Sunday, June 29, 2014

Young Life -- You Were Made For This!

About six years ago, my family got involved with Young Life, a Christian organization focused on middle schoolers (WyldLife), high schoolers (Young Life), college students (Young Life College), special needs teens and adults (Capernaum), and unwed mothers (YoungLives). 

My daughter Kelsey was in 9th grade and got invited to a Young Life meeting, or as they call it, Club. In our town, Club is held each Monday night for an hour in the homes of different teens. The leaders of the event are college students who want to share their love of God and be role models for high school students. The kids sing, play games, laugh and hear a testimony or message from one of the college students. It's a great way for teens to enjoy learning about faith and to see that it's ok for them to be a Christian if these really cool college students are one, too.

In addition to Club, Young Life also sponsors week-long camps during the summer. These camps are located in several states in the US but are also in many other countries. These camps are FUN for all involved. Singing, games, sharing and learning about the life of Jesus are all included. Camp is pretty expensive, but scholarships and fundraising events are available for those who may need it. If a person truly wants to go, he or she will not be left out.

When Kelsey moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida, she continued her participation in Young Life through YL College. As a college senior and a YL leader, she befriends younger college students, takes them to college events as well as Club, goes camping with them and shares her knowledge of the Bible. As a mom, I'm so pleased that she has continued with this organization and has found friends focusing on God and not on partying. 

A group of YL College students at Pioneer Plunge, a camping event, in North Carolina in May 2014.

Young Life has also played a huge role in my son Drew's life. Drew is 27 and has Down syndrome. In 2009, a college student at FSU started a Young Life Capernaum group, the branch of YL for special needs young people, in Tallahassee, Florida. In the Bible, Capernaum is the name of the town where Jesus heals a paralyzed man. The story, found in Mathew, Mark and Luke, states that the house in which Jesus was preaching was so crowded that four men had to lower the paralyzed man through a hole in the roof. Jesus was so pleased with their faith that he healed the paralyzed man. 

An artist's depiction of Jesus healing 
the paralyzed man at Capernaum.
This has nothing to do with 
YL Capernaum but it 
reminds me of the old felt
boards in Sunday school classes. 
Maybe I'll include a whole post on 
felt boards. :-)

The description of Capernaum on the YL website says, "Young people with disabilities -- like their able-bodied peers -- have hopes and dreams, needs and fears; but, many of them feel isolated and have no one to share their struggles with and no one to encourage them and help them be all God designed them to be. Young Life Capernaum gives kids and young adults with disabilities the chance to have fun, make friends, develop self-esteem and begin a relationship with Jesus Christ." 

Our chapter of Capernaum does so much more than this description. These leaders truly care about the people who participate. Drew works at a cafeteria at FSU, and several of his FSU student leaders arrange to eat lunch with him weekly. The original rule of Capernaum is the age limit for participation is 25. When most of our original group turned 25, our leaders felt that the age limit should be extended and did it for our local group. When the older guys couldn't go to camp because of the 21-year-old limit, the leaders decided to take them to discipleship camp, or work week, where they helped prepare the camp for the upcoming season. 

Michael, Cameron & Drew at Southwind's
 work week 2014.
Drew and Kelsey at Southwind's
work week 2014. 

Some of the YL Capernaum groups from all over Florida at a weekend camp at Southwind in 2014.

If you want to see other wonderful events and camps that Young Life provides, you can check out their website:  Young Life. They are always open to donations, too. It's a worthwhile organization that helps many young people. Look for one in your area, or better yet, see how you can get involved.

You were made for this!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Who will take care of you?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse like Florence Nightingale. I read a biography about her when I was 8 years old and thought it would be cool to take care of people, especially those who are really hurt or sick.

The romantic image of a nurse or caregiver left me long ago. With age, I see how much energy and time it takes to care for someone, in a hospital or at home, and the older I get, I worry more about being a caregiver or worse yet, having to have someone care for me.

The jobs of a caregiver encompass “everything from buying someone groceries and managing their finances to helping them with bathing, dressing and other tasks of daily life” according to Drew DeSilver in a report for Pew Research. In addition, an AARP 2012 survey found that “the role of family caregivers has dramatically expanded to include performing medical/nursing tasks of the kind and complexity once only provided in hospitals.”

