Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Next Leg of the Trip

"She's unresponsive."

The nurse's voice on the other end of the phone broke through the simple plans I had for the day.

I was doing my weekly cleaning for a lady, so called John at home and told him that the Memory Care facility had just called to say his mother was unresponsive and they were shipping her out to the hospital. He took off to meet her there and I finished my work and joined them.

Mother will be 91 in October, and as I entered her ER cubicle I wondered if she would make it that long. "Deathly white" is an appropriate description. She was talking with John, though she had no idea who I was when I went up to place a kiss on her forehead. I told her I'd been married to her son for nearly 37 years. "Really?" she replied.

After 5-1/2 hours in the ER (our shortest visit so far!) it was determined that she has a GI bleed from an unknown cause. Of course they could do furthur tests or exploratory surgery, but we have long ago opted out of that line of attack. She is so ready to go to heaven and while we don't want to do anything to hasten that event, neither do we want to delay it. The doctor suggested it was time to get hospice involved, and we agreed.

The hospital social worker came in to talk to me (John had gone to work by then) and said she had arranged for hospice workers to meet us at Osprey Court as soon as Mother was transported back there. She left a couple of hospice brouchures for me to look at.

Mother must have been getting bored by then, as she reached out her hand and said she wanted "that piece of paper." So I handed her one of the brouchures and there she sat, reading outloud the following hospice guiding philosophy: "You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of life. And we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die." (by Dame Cicely Saunders)

It was poignant to see her sitting there reading about her upcoming journey. How long it will take, we have no idea. How rocky the road will be, we don't know. But the fact that our family can travel this together, assured that she will reach her final destination, is a source of peace and blessing.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Our California Adventure

Brenna and Cassie

Kaylee and Johnathan

We did it. We did it and we survived.

Take two grandparents, blend four grandchildren (ages 15, 12, and 4-year-old twins), add two days in Disneyland/California Adventure, mix in one day at Sea World, and what do you get? A grand finale to the summer of 2007.

Those of you who read my last blog know that on a whim my husband and I decided to take our son's kids to Disneyland. Four days after our decision, we were on our way. The trip was full of firsts for these kids, as they had never flown before, been in a city bigger than Portland, or been to Southern California. "Look, Grandma! They have real palm trees here."

I got to sit between the twins on our flight down. As we were building up speed down the runway Kaylee said, "Grandma, I'm scared. I need your hand." And with her other hand, she covered her eyes. Johnathan loved the speed, but was quick to express his feelings when we reached cruising altitude above the clouds. With all the disgust he could manage (which was quite a bit) he exclaimed, "But God's not HERE!"

Johnathan and I had another adventure together. John was across the room at the Golden Horseshoe Saloon with Kaylee asleep on his lap, when Johnathan informed me his stomach hurt and he needed to go to the bathroom...NOW! So I hurried him to the nearest facility, only to find the usual line snaking outside from the women's restroom. I was afraid he wouldn't be able to wait so told him to go into the men's and I'd wait for him right outside the door. Wait, I did, for about 5 or 6 minutes.

Then a man came out of the bathroom and said to the women in general, "There's a young boy in here and he's complaining."

"He's probably mine," I replied. "What's he complaining about?"

"I think he's asking for his grandma."

"Yep, he's definitely mine."

At that moment the janitor I'd recently seen enter the restroom poked his head out the door. "There's a little boy in here and--."

"I'm his grandma," I said.

"You'd better come in. I think he needs you."

I explained I really didn't want to go into the men's room, but the janitor insisted the coast was clear. Trepidation oozed from my pores as I entered this hallowed place. As soon as I did, I saw a bunch of men lined up at the white porcelain altar. I cupped both hands around my eyes, creating a narrow tunnel by which I could navigate my way to the far stall. "I'm not looking! I'm not looking!" was my noisy mantra as I progressed, but it brought me no peace.

