Rewind. Reflect. Revive.

Image

So a dear friend emailed me a one-liner: “love your blog”. I forgot that for more than a year my “Follow my blog” signature signed off every outgoing email. I hadn’t forgotten this LoudounCrazyMom blog, but I’d definitely stuffed it in the closet, way back behind the outgrown coats.

Yesterday, inspired by a Martin Luther King Jr. Day call-to-serve blog, I cleaned out that closet–and my 10-year-old son’s drawers–to fill three huge plastic bags with warm coats and barely worn clothes. I stuffed the bags in the backseat of my car and 10 minutes later was delivering these wearables to the local thrift store. Take the time, I chided myself, to pass on the blessings.

Take the time.

Michelle, my Tri-Sigma sister and beloved friend, your email encouraged me to go back and reread my posts–and to remind myself two things: Write, Martha, write. And this is a new year…take the time to write the 52 letters I never finished. Take the time to cuddle. Take the time to opt for the scenic route. Take the time to rediscover regular exercise and homemade meals. Take the time to pray and give thanks. Take the time to rewind, reflect, and revive. 

Life has changed dramatically since last I blogged in this space. I am teaching Language Arts to 70 sixth graders. I am months away from sending my eldest boy, Cullen, off to college somewhere. Our family will be in Boston on April 21 to watch Shelby, our daughter who was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, run 26.2 miles in the Boston Marathon. 

This Loudoun Crazy Mom is back. I’m going to write here…and on my class blog, http://www.mrsrombachreads.edublogs.org. I can do all things through Christ who gives me (and you) strength. Let’s go, people! Be inspired to move the world forward. Inspire others with love, kindness, and generosity. Get out there and do something. For yourself. For your family. For the strangers who need you.

Take the time to fill a bag…take the time to fill your life!

Be blessed – and be a blessing,

Martha, One Loudon Crazy Mom

Hope and Joy meet on Miracle Street for this CF Mom

Image

Shelby jumps for joy.

I believe in miracles, I really do.

I know that I’ve been blessed with more than my share in my 47 years. I am beyond excited at the possibility of another miracle touching down in my life. Not even two weeks ago, when Shelby and I ventured to Baltimore for her regular three-month checkup at the Johns’ Hopkins Cystic Fibrosis Center, our family received incredibly good news.

Shelby, our college-bound 18-year-old, is eligible to begin taking Kalydeco, the new FDA-approved CF drug that does something no other CF drug before has done: it targets the CTFR protein (the underlying cause of CF), not just the symptoms of CF. For the six years since her diagnosis, my husband and I have operated on the knowledge that Shelby had the F508Delta mutation, the most common CF mutation. Not until I sat in that office chair, an arm’s length away from our doctor, did I realize the magnitude of his news. No, Shelby has G551D, the rare mutation that Kalydeco targets, the gene that only 4% of 30,000 CF patients have. And Shelby not only has one copy of this rare gene–she has two, something only .0004% of the CF population exhibits.

Two hours ago, our direct-mail pharmacy called to tell us that Shelby’s first 30-day supply of Kalydeco arrives tomorrow. This drug could represent the early stages of a super-sized miracle. Perhaps one day, CF truly will stand for CURE FOUND. Today, for me, it stands for CONSTANT FAITH.

This coming Sunday, May 6, our family will walk in our local Great Strides Walk to Cure Cystic Fibrosis–Megan’s Walk, we call it here locally, in remembrance of a friend and neighbor, Megan, who at 15 lost her battle with CF. If you can support the ever-hopeful search for a cure, please visit my walk page and make a donation. At the very least, keep the faith. Hope and joy are plentiful; miracles happen daily. Open our arms wide and receive them.

