Another Coincidence? You Decide!

Hello friends,

Hope this posts finds you all well!

Okay, I know I’ve written the everything-happens-for-a-reason blog at some point in my blogging career (uses term loosely :)), but I had an incident recently that’s just too much of a coinkidink? Judge for yourself!

Beginning sometime a few Thursdays ago (3/1/2012, to be exact—date isn’t significant; I just happened to remember it, lol), I had this ridiculous craving for white or yellow cake (homemade, as in box cake) with classic chocolate frosting on it. I was convinced I had the frosting in the pantry but couldn’t find it. I also forgot to pick it up at the market on my usual Friday trip there.

The weekend passed, and I didn’t make that cake. Almost got one of those Entemnan’s Chocolate Frosted Golden Cakes late Saturday night but passed b/c I swear, I’d have eaten almost all of it myself. Would have made one Sunday night, but we had no eggs and I was too lazy to go to the convenience store to get some. (Nor do I care for the brand of eggs they sell and I was really trying to NOT make this cake, darn it!)

Of course, Monday comes and I’m still craving this stupid cake. After dinner, I took a chance I had some leftover chocolate frosting in my spare fridge (in the basement) and headed down there to look.

Mind you, this came on the heels of a very weird smell I’d noticed (and hadn’t been able to pinpoint or locate its source) over the weekend prior. By Sunday night hubby thought maybe we had a dead mouse (or worse???) buried somewhere near the alcoves under the stairs leading to my basement. (I store toys and games for school there, kids’ shoes, etc. My younger son plays his video games down there, too.) After I ran the dishwasher though, the smell seemed to have dissipated and/or disappeared.

Back to my frosting: there was none in the downstairs refrigerator—which had switched off.

Odd.

It’s one of those models that needs to be manually defrosted. (Yep. Those archaic things are still around. Hubby bought it for his apartment prior to us meeting; it’s 19 years old.) The ice had fallen onto the few bags of frozen chicken in there, so I didn’t have to toss them. (BTW, I learned frozen pierogi and stuffed shells are much more delicate in texture and flavor when cooked after defrosting, thank you very much.)

The circuit breaker wasn’t out, so that wasn’t why the power had switched off. One look at the power source gave me the heebee-geebies: The supposedly heavier-duty three-outlet power strip—into which ONLY the fridge was plugged—had burned almost through one side. That weird smell had been rubber melting, though it wasn’t a typical odor. How we avoided an electrical fire is something I’ll never know. Having lived through the aftermath of one—more on that in this post—I’m beyond grateful that I don’t have to do that again. (Something also tells me my outlet has been rendered useless but until an electrician checks that one out, I won’t know for sure.)

Ridiculous how a quest for chocolate frosting led me to such a discovery, isn’t it? Chances are, the only connection between the two is in my head, but here’s one final coincidence. Last night, I found the container of chocolate frosting I’d believed I’d had all along—in the pantry and exactly where I’d expected it to be. (Of course that was AFTER I finally made it to the market, got another container of frosting and made my cake. My craving has been satisfied–until the next one ;)!)

Your turn: share your story about a coincidence that maybe wasn’t?

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Until next time,

Joanna

More Thoughts on Angels: Tribute to One in Particular

I’ve written about angels before. (Faith and Angels: Parts One and Two.) I truly believe they exist, taking on all kinds of forms. They touch our lives and sometimes alter a given person’s life trajectory. At times we’re aware of their presence or the forces/events they evoke. Sometimes, we’re angels to others and may or may not know about it until ages later—possibly never.  (BTW, knowing is a humbling experience, but a blessing too. Just another reason I have to believe.)

Doesn’t matter whether we’re aware or not; kind of like that tree in the forest falling and making a sound. Sound waves happened. Just because ears weren’t around to perceive the noise doesn’t mean there was none.

Quick disclaimer: I speak only for myself, from MHO and my experiences. Take what you like and leave the rest.

Sigh. Almost three years ago, I was assigned to a child who received home instruction and related services (i.e., occupational therapy) due to a combination of significant medical conditions incurred when he was a little under two years old. Until I entered the home the first time, I didn’t realize he was my neighbor too. He was pretty-much wheelchair-bound, and I had already seen him being wheeled around by his nurse on many occasions in my neighborhood. One more thing: this guy was roughly my younger son’s age.

That day I showed to meet him, his dad told me to expect the boy to cry. He did not. We shared our first session, engaged in a couple of activities and set our schedule.

I saw him once weekly for a full school year and during our extended school year summer program. I’ll never be sure how much he looked forward to me in particular coming (I really believe he preferred my colleague who also saw him once/week), but we hung in there just the same.

During many of our sessions he did cry. But during others, he tolerated me doing things hand-over-hand. He put up with me getting him up to dance to my favorite on his I-pod, The Jackson Five’s Rockin’ Robin. (On one occasion, I hit REPEAT so many times, the boy’s dad came in, wondering if something was wrong with the device, lol.) We practiced dressing, getting out of bed with as little help as possible, then wheeling into his adapted bathroom to do grooming and hygiene tasks (i.e., washing face, brushing teeth, combing hair—you know, getting handsome.)

