Sunset Gardens Sunrise

Below are a few updates on my recent Wake Up Call post – relating to my mother’s decision to sell her house and move to an apartment.  If you haven’t read Wake Up Call – just published 11 days ago – you should go there and read that first to get the back story.

On Friday, April 7th (after nearly a dozen showings of the house in less than a week and a few offers below her price) we knew that Mom’s house would likely sell very soon. Not wanting to put the cart before the horse, but also not wanting Mom to be out in the cold, we decided it was time to call the property manager for the apartments described in Wake Up Call and see what their exact availability was. They have three apartment complexes in Sandusky – the newest and nicest where Louise lives, but also the most expensive rent per identical units. The cheapest and oldest were at a different location.  Mom was most interested in finding out availability at the third middle range option.

Mom had come up to meet me after work on Friday and we were traveling back to her house for the weekend to try to sort through some of the items that tend to collect in a house over the course of 45+ years. So while driving down the highway at 70 MPH, we called the property manager to see if that third location had any units available in the layout Mom liked best.  We were told that none of the locations had any units available and that there was a waiting list at least 3 names deep with no indication of when a unit would become available. Needless to say, that was an unsettling blow to Mom’s plans (and also to the God-Incidence described in Wake Up Call). I could have slammed on the brakes at that moment and gone from 70 – 0 MPH in seconds and it still would have had less of an impact on Mom and I than that phone call.

There was also another issue I had just discovered a day before. The rental application required tenants to have a gross income of 3.5 times their rent – of which Mom fell well short. After much thought, reviewing alternatives – including other apartment locations, discussions about scrapping the whole plan and removing her house from the market, and some other difficult exchanges, she finally decided to still apply for the apartment to try to get onto the waiting list and keep the house up for sale. Once the house sold, we could put the furniture she intended to keep into storage until an acceptable unit became available.  She also had a possible temporary living space available in a furnished vacant apartment above her cousin’s veterinary clinic less than a mile from the house. It was a disappointment – especially not knowing if she would be approved or how long it would take for a unit to become available, but at least it was an option. Upon calling my wife with the news, she said optimistically, maybe they tell everyone that line about having no vacancies just to separate the serious inquiries who submit acceptable applications from the random phone calls from prospective tenants who may or may not be legitimate.

So over a rough and emotional weekend with everything in limbo, we filled out the application and included a letter documenting Mom’s income, excellent credit history, and savings which she can use to supplement her rent payments should her income and expenses fall short. I just kept praying that weekend “Thy Will be done…” over and over – and threw in a little reminder and request that my most recent post to this blog not be defeated by this unexpected curve ball.

I woke up very early on Saturday morning (even before Mom, which is unusual).  Looking out my old bedroom window, I could see that a spectacular sunrise was about to occur, so I grabbed my phone and went out to her back deck barefooted (it was only 25 degrees out at the time – yikes!) to take a panoramic photo of it. I knew it would likely be one of my last opportunities to catch it.  I grew up on Garden Drive — the name of the street itself, but the subdivision also includes another street and as a whole is known as “Sunset Gardens”.  This sunrise photo clearly shows that they got the name wrong.

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I’ve since decided to make this the blog’s new header photo.

After Mom and I returned from a somewhat productive weekend cleaning at her house, my wife dropped off the completed apartment application this past Monday afternoon. They then called Mom on Tuesday to let her know she had been approved even without meeting the gross income requirement. (I like to think that my explanation letter helped, but it was more likely the repetitive mental prayer of “Thy Will be done”). When Mom asked how long the waiting list was, they told her they had something opening up in June – which was the exact floor plan she wanted and was on the property site she listed as her first choice! So it seems (as DOES happen from time to time) that my wife was was right in her optimistic assessment of the prior Friday telephone call. Now it just came down to selling the house, which had been officially on the market since April 3rd.

Because of all the interest in it, the realtor said it shouldn’t take long. Mom got a qualified offer meeting her price on April 12th from a young couple – first time home buyers – who were already pre-approved for a loan. Mom accepted the offer on the 13th with a closing to occur within 40 days. She would then have another 30 days to move out – which should neatly overlap the date that her new apartment is ready for occupancy. Could that timing be any more perfect?  This has truly been a Holy Week to remember.

