The Morgan Family Extravaganza

My budding entrepreneurs have done it again.

Today we’re hosting The Morgan Family Extravaganza, a new and fun endeavor that includes everything from baked goods to painted bud vases.

The kids have been busy creating and planning, baking and painting, wrapping and printing over the past several weeks, and the big day has finally arrived.

I will wake them shortly.

John most likely won’t need waking, as he typically rises before dawn.  Abby will leap out of bed smiling and tasking everyone as to the set up for the morning rush.  Hannah will roll over, snuggle the covers under her chin, and ask why on earth did we decide to start before 10 am.

Aha!  I called it . . . here he comes.

All three are so different with such varied interests.  Hannah has a heart for feeding people, so she put together a lovely lemonade stand and bake sale called Fluffy’s Treats.  With a color scheme of light blue and yellow, her wares will surely attract the masses, and once they sample her goods, she’ll have many happy customers.

My boy plans to take the opportunity to promote Take Out 56 (his trash/recycling can retrieval business) by distributing flyers and running a raffle to win a special t-shirt prize.  He’s also in charge of the garage sale items.

And last but not least, little Abby Mae is having an art studio sale.  She’s my painter, and she has created many beautiful crafts and wall hangings that will be sure to catch every eye.

I’m so proud of them.  They’ve wanted to do this for a long time.  For years, actually.  Dreams of doing so have gotten us through some tough times.

Extravaganza-type dreams are good for the soul, and the hope therein can bring families even closer together, even on the rainiest of days.

But I admit, I’m thankful the sun’s shining brightly today, and the wind has died down.  John stood outside advertising after school let out yesterday.  Talk about an effective marketing department!  Abby assisted so that the sign wouldn’t blow away.

The hour is upon us – I must hasten to prepare the extravaganza with the fam.

If you’re local, PLEASE stop in for a cup of lemonade and join the fun anytime between 8:30 am and 4 pm.  We’d love to see you!

Ready to Roll

My husband was in a car accident yesterday.

It could’ve been much worse.

He valiantly crosses what the locals refer to as the “GW” (George Washington Bridge) daily to run recycling plants in the Bronx.  Sometimes I forget how dangerous it can be.

Until yesterday.

A poorly placed stop sign bred the perfect storm.  Thankfully, both drivers emerged unscathed, but later Christian told me about the most remarkable part of the encounter.

The response of the “other” driver’s son.

He arrived on the scene quickly.  Calm, cool, and collected, he advised his father to take the ambulance (NYC mandates their participation in their Motor Vehicle Collision response system) to the hospital as a precaution because he’d recently received a liver transplant.

The son assured my husband that his father was fine and discussed the details of the accident.  Christian reported that the son bore no traces of anger or resentment, no disgust or impatience.  He didn’t even mention being inconvenienced.

Only grateful.

After the police finished their report and the men turned to leave, the son stuck out his hand.

“Nice to meet you,” he said to Christian.

One would never have known in that moment that my husband had just plowed into this gentleman’s father and messed up two cars.  Even though all involved understood that the faulty traffic sign had caused all the ruckus, the results could have been markedly different.

This amazing son proved mature beyond his years.

I can only imagine all their family has been through over the past several years, and my heart goes out to them.  During my dietetic internship, I had the privilege of not only walking through the entire liver transplantation qualification process but also seeing part of the actual operation.  I’ll never forget the groans that rippled through the OR when the test results came back to the surgical team.  The harvested organ was found to be infested with tuberculosis, so the patient was placed back on the waiting list.

Again.

Transplant families ride a horrendous emotional rollercoaster.  They deal with terrible health and crippling pain, multiple medications and mounting medical bills, stringent evaluations and seemingly endless waiting lists.

Such trials of soul reap much wisdom.  Or bitterness.

The young son yesterday had obviously chosen the former.  He could’ve leapt from his vehicle, enraged and incensed with worry, but instead, he appeared to focus on being thankful that both drivers walked away unharmed.

What self-control.  What grace.  What wisdom.

May God bless he and his family through the weeks and months ahead.  May the newly transplanted liver be happy in its new home and not face rejection.  May the organ donor’s family be surrounded by God’s love and comfort during their time of loss.

And may I learn well from this wise man so that every time the dice of life throw something my way, I would face it with God’s wisdom and grace, standing ready.

Ready to roll.

Peekin’

“Mommy, how did you and Daddy know I was a girl before I was born?”

I will never forget Abby Mae’s reaction after I explained that an ultrasound tech had positioned a gooey camera in just the right place to make the prediction.  Her mouth fell open with a gasp.

