The Perfect Leather Jacket

Over the last year I’ve been slowly working my way through a book, Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I say slowly because I’m only halfway through it!

I got the book and the accompanying workbook out of the library and dug in deep. (I’m too cheap to buy them!) I found I had a lot to learn about boundaries, but I have felt God gently showing me a lot about myself and the way I was raised, and also about my parents.

There were some things I held against them over the years, things that became my own battle cry to “never be like my parents”, until (shock) I heard their words come out of my mouth.

I can’t explain it any other way than that God supernaturally brought understanding to my mind, helping me see the way life had molded my parents based on all I know about their childhoods.

I’ve had a lot of light bulb moments in the past year. I’ve learned to see the reasons behind their inability to set good boundaries for me, to teach me how to set them for myself. And as I remember the way my world was as I grew up, I’ve had a lot of questions answered by diving into this book.

I’ve also rejoiced when answering questions showing the good sides of my parents. Though it’s necessary to examine the negative, the book really does balance it with applauding the good things I’ve learned and the people who have helped me.

This week I’ve journaled about how my parents taught me to make good decisions, and to learn the value of delayed gratification.

And it all comes down to the perfect leather jacket.

I was about 17 years old, working my first job, driving a car a family friend had donated to the preacher’s kids (my older sister and myself). It was made the year I was born.

I have to clarify. This was my first job working for a business that gave me a weekly paycheck.

Because one thing my parents excelled at was living within their means. Which meant that they didn’t splurge on lots of extras for us four kids.

I never really thought about it until I was grown and married, but we were probably poor. The thing is, it never felt that way. We had a home and food and clothes and love, and I never lacked for anything I truly needed.

And there’s the secret.

Of course when I was little I didn’t know the difference between a want and a need. But that was one of the first and best lessons I ever learned. As we got older, Dad especially impressed on us that they were taking care of our needs, but our wants were up to us to supply.

He helped out by taking us strawberry picking at a friend’s patch once school was out in June, and we set up shop in the front of our big barn. He made signs painted to show our hours, what we sold, and if we were open or closed.

We kids sat out in the barn, sold the baskets of berries, restocked the table, collected the money, and cleaned up when we sold out.

This led to getting more produce already picked later in the summer: tomatoes, squash, green beans, peppers, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, and the season ender, corn.

In this home produce stand was where I found my love of numbers and counting, handling money, calculating and distributing the profits that were left after we repaid Dad for the produce costs.

I excelled at this. I don’t remember what my siblings loved most about the stand, but next to talking to the customers and adding up their purchases, the hands-on economics class was a thrill for me.

I would keep track of how much time each person spent working the stand. Down to the minute. And once we had paid Dad, we took 10% off the top and put that in what we called the “family fund”, which was to be used for whatever we all agreed on. Maybe a trip to Cedar Point or extras during our annual trip home to North Carolina.

The rest was divided between us kids based on how many hours had been worked and what percentage of the time was spent doing the work.

We each then tithed off our profits, and the rest we could spend on whatever we wanted! My favorite was to get tart ‘n tinies, which were miniature Sweetarts in the shape of little pellets once in a while, play a few games at Cedar Point, and save the rest.

I was probably 9 or 10 when we started working the stand, and it lasted past when I started that “real” job. It was no wonder that within a year I was asked to do the weekly inventory and cash reconciliations, once they learned how good I was at handling those details of the restaurant where I worked.

And so finally, after years of socking most of my money away in a savings account, I found myself at the local mall in a trendy clothing store, smelling the rich warmth of that brown leather jacket.

It fit me perfectly! Not too baggy across the shoulders, but with enough room to move my arms. I remember the feel of the silky lining as they slipped into it the first time I tried it on. Cool and smooth and luxurious.

As my hands warmed the leather the fragrance of it teased my senses. It was similar to the musky cologne I liked.

I had to have it.

So I did what people did in the 70’s. I put it on layaway. I put a small deposit down, and then I would need to come and pay a minimum amount every week until I paid it off.

Only then could I take it home.

That first week I described it to my family and friends. I couldn’t wait to go “visit” it the first time and make my payment, trying it on again to be sure it fit as good as I remembered.

Meanwhile life was moving on, and I was looking at going to college. And starting to figure the cost, because my parents couldn’t help much.

And I had to make one more trip. To say goodbye.

Lots of “if only’s” came to mind for several months after I got my money back. The thoughts of how I would have looked walking into school or church, the envy or congratulations from my peers.

That perfect leather jacket wasn’t the only thing I’ve wanted and not gotten. But it was the first. And the lessons it has taught me have carried me safely past potentially bad financial decisions.

Because, like I eventually had to say that last time in the store, I can still hear my Dad saying, “Is this something you really need, or is it something you only want to have?”

And those are words I don’t mind hearing come out of my own mouth.

Thanks, Dad. You taught me well.

The ever-changing view

Pieces of the puzzle came together for me last week.

But I’m having trouble seeing the big picture as I’ve been searching for those missing pieces for a year now.

It’s easy to remember when it started. It was November 9, Oldest Son’s birthday last year, and we were on a college visit with Middle Son when I woke up with what seemed like a cold.

Except I didn’t get over it.

I’ve already written a lot about this, so I won’t repeat it all. But something was different about this feeling. Mostly that I lost my senses of smell and taste, and my sinuses always seemed congested. And I was often hoarse or unable to sing.

It just came to me as I was writing this, that this whole scenario happened to me before, a long time ago. Don’t you love it when one memory triggers another?

That time it also lasted about a year, from deep winter of early 1995 to late spring of 1996. The worst part for me was losing my voice. At that time we were very involved in our church, and it was like torture to not be able to sing out, or often to even talk loud enough to be heard.

I remember at the time I felt it was God pulling me back from some pride issues I was having. It may well have been his way of reining in my ego! And when I came to face it and learned to have humility about whatever gifts and talents God had given me, my voice returned to normal.

If I had documented every time I had these same symptoms I think I would find a pattern of my “normal” being limited by things I never thought to look for.

Sometimes I’ve been diagnosed with bronchitis, even pneumonia. More often with a sinus infection. For all these years, other than my long-ago original diagnosis of asthma, health care professionals have not made much of a connection between asthma and my issues.

And not one of them ever thought to test me for allergies.

Until after my near-death experience a few weeks ago.