So I am happy to report, rather than a disappointing conclusion to the recent Wake Up Call post, instead we have a few more God-Incidences to round out the story!

Praise God!!!

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Faith, Hope, and Charity

Unlike many of my other blog posts, there is very little background or build up to this particular episode of GodIncidence.  It is pretty simple really.  Today is Christmas Eve. Sometime between 10 and 11 o’clock this morning, our doorbell rang. I was in our home office at the time, working on an another blog post – Follow the Yellow Brick Road – that I just published a short while ago. Our daughter went to see who was at the door and my wife followed behind her.  I heard voices, but couldn’t hear specific content. A few minutes later, my wife walked in and handed me our January 2017 church offering envelopes. She said that a woman, named Faith Smith, was just at the door and she gave her our church envelopes.

(Her last name was not Smith, but her first name was Faith. To be honest, I don’t remember what her actual last name was, but it was not a widely common name like Smith and it is important to the story. Regardless of her real last name, I would have changed it here for privacy either way.)

Faith told my wife that she lives on another street several blocks away from us with the same house number as ours. Apparently she is semi-regularly getting our mis-delivered mail and she has just been bringing it past our house and putting it into our mailbox.  But for whatever reason — maybe because they were church envelopes; maybe because it is Christmas Eve; maybe because she is growing weary of silently doing the post office’s job behind the scenes; or maybe for no identifiable reason in her mind, but merely as part of the mystery of GodIncidence — Faith Smith decided to ring our doorbell and personally hand those envelopes to someone in our house.

My wife then told me the ironic part.  She said that Faith Smith closely resembled a mother she knows through our daughter’s dance studio — close enough that they could be sisters. That mother’s name is Hope Smith (where Smith is again a substituted name for privacy purposes of the exact same privatized name above).

But for now, these three continue: faith, hope, and charity. And the greatest of these is charity. 1 Corinthians 13:13

What are the chances that these women named after the first two of the three theological virtues share an identical last name and bear a striking resemblance to each other? What are the chances that Faith came to our house on Christmas Eve delivering our church offering envelopes? What are the chances that there is a similar looking Charity Smith out there who has not yet crossed my wife’s path?

Okay, maybe that last one is taking the GodIncidence too far, but really who’s to say? While I would not necessarily expect it, I’m certainly not willing to disregard it. As the State motto of Ohio (drawn from Matthew 19:26) says: With God, All Things Are Possible.

Today God sent Faith to our household on the day before we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. May God Bless everyone who reads these comments. I pray that He has sent Faith to many others on this day, as well as Hope and Charity. Merry Christmas to all!

Praise God!!!

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A Father Returns Home

For much of my childhood and early adult life I did not have a strong relationship with my Godmother, Dot Marker. I was probably about 10 years old when she and her husband uprooted themselves from the area where I grew up and relocated to sunny Florida.  My dad lost his job in an alloy plant in the early 80’s when the local steel mills decided they could save money by buying foreign alloys.  Our family never really got over the resulting financial pinch.  My parents always did whatever they had to do to give our family what we needed, but side trips to Florida to visit Dot and her husband were not exactly affordable to us.  So we lost touch.  Years after her husband passed away, Dot returned to her old home near Toronto, Ohio and I reconnected with her right about the same time that I married my wife.

Before I was born, my dad was a Boy Scout leader of Troop 80 in Mingo Jct., Ohio. Through that involvement, he and my mother met and befriended Dot Marker and her husband — who were deeply involved in another Boy Scout troop up the river from Mingo. I’ve heard dozens of stories from people over the years about all the adventures that the scouts went on with my dad.

Unfortunately for me, he was no longer involved in the scouts when I was of age, so I never got seriously involved myself other than for a few weeks with another Boy Scout troop that sort of fizzled out. I spent a number of years in the Cub Scouts, but that was it. Dad was also a fisherman and small game hunter when I was a kid.  I went out with him a few times, but not nearly enough.  We also went camping as a family quite often when I was young.

