Advocacy and Inadequacy – Part 1

(I’m going to do this post in parts, because, as it turns out, I simply can’t write a blog entry lately that doesn’t go on forever, and I’m trying not to exasperate anyone)

If you follow my posts on Facebook you may have noticed that I’ve been posting quite a few articles lately that deal with things like disability rights, ableism, euthanasia, autism, etc.  You may be confused by the amount of posts along these lines, or, if you’ve only recently been following me there, you may wonder if I’m some kind of activist.

I was thinking about this the other day and decided I needed to write a blog post on it.   I wanted to write this yesterday but got sidetracked by the previous post, which got too long to add to.  This one’s going to be long as well, but hopefully a few of you will take the time to read it.

Over the past few years I’ve gotten more involved with the disabled community (and the autistic community, which overlaps, of course) than I have been since I was playing wheelchair basketball in college.

My wheelchair basketball WeeMee avatar

that's my game face...

Back then, my sole focus was on the disabled sports world, which sucks you in to this sort of alternate reality, a very small world full of very talented people.  Everyone knows everyone else, and anyone in the disabled sports world who is any good has probably been to or is thinking about going to the paralympics, sometimes for more than one sport.   Basketball was the only sport I was really interested in, and it turned out I was great on defense.  But I hadn’t been involved very long when I got a $10k scholarship offer to IU (who, at least at the time, had the best wheelchair sports program in the country, and treated it like a regular varsity sport), and people started talking about the next paralympics.

I was a bit overwhelmed, but for the first time my athletic nature was able to shine beyond my disability.  I was healthier than I had ever been.  I was in my element.  I was surrounded by people who were all disabled, but who were all in their element.  Many of them with sponsorships from wheelchair companies and the like.

Being surrounded by other disabled people for the first time in my life left me a bit dumbstruck.  I had worked with disabled kids in the past, and knew a decent number of autistic and otherwise disabled people, so it wasn’t that I had no exposure to the disabled world.  But these were people of various disabilities, with varying degrees of problems, all immersing themselves in physical activity instead of running from it.  I started working in OSU’s sports center with the adapted aquatics and other community programs and I was exposed to an even larger and various group.  I spent large amounts of time with people of all ages, with spinal cord injuries, amputations, polio, quad cp, sma, MS, and many other disabilities.

Their attitudes ran the gamut.  We had the classic “angry cripples”; we had those determined that they had no disability at all, despite the hardware they depended on; we had lonely teenage boys whose mom’s brought them in, hoping beyond hope that this could finally help them gain some self-confidence despite their extreme limitations; we had guys who were in it to show off and find hook-ups; we had the occasional hypochondriac; we had former paralympic champions who were well past their prime, hanging out just to stay involved; we had rising stars; we had people who just wanted to see what this crazy idea of disabled people actually participating in sports was about; we had a few in physical therapy; we had PT students trying to gain credits; we had an entire little community, with all of it’s diversity, all thrown together in one little world full of sweat and hard work.

And it was awesome.  Especially for me.  Especially considering where I had come from.

I was exempted from gym class from grades 4-8.  When I got to high school physical activity credits were required to graduate, and I lived in a small town who only had one real option, gym.  The kids in sports I think were allowed to count that as their credit, and some of the teams had access to a weight room, but most of us were stuck with an old style gym class, that did a small amount of weight training in the spring.

Let me convey to you how insane my high school was… I was not even allowed to bring my wheelchair in to gym class.   You read that right.  I could walk, but I used my wheelchair some days, when I was doing badly.  Our school had a ton of stairs, and the poor custodians were actually tasked with hauling my fat butt around from class to class on one of these things:

It's far more ridiculous than it looks.

If I hadn’t had a death wish already I probably would have been frightened of the thing.  Every single trip down a flight of stairs felt like a brush with death.  At various times the thing tipped, or my wheelchair came unfastened on one side, or both, and I was left hanging by the seatbelt, sometimes dangling over a side railing.  If we were running a bit late, or it was a long trek between classes, the bell would ring and a rush of kids would come streaming past, often hooking book bags on the parts that hung out, or tripping into or over me or the custodian, or getting run over.  I often wonder how many injuries this thing actually caused, though I think we somehow managed to avoid any serious ones.

In any case, I had to have my chair at school, because it was required for the stairclimber.  Despite that fact, and despite the fact that the custodian wheeled me to gym class with my chair attached, every single day, I was not allowed to use my chair for gym class, so that I could, you know, participate in gym.  So what did I do, you ask?!  I hid in what I think was a concession stand, but all closed up amounted to a small closet, and I did 100 sit-ups.

That’s right.  My high school gym teacher and the principal got together with me, and the best alternative they were able to find for me to complete my physical activity requirement, was to hide me in a closet and have me do a lot of situps.  Because God forbid anyone actually have to see a disabled kid participating in a majority of the activities others did, by using her wheelchair.  They also made me write a report or two that semester.  The next semester I was actually able to convince them to let me lift a few weights, huzzah!  But I still had to do my situps and write a report, since I couldn’t run or do the other activities, because, you know, I wasn’t allowed to use my chair.

But I had had to pick my battles.  I had already fought with the school to *get* the use of ridiculous stair climber so that I could go to class with everyone else.  I’m not sure what they would have done with me otherwise, but it would not have been pretty.  I had also had to fight with the administration on a number of other issues related to academics and other things that would actually affect me later in life, so I just didn’t have the energy to fight much on the gym thing.

In any case, when I got to college at OSU I was literally chased across campus by a chick in a wheelchair (who happened to run the adapted recreation department) who proceeded to beg me to come try out a sports chair she had stuck in a closet somewhere.  I was baffled, but intrigued by the idea of a sports chair (and whoa, look how easy she’s moving around in that beauty she’s in!) and 2 minutes in that old quickie tennis chair sold me on the prospect of wheelchair sports (and lightweight sports chairs!).

I got involved in the disabled community shortly after that, but we were intensely focused on sports.  I heard rumblings here or there about advocacy type things, but the diversity of the people involved in our programs was such that no one ever really rallied around anything other than sports, unless it involved figuring out the logistics of getting an entire group of wheelchair-bound people to a game, or putting them up for the night.

Just a couple of years after getting involved in that world, though, my hands started to atrophy and I had to stop playing basketball, then I ended up having to move out of state and got away from the community entirely.