“You and Daddy let that lady do what?!!!”

I giggled and nodded.

Hands-on-hips, she said, “You and Daddy were peeking at my privates?”

I nodded again, still smiling.

“Mommy,” Abby scolded, “you should have knocked first!”

Maybe.  Truth be told, we were grateful the tech got a clear shot and made the right call.

We didn’t need any more surprises.

This was the visit in which we discovered that Abby had a severe heart defect, the visit in which memories of John’s irregular ultrasound flooded my mind, the visit in which the doctor tried to steer me toward aborting my baby.

This was also the office in which Jesus stood near.

He was there the instant I realized Abby’s ultrasound tech teared up.  He was there reminding me that John was alive and well.  He was there when I told the doctor abortion was not an option.

I already loved my baby.

Even though the ultrasound revealed the immense challenges my little one faced, I was grateful for this incredible opportunity, a precious glimpse into the secret and beautiful place where God knits together a tiny soul.

I wish every mother could have a sneak peek.  So does a wonderful organization called Save the Storks.  Their buses bring ultrasound and counseling resources directly to abortion-vulnerable women with the hope that upon hearing the heartbeat and seeing the image of their child, mothers would choose life and receive encouragement and support throughout their pregnancy.

O God, may many children be saved through the ministry of Save the Storks!  May many mothers find You through the love and grace of every person who comes along side them to welcome their babies into the world.  And may we all never cease to marvel at the miraculous way You place each life made in Your image into the womb.

Psalm 139:13-16

My Grandma’s House

If my grandmother still lived, she would have turned 108 yesterday.  She would have donned her Mary Kay™ makeup and Estee Lauder™ perfume before shuffling to the kitchen for a slice of custard pie and coffee.  And she would have soon found herself all covered up with grandkids and great-grandkids wishing her a special day.

Oh, how I wish she would have.

We all miss her much but look forward to seeing her in glory one day.  Until then, I like to read this poem I wrote for her 90th birthday (and later read at her funeral) and remember.

 

My Grandma’s House

 

Eight twenty-seven South Spencer Street,

Its last owner I’d like you to meet.

Born in May some ninety years ago,

Now with three children and their kids in tow.

 

Meet Florence Amelia Zaeske Chase.

We’ve come to honor her here in this place.

Some in body, some in spirit,

All to pay tribute to a woman of merit.

 

A day of remembrance, today it shall be;

A day when all of the world will see

Inside the door of my Grandmother’s house.

C’mon in!  I’ll show you around.

 

Down the long driveway of a stately brick ranch

Push open the screen, swing open the latch,

Through the Dutch door, you’ll see me grin

‘Cause now we’re standing in Grandma’s kitchen.

 

It smells of Palmolive and baking pie crust

A hug and a kiss for Grandma – yes, they’re a must!

The counter holds dozens of chocolate éclairs,

Cookies and donuts – so many to spare!

 

Gram smiles and shuffles her two slippered feet

To the big brown cupboard and pulls out a sheet.

It’s a wax paper bag to fill with goodies and sweets,

M&Ms and red hots, all kinds of treats!

 

At Christmas, it’s cutouts of snowmen and stars,

Bathed in sugar icing and hidden in freezer far

Far, far away with the chocolate and nuts,

Whirl-a-gigs, thumbprints – we wanted some, but

 

We played in the basement, good for hours of fun

With plenty of room for all little ones.

Perfect for hiding, perfect for play,

The best place to spend each rainy day.

 

Except for the Tomcats adorning the walls,

We loved to play store and whatever else.

Pool and shuffleboard, maybe dress-up,

We’d play ‘til grownups said, “Time to clean up!”

 

We’d sit at the kids table, never alone;

We’d devour our meals, then we would moan.

We giggled, we talked, we made memories galore,

And after Gram served pie, we’d clamber for more.

 

Us cousins, we loved to play all kinds of games:

Basketball, hopscotch – even in the rain!

Gram would make tea and all kinds of jam,

We’d watch from the sandbox, happy as clams.

 

Inside we’d go to taste her Swiss steak,

Maybe orange roughy or Texas sheet cake.

Whatever she made, it was the best in its class,

Gram’s a five-star chef, truly having a blast .

 

Cooking for grandchildren the dishes they loved,

Remembering with fondness her husband above.

Thanking her God she is able to cook,

She made her family a recipe book!

 

The love that she showed us, I’ll never forget

Nor the deep prayers her lips would let

Soar up to heaven each night on her knees,

Beseeching her God to “watch over them – please.”

