Fall Reminds Me of Kevin

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This time of year always makes me remember being a senior in college and participating in Nursing Home Ministry.  It was something that Tom and I did with a group of other students from Franciscan University.  Particularly, I remember Kevin, possibly the most moving experience during my time there! I had written this story back on break during 2007, it’s one of my favorite memories and it still brings tears to my eyes to recall it.

I hope you enjoy:

I met him one fall afternoon in my senior year of college. He was tall, handsome and quiet. I could tell before I met him that Kevin was a gentle man. He sat in the same chair, in front of the same window, each day. The look on his face was undistinguishable, neither bored nor interested. Every day he wore a blue sweatsuit with matching blue slippers and white baseball socks. It was clear that Kevin was much younger than everyone else at the nursing home. His dark skin was still taut and smooth and his mustache was neatly trimmed and devoid of white hairs.

It was obvious by the look in his eyes that he was alert. You read about people with sparkle in their eyes, but I never actually met someone who did until I met him. His eyes seemed outgoing and talkative, if one can give eyes a personality. They needed to have personality though, because he could barely talk and thus chose not to.  At first this saddened me but it also piqued my curiosity about this man. Communication is what draws together individuals and forms relationships. Without relationships, life would be a depressing cloister of emotion . The nurses didn’t seem as troubled in this matter as I was. They said Kevin liked to sit there alone. He had been in an accident, and not spoken a word for years.

One day, I sat with him in those waxy nursing home chairs and asked simple yes or no questions. “Are you having a good day?” “Was lunch good?”  “Are you excited about bingo night?”  Slowly, he would shake his head according to what he felt as his large hands held onto the arms of his seat. When I asked him if he liked the Beatles, he nodded his head a definite yes. Others in the home said they liked the Beatles, so I decided next time to bring in a Beatles CD and picture book  for a change in activity.

 

When that day came I put on the disc and sat beside Kevin with the picture book in my lap. He was the only one in the room who was cognitive enough to look through it. That was the thing. He seemed perfectly fine. I knew that there had to be something deeper, something undiscovered within this man.  I started to flip through the Beatles book, pointing to members of the band and naming them. Slowly I talked about the instruments in the pictures and songs they wrote. All through our telepathic conversation his eyes would let me know if he was enjoying the topic or ready for me to turn the page.

 

On our third time through the book, I tried to ask him something aside from our usual yes or no questions. I pointed to a picture of the drummer for the Beatles and asked him who it was. He immediately stopped smacking his lips together as he usually did repetitively, and instead moved his lips slowly up and down, as if he was trying to say something. I stared at him, aware that his eyes were quickly darting between the picture and me. Through his brown eyes which stared unfaltering into mine, he seemed to be screaming “give me one more minute and I’ll say it!” After a long silence, he replied confidently “Ringo Starr.” He was completely right.  It was such joy to finally hear the sound of his voice! Excited by this tiny accomplishment we moved on to other pictures; I would point and he would tell me who it was. Each time he was right.

Despite the fact that the majority of our time conversing was silent, those visits were one of the best parts of my week.  It was a sweet conversation of learning; having him teach me to be paitient and me teaching him to open up. Sometimes I wondered if he was answering my questions to be polite but really wanted me to stop. I took comfort when I asked him if I talked too much. He looked at me with those intense dark eyes, began the lip motion and told me “no”. So our conversations continued each week when I would go to the nursing home with a group of students from the university.  Kevin was just trapped within himself. He understood, talked, and listened really well.

The moment I will never forget, is the day I  brought my Earth, Wind and Fire CD in.  I knew it was his favorite band and I wanted to surprise him to see how he would react. Disco jazz took over the living room at the nursing home and you could see him get happier. He started snapping his fingers and tapping his foot, then he turned to me and said  “I’m listening to the music!”. That was the second time he had spoken to me without being asked a question.  I smiled at him and we sat next to each other in our usual chairs, in front of the same window, just enjoying the music. Whenever I hear that album, I am reminded of how happy he was in that moment. He would name each of the songs as they came on, sometimes even before the vocalist started singing. You could tell he was genuinely happy. His inner self seemed to delight in the beat of the melody. After a while of listening, I asked him the usual questions, “How was your day?” “Are you happy?” “Did anybody come to visit this week?” That time, when I asked him what the best part of his day was and after waiting for the typical two minutes he responded, “Your visit”.  Immediately I felt a lump form in my throat. Guilt swept over me for not coming to visit more often , I didn’t have many excuses.