Be blessed–and be a blessing,

Martha, LoudounCrazyMom

Oh Snap! Gotta Love A Five-Minute Drive-By Shoot

Sometimes, the best date nights are those spontaneous adventures Mike and I share in our sunshine yellow Jeep Wrangler. After the post-dinner clean-up, we like to put a little gravel in our travel, rolling over Loudoun County’s winding backroads. We always discover a tucked-away visual treat, like a fading sunset melting into a verdant pasture or a tattered old barn, fighting to stand tall against the inevitable decay of time and weather. Last week, we took a side trip off one of our well-worn routes and stumbled upon this barn, its metal roof peeled back by the power of a tornado that touched down a few years back. I didn’t have my Nikon 35mm or one of the family’s Canon point-and-shoots. So these photos were shot with my hubby’s iPhone camera. Oh snap–gotta love a drive-by photo shoot.

Be blessed–and be a blessing,
Martha, LoudounCrazyMom

Letters #14 & #15 of 52 Handwritten Letters: The Gift of a Good Friend

“A faithful friend is a steady shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.” — Sirach 6:14 

 I believe that God brings people in and out of our lives for a purpose, and I am grateful He knows who I need in my life, and when, far better than I do. Today, I’m writing letters to two of the precious friends who are on my heart today.

When my husband’s job was eliminated, I had to find a job fast–after 13 years of staying home with my little people. I landed in the role of front office secretary in a brand new elementary school, surrounded by an incredible staff, superb adminstrators, and one priceless new friend, the school nurse, Alyson, also back to work after a stay-at-home sabbatical. Like me, she was mom to a chronically ill teen. For the year that we worked together, we shared countless heart-to-heart conversations, laughter- (and tear-) filled lunch breaks, brisk walks around the bus loop, dark chocolate and coffee, and plenty of spontaneous prayers. I know God put Alyson in that office for me–she was the gift that kept on giving every day of the ten months we worked together.

And then there’s Jaime, who I first met when my daughter Shelby was nine and a student in her husband’s third-grade class. It took us years to really get to know each other–so well that we can finish each other’s sentences. Her husband Jeff taught three of my children; Shelby was fortunate enough to have him twice. Jaime, a career switcher, taught my middle guy, Bryan, in her inaugural year as a third-grade teacher.

But it wasn’t until we worked together that we discovered God had an even bigger friendship planned for us–the kind that spans a lifetime. My hubby’s job was eliminated the summer after I left my school secretary position. We found out the morning we were headed to Hershey Park.  A mild panic set in–health benefits would be terminated (not good news when you have a chronically ill kid). As we drove north, I scrolled through my voicemail messages and found one from Jaime. I listened, and my heart raced with the phenomenal news. She was taking a part-time kindergarten teaching position. Would I be interested in being the teaching assistant? Half days with health benefits. Within 30 minutes, we’d traded phone calls, talked to the hiring principal, and set up an interview. We started work together that August, just as my husband accepted a new post–in Orlando, Florida.

God delivered a paycheck when we needed it most, and He gave me Jaime, a faithful friend to support me, a stressed-out wife and mother, through 15 heart-breaking months of epic commuting separation. Jaime kept me smiling through all the craziness. She poured out love and praise. She listened without judgement. We shared Subway lunches and long conversations. Her smile and wraparound hug never failed to renew my spirit. She was my prayer warrior in every sense of the word. Nowadays, though she moved on to a different job, we still work hard to get together when we can–whether it’s an early Saturday morning breakfast at Pine Grove Restaurant or an afterwork glass of wine at Magnolia’s.

I am forever thankful for my treasured friends who steady me when life gets a little rocky, who buoy me when I am sinking, who recognize when I need honest feedback (even if it is difficult to hear) and deliver it with grace and wisdom. How blessed my life is with the addition of such incredible women–supportive, loving, faithful, encouraging, prayerful, and wise. Not to mention, quirky, witty, and adventurously fun. I’m one lucky girl.

Be blessed–and be a blessing.

Martha, LoudounCrazyMom

Click above for this week's inspirational tune: "I'll Be Your Friend" by Amy Grant.