The Monday following my most recent attack I was with my asthma and allergy doctor. So far we had been tackling asthma issues. I had participated in a couple clinical trials, and found some medications that worked better than what I had been using.

I was able to brainstorm with my doctor for a few minutes, and he was adamant that what I had experienced was not an asthma attack, but an allergic reaction.

And he was right.

I finally remembered taking Aleve an hour before I couldn’t breathe, and as I’ve looked back over the last year I realize I had been taking a lot of Aleve, especially before my worst attacks.

Yes, some of them were asthma, but some were allergic reactions. And some of my asthma triggers are turning out to be things I’m allergic to.

Which brings me up to last week, when I finally got tested for environmental sensitivities.

The worst thing I heard was that I’m allergic to trees. All the trees. All the ones I’ve loved my whole life. My beloved birch trees, that I used to climb as a girl. The willow I loved to drape around me like a beautiful dress and dance around in it.

And the maples I dug up from in front of my parent’s house and planted in our brand new freshly married yard, with dreams of my own someday children climbing and playing in their grown-up shade.

And the pieces fell into place. Why I can’t tolerate being outside for too long. Because it’s not just trees. Add grasses and weeds.

And it isn’t because I don’t want to take a walk or run around on a ball field or explore a forest.

If you could have seen me as a child you would be amazed that I could ever be happy inside four walls.

But for years it has been increasingly harder to enjoy, and I’m really sad to see the reason. Now I have to deal with it.

I’ve been referring to this whole process like it’s a puzzle and pieces have been missing. But when I started writing this post the words to one of my favorite songs as a teenager popped into my head:

“My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue
An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view
A wondrous woven magic in bits of blue and gold
A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold” (“Tapestry”, Carole King)

That idea of my life as a tapestry has always intrigued me. I do a little needlework, and the backside of a piece often looks drastically different from the finished side. But since adolescence I’ve always been aware that at any time I may be seeing the “pretty” side of my life, or I may have emerged behind what is easily seen to get a different perspective on my situation.

I think I really want to see this as a tapestry instead of a puzzle.

And there’s more. Dust mites. All the dust mites.

I have always known I can’t stir up the dust. This is not a new thing, but I was not constantly plagued with the physical aftermath before this past year.

My way of dealing with this has been to avoid cleaning. Even as a girl I would rather deal with laundry or dishes than vacuum and dust. And as an adult I decided it was better to not kick up the dust so I wouldn’t be sneezing and blowing my nose for days.

So I’m sunk, outside or in.

When I look at this section of my tapestry, will I see God working in the background to move me into a different season of life where he has things for me to do away from the things that cause me discomfort? Or will I see only what I can’t do or be around anymore, things that used to bring me such joy?

And between the two outlooks, I think I’d rather this be about learning a lesson in obedience from God and not about the restrictions imposed by allergies.

And why can’t it be both?

Because it isn’t just funny shaped pieces that somehow fit together.

Life is so much more a moving, shifting work of art. It’s a living canvas, a cloth knit with a changing palette of elements.

And just like in the act of writing these thoughts I saw a thread that entered the scene over twenty years ago, where I am now, whatever is ahead, is no accident.

This design has a designer. And though I may not like or understand what is being woven in me over this past year, I can choose to step off.

And lift my face.

And see that it’s just a small part, a unique and necessary pattern, in a masterpiece.

Washing away the griminess

The dust hasn’t yet settled on the work, but in the middle of recent events I had some really good memories come to the surface.

The last couple of weeks have the makings of stories that will be told for years to come: when the hot water heater, water softener and clothes dryer all quit at the same time. At least we should be able to remember the year it happened!

The most important part of it was that the water heater and softener were both original to the house when we built it, and had lasted for more than 34 years.

In late March of 1985 I got engaged to a guy my dad had set me up with on a blind date. I’m not going to tell the whole story here, but it was definitely a God thing that we got together.

The important part for this story is that I had hit rock bottom, knew I was lousy at picking guys to get involved with, and asked God to show me “in so clear a way that I can’t deny it’s you picking and not me” if his will was for me to get married.

And he used my dad to show me.

Because I had not been talking to my dad about anything of substance for months. A romantic relationship had ended, I had gone through a time of depression (though no one named it back then), and I realize now I was ashamed and feeling unworthy of my dad’s love and care.

So obviously I took it out on him, put up my defenses so I didn’t have to face my feelings.

Then he suggested fixing me up with someone. And knowing my dad and the variety of people he knew, I was sure he would name someone I would just hate.

So when he said the name of a man God had been bringing to my mind for about ten years, I was unable to speak.

God had done it. Made it clear that this was his choice. He had my dad name the only guy I had any secret desire to know better.

Since my fiance was in the construction industry he had already picked a basic starter house he was planning to have built that spring anyway. Over the previous couple years he had bought land, put in a driveway, had a well dug, put in a septic system, and built a pole barn. The house was the next step.

And the wife.

We spent our date nights touring homes under construction by our builder, tweaked the design to add a family room, second bath, and a big closet, and prayed the bank would approve our plans.

Everything went through seamlessly, and on my parents’ 32nd wedding anniversary, June 6, 1985, we broke ground on the house.

And based on the estimate for construction time, we set the wedding date: September 28, 1985.

What a summer that was! We both worked at least five days a week, and spent most of those evenings cooking something simple on one of those tiny hibachi grills at the house. We took note of every change from day to day, documenting it with pictures. I hammered a nail into about every stud in the place, just so I could say I “helped” build the house.

The structure wouldn’t be huge, but it would be cozy. And of all the rooms in the house, the coziest was the laundry room.

It was small, but how much room could a washer and dryer take up? Then the furnace went in. And the water heater. In their own little alcove. Then the water softener and the big salt tank went in next to it, right in the middle of one wall.

Once the washer and dryer were in place against the other usable wall, there was almost no floor space, only enough for the door to open into the room, and a corner to lean a broom and mop.

But it was ours.

I remember the excitement when the drywall was up! Finally came the day to start painting.

So the memories returned last Saturday, after the old water heater and softener were gone, leaving holes in the room that had been occupied for 34 years. And dust that had been unreachable until last weekend.

I had a new dryer coming that morning, so I was up early scraping and scrubbing through the dirt on the floor, washing down the walls that we hadn’t seen so much of in decades.

