The Sands of Time

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I love design – reading about it, discussing it endlessly (my apologies to my friend Elizabeth), reviewing and tweaking mine, pinning my wish lists and dreaming of. I am a by nature a set designer. Everything in our home has meaning and some sort of attachment. Three years ago during the holiday season, on a trip to Anthropologie I stumbled upon a sand timer. It made me do a double take. A simple piece of beautiful handblown glass with silver crystal like sand sitting in the base. I had already checked out and then I inquired as to how many more were on hand. I only saw two. After checking the back for stock, they appeared with a total of 5. I declared I’d take all. This would be the gift to our closest friends that holiday season.

This hourglass piece, when I looked at it I didn’t just see something that was structurally beautiful or that just measured time. Some may see it as a conversation piece but I saw it as a meaningful listening tool. I had already visioned where it would live in our home. So as soon as I returned, it was placed in the living room or as my children call it, the meeting room. After school this is where I open mail and they decompress about the day they’ve conquered. Its our regrouping point. All uninterrupted by televisions or phones. We don’t spend much time in this room but it’s our sanctuary. Libby noticed it first and I explained the purpose of it. She flipped it over watching the sand for what seemed like a lengthy amount of time to transfer down through the glass channel into the bulbous end on the other side. She remarked how “cool” it was. I think she could have watched it forever, attempting to count each morsel of sand. I told the girls what my thought was for this new acquisition to our home. If any of us were ever happy, had a question, mad, sad, scared or just needed to be heard, this is the tool they would use to have the floor, uninterrupted. Our own pro-bono , free of fee therapy session. Just turn it over and start talking. You have until the sand reaches the bottom to speak your peace, deliver your news, plead your case or just be silly. With two girls I have always been focused on keeping the lines of communication open in our home. I assured them that if I were using it to speak my mind about something I was upset with them over – that by the time the last sand sliver had touched the bottom glass my anger would be gone and I would let it go. In theory, this sounds good and I attempt to maintain this commitment- but flashing forward to high school years- there may have to be an amendment to these rules! We have had a lot of fun with this. So much fun that Libby actually broke our first one. I think lots of truths have been spoken and more importantly heard. I treasure this small accessory.

The first holiday present I handed out that year was a couple of weeks early. My daughters best friends mother was fighting colon cancer at 39 valiantly. I placed a note in the box – stating what my hope for her family was. That all the hard moments would be gone by the time the sand had shifted sides. Unfortunately, she passed away a few months later. The rest I distributed to my closest girlfriends. Sharing with them a simple quote and a note about how clear I was on the importance of their friendship and how vivid I saw their roles in our life.

“The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.”-Niccolo Machiavelli

Preparing for Dons impending surgery, we have spent a lot more time in the “meeting room” and we are a little less formal about picking the hourglass up and turning it over to speak. That is of course, unless someone is in trouble…. As our truths have been spoken lately, I wish for the same note that I placed in Lisa’s box…. a hope that the sands are shifting.

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Our Count Down To A New Year!

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New Year Ball Drop

Our own virtual Dick Clark, ball dropping count down has begun!  We are 1 week- 7 days  – and as of right now 168 hours until we undertake a surgical procedure called Deep Brain Stimulation.  Many things are in the air.  The outcome, our new normal, job situations, etc.  But as many people watching and waiting for that ball to drop we are enthusiastic and eager about the hope that lies before us.

We will have our own cast of performers.  Unfortunately the following weren’t available Ryan Seacrest, Lady Gaga, or Justin Bieber. Although I do really wish Anderson Cooper was available to hold my hand!  Just real heroes, like the great doctors from Duke University, Dr. Turner and Dr. Hickey and their wonderful supporting crew.  The party will be intimate.  Our closest family and friends – for whom we can’t express enough gratitude.  They will come in during the light of day and stay well into the darkness of midnight if needed.  They will help make it seamless for our girls. They will shower them with love and hugs – with even more vigor than strangers do during the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve.  Believing with us that this will bring a new light to our lives.

There wont be a script or a teleprompter.  Just simple words spoken in the days leading up of gratitude for the life we’ve had together thus far , upcoming plans- and boy do we have plans! and uncomplicated words of love.