There’s Nothing Routine about Traveling in the Slow Lane

Image

Lucky me. I pass this beautiful church on my way to and from work each day.

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast–you also miss the sense of where you are going and why. ” –Eddie Cantor

I drive the same winding stretch of a hilly, two-lane highway every workday morning.

I pass the same two pick-up trucks, parked at the end of their long street, waiting for the yellow bus to scoop up their invisible children, their presence shrouded by tinted glass.

The barns. The cemetery. The houses and farmettes. The horses and cattle. The stone church, its white steeple soaring skyward.

Some mornings, I race down this track, tearing through the landscape, not noticing much beyond the time ticking away on my dashboard clock.

Other mornings, like today, I take notice of little changes. A fresh bouquet of red roses stretched out across a grave. A real estate sign, erected overnight. Horses, typically far afield, today pressed up against the split-rail fence nibbling on high grass. The palette of hues–nearly all some iteration of spring green–that now dresses the landscape. The way the sun bounces off my bug-splattered wind shield.

I travel this route day in and day out. As I drove in today, I realized that this road is remarkably like my life–somewhat predictable, winding and a little bumpy, slow when there’s a large obstacle ahead of me,  warp speed when the path is clear.  And on the road, as in my life, when I widen my view beyond the white and yellow lines, there is always something breath-takingly beautiful to witness. Benign, perhaps. Unimportant, according to the world. But in my soul, I feel God stirring.

In that instant, I want to slow down and notice the treasures He’s blessed me with. The postcard-perfect ancient oak tree that waves its muscular arms at me. The fawn and its mother scampering across in front of me. My five children, babies no more, who are making their own journey, bumps and all, down the road of life.

I want to push pause. Stop the acceleration, the race to the finish line. I think I might move over to the slow lane for a while, become a Sunday driver in life. Take in the view. Opt for the detour. Map out the longer, more scenic route. Sure, much of my life is routine. But the way I live it doesn’t have to be.

Be blessed–and be a blessing!

Martha, LoudounCrazyMom

Click above for this week's inspirational tune: "Slow Down" by Third Day.

Seeing the Beauty beyond the Weeds

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

After school today, Cady raced in from outside to announce that our yard has been invaded by an alien weed–oh no. Last year, we dug out our entire front bed to eradicate a nasty weed that had taken up permanent (and deeply rooted) residence. I followed her outside to inspect the unwelcome intruder, whose wispy greenery and tiny white flowers belied its true nature. Wandering around the yard, I started pulling up the weeds one bunch at a time.
 
Only a few minutes had passed when Cady and I both realized our focus had completely changed. Instead of rooting out the weeds, we stood marveling at the abundant beauty decorating our yard–a world now bursting in springtime Technicolor. We hurried inside and found our cameras. For 15 minutes more we wandered around the yard, forgetting about the dastardly weed and instead focusing on God’s glorious creation. The tiny purplish-pink buds fluttering on the red bud limb. The pale pink cherry blossoms like a cloud of hope above our heads. The dogwood tree, each tender bloom pregnant with anticipation for a season of rebirth.
 
Our yard is still blanketed by those annoying weeds. But my mind…it’s basking in the beauty of God’s breath-taking creation. Weed out the worry. Rejoice and be glad in today.
 

This is the Lord’s doing, it is marvelous in our eyes.  Psalm 118:23

Be blessed–and be a blessing!

Martha, LoudounCrazyMom

 PS– Check out this link (after you take a peek at the photos):  When Weeds Grow-Scripture Nuggets

Letters #10 & #11 of 52: Hi Fives to the Young & Fabulous

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
~Angela Schwindt

When you’re a working mother of five children ages 9-18, and the spring track, baseball, soccer, and travel basketball seasons are in full swing, your day-to-day life–what you expect to accomplish and what you actually do–is anything but textbook. Surprises creep in. Mandatory phone calls must be made to fight for your CF daughter’s right to self-carry enzymes. A child comes home from school sick with a nasty stomach bug. The laundry piles grow vertically and horizontally as school clothes and sports uniforms inextricably co-mingle. Longer hours at work to complete a couple of projects means less time at home.

