The Miracle Worker

When I was a child, I loved watching The Patty Duke Show. So naturally I was thrilled when I found out she played the part of Helen Keller in the 1962 American Biographical Film, The Miracle Worker. A stirring dramatization of the story of Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan. I loved that film and saw it several times over the years…

I could never have imagined back then, how that film, The Miracle Worker, would play out in a very similar fashion later in my own life. How could I have known that one day I would become the mother of a child, our daughter, Shantel, who would lose both her eyes to cancer, leaving her totally blind for life? Thankfully Shantel is not deaf, but she did lose a significant amount of her hearing, in both ears, due to the chemo she received for the treatment of the cancer.

I remember like it was yesterday, the soul piercing fear I felt, when my husband, Bill, and I were told the only way to save our then two-year old daughter, Shantel’s, life was to remove both her eyes. What do you do with that? How do you cope? How do you find the strength to help your child find her way through life in total darkness?

Lucky for us, we were immediately connected with The Foundation For Blind Children (FBC) in North Phoenix. Shantel was enrolled into their toddler program at the age of 2 1/2. The FBC not only taught Shantel the life skills she would need to keep herself safe, they also taught Bill and I when to push her and how to know when we needed to redirect her efforts. They told us if we were going to make Shantel into a porcelain doll, she would eventually break, and would never learn how to properly function in her world. They told us over and over again to insist she learn and practice the skills they would teach her. Things as simple as eating soup from a spoon without tipping the spoon and spilling the soup… That sounds so simple but it isn’t when your 2 1/2, you can’t see, your hungry and frustrated, and the people you love and trust are insisting you “do it again, and again, and again…. I felt so sorry for her and it would have been so very easy to just scoop her up into my lap and feed her… but I knew if I did that I was sentencing her to a life of helplessness…

Another life skill Shantel had to learn was how to use a long cane so she can move about safely and freely in her environment. Before learning the long cane skills, Shantel had to learn to move about inside our home by keeping her hands out in front of her face so if she ran into something her hands would let her know. I cannot tell you how many times I had to watch her run into counters, and walls, because she would forget to put her hands out. I could have stopped her prior to her banging her head, but the FBC told us she will not learn how to do things right unless she understands what happens if she doesn’t…

Shantel was the youngest child ever, at the time, in the FBC program to learn to use a long cane. We were told that most children under 4 yrs old do not have the muscle control and strength to control the cane in such a way that will keep them safe… Shantel has always been tall for her age and she has always been very strong. This is a picture of her walking with two of her friends in her class at the FBC. The little girl in the front and the one in the middle had very low vision at the time and both lost all their vision a few years later. Shantel, in the back of the line, of course was totally blind but commanded control of her long cane. We were and still are so very proud of her.

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Shantel is grown now, 21 yrs old, and living independently alone in her very first apartment. She takes care of her apartment, fixes her own meals, and does her own laundry… Had we not forced her to learn and practice all those skills over the years, living on her own today would not have been possible…

Yesterday, my husband, Bill and I went to a live play of The Miracle Worker.

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The performance was held at the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert Az.

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The Hale Centre Theatre is a lovely, small, intimate, theatre that is practically in our own backyard.

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We had front row seats and could have reached out and touched the actors and stage props if we wanted… our seats were just behind the brown table with the white bowl sitting on it. How cool is that?

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But, like I said… any seat in the theatre was good

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Seeing the live performance of The Miracle Worker, played out in real-time, right before our eyes, in such an intimate and close setting, was to say the least, a very emotional experience for both Bill and I. We both laughed and we both cried… and when it was over, we both agreed the story of Helen Keller, and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, is a story of victory over unbelievable odds – accomplished through conviction, perseverance, and love… Much like our own story…

Stay Tuned!

 

 

 

 

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Size Does Matter

I went to visit my mother at the care center today and took her a caramel frappe, her favorite treat.

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As I was pushing her to the dinning room for lunch, one of the other residents made the comment “wow, that’s the biggest smile I’ve seen on you in a very long time.”

Of course, like any other time when I bring mom a frappe, she usually doesn’t want to eat her lunch choosing instead to just have the frappe for lunch… I was able to convince her that she needed to at least eat some tomato soup that was on the menu and attempt to eat some of her chicken salad platter since she refused the roasted pork.

During lunch, mom’s table mate, Joan, started talking about the upcoming 4th of July holiday. Joan said she has been asking for months for a small flag like my mother has on the wall outside her room. This is my mother’s flag.

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Well, apparently the week before last, when my brother, Danny, was visiting mom during lunch, Joan told Danny the story about how she wants a flag for the wall outside her room like my mom has… Danny told Joan he would get her a flag and promised to bring it to her on his next visit which was this past Sunday…

In typical Danny fashion…. seeing how he can’t do anything little…This is the flag Danny bought for Joan’s wall.

