me every single night of his life to let him know if we can “do something, like SkipBo …..”

 

It was around 9:30 when I went upstairs and asked Aaron if he wanted to play a game of SkipBo.  He was very happy to hear me ask that question, so while he took his pills I shuffled the cards.  We had a normal game, with me having to monitor Aaron’s every move in case he cheated and with Aaron thinking he had to monitor my texting with Andrea.  I could feel my nerves getting a little more worn.  Of all nights to have a slow game, this was not the night!  But was it ever a slow game!  Where were all the 3’s?!  I was getting irritated for sure.

 

Finally the game was over!  I wasn’t nearly as happy about winning as I was happy that I could go to bed at last……after turning off all the Christmas lights, fixing the coffee pot, helping Aaron get his bed all perfectly ready, and listening to his non-stop chatter.  Ugh!  All these thoughts were going through my mind as I put the cards back in their box.  I looked up then to see Aaron sitting very still across the table from me, peering down at something on the table.

 

“Mom?” he asked.  “What’s this?”  I thought he was pointing to a little indention on our distressed kitchen table that’s become much more distressed under Aaron’s attention.  I brushed him off with a quick “I don’t know.  It’s just a little dot.   A little mark.”

 

Aaron wasn’t deterred.  “No,” he said.  “It’s sparkling.”

 

And I knew then what “it” was.  “It” was a tiny little piece of glitter from all the wrapping paper and glittery tissue paper I had used that day.  Of course, Aaron noticed this miniscule piece of glitter that to most of us would have gone totally unseen.  Or seen, but not cared about.

 

Not so with Aaron.  He was intrigued by the tiny sparkle that caught his eye.  He knew that it was worth exploring, so he did.  Furthermore, he hoped that I would do the same.  I was headed to the coffee pot when I stopped and turned around.  There sat Aaron, pointing to the itty bitty glitter, and I was drawn to that scene as I stood there for a few seconds.  I smiled as I realized that I should not miss this moment.  So I walked back over to the table, and I bent over the little glitter particle with Aaron.  We both smiled as we noticed the glitter’s tiny shimmer.  I realized that this glitter wasn’t round, but that it had definite sides.  I counted six sides, and so Aaron and I talked about the fact that this glitter piece was in reality a hexagon.  It was pretty and sparkly and more complex than either of us realized until we took the time to look at it carefully.

 

All day today I’ve been thinking about that glitter moment with Aaron, and what I would have missed had I dismissed his interest in favor of a coffee pot to fix and Christmas lights to unplug.  I would have missed a sweet moment with Aaron……a time of simple sharing…….a smile……a discovery.

 

At this time of year, especially, but at any time of year, I need to often remind myself to stop my fussing and flittering……and to take some time to see what Aaron sees.  Take some time to see who Aaron IS.  See the world through his eyes, with all its complexity and its beauty.

 

And to apply this lesson to so many other areas of my life as well.  Stop to see what’s around me that’s not so obvious, lest I miss out on some real beauty and some sweet moments.  Don’t let my schedule or my tiredness rob me of discovering some sweet moments with those I love…..or with those whom I need to know better…..or with those that I can help.

 

Coffee pots and other chores will always be there.  Glitter has a way of blowing in the wind and never being seen again.  I need to treasure it while I can……with Aaron, of course.

 

Sharing Aaron

Share:  to partake of, experience, or enjoy with others.

Aaron, for some unknown reason, has been in a sharing mood lately.  It’s encouraging to Gary and me to see positive traits such as this in Aaron.  Anytime he thinks of others beyond himself, besides slapping them on the back or making a rude remark about them, makes us surprised and thankful.  His sharing of late has come in the form of bringing us little portions of his special snacks.  A couple cashews here, a few gummy bears there, a piece of gum thrown in the mix……it’s all been part of his sharing frame of mind recently.  Never mind that we are often fearful of actually putting any food item that Aaron brings us in our mouths.  We just never know where those hands of his have been, if you know what I mean.  According to our scientist daughter, being exposed to germs helps to build our immune systems.  Therefore, Gary and I should never be sick again in our natural lifetime. 