And as clear as anything I could see my dad on those days we were painting. I think he was there every time, as he liked doing it and was always willing to pitch in when there was work to be done.

In fact, Dad was probably the hardest-working person I’ve ever known. He took on way too many projects he had no business doing – like painting the roof of our three-story farmhouse electric neon green – and pitched in to help anyone doing any kind of fix-up, no matter if he had any expertise or not.

We didn’t hire jobs done around our house. Dad tackled them all. And if he couldn’t fix it, he’d ask a neighbor who knew more to come help him get things back on track. He fixed plumbing and cars and lawn mowers. He had a boiler engineer’s license when he left the Air Force and worked in that field for many years while also preaching.

And he acted like it gave him license to fix anything he wanted to give a try. Of course he usually commandeered us kids to help, and we all knew what it was to work hard.

On those painting days I was glad for his help, but more thankful for the time we spent doing the work. I can’t remember what we said, but we talked, maybe the longest since I’d met my soon-to-be husband.

Sometimes healing comes to a relationship when I least expect it. Not because I am trying to fix things, but because the life I’ve been blessed with puts things into perspective, and suddenly whatever the issues I had with them are not as important as the person.

As I washed down the walls I was amazed that the paint was still holding, that I could still remove the grime and see the color I had picked all those years ago.

And I was full of joy that as the years have gone by I’ve also been able to let go of old hurts between my dad and I, that even though he’s been gone over 26 years, I’m finally able to face my past and let my mind focus on all the ways my dad loved me, even when I didn’t think I wanted him to.

The Common Denominator

All my friends are sinners.

Which is a relief, because so am I.

It isn’t something we get to choose. It is in our nature to want what we can’t have, and to have the audacity to think we deserve it anyways.

Way back in the beginning, Adam and Eve could eat from everything in the Garden of Eden except one tree. So what do you suppose they ended up doing? You bet. They decided, with some well-placed rationalizations by Satan in a serpent disguise, that they deserved to be like God, and they ate the fruit they believed would give them god-like qualities.

That didn’t work out so well for them. Or for us as a result.

Yet don’t we keep doing the same thing?

People don’t use the word sin as much as they used to. I think it’s a perfectly fine word, a sobering one that tells it like it is.

One that affects every single person who ever lived.

I used to have no mercy towards people who I saw reaping the consequences of the way they chose to live their lives. After all, don’t we all freely choose to do good or bad? It was as simple as that in my mind. And I felt my superior attitude was fine, because of course I wasn’t doing those things I found so objectionable in others.

That was back when I was still hiding so much of my own past, even from myself. It was easy to excuse my sins, but not those of others.

Then I walked into my first Celebrate Recovery meeting, and I met people who were sinners and weren’t afraid to admit it. Most of them openly admitted that they had all kinds of things they were struggling with.

You might think at a recovery meeting that most of those there would be dealing with an addiction of some kind, but I found then and know now that only about three out of ten people at a CR meeting have struggled with an addiction.

At my first few meetings I listened as others shared about all kinds of hurts, habits and hang-ups they were facing and finding healing from, and it gave me the courage to start facing my own issues.

My own sins.

I’m a person who has some really strong spiritual gifts. Over the last twenty years or so I’ve taken spiritual gifts inventories and consistently score very high in several areas.

And very low in one.

Yep, mercy.

One of the last times I took an inventory we discussed how the different spiritual gifts look in action, and we were challenged to develop the ones we were weak in, to ask God to help us become stronger in the qualities he’d like us to have.

I really didn’t want to improve my mercy score. I felt fine in my smugness.

Not only did I start attending CR, I also joined a Step Study right away. Like four days later.

And within a couple of weeks I was ruined for regular Bible studies.

I know it’s important and necessary to read and study the Bible, but after the experience of reaching down inside myself and pulling out wrong attitudes and actions I’d engaged in, as well as revealing the things done to me as the result of other people’s sin, I can’t stick to the surface and not go deep any more.

Life is too short to just smooth over the things God wants me to wrestle with and conquer.

In the nine months that Step Study took, everyone heard my junk and I heard everyone else’s.

And against the old me’s better judgment, I loved those sisters more than I could have imagined, even knowing their faults and failings.

Because, well, mercy blossomed. Like it was just waiting for the right conditions to grow.

We are none of us perfect, but we are being perfected by this process of recovery.

By the time my first Step Study was finished I realized I wasn’t the same person anymore. I was more real, more honest, and because of the things I’d had to face, humbled.

And I looked at other people differently. When I walked in to CR the first night, my thinking may have gone something like, “Man, these are a bunch of messed up people! I’m glad I’m not as bad as any of them. They must have really weak character to have gotten themselves into so many bad situations.”

But somewhere in the process, God did something miraculous in me. He replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh, and I found that I no longer thought of people as what they had done, but as how much I wanted them to fall in love with God so he could heal their hurts and give them hope that they could change with his strength.

So week after week you will find me at CR on Friday nights, because I’m a sinner and I need God’s help to place his nature in me more and more so that I no longer have any desire to try to have what I can’t. Because I am letting him show me what I need.

I want to be clear that I’m not excusing the bad things I chose to do as if they can be made right. They can’t be.

But they have been forgiven.

By God, and by me. And hopefully by those I’ve hurt.

And so now when I see the sin in others, I look at them in a different way.

I no longer see only the expected consequences of their bad choices. I see so much potential for healing. I see people who have tried to treat their own hurts by doing everything but going to the only one who can help them.

And I know that if they spend some time around people who are actively letting Jesus take the lead, they will be on their way to getting what they really need.

Which is so much better than getting what you want.

The beauty of CR is that I’m not going through this alone. I am surrounded by my forever family, people who I love deeply, who I admire and am constantly awed by, who I learn from every time I’m with them.

Because of all the ways they are letting God change them, they are some of the genuinely best people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.

Yes, I’m a sinner. But I’m no longer stuck in my sin.


So to give a little more information about my adventures with asthma (or what I did this summer!), let me take you back to July. I was finishing up my first clinical trial, and for some reason right at the tail end of it I had a pretty bad attack.

For me an attack usually starts with coughing, the coughing is productive and doesn’t let up, and it progresses to wheezing as my lungs get congested with mucus and at the same time the air passages swell, making the space for air to move smaller and smaller.

I lose the ability to talk.

So I have several hours of time spent focusing on my breathing.