He didn’t speak but signed for me here and there: mostly yes/no via clapping (or not) to indicate whether he wanted to do a given activity. He never verbalized directly to me but loved one nurse in particular and engaged in “conversation” with her. She’d say words and he’d repeat them—always immediately after my session, while I prepared to leave. He also talked to his dad. (I didn’t get to see too many interactions with his mom, but he always cried when she left for the day. She works a day job while his dad stayed home as primary caregiver.)

I didn’t know then that his condition was already deteriorating. By last January, his oxygen levels had already started declining and he often looked very blue. I spoke to his dad about this; he stated the doctors were very aware of the condition and that only so much could be done to stabilize and/or improve it. (For confidentiality purposes, I’m not at liberty to disclose more details.)

My student hung in there and we switched more to activities and tasks I hoped he found fun. Although I believe he enjoyed at least some our sessions, he still cried often, so this past September I asked my colleague if she’d be willing to take on the second session. He rarely cried when she was there. (The running joke was I did the show tunes; my colleague went by Mary Poppins.) Since she’d become his all-time favorite kid, she went twice weekly and always stayed longer than the scheduled time. He wasn’t work.

This boy didn’t have functional speech. He had physical challenges and was cortically blind. His ability to use his hands and walk was very limited and he was dependent in nearly all aspects of self-care. Yet, he was very aware of those around him, knew what he wanted and how to communicate that in his unique way.

He loved music and signed for it. He preferred kiddy tunes but his dad slowly transitioned him to more age appropriate, contemporary hits. As per my colleague, he’d tug at his hair to be told how handsome he looked. He did a Stevie Wonder impression and indicated his desire to engage in his favorites of the activities my colleague brought to their sessions. I’d tease him about ‘defecting’ to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ camp (from my newly beloved NY Giants) after one of his nurses’ sons joined the former NFL organization. (I’m thinking he was big on Elmo too. The floral arrangement pictured here is the only image I could find to give an idea of the full-body one made of red-dyed spider mums (?)—it was amazing!

 www.babiesgottahaveit.com

Here are some of my colleagues thoughts on their interactions: “He loved his routine and would start signing or pull on his hair if I went out of order, or forgot his favorite activity.  He knew. He had the most beautiful smile I ever saw. As you mentioned he had a great sense of humor.  If I laughed with favorite nurse or his father he would join in.  I believe he sometimes understood what we were laughing about. Wanted his music on immediately and his water ready. Could be stubborn as well, when I was ready to leave and asked if he would miss me he always refused to sign.  I could go on and on.”

His parents obviously adored him and dedicated their lives to making his the best they believed they could. I’m thinking he was their angel and vice versa. Recently he took on the abstract form we associate with those spiritual beings. He took a very bad turn after a recent medical procedure and passed away. (He turned my younger son’s age a little over a month ago.)

At his wake, I met the physical therapist who’d worked with him longer than any of us. She gave me more background on how many things this boy had been able to do before his health started its downward decline. I marveled at how much I’d missed coming into this boy’s story late as I did. From what I understand, he had a pretty cool sense of humor. (Think he showed it to my colleague more.)

Why am I writing this? I attended his funeral the day before and found myself tremendously listless the rest of the day. I’m still can’t stop thinking about him today. He crossed my mind every time I passed his street and will do so even more in future days. I think of his parents and how they handled their trip to Holland when they believed themselves Italy-bound. I’m looking to write a tribute to give to his parents and hope the best words come as I explore my thoughts and feelings. I won’t tell you he didn’t touch me before. These past two days I realize just how much and very deeply affected I am with his passing.

I’ve worked in my current school district (where I reside, too) for a very long time. I’m sure other children have passed away during my stretch-in-progress, but any who may have weren’t my students, so I wasn’t aware. In the past fifteen months, five have gone on to become angels. Four of those five were mine in some shape or form.

Makes me sad.

Makes me think.

Teaches me to see this particular population of earthly angels in a completely new way.

Thank you for taking time to read this.

Joanna

My Angels Came From…(Faith and Angels–Part 2)

Picking up where I left off this past Tuesday, friends. (Here’s the prequel, in case you’d like to catch up:).)

Yes, we’re back to talking angels. Last Friday (on my scheduled “day off”–or day when I work for no pay) I was at my new favorite supermarket. There I ran into a mom whose son I worked with as a preschooler. He is now in eighth grade. My older guy is in ninth. We mentioned college. With that came the topic of ‘where will the funds for that come from?’ so I went into my God-gives-you-what-you-need-when-you-need-it spiel and cited the examples from the previous post.