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You can’t even imagine the ordeal this huge flag started between my mom, Joan, and even other residents within the care center… As Joan was telling me during lunch all about the big, beautiful flag my brother, Danny bought her… my mother got very quit, but I could tell she was not happy about Joan bragging about how big her flag was…  or the fact that her own son, Danny, bought it for Joan… Joan went on to say “my flag is so big, one of the residents that lives across the hall from Joan insisted she count all the stars to be sure it was a real American flag.” Joan said she told that resident “of course it’s real, an ex-marine gave it to me, don’t you think he would know a real American flag from a fake..?” Joan said the flag was so big she had to have maintenance come down and hang it for her. They told her she could not have it on a pole, but they would hang it on the wall.

Now, guess what my mother wants…?

Yep, immediately after lunch, my mother insisted I take her down to Joan’s room and take her picture in front of the big flag Joan got and said “maybe someone will want me to have a big flag like this one too…” I laughed and said “since Danny started this whole thing, I think Danny should be the one to buy you a “big flag” like the one he bought Joan…

Wow, Danny, you really stirred up the pot this time because now that Joan has a big flag… EVERYBODY is going to want a big flag….  Good luck with that!  XoXo 🙂 🙂 🙂

Stay Tuned!

 

 

That Moment When…

you begin to realize your mother/daughter relationship is also transitioning into a mother/daughter friendship as well…

Since our daughter, Shantel, moved out of our home, and into her own apartment, together my husband Bill, and I, have been working through the transition of having an empty nest, for the second time around. We are loving our new-found freedom, but still miss Shantel’s presence in our home…

Shantel turned 21 on June 16th. About a month prior to her birthday she said she wanted to move out and try living on her own. Both Bill and I totally supported that decision because our whole goal as a family, as we raised Shantel, was to help her in every way, and anyway ,we could to one day live her own life, and realize her own dreams, independent of us. That said, I must say again that the day Shantel moved out of our home was one of the most difficult days of my life. I just could not imagine her not living here with us anymore. However, at the same time, I knew her decision was the absolute best thing for her, as well as us. And, I am so very proud of her determination and courage to not let her own fears stand in her way of achieving her ultimate goal of one day being completely independent.

We are still in a transition period but everyday we get closer to our agreed upon goals. When I say we are still in transition, what I mean is, I do go over once a week and take Shantel to buy her groceries. She pays for the groceries, but I do drive her to the store. I also drive her to any doctor/dentist appointments etc. because most of her appointments would still require the dail-a-ride transfers from Phoenix dail-a-ride to East Valley dail-a-ride which sometimes leaves her waiting for hours… And, to be completely honest, I enjoy those once a week, in person, one-on-one, visits with Shantel.

But to get back to the topic of this post “That Moment When…” Shantel calls me almost everyday and I love our chats, and I text her every night to say good night…  During one of our conversations this past weekend, Shantel told me her friend, Jaz, came over Sunday, and took Shantel out to look around in some of Shantel’s favorite stores, then out to lunch… I was very happy to hear that Shantel is getting out of her apartment and spending time with friends… what came as a surprise to me was when Shantel actually asked me if I had plans for today (Monday) saying she would love it if just she and I could go to a movie and lunch!! Of course, I jumped on that… and I picked her up at 9:30 this morning for a 10:30 show of “Think Like A Man II” and then lunch.

What a thrill it was to have my daughter actually ask me out on a mother/daughter outing.. I so enjoyed our time together, especially having an in-depth conversation with Shantel about recent events, and what is going on in her life right now… I so love that as an adult, she trusts me with her thoughts and feelings… That alone makes any and all hardships we faced as a family worth it all… Thank you and  I LOVE you Shantel!

Stay Tuned!

Prince Of Peace

My husband, Bill, and I recently saw the movie Heaven Is For Real, and I loved the picture of Jesus that the child in the movie said is what Jesus looked like when he visited Heaven and saw Jesus.. So, when I came home from the movie, I ordered this, Prince of Peace framed artwork, from the St. Jude Shop in Pennsylvania.

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Not only do I love this picture of Jesus, but when I read the story behind the artist, Akiane Kramarik, an artistic child prodigy, artist and poet, who was only eight years old when she painted this Prince Of Peace work of art… I just had to have one for my home.

Akiane describes the Prince Of Peace art as “love and truth are represented on the light side of Jesus’ face. The other is of darkness and suffering – yet there’s light in His eye. The light is a reminder that He is ALWAYS with us.”

When I placed the order for the artwork from the St. Jude Shop in Pennsylvania, I was informed of a five-day delivery time frame. After a week and a half, I sent an email to the name on the St. Jude Shop website asking if the order had been shipped but never received a response. I waited a few more days, then I called the number on the website and left a message asking for someone to call me back and let me know the status of my order. Three days later I finally received a return phone call from St. Jude Shop informing me that the artwork has been just flying off the shelves and they were working from a backlog but my order should ship within two more days and I could expect to receive the artwork within seven days. The woman thanked me for my patience and we hung up.

