Wednesday, April 30, 2014

5 months later- Owen!

It's been five months since I updated my blog.  I intended to post about our last two months in California with details of our Christmas with Allison, Brian, Natalie and Dan in Big Sur,  New Years Day at the Rose Parade, and our exciting experience at the 2014 BCS national championship game.   I planned to share about our move across the country including our  adventures in Joshua National Park, San Antonio, and New Orleans.  I looked forward to posting about the beautiful baby shower in NC for Allison back in January prior to our return to Florida.  But once we arrived here, we were very busy with turning our house back into our home and I just never got  around to those posts.  Now, they seem so unimportant.

On February 23rd our lives were changed forever when our beautiful grandson, Owen Thomas Parker, came into the world.  He looked so perfect and we were all excited about getting to know him in the days to come.  Our family's joy quickly turned to shock and disbelief the following day when Owen was diagnosed with Shone's Complex, a rare congenital heart disease that consisted of four severe heart defects.  He was airlifted to Egleston Hospital and for the next six weeks he fought hard to survive.  He came into this world with a broken heart and on April 7th our hearts were the ones that were broken when Owen's body couldn't fight any longer and he went to be with Jesus.

I'm not sure that I can adequately describe what it was like watching Allison and Brian walk this path of sorrow and suffering.  I thought that I would be able to relate to what they were going through since after all, I have a mother's heart . . . but for the life of me I couldn't.  I had never experienced such a devastating diagnosis or loss even though I had experienced the pain of miscarriages, this was different. Their hearts were breaking for their own son and for themselves.  All their hopes and dreams were abruptly changed upon hearing the harsh diagnosis, such a contrast from the initial 17 hours or so after he was born.  This was supposed to be a happy time, not a time of grief - especially so early into parenthood.   I felt helpless as a parent myself and as a grandmother.

I was amazed observing Allison and Brian in their new roles as Owen's mommy and daddy.   Only two people were allowed to be at his bedside at a time, so only for a few minutes would I get the privilege of seeing them parent together.  I'd never known my daughter as a mommy and it was beautiful to see her mother's heart.  I'll never forget that.   I loved watching how she and Brian engaged with Owen whether it was through touching him, comforting him, kissing him, holding his hand, stroking his head, caring for him, or reading to him.   They spoke to Owen about bringing him home and about his future.   They were incredible advocates for their sweet baby son, learning all they could about the necessary medical and surgical interventions, arterial blood gas reports, ventilator settings, etc.  They fought for him with everything they had and more.  They were strong and brave, encountering things unimaginable for any parent to endure. 

It would be really easy to focus on what Allison and Brian don't have, what our family doesn't have.  It would make sense that we would feel robbed of our hopes and dreams that not only included Owen, but were built around him.  But as painful as it was to watch the suffering that Allison and Brian experienced, it was equally encouraging and uplifting as I saw God at work in their lives.  They turned immediately to their faith and to me it seemed to deepen during those six weeks.   I saw God carrying them through unbearable days as many many people cried out to God in prayer for them.  They didn't have a choice of walking this path, but they did have a choice of how they walked it.  And they walked it with grace, embracing that every day they had with Owen was a gift.  They never gave up hope, believing that God was (is) able, but also trusting in His sovereignty.  And they continue that same walk now, even though Owen isn't physically with them and the outcome is far from what we all prayed for and wanted. 

I sure do miss Owen.  I wish that I had held him longer in the delivery room, but I didn't want to be stingy.  After all, I was going to have plenty of time with him when Brian returned to work, or at least that was the original plan.  I only held him once and it was just for a few minutes.  I wish that I had held him up on my shoulder where I could feel his head with my cheek.  I only saw Allison hold him three times, but those are memories that I'll never forget.  He was a such a gift and I miss him.  

Months before Owen was born, I wrote a little book for him called "I Hope."   Little did I know that Owen would be the one to teach me so much about hope in his short six weeks here.  God had impressed on my heart weeks before his birth that something BIG was about to happen and it had to do with hope.  I had no idea who, what or when, but as soon as I heard Owen's diagnosis, I knew "this" was that something.  And so I waited to learn what God wanted to teach me.  In a hospital full of suffering, watching my daughter and son-in-law suffer, I learned to have more hope than I have had in a long time.  You see, life's experiences had taught me that it was too painful to have hope.  I really didn't believe that Jesus would be enough for me if He didn't give me what I wanted -so I chose to not hope in order to protect myself from pain.  One day when Owen was having a really tough day, when the machines hooked up to him were sounding alarms and flashing, I made a choice to believe in the One who was/is able.  I decided to have hope and not let the sights or sounds dictate if Owen would be ok.  I chose to live by faith and not by sight.  And what came with that choice was joy!  I experienced more joy in the days and weeks to come even though Owen's circumstances didn't change.  Instead of grieving while Owen was alive, I got to enjoy him and pray with all faith to God.  Those weeks were a precious gift.  Thank you, Owen, for teaching me so much about hope . . . and joy.  I love you and miss you so much.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thanksgiving Day and Thanksgiving Trip

We had planned to lay low on Thanksgiving Day other than going out to eat for a nice meal, but when the restaurant prices exceeded what we thought was a reasonable amount to spend -we decided to pick up a Thanksgiving meal and bring it back to our apartment.   Our friends, Karen and Alan, also planned the same thing except they weren't planning to have the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  While out doing some Christmas shopping, Karen and I stopped at the restaurant to place our orders and to Karen's surprise, the restaurant wasn't offering the clam chowder that she and Alan planed to have.  And the turkey dinner that I ordered included a 20 pound turkey!  So it just seemed right for us to spend Thanksgiving together!