I joined Johnathan behind the closed door and helped him finish his business, trying hard not to listen to the sounds around me. When we were done I opened the door a crack and yelled, "Is it safe for a woman to walk through?" The only response I got was a flurry of flushes. Again I yelled, "Is it safe for a woman to walk through?" My dear friend the janitor replied, "Yes, it's clear." As I opened the door wider he continued, "Well, mostly clear." (He'd make a terrible weatherman.)

Johnathan and I finally made it back to the rest of our group. "From now on, you have to take him to the bathroom," I told my husband. But in all honesty, I have to admit that my foray into the men's room was my most exciting adventure in Disneyland. It was like mixing a little of the Peeter Pan ride with Splash Mountain, plus some spinning Peecups (oops, I mean Teacups) with It's A Small World.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mr. Spontaneity

My husband, John, is not known for making quick decisions. He usually mulls things over, looking at the pros and cons. So imagine my surprise the other day when he suddenly said, "I think we should take the Ashcraft grandkids to Disneyland next week." I about fell off my stump! (We were camping at the time.)

Today I made the 2 hour trip to The Dalles to meet our four grandkids who had been ferried there from 2-1/2 hours away in Pilot Rock. After having a not-so-bad meal at McDonald's I turned the car around and brought them back to Ashberry Lane to spend the night.

These are our son's children. Brenna is 15, Cassie 12, and Kaylee and Johnathan are 4-year-old twins. They have never been to Disneyland nor have they flown, so we're talking about some really exciting days ahead. We fly to Anaheim tomorrow, spend the next two days at Disneyland and California Adventure, go down to Sea World in San Diego for one day, and fly home the following day. So I won't be writing any blogs until the end of the week.

Actually, who knows if I'll have the strength to write then, as John and I are not spring chickens (we're more like sprung chickens!) and I'm sure I'll be worn out by the time we get back.

I don't know if we're brave or crazy to be doing this. Probably a little bit of both. All I know for sure is that we will be busy making wonderful memories with a clutch of priceless grandchildren. And isn't that what the Magic Kingdom is all about?

Tea For Two...Er, I Mean, Five

(Disclaimer: I wanted to post a wonderful photo from yesterday, but I can't get it to work. So I decided to go ahead a post this message and add the photo later.)

Yesterday was my mother's 77th birthday. Used to be that anyone that age seemed old to me, but not anymore.

In her honor, four generations of us got together for tea at the Stratford House in Hillsboro. I had been there once before and knew Mom would appreciate the ambiance.

My sister, Jeanine, who lives in the Salem area, picked Mom up in McMinnville and then swung by Ashberry Lane to get Christina, 8-year-old Andrea, and me. Then it was off to the Stratford House for a lovely luncheon.

It's a wonderful gift to me to have my mother living so close after years of living 12 hours apart. And though it was her birthday, I thought of the many gifts she's given me.

There's life itself! I'm the firstborn of five children.

She's also the one that told me about new life and led me to a saving knowledge of Christ when I was just five years old.

Mom set a great example of what a Christian woman should look like on the inside. (And she's still beautiful on the outside.) I know she's not perfect, but the desire to closely follow the Lord has always been one of the key parts of her life and it helped me to yearn for that in my own life.

She's a dynamic Christian woman who still wakes up each morning with the longing to make her life count for the Lord. To see the people God brings into her path each day as Divine Appointments.

She and Dad continue to have a vibrant marriage after 58 years. Now that's a gift you don't get very often!

Then there's her outgoing personality and her ability to just be herself. A wonderful sense of humor and the ability to relate to people of all ages. She's just plain fun to be around!

So, Mom, thanks for all the gifts you've so abundantly given to all your children. I know I speak for all of us when I say, "We love you."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Sky Is Falling!

Did you happen to catch the Perseid meteor showers this past weekend?

Every year about this time the night sky is filled with falling stars. When our children were young, we woke them up at 4AM and went out on the patio to watch the stars make their arc across the sky. I served star-shaped sugar cookies and Coke and we made a party of it. Good memories!