Recently, Dad’s health had been failing for a number of years.  I’ve documented some of that in a few earlier blog posts: Blazing 80 and Disney Diversion.  From the spring of 2014 forward, he probably spent more time in the hospital than he did at home.  Heart issues, lung issues, pneumonia, feeding tube, prostate cancer — they all played a collective role in his overall health and condition. But when you add in the Alzheimer’s Disease and his inability to remember doctor’s orders (never mind about actually following them) it was painfully clear that he would never return to his prior form.  During a visit last April, we talked to dad about the vacation we took on the train the year before and the week we spent at Disney World with him and my mom.  Dad could not remember being at Disney and meeting Mickey Mouse.  I always feared the day when he would no longer recognize me as his son.

During his stays in the hospital, dad was always so homesick and every day he was convinced that he would be going home ‘tomorrow’.  Sometimes he would say that the doctors told him he would go home soon — even when they had not.  When he did finally get to go home, he was so happy to be there!  But he failed to follow doctors’ orders or do what my mother would tell him to do.  He just could not remember…

My family visited home for a weekend in early December.  He was a little confused at times and could not remember all of the things he was and was not allowed to do, but he was really happy to see us.  Saturday evening he wasn’t feeling well and his blood pressure was very low.  Sunday morning my mother said she was calling the ambulance for him and he knew that meant being re-admitted to the hospital.  He did not protest.

Dad stayed in the hospital through Christmas and through all of January.  We went down for a visit the day after Christmas and got a special gift for him. He celebrated his 83rd birthday in the hospital on January 30th.  Thanks to a brilliant idea of my sister to post a request to her friends on Facebook, he received over 50 birthday cards at the hospital — most from people he did not even know.  My younger daughter and I came down for a visit and spent part of the day with Pop on his birthday as he opened his birthday cards.

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Earlier in January, my mother had a long talk with his doctors and a long talk with dad during one of his more lucid moments.  At his doctors’ suggestion and with dad’s agreement, Mom made arrangements to obtain home hospice care from Charity Hospice.  He told Mom that he wanted to go home.  When she asked if he wanted to go home simply because he was homesick, Dad replied that he wanted to die at home and not in a hospital. Dad came home on Groundhog Day and we began preparing our 8 year old for the time when Poppa would not be around any longer. We talked to her about what happened when we lost Shadow and how she was no longer sick or suffering.  These are difficult things for an 8 year old to deal with, but we were lucky to have had Shadow to help us talk about Pop’s situation.

February was a daily struggle for Mom to get his medications and food and breathing treatments.  It was a full schedule from morning to night with very little break in between feedings and cleanings.  Over the past few years, Dad had often done his own feedings, but as time passed — he was able to do less and less without monitoring and assistance. The nurses from Charity Hospice were fabulous, but they were not there 24/7.  My family and I made arrangements to come down for another visit over Valentine’s Day weekend. We came right from work and I was still wearing my work clothes and the necktie that my daughters got me for Christmas.  (Back when I was in the Cub Scouts, Dad taught me how to tie a necktie so that I could earn one of my badges.  I still remember the patience he had with me as I fumbled over and over again with the knot that never did come out right.)  Dad was mostly bedridden at home, but he did come out to sit on the couch for a few minutes on Saturday while we were there. He saw my tie on the couch next to him and he tried to tie it, but his failing memory and unsteady fingers kept him from accomplishing his goal.  I’m not sure why I did it, but I captured that moment with my phone.

Sunday morning as we were getting ready to leave for Sandusky, Dad had a nose bleed that would not stop. Of course Dad made it worse by picking at it and kept trying to blow it even after being told multiple times not to. The dry oxygen for his lungs, combined with the blood thinners for his heart, combined with his inability to remember what to do and not do from the Alzheimer’s, resulted in a steady nosebleed for over three hours.  So Mom and Dad went back to the emergency room as my family and I went home.  With all the commotion when the EMT crew arrived, I didn’t get the chance to tell Dad goodbye that day.  They packed up Dad’s nose and sent him back home after a few hours. He was home, but he wasn’t ever really the same after that.