I can’t read, play games, even concentrating on tv is too much to expect. I recline or lie down and try to slowly bring air in and out.

The place my mind goes during an attack is a new landscape for me. I’m aware of things immediately around me, but I can’t focus on any of them. Sometimes other people’s voices come through clearly, but I can’t respond.

I’m thinking about how I can’t think too deeply about anything, and I get distracted by my own wheezing, losing even that pitiful train of thought.

I know I’m getting better when the fuzziness of the world around me starts to clear, a sharpness returns like a camera lens that was a little out of adjustment. Only I thought it was clear.

I’ve had mild asthma for years, and never had to do more than use my rescue inhaler once every few months, usually after exercise or going out in very cold or humid air. My “normal” triggers.

But last November I got what I thought was a cold that I couldn’t shake. It settled in my sinuses and nothing I did seemed to help. Meanwhile I lost my sense of smell and taste, started each morning blowing my nose and using a dozen tissues, and lost my voice quite often.

In January I began my adventures with asthma attacks. It wasn’t until after the first one was over that it occurred to me what it was.

I have a really high pain tolerance, and so I was determined to just get back to normal breathing. Even though that took 2 1/2 hours with the first attack, I stubbornly didn’t consider it to be serious.

In February I had a second one. Then in March and April I got help at urgent care, finally getting two courses of antibiotics, which helped not only my sinuses to clear, but also started getting rid of junk in my lungs!

I felt so much better! I had high hopes of spending lots of time piddling in my garden areas this summer.

Then in May I had my third attack. It was on a hot day, humid air, and I had stopped at my daughter’s to plant some flowers I’d gotten her for Mother’s Day.

So much for spending time gardening.

I was very cautious in June, staying inside in air conditioning as much as possible, very aware of my activity and surroundings.

My first clinical trial began in June and it seemed to go well. I was using a better drug than my usual, and I was ready to switch when the trial ended.

But right before my last office visit in early July I had my fourth attack.

This was not part of my plans. I was set to finish the trial that Monday, and leave for five days in Nashville at CR’s Summit East on Tuesday. I had the good meds packed and ready to travel, and I was determined to not let myself get too stressed or tired, hoping to avoid more attacks.

Then a long car ride from Ohio to Tennessee, walking on hills, temps in the upper 90’s, and humidity of about 90%.

And lots of walking at Summit.

I found myself experiencing pain deep in my calves and had a toe swollen and discolored. And a strange feeling of constriction in the middle of my chest.

Despite my physical ailments, I was having a great time. I settled in that first night and started adding to my list I’m keeping of one thousand gifts from God that I can be thankful for. Over the next four days I wrote down 103 different blessings.

I was feeling such thankfulness to God for getting me to Summit, where I was immersed in an atmosphere of pure gratitude and awe of all God has done in all of our lives, me and the 3,000+ others attending, that I couldn’t do anything but give praise.

Yes, my friends were concerned. We discussed whether I should get checked out at a hospital. The words pulmonary embolism were thought and spoken, as were deep vein thrombosis and concern about the chest feeling being one of those odd woman signs of a heart attack.

I prayed about it and really felt I was going to be ok. My breathing was not bad. I carried all my meds with me and used them as needed. I let the rest of our group go off without me and stayed put close to my workshops.

It made for a lot of time with God and it was all good.

On the ride home I got a call from my husband. He and two of our kids had been in a car accident in a parking lot. They were a little banged up from being t-boned, and the van had probably received a death blow.

So no stress for the last four hours of the drive!

When I got home we headed out to get some dinner.

And even on the way there I was starting to cough.

By the time our food came I had progressed to wheezing. And nausea. My husband and I left then to head home, where the attack continued and was worse than any other, adding in vomiting and sweating and shaking.

And when my husband asked if I needed to go to the emergency room, I shook my head no. Because I couldn’t imagine being able to make the effort to walk out to the car to drive there. So I toughed it out. Again.

The next morning, Sunday, I made it until the last of three points in our pastor’s sermon before the constriction in my chest and my shallow breathing made me sure that I was headed to the hospital after service.

I got the lecture about how people actually die during asthma attacks. How the pain in my legs and chest could be the things I’d already thought of.

And I got my first nebulizer treatment.

Truly sweet relief.

Lots of really good things happened that day and into the next, as I was admitted to the hospital and they ran several different tests.

I found out I have great veins in my legs. My heart is perfect. My lungs had no nodes or nodules that would be symptomatic of lung cancer, and no embolism.

The only thing wrong was that asthma had filled my lungs with thick, sticky mucus that I needed to be able to get rid of.

Just like I’d been saying for years.

So a course of steroids and antibiotics, the nebulizer sent home with me, and otherwise a clean bill of health.

I will tell you another time how that knowledge has affected me.

Three attacks total in July, and three more in September brought the total to nine over nine months, the most serious one I wrote about a couple weeks ago.

And then a breakthrough. While brainstorming with my asthma doctor we figured out the culprit. Aleve. Which I’d taken for pain before most of my worst attacks.

So now I’m hoping to only talk about asthma attacks in retrospect.

Because I never want to feel that constricted ever again.


The last time I wrote about my daughter’s first foster baby it was about the day she had to hand her over to case workers to be placed in another home.

Last year this time, Baby A and Big Brother were adopted into that family, finding their forever home.

And after more than a year and a half of not seeing her, our whole family was invited to the adoption party! We were over the moon with excitement!

The day the official adoption proceedings at the courthouse happened was the day before my husband’s and my 33rd anniversary, and the party came a few days later. I don’t even remember celebrating our own milestone, I was so ecstatic that we were going to see Baby A, now almost 2 years old, with Big Brother and their new family.

We joyfully picked out presents for them all, looked back through the pictures on our phones from those brief two months we had the pleasure of helping care for this child, and ticked off the minutes until the day came.

As we drove out to their town I tried not to analyze my feelings. I was nervous (not normal for me), but I didn’t want to think about it then. I’d wait until later to dig into the reasons.

My daughter and Baby B had gone to Baby A’s first birthday party almost a year earlier, and we had been greatly reassured to hear our girl was surrounded by people who loved her and her older brother. And even more pleased to hear how Baby A remembered my daughter, the mother who cared for her in those first months.

It had certainly eased my mind.

And now I could see with my own eyes how our little girl was doing.