Tick……Tock

A Childs Awareness of Disability

Siblings

Sibling Love

Disability is a broad word.  We live with one. Parkinson’s. And by “we” I mean my husband who battles it everyday, myself and our two sweet children.  It means different things for both of them.  My oldest in someways is the lucky one. She has had many more care free experiences with Don prior to his diagnosis.  When I remember her childhood I have vivid images of Don pushing Libby in her Reebok jog stroller to parks in Boston. Going down, what seemed to be at the time, a huge slide in front of her just to catch her- not an easy feat for a 6 foot 4 man. Picking her up when she fell or tossing her in the air for a thrill.  Sitting on the floor playing Polly Pockets for hours. Trying to teach her golf, basketball and how to really throw a football-  “a girl with the proper grip will impress many people in life” he would say. We had four years of living in this relative bliss.  Then the diagnosis- which we thought didn’t REALLY apply to us.  His progression will be slow.  He’s in such great physical health. For the love of God, he works out everyday for two hours – sometimes a contention in our marriage.  Eats healthy.  If anyone could fight this it would be him.  It cant happen to us.  It will be a long time before the outward signs start to manifest.

Hadley Ellison- our spitfire

Hadley Ellison- our spitfire

Then we had daughter number two. – a sure spitfire!  We made a conscious decision to have another child knowing that Don has Parkinson‘s.  Truth be told after his diagnosis I was even more driven to try to have a sibling for Libby.  I couldn’t bear the thought that an only child would have to endure the burden of the disease alone.  Hadley’s  life with her father has been great just in a different way. Any time she gets is appreciable and looked at as a gift.  Don plays Polly Pockets with her as well.  He’s interested in her basketball skills and wants her to learn the proper way of handling a football but the innocence of her youth seemed gone before she was born.  For all of us dealing with big issues, it sometimes seems unfair.  My 43 year old brain has difficulty dealing with Parkinson’s daily. What can this 5 year old be thinking?

Map of Disablity

Map of Disability

I don”t have a map for how I am to handle this with my children. Often I lay awake at night and second guess how I do, but the other night I was proud. My oldest recently went ice skating at night with a friend and her family.  She came home late.  I asked- “Was it fun?” “Yes mom -a blast!”  “I’m just really tired.  Can I go to bed?” I could tell there was something else on her mind.  Night is our “talking” time so I put the youngest to bed and then went to Libby’s room.  We started our chat… “What was the best part?” – a question I always ask to find the light in her eyes.  “Mom, a lady there fell.” I reassured her people fall all the time.  “No mom she REALLY fell. I think she broke her arm.”  Again reassuring her it will be alright.  I replayed a story that my mom had the same type of accident just on roller skates.  It landed her in a cast and time with a physical therapist. “MOM (clearly I was missing something) the ambulance was there and I think she had a disability.”  Stopped in my tracks I decided I needed to listen closely to the answers of the questions I was about to ask.  “How could you tell she had a disability?”  “Mom, I could just tell.”  “Did you see it happen?” “No.”  “Did you try to help?”  “No mom. I couldn’t and she didn’t have anyone there with her and it looked like it really hurt.” “Did you think she was scared?”  “She had to be. Mom, I’m scared.” “Scared about what?” “I’m afraid that something might happen to dad and we won’t be around.  No one should be alone mom.”

When my head hit the pillow that night I was dismayed about my inability to calm her fears because I cant promise her anything.  I can’t promise everything is going to be ok.  I can’t promise he wont fall.  I can’t promise I wont get sick- a questions she asks regularly.  I have no promises for what lies ahead for us.  We don’t know what will happen- we have to expect the unexpected. But I do know we can promise we will always be there for her dad.  I was  proud that my daughter understands that there are people who may stand out to her for different reasons in this world and that NO one should be alone in their fight.