Over the next week or so, Dad went in and out of awareness and his breathing became much more labored than usual.  He made some strange requests/demands at times to those around him — sometimes believing he was still in the hospital.  We believed some of that to be a result of the new medicine he was put on, but by Monday the 23rd, it was clear that he was getting ready to go.  Dad was speaking in Slovak to his mother and asked for a salami and mustard sandwich.  At one point he was pawing at his left chest and when my mom asked what he was doing, he replied that he was trying to get a cigarette.  (Dad stopped smoking cigarettes in the late 80’s and ever since his cancer surgery has been on an anti-smoking campaign — telling his cancer story to complete strangers on the street if he saw them smoking).

I called Monday evening and spoke to Dad briefly.  The first thing he asked me was “How are you doing?” — (which were actually the only words he spoke that I could make out).  Since I hadn’t said goodbye to him the week before, I already had plans to come down that next weekend of the 27th.  After that phone call and some of the crazy comments and requests he was making, I decided that I needed to work out something sooner. So I made arrangements at work and left for home on Tuesday after lunch.

On the road I phoned home and learned that Dad had been taken off all of his meds except for morphine and another calming medicine.  When I arrived at 4:30, my mother was in their dining room meeting with the funeral director.  I helped her arrange some of the details and she told me that hospice said he would be leaving us sometime that night most likely, or within the next day or so.

Every now and then Dad would raise his eyebrows in response to us talking with him, but he had difficulty moving his head or focusing in with his eyes.  At one point I tried to show him the button I was wearing on my shirt — asking him if he recognized the handsome guy in the photo.  Mom and I both thought we saw a smile and a wink from him in response.

Poppa Luke

By that time, Dad’s kidneys had already shut down.  He was no longer able to speak and was only minimally responsive, but I was able to tell him all the things that I needed to say. I told him a number of times that he could go if he needed to and that I would make sure Mom was taken care of. He still had the grip strength of a power weight lifter and I held his hand for what seemed like hours.  Every time I spoke to him, he squeezed as hard as he could. My sister came down and we both slept on the floor next to his hospital bed that night. He was in the room that used to be my own bedroom from the time I was six months old until I turned 19.  I recorded this video at 4:07 a.m. on Wednesday of Dad holding my hand.

Through Wednesday Dad was awake a good part of the day.  His eyes were often wide open and he was focused in on something toward the ceiling and looking around (upward).  He would periodically mouth silent words that I was unable to decipher except that I know he said “mother” at least a few times. At times, his facial expression changed into a cross between confusion and/or intent listening.  It really seemed as if he was communicating with his family on the other side.  The thing that really struck me is how focused his eyes were on whatever it was that he saw. He was definitely seeing something and it was not anything that *I* could see.  I took some short videos of some of these moments, but because of Dad’s frail appearance and the personal nature of the moments, I’ve decided not to share those here.

Dad had quite a few visitors on Wednesday, including my older cousin who had been a boy scout in Troop 80.  He told some stories about those days and we both thought we saw Dad try to smile.  I told him the story about how Dad got involved in the scouts in the first place — a boy whose name I don’t remember lived across the street from Dad and was a boy scout.  Dad had a really expensive pair of binoculars that turned up missing and for some reason he suspected this kid had stolen them.  So Dad decided to volunteer as a scout leader with the troop to see if this kid ever showed up with his binoculars.  A week later, the kid/suspect quit the scouts for good (guilty?).  Years later, Dad was a beloved scout leader who had influenced dozens and dozens of young men and their passion for camping, hiking, canoeing, and general enjoyment of the outdoors.

My sister’s family including her three kids came to see Pop on Wednesday and they all held his hands. My wife and two daughters all talked to Pop over the speaker phone and he had noticeable reactions to each of their voices.  I wondered if he was unable to remember each of us telling him it was okay to go since he could not remember other things from one moment to the next and perhaps that was why he was holding on.

On Thursday, Dad fell back into the pattern of sleeping more than being awake.  He had a few more visitors that afternoon.  I meant to ask mom on Wednesday if she had called Dot Marker — but I forgot.  Somewhere around 6:00 on Thursday evening, Mom wondered out loud if she should call her.  The weather was beginning to get bad out and I knew Dot did not drive.  Mom called her and gave her the update and asked if she wanted to come to see him.  Because it was already getting dark, Dot suggested that she wait until Friday morning and she could then spend the entire day with Mom.  Mom asked what I thought about that and I said I thought it might be too late.  Mom tried to talk her into coming down and spending the night, but Dot had too many health issues and nighttime treatments of her own to be able to do that. We finally talked her into letting me come to pick her up to spend an hour or two with Mom and Dad on Thursday.