Then we arrived. As we expected there was a nice crowd of friends and family come to celebrate. We were welcomed in and introduced to a number of people and the names were all a blur.

I was trying not to look for her.

It was wonderful to see Big Brother, who we had the pleasure of meeting the day Baby A left our family to join with him in this one. He had made an impression on us then, and it was a delight to watch him playing and interacting with so many people. And he was still a sharp dresser!

We saw where the food was laid out, listened as our daughter and Baby A’s mom caught up on their girls’ milestones, getting our bearings.

And I knew she was there somewhere.

Then her Nana came alongside me and asked if I wanted to go see her.

I have to say one of the surprising things to me was the sense of honor I felt was being given to us as Baby A’s first family. In the grand scheme of things we were a part of her life for only two short months. This family had been dealing with the day-to-day sickness, allergies, temper tantrums, and mischief of the nineteen months that followed.

And also all the smiles and cuddles.

But even a year later I am still awed and humbled by the respect and thankfulness Baby A and Big Brother’s new family showed us all.

Nana pointed to where Baby A was eating in her high chair at the back of the garage. And all by myself I walked over to her.

I took in the same high hairline and beautiful rounded forehead I had kissed and nuzzled many times.

We were both wearing purple. I had loved to dress her in purple as it looked so good next to her rich, light brown skin.

She looked like herself, and my heart was so full I wasn’t sure I could stand it without yelling out loud or breaking down in tears, either of which would probably scare her.

I started talking in a low voice, saying some of the same things I used to say to her as an infant. I knew I was repeating myself a little, but I didn’t want to speak things unfamiliar to her, to us.

She stilled.

She was looking at her food, and she stopped moving, stopped doing anything.

Except listening.

To my voice.

She lifted her face and our eyes met.

I was bent over to be closer to her height, and that put us face to face.

I kept talking as I saw recognition come over her features.

A look of pure love.

And Nana asking if I wanted to hold her. Yes! Yes!!

I picked her up and it seemed like right away I was surrounded by my husband and kids, everyone wanting to see and touch and hold.

And it was okay to hand her over to my husband, her Papa, because it was hitting me that I had been living as if with my breath held all these long months.

I did not realize the fear until that moment. The fear that she wouldn’t remember me. Gone in the sparkle of that first look that passed between us.

There was lots of smiling and laughing, eating good food, Baby B at 18 months old toddling around clinging to my legs and wanting up in between playing with Baby A and Big Brother and the other kids.

As time got closer to when we needed to leave, Baby A’s family wanted to get some pictures of all of us with their girl, so we gathered across the street in a big grassy area. My daughter picked her up, someone else held Baby B, and we all smiled like crazy.

And when we were done, Baby A came over to me and I knelt down and let her look through newborn pictures of herself on my phone as I told her about them. She was amazed that I had pictures of us together, the same ones that are in a scrapbook she has.

Then we walked hand in hand with others back to the house, and she wrapped herself around my leg. I picked her up and she draped herself around my shoulders, this great big girl filling up my heart just like she did as a tiny infant.

As she nestled into my neck I sang the first verse of “Baby Mine” that I used to sing as I held and rocked her.

And she fell asleep.

Her family was a little surprised. They said she was hard to get down for a nap, but to me it was just like those early days.

They offered to take her off my hands. But I was willing to hold that child until I collapsed if I could! I did eventually take her into the house and sit down with her, but this knowing was like something I’d expect to feel in heaven.

She knew me. And I knew her.

And love always wins.

Not Finished with Me Yet

Last Thursday I almost died.


I’m still gathering all the pieces of why I didn’t, and I want to capture for you my perspective on what I hope is a one-time occurrence.

(For some background you could check out my post “Inspiration” from August 8, 2019.)

I’m really big on gaining knowledge and understanding. So when my asthma and allergies (still unnamed) started ramping up and causing attacks, I went into research mode. I made an appointment with a pulmonologist, but it was almost two months away. So I responded to a Facebook post about an asthma clinical trial, and found my asthma and allergy doctors instead.

Since then I’ve participated in two clinical trials designed to test generics of an effective asthma drug that makes it more affordable to do what should come naturally.


So in a two week time I had already had two serious asthma attacks: one after visiting a very musty used-book store, another that woke me up coughing and choking in the wee hours of the morning.

That second one got me thinking that I needed a better strategy of how to communicate that I was having trouble. I was alone in the family room to use my nebulizer for an albuterol treatment at 4am, taking my phone in case the distress didn’t let up. But my husband’s phone charges overnight in that room, so it would be down to my teenagers or 911 if I couldn’t walk and breathe at the same time to get help.

I freely admit I have control issues. Four and a half years of Celebrate Recovery have gotten me to the point where I can clearly see my problems, but I still don’t want to admit that I need help.

I don’t want to be powerless.

Seriously, I have been in places where I had no control over what was being done to me, and as a girl I decided I would do my best to control everything I could to make sure nothing bad happened to me again.

Yet Thursday night I had almost no control over what was happening to me.

Just the day before my third attack in two weeks, I met with my mentor, who I hadn’t seen for a month, and we talked about my need to have a written and easily communicated way to let my family know what I needed. So while working Thursday, my mind was on doing this, making a list from the most drastic to least invasive things to do for me or ask me about.

In my controlling mind I never wanted to entertain the idea of needing to call 911. That was for people who couldn’t analyze their own situation and be proactive about doing for themselves all they could.

Joke’s on me.

My niece, a firefighter and EMT, will give me a look next time I see her, but on my list was to ask her what to expect if I ever needed to call for emergency help. Because I like to work it out in my head before it ever happens.

Someone else was doing the working out, way better than I ever could.

Simple things like me feeling inspired to clean the garage. Okay, boss the teenagers around to get the garage cleaned. This happened a few weeks ago after moving Middle Son into college, when I was feeling the need to clear out the staging area in the house, and do the every-ten-year garage purging. It wasn’t completely cleared, but in organized piles at least.

I just want to park inside it this winter.

And getting stocked up on my regular asthma meds for when the current trial ended, something I would normally wait to spend the money on.

Way farther back, two and half years ago, Baby Girl had taken the classes and gotten certified for adult and infant CPR training. Though she had never had occasion to use it, she wanted the knowledge and confidence it gave her to work with young children in many areas of her life.