It was understandable that he was often overlooked. After all it appeared to everyone, even myself, that he couldn’t talk. The staff said they hadn’t heard him say a word in years.  It was devastating to think that he was there all day long, left alone to sit in his nursing home chair and converse inwardly with himself. I still can’t bear to remember that window with him in front of it, in the same blue sweatsuit, wearing that blank expression on his face.  Yet, I am glad I will never forget what a gift it was to be able to pause in that moment and see the happiness reflected in his eyes and the tap of his foot. Watching him enjoy the music that day made me forget about all my anxieties. The beauty of the moment that we were sharing had changed me.

Sometimes silence is a pathway to the most meaningful conversations of our lives. Who we are when we are silent or alone is never a facade but the truth of our being. I am so grateful and forever moved. Somehow sitting in that stiff, waxy nursing home chair, listening to the jazz, just watching Kevin become happy made me understand the immeasurable joy that can come from companionship, with or without words.

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Five Favorites {Preggo Edition}

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five favorties

 

It wouldn’t be a true Preggo edition post if it didn’t come out late, right? So yes, behind the ball in joining 5 Favorites this week but here’s what I’ve got for all you ladies out there with buns in the oven:

Ok, it actually tastes pretty good. The raspberry stuff. It's a magnesium supplement which most of us are not getting nearly enough of, which helps you (as the label states) balance your stress, and also reduces muscles spasms or cramping. Since I've been getting Charley horses like crazy... this stuff really seems to help a lot!

Ok, it actually tastes pretty good. The raspberry stuff. It’s a magnesium supplement which most of us are not getting nearly enough of, which helps you (as the label states) balance your stress, and also reduces muscles spasms or cramping. Since I’ve been getting Charley horses like crazy… this stuff really seems to help a lot! However if you are pregnant and very naturally calm, and not experiencing any muscles spasms then you probably don’t need this. You lucky dog, you.

 

Spinning Babies!! If you haven't been on this site, you are missing out. This is run by a midwife who teaches better, easier births through proper fetal positioning. I did the daily excersises for the last month of Charlie's pregnancy... and let me tell you, it was the best birth. I tell everyone I know about this site. Balance and alignment of your pelvis is very easy possible and an ENORMOUS help!

Spinning Babies!! If you haven’t been on this site, you are missing out. This is run by a midwife who teaches better, easier births through proper fetal positioning. I did the daily excersises for the last month of Charlie’s pregnancy… and let me tell you, it was the best birth! (seriously!) I tell everyone I know about this site. Balance and alignment of your pelvis is very easy & possible and an ENORMOUS help during birth.

A thanks to Ellen over at McSisters for opening my eyes to the glory that is coconut water, ahem that is DARK CHOCOLATE coconut water. This too, really helps with the muscle spasms and cramping.... it's chock loaded with almost 400mg of Potassium. Not bad for a sweet tooth fix!

A thanks to Ellen over at McSisters for opening my eyes to the glory that is coconut water, ahem that is DARK CHOCOLATE coconut water. This too, really helps with the muscle spasms and cramping…. it’s chock loaded with almost 400mg of Potassium. Not bad for a sweet tooth fix!

This dress is on clearance at Motherhood.com.  I have this dress (correction. Tom sent me this dress in the mail because he 'was going to send flowers, but flowers die and this was the same price' major win. Tom, send me dresses instead of flowers anyyytime you want!) I absolutely love it. I feel so swishy and, well, yes sexy in it.  At this phase in pregnancy, you gotta have a dress like this in your closet . A true self-esteem booster! Get it and then demand to be taken out for ice cream. You deserve it!