No matter how you slice or dice them, there are only 24 hours in a day. At least seven during which I personally prefer to be snuggled beneath my cotton sheets and Amish quilt. When life is on overload, something has to give. Make that plural: Some things have to give. Over the past couple of weeks, it’s been housework, daily exercise, and this blog. Today, I’m giving myself one hour to write.

So here goes…fast and furious.

Letter #10 is my High Five to sweet niece Charlotte.

For this week’s mission–hand penning Letters #10 and #11–I am making and sending out Hi Fives, bright and cheery hellos to the young and fabulous.

I start with a blank sheet of white paper. I’m using printer paper–but use whatever you have. Grab a colorful Sharpie or Crayola marker and trace the outline of your hand. (Word to the wise: Remove your rings or risk looking like you crack knuckles for a living.) Inside each finger, write a brief message to your most-worthy recipient. No need to labor over the words. Everyone loves mail–especially a child. Have some fun–be visual and vibrant. Add designs or stickers around the page. And be sure to make your Hi Five one that encourages, praises, and loves. You never know…your simple Hi Five may be folded up and stowed away in a sock drawer, only to be pulled out years later when the self-esteem is fragile, but your words are strong and reaffirming.

I’m sending out Hi Fives this week to two young and fabulous kiddos. My first Hi Five goes to the ballerina in our family, my adorable niece Charlotte who, after sparkling in her role in the Nutcracker ballet,  earned the privilege of dancing on pointe this winter. We don’t see her or her two dashing and brilliant brothers, Alex and Andrew, nearly as much as we’d like–as we live three states away. That’s why today’s mail carries a high-five to New Jersey, for the curly-haired brunette who enjoys a Starbucks girls run just as much as her Aunt Martha.

The second Hi Five goes to Cade, my favorite 10-year-old New Yorker.  We met Cade for the first time last summer, when he stayed with our family for two weeks in a visit coordinated by The Fresh Air Fund. The Fresh Air Fund, a NYC non-profit,  pairs awesome inner-city kids, ages 6-18, with volunteer families who welcome these amazing youngsters into their lives and hearts–year after year.  The kids leave the big city for more suburban and rural destinations, where trees are plentiful, bikes roll down paved neighborhood streets, and outdoor play is safe and inviting. Cade will return to our bustling family again this year–packing up his huge smile, adventurous personality, boundless energy, and gentlemanly manners–for another two weeks in this zany household of ours. Five kids. Two dogs. Two cats. One gerbil. One gecko. Plenty of fresh air and wide-open spaces. We intend to make certain we deliver another great summer vacation for a boy who roared into our lives and etched a smiley face on our hearts.

Sean and Cade show their Fourth of July fireworks spirit in matching t-shirts tie-dyed at home.

Find out more about the Fresh Air Fund by clicking on the links in this blog. There’s a boy or girl waiting to steal your heart, and get you back on your bikes, around Monopoly tables, in backyard tents, and rediscovering the simple joys of being young and fabulous in the summertime.

Time’s up–dryer buzzed. and it’s off to the elementary school so I can retrieve my youngest son and deposit him at his afternoon pulmonologist appointment.

Be blessed–and be a blessing.

Martha, LoudounCrazyMom

Letter #9 of 52: Rainbows and Road Trips

rainbow and cow

Beauty seen is never lost, God’s colors all are fast. –John Greenleaf Whittier

Sparrows danced joyfully on the telephone wire. The blue, cloud-dipped sky sparkled with radiant light. The fragrant floral arrangements spilled abundantly over from their sturdy vases.