Let’s go farther, to 8-year old me, who was learning to use a riding mower and wanted to hear herself sing over the noise. And who was almost drowned by a neighbor boy in our pool, so I decided to learn to breathe deeply and be able to hold my breath for long periods calmly. Who loved to be onstage and belt out lines or songs, no cheating with microphones. Who toughed out labor every time with no help from drugs.

Just breathing deeply.

So when very suddenly Thursday evening I went from laughing over pictures of a cake I’d had delivered to Middle Son at school, to not feeling right, to labored breathing, sweating, feeling a little nauseated, all the pieces (much more than I could ever list) from my whole life’s story came together in some of the hardest words I’ve ever said.

I need help. Call an ambulance.

I guess I’m not shocked this didn’t register. After all, I’m the one who handles these kinds of things. Because nobody else can (Ha! My deluded mind talking again.)

But as I stumbled back into the chair by my nebulizer and with shaking hands broke open a vial and poured it in, I heard my husband making the call.

My ears quit working. I couldn’t make out all the words. I could see my younger daughter trying to catch my eye, saying something I couldn’t understand. I barked out a few one-word orders on the exhales, but I couldn’t stand not having the little push of air helping with my feeble inspirations.

I was hardly breathing. In only a couple of minutes.

And several more passing while the ambulance rushed from five miles straight up the road.

There was no white light at the end of a tunnel. My whole life didn’t “flash before my eyes”. I don’t think I was that close to death. But then again, what do I know? Why do I try to minimize the seriousness of those moments?

The reality is, if the EMT’s hadn’t gotten there quickly, I probably wouldn’t be writing this.

There was a lot of activity going on around me. Kids rushing out to make sure the garage was wide open and shoving those piles farther out of the way. Moving one of the cars so vehicles could pull close to the house. Clearing laundry baskets and shoes out of the floor and away from the door so there was clear access.

Me begging wordlessly for another vial of albuterol, frustrated at how long it took me to communicate what I needed. (Should have gotten that plan down in writing.)

And the overriding need to breathe.

Out is possible. It’s a relaxing, a release, as little as it may be it didn’t take much effort.

But inspiration…

I didn’t fully understand what I was talking about until Thursday night, when every thought, every bit of my will was focused on moving that magnificent muscle, my well-developed diaphragm, and feeling a pitifully small whiff of air making it’s way into my wheezing, mucus-filled, inflamed, closed-up lungs.

There were suddenly strangers, one kneeling beside my chair talking in my ear, others carrying things, holding things up, putting things on my face and in my veins, asking questions I couldn’t answer.

The voice by my ear telling me to hold just a quick second before breathing out, to get the medicine in.

I’m just as sure as I can be that it’s like Luke described it: “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God…”

Not the people, don’t misunderstand me. There was a battle going on in that room that was far beyond the working of my labored lungs. There was an eternal question that was being answered:

Who is in control here?

It wasn’t me.

In fact, I fought some of the things they wanted to do. I couldn’t stand the mask (they said it was like a CPAP, so that’s out for me in the future), but I wanted the oxygen and aerosol drugs it was providing so they let me hold it as close as I could. When they couldn’t get a clear oxygen reading, I heard something like 84%, they talked about intubating, and I motioned the kids to leave the room for a bit. Thankfully they didn’t need to do that.

The hardest part was hearing them ask questions I knew the answers to, but couldn’t speak.

Yet within an hour and a half of getting to the hospital I was talking to everyone and walking out on my own two feet.

Two days later Baby Girl (who is 16 and my hero right now) shared what she had been trying to tell me. She had her CPR manual out and was preparing herself mentally to be able to break her mother’s ribs if I went unconscious before the ambulance arrived and she needed to keep my heart beating. Because she is the only one in the house trained to do that.

And in the emergency room I learned that the EMT who took charge of me is also a nurse at the hospital we wanted to go to. He knew exactly what they would do, and did all he could ahead to avoid any delays in my care.

My family rushed madly to gather things I might need if I were admitted, let our grown kids know the situation, reached out to our church, got there quickly to be with me, though I was pretty unaware of my surroundings for a while.

The next day I canceled work and appointments, let myself be chauffeured to get more meds and run necessary errands, and was able to go to Celebrate Recovery.

I got there late because I’d run off without my phone and had to turn back. Got caught by a train, and after arriving during worship had three people I needed to talk to before I paid attention to the song.

And then I looked up to the screen and I got my answer.

“From life’s first cry, til final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.”

Thank you, Jesus, that you have not yet let me reach my final breath!

Getting Justice

I’m a person who really likes justice.

Seeing someone who has been wronged restored, and the person responsible held accountable for their harmful actions.

Someone working hard all their life and finally receiving recognition and gratitude for their efforts.

I like it when good triumphs over evil.

Especially when I’m the one receiving justice.

It was a sweet day a few months ago when Words with Friends started giving recognition for all kinds of achievements. Milestones based on numbers of times doing all kinds of things.

All of a sudden the 7 years of otherwise wasted time I had invested in playing Words with Friends were vindicated by my sudden designation as “achievement level 8” with more obscure statistics racked up than a baseball player!

Who knew someone was keeping records?

All those little victories were being counted up, kept track of, and finally revealed for the whole world to see. Well, ok, probably just the handful of people I play. If they had absolutely nothing better to do with their time than look up my achievements.

I guess if I want to someday look through them all…then at least one person will know how great I am at spelling words.

Back to justice.

Statistics are impersonal. They count quantity, but don’t define quality.

Before I got into recovery I wanted certain people to pay for what they had done to me. I wanted to help identify them as abusers, lead the investigation into who else they may have victimized, round them up and let us all have our day in court to testify or defend, and let the facts be heard and acknowledged and above all else, let justice be done.

For little girl me who didn’t have a voice or words to tell.

Because wouldn’t me getting justice make up for all those years of denial and shame and guilt and self-protection?

I considered becoming a lawyer for several years so that I could bring about justice for others. And in doing so I know I would have been trying to somehow bring restitution to myself.

But do I apply that same zeal to the people I have wronged? When I realize I’ve done something that hurt someone else in some way, am I eager to apologize and make amends as quickly as possible?

And what about those long ago sins against others that I would rather forget, but that maybe they have never been able to? How could I ever bring the same justice to each of them?

Do I want the same brand of justice that I would measure out to others applied to me?

