Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September skies

As the school buses roar up the streets once again, and I hear the giggling of children's voices, I know that Fall has arrrived in some sense of the word.  While the yearly calendar may not officially state its arrival until September 22, the lazy hazy days of summer routines are now replaced with the mad rush of back to school nights, football games, and band performances on the field.  In our particular area since we are a shoreline community, we are bidding farewell to most of the tourists and hello to lots of school activities and getting stuck behind school buses--- especially when it comes to having a time crunch to get to my needed appointments.  Ugh!  It seems we are trading one delay for another.  That's ok.  It is good to take a pause every now and again.

 However, time moves on whether I am ready or not.  

Watching and listening to the younger families go here and there with "concerned" looks on their faces remind me of my younger years toting my own boys around from practically sunrise to sunset.  I was involved in carpools, after school activities, volunteering for what seemed like everything, and prepping for dinner mid afternoon just so a good, hot meal would be ready at different times of the day according to the schedules.  Whew!  Just writing about this tires me!  Some days it is actually hard to imagine that we all survived those challenging but rewarding years.  

This is the time of year that I feel the most in between of sorts.  Living in a beach area is so much fun and has a more "let's stick with summer feel".  I am still enjoying the boardwalk strolls and putting my toes in the cool sand.  There is definitely less sunlight now, so it is quite noticeable that the days are growing shorter.  I feel that all so gentle nudge to eat dinner a little earlier on the porch so that we can quickly clean up and head down to the beach to catch the GORGEOUS September sunsets.  They are magnificent.  God's masterpieces on display.  No other explanations needed.  

During the day the September sky has a unique glow all of its own.  The color is azure with nary a white cloud.  In the late afternoon, the tilt of the setting sun shines at a different angle in my family room. By 4:00pm, it is quite noticeable. 

 Also, the squirrels are scampering about collecting their food stash for the winter.  They are hysterical at times, but when they dig into my potted plants, I am none to happy. I am fascinated at the signs given in nature to help us prepare for the seasonal changes ahead.  

My body is trying to prepare for the upcoming season of Autumn.   However, since I am currently undergoing new treatments for managing my chronic M, I will step forward with more confidence and Hope than in past years.   

How are you facing Fall?  Are you ready for pumpkins, mums, and apple cider donuts?  Do you like the refreshing cool, crisp air? Sweaters and boots? Fading daylight?

For me, I have one foot with a flip flop on firmly planted in summer sand while the other foot is inside my favorite boot firmly planted on Fall leaves.  

Whatever season, just enjoy its gift.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lean in, listen closely, and linger longer

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."  
                  John Lubbock,  The Use of Life

While summertime has a rhythm and flow all of its own which tends towards a lot of "doing"---going on vacations, celebrating friendships over backyard  picnics, entertaining the kids out of school, and maybe attending local baseball games, it is still important to make space for some rest.   Holy Rest.  Slowing down and fully embracing the quieter moments that summertime has to offer can be full of soul refreshment.  It is like sipping a cool, tall glass of fresh iced tea or lemonade while siting on a neighbor's porch and being fully present without an agenda or expectation.   No rushing allowed.  Practicing leaning in and listening closely as if time stands still for a brief, few moments are  cherished.  A spiritual thirst is quenched.  

It always seem like I can hardly wait for the arrival of summer especially after a long, cold and dreary spring up here in New England.  I have my ideas and agendas which are only loosely set in soft sand.  I absolutely love the break in routine and just go with the flow.  That's how we fly at our home currently.  Lots of comings and goings and activity balanced with the need for rest and quiet.  But then before I know it, August is upon us!  Where did the time go?!!  

I still wish for daylight to last past 8:00pm!  Now after we eat dinner, we hurry to clean up the dishes to get to our boardwalk before dark.  That little bit of rushing can sometimes make me feel anxious.  However, I guess that is preparing me for the fall routine.  Wow.  The sunsets this summer have been magnificent.  I want to see every one of them so as not to ever take for granted God's grandeur of His glorious gifts.  His beauty shines forth upon this dark and messy world.  God is in control.  

Looking over the past seven years of living with chronic M, I must say that this summer has brought me the greatest joy of participating in my life once again.  I still journey through the ups and downs wth this disease and the unpredictability of what the next hour will bring, but I am learning better how to manage and cope.  I care for my body differently now and realize the importance of balancing the doing with the being. 

I would love to hear of some of your highlights and adventures you experienced this summer.  I also am happy to listen to your struggles as well.  This is life no matter what season we are in at the moment.  

Maybe in the next few weeks we have left of summer, we could slow down from the frantic pace of preparing for fall and lean into the wonders of nature.  Let's stop and listen more closely to someone in need and offer some encouragement.   How about we linger longer in the unhurried moments that are left of this bright and sunny season.  Meet me on my deck, and we can sip some fresh iced tea and smile.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A revolving door, a basket of big shoes, and a house full of happy

My blog title pretty much sums of the theme of my summer. It is one of much coming and going of friends and family.  No, we haven't offered our home as a summer air B&B, officially yet!  Lol!  But I must say, it kind of feels like it.  Believe me, this is a good thing.   Truly, this is the first summer in six years since not being well that I am able to experience the pure joy of the crazy chaos of my surroundings.  Sometimes I am an active participant of the silliness, and sometimes I am a passive one.  No matter the case, I am savoring each moment of living, not just surviving. 

