Sunday, 27 May 2012

Some Nice Pipes

I caught a glimpse of my flexed bicep out of the corner of my eye the other day and was shocked. I was helping Mike up off the couch and like always, I bent my knees and went into a squat. I placed one arm behind him on his back and one arm in front for him to hold and lean on. Sometimes we count; one, two three and then stand. When we stand, Mike leans forward and my arm supports a lot of his weight. This particular time I glanced down and to the left and saw my flexed bicep…it looked huge.

I answered the door the other day and the first thing the young sales man said to me was, “Wow, you must work out.” I do workout, I have been teaching group fitness classes for over twenty years and as a kid I was always active in sports. But, the muscles came before all that. I attribute them to my Mennonite genetics from my dad’s side, although my mom had some nice pipes too (still does). I frequently asked her and my dad to “flex” for me when I was kid.
The muscular build works well for me as a fitness instructor, but when I was a young girl, I hated it. My calves were so big I was unable to wear the really cute zip up boots all my friends wore. Same with my thighs and the latest designer jeans; there was no squeezing them in. Over the years, though, I have come to accept and appreciate my muscular frame and now as the primary care giver for my husband with ALS, it’s a real blessing.

When I pop a wheelie with Mike in his wheel chair and manoeuvre it over or around obstacles or down steep hills etc., I ask Mike, “Do you trust me?” And he says, “Do I have a choice?” When I pick him up from a fall or help him up off a chair or in and out of the bath tub, I tell him it’s good he isn’t a really large person. He tells me it’s good that I am really strong.
I sure have a new appreciation for nurses, furniture movers and dry wall deliverers. I am lifting and supporting the weight of Mike many times a day and just hope that I am able to do that for a long time. My strength is of course limited and the more help Mike needs the more I rely on the strength of God, which is unlimited. I call upon the Lord many times throughout the day for strength…physical strength, mental strength and emotional strength as well.

2 Corinthians 12:10 says: For when I am weak, then I am strong. It doesn’t make much sense at first glance, but at a closer look, it makes a lot of sense to me. I believe when we can’t rely on our own strength any more, and draw from the divine strength of God, we are very strong!
By the grace of God, I will take the best care of Mike that the Lord musters in me for as long as possible. And I will do the best job I can do with His help…I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:19

Be of good courage, and He will strengthen you, all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31:24

I passed on the 'muscle' genes to our childred. Although, Erin got more of her dad's longer leaner, defined build. Nathan got the largest share of muscles, but he's covered up here in his suit jacket at Madison's graduation banquet - June 25 /12. 

Saturday, 19 May 2012

You Deserve a Break Today

Wednesday was a rough day. It wasn’t necessarily a bad day; we had a roof over our heads, food in the cupboard, clean drinking water, and healthy kids, so it was far from bad, it just wasn’t great. Mike was a little frustrated to say the least…things just weren’t going his way and we were discouraged.

We went to bed earlier than usual that night. We thought it was a good idea to end the day as soon as possible and try for something better in the morning. We were eager to go to sleep and put the day behind us, except we couldn’t sleep so things just got worse. Mike was uncomfortable and his legs kept shaking (he has spastic legs). He tossed and turned all night and just one turn takes a lot of effort, so we were both exhausted and by about 4am. I prayed for him again and finally his legs stopped shaking and he fell into a deep sleep.
I got up early and quietly did some house work. I kept checking on Mike and was happy to see him lying in the same position every time I looked in. I wanted him to sleep as long as possible; he needed to recover from the day before and from the restless night. When Madison got up and told me she was going to the gym, I asked her to please pick up a large chocolate shake from McDonald’s for her dad on the way home.

A few months ago, when I noticed Mike was eating less; becoming tired mid-meal and losing interest in his meals before he was full, I started buying him McDonald’s chocolate shakes. I knew they were really high in calories (a large is 1165 calories) and I knew they would be easy for him to drink and I knew he loves milk shakes. I make him shakes too, and he sometimes gets one from DQ, but he really likes the ones from McDonald’s best. We now go there for family outings, the kids sometimes bring him home a shake when they go out and we swing by the drive through after games or shopping or whatever.
When Mike woke up on Thursday morning, he was quiet and still discouraged. I sat in the bed with him and read to him and prayed. We eventually got up and made our way down the stairs. Just when we took the last step, Madison walked in with the large chocolate shake.  When Mike saw the shake in her hands, his eyes lit up and the smile we hadn’t seen for over 24 hours, returned.