We had a great time enjoying good wine and a meal that I didn't have to prepare (I even forgot to serve the cranberry sauce!).  My favorite dish was the delicious salad that Karen brought!  We watched football and played Apples to Apples and laughed- a lot!  So thankful that we got together with our friends!

The next morning Steve, Walter, and I left for Yosemite.  When we found out that we were moving back to Florida, we quickly began making a list of places we wanted to visit before we left and Yosemite was high on the list.  

Walter is such a good traveler- which is a good thing, considering that he will be riding with us back to Florida!

We ended up going to the Sequoia National Park first which was beautiful!  

On our way to see the General Sherman Tree we drove through the Giant Forest.  It was crazy!  It looked like something out of a movie.

We spent the night before arriving at Yosemite and got up very early to see as much of the park as we could.  Some of the roads closed in October due to snow, but we still enjoyed the valley.

Sometimes, it was a little too cold for me to get out of the warm car, but our moon roof provided the perfect views for me!

Then we traveled to the area that was burned this summer; it went on and on for miles.

Some of the burned area behind Walter.

We returned to L.A. late on Saturday in order to beat the many anticipated travelers returning home on Sunday.  So thankful that we did!  And so thankful for our trip to Yosemite!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Exploring the Artist Within

One of the things that I wanted to do while in California was to explore some of the world of art.  I've never taken any classes, not even in high school.  I think I feared not being "good enough" and I let that keep me from even trying.  

Debra is one of my friends that I met while here and she is an artist.  Below are some pictures taken during an art show she held at her home with some other artists.  

 Debra doesn't intimidate me at all, like some artists do.  She is humble and encouraging and puts me at ease.  She invited me to attend a two day watercolor bootcamp with her this past summer.  I was surrounded by a lot of people who had so much art experience and at times I did find myself way out of my comfort zone.  But I kept telling myself the words that Debra has encouraged me with so often, "Just have fun.  Don't focus on the product, but enjoy the process of doing art."  It was my first leap into the art world and it sparked something in me that I have kept dormant for a very long time.

I then enrolled in two online courses, one called Watercolor Lettering and the other was Colored Pencils and Birds.  I enjoyed them both, but especially the bird class.  

Below are some pictures of Debra and I "playing" with art on her patio; we're making paste paper which currently we are in the process of making into a book.

I'm so thankful that I met Debra and I look forward to exploring so much more in the vast world of art.  I'm already enrolled in three more online classes beginning in January.  The gift she gave to me will forever be with me, even if I only use it for my enjoyment, but hopefully I can share it with my grandchildren as well.  One of the first rooms that I'm going to put into order when we return to Florida is to make one of our spare bedrooms into . . . a little art studio . . . I never thought I'd say those words.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Walter's Training and We're Moving!

While we were away on our two week trip back in November, Walter was being trained for 3 weeks   He's always been stubborn and has selective hearing, especially when he's around small children (due probably to the fact that when we got Walter, Silas was a big part of our lives and the two loved playing together).  So when we realized that we were going to be away for two weeks and that this training was actually a little cheaper than just boarding him, we signed him up!

He was so happy to be home!  And we were so happy to have him home!  These pictures were taken after the 90 minutes of training that Steve and I received by Walter's trainer.  Walter was exhausted from all the hard work.

He now wears a shock collar (it's not that bad so don't worry all of you dog lovers!).  We don't have to utilize the collar except when he doesn't listen to our commands.  For the first time, I feel like I have him under control.

I think Walter looks like he's smiling in the picture below!

The very next day, I took Walter on a walk where he walks unleashed.   He ignored my verbal commands and the commands of his collar and ended up in the lagoon!  And I thought I had control!  Ha!

One week after we returned to California we received the news that we are moving back to Florida.  Our departure date is Jan 13th; it was going to be Jan 15th, but Allison's baby shower is on Jan 18th in N.C. and it's a long drive from California!

Steve and I have a peace about our return, though we are sad about leaving this amazing state and the amazing friends we've met here.   Steve will continue to work on the project but from his home office.
By the time we leave I will have been on vacation for two years!  I think I'm going to have some adjusting to do to "real life."

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Family Time!

From Florida, Steve and I drove to Norfolk to see Natalie.  I had planned to spend a week with her while Dan was out on his ship and Steve arranged to work at a facility nearby.  It was so good to be with Natalie again and see Finley as well!  She's such a sweet dog!  

Steve and Natalie carved a pumpkin and I dressed Finley up for Halloween.

Natalie made some delicious treats to take with us to Atlanta for the surprise wedding celebration for Shelby and Scott that was being planned.
And I wrapped a lot of random items I'd received as giveaways on talk shows in L.A. so that we could have a white elephant exchange with everyone.
We had a fun week with Natalie and arrived very late in Atlanta on Friday night.  The poor cake we made just about didn't make it on the long car ride.  But it sure tasted good!  isn't the cake banner so cute that Natalie made?

Banners were hung and decorative wedding cookies that Allison made were served with the cake.  Steve and I were the only ones that were able to attend their wedding in London, Ontario so we all wanted to celebrate!

The next day we went to Allison's baby shower.  It was so much fun celebrating baby boy P's upcoming arrival.  I wish I had taken pictures : (

On Sunday we all went to Piedmont Park with food and games in hand.

That night we had the white elephant exchange.  It was a lot of fun seeing the random stuff that people ended up with- some of the gifts weren't so bad.

It was really nice to be together- it had been way too long!  We missed you Dan!  

Thanks Allison and Brian for having everyone and for all the delicious food!  And thanks to everyone for making the effort in order for us to all be together!

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!