Fast forward to today, where I’ve gotten involved in the disabled world once again (mostly online).  And unlike the sports world, where I actually had a little talent.  I feel completely inadequate here.

And this is where I’ll break for Part 2, where I’ll go into what it’s like to live with a disabilities that confuse most everyone I know…

Normal is Exhausting

These days, when I read what normal people get done in a day, I am completely flabbergasted.  Over the past couple of years I seem to have finally gotten a handle, for the most part, on how to live my life without causing my nerves to shut down.  This is a huge accomplishment, given the state of my nerves and how long it took to figure out how not to tick them off on a regular basis.  But living this way means I can’t do more than about 20 minutes of physical work at a time.

(I wrote that above paragraph a number of weeks ago, and then proceeded to get distracted and not finish the post.  A number of crazy things have happened in the time since then, and I finally have time to write another blog post, but I love that title, and the opening paragraph worked as a setup to what I was wanting to write, so I’m gonna go with it…please bear with me, as I think this one is going to get long.)

I was going somewhere with that paragraph.  I think I was going to say that I’d finally come to a sort of standoff with my neuropathy… I figured out how to give my nerves the insane amount of rest and disuse they require, and in turn they responded by not trying to murder me with pain on a regular basis, and they stopped shutting down randomly for weeks at a time.

As long as I lived in a constant state of awareness of what I was doing, how much, how long — avoiding certain things, measuring every movement, timing every event, what I was moving, doing, lifting, carrying, bending;  as long as I took my meds on time, every time, took the extra doses when needed, and used the braces and the pain cream and the mobility aids and the splints at their proper times; and as long as I didn’t get sick, and the weather cooperated at least somewhat — then I was awarded with what looked, at least from the outside, like a fairly consistent and predictable set of abilities.  This is something I haven’t had since I was young.  Despite finding my ‘miracle drug’ combination (which I discovered years ago and which allowed me about 90% less pain and 80% more functionality than before I found it), and years worth of trying to find the balance, it had eluded me.

But very recently, I seem to have found that balance, and life is so very much better for it.  But that balance leaves me in a place where I can’t do much, compared to everyone around me.  I know that most people work nearly every day, or go to school, or both.  Most adults take care of kids, or spouses, or parents, they’re involved in various social activities, they take care of their home, their yard, and so many other things.

I used to be able to do all these things, though sporadically.  I got through school okay, though with many absences.  I got through college at Ohio State okay, for the most part, until my hands atrophied and winter came.  I gave up on school and managed to work full time at first, and then I dropped back to 38 hours, then to 36, losing about 2 hours every year or two, but still managing to get as much work done as everyone else.  I would randomly fall asleep on the job, but I was good at my work and my employers always let me get by with it.  At some point I had to give up on working a typical fulltime schedule, but I still worked as an independent consultant as long as I could keep a semblance of a schedule.  Then the nerve entrapment in my right arm hit me out of nowhere and my world kind of fell out from under me.

I couldn’t use my arm consistently, and when you depend on your arms for ambulation, because your legs have been inconsistent at best, for years, it’s hard to wrap your mind around what to do.  The entrapment came along with an entirely new type of debilitating pain as well, and it engendered a fear in me that I had never experienced before.  Combine this new set of issues with more pain meds, bracing that didn’t work, therapy that made things worse, mounting bills, and a vocational rehabilitation department that said I was beyond hope of finding work I could still do, and I was forced to pickup and move cross-country, back to the one place I swore I would never return to.  Sigh.  In the process I also caused the folding of the company I was a partner in, and massive losses to former customers.

That was years ago, now.  It took me another 6 years, or so, to finally come to this place I’m at now.  My nerve entrapment turned out to be just another downturn in this stupid neuropathy of mine, I had to learn to deal with it in both arms eventually, though the right is much worse, for the fact that I use it so much more.   But I finally learned how to get it under control as well, mostly.

But living this new life, while the sense of accomplishment at having finally found a ‘normal’ I seem to be able to maintain is great, it is incredibly exhausting.  But the ability to have some consistency has finally given me the ability to take on some responsibility again, without an acute fear of letting people down, and I jumped at the chance for a Sunday night responsibility at church, which I’ve managed to maintain, missing only one week in the past couple of months.  I’ve also gotten all the background checks required to take on some respite care for foster kids.  It’s the type of thing where I will probably only be doing it a few days a month, but it’s something.  And it feels great to be doing some ‘real work’ again, especially since it’s work that involves kids.

But each new thing I take on, of course, means something else will go neglected.  I’ve always been quick to do for others first, and the result of the new responsibilities has been neglect of my personal and home care needs.  Fixing this issue will most likely require dropping some things, but I haven’t quite figured out what yet.

And now we’ve come to what I was meaning to write about today.

Not long after writing that first paragraph above, I sprung an allergic reaction to one of the meds I’ve been on for nearly 15 years, and my world kind of fell apart for a while.

It was hard for me to accept the need for medications in the first place, so hard, in fact, that I still have quite a bit of trouble remembering to take them on a regular basis, despite the fact that my pain levels soar as soon as they wear off.  I have a mental block of sorts, that tells me that I should be able to handle the pain on my own, I’ve made some progress in training myself to still take the meds anyway, but I still forget fairly often.  One would think, then, that the prospect of having to go off of one of those medications would not be panic-inducing, but one would be wrong.

These are not fun meds to take.  One messes with my cognition, and seems to have caused some sort of rare water/sodium related disorder that has wreaked havoc with various body systems of mine, and I’m seeing my second specialist now to try to figure that out.  The second, I’ve had a vague notion over the years that it’s slowly eroding my iq (though that could be pure paranoia).  The third, seems to have recently started messing with my heart, and I just saw a doctor a couple of weeks ago that wants me to try switching to an alternative.

So I imagine it seems silly to people, having heard me complain about these meds, while still extolling their necessity, for me to panic when I find I’m allergic to one, but I depend on all three of these, in different ways, for this state of normalcy I’ve finally managed to reach.  And having just recently achieved that, having them all three, at once, suddenly be in jeopardy, sent me into a type of panic I’m not sure I’ve experienced before.  Especially when it became fairly clear that the one I was allergic to was the one of the 3 I didn’t have any documented problems with yet, a muscle relaxant for which I was under the impression I had already tried all alternatives for, with miserable results.