I had no idea where Dot lived and Mom is not the greatest at giving specific directions. I have a GPS, but Mom had no street address and Dot isn’t listed in the phone book.  It’s just one house among many on a country road and mom simply knew how to get there. On top of everything else it was getting dark.  We almost decided to have Mom go and get her instead of me, but I knew she didn’t want to leave.  We finally thought to look up Dot’s son’s address in the phone book, which is just a few doors down from her.  I found his house on a satellite map using my phone.  From there, Mom was able to pick out Dot’s house and point it out to me.  By now it was past 6:30 and it was about a 20 minute one-way drive to Dot’s house.  I made it there without any trouble and got back home around 7:25.

Mom, Dot, and I went into Dad’s room and Dot told him that she was there.  His breathing had changed to a very short and quick inhale/exhale with a delayed pause before the next very short and quick inhale/exhale.  That ended at 7:36 and Pop was gone.  A longer phone call with Dot; further difficulty in finding her house on the satellite map; a wrong turn or worse road conditions = any one of these might have resulted in not getting back in time.

I think it was probably a little bit after 9:00 that I took Dot back home that night.  I dropped her off and glanced at the clock in my car = 9:36.  Every night at 9:30, Annunciation Radio broadcasts an audio praying of the rosary.  Being out of range of their radio broadcast signal, I reached down for my phone to listen through the Annunciation Radio app, but I then realized I had left my phone back at Mom’s house.  So I just prayed quietly to myself on the ride home. The snow was picking up and the road was beginning to get a bit slippery.  At the base of the hill just before getting back onto the highway, I saw two deer standing right in the middle of my lane in the road.  They did not move as I approached — literally deer in my headlights.  I slowed down and then came to a complete stop about 50 feet away.  I again instinctively reached for my phone to snap a photo, but it was still not there and I was unable to capture the shot.  For what seemed like minutes, but was probably not more than 5 or 10 seconds, those two deer just stared at my car and walked a few slow steps on the pavement before sprinting off down a side road to my right.

Friday afternoon, as I was driving back to Sandusky to pick up my wife and daughter, I saw about 15 deer on the hillside next to the Harrison County home on Route 250.

We buried Poppa this past Monday.  Mom had already picked out his favorite suit for him to wear, and we put him in the red necktie that had been my Christmas gift from my daughters — the same tie that Pop tried to tie himself just two weeks before.  During some clean up that evening at Mom’s house, I found a bright shiny penny in middle of the floor in a spare bedroom.

We love you, Pop!  We will see you again when it is time.

Praise God!!!

Poppa Smile

Poppa Luke’s Obituary

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Shadow’s Roses

We rescued Shadow in March of 2010 from an animal shelter in Pennsylvania.  It had been nearly four years since we lost Abigail and that had been the longest I have ever lived without a furry friend in the house.  We had to put Abigail down when my wife was pregnant with our younger daughter after discovering that Abigail had stomach cancer.

We finally decided it was a good time to introduce a pet to our daughter when she was 3½ years old.  Shadow was a perfect fit = friendly, affectionate and so very tolerant of children.  Abigail had been the polar opposite.  Living alone with me for a dozen years, Abigail was very close to me, but she was very intolerant of children and not overly sociable with other people in general.  We decided that when she passed it may have been a timely blessing with a baby on the way.

A few months after Shadow came into our lives, we decided she needed a sister to keep her company during the day.  Beanie came from the same animal shelter in May. Not long after Beanie arrived, the two cats decided between themselves that I belonged to Shadow and my wife belonged to Beanie.

Beanie was always the sick one. She’s had breathing issues from day one which we believe to be asthma.  Beanie has been on breathing medicine for most of her life.  She even has an asthma inhaler with a breathing mask that my wife must administer regularly. When it is medicine time, she jumps up on my wife’s lap and lets her place the mask over her nose and mouth because she knows that she will get a treat afterward!