Mike and I tease about our B&B because we up front tell people that it really is a "make your own bed and cook your own breakfast" for the most part. It takes me hours before I really function well in the mornings while so many "normal" folks have already been up and at it for the day. However, there is always food in the fridge and a grocery store around the corner.  Most importantly, hot coffee can be offered at all times of the day. Win win!!  Our guest bedroom and our man cave in the basement are frequently occupied.  Between my own guys as well as their many friends, I actually can't keep up with who is where most of the time! Crazy!  Sounds of laughter and joy fill our home which certainly lift our spirits.  

The silly shenanigans of board and video games being played, movies runnng as if the basement were a theater, cooking and baking at all hours of the day and night, and basketball bouncing in the driveway---make our home a place where all are welcome for sure.  I truly treasure every moment as I know the young men and women are growing up, moving away, and settling into their new lives.  This is bittersweet. 

Watching our own sons and their beautiful friends interact and share life together makes my heart very happy.  Over the years our house has always been a full one, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.  Parenting young adults and journeying with them as they step into this uncertain world full of daunting challenges is not an easy thing.  Who knew?  We try our best to guide with lots of love and understanding and then step aside and allow God to fully watch over and care for them.   

This summer our family bid farewell to some dear friends of many years.  Obviously this was not easy to do, but saying goodbye was a necessary part of the process for them to move on to new midlife adventures.  For that, we are happy for them.  We celebrated with small parties and picnics to help give them send offs they will hopefully remember for years to come.  I know we will.  

I am not saying that the Aleo summer has been devoid of conflict and sick days and suffering. This is certainly not the case.  As a family we are always working on relationship issues which entail much prayer and sacrifice and sometimes keeping our "big mouths shut"!!  However, it is in the deep mystery of receiving God's mercy and grace that we gather the strength to press onward together.  

So, amidst the work and play schedules, the sick and painful days, the sitting with others who are hurting and suffering, the celebrations of important life events, and gathering around the big kitchen table for many meals of the loaves and fishes, our house is full of happy.  Praise God.  

Monday, July 31, 2017

Singing sweetly

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body,what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"     Matthew 6:25-27 (NIV)

These past few weeks of summer, I have had some beautiful opportunities to sit still and listen to the voice of my Father.  Really listen.  The little break I have taken from the constant stimuli from social media has been well worth it to my soul.   Instead of fixating on what is going on in everyone else's lives and all the fake filters of beauty, I have been intentional about paying more attention to my own.  Connecting and listening and praying with and for people have allowed me to center my days with a slightly new focus and purpose.  It feels refreshing and meaningful.  

This summer season as well as this season in which God is placing me have been pivotal for my interior growth.   Living with the daily-ness of chronic M usually has me in a state of anxiety or worry to some degree.  It is a fact of life that I live with now but learning how to better manage it is the key to acceptance and moving forward with new goals and dreams.   I have been blessed with ongoing opportunities to become a patient advocate within the M community and help others on their journeys of living with this debilitating disease.   Helping others, for me, is the best way to get the worrisome focus off of myself and lean into God's promises of His protection, guidance, and love.  Grace.  All Grace.  

Recently I had the pleasure of watching mamma bird feeding her little ones while flying in and out of the little birdhouse.  I love observing nature because it really brings me closer in touch with our magnificent Creator.  The small songbird would sing sweetly much of the day to her little ones. She would feed them and protect her house.  Being a close observer on and off during the day gave me joy in my soul.  I meditated on God's Word about how He cares for us and all of His creation .  It was calming to be in the quiet presence of mamma bird and her young.  True peace washed over me.  No room for worry.  Praise God.  

Have you had any opportunities to witness nature lately that have given you pause for praise and thanksgiving to our Creator?  
Have any particular circumstances allowed for true peace to settle into your soul without the world's constant worry and anger shouting large? 

These few photos were taken from inside our house looking out through a screen because mamma bird did not like me getting too close. National Geographic I am not.  

I wanted to share the beauty of nature with all of you.   No fake filters. The real deal.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Settling into Summer

Here it is mid July already. How can this be?? I am taking a little break from my normal routine of blogging and being attached to social media.  I haven't cut it out all together but have drastically reduced time spent in social media land. I must say, it is a welcome relief.  Instead, I am enjoying connecting with my people the "old fashioned" way of person to person.  Leaning in and listening and sharing life together are refreshing and comforting.  Holding hands, exchanging hugs, and laughing along side one another invite heart to heart conversations.  

I have been blessed this past month to just take in each precious moment with dear friends and family without a forced agenda full of expectations. This has been good for both me and my family.  It has given us time to just be together in the simplist of ways.  We are breathing in the calm and peaceful rhythms of grace---gifts from God.  Praise Him.  