Sure enough, seven days later my package arrived. I was so excited and could not wait to see the painting. I tore into the box and was immediately hit in the face with the most foul odor of rotting garbage. I couldn’t imagine where the odor was coming from so I picked through the packing material and sure enough, I actually found actual rotting garbage that was inside this bag that was used as part of the packing material.

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Inside the bag was what was left of a yogurt parfait. I can’t even begin to describe the foul odor, but just imagine this traveling from Pennsylvania to Arizona in the back of a UPS truck!

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In addition to the rotting yogurt, I also found the remains of a McDonald’s lunch.

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I just could not believe anyone would do such a thing and I immediately took these pictures and sent them off to the email address on the St. Jude Shop website letting them know about the incident. I told them I was very happy with he artwork itself, but the way the package arrived at my home was not only a very unpleasant experience for me, it is also a very disrespectful way to handle, package, and ship the image of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I said I hoped they would take immediate action to speak to their shipping department about the proper way to handle, package, and ship the religious articles they sell. I also let left a testimony on their website as I just happened to receive an email from the St. Jude Shop the very next day asking me to provide testimony about the product/services I received. Imagine that! I let the St. Jude Shop know because of this incident, I will never do business with their company again.

As of this writing I have not heard anything from the St. Jude Shop…

Stay Tuned!

 

 

Chicken Thighs

I just had to share this chicken dish with you because it is my absolute favorite chicken dish ever! I am always looking for new recipes, and I found the recipe for this dish on the Food.com website posted by justcallmetoni, August 29, 2005. I tried it, and it was love at first bite. Justcallmetoni calls this dish “Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes, Olives and Capers. I think it should be called OMG, Thank You Jesus, this is the best chicken I ever had in my mouth… but I guess that would be a bit much. 🙂

The recipe calls for the following ingredients, but of course, we all know by now I almost always alter recipes to suit my tastes… The dish is so simple to make but tastes like you spent the entire day creating it…

Ingredients:

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (I used bone in because I think it adds much more flavor but I did pull off the skin prior to cooking)

1 teaspoon olive oil ( I used a small amount but it was definitely more than 1 teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon oregano, Greek if possible (I used a Greek seasoning mix)

4 teaspoons minced garlic (I used about 5 cloves minced)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper ( I just put a couple good size pinches in)

3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley ( I leave that out)

1/3 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives (I used about a half a jar because I really love them)

2 teaspoons capers (I put a good amount in but it was more like 3 tablespoons)

22 ounces canned diced tomatoes, undrained (I used three 15 ounce cans)

1. Heat the oil in skilled. Add chicken; cook about four minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

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2. Add garlic to pan and sauté being careful to not let it burn. Add remaining ingredients; scrape pan to loosen brown bits.

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3. Return chicken and accumulated juices to pan. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is done. At this point I transferred the chicken and sauce to my slow cooker and set it on low for a few hours then turned it to warm until we were ready to eat. However, I have also made this entire dish in one Dutch oven on my stove. Delicious either way..

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4. I usually serve this over rice, but this time I served it with a side of diced sweet potatoes that I lightly fried in canola oil. YUMMERS!!!

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ENJOY!

Stay Tuned!

What A Week

When I went to visit my mother at the Care Center this week I was informed that two days before my visit, she tried to get out of bed by herself and fell on the floor. I asked why no one called to let me know about the incident which is usually their common practice? No one seemed to have an answer so I went on to see how my mother was doing. She was sitting in her wheelchair just outside her door looking very confused. I pushed her into her room and asked her why she tried to get out of her bed without help but she never really gave me an answer, she just started telling me something about she was in a big room with lots of people around and she fell… I asked her if she hurt anywhere and she said “my bottom hurts.” I asked her to lean forward as far as she could and I checked to see if she had any bruises on her back… but I couldn’t see anything. I went to the nurse and asked if anyone had ordered an ex-ray to determine if my mother had fractured anything when she fell out of her bed. No one had, so I requested that be done right away and told them I wanted to be called immediately when they had the results.

I went back into my mother’s room and sat on her bed facing her and asked her if anything else had happened to her since I was there two days ago? Mom proceeded to tell me that her roommate had a male relative come to visit her and the roommate gave the relative mom’s bed for two days. I said “where did you sleep?” Mom told me she had to go sleep with the nurses at the nurses station… I asked mom how she finally got the roommates relative out of her bed and she said she didn’t know, he just finally left.