This dress is on clearance at Motherhood.com. I  got this dress (correction. Tom sent me this dress in the mail because he ‘was going to send flowers, but flowers die and this was the same price’ major win. Tom, send me dresses instead of flowers anyyytime you want!) I absolutely love it. I feel so swishy and, well, yes sexy in it. At this phase in pregnancy, you gotta have a dress like this in your closet . A true self-esteem booster! Get it and then demand to be taken out for ice cream. You deserve it!

If you don't go out for ice cream, then please stock your freezer with this. Um, this is literally the best tasting cookie dough ice cream ever. Unless cookie dough isn't your thing.... (ok weirdo...why don't you just go eat an apple instead then.) I have this, and hot fudge, whipped cream and of course WAFFLE BOWLS all ready to grab  at a seconds notice... hey. This is a pregnancy post may I  remind you, don't tell me you didn't expect ice cream to make the list!

If you don’t go out for ice cream, then please stock your freezer with this. Um, this is literally the best tasting cookie dough ice cream ever. Unless cookie dough isn’t your thing…. (ok weirdo…why don’t you just go eat an apple instead then.)
I have this, and hot fudge, whipped cream and of course WAFFLE BOWLS all ready to grab at a seconds notice… hey. This is a pregnancy post  don’t tell me you didn’t expect ice cream to make the list!

What are your pregnancy must haves? What’s been the best thing you’ve got to get through the aches and pains… and cravings?

Ever heard of Norwex?

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I didn’t either, not until a few months ago. It’s a Norwegian company that sells micro-silver cloths, thus radically reducing the use of chemicals in your home.

You know how eco-friendly those Norwegians are. ;-) (No really, they are. They built this ‘eco-bridge’ over a major highway so animals wouldn’t get hit by cars while crossing the road)images (8)

ANYWAY! Check out my new tab up on the top of my menu to read my story of what’s been going on.

Long story short— I am really excited about this. And I don’t have time for this. So if I’m posting this….trust me, you’ll want to do your own research and look into it!

Oh no, you’re thinking Annemarie has gone bonkers GRANOLA! Not really, I just researched my brains out, and I used the product myself and let me tell you what sold me other than the cloths and the results I was getting around my house. I have kids, who frequently have potty accidents, and I CAN NOT get rid of the ucky urine stench out of their underpants. Even with vinegar! Not until  I used the Norwex laundry detergent. It’s enzymes, completely chemical free and biodegradable….and best of all, NO MORE SUBWAY STATION SMELL! (((((happy dance)))

What are you waiting for? Check out the new tab HERE and Facebook me, or e-mail me with any questions you might have. And hey, if your in the area come to my house next Tuesday for the party!images (5)

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Wise Guy

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The other day was an extremely busy day. One of those “ I have not sat down yet!” days. It was our second day of school, we had a play date, cleaned the house, did naps, had errands to run, etc. I was really looking forward to sitting down to my “pre-prepared” dinner of chili which had been bubbling away in the crock pot all day.

It’s like I thank the crock pot profusely for doing all that hard work so I don’t have to. “You are such a great cook! I hardly did a thing! Thank you, crock pot!”

Anyway, finally our day was drawing to a close and the whole family sat down to dinner, all of us chowing down the chili. Everyone except one kid, of course. Just to stick a thorn in my side I guess. Because we Moms know, nothing is aggravating like a long awaited meal, that everyone is enjoying, and one sour puss decides he’s not even going to bother trying. Even though it’s one of his favorite meals. Even though every other time you make it, he gobbles it up.

Mr Chubs back in his chubbier days. Eating Italian Ice.

Mr Chubs back in his chubbier days. Eating Italian Ice.

So our entire meal went by with his chili getting colder and colder, and the other kids asking for seconds and thirds. He chose to blabber on and on about his day and not pay any attention to his food aside from intermittently pausing his stories with, “ Hey Mom, will I still get dessert?” Of course the answer was no, he asks why not, I explain for the umpteenth time

“Because you need to eat your dinner”.

Back and forth we went, same questions, same answers…the entire meal. I was getting exasperated. Every time I lifted a spoonful of this delicious, warm, gooey, chili that I just wanted to quietly savor—he interrupted with the same old dumb question. I glared a grizzly glare at Tom across the table, who told him to stop talking and JUST EAT.