There are other forms of sharing that go on with Aaron, as well.  During supper a few days ago, Aaron told us about the song “YMCA” and how he had heard it on the radio in his day group van.  Aaron liked this song and he wanted to tell us all about it, and to ask lots of questions about it.  I noticed that Gary was on his phone and in just a few moments he held his phone up for Aaron to see and to listen…..to The Village People singing “YMCA.”  I just stopped eating and watched this scene.  Gary held his phone for Aaron as he watched Aaron’s reaction to the song and to the antics of The Village People as they did all the funny motions.  I watched Aaron’s face, too, but also Gary’s as I enjoyed the pure delight brought on by this simple moment.  Soon Gary pulled up another group, wanting to watch Aaron’s face when he told him to guess the name of this next group…..The Monkees!  Aaron laughed and we laughed as we both enjoyed the look of more delight on Aaron’s face.  “Yeah, yeah, we’re the Monkees…….”  

We were sharing Aaron…..and it was so much fun.

On Saturday afternoon, while Gary was immersed in being our IT man and working on my computer, I asked Aaron if he wanted to go out with me to do a little shopping.  He stood in the bathroom while I fixed my hair, hovering, thinking that his hovering would make me hurry and we could get this show on the road.  Soon he was coughing.  “You made my breath feel strong because of hair spray!” he sputtered.  That’s when he decided to wait for me downstairs.

Aaron’s all about shopping, always hoping that he’ll come home with some treat or item that’s just for him.  On the way to Big Lots, he asked, “Mom, is it about clothes?”  I assured him that this trip wasn’t about clothes, and he was able to relax then.  He helped me look at seasonal rugs, and then off we headed for Petco, where I told him I wanted to look for dog bed covers for Jackson……no rugs at Petco for me….and no clothes. 

We struck gold before we even got in the store, because there in the parking lot was a couple with a cart full of four amazingly adorable Mastiff puppies.  Aaron headed straight for them and they gladly let him pet their puppies.  Once in the store, Aaron had to show me the fish….the hamsters….the gerbils….the various birds….the ferret…..   I commented on how much the ferret cage smelled, so as we left the store, Aaron took it upon himself to stop at the front counter.  He didn’t care that there were people standing in line.  He stopped and informed the cashier that his mom said the ferret stunk, as he laughed and rubbed his hands together, and everyone stared at him…..and mom told Aaron to come on as she walked out the door like nothing at all was unusual.   Sharing Aaron…..

We ran into Bed, Bath, and Beyond….which Aaron confused with Bath and Body Works, so he was hoping it didn’t stink like all those things do in that store.  He didn’t mind the ferret but he thinks Bath and Body Works stinks?  Anyway, we found nothing in BBB, so I told him we would go to Kohl’s next…..and I didn’t tell him it has clothes.  We talked about fall, and I told him that I like this time of year and the colors of the trees.  “Yeah,” Aaron said.  “They don’t have leafs.” 

There were no rugs in Kohl’s, but Aaron found the coolest spider soap dispenser ever.  I would have hurried right by it, but not Aaron.  “Mom!!” he exclaimed loudly.  “Look at this!”  Others looked, too……sharing Aaron.

I suggested that we look inside Ross, right next door to Kohl’s, so Aaron gladly trotted along beside me…..ready to explore a new store.  It only took a second for him to see the hanging skeleton just inside the door…..and you know the rest.  We finally made it to the rug aisle, and looked at several styles and colors.  I would unfold one and look at it……put it back on the shelf and unfold another one……several times.  Aaron was about done with this silly rug business.  “Mom, you can’t make up your decision with rugs!” he said with a small measure of patience.  So I quickly made up my decision…..the one with dots, as Aaron described it, and we went to stand in the check-out line.

There were several customers in front of us on this busy Saturday.  While standing there, Aaron found a bag of gummy bears that I agreed to buy him.  He held his gummy bear bag but he was observing everything around him, as always.  At one of the counters there stood a man making his purchases…..a man with a very modern Mohawk hair cut…..and I should have seen it coming.

“Look at that guy’s hairdo!” Aaron broadcasted loudly.  The young lady in front of us turned and smiled while I smiled back, and also while I told Aaron to please try hard to whisper……but to try even harder not to comment on people…..in any way, shape, or form.  Please!  Not in ANY way, shape, or form whatsoever!  Sharing Aaron…..

We were finally driving home, rug and Aaron in tow…..and I was so thankful that either Aaron didn’t notice the other Mohawk hairdo man coming in the door as we left…..or he just decided that he would listen to Mom for a change and not comment.  Probably the former.  Anyway, as I drove Aaron said, “Mom, sometimes Brian at Paradigm does this.”  And I looked over to see Aaron comically trying to make his facial muscles move.  “And flaps his ears!” Aaron finished.   I laughed at the thought of flapping ears, which made Aaron very happy.  Sharing Aaron…..