Everyday Mike has a berry smoothie and a banana for breakfast, but ‘he deserved a break today’, and a large chocolate shake from McDonald’s was breakfast (along with the smoothie and banana). Before he put the straw to his lips he told me this shake made up for the one he didn’t have yesterday. I knew right away that he was already planning on having another one later. He did have one later that day and as we were leaving for Madison’s soccer game in the evening, he asked if we were stopping for another one after the game. He was pleased and quite proud of himself by the end of the day for setting a personal record; three large chocolate shakes in one day.
Congratulations Mike…that’s quite an accomplishment!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

A Room with Two Views

This blog post is a story about how Mike’s birthday present was one of the best gifts I ever got, and how God’s faithfulness remains the same; great!   

I knew it was time to get away when I told off the lady at the Haney Bakery last week. I went in to buy some happy face cookies for a young friend who just had surgery and when the ‘mean’ lady greeted me with that inconvenienced look on her face again, I kind of let her have it…in the most polite way possible of course.

There are two ladies that work at the bakery and the kids call them the ‘nice’ lady and the ‘mean’ lady and unfortunately for the ‘mean’ lady, I wasn’t very nice that day. I have been buying the famous happy face cookie since Erin (our oldest) could eat solids…long before the mean lady ever worked there. And I guess I thought it was time to let her know that her attitude wasn’t appreciated.

It’s not what she says it’s how she says it. She tells me the cookies were just iced and if I want one or two of them, I can have them on a napkin. I tell her I want a dozen. She gives me a dirty look and proceeds to tell me with an annoyed tone in her voice that the faces will smudge if she stacks them. I ask if she can please put them in two boxes, one layer in each box. When she gave me another dirty look, that’s when I lost it. I asked her if she was okay, if she was having a bad day or if this is the way she treats all her customers.  I proceeded to tear a few strips off of her while she put together two boxes of one dozen happy face cookies…six smiles in each box. And one big one on my face after putting the mean lady in her place.

I was a little testy last week…a little uptight…perhaps edgy…I guess you could say overwhelmed. Our trip to Victoria couldn’t have come at a better time. For Mike’s 50th birthday last January, his brother Gary and sister Aileen gave him a gift for the both of us – a two night stay at the Empress hotel in Victoria, on Vancouver Island…one of our favourite places!

The first thing we did when we got to our room was check out the view.  One window displayed the Parliament buildings and the other, the inner harbour. It was a room with two great views! After exploring the room a little, we headed outside. Our first destination was Barb’s for Mike’s favourite fish and chips at Fisherman’s Warf where Mike has been many times with his mum and aunt. We took the ocean view route there and the long way back. We walked for miles and ended up at Pagliacci’s, another one of our favourite restaurants. It was too busy for us to go in with the wheel chair, so we kept walking and went back later and it was still too busy. We decided to go to a movie and when it ended at 9:30, we ran to Pagliacci’s to get there before they closed at 10:00 and Mike got the lasagne his stomach had been patiently waiting for.

The next day it was off to Dallas road to where the land meets the sea. The wind and the waves and the amazing ocean view, was just what the doctor ordered. My problems always become so small when I’m at the ocean. God seems bigger and my troubles seem smaller and my worries seem to wash away. It was a little therapy for the both of us and as we walked and talked and took it all in, Mike reminded me of the wise words of Abraham Lincoln: “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years”.

On our journey back to the Empress where we were meeting Mike’s Aunt Aileen, we came across Faithful St. and right away I thought of one of my favourite old hymns: Great is Thy Faithfulness. It was one of the songs on the instrumental CD we listened to on our way to and from Victoria.

The last year has been very challenging to say the least and I don’t expect the next year to be any easier, but God’s faithfulness remains the same; great! He has provided for all our needs…comfort, strength, hope, peace, joy, encouragement and so on.

We had a very nice visit with Aunt Aileen over ice cream and a chocolate milk shake (for Mike). We stopped in at Roger’s Chocolates a few times. We enjoyed our room with two great views and slept with the curtains open so we could look at the Parliament buildings all lit up in white lights. We took a stroll by Beacon Hill Drive Inn where Mike's uncle Kaye use to take all of us for ice cream. We had a picnic in a park in James’ Bay before heading back to the ferry. When we got to the ferry, we soaked up the sun while we waited for our boat and enjoyed every minute of our getaway.