Aiming for a diversion tactic, an “idea suddenly flew into my funnel” (sorry, we’ve been watching an awful lot of Thomas over here…)

“Hey guys! Let’s tell Daddy all about the new poem we learned today in school!”

Mia right away burst out sharing the title and the author,

“Windy Nights!!”

“Who is it by?”

“Robert Louis Stevenson!”5217341161_a0f3fc56ba_z

Tom tried to act very excited too. I prompted them along asking them to tell us what the poem was about. Mia gave her interpretation. Which was pretty much on target.

“A guy galloping on a horse. The ships on the ocean were wavy, and it was a rainy yucky night. Everyone was sleeping.”

Jack eagerly chimed in with helping to describe the poem. I got hopeful that he’d get occupied with the re-telling and start shoving some chili down his gullet.

“ No, Mia! No, the night is windy and wet and the man on the horse is riding really fast because he has a message.”

Tom asked, “ Oh. The man had a message?”

“Yeah. He had a message and he was riding so fast to tell everybody.”

“Huh. What did the message say?”

Jack didn’t miss a beat,

“It said, it said… don’t eat the chili.”

It does not have anything to do with a message. OR CHILI.

Case closed. What more could I do? My four year old is a wise guy, and way too clever for this tired Mama.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering the answer is no, he did not get dessert!

Too cool for school now.

Too cool for school now.

 

 

 

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Reasons to Smile

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I love all these blogs with all their cute little link ups. I think they’re fun to participate and I really, really, wanted to make this a link up. Reading the news, knowing what’s happening all around us all the time make me more ardently than ever want to hear good news. I love reading about product recommendations, or book reviews or recipes… but I really want to read snippets of actual events that are true reasons to smile.

So this is my link-up! The optimistic, monthly- REASONS TO SMILE link up! And since Monday is my least favorite day, I chose Monday as the link up day.  I tried to make a link up work, but I can’t, I don’t have time, and since it may surprise you I don’t get paid to blog…I really could not afford to spend another gazillion hours trying to make it work. But just know that the intention was there.  However, if you want to participate on your blog, please do!!! Just send me an e-mail or leave your link in the comment box below, and I will feature a link to your site on my blog. Don’t feel like you have to join in, you glass-half-empty-er (just kidding)… I know all too well how little time I have to participate in all the cutesy link ups, but this, this is necessary for my mental serenity. download (5) It’s a must for me, I gotta accentuate the positive! And if you have a few stories/moments/snippets of things that you can share to SPREAD SMILES, then please JOIN IN THE OPTIMISM.

(It is actually much more fun to read the news searching for cheerful stories!)

And now, here’s 6 reasons I want to share with you that make me smile

140731214431-mariam-arrives-story-top

Meriam Ibrahim arrives safely in the USA.

1.Meriam. I prayed, and prayed and prayed SO MUCH for this woman. Every night before bed. And guess what this picture means? PRAYER WORKS!

2. il_570xN.634374924_moz5Sarah’s Anchors..as of last week they’ve sold 385 of them! Which is a beautiful, beautiful testimony to how much Sarah has touched the lives of those around her. The best part is all proceeds go to the Harkins’ children. If you haven’t checked them out already, you really must!

 

3.  

A Mustard Tree.

A Mustard Tree.

God works miracles everyday….a story at A.Thimons coming soon!

4.IMG_20140716_113600506_HDR Another Thimons baby! Here is a precious picture of my next little one, due this December! I am already 6 months now and just aching to kiss that wittle face.

5.10390510_240177939514462_5777049884505063971_n We have freedom. Because you can wear want you want, send your kid to whatever school you want, but most importantly I remember freedom when I put my Mary statue out in my garden, or plaster pro-life bumper stickers on my mini-van. We have freedom to worship, as much as we feel like we are being squelched.

As our priest reminded us last Sunday, ” Lucky for you, the Gestapo did not knock on your door last night. Just because it hasn’t happened here before, doesn’t mean it never will.”