Later that night, as I sat at my desk doing some things, I heard Aaron coming up the stairs.  Without saying a word, he plopped down several gummy bears for me.  I thanked him while determining in my mind if I should eat them, but Aaron walked away and I was saved from that decision for the moment.  But in just a minute I once again heard him coming upstairs, where he put even more gummy bears on my desk…..and walked out quickly.  Down the stairs he went…..and wouldn’t you know, soon he was headed back up.  He walked in my room again, but this time he didn’t leave me any gummy bears.  Instead he reached down and took some off my personal pile of gummies, smiled, and started out the door.

“Are those for dad?” I guessed.  And he said they were for Dad, and thumped down two sets of stairs to give his gummy gift to Dad.  Aaron sharing….

I looked down at my remaining gummy bears and saw three soft bears there on my desk calendar.  Three bears…..Aaron, Gary, and me, I thought.  How perfect! 

Gary and I, sharing life and sharing Aaron.

And Aaron, sharing with us…..more than just gummy bears.  Sharing his unique way of living, in many different ways, shapes, and forms. 

 

 

Footprints

 

For the past two days we had a small and gentle snow that fell to the ground and blanketed our brown earth with a fresh coat of white.  Besides needing the moisture, it was a relief to look outside and see the drab brown grass and trees transformed into the beauty of a soft winter wonderland……….new and sparkling white.
 
Andrea is still here with us as she enjoys the last day or two of her Christmas break.  Along with her, we have her adorable dog – Darcy.  Darcy is so small compared to our huge Great Dane, Jackson.  The difference in their sizes was very evident yesterday as I looked down at their footprints in the snow.  I had no trouble being able to distinguish which print was Jackson’s and which was Darcy’s.  The impressions that each dog made in the snow was undeniable………big for Jackson and small for Darcy. 
 
I’ve been thinking about footprints and pondering the significance of those footprints that we cannot see……….the footprints that we leave in the lives of people that cross our paths.  I have specifically been thinking of Aaron – of some of the people that have left a footprint in his life and therefore has impacted mine.  The footprints don’t have to be huge or to be many in order to leave an impact.
 
Years ago we had a dinner after the morning service at our church.  By this time,  Aaron was in his teens and his differences were very pronounced.  Most of his peers did not know what to do with Aaron ………..how to talk to him or relate to him.  They weren’t unkind but most simply handled the situation of Aaron by ignoring him, or by speaking briefly and then walking uncomfortably away from this person who was so unusual.  As I went through the serving line and filled my plate, I looked around for Aaron in order to direct him to the table where we would be sitting.  But there was no Aaron to be found as my eyes scanned the room.
 
Then I saw him sitting at a table full of teenage boys.  I wondered if Aaron had just seated himself there and  my heart fell as I feared that he might be ignored.  It was then that Gary told me that one of the young men at that table, Tyler Ellis, had asked Aaron if he wanted to sit with them.  I was shocked………and I was also so very happy.  What to Tyler probably seemed like a very small thing to do was instead a huge blessing to Gary and me.  That incident left a footprint in my heart that remains today…………a footprint of kindness that still warms me and makes me smile.
 
I have another footprint involving a young man that had his own struggles yet had a heart of gold.  Paul Gilbow came over to our house to swim with Aaron.  What was routine for our other children was rare for Aaron……….to have someone purposely come over to swim with him and spend time with him.  I remember the joy that filled my heart as I looked out the window and watched Paul and Aaron swim.  Paul was unaffected by Aaron’s unusual behaviors or speech or appearance.  He gave Aaron a day of normalcy and fun, and he gave me a footprint in my life that will stay forever.  Paul has left this earth but his sweet footprint remains with me.
 
We each leave footprints in the lives of others.  Some of those prints are with intent as we purposely reach out to touch others and to help them along the way………….or sadly as we may reach out to inflict verbal pain or to ignore those that we dislike.  Other prints we may never see or realize as we affect people in ways of which we are unaware.  I often wonder that if the footprints of our attitudes and our deeds were visible, like Jackson’s and Darcy’s, then what would mine look like?  When I leave a footprint in some one’s life, what kind will it be?  Will someone look at the footprints in their life and recognize mine?  And if they do, will it be because of a smile or an act of love and caring?  Or will they see anger or frustration or neglect? 
 
I want this New Year to be a year of making the right kinds of footprints in the lives of others…….and to remember that even the very smallest of prints can leave a lifelong, profound effect on those whose lives I somehow touch.