Susannah Fox, also of Pew Research, said, "As more people are able to be saved by medical advances, their lives are being extended, but they're also being sent home medically fragile. It's caregivers who are the first line of defense." Life today is a double-edged sword: medical advances help us live longer, but because we live longer, we need someone to take care of us.

We all hope that there is a family member who will step up to the plate when the time comes to care for us. I tell my daughter Kelsey that she’s the one who drew the unlucky lot because she will have many people to take care of -- me, her brother, her niece. She’s very responsible and pursuing a secure and promising career, but she’s only 20 and has her life ahead of her. I certainly do not want to burden her when she has so much to look forward to.

Sometimes the caregiver's days never seem to end.
Presently, in my own family, my mom is a caregiver to my stepdad who has dementia. Jerry has been bedridden for three years, all of which have been in his home. Even though sitters and family members help, my mom is the primary caregiver. Jerry is 86 and my mom is 81. Even though my mom is in great health, the stress and sometimes lack of sleep get the best of her.

Today, most of the caregivers in the US are elderly people taking care of elderly people, just like my mom and stepdad. Of those caring for someone aged 65+, the average age is 63 years with one third of these caregivers in fair to poor health, according to the Administration on Aging. Those aging caregivers are putting in almost as many hours as a full-time job requires. After working many years in order to enjoy retirement, their retirement is another full-time job caring for someone they love.
Number of Hours Dedicated to Caregiving by Age of Family Caregiver
[Graph Data: Partnership for Solutions, Chronic Conditions: Making the Case for Ongoing Care. Johns Hopkins, University, Baltimore, MD. (2004).] - Updated: November 2012

Finances are always a consideration when caring for a loved one. How does someone plan for all the costs? I don't believe a person can, unless he's super wealthy. Sitters, even untrained ones, cost at least $10 per hour. An elderly person on a budget simply can't afford to pay for many hours of support.

The stress associated with being a caregiver is overwhelming. They have to schedule sitters, prepare meals, shop, make appointments, handle finances, and most of all, worry that they are doing everything correctly. Even though he/she may care deeply for the ailing person, the stress eventually takes its toll. If the person being cared for has a terminal illness, the stress is intensified. Hopefully, a local hospice organization will help the sick person manage his pain, but they will also help the family understand what is happening, even after their loved one is gone.

No matter how much we love someone, having to constantly care for another person is an enormous responsibility. Even though we hope we won't need anyone to help us, there's always that possibility. It's a worry I have as I age, but one that I hope my mom doesn't have. She is my example of a patient caregiver. I will be her Florence Nightingale.

Who will take care of you?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Where in the world is Pass the Honey?

One of the most fascinating aspects of this blog, Pass the Honey, is analyzing the data. I've never been much into statistics because they are numbers, and we English teachers don't do numbers. Just mention the word data, and we cringe. I look at those columns and rows in spreadsheets, and my mind completely shuts down. UGH!

This year at school, my former-math-teacher-turned-principal sent an email asking us to analyze the data of our students' testing results to see how we could improve. I said a prayer of gratitude because I didn't have any students who took those tests. 

But blogging statistics are easy and fun because Blogger gathers them all for me. It's exciting to watch a post's readership grow, especially when it takes a huge jump. I've only been a blogger for three short months, and I went into this knowing relatively nothing. I have worked hard to gather any information I could about the process. I even bought the book Blogger for Dummies because, after all, that's what I am.

One way I'm growing my readership is by connecting my posts to "link-up" parties. These parties are hosted by one blogger who selects a theme. Other bloggers link their theme-related post to the host's site and then read/comment on at least three other posts also linked. 

When I started linking-up, my readership took off. For example, I found a link-up for special needs parents, so I linked my Mother's Day post about the birth of my son who has Down syndrome. Three weeks later, that post has grown from 165 readers to 960. It's great for the ego to have that kind of growth, but what's more important are the parents who have reached out to me, asking questions about concerns with their younger child with Down syndrome. 

The most fascinating statistic that Blogger provides is Audience, or the location of my readers. This is truly amazing. Maybe it's because I'm old and have lived in a time when there was no internet that I'm intrigued, but when I see that someone in a remote place reads my post, I get excited. Presently, I have reached readers in over thirty countries on six continents. 