6. download (3)Sarah’s spiritual bouquet! Smile and be proud of yourselves, thank you to all of you who are so generously spending time in prayer for the Harkins family! Looking at the numbers a total of 613 people pledged prayers. WOW! Such a witness. We are FAMILY!

 

I hope you smiled, even if it was just in your heart…spread the love and be sure to let me know about YOUR reasons to smile!

IMG_20140818_172144

Seriously? How can this NOT make you smile? What a bunch of goofballs.

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Thoughts of Comfort & Confusion

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Thank you to everyone who has promoted, participated in, or read about the spiritual bouquet we are arranging for Sarah Harkins’ family! It is so amazing to virtually connect with our Catholic family and literally see how many prayers are being offered! So far almost 550 people in one day have pledged prayers! That’s incredible!

Also, for those of you who weren’t aware there is an ETSY shop that has been set up selling Anchor Memory bracelets (of hope) in honor of Sarah’s legacy.

il_570xN.634374924_moz5Please check out their shop and consider buying one! All the proceeds benefit the Harkins children and their future. I was really eager to purchase mine, because when I had initially stumbled upon her blog and read her last post about the anchor beads…. I wanted to order a bead right then to wear as a reminder to myself, to not take life for granted and to do my best to attain sainthood. Once I heard about these bracelets, I was so comforted and grateful! Like I said, I did not have a personal relationship with Sarah. We never knew each other, but something about her draws me to her story so much– I can’t get it off my mind, and I don’t want to! She inspires me in my journey of motherhood and wifehood. I am so grateful for her example. * Thank you to readers Brianna and Kathy H.  for letting us know about this!*

I feel like I don’t have the right to mourn sometimes. Because really, who am I? In all of this I should be totally unaffected. But I don’t know how to explain it. Each day, every time I log onto my computer and see something about Sarah on Facebook, or read another comment, I get choked up and I spend the rest of my day trying to shake off these conflicting feelings of hope and confusion that I have. Towards life, towards justice, towards mercy, towards God. And I feel guilty for having them, because I am not her family, her friend, or even an acquaintance. With that, I cannot fathom the depth of emotion that those close to her are going through. I just offer my sincerest prayers to them.

My confusion constantly comes back to her husband and children. Especially her husband, who so clearly adored her…how is he supposed to go on? At first I felt the worst for the children, but then I was thinking that it will be much worse for her husband because he is going to remember the most. And the memories, the encounters, the conversations, that’s where the loss is felt.Reading the blog posts she wrote, the way she constantly extolled her husband as her ‘best friend’ and love, I nearly broke my heart in two. These two were head over heels in love with each other. It’s completely obvious. Why, why, why would this happen? How could a loving God do this? Her husband’s grief must be unimaginable. His cross now, so suddenly, has been totally magnified and made heavier. Not to mention still having to work, and raise the children, keep up with the house all with his best friend whom he could turn to in the evenings… gone.  So suddenly? If the Lord wanted to take her, why couldn’t it have been an illness so that those left behind could emotionally prepare? The immature, earthly child within my soul stomps her feet and screams “It’s not fair!”

Then my good friend Diane offered me some perspective. So did my wise sister-in-law, Julie. Julie reminded me that St. Therese’s family had to experience the same kind of loss. As did St. John Paul the Great, as did St. Gianna’s family. As did many families in history. St. John Paul actually credits his vocation to a change that occurred in his heart after the loss of his mother. Zelie Martin, in her journal records how her daily prayer was that the Lord would take her children to heaven before they had a chance to loose sainthood. She so passionately (and bravely!) desired sainthood for her children, that she could detach herself so perfectly from earthly wants and emotions.  Did in fact these great sacrifices have to be made in order for a great holiness to burst forth in these families? Perhaps so. It is comforting to reflect on that.