Because if you were to number the things I’ve done wrong, keep the statistics of the nasty attitudes, the condescension, the biting words, betrayals and lies and manipulations, that would be a list I wouldn’t want anyone to ever see.

But the thing is, God knows all of it. All of me. The tiny bit of good that makes it through the selfish and evil parts. And amongst the good he knows the secret delight of the occasional selfless, loving act.

Mercy undoes me. When I started to face my own guilt, truly deserved guilt, and saw the mercy God has shown me, it changed me.

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was to forgive my abusers.

And there is no way I could have fully done that on my own. Because in my mind, I would never get the justice I deserved if I gave them forgiveness they never admitted they needed.

There’s a verse that undoes me every time I really take it in.

Romans 5:8: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Where is the justice in that? That even when I had no clue that I needed to be rescued, that I needed forgiveness, Jesus paid for my sin.

If God pursues me like this, if he forgives me and decides that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, I don’t have to make restitution, I don’t have to pay for my crimes, then what does that mean for me?

How can I demand justice from other people?

Because when I look only at the cold hard facts, my abusers may deserve to suffer the consequences of their sins against me. But when I turn it around on myself, I would want mercy.

I came to a place a year or so into recovery where not only had I been able to forgive them, God gave me the desire to pray for their healing and salvation.

It had been impossible for me to take that step on my own. I had genuinely forgiven, which to me meant that I no longer wanted to see them suffer for what they had done to me. But was I willing for them to ever feel the same joy and peace I have in my relationship with Jesus?

Could I really, truly, let them off the hook?

Not long after that I had occasion to see several of my abusers all together. They were, each and every one of them, broken, depressed, anxious, hopeless.

And I realized that was the justice I had dreamed of for all those years.

I no longer felt the need to pursue it. Not for me. Because of how much they seemed to have paid for it throughout their lives.

I was so thankful God had replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh that could feel compassion for these people.

Just the other day a dear friend, a brother to me truly, gave me the gift of a few minutes conversation, just catching up. Warm hugs, true love felt and expressed.

The thing is, he knew me when. When I was not interested in God’s plans for my life. When I was living for my own pleasure and plans, selfishly pursuing what I wanted.

And he’s known me ever since. And he still loves me.

If a friend can choose to forget and move beyond the bad they know we are capable of, how much more gracious is God when he throws our sins as far as the east is from the west?

So I do love justice. But not my kind. God’s kind.

Someday in heaven I may meet my abusers.

Because God doesn’t want anyone to perish. He’d rather everyone came to repentance.

And that’s the justice I pray for them now.

Willow Summer

I’ve been hibernating inside air conditioned buildings for most of this summer, because I’ve found the heat and humidity are triggers for my asthma. Even walking from car to building can put me in distress.

Sitting out on our deck has not been possible on very many days, and in just a few more, summer will officially be over, another year we never got the tiki torches lit so we could laze into the night relatively bug free.

As a girl there was a birch tree in our yard that I loved to climb, mainly because it was the only one I could, and I spent hours wedged against the trunk, peeling the bark and watching the bugs busily doing whatever bugs do all day.

In the evenings we would catch lightning bugs, and yes, put them in jars to make our own night lights. We had no qualms about squishing their lit ends around our wrists and fingers to make glowing bracelets and rings. Our own primitive version of glow sticks.

We had lots of trees in our yards, and I had learned how to mow using a push mower for trimming and the riding mower for the biggest part of the lawn. We had front, back, middle and barn yards, and odds and ends of patches that connected them all to maintain every week. They each had their own feel, their distinct character, and I’m sure we all had our favorites to mow over the years.

Mine was the middle yard. It was the only one with no building to work around, although there were lots of trees, bushes around the bottom of our U-shaped driveway, and peonies lining the edge of the paved half.

I had claimed the birch tree as my own, but secretly my desire was to someday climb the huge weeping willow and sit inside its hairlike strings of leaves.

I don’t know much about willow trees, but ours was always getting struck by lightning. It was located close to the road, lower than the pavement that was reach up a steep ditch bank. The poles for the power lines were spaced out across our property parallel to the road, and the branches of some of the trees had grown up among the dipping lengths of wire.

I didn’t know much about electricity, but I knew it was a big deal the weekend my dad and most of the men in our neighborhood decided it was time to cut down the huge willow before it fell in a storm and took out the power lines that supplied the whole neighborhood. Lightning had left long scars from top to bottom, killing some limbs, knocking others to the ground over the years.

So armed with coils of rope, ladders, a few helmets, heavy gloves and work boots, they divided the tasks and went to work tying ropes to branches and then a whole gang pulling on the ropes as the saw bit through a branch, the wielder himself secured to the trunk.

We watched in excitement as one by one those huge branches were cut free of the trunk, and with loud and somewhat panicked yells the crew on the ground would lean into their ropes to pull the cracking, falling limbs free of the electric lines, warning all to look out and get out of the way.

The deconstruction of a tree that had probably been there for over a hundred years took only days. The big drama of the curtains of leaves dropping to ground they had just been shading happened within a few hours.

And then our fun began.

Because even though we could see there would be lots of work for us ahead, we knew we had days, maybe weeks, that those huge branches would lay in piles covering much of the middle yard.

I remember spending as much time as I could among those reclining limbs. I was a pioneer finding raw materials to make my own shelter, weaving lengths of willow leaves together to make baskets or clothes. I had all the sticks I could want to stand up in long fence lines, defining my territory. My siblings were sent out to play in the debris as well I’m sure, but I remember loving the times I spent alone letting my imagination take me back in time and across the world to places I’d only read about.

There were miniature quarries where the dirt was chunked out, sod and all, as a branch had dug into the ground when it hit. The blocks of clay-like soil became cups and bowls to use in my makeshift hut or teepee or cabin, depending upon what character I wanted to be that day.

I remember the smell of the newly cut willow. The closest I could come to describing it was that it reminded me of the smell of a watermelon rind. A clean, green smell that was very pleasing to me. I could sit for hours just smelling the dampness in the center of the branches, reading a book or writing a story about all the adventures I could see myself having.

It was probably weeks I had to be Robinson Crusoe, or more likely Swiss Family Robinson, and even the boy who lived on his own in My Side of the Mountain. I played out adventures to my heart’s content as summer calmed down into fall. I took bigger branches and rode them around like horses or motorcycles or airplanes.