 

Thank you, dear Gram, for investing your life,

I know Grandpa believed you were a wonderful wife.

You made a house into such a warm home,

I am so blessed to call you my own.

 

Happy Birthday in heaven, Gram!

My Favorite Nurse

God knows well what we’ll need while walking beside Him in this life.

He wisely formed and fashioned this stunning nurse to care for both me and my family throughout our years of medical ups-and-downs.  This one He called to serve never failed to rise above the call of duty time and time again.

Meet my mother, Judy Chase, RN.

Fifty-two years ago, an official of the Copley School of Nursing placed a starched white cap on this lovely, dimpled brunette, and within days, she began her job as a night-shift med-surg nurse.  Mom enjoyed her time with the patients, but one in particular caught her eye.

Don.

She’d barely met him when he’d arrived on her unit.  About a week prior, a fellow nursing student – we kids call her “Aunt” Joan – had asked if she could set my mom up with her cousin in order to spend New Year’s Eve double-dating with Aunt Joan’s boyfriend – we now call him “Uncle” George.  Mom insisted on meeting the cousin first, so on Christmas Eve, my dad bravely entered her parent’s stately brick ranch packed with extended family, sizing him up from head-to-toe.  He’d brought with him high hopes.

And an injured back.

Nobody knew but he how much pain he would endure when my mother’s brothers, Tom and Jerry, asked him to play Tower of Trouble.  It was a game that involved sitting on the floor, then rising to squatting, bending, and standing positions while building a plastic skyscraper.

It proved a Tower of Trouble all right.

Everyone had a great time, but by the end of the game, Dad could hardly stand and took his leave, barely concealing his discomfort.  No one present would have guessed that this strapping young buck would find himself in the hospital the following day, writhing in pain and desperate for relief.  As he rang his bedside call bell, he wondered how he would ever be able to go out with Mom on New Year’s Eve.

He was already smitten.

Lo and behold, who should bound through his doorway?  None other than Nurse Judy.

“Hello, Don,” she said with a shy smile.  “I’m your nurse tonight.”

The rest was history.  They married the following January, and my mother left her career the following year upon the birth of my sister, Krissie.  Her special needs required Mom’s full attention, and without hesitation or complaint, she undertook with gusto the role of motherhood and the special challenges accompanying Prader-Wili Syndrome.

I know she would do it all over again.  Gladly.

For the rest of her life, Mom has continued to practice nursing even though she’s never received another paycheck or worn her crisp white cap.  This amazing woman has devoted her time and attention to care for all who’ve crossed her path, whether with chicken pox or breast cancer, diabetes or pneumonia, strep throat or torn ligaments.

She’s still “the one” I ask – and she’s good.  Only last week, she diagnosed John’s Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease over the phone!

Thank you, Mom, for being a calming and loving presence in the midst of our storms.  Thank you for selflessly pouring yourself out around-the-clock, year after year.  Thank you for giving much for the sake of many and for modeling for us all what it means to sacrifice with grace.

You make it look easy.  Caring for the hurting is your obvious delight, and I stand forever blessed and grateful.

Grateful to call you Mom.

 

 

All Night Long

Have you ever wanted something so terribly that you ache inside?

The only thing a mother wants to do immediately after giving birth is hold the baby.  She can not get that child into her arms fast enough, and once there, she can at long last gaze into the eyes of her little one.

I didn’t get to hold John for his first 22 days.  It nearly killed me.

Because John’s intestines were exposed in utero, he was at high risk for contracting infection upon delivery and beyond.  Even though the team did a great job containing his intestines in a plastic “silo” bag, the hole in his stomach was wide and painful, hence no holding until a series of three surgeries cinched it shut.

During those eternal weeks of waiting, my maternal instincts nearly drove me mad, and Christian and I did everything we could to get as close to John as possible.  We held his little hands and stroked his tiny foot (the other bore an IV).  We kissed his forehead and brushed his cheeks around the medical tape.  We clung to every touch and did our best to let him know we loved him and hovered near.

One fine day, a surgical nurse showed us how to slide a hand, palm-side up, under his shoulder.  We were all smiles as we took turns, sharing this new means of snuggling our son.  Part me initially felt ridiculous rejoicing in something seemingly small when compared with the end goal, but it felt so good to stroke his back and feel him press into my hand.

He yearned for more, too.

I’ll never forget walking onto the unit with my father that twenty-second day.  John’s wonderful nurse, Cathy, saw me and smiled.  After I greeted my sleeping son, I walked over to sit in the rocker.  Cathy’s smile disappeared as she watched me settle in.