I admit that I am geographically challenged, so I have to search for some of these countries. When someone in Latvia read my post, I had to get out the map. Now I have an old-school paper map that my granddaughter and I check off the countries as they appear in the stats. It's a good geography lesson for us both.

I let my imagination wander when I think about these foreign people who read my posts. For instance, I imagined my Ukranian reader as a Russian soldier who stops his tank to read my latest post. I envision my Brazilian reader as a young, hip missionary floating down the Amazon River who stops the old boat midstream in order to get a clear signal for his iPad. I could go on and on with my stories, but I know in my heart that I have had an impact on world peace. hahaha

If you are interested about where these readers are located, you can check the link "Where's Honey?" that I placed under Sites of Interest on the right sidebar of the blog page. 

I also added Feedjit, a service which shows a live feed of the last ten readers' location. The only problem with Feedjit is that I'm counted when I log on as well. 

So, thank you for reading my blog, and please share with your friends and family. One day, Pass the Honey will go viral!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Gift from the Mountains

Aahhh, vacation -- a time during the year for which we all yearn. This year, I got to experience a real, grown-up vacation with just my husband. No kids, no amusement parks, no entertaining someone else, just the two of us enjoying peace and quiet for a solid week. 

We RVed (noun becomes a verb, sort of like "Google it!") to North Carolina and set up camp in a lovely community of cabins, houses and RVs in Linville. This is a quiet place filled with mainly retired couples, but families with children vacation here also.

This picture is from the rainy window of the RV. I think that's the tip of Grandfather Mountain in the background.

A "selfie" with my husband after we unloaded the RV.

What's the best thing about being here? The cool temperature entices a visitor to be outside all the time. Yesterday, I sat outside to read and promptly fell asleep. I awoke at 4:00 pm, freezing. The temperature was 64 degrees. From a person living in hot, sunny, humid Florida, experiencing this in the middle of June is fantastic!

Everyone here is so friendly. We have met our neighbors and other people down the street. A couple on the corner helped us back the RV into its spot. We have met more people in this neighborhood than in our neighborhood at home. Richard says it's because here, people are outside, not inside soaking up air conditioning. He might be right.

Another plus of being here is the beautiful vegetation. Everything is so green and lush. My favorite plant here is hostas. Some are variegated and others not; some are small and others are huge. There are also rhododendrons, daylillies, and wild fern. Everywhere I look, there's a beautiful plant to see.

A variegated hostas
This hostas is 5 feet in diameter!

The rhododendrons hide the RV.

I haven't seen much wildlife yet, but I think it's because there are so many people. The birds sing all day, and little chipmunks scurry around. I've got my eye out for a bear which I hope will be located a far distance from me. 

I'm enjoying every minute of this vacation and trying to recharge my energy and soul, much like a book I read a long time ago. 

When my children were little, someone suggested I read Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. If you aren’t familiar with it, the book was written by Charles Lindbergh’s wife, Anne, in 1955. For several years, she left her four kids and husband at home in New Jersey and travelled to Florida to stay for two weeks in a cabin on the beach by herself. BY HERSELF.  

In the book, she tells how the sea clears her mind and helps her refocus on what's important. She writes that modern women have too much that threaten to overwhelm us, too many modern-day gadgets that are supposed to simplify our life but instead make it more complicated. She instructs us that “Women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves.” The trips to the sea allowed Lindbergh to do that.

Like the sea, these beautiful mountains of North Carolina have gifts to offer. I'm accepting all that I can during my too-short vacation.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Twenty Years Later, I Still Hear His Voice

It's tough being a parent. I can only speak for the mother's role, but I am sure that being a father is equally challenging.

I grew up with the image of the father that appeared on all of those TV shows in the 1960s and 1970s -- the dad worked in an office, came home at the end of the day, played catch with his son, got involved with his daughter's quest for Girl Scout badges, and always loved, supported and listened to his wife. 

Why didn't some advocate stand up to the TV industry in the 1960s and insist that they add a disclaimer at the beginning of each of these shows saying that these events are total fiction? Real families don't act like this, and parents certainly can't realistically be the perfect parent all the time. An announcement like this would certainly have helped in my adult life, possibly saving me from the many parenting/marriage mistakes I made.