The vet advised us that Beanie was not likely to live as long as the average feline, so we have always been prepared for her to leave us when the time comes.

Between the two, Shadow has always been the graceful kitty, while Beanie has always been the clumsy kitty.  Shadow could leap from the floor to the highest point in the room with ease, while Beanie could mis-judge the simplest jump from the floor to a chair.  Beanie often makes us laugh at her comic pratfalls.  Until we added a stand close by, Beanie could never make it onto the window sill in the front room of our house — a vantage point that Shadow claimed as her own.  We often saw Shadow sitting in that window when arriving at or leaving our house.  A tall rose bush sits right outside that window in the shade of a Magnolia tree.

Beanie was always the greedy one when it came to feeding time, often pushing Shadow out of the way to eat even though there were two food dishes and plenty of food and space for them both.  Beanie often finished up what Shadow left behind after she got her fill.  That is probably why we did not notice right away when Shadow stopped eating.

20140803 FeedingShadow’s dark coat visually masked the weight loss, and it was not until it was too late that I picked her up one day during the last week of July and was shocked at how light she had become.  We took her to the vet right away and we tried a number of things, but blood work indicated that she had fatty liver disease and they also noted that she was severely jaundiced. They could not tell if the liver issue was the CAUSE of her lack of appetite or the RESULT of her not eating. We tried alternate foods and spent over a week force feeding her food and water at regular intervals through the day AND night — all of which she lovingly accepted without a tremendous fuss.

Her dehydration was such that we had to give her daily injections of fluid under the back of her neck.  She was less tolerant of those, but we were generally successful.  However, the time came late in the evening on Saturday the 16th when we were unable to get her to hold still for the insertion (it was a pretty big needle!) and we had to drive her 40 miles late at night to an emergency pet clinic to make sure she got her fluids that weekend.

We had been hoping that the regular feedings and fluids would eventually make her feel better and she would begin eating voluntarily on her own once again — and on a few occasions, she did.  This video is from August 13, 2014.

Our local vet suggested that we try that for a time before subjecting her to additional diagnostics and the drastic step of inserting a feeding tube — very similar to what my father had I suppose (also an expense we wanted to avoid if possible).  The emergency center advised that they should keep her overnight for observation.  Because of the difficulty we had that night giving her IV fluid ourselves and the disruption her nighttime feedings had on our sleep patterns, we made the difficult decision to have them put in the feeding tube.  They would perform an ultrasound the next morning when the doctor came in and have the feeding tube procedure done as well.

The following morning we got the phone call that the ultrasound disclosed a mass which was affecting her digestion and that the feeding tube would not likely resolve that.  After making a difficult decision, Shadow was euthanized within minutes of ending that phone call.  I went back to claim Shadow’s body on the 20th of August and we buried her the following day next to Abigail at a friend’s house.

20140823 Shadow RoseI took this photo of Shadow’s rose bush on August 23rd.  The roses which only just bloomed that morning were perfectly framed within her most favorite window.  Perhaps Shadow had something to do with the timing of these roses?

Praise God!!!

 

 

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Changing the Routine

This past Sunday morning, my wife made plans for us to do some full family errands. We usually attend a mid morning Mass at our parish, but in order to get a slightly earlier start, we got ready and went to Mass at another parish in town about a half hour sooner in the day. For the past 15 months, the three parishes in town have shared the same pastor and two associate priests, while maintaining their individual congregations and identities. So although we are still members of one particular parish, we tend to attend Mass at the other two churches more often than we had in the past.

Although we went to an earlier Mass, we arrived just before the opening hymn. The pews were packed full as the enrollment Mass for Confirmation candidates was taking place at the time. We we ushered up to overflow seating set up just off the altar. One of our deacons assisted with the Mass and provided the homily. As part of his homily, he shared a story of another person who recently found herself attending Mass at a parish not her own. He’d read the story on her blog: Shoved to Them.  What she experienced at that parish was not a coincidence. Nor was it a coincidence that my family broke away from our typical Mass routine this week for the chance to hear Rebecca’s story: That Which You Do For The Least of These.

God Bless the greeter at the church with the modern architecture!

Praise God!!!