“Mom – aren’t you going to hold him?”

I gasped.  “Can I?”

“Haven’t you held him yet?”  I shook my head, breathless.  “Let me check, but since Dr. Flake has closed his belly, I see no reason why not.”

She bustled away while my dad and I exchanged excited glances.  I couldn’t see his face (we’d both gowned and masked due to the Swine Flu epidemic sweeping the nation), but our eyes said it all.  Nurse Cathy bustled back into the pod, beaming.

“It’s a go!”

I squealed with delight and rushed to wash my hands as she set about untangling John’s tubes and wires, sensing the urgency of getting this boy into my arms.

All at once, he was there, staring up at me, so beautiful.  I could barely see him through my tears, smiling all the while.  He tolerated it for about five minutes and then grew highly agitated without a solid bed beneath him, so I returned my little bird to his nest.

Within ten minutes, he’d changed his mind and called to me so sweetly.  I rushed to his side and complied with his request.  This time, he didn’t look back as he settled in for the long haul, falling asleep, his face awash with peace.

I didn’t want to leave.

My sweet Hannah needed me back in Macungie that evening, so all-too-soon, my dad tapped my shoulder.  He’d sacrificed holding his grandson so that I could enjoy every minute.  It took everything in me to tear myself from John’s side, but I finally mustered the strength.  Thank God he was sleeping – I don’t know if I could have done it otherwise.  I’d waited so long to hold him . . . I didn’t want a limit.

Not today.

I called my husband from the car.  Christian had arrived at work by 5 am and had put in a full day.  He’d told me over breakfast that he was exhausted and wouldn’t be able to drive to Philly to see John that night as usual.

“I just can’t do it, Beth.”

I’d understood.  We were beat.  The initial rush of adrenaline had worn off, and a cruel worry-monster threatened to take over.  Fighting the mounting stress drained us of every ounce of energy, and we found ourselves hard-pressed to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I waited for Christian to answer.

“Hey, Sweets!”  Fatigue oozed through the phone.  Poor man.

“Hi, Christian!  Guess what?!  I held him!”

“You did?”  Pause.  I heard papers rustling in the background.

“YES!”  His chair squeaked as I imagined him standing.

“I’m going down right now!  Love you!”

The next morning, Christian called me from work to let me know he’d arrived safely.  Grinning and giggling, I couldn’t stop myself from asking the obvious.

“Did you hold him?”

“You bet, Sweetheart,” Christian said.  “All night long.”

Those weeks of waiting were some of the longest of our lives.  I still tear up thinking about it.  Yesterday, Abby and John climbed onto my lap and asked me to tell their birth stories, and when I got to this part, my eyes welled up with tears.

I squeezed John a little tighter.

King Solomon was right.  “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 NIV).

Thank You, God, for our little tree!

Maybe by Midnight

Maybe by midnight my little one will be here,

Snuggly and warm, wailing and dear.

I’ll hold you and love you each and every day,

Close to my heart forever you’ll stay.

 

Maybe by midnight you’ll fall back asleep,

Your dreams returning to counting sheep.

I’ll watch you dream under soft yellow fleece,

Your body surrendered to most perfect peace.

 

Maybe by midnight your fever will break,

A day or two later, full recovery you’ll make.

Back to playing and singing, cooking and games,

Making memories in my mind’s forever frame.

 

Maybe by midnight we’ll get home from girls’ night,

Shopping and snacking, a day of delight.

I’ll pamper and primp my little sweet,

My daughter, I love you from your head to your feet.

 

Maybe by midnight I’ll hear you open the door,

My teenager, my precious – you’ve been late before.

I pray you have listened to all I have said

I hope you remember I can be a good friend.

 

Maybe by midnight I’ll see your smile alight,

After walking up the aisle, dressed all in white.

You with your prince will toss the bouquet,

As you rush away on your happiest day.

 

Maybe by midnight your arms will be full

With a darling dear one, snuggly and all.

Your heart linked forever to this little child,

Your days instantly become happier and wild.

 

Maybe by midnight I’ll hold you fast,

My sweet baby girl, grown up at last,

Having babes of your own and watching them grow –

What a blessed content it will be to know

 

That the seeds I have sown have grown in your heart,

And in the oak that now stands, I have taken part

In the planting and feeding,

The waiting and weeding –

 

Maybe by midnight.

 

I didn’t make the post by midnight, Mom, but I’m grateful for you and love you dearly.  Thank you for giving so much of yourself in loving me well.  Happy Mother’s Day!