As an adult/parent, I had to re-figure my brain to accept that real life and parenting were oh so different from the TV I grew up watching. And I can count on one finger the number of dads I know who act like those old TV dads.

My dad died almost twenty years ago. He and I weren't necessarily close, probably due to my living with my mom after their divorce when I was 11. He really never knew what to do with a girl. He didn't play tea party or any kind of board games with me. He was too busy working and too tired when he came home. This never bothered me; that's just the way it was. 

In the Washington Post, writer Joel Achenback defines a good father as someone "just there, always, a reassuring presence -- even when he's not there anymore, because of the rules of mortality, and all you can do is hear his voice in your head."

I hear my dad's voice often.

Every time I use a water hose, my dad's voice comes to me, telling me that he will spank me if I don't roll that hose back up. I never got a whipping for that, but the threat worked. Back when I was growing up, parents spanked. No one questioned it. I didn't spank my children, but who's to say mine are better? I wonder.

Sometimes I look at the racial population of my classroom and know that my dad would not like it. I was raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, during the 1960s and started school in 1964 during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. He sent me to a segregated private school from first through twelfth grade and probably preferred that I teach in one of these schools, too. Ironically, I have always taught in public schools. I don't look at a kid's race; I only look at what he does in my class. He could be lime green with pink dots, and I wouldn't care as long as he does his best on assignments. 

My dad was a good dad. He just wasn't that huggy/kissy kind of dad and sometimes I wish he had been, but I survived. Now, I remind myself to hug my kids more.

I don't know what makes a great dad. My husband doesn't consider himself a good dad even though he is always the person the family comes to when they need someone. If a car breaks, if they need answers to complex questions, or if they need to tell someone the bad news so he can soften the blow, he is the one they call. And long after he's gone, they will hear his voice in their heads.

I do know that dad's are not like the ones on TV. They are real people, fighting real life, and most of them are doing the best they can most of the time.

I wish my dad were still here. I'd like to let him know that I'm glad he was my dad.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Living Funeral?

Last night, I attended a retirement party for a fellow teacher. She is an amazing woman who has taught at Leon High School for 35+ years. Her presence will certainly be missed by the faculty, and I'm sorry for future students who won't get to experience her love and dedication. 

She is the definition of a teacher committed to her students and to doing her absolute best in the classroom. Her car is the last one in the parking lot every day. I should say day/night because many times I have gone back to school for sporting events in the evening and her car is still there. 

She attends workshops to make sure she's up on the latest, greatest theories in education. You know, the ones that are going to revolutionize teaching and student learning? When I attend these workshops, my cynical self thinks, "Yeah, right." My friend, however, always gives the new plans a chance and finds good in them. 

She is involved in school improvement and actually writes the massive annual plan that shows how the school will go about improving itself. I have seen her exasperated with her students, but I have never heard her raise her voice. I think her biggest virtue is that she truly loves teaching and young adults. 

At the party, many of her current and former colleagues shared memories of her. The speakers told how she handled specific situations at work while being a single mother to a child who had serious health issues, how she influenced the student interns with whom she shared her classroom, and how she put her whole self into her love of her career.

As I write this, it occurrs to me that this post sounds like a eulogy, something that I would say at her funeral. And with my retirement a year away, I wonder what people will say about me next year at my party.

In the book by Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie, the title character Morrie is dying of ALS. Before his body/mind degenerates too much due to this disease, he decides to have a "living funeral."

Morrie's friends and family come from near and far to tell him of the impact he had on their lives. It's really quite a touching scene in the book.

I think a living funeral is a great idea. Why wait until you are dead to have people say all that they wish they could have said to your face? I want to hear my students' memories of events during our time together, to hear what my family has to say about me (good and bad), and to hear all of my favorite hymns/songs. (By the way, my funeral playlist is written on the back page of my Bible.) It's probably just my ego wanting to hear all of this because I imagine all the words are of only the good I did, not any of the bad. 

Below is a quote from Tuesdays with Morrie. This quote is one of the many aphorisms Morrie had about life, death, love, etc. 