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Gentle Reminder

My seven year old and I have grown accustomed to walking to school every morning.  It’s just about one half mile from our front door to the school, so it’s only a 10-15 minute walk.  Her class starts at about 7:40 a.m., but we generally leave pretty early so that I can get back home and get myself ready for work after everyone else is already gone.  So we usually leave home a few minutes after 7:00.   When I was in the first grade, school started at 9:00 and ended at 3:00.  I rode the bus to school, which was an experience in its own right, but I was always jealous of the kids in elementary school who lived close enough to walk to school.  The father/daughter walks to school will be something I will cherish in my later years I am certain.

I usually carry my cell phone with me when we walk to school and use the pedometer app to track my walking distance.  I bring along my earbuds and pop them in on the walk back home to catch up on the news or to listen to one of many different podcasts I subscribe to.  Even though we don’t always talk while we walk, I make it a priority to not listen to any sound bites on the way to school in case my daughter decides she has something insightful to say, or just wants to be a chatterbox with nothing particularly “urgent” to say.

Leaving at 7:00 in the morning, it was always still pretty dark as we walked to school those first few months.  But with the return to Standard Time a week ago, it was finally sunny and bright for our morning walks to school last week.

As is sometimes the case, I had a pretty hectic few weeks in store for me at work.  As is true for most of us, sometimes the anticipation of hectic work week on a Monday morning can be a bit stressful for me.  Because my office is just a block away from my daughter’s school, I was thinking to myself that maybe I should just get ready for work early and go to the office right from walking her to school and get an early start.  But as I got my daughter ready for school Monday morning, I argued with myself that I didn’t want to go into work early.  There were a few tasks on my phone that I wanted to accomplish that morning and a short podcast or two that I had been listening to over the weekend that I wanted to catch up on and a few other things around the house that I wanted to accomplish.

I talked myself out of going to work early and into the possibility of staying late (even though I am generally much sharper at 6:00 a.m. than at 6:00 p.m.)  I talked myself into listening to the interesting podcast I’d started but hadn’t yet finished.  Those decisions didn’t relieve my stress at all, but I made them nonetheless.  As I continued to stress out about the week to come and the selfish reasons why I wanted to wait and go to work at my typical hour, the thought popped into my head that I had not been listening to Annunciation Radio much recently.  Through a good bit of the summer, I had fallen into a pattern of listening to Pittsburgh sports talk radio with the resurgence of my beloved Bucs on the baseball diamond.  When the baseball post season ended, I found myself listening again to an old favorite Wills and Snyder in the Morning on AM talk radio.

As my daughter and I walked to school that Monday morning, in full daylight, I continued to debate with myself what audio, if any, I would listen to on the walk back home and while getting ready for the work day to begin.  About two blocks before we got to school, we passed a white Cadillac in a driveway and this is what we saw:

Holy Bible

I took the hint.  I did not go into work early that morning, but I found myself listening to Annunciation Radio on the way back home and throughout the morning as I got ready for work — and throughout the week.  On Tuesday morning, the car was still in the same driveway, but the bible was gone.  That was when I first noticed the license plate:

FUS plate

The letters F, U, and S always jump out at me when I see them together in that order.  FUS will always stand for my alma mater Franciscan University of Steubenville.  I’ve never experienced Catholicism and spirituality anywhere like it is at FUS and was blessed to grow up in the same town as that institution.  I failed to notice the license plate letters the morning before.  I was too preoccupied with the bible sitting on the trunk of that white Cadillac.  Seeing the FUS license plate the next day was somewhat of a double “coincidence.”

I think it was later that Tuesday morning that the morning show on Annunciation Radio broadcast a brief segment on dealing with worry and stress in our lives.  The host observed how we often forget to turn those worries over to God.  I think it was Tuesday and Wednesday that my week-load seemed to get a little bit lighter.

Praise God!!!

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New Beginnings

When I started this blog in 2008, I envisioned it would be a place where I shared my ongoing  experiences that there are No Coincidences with God (which I later referred to as “God-Incidences” after hearing that term from a friend).  I’d had quite a few of these experiences prior to initiating the blog — some more profound than others.  But as it turned out, I failed to keep my eyes open and keep myself as aware as I could have.  I still believe that God-Incidences happen to each of us every single day — there are just so many that slip by while we remain oblivious – our attention focused on other worries and concerns.  I found myself no longer tuning in to my own God-Incidences on a regular basis, so my blog posts ended rather abruptly in the summer of 2009.