At nearly 2 PM , I took off from there toward school then decided the trip could wait until Monday. I missed a turn and figured it was no big deal to stop in since I was only two blocks from the school. (I wanted to drop off a couple of things I’d picked up for one of my wheelchair-bound students. I’ll be darned if I didn’t walk into her class at the very moment the teacher and this student’s assistant were struggling with the wheelchair’s leg rest.  I offered to help and in less than sixty seconds I had it fixed and showed them how to pull the piece just so, to avoid the problem in the future. (Moving and/or removable pieces on a wheelchair are just part of the rehab-occupational therapist’s gig.)

Another coincidence? I suppose, but at the risk of sounding full of myself, was I those teachers’ designated angel of the moment?

Okay, the big illustration. Several years ago, we had a small house fire. Reconstruction from that led to the beginning of my kitchen being remodeled when hubby and I had absolutely no real money to do so. Not only did I happen on an entire set of cabinets (hardware AND moldings included) at 90% clearance at a wholesale cabinet place, but the store’s demo  layout was pretty much what a Lowe’s designer had sketched for me a few months before, while I wondered how my crazy kitchen space could be best utilized.

These cabinets wound up piled in our garage and hubby got stuck with the job of figuring out what to do with them. The man can be handy, mind you, but he’d never taken on a job of this magnitude and was pretty overwhelmed. This led to major procrastination on his part.

     ‘BEFORE’ (major lack of counter space)

Enter his childhood friend (we’ll call him Raphael—Rafa for short ;)), up from Florida to do  work for his aunt and uncle. Rafa has perfectionist tendencies and was getting crazy and frustrated trying to work with his relatives to complete repair/restoration jobs they weren’t willing to do right. He was also getting very upset staying there.

Hubby offered him the option of staying at our home. Rafa accepted and found himself incredibly restless until he happened into our garage and saw my cabinets. He put himself on as foreman for my kitchen remodel (and threw in un-texturing the ceiling just…because). Together with another of hubby’s longtime friends who knows electrical work and was up fromPuerto Rico, they gave my honey the direction and help he needed to turn my kitchen into the dream the lady at Lowe’s designed.

   ‘AFTER’ 😀

(Pizza-dough-rolling perfection space–courtesy of Lowe’s designer who taught me granite cost nominally more than high-end laminate and included the fees for templates, delivery and installation. Go figure. Wall and floor tile work/design courtesy of my brother and his workers.)

     

Ask anyone who believes in angels where they come from. ‘Heaven’ is the standard answer. I tell everyone mine came direct from Florida and Puerto Rico.

So what are your experiences with angels and faith?

Thanks for taking the time!

Joanna

Faith and Angels–Part 1

Happy Tuesday everyone. I am a week behind when I originally planned on putting this one up. (Hope you found it worth the ‘wait.’ :)) The post is also a little longer than I would have liked, but the editing monster won’t let me cut it back any more so I broke it up into two parts. (Sorry, friends. God made me a chatty storyteller!)

Once upon a time I was a religious person. Not so sure about the dogma and discipline part, but I rarely lack for faith, primarily in a universal higher power I choose to call God. I try to practice many of the tenets taught by Jesus Christ. I also revel in the spirituality and peace-of-soul that comes to me via the philosophy and adoption (and adaptation to my unique needs) of the twelve steps.

Once upon a time, anxiety could get me up in the night, wreaking havoc with my mind while playing scary games with my heart. (During a particularly difficult period at my first hospital job, I’d go to sleep with music playing—crazy how I had to stop listening to Sting’s Nothing Like the Sun CD–after a few episodes of waking up in a stereotypical cold sweat and heart palpitations to  the cut Fragile. (Took me a long time to listen to that incredible song after that.)

This little recounting brings me back to my beliefs. I hold dearly to the idea that God gives me what I need exactly when I need it—not on my time, but on His—and yes, that may include an angel or two. (More on that in Thursday’s post.)

On one of those mornings when I was work-bound to that hospital where I felt I was losing my mind (I alluded to that time in this post), after one of those nights I’d awakened to Fragile, I remember tuning into a Christian radio station as I drove. I was immediately slammed with this Bible quote: “Do not be anxious about anything. But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

I did a double-take at the radio. Coincidence? Maybe. But that was exactly what I needed and I’ve often fallen back on that moment or spontaneously called upon those words too many times since.

That’s one example and possibly a reflection of the way I choose to see how things happen in my life. Just the other day I was fretting about this month’s bills when hubby tells me we got an Escrow refund and our mortgage is going down. (When is the last time that happened–and exactly in time to help fund a fairly large but unexpected car repair?) Hubby also found a way to lower our auto insurance without losing coverage. We got an ALDI market in our neighborhood and now there is $$ left after food shopping. Need I go on?)

Uh…yes, but I’m saving that for the next post! Stop in Thursday for part two!

In the meantime, I’d love to read about your experiences with how you got what you needed exactly when you needed it. Take the floor folks. It now belongs to you!

Joanna