So, in any case, after several weeks of dropping doses, steroids, allergy meds, panic, various doctors appointments, various calls to specialists, and getting punted back and forth between various nurse practitioners, the reaction is still not under control.  I have, however, switched to a new muscle relaxant, because as it turns out, there was one I hadn’t tried yet.  I was not looking forward to the switch, because historically I do not react well to muscle relaxants, and you always have to give them a week or two, while enduring ridiculous side effects, before a doctor will agree with you that it’s just not going to work.  This time, however, I have been pleasantly surprised.

I’m still itchy, though not nearly as much as before, and I’m hoping it’s just that the allergic reaction to the old muscle relaxant is still lingering.  If it doesn’t go away, I’ll be left with an impossible situation, in which we don’t know whether it was one of the other meds I was allergic to after all, I’m allergic to the new muscle relaxant as well, or I’ve developed an inexplicable allergy to something else that’s consistently in my environment, even though nothing has changed.

My state of panic has subsided, and been replaced with a constant threat of going completely insane for no other reason than that prolonged full-body itchiness is impossible to ignore or come to terms with.

IF the itchiness does in fact go away soon, I may actually end up in a better state than that in which I started.  But I’m loathe to say that: when you’ve been hit as many times as I have, hope is a scary thing.

I’ve been on this new muscle relaxant for 4 or 5 days now, though.  So far I’ve seen no real side effects, except for a strange kind of lingering achiness in my forearms and hands, which may be attributed to the way I’ve been using them, and testing them for spacticity/tremor since switching meds.  My normal requirement for at least 10 hours of sleep seems to have evaporated… I’ve been running on near exactly 8 hours of sleep per night, with one 45 minute nap, one day.  I’ve forgotten a dose of this new med twice in that time (I know, pathetic), and both times I’ve been rewarded with severe pain and a most awful return of all the symptoms it’s meant to help, which has subsided within a couple hours of taking it again.

All in all, it’s looking like this new muscle relaxant will be better than the old one.  Though it’s far too early to officially make that call, it’s been long enough to say that at least it wasn’t a horrible switch, and I’m okay on it, at least for now.

Amidst all of this panic and fear and mess of the allergic reaction, my niece and her man were hit from behind by a truck that was probably going near 100 mph, while riding a motorcycle, without helmets, and were both thrown.  My niece had her back fractured in 5 places (miraculously, there was no spinal cord injury!!), lost a kidney (after enduring a surgery that was attempting to save it), bruised the other, and sustained a concussion and various cuts and scrapes.  Her fiance broke his wrist so badly it took them days to find a specialist to surgically set it, and may or may not have had a concussion (he said no but everyone else said yes, lol).  The other driver did not make it, as he took out a light pole and slammed through the wall of a building after hitting them.

I cannot convey to you how much it sucks to be stuck dealing with something as ridiculous as a med switch because of an allergy, when one’s niece is rushed to the hospital for this type of emergency situation.  I was incapable of going to visit her in the hospital, but the reason seemed so very much less than adequate.  I finally did go visit her the day she got released, but I was pushing it, as I had only had a few doses of the new muscle relaxant and really had no business driving that far unaccompanied… but I just couldn’t make myself wait any longer.  Thank God they are both recovering okay, though their pain levels are through the roof and it will be a very long recovery.

I’m glad I got to go visit, finally, and I’m glad the change in meds seems to be working out… by the grace of God perhaps this change will end up being a good thing… I just hope this itchiness stops before I lose what’s left of my mind.  Please keep my niece, Emy, and Brandon in your prayers.  They will both be out of work for a while, and you know how fun it is to deal with insurance companies, hospital bills and creditors while trying to heal from major injuries.

Christmas, Christmas Time is Here…

It’s been a very long time since I posted a blog entry.  It’s not that I haven’t had a lot to say, I’ve just been very very busy.  It seems like I’ve been running nonstop since sometime this summer.

The new church is absolutely awesome, and they have a LOT going on.  I ended up getting involved with the Christmas play this year, and that combined with all the toy business this time of year has made for one crazy busy season.

In any case, it’s Christmas!  I love Christmas, but the business of the season always makes it hard to really enjoy the time leading up to it.  I’m always frazzled, and tired, and stressed, and all of the get-togethers leave me longing for large January snowfalls during which I can hide in my house for a week or two of solitary enjoyment lol

But my mom was always crazy stressed around the holidays and it tended to ruin them for us growing up, so I try to make sure that once the holiday actually gets here, I sluff off the stress enough to just enjoy the celebration.

I was so rushed this year, that I was still buying presents in the afternoon on Christmas Eve.  This is even more last-minute for me than for most, as we’ve taken to doing our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve at Mom’s house.  Thankfully, though, it didn’t take much searching for the last couple of things I needed.  Once I got to my parents’ house I was able to calm myself and enjoy the day.  Mom was still crazy stressed out, but she managed to contain it while the kids were here for the most part.

Now, I know Christmas is about Christ… I don’t do the Santa thing, and I don’t forget the true meaning of Christmas.  But I spend all year celebrating Christ, as do most of the people I know, including most of my family.  I never get overly excited about any holidays, really.  As far as Christian holidays go, though, I am drawn much more strongly towards Easter than I am Christmas, it just feels more natural to me to celebrate Christ’s sacrifice than His birth.  His birth — miracles, signs and wonders, notwithstanding — was the easy part.  I’m not sure anything we can do now really compares to the celebration God orchestrated around His birth, anyway.  God put on quite the show, and I’m not sure we add much to it with our lights and songs and historically inaccurate nativity scenes.

So while I love revisiting the story, it just doesn’t seem as much of a holy day to me as Easter does… I mean, December 25th was picked by the Roman Catholic church to line up with a pagan festival, Jesus was more likely born in September than December, so I’m a bit ambivalent about the celebration as a whole.   Giving up His life… now that’s something to celebrate.  So while I get really deeply emotional about Christ’s sacrifice come Easter time, at Christmas I find most of my enjoyment in giving and spending time with loved ones.

So, with all that out of the way, it’s been a great Christmas so far!!   It’s still a little weird to me opening presents Christmas Eve instead of Christmas morning.  We’ve had to adjust all of our traditions in recent years because the family just got too big and with the kids all getting older and starting families of their own it was too crazy trying to fit everything in.