Now that we live in a multi-generational house with young grandkids, the tradition has come down another generation. Because of Joshua's gluten allergies, the star-shaped cookies went by the wayside. But Sunday night, around 11 o'clock, the six of us gathered comforters and sleeping bags and lay back on the driveway to watch God's firework display. Joshua, who at six is a literalist, worried that we might get wet from the meteor shower! (Spoken like a true Oregonian.)

The day had been very cloudy, but a brief rain shower late in the afternoon cleared all that away, and we had an uncluttered view of the heavens. The night air was cool and we were grateful for the blankets covering us. Frogs croaked, their deep, harsh tones carrying across the darkness. The fir trees surrounding the house stood as sentries, keeping the distant yelps of coyotes from being too fearful.

The two kids loved not only seeing the meteors, but also various satellites that followed their preset march across the sky. By the end of the evening Joshua decided he wants to be an astronaut. Might as well dream big!

It was a great opportunity for Christina and Kevin to deepen their kids' understanding of the handiwork of God. And when Kevin said, "Okay, Lord, give us a grand finale," the brightest star of all flung itself like an acrobat across the midnight sky, a flaming tail marking its demise into the horizon. Our collective "Ooh," rose as praise to God.

More good memories.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Do you have a sister?

Mine lives about an hour away from me. We were able to spend the day together yesterday, and that was a lot of fun. Jeanine is six years younger than me. As children, we always shared a room. We both remember lying in our twin beds at night, holding hands across the gap between us and singing songs. (She went on to become a very good singer. Must be because of all the training I gave her!)

Another memory that stands out in my mind is of when Mom and Dad gave me a brand-new bedroom set for my birthday when I was 15 or 16. Imagine my shock when I walked into my shared bedroom one day and realized my dear sister had scratched a VERY naughty word into the front of my desk! To this day, she has no idea why she did it. Her woodworking ability stayed with me for years, even after I got married. There was always fear in my heart that when our pastor or Sunday School teacher would come over to visit, the sunlight would illumine that offending word!

Now Jeanine and I are both adults. Not only that, but we're both grandparents! (When did THAT happen?!) Our conversations are filled with cute stories about our grandkids, how things are going with our families, self-disclosure, and challenges we're facing. She's a big supporter of my writing life.

So today I wish for you a special time with your sister. Maybe through a phone call or email if she's not close enough to visit. Reminisce about your life together. Plan to build new memories in the future. If you don't have an actual blood sister, ask the Lord to bring someone into your life who can fill that void. My mother had no sisters, but about 20 years ago she met a woman who slipped into that niche as though she'd been designed for it. And she probably was!

As women, we need other women in our lives. Friends who will walk with us through the bad as well as the good. People to share our tears and our giggles.

Happy Sistering!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

As Time Goes By

It was only a week ago, though it seems much longer. I was an active participant in the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference Sunday through Thursday. My daughter, Christina, and I were the co-chairs of the hospitality committee. Usually the word "committee" leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but working with Christina was nothing short of joy. The theme for the conference was "Let Your Light Shine", so all the gifts we found for the editors and agents, as well as the centerpieces for the tables, were lighthouse-themed. I don't consider myself gifted in the area of creativity, but Christina and I managed to pull it off. We were also responsible for arranging transportation for people from the Portland Airport to Canby Conference Center. Then there were all the "angels" we had to find. I don't know about you, but I am not often aware of angels around me. But the summer conference was filled with angels--people who were willing to tape the coaching classes and workshops.

Christina and I were in editor/author Karen Ball's coaching class each morning, and what an amazing teacher she is. Karen is very open in sharing experiences in her life and how they effect her writing. I learned a lot from her and had fun in the process.

We had three editor appointments during the conference. These appointments last for 15 minutes and are an opportunity to present a proposal for a book and have the editor take a look at your writing. It's like a 15-minute job interview and can be very stressful. Christina and I have been at this business long enough to not dread them anymore. All three asked for us to send them more, so that was very encouraging.

We got back to Ashberry Lane late Thursday afternoon and our two families left Friday morning for a weekend at church family camp near Mount Hood. I did nothing but relax while I was there. Sat around and visited with many friends, watched other people play active games, read, and ate. It was just what I needed after the previous busy days.