I could never understand why everyone didn’t like sitting in the grass letting their mind take them to fantastic places.

The day came when Dad began to instruct us on where he wanted us to drag the smaller branches. He was taking another weekend to cut them apart a little, and we would need to drag them back to his chopping block to get cut into firewood. The leaves had finally died, the great bulk of their tangled strands reduced to crumbling whips.

Slowly my hidey holes were uncovered, one by one. The rooms in my many dwellings exposed as we pulled one long wall after another over by the chicken barn where the logs would be stored for coming winters.

And finally the tedious job we normally did after any windy or stormy day: picking up the sticks that would damage the mower blades. And I was brought back through time to the present, the reality that I didn’t want to mow over sticks taking over the storyline in my mind.

But in the winter evenings that followed, when I would go out to have my arms stacked high with split lengths of wood, I would bury my nose in them the whole way to the fireplace, getting a whiff of that clean summer watery smell, once again a pioneer intent on holding off the cold for one more night.

No Adequate Words

I really don’t feel qualified to talk about September 11, 2001.

I’m not a first responder, I’m not military, I didn’t have a family member or close friend who died or was physically harmed in the tragedy.

I don’t want to dissect the backgrounds: national, political or religious, of any of the perpetrators.

Yet I have my own story, just like everyone old enough to remember that day.

For over a year our local library had been closed for remodeling, and we had our calendar marked for the grand reopening: September 11, 2001.

At the time my children were 12, 10, 2 and 20 months. We were all eager to get back into our comfortable space with room to play and explore as well as read.

The library was set to open on a Tuesday. As a homeschool field trip we got up early and tried to be there when the doors opened at 9am.

We got there just a few minutes late.

Of course the kids were excited to see fresh toys. The older kids agreed to play with the toddlers in the children’s section while I took a quick walk around the library, scoping out the new arrangement.

Nobody looked concerned until I got to the new seating areas by a large flat-screen tv. They were broadcasting CNN.

Another homeschooling mom I knew happened to be sitting on a chair watching the unfolding horror. She immediately asked if I had heard the news.

No, what’s happening?

A second plane just hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

A second plane?

Her eyes were glued to the screen, and when she stopped talking her lips continued to move in silent prayer.

We both tried to make sense of what we saw happening over and over in front of our eyes.

The North Tower had been hit at 8:46:40, the plane staying intact, looking like a toy shoved through a lego building.

The second plane had just crashed into the South Tower at 9:03:00, about the time we were pulling in to the parking lot. It was like seeing it happen in real time, the camera feed being played over and over again.

The second plane broke apart, and I kept watching pieces falling away, landing blocks from the tower.

The visual I remember most from New York, after the unfathomable fact of seeing two planes hit the Twin Towers again and again, was the street shots. The living, mesomorphic, billows of cloudlike darkness composed of who knew what. Dust, ash, the air displaced by the towers when they each fell over the next two hours.

And people racing the solid wall of gray filling the streets between the buildings.

It was like a scene from a bad horror movie. Except the horror was real.

I couldn’t sit and stare numbly at the screen for much longer, though I needed time to process what my eyes were seeing.

I only knew I didn’t want my kids to see this happening.

Once that realization hit me, I made a bee-line for my children. I’m sure they could see the shock on my face, hear the gravity in my voice when I told them to stay on the children’s side of the library today, that we would look at the rest of it later.

While they played, I sat on the new window seat a little apart from them and tried to contact my husband by phone. We communicated the basics.

Did you hear?

I saw.

Where are you now?

At the library.

I’m coming.

And within minutes he was there.

We took turns watching the events unfolding.

We saw living nightmares, things we never want to see again. Things that had not happened on American soil in this magnitude in our lifetimes.

Confusing footage of a plane crashing into the Pentagon. What? Another plane? It was hard to keep straight which disaster site they were showing.

I was watching the live footage as the South Tower collapsed.

How does anyone get past the trauma? I know now, eighteen years later, I won’t ever forget the images. I’ve watched the movies and relived the experiences, the North Tower falling, the Pentagon on fire.

But my memories are nothing, worthless, compared to those of the people who survived. And though there have been remarkable, miraculous stories of rescues, I cannot imagine how hard it is to wake up every day knowing things, having memories, that are too hard to even speak of.

We didn’t know what, how, or how much to tell our kids. The little ones wouldn’t understand it, but the older ones needed to know.

This event would change the world they were growing up in more than any other single day in their short lives.

I don’t remember now if we told them in the library or while walking down the street to a local restaurant to grab some lunch. But we had to give them the facts, and we tried to shield them from the images, but they were everywhere over the coming weeks.

The details about Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania were murkier. In a rural area with no abundance of cameras around to record it’s end, the pieced-together stories of this flight came to light much later, and contained more human elements with phone calls recalled and recordings of some communications.

These were the stories we emphasised when talking to our kids, the courageous people who joined together to keep worse things from happening.

That day our lunch was eaten half-heartedly. Our life temporarily became one of hibernating at home.

The unheard-of step of shutting down US airspace happened at 9:45am and lasted until September 13. Government buildings, landmarks, and many other places closed their doors for a while.

No one knew what was going on or what to expect next.

I remember the oppressive uncertainty more than anything else. And the quiet.

We closed in around our little family. My husband only serviced emergency calls for a few days. We lived on food we had in the house, not wanting to even visit the grocery store. We made a dent in the dusty Y2K supplies.

But the eeriest thing was the silence.

We live in the flight pattern of our local airport in Northwest Ohio. The path that Flight 93 would have continued on if it hadn’t turned back toward Pennsylvania.

We didn’t learn until years later that it actually made it almost over us before it was forced to head back east and south.

And for the next couple days I couldn’t sleep because of the silence.

Except for the military jets from our local air force unit.

They made me feel at the same time in imminent danger, and reassuringly safe.

Each of my kids have their own memories. More the feel of things for the younger two, the images for the older ones.

My own memories from childhood held their share of tragedies: President Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders also gunned down. Individuals targeted.

But 9/11 was different. The target wasn’t specific people. It was our nation as a whole, hit at strategic points that affected every person living in the United States at the time, no matter how far away or how close to the actual events.

It is the kind of day I hope my now grown children will never have to live through and explain to their own children.

Because there really are no adequate words.