I got a totally unexpected gift before anyone else even got here tonight.  My parents got me a new digital camera!!  It’s really nice and has all kinds of crazy features… it’s got one setting that takes a picture automatically when someone smiles, and another setting just for taking pictures of babies… I’m going to have to read the book before I figure out everything, but I checked it out a bit and started using it tonight, so I’m hoping some of the photos came out at least lol.  At one point I got the flash stuck off and couldn’t figure out how to turn it back on for a while, so I’m not quite sure what I ended up with.  My old camera was one I got used, and it still works, but it’s a very old model and I’ve been taping the battery door shut for months.  So I probably annoyed everyone playing with my camera tonight but I don’t really care, I just hope some of the pics come out lol.

We had a nice Christmas Eve service at my parent’s church.  My oldest niece sang a special with a friend from my old youth group playing backup on flute (you did great, gals!!).   I got to sit with my adopted grandma, AnnaLee.  She’s not been feeling all that well lately, so it was nice to get to spend some time with her.  She gave me an unexpected gift as well.   My pastor’s kid, David, who I used to babysit for, blessed me with a hand shake (he’s developmentally disabled, and I’m never sure if he really remembers me or not, but he grabbed me as I was going by to give me a handshake tonight.  :)   I also got to talk a bit with several other older church members I don’t see often.

Then it was home to the craziness of Christmas, I think there were 20 people here all together.   We pigged out on all of our favorite snacks, sang happy birthday to Emy (she’s a Christmas Eve baby, it’s hard to believe she’s 23 now)  and then headed down for presents.  The best part of the whole celebration for me is watching the kids light up when they get a gift they like, and we were not disappointed tonight.  Some of the cheapest gifts ended up getting the biggest reactions — that’s kind of the way it always goes.

Charlie (2) loved the second-hand sit’n’spin I got him, and has already figured out how to flip it over and turn the sound on and off.  He also latched on to one of the balloon noisemakers I gave the kids, and a little light up ball Mom got him.   The older boys liked the foam knives I made for them, and the 3-in-1 measuring tapes, but the noisemakers were a huge hit with them as well.  I think Jonathan was most excited, though, about the jeans Mom got him.  Brittany was most excited about some fuzzy socks, Kaycie a webkinz puppy, and Samantha and Katherine seemed to like the art kits Mom gave them, best.

I was surprised yet again, this time with a new drill from Mom & Dad.  I also got a ginormous tin of cookies from my sister’s family, some adorable hand-made pot holders from my niece, a s’mores kit from my brother, and a few other little things from Mom & Dad.

I get to pass out the presents, and the little kids always crowd around the front, so I usually miss seeing the older kids and the adults opening their presents, but as far as I could tell a fun time was had by all.   There were a lot of smiles, very few tears (Charlie was very tired and wasn’t feeling that great, so he had a rocky start, but cheered up by the end of the night), no fights (considering how holidays generally went when I was growing up, the lack of fights is still a big deal to me :), and no one was too sick to enjoy the evening.  An all-around win as far as I’m concerned.

I do wish Fred could have been here… I got used to spending holidays with him and I miss him most on the holidays… but we sang a Christmas song together and opened our presents from each other over the phone last night.  It’s funny how well he knows me… he got me a great gift (a new fuzzy panda blanket), but he knows me so well that he gave it with a stipulation that I have to actually use it, I can’t just put it away somewhere so it’ll stay nice (which I totally would have done!)… he knew I’d follow the rules if he laid them out like that, and sure enough I got the blanket out and used it this morning to shew away some chills when I first got up lol

All in all I got way more than I was expecting this Christmas, and there’s more to come tomorrow.  But above and beyond all the “things”, I got hugs and smiles and happy memories from happy munchkins, and my newest great-nephew Carter blessed me by sleeping in my arms for a while.   It doesn’t get much better than that. :)

Let the munchkin-proofing commence

I do my best to try to write a blog entry when I can tell I have too much to say and will end up getting spammy with all of my facebook updates.  I believe I’ve failed that attempt this week.  I’ve just been in too great of a mood and I’ve had way too many things going on.  I think my last blog entry just added to the facebook spam.  Oh well, those that know me very well should be used to me talking (and talking, and talking) a lot by now.

This week just keeps getting better.  I think I last posted here on Monday night, so I’ll pick up from there and give you a quick overview of my week.  I’ll highlight the high points in case you want to skim.  I mostly write these so I can look back on them later, anyway.

I recovered pretty quickly from the all-nighter I pulled Monday waiting for the contractors, which is a rarity for me as that usually hits me pretty hard.  Tuesday I was able to go to the Y and exercise again, I’ve actually gotten there several times over the past week or two, so hopefully it will be an established habit soon.   I discovered more exercise machines I can actually use (which was unexpected, considering I can’t use anything that requires me to use any muscles in my arms, below the elbows, or any muscles in my legs besides inner and outer thigh).  I had to up the weight on the inner/outer thigh machines already, and did an extra set of reps to feel like I was getting a workout!  I even managed to swim without the swim paddles I need — that I can’t afford quite yet — without damaging anything.

I went grocery shopping from there, something I haven’t really been able to do much of lately, found some great deals and got my pantries and freezer pretty well restocked.  I was sore from the workout and barely managed to get the cart to the checkout, but I pushed through (forgive the pun) and managed to get everything put away before I crashed.

I scheduled Wednesday as an off day because I knew I’d been overdoing it, and I knew I had to have energy for Thursday.  I’m glad I did, because don’t remember much of it.  I know when I got up my scale showed me down 5 lbs from the weight I was unable to get below last time I tried to lose weight (I’ve been eating differently but I wasn’t really even trying to lose weight this time).  I think I spent some time highlighting my Bible — I’m slowly trying to migrate my highlights and notes from my old trusty torn apart Bible to the new one.  I think I spent the rest of the day just basically vegging.

Thursday I went bowling with a family from the new church and another mother and her daughter.  I was good and didn’t bowl — I love bowling but it put my arm out of commission for weeks sometimes even before this issue with the nerve intrapment, so I dare not try anymore — but I got to hang out with 5 kids, 2 teens and a couple of adults while they bowled their first game, and then Penny (the mom of most of those kids, who’d invited me) played a game of air hockey and two games of pool with me while the others were either watching us or still bowling.  I had an absolute blast, and I think everyone else had a great time, too.  I even got to play a couple of games of skeetball before we left.  We went to McD’s afterwards to grab a bite to eat and then on to church.  Mike, the 14 yo,  who’s a pretty cool kid, rode in my back seat to both places (I really have to clean my car out, there wasn’t room in the front), and we talked the whole way.