There have been quiet,unspoken miracles made from our messes.  Prayers answered.  Beauty from ashes.   The sacred simple. 

Here are just a few glimpses of my summertime moments--- sipping iced tea on the porch.  Dancing with Fourth of July sparklers.  Watching a fireworks display.  Eating way too much delicious ice cream.  Walking out in nature.  Standing in awe of the vastness of our universe by viewing the moon and the stars.  Laughing silly at our family game nights.  Catching fireflies. Chasing childhood memories.  Celebrating family milestones with a party.  Planting flowers.  Watching flowers grow.  Relaxing instead of doing.  Prioritizing the need for rest first instead of last. 
How is your summer unfolding?   Have you noticed a different flow and rhythm to your days?  Have you given yourself permission to relax and turn off a little social media?  

Wishing and praying you have the opportunity to take time to watch the flowers grow.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Surviving at Sea

The sound of the waves with their rhythmic ebb and flow beckons me to come closer.   

My bare feet, cold and full of seaweed and pebbles, squish into the wet, brown sand. 

I hesitate---not sure if I really desire to leave the peace and calm of the shore. I step ever so slowly and cautiously into the frigid, murky waters of the Long Island Sound. 

Curiosity and courage move my feet forward as the water becomes deeper and colder. I swim. And swim. And swim. 

I soon grow weary from swimming. The ocean is vast---it makes me feel so small. Looking around, I see no one. I feel scared and alone. 

My body starts to naturally tread water. I breathe the ocean air while trying not to panic. Instinctively my body alternates between swimming and floating on my back. I question why I ever left the safety of the shore.  

Before I realize it, I am in the middle of a storm at sea with the treacherous waves and hot, beating sun overtaking my body. It is terrifying. I am trying to save myself. 

I thirst. The water is salty and not fit to drink. I am hungry. I have no food.  My body is wracked with pain from head to toe. 

The waves are relentless and keep pulling me under.  

All is black.  I can't find any light. 

Where are the life boats? Where is help when I desperately need it? 

I cry out in prayer to God to save me! Heal me! Please take away the awful pain and darkness of this experience! Please! I can't take it anymore. 

My screams of terror and desperation are not heard in the middle of this gigantic ocean. Or are they?

My body is in so much distress, and I am pushed beyond my limits. Or so I think.  

The sea becomes stormier and scarier by the minute. I am pulled under time and time again thinking surely I will be taking my last breath.  For good.  

This is it. I feel it. Lost at sea. 

Wait---I have so much more living to do! Please God, help me. Save me from myself!!

Then, far off in the distance, I see a light. 

The waves calm down and I begin swimming toward the light. 

I forget about my weary, thirsty, hungry, and sun-burned body. I keep swimming, not by my own strength, but by God's grace.  

As the light appears closer so do the glimpses of a shoreline. Muffled voices cry out to me. I am giddy with excitement! I smile. Swim. Laugh. And swim some more.  

Help is on the horizon! God IS saving me! He is sending me a miracle. 

People are running into the ocean to save me. They care for me. They love me. 

Yes, I have a lot more living to do. 

New hopes, new dreams, new God-sized purposes to fulfill. 

After seven very long years at sea, I am braver, stronger, and wiser. I know how to better care for myself whether in the midst of a raging sea or on the calm, sandy shore. 

This intentional knowing serves me well. 

Without my new found faith in our Almighty God, I would have remained in the darkness.  

He continues to sustain me on and off the shore. 

I did not choose this incredible and chaotic journey.  

It chose me. 



Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Sweetness After the Storm

Greetings, June!  I am happy to be welcoming in a new month and a sunny day for a change around here.  June is the start of summer and the beginning of another rhythm and flow to this season of life and activity. For me, I am sure ready to bid farewell to the month of May.  

Transitions into any season wreak havoc on my body and spirit.  This Spring was no exception unfortunately. It was the pits for me!!  Between the pollen and the rapid barometer pressure shifts as well as the crazy temperature fluctuations, I felt doomed.  I should have stayed in bed with the covers pulled over my aching head.  Oh, that's right, I mostly did. Ugh.  But as life moves on, I didn't really want to miss a moment of it.  I get much more frustrated and lonely when bed is where I must stay.  

Last night was a whopper of a loud thunderstorm, and I felt it was kind of a good way to end May.  By morning the air and sky were clearing, the temps normalized, the birds were sweetly chirping, and my outside plants and flowers received heaven's rains. It was all good. 

As I took my brief late morning stroll around the neighborhood, the sun shown brightly and the bees and the butterflies were busy about their day's work among the flowers.  I noticed how green the grass looked and it reminded me of the green of Ireland. A true peace washed over my body and soul.  A peace that had alluded me for some time now.   I felt refreshed and renewed.  

I thanked my Creator for the reprieve and temporary calm after the wicked storms of which I have been enduring.  

Definitely, there is a sweetness after the storm. 

I pray for all of you, my friends, to experience some of that sweetness too!  

Since June is headache and migraine awareness month, I will again this year be posting some facts about the disease and try and shed some light on it.  I will continue to share my personal story as well.