This quote reminds me of my now-retired friend. She did not move half-asleep through life but took hold of what she loves -- teaching, young people, music, family, community -- and devoted her life to it. She definitely created a life with purpose and meaning. 

I have not done half as much good or devoted nearly enough time as my friend, but I can keep trying.

We can all keep trying.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Family Tradition -- Saturday Morning Breakfast

One tradition my family and I started a few years ago is Saturday Morning Breakfast.

It's a simple concept -- wake up early on Saturday, decide where to eat, and go. At each breakfast, we take a picture, identify the place we are eating, and post on Facebook and Instagram. 

What do we get from this? Time spent together is tops. We also get to see/meet other people who are out early. Usually we hit up a few yard sales to buy treasures and/or stop by the farmer's market for something to cook later. It's just a really laid-back time of conversation with my family.

The members of the group change from week to week. Sometimes it's the whole family, sometimes it's minus a kid or two, and sometimes it's out-of-town family tagging along. I think everyone enjoys the event. 

Sometimes life prohibits our going weekly. We actually took a couple of months off during the Christmas holidays and winter months. There was just too much going on, or the weather was so cold that we didn't want to leave a nice, warm home. On these Saturdays, when no post shows up on Facebook or Instagram, people write me to find out where we are or why there's no post. 

Why is this event such a hit? 

1.  Breakfast is the cheapest meal of the day, so I save money unless we blow it on a "fancy" place like I-Hop or Waffle House. As long as we stay with fast food choices, I can keep the price under $20.

2.  It gets everyone out of bed to enjoy a fun morning. We spend Monday through Friday constantly checking the clock to make sure we have enough time to quickly consume cold cereal, eggs, or Drew's favorite, a mini pizza, for breakfast. 

3.  Our getting out of the house on Saturday morning gives Richard time to relax and quietly enjoy his breakfast. He is retired, and we leave the house before he wakes up each week day. On Saturday, we like to give him some space and the quiet he is used to. He has joined us many times, but he likes his normal routine (dare I say rut?). 

4.  I think people envy our tradition. We normally get over 100 "likes" on Facebook when I post a picture. People comment that they would love to join us or they are going to do the same thing with their kids. 

Here are some of the pictures from our Saturday Morning Breakfasts over the past few years. You'll see that the attendees change, but the fun stays the same.
One of our first Saturday breakfasts was with our pal Goofy at Disney World. We were celebrating Cloee's 4th birthday.

Waffle House -- Richard joined us this Saturday. In my opinion, WH is a bad 
selection of place to dine because it's always crowded, has a long wait time,
and is really loud. There food is always consistent, though.

Whataburger -- Not my favorite place because the food is really heavy 
and full of grease and everything else that's unhealthy; however, the 
service is awesome! Cloee was trying not to smile which is really 
difficult for her. Drew's throwing up some kind of gang sign, I think. 

Chick-fil-A -- They are asserting their independence today by not sitting together. 
Drew does this quite often. Maybe he doesn't want to hear us talk, or maybe if no one is 
watching, he can use as much ketchup as he wants.

I-Hop -- One of the few times Richard and 
I went alone.I don't know where the kids 
were, but this was a nice, quiet morning.

McDonald's -- Cloee wasn't feeling 
the closeness this morning. 

McDonald's -- Kelsey was home
to enjoy breakfast with us. She's 
now a senior at UF and doesn't get 
to share Saturdays with us as often 
as we would like.

Chick-fil-A -- Kelsey was still living at home while attending Tallahassee Community College. Note: Wet hair, don't care when it comes to free food.

Another Saturday of Cloee trying not to smile. It's really easy for  Drew to show his happiness with his normal breakfast burrito and Coke, or as he calls it, Red Coke, which distinguishes it from Diet Coke.

Drew was glad to have his sister all to himself.

This was a cold Saturday when we elected to drive through Chick-fil-A and 
bring the food home. Actually, I took a picture of the girls working the drive-thru 
window but didn't think I should post it without permission.

McDonald's -- My favorite nieces and my mom were in town for the weekend.
It was great having them join us.

The most recent breakfast was at I-Hop to celebrate the end of school/beginning of summer.

Saturday Morning Breakfast is one of my family's favorite times together. Do you have any traditional events in your family? Do you have any that don't take a lot of preparation and/or money? Please share.