That, coupled with a really poor blogging interface on my server, kept me from making the regular posts that I had originally hoped for.  In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have limited my comments to only those times when I recognized a profound God-Incident.  God-Incidences are only one small part of sharing the presence of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

After setting up a new blogging interface and porting over the older stuff, I’ve decided to expand my focus.  Utilizing blog categories, I can still showcase the God-Incidences as they filter in among the other events and occurrences which are equally strong testaments to His presence in my life and in our world.  Truthfully speaking, this blog is probably more for my own spiritual growth and reflection — something that I sometimes overlook in the daily grind and often fail to work on the way that I should — than it is for anyone who accidentally stumbles across this site.  If I generate any followers along the way who get any sort of inspiration from my observations, that is just icing on the proverbial cake.

I hope to resume this blog and post on a more consistent basis.  I plan to expand beyond God-Incidences, but still keep it tied to my personal awareness and relationship with Father, Son, & Spirit.  I don’t intend to write about the mundane experiences of everyday life just to get in regular updates.  I have to hold something back for Facebook and Twitter!

So as I explained it above, I felt compelled to write about my date earlier this month. . .

A few weeks ago, I went on a “date” with my four year old daughter.  I had nothing planned other than getting something to eat and then ‘killing some time’ while her mother hosted her group of bible study ladies at our house on that particular week.  Because our house is very small with only one central area that the other rooms all extend from, an active and talkative four year can be a pretty significant distraction when she feels that she must “perform” in front of any house guests.  So I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to take her on mini-dates every few weeks for a couple of hours when the bible study rotation comes to our home.

On this particular day, I just decided to let it happen as it happened.  After eating dinner, without a plan — I found myself just driving down the road with my backseat chatterbox interrogating me on what we were going to do on our date.  We ended up near the location where I asked her mom to marry me.

Sheldon Marsh is a small wildlife preserve in Huron, Ohio and a great place to walk with only your thoughts to keep you occupied.  I have yet to go there and not experience God in all His Glory in the beauty of His creation.  We decided to go there for a nature walk date.  This time, I had much more than my thoughts to keep me occupied — I had a little chatterbox that barely stopped to take a breath the entire time.  At one point I even asked her if she had a string in her back and politely suggested that she stop pulling it.  Of course the reference completely escaped her, but she still thought it was quite funny that I suggest she had a pull string in her back.

I didn’t experience a specific God-Incidence at the time, but I had a wonderful time with an inquisitive four year old sharing a Daddy-Daughter moment.  Her amazement at the frogs, turtles, birds, and dragonflies was such a fresh look at the beautiful things God gave us to delight our senses.  The sights, sounds, and smells were such a relaxing break from the struggles temporarily left behind.

Now I suppose I could force a God-Incidence to this story if I felt I really had to.  It wasn’t a God-Incident of that particular moment, but actually one of nearly seven years ago.  My wife and I had no reason to know at the time that the very day I chose to propose in September of 2004 at Sheldon Marsh would be exactly two years before our daughter’s birth.  I was able to share that God-Incidence with my daughter on our “date” — that mommy and daddy got engaged on her birthday in the very spot where we were then standing.  She didn’t quite grasp the significance.  Instead, I think it just got her thinking about the fact that she has a birthday coming up!

I hope she had fun on our date.  I know that I certainly did!

 

Since my younger daughter was the focus of this post, I would be remiss if I did not plug her Words of Wisdom pages that always get a chuckle out of me.  In the few years that this blog was on hiatus, I’ve tracked some of her quips and giggles to share on that site.  Two of her more recent comments (Talk to the Animals and Thunkin Thunkin) came straight from our date at Sheldon Marsh.  The photos below also came from our date.  Unfortunately, my cell phone camera doesn’t have zoom capability, so this was the best I was able to get.  These are two of the frogs and one of the cranes that we saw on our date.  They are each roughly centered in the respective frames.

 

Praise God!!!

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