Diane’s insight was that clearly, Sarah was ready. God did not need to purify her anymore here by letting her suffer an elongated illness. Her soul had reached it’s completion. So for Sarah, she is the lucky one. It was quick, and she was rejoicing eternally. Not even alone, she went with one of her babies to hold! Her reward was given because she was prepared. For the rest of us though, it seems harsh and awful and wrong…. but perhaps if we look at it unselfishly from Sarah’s perspective—it was such a gift for her. Also, now she knows how it will all work out in the end and she has complete peace…and nothing but interceding to do for her husband and children. No more housework, no more earthly temptation, no more suffering– just heavenly intercession. How powerful the prayers of a mother in heaven must be! Who do you think is going to pray harder than she will for the grace to get her family through their toughest times? If we know how passionately she desired her family’s holiness while still here on earth, just think of how much more perfectly passionately she desires it now— and how much more she can do about it! Yes, I think she is the lucky one.

I just had to get those thoughts out of my heart and out there. It helps, to sort through the questions and convictions– to share it. And to wrap it up, I want to leave you with comfort, that Sarah  is blessed and rewarded. I found the most comfort in words written by Sarah herself. This is a section of her post titled  “Our Real Home”

this world we live in is only a temporary home and how our real home is in heaven…It made me think of saints and visionaries who have had glimpses of heaven and conversations with Jesus and Mary that have showed them just how ordinary our world is compared to the extraordinary dwelling place of the Father.  After seeing glimpses of another world with the angels and saints, these saints have begged to stay.  Some were granted their request and have been taken to their eternal home at young ages, while others learned to use every moment here on earth preparing for the “ultimate reality” waiting for them in heaven.  It really makes me think of how I would live my life differently if I knew the true joy and love waiting for me in heaven.  I think I would spend less time making myself comfortable here on earth, and more time preparing to be in my eternal home.  I’m sure I would turn every ordinary moment into a grace-filled one so I could store up my treasures in heaven. “

Read the entirety of her post here.

 

+ Sarah Harkins, Pray for Us! +

 

 

 

 

Sarah Harkins Birthday- An Invitation

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On Saturday, August 2nd… it will be Sarah’s 33rd birthday. But it will be her very 1st birthday in heaven! She could not have received a better birthday gift, as she herself even said on a her blog post dated August 2nd 2009:

Today is my 28th Birthday and I received many wonderful birthday gifts, but the best one was from my Lord- he gave me the gift of his precious body and blood at Mass today. I couldn’t think of a better birthday gift! He loves me so much that died on the cross and rose again so that I could be with him in heaven. Today he again poured his never ending love into me through the Eucharist. He knows my every need, and he knew that today, I would need Him most of all. It was actually quite by accident (or divine intervention) that we were at Mass today. Because of my husband’s work schedule, we usually go to Mass on Saturday evenings. But because of a birthday party yesterday afternoon, we had to go to Mass today. And I couldn’t be more thankful!

How truly happy Sarah must be on this birthday then! What a treasure she has been given and what comfort that should bring us– to know, that Our Lord is fulfilling Sarah’s every want and need, by bringing her true joy that our earthly hearts cannot begin to comprehend.

In light of this beautiful woman’s life, in honor of her legacy, memory, and the life she leaves behind I have an invitation for each of you. (Fellow bloggers! Get to work and invite your readers, too!)

Let’s us join Sarah in her heavenly feasting on this day by participating spiritually in one of her devotions, namely the rosary or attending mass. I invite anyone who would like to give Sarah’s family a birthday gift on her behalf to join together this Saturday in prayer. Let’s send an enormous spiritual bouquet to heaven for Sarah’s birthday!download (3)

If you would like, I have posted a “poll” here where you can literally ‘sign up’ for either a rosary or mass (or other prayer) on behalf of the Harkins family. The poll will be opened for anyone wishing to spiritually contribute to this bouquet for two weeks. After two weeks the poll will close and I will send a card to the Harkins family on behalf of each of you, with the numbers of prayers offered enclosed. It is not much, but each of us can play a tiny role in surrounding Sarah’s loved ones with hope and comfort!

So, Happy Birthday Sarah! Enjoy your birthday celebration!  Pray for those of us left behind who will never forget you.

**Sarah Harkins Memorial Fund**

**Memorial Fund for the Harkins Children**

**Small Things Blog**

**The Clay Rosary Girl** (Sarah’s blog)