Thursday evening’s service was great as well…

There were a lot more people there than last time, I think because they had some special musicians in that evening.  But even with all of the other musicians there I didn’t get 3 rolls in the door before someone asked me if I was going to sing again, and that question was repeated by enough people that I lost count.   At least a couple of people who hadn’t even been there Sunday came up and told me they were looking forward to hearing me sing because they’d heard someone bragging on me.  I was a little uncomfortable with all of this, but my normal awkwardness didn’t even get a chance to come out, because I was still bubbling over from the great day/week I’d been having.  (Later that night I found myself thinking, “wait a minute!  All that hugging and hand shaking and talking to people and I didn’t even freak out!” lol)

After a few congregational songs, something told me I should try to do one of my personal favorites  (Hail, Hail Lion of Judah!).  After a quick check with one of the ladies to gauge whether the people would be willing to play “repeat after me” on a praise song, I went ahead and got permission to do two both songs (it was made clear I had to do an encore of the song I sang Sunday as well).  With that many people there, almost all ready and willing to learn the song with me, it went incredibly well.  I’ve taught/sang that song at several churches, and I usually get a few to sing along, but the entire room erupted here, and it reminded me of “home”.  The Spirit was in it and I think everyone there got a blessing, I know I sure did.

My voice was tired from talking all day by the time I got to my song, so I don’t think I sang it as well as I had Sunday, but the Spirit was still strong, and I believe a number of people were blessed by it as well.  The other musicians did a great job (including one little girl with an impressive set of lungs and an awesome voice) and the Spirit was with them as well.  Then the pastor’s message was great, inspired, spot-on, and needed, and it touched on some of the things that Mike and I had been discussing earlier in the car.  We spent quite a while in prayer, peppered through the service, and we didn’t get out of there until around 11pm.  That’s my kind of service, the kind where you let God have his way and stay until He’s done :)

I went up to encourage the young singer afterwards and kind of got blocked in, so I was one of the last ones out the door, and ended up talking to people in the parking lot for a while before I left.  Before the night was over I’d asked about (with some prodding from Mike), and given a tentative commitment to helping with their VBS program in July.  I don’t know what I’ll be doing but I bet I’ll have fun! :)

So I got home near midnight, and didn’t remember until about 2am that I would have to be up early in the morning for the contractors that were coming to work on my door I tried to pull an all-nighter again, so I wouldn’t have to worry about whether I’d actually wake up when they arrived, but I lost the fight around 6am, and woke up just in time to see the contractor’s truck leaving my driveway.  Thankfully, he called a few minutes later to tell me he would be back shortly but his workers had gotten lost and he had to leave to go pick them up.  Disaster averted, I would have been SO mad at myself if I’d missed them, after trying to get someone to do this job for nearly a year.

Contractors working on my rotten door frame

this is why I was trying to get this worked on months ago

The job took them most of the day, because of more water damage than they’d expected, and having to chisel an old door jam out of cement (whoever put that door in was not bright).   I ended up sleeping through large portions of the work, I slept through chiseling, hammering, drilling and power saws, all feet from where I was sitting lol

In the end I *finally* have a new sliding glass door on the back of my kitchen, and a new entry door on the attached garage.  He didn’t end up charging me any more than the original estimate (which I was worried about because of a misunderstanding and the extra work on the water damage).  There are a few finishing touches and a couple other things I need to pick up, but he’s coming to finish up on Monday.  Since this contractor actually showed up, and seems to have done a good job, I actually have someone I can call the next time.

He also gave me a really low quote on what it would take to get a dishwasher installed in one of my cabinets, so I just have to find a way to round up the money and maybe I’ll be able to do that before too awfully long.   Doing my dishes by hand is incredibly hard for me to do these days, if I could manage to get a dishwasher installed my stress levels would drop significantly, plus I’d have the energy to do other housework that ends up never getting done right now.

They got done just in time for me to get ready and head to church at my regular church.  We had a good service there, and Vivienne showed up. I hadn’t seen her for a long time, and was glad to catch up a bit.  Afterwards, I swung by the park and caught the tail end of a baseball game between the youth and adults at the new church.

So combine this with the last post and I’ve had quite the spectacular and busy week, and I’m not sure it’s over yet.

This coming week I have a date on Wednesday to take my friend Hunter (and maybe his mom) to Skyline Chili for kids’ night.   I also have to child-proof and clean my house, and I have to try to find a way to get my schedule moved back around to something approaching normal hours, because the week after next my friend’s preschooler, Kayley, will be coming to hang out with me.  For now, I’m going to go see how much sleep I can get, lol.

Goodnight world.

Answered prayers and such

I know I haven’t posted anything here for a while, but it’s not exactly for lack of trying.  I have at least 5 posts I’ve been trying to write but I just can’t seem to get anything to the point I actually feel comfortable posting it lately.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk the past few weeks (okay, that’s a massive understatement), but I believe yesterday evening was a huge turning point for me.

I’ve been checking out a new church lately (while still going to my current one — I love those people dearly but the church just isn’t accessible, and I don’t feel like it’s a place I can really be used), I’ve been there 3 times now and yesterday the pastor’s mother took it upon herself to make sure that I got to sing.  I sang one of my own songs that I haven’t sang in public for probably a year or more, and it went really well.  God seems to have touched nearly everyone in that service through my song, I had people chasing me down to make sure I knew about it, too.  I’ve never seen a reaction that strong before, and the timing was great, I really needed the pick-me-up.

After that, the pastor’s sermon hit me just right, I’m not even sure what he said exactly, but it was just what I needed to hear to finally let go and step out on faith on a couple of things that have been holding me back for a long time.  To top it all off, one of the ladies invited me to come join a group at McD’s after the service, and we sat there talking until they kicked us out at midnight.  If you know me very well you’ll probably be able to pick out about 7 answered prayers in the past couple paragraphs.

After I got home I pulled an all-nighter, I had some contractors due to come install a new door and I didn’t want to sleep through it  (which is the only bit of bad news in this post, it started pouring down rain around sunrise, and they had to postpone til Friday).  While I was up, I managed to get about 20 more songs recorded for the Praise Songs Database, and I actually got them updated to the site, along with a bunch of updates I’ve been putting off for months.

Then I made a couple of phone calls — I got resolution on one issue that’s been seriously stressful for me for the past 2 months, and I made the first step in finding a solution for another issue that’s been a huge stressor for years now.