I went back to the nurse and asked if anyone had spent any length of time talking with my mother because she is telling stories that I know are not true and that usually happens when she has a urinary track infection (UTI) or when she has been given a medication that doesn’t work well with her Parkinson’s medication. The nurse said she would notify the doctor and request an order for a UTI test and blood tests to determine if mom has another UTI or if something shows up in her blood work that would identify the cause of mom’s confusion… Again, I asked to be called immediately with the results and I also expressed my frustration with the responsibility falling to me to notice these changes in my mother when she lives in that Care Center, which is a 24/7 skilled nursing facility…

I stayed and visited with my mother for a few hours then I went home with plans to check in on her again the following day. That night my brother, Danny, called me to tell me he hurt his back at work and would not be able to go visit our mother at the Care Center that following Sunday which is his usual visiting day. I told him not to worry about it, because I was going almost everyday now since mom fell out of bed, and hurts, and that she is very confused again… I told him I would go on Sunday as well and take mom some homemade cabbage rolls and have lunch with her, which I did.

I packed a lunch box with a cabbage roll and black rice for both mom, and I, and I also took some fresh cantaloupe which mom always loves… When I entered mom’s room, I found her asleep in her bed. She had been up for breakfast, but told the nurses she wanted to go back to bed after breakfast. I found an aid and asked if she would please get my mother up and into her wheelchair because I brought lunch for her and needed to take her to the activity room so we could eat our lunch together while the other residents were in the dining room.

Finally, mom was ready and off we went to enjoy our lunch together.

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I pushed mom to the activity room, and set out our lunch, which I had been telling mom about all week, and she had been telling me all week how excited she was to get some homemade cabbage rolls. However, once we were alone in the activity room, mom looked very confused and wanted to know where everyone went. I explained to her that the other residents were in the dinning room but she and I were going to eat our lunch in the activity room so we could have some quality one-on-one time… mom took about three bites of her cabbage roll, one piece of cantaloupe and said “I can’t eat any more so let’s go back to my room.”

I put everything back into the lunchbox and back to her room we went.

In mom’s room, I asked her if she would like me to try to contact her sister, Katy, as mom hasn’t talked to Katy in a while. Mom said she would like that and I was able to get Katy on the phone. Mom talked for a few minutes then handed me the phone and said she wanted to go.. I let Katy know mom was done talking and said good-bye.  I sat on mom’s bed facing mom and tried to talk to her about how she was feeling etc… she answered a few questions but seemed very distracted by every little noise in the hallway. I asked mom if she needed anything and she said she needed to go to the bathroom. I pushed the call button and asked the aid if she would help mom in the bathroom which she did.

When the aid brought mom out of the bathroom, I continued sitting on mom’s bed and tried once again to strike up a conversation but mom just sat there looking at me then finally said “you will  need to take me back to my room now.” I said “take you back to your room, mom, we are sitting in your room.” She looked all around her room and asked “is this really my room?” I told her it was really her room then she said she was tired and wanted to go to bed. I pushed the call button again and asked the aid to help mom get in bed, hugged mom good-bye, and left, letting her know I would be back the following day… That evening the nurse called me and said the doctor reported that mom does not have a UTI and her blood work seems alright. The doctor determined mom’s confusion is due to the progression of the Parkinson’s and dementia and said mom will most likely continue to have episodes of confusion, along with periods when she is not as confused..  In other words, she will have good day’s and bad day’s and even good and bad episodes within each day…

I spend a good deal of time with my mother, especially now that she isn’t feeling so well… My mother is eighty-six years old, and she tells me often she is very tired, and just wants to go be with my dad, her husband of 57 years, who died almost nine years ago… What can you say to that?

Stay Tuned!

 

 

Bill/Papa/Bro, Saves The Day

And our daughter, Shantel’s winter clothes…

Yesterday I shared that I had taken Shantel around town so she could take care of several errands from her “to do list.” I went on to share that before I left Shantel’s apartment that day, she asked me if I would mind taking her trash over to the dumpster across the apartment complex parking lot… Shantel told me the bags of trash were against the wall in her apartment and sure enough they were. I emptied her kitchen trash can and grabbed the three bags against the wall and off I went to the dumpster on my way to my car.

Next day, Shantel called to ask me how many bags of trash I took out. When I told her four she said two of those bags were all of her jeans (lots of jeans) jackets (lots of jackets) and all her winter clothes… OOPS, my bad…!

So, I called my husband, Bill, and he went over to Shantel’s apartment after work and became a dumpster diving KING!!! God bless his sweet soul, he dug and dug around in that dumpster until he found both bags of Shantel’s clothes.. not only saving the day which could have been a real bummer if he hadn’t found the clothes, but he also saved someone lots of money by not having to replace all the “misplaced clothes.”

So there you have it… Bill/Papa/Bro is, and always will be, our HERO!!! 🙂 🙂

Stay Tuned!

 

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