We had a great time and feel rested, energized and relaxed. And I’m sure if I’m at the Haney Bakery any time soon, to pick up some of our favourite cookies, I’ll be more patient with the mean lady. I’ll be nice…I’ll put on a happy face and thank her for being careful not to smudge her perfectly iced cookies.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.                                                                                                 
Thomas O. Chisolm - 1923

                                               Mike and his favourite fish and chips
                                                     A walk in the tall grass at the ocean
                                               The wind and the waves and the salty air

Mike and Aunt Aileen out side the Empress (Parliament building in the background)

Our room with two great views!

Thursday, 3 May 2012


Madison had a soccer game the other night at Westview High School which is fairly close to where we live. It was a nice evening, so Mike and I decided to walk. I should say, I walked and Mike got a first class tour of the neighbourhood in a comfortable chair on four wheels.

I went to Westview when it was a junior high school and then I went to Maple Ridge Secondary School for grade 11 and 12. Maple Ridge Secondary is just down the road from us in the other direction.
As I have mentioned before, we live in the neighbourhood I grew up in, so I know my way around the area...the short cuts, the hidden paths, the alternative routes. Mike always jokes and says, “Are you sure you know where we are going?” Or he’ll say, “Can we get there from here?”

There are many memories from our house to Westview. We could go a number of ways and they would all bring back many fond memories. I choose a route that is quiet and quick because Mike cannot miss a minute of the game. We have about thirty minutes, so I had to choose carefully.
We headed out toward 216 St. and crossed at the cross walk there. Instead of continuing on 121, we headed one block north and took a less travelled road toward 214. I lived on 214th  when I was a kid but way at the end of the street, quite a bit further north. My friends Debi, Lori and I walked to and from Glenwood, our elementary school every day on 214th. Back then, the road was broken by a large treed area. You could walk around or take the “Trail” through the mini forest to 124th, otherwise known as Shady Lane and continue on 214 down the hill to where we lived.

Once Mike and I get to 214 St., we have three options. We can turn left and go back to 121, the busier road that we avoided once already and then turn right to Laity St. Or we could turn right and then take the first left to Laity St. and pass by my old pall Jennifer Kendall’s house. Or we can go straight through on a narrow path for pedestrians only. We of course take the path. The path leads us to a short dead end road that connects us to Laity St. We have a few options from there, but I know Mike can’t miss a minute of the game and it’s getting close to game time. We could turn left and then take a right on Wicklund which leads straight to the school. This is probably the quickest way…this is the street Jen, Mel, Kim and I would take to Kim’s house for lunch at lunch time. Instead, I veer a little right as we cross Laity and continue west toward Westview down Jodi Bronson’s old street. Half way down, I stop to say hello to a dog that was out in his front yard with his owner. Mike told me we didn’t have time to stop for a dog, but I knew we had plenty of time because after we pass Jodi’s house, the street winds around at the bottom of the hill taking us north to Stonehouse, once we hit Stonehouse, we turn left, cross the street and hit a path that leads us right to the turf soccer field in behind Westview where Madison and her team mates were warming up. Mike didn’t know about this path and was relieved to get to the game on time. I had taken this path hundreds of times when I walked to and from school with my friends Colleen Anderson and Kathy Johnston…how could I forget?
The streets, the houses, the paths, the friends, their faces, their names, the laughs, running the track at the school, playing softball on the ball diamond next to the track that no longer exists...I haven't forgotten. It was many years ago, but could have been last week.

Mike’s brother was in town on business yesterday. While we were getting ready to go see him, I asked Mike if he was excited to see Gary. Mike said he wanted to see his brother, but didn’t want his brother to see him. He said he doesn’t want anyone to remember him this way.  
We had a really nice time with Gary and he and Mike talked about old times and childhood memories. We laughed a lot and squeezed as much conversation as we could into the hour and a half we had together. Our visit with Gary reminded me of our walk to Westview and all the memories that came with it.

I told Mike later that we all have been given a memory and I assured him that he will be remembered as the standing tall, broad shouldered, fast runner, fast talker, quick witted, vibrant, smart, funny man that he was and still is on the inside. ALS can’t take that away!