So all in all this is shaping up to be a really awesome week, here’s hoping the trend continues, but even if it doesn’t I think I’ve had enough blessings to carry me for a little while.

Memories

I usually tell people that I don’t remember much before I was 8, and leave it at that.  The fact is, my personal memories are pretty spotty no matter what age.  I like to think of my collection of personal memories as a hunk of swiss cheese, fairly stinky, with a flavor that’s tolerable at times, but really doesn’t taste good, and is full of holes.

I’m sure that over the years I’ve internalized some of the stories I was told about my childhood, to make up for the lack of memories, so the collection may not be all mine, but I’ve been reminiscing a bit today so I figured I’d share some anyway.

I went through a phase where I refused to wear a swimsuit.  People called it a bathing suit.  You don’t bathe with a suit on.  You bathe naked.  I wasn’t going to wear a suit to take a bath, and just because you suddenly decided to start calling it a swimsuit doesn’t mean it’s purpose has changed.  Seeing as how I spent half of my childhood in swimming pools, I imagine this was a huge source of exasperation for my family.

I had a nightmare when I was 4 or 5.  One or both of my siblings was trying to steal my purple bubble gum from the top right drawer of my new yellow dresser.  I remember waking up to tell Mom that.  I remember being laughed at, even though I was upset and hurt.  I remember checking and finding my purple bubble gum was, in fact, missing.  I remember no one caring.  That’s my first and clearest memory from childhood.

I have a picture somewhere of my preschool class.  I was wearing a purse.  I found the purse a while back and put it in my toybox here for visiting kids to play with.  When Mom last saw the picture she chuckled and said something like “yeah, the teacher was exasperated because you always wanted to answer every single question and wouldn’t let anyone else have a turn”.  I don’t really remember preschool, but I remember being told to let other people answer… but the teacher kept asking “does anyone know…” so I kept raising my hand.  And if she asked us to call out answers I did.  I didn’t know what they expected, I wasn’t going to pretend I didn’t know, when I did.  I wasn’t going to lie, and I didn’t want people thinking I was stupid just because the teacher didn’t like me knowing everything.  It’s not like she had to call on me just because I raised my hand.

My favorite toy was the sit’n’spin.  I would spin as long as I could, I’d get dizzy, fall off, give myself a moment to recover, then go right back to it.  I believe I had to be forbidden from riding them, because I kept trying long after I was too big to manage.  I also loved yoyo’s and spin toys and swings and pretty much anything else with perpetual motion.

I spent a lot of time in Dr offices, because I fell all the time.  If I wasn’t injured again I was seeing yet another specialist to try to figure out why I kept getting injured.  Mom used to take her knitting and I took my sketch pad.  An artist I was not, but I liked to try to draw things as true-to-life as possible.  I was great with fish tanks and still life, I was okay with animals.   I failed miserably at drawing people.  I couldn’t draw a face to save my life.  It drove me nuts.

I liked numbers, and I made a game with myself to memorize them.  I had memorized most of the phone numbers I’d ever heard, and on the way into building I’d often take note of a license plate or two and see if I could remember them on the way back out.  Somehow Mom figured out I was doing this at some point, so she joined in and would quiz me on them.  Of course, she didn’t write them down, and couldn’t remember them herself, so she never would have known if I was wrong.

I used to wear jean skirts all the time.  One day on the way home from the bus a girl from the neighborhood thought it would be fun to pull my skirt up.  I stopped wearing skirts after that, for the most part.  Any piece of clothing that offers so little protection that a split second decision by a bully can leave you walking down the street with your underwear flapping in the breeze is just not practical or decent.  Considering how often I was falling, I think that incident just drove home the realization that skirts were not for me.

When I was in the 5rd grade I was put in a classroom on the third floor.  My 5th grade teacher had been my 3rd grade teacher previously, and she was a great teacher then.  But the third floor meant stairs after stairs after stairs.  3 flights up, three flights down, up in the morning, down for recess, up for class, down for lunch, up for class again… all of those stairs kicked off the initial exacerbation of my peripheral neuropathy, but we didn’t have a diagnosis then.  I just knew that I was falling, a lot.  And every time I got one injury healed I’d get another.  Those stairs were hard for me, and it broke my heart when the teacher I loved sneered at me and said “come on, granny” when I took too long getting up the stairs one day.  She later got mad at me for having to use crutches once again.  I think she thought I was injuring myself just to punish her.

Rounding drove me nuts.  Not because I have a problem with rounding, but because people tended to do it in the most bizarre circumstances.   Ask someone what time it is, and they might say 4:15 or “quarter past 4”.  It may be 4:12 or 4:20, but somehow it made sense to them to round it to 4:15.  It never made sense to me.  You don’t save time by saying 4:15 instead of 4:12.  Over the years I’ve learned to make these strange conventional roundings by habit, and to get a feel for when people want them, but it always seems bizarre to me.  I most especially remember driving my ex-sister-in-law nuts with this issue.  When someone asked the time, and she rounded, I always felt the need to let them know the actual time.  I couldn’t understand why she had to round.  She couldn’t understand why I didn’t understand that rounding was correct.

I have always preferred to be on the outside looking in.  Especially where people are involved.  When we had large family gatherings I used to hide under my grandpa’s old desk.  I’d pull the chair in after me so no one knew I was there.  That way I could just sit back and listen to the muffled sounds of the hustle and bustle of a large family gathering, without being accosted by it.  I felt safe there.  Usually a cousin would eventually find me and assume I was playing hide-and-go-seek, and then my fun was over.

At my other grandma’s house I used to love to sit up on the stairway and listen to everyone downstairs.  We played a lot of board games there, and she had these little plastic containers that she kept the marbles and dice in.  We used to shake them because the sound was cool.  I think my favorite sound in the whole world was hearing someone downstairs shaking  one of those, and the sound echoing up through the stairway.  I also loved the sound she made when she was ‘shuffling’ her dominoes on the kitchen table.

I did not understand why people cried at movies.  The people on tv, on screen, in fictional books, in plays, were just acting.  I got this concept, but no one else seemed to.  They wanted me to cry after watching sad stories, but they were stories.  They were not real.  Why should I get upset over something that someone made up?  So they kept trying.  They kept showing me sad movies, this one will make you cry.  But it was just a made up story, too, there was no reason to cry.  (For the record, I now cry at the drop of a hat, but that’s another story.)