Together Forever

Together Forever

Why I Admire Russell Wilson – The Last of Which Is Football

Russell and the Girls Bowl Christmas

This Sunday there is an amazing NFL game on – The Seattle Seahawks vs The Washington Redskins. Both teams have incredible rookie quarterbacks with current ESPN passing stats impressively ahead of Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Drew Brees.  Their unexpected success so early in their career is an inspiration, and they have already become huge role models among rising youth, but in a battle between Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, Russell will always get my vote for MVP.  All things Russell amaze me.  Not only does he have the ability to persistently conquer challenges and routinely dispel doubts from his critics, but on and off the field, he actively lives a life that makes him a player with a tremendous heart.  These qualities are awe-inspiring, and for him, they seem to come naturally, and we were lucky to get to know him as a young athlete at NCSU.

A lot of things happen in the locker room.  Its a place where men celebrate victories, lick their wounds, visualize their next game and make new promises to themselves.   It’s a place of camaraderie where boys build each other up to become men.  In these walls are the sounds of pep talks, prayers before and after a game, strategies on how to win, the boisterous howls of team spirit and determination when the coach delivers his pre game speech. I just know that whatever happens in this ultimate mans cave stays in the confine of those walls.  Afterwards, once the game is over and the crowd has dispersed, the room gets quieter.  During away games, it’s a scramble to get cleaned up, get back to the team plane, and get back home. And it was in this type of moment, in the hush of a locker room after all players and coaches had gone, that my husband had a real struggle with Parkinson’s.  He was unable to button his shirt.

So, there stood 2 men.  One was  Don – a 50 something year old man responsible for teaching his players to protect the quarterback. The other was Russell Wilson, the 20-something-year-old quarterback that my husband was supposed to protect.  I’m sure Russell was one of the last guys because he had just completed post game interviews.  In the boundaries of this locker room, is where common decency and humanity happened.  Unfortunately limited mobility is one of the side effects of Parkinson’s and Don had expended all his energy on the field. Unaware of Don’s disease, Russell, a player with tremendous heart saw his struggle and helped. He just walked over and helped Don get dressed.  Without speaking a word, a tremendous human being didn’t pass judgement, didn’t ask questions and more importantly didn’t walk out of the room without making sure all was good.

Post Game

Russell, Girls and Friend Just Outside The Locker Room

When Don got home that night, he shared what had happened in the locker room.  He was embarrassed.  Yes, for the fact that he needed help, but more so for the fact that he was losing the ability to do the things that he took for granted.  That was early on in his disease where he, and truth be told we, had difficulty accepting some of the challenges that were ahead of us.  This was our wake-up call.  As he shared his concerns about getting into a situation like this again, inspiration hit, and I thought I could help him.   I’m not sure if Don ever thanked Russell, or if in a man’s world, that’s just something not spoken about.  However, I do remember personally giving Russell a letter of thanks from me.  In a football environment where struggles aren’t an everyday occurrence, Russell showed grace and humility.  The thank you was truly heartfelt because it’s difficult to express gratitude for something so personal.

our guest speaker... the bully?

our guest speaker… the bully?

In the off season of that year, Russell came to the rescue again.  I asked if he could come to my daughter’s school and speak to the students about bullying because I knew he would impart his wisdom, grace and first hand experience.  Without hesitation, he agreed to help out.  Obviously, the kids were enamored by his presence, but surprisingly it was what he shared that left the impression.  Russell admitted that he himself was a bully!  He talked about growing up and how he would target kids on the playground in attempt to acquire friends.  He then conveyed his turning point and how he now chooses to live his life.  The kids couldn’t get enough of him.  He was there to give a 30 minute lecture, but ended up staying and interacting with the kids for over an hour fielding questions on everything from his relationships with girls (he wasn’t married at the time), to God, to the music on his iPod and to the challenges of being a student athlete.   He was personable and kind and gave each of those 440 kids a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Russell didn’t need to spend his down time doing this but somewhere I felt he was happy to have the platform.  Again, just a man living the life he speaks about.

My eldest daughter recently asked me in all seriousness, “How did Russell get a bowl named after him already?”  She just assumed that the Russell Athletic Bowl was named after him and not an apparel company.  When we watch Russell play, we see more than just a great athlete, or a stat with a story.  We see a remarkable human being that we know will have many things named after him one day.