When I was in 6th grade I had a nerve biopsy.  The nerve conduction studies were enough to make it clear that I had a peripheral neuropathy, but my symptoms did not match my test results, and they were baffled.  They wanted to study me, so they convinced us to let them take a hunk of nerve out of my ankle.  It wasn’t hard to convince me, I got the doctor to agree to setting up a mirror so I could watch, that was all I needed.  It was cool to watch, especially when my nerve wasn’t even in the right place and he had to dig around for a long time to find it.  He showed it to me afterwards, it looked like a fat piece of spaghetti, shredded and bloody, stapled to a popsickle stick and stuck in a jar.  Unfortunately, he wouldn’t let me keep it.

My guidance counselor at school apparently decided that that was a good time to talk to me about the whole disability issue.  I’d moved schools several times because of it.  I’d had special notes for gym for years.  But apparently they just then realized maybe I needed counseling, so she called me in to talk to me.  I think she asked how I felt.  I responded “weird” because that had become my stock answer.  She questioned me further and I explained that everyone is weird in some way, some more than others.  She asked about my best friend, I assured her that Jenny was weird, too.  She eventually asked if I thought she was weird, I believe my answer was “YES!”.  She never called me in to talk to me again.

 

It’s been a long long time.

I had a million things to say yesterday and I was thinking: “wow if I post all this on my Facebook status people are going to get really annoyed” when I remembered I have a blog just for that reason lol

I know, it’s been forEVer since I made any blog entries.  It’s not that I forgot about it, really, I’ve just been incredibly busy and every time I think of blogging I think “well maybe I can find some time next week”.   Next week always seemed to be busier.

In any case, I don’t think I’ve updated since before my bro came to visit this summer… it was a great visit! Even though both of us were having health issues, and we were often too tired/sick to do much of anything, we had a great time just enjoying each other’s company.

I was sooo upset when he had to leave — I thought I’d almost had him convinced to stick around but he left anyway, then he missed a train connection in Chicago and almost did come back… I had a hard time processing it all and then dealing with being stuck here alone again.  The next couple of weeks I don’t think I could have blogged if I’d wanted to.  Then the holiday orders started early, and I’ve been working pretty much nonstop since then.

Holiday sales were great this year! My business took a huge hit a couple years back when I shut down for 9 months because of the uncertainty caused by the CPSIA toy laws.  After I opened back up my sales were no where near what they had been, and I felt like I was building from the ground up again, so I was very pleasantly surprised to see sales pickup so early this year.  And they kept up.   I still have a couple of orders to fill, but I am proud to say I managed to get every holiday order out on time this year (the ones that came in before our cutoff dates anyway).

One of the main reasons I was able to keep up with holiday sales this year is becuase MY ARM IS BETTER!! My arm had been relatively okay while Fred was here, and then 2 days after he left it was screaming again.  I knew it wasn’t psychosomatic so I started analyzing what could have caused the change… and tracked it back to my favorite ezchair.  While my bro was here I spent most of my time on the couch beside him, instead of in my chair.  It turns out my favorite chair has been exacerbating the nerve entrapment in my arm for YEARS.  I feel completely stupid for not having figured this out before, but I had an old easy chair in the other room, so I had someone help me switch it out… and my arm’s been better ever since!

It’s not great.  I still can’t do much with it without it having trouble, and I still have to load up on NSAIDs to keep it functional, but without the chair exacerbating it all the time it is SO much better.  Before I switched the chairs it had gotten to the point where it was hurting and useless more often than not, and if I did too much with it it would be useless for days afterwards.  Now it’s only hurting when I use it too much, and it’s more or less recovering over night.  I cancelled the appointment I’d made for a cortizone shot, and hopefully won’t be needing it, at least for a while!  For the first time in 2 years I’m actually holding out hope it may heal most of the way given some more time.

I have a lot more to share but I think I’ll end this post here for now, and pickup more tomorrow :)

9 days!!

I have a bunch of last minute stuff to get done tonight and tomorrow but I figured I’d better get a post in now because I might not be around much for a while.

Saturday I’m going to a my childhood bff’s house for her son’s birthday party, I’m meeting another long time friend there, and bringing his son Sean home with me for a few days … we’ve left the pickup date open-ended, in case I get too tired to keep him so long, but if all goes well they’ll pick him up next Friday.

I’m really excited to have a little visitor.  Many of my nieces and nephews usually get to spend time here during the summer and for whatever reason it didn’t work out for any of them to come this year.  A munchkin in the house always brightens my spirits a bit, and will help fill the interminable wait before I go to pickup my best friend/brother on the 14th.

I know I’ve said this a dozen times on here already, but I’m SO excited to see my brother, he’ll be visiting for 5 weeks!!  I’m sure those 5 weeks will go by as fast as the past few months of waiting have gone slow… but I’m hoping we’ll get plenty of time to visit and rest up and just enjoy each other’s company.

Anywho, I don’t imagine I’ll be posting much while the munchkin is here, and I’m not sure if I’ll be online much while my brother’s here or not, so I figured I’d post a quick update before hand.  I hope you’ve all been having a great summer!

How to lead the best church ever!

This list is intended as a funny way to call attention to some of the major problems in churches today.  In case it’s not painfully obvious, nearly everything that follows contains pure, dripping sarcasm.  Unfortunately, I have encountered some or all of these issues/attitudes in most of the churches I’ve visited over the past decade or so.

  • Your church does not need to be accessible.    After all, you don’t want any disabled, injured or old people in your congregation anyway, right?  They’ll just get in the way.
  • Those posted hours?  Not important.  There’s no reason to show up for services, no one’s coming anyway.  And don’t ever leave a note on the door if you happen to go elsewhere or cancel service, no one’s gonna come by to check out your church on the one night you’re gone, especially if you have a big blinky welcome sign out front.  Whatever you do, do not call your regular members and let them know what’s going on if you have to cancel a service, they won’t care if they show up and the doors are locked.
  • If you’re a pastor, be sure to complain about former members that have wronged you, or the church, from the pulpit.  Your congregation needs to know you’ll snipe at them behind their backs if they ever do you wrong.  It won’t look bad on you personally, and it’s not gossip or anything.
  • Stay far far away from the internet.  No one who just moved to your area will ever think of looking for a church online, and no one wants to keep up to date with church activities on sites like twitter or Facebook, the whole of the internet is a silly, evil fad, and it’ll eventually go away if you ignore it.  Never return emails or phone calls either, if it’s important they can ask you face to face.
  • If someone misses a week or two, just forget about them.  If they really care about God they’ll come back eventually, and if they don’t you were better off without them anyway.  No one wants their church family calling to check on them when they’re sick or unable to get to church.  And they certainly won’t want to hear a friendly voice if they’re depressed or oppressed.
  • Any visitor that comes through your doors and doesn’t meet your personal standards for dress, hygiene, adornments, skin color, class, or anything else should be immediately ostracized so that they know they’re in the wrong place, preferably before they even get a chance to sit down.  This can be accomplished with dirty looks, scowls, whispers, and random gasps from a trained congregation, assuming you don’t wish to take a more direct approach.  It’s only fair that they know from the get-go that they aren’t welcome, it’ll save awkwardness later.
  • Be sure to complain regularly and loudly from the pulpit about the horrible people that keep calling the church asking for help and handouts.  And whatever you do, never ever let the song leader sing songs with lyrics like “God loves a cheerful giver”, “give me Your love for humanity” or “they will know we are Christians by our love”.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, find something for a church member to do if they come to you asking how they can help.  No one really wants to feel like they’re doing something constructive for God or the congregation, so they must have an ulterior motive.  If you deflect or ignore them enough they’ll give up and leave you alone, a sure sign that you were right and they really didn’t want to help in the first place.
  • If someone is too loud, sings off key, gets too excited during worship and actually shows emotion, yells “amen”, or has the audacity to bring their child into the sanctuary with them, you should make sure they’re immediately pulled aside and schooled on proper church etiquette.  Patriarchs like David never danced, or sang, or acted ‘crazy’ when they got excited about God, and Jesus never would have let kids get close when he was preaching!
  • The pulpit is the best place to call out the sinners in your congregation.  If you find out someone’s fallen into a specific sin you should preach a sermon against it as soon as possible; be sure to stare at them the whole time so they get the message, and so that everyone else knows who you’re talking to.  If that doesn’t work, you might consider going to them in private later.
  • Outreach is overrated.  You’ll reach far more people if you refrain from doing any activities where you interact with the community at large. Stay away from any charity or missions programs, never interact with other churches, and make sure that no one in your congregation has any idea how to witness.
  • If your church has to relocate, for whatever reason, you should not even think about calling your members, recent visitors and attendees.  Anyone who really belongs to the church will have heard about the move already or can ask a member that already knows.
  • If a member brings a visitor to your church, and that person is obviously not saved, you should make sure to take the first opportunity to scold the church member for being “yolked with unbelievers”.  They should know better than to bring unsaved people into the church!
  • Things like taking prayer requests or setting up prayer lists and prayer chains are unnecessary.  No one should ever think that the church cares about major problems or illnesses they are dealing with, and they should never get the idea that they have an adopted family backing them up when they’re going through a hard time.
  • Every single sermon should be positive, affirming, comfortable, saccharine, and uplifting.  Never preach against sin; never preach about accountability, leading a holy life, or working for the Lord; never teach your congregation how to flee from temptation, grow their relationship with Christ, deal with adversity or persecution, or get through tough times.  As long as you pretend the Christian life is all smiles and roses their lives will be perfect, and so will yours.  It’s fine to just ignore or rephrase any Bible verse that seems ugly or difficult.  As long as you keep tickling everyone’s ears their money will keep hitting your coffers… and that’s the real measure of success, right?
  • Hypocrisy is very attractive, you should show it whenever given the least opportunity.  “Do as I say, not as I do” is a great philosophy for any Christian to live by, especially a pastor.
  • The music service should be all about entertaining your congregation.  It’s really just a feel-good concert and should be approached as such, after all, they’re paying for it right!?  If people happen to worship God some while they’re at it that’s okay, I guess, but your top priority should be making sure everyone’s happy and entertained.

 

I’m sure I could add a lot to this list, but I’m getting tired so I’m gonna call it.  Do you have any to add?

 

Quick update…

It’s been far too long since I blogged, and I’ve not even been around twitter much lately, so I figured I’d drop a quick update here.

I usually don’t spend nearly as much time online during the summer… I have a couple of acres of yard to mow and a garden to take care of, on top of all of my normal household stuff, which I can’t even keep up with during the winter.  Add to that the extra social events summer’s always filled with and I’m usually not around much this time of year.  Don’t get me wrong, I still spend a ton of time in my ez-chair trying to recuperate, but I’m usually too tired or too overwhelmed to do much socializing.

I’ll probably be even more scarce this year than normal, because my best friend/brother is coming in a little over a month (HOOORAY!!) and I’m not likely to be online much at all while he’s here.  So, if you don’t see much of me between now and fall that’s why.  I’m sure I’ll have a ton to share after things settle down in the fall, though.

I usually have my nieces and nephews out for a while each during the summer, too, things are still up in the air for this year, but I may have some starting next week.  It’s so hectic and draining for me, but boy is it fun :)

My mom usually helps with my garden a few times and hasn’t been down at all this year, I managed to get it planted myself, but collapsed afterwards and haven’t had the energy to do much since then, so it’s so full of weeds it looks like I planted my veggies in the middle of my yard lol… I’m getting cukes and zucchini out of it already, though.  I absolutely LOVE having fresh food from the garden.

My corn got knocked down in the awesome thunderstorm we had last night,  it didn’t snap so I straightened it up and expect it to live, but I don’t reckon it’ll produce well.  That storm was totally worth the corn damage though, best one I’ve seen in a long time.

I finally found a quackpractor (i.e. chiropractor) in the area who would take xrays before working on me (something I insist on)… he does not impress me at all, but he has some really great equipment that does most of the work for him (it actually does a computerized adjustment), so I’m going to go for a while and see how it goes.  He wanted me to come in every single day for 2 weeks, but I had to put my foot down there… I can’t even depend on being able to get out of bed every day, let alone driving a half hour.  I’m going to go every other day for now.  It’s seeming like it might help some.  My back’s been messed up for years but I hadn’t been to a chiropractor for over 10 years… I didn’t realize my insurance would cover it.

I’m heading to Cincinnati Friday to have dinner with a friend and his family, can’t wait!  I also get to pick up some ticket vouchers while I’m there that I won from a local news station, for a musical in September, so cool!  I haven’t quite decided who to take yet.

Anywho, this was supposed to be a quick update so I’ll cut myself off here, I hope everyone’s having a wonderful summer! :)