We who had come for her memorial service were seated in this light-filled atrium, embraced by the beauty of the world around us as we celebrated a life lost suddenly and unexpectedly. When her best friend spoke, she shared indelible memories that the two neighbors created together-family vacations and weekend outings, antique treasure hunts and entrepreneurial endeavors, Starbucks tete-a-tetes and conversations about life.

Just the week before this memorial service, Peggy and Renee had promised each other that they’d open a new chapter in their lives, a time for reconnecting with old friends, those who had shared volleyball bleachers and elementary-school hallways. The friends whose lives, like your own, become consumed by family commitments, returns to the workplace, and family schedules that erase the hours for spontaneous coffee breaks or hour-long phone calls. Renee told us how Peggy would want us to reach out to our friends and family, to rebuild and strengthen those bonds. And how we should all find time to explore the world outside of our front doors.

With that call to action playing in my always-cluttered head, I phoned my parents on Thursday night and asked if I and at least one of my kiddos could come visit–make the five-hour trip south to reconnect. The answer was: “Come on.” We hadn’t seen each other since our family Christmas celebration in mid December. While I cherish my gene pool’s annual gathering, we’re an expansive crew so one-on-one time with any family member is practically impossible. My parents (AKA the grandparents) are in especially high demand.

With a “yes” tucked in my back pocket, our spontaneous trip to Edenton, North Carolina was on. Twelve-year-old, Cady, decided to come along. Just the two of us. I picked her up early from school on Friday, directly from my own half-day at work, and off we went. She pulled out her book, and I cranked up Jaime Grace, Matthew West, and Royal Tailor, quickly cycling through the CDs and then happily stumbling on Christian radio stations, AirOne and K-Love.

I was in a driving groove; my mind quieted. With my tinted Oakleys shielding me from the waning sun’s intense glare, I began to see the colors.

The fire-engine red tin roof on the white clapboard farm-house, a photograph begging to be taken. A brown and white paint nibbling at new growth inside the split-rail fencing.

The rusty orange clay soil, bumpy from tilling earlier in the day, its powerful scent temporarily invading our four-wheeled sanctum.

Daffodils, dressed in rain-slicker yellow, prancing carelessly in perfectly aligned, VDOT-planted rows.

Alien green fields aglow with grassy spring abundance. Cady and I couldn’t get over the vibrant verdant color, deciding it was nature’s reply to Astroturf.

Pale blue skies, dotted with marshmallow clouds that hovered effortlessly over the landscape, showcasing the colors, both God-breathed and man-made, that rested in fields, along roadsides, and in front yards.

Gray and white and chocolate horses, in paddocks along the route. A trio of chestnut and white calves romping in a meadow. Black-speckled ponies conversing in the pasture.

Indigo, violet and orange, stacked one on the other, pressing against the salt marsh as the sun painted its finale across the fading skyline.

Traffic delays and Burger King stops notwithstanding, we pulled into Mom and Dad’s just after dark, honking loudly and repeatedly to announce our arrival. We had a marvelous weekend, beginning with a golden yellow macaroni and cheese dinner. A rambling Scrabble game, aided guiltlessly by an Ipad dictionary app. A father-daughter bike ride. A mother-daughter-granddaughter shopping trip into town. Two Saturday meals out–Nothin’ Fancy Cafe for lunch and Tommy’s Pizza parlor for dinner (both delicious). On Sunday morning, we drove the 20 minutes back into town for the early morning church service, made earlier by Day Light Savings Time’s arrival. Then back to the house for a quick breakfast of pancakes and bacon before getting back on the road heading home.

I’ve seen my fair share of rainbows–even a double and inverted–but this weekend, I was blessed to witness God’s promise one striking color at a time. Red cardinals, boxing with one another for space at the feeder. The first bluebird of spring, perched on the highwire, undoubtedly searching for a place to call home. A metallic blue cruiser, carrying my 77-year-old Dad and Senior Olympian, along his daily four-mile trek (his ever-so-slightly winded daughter puffing alongside). Seven tan Scrabble tiles, lined up to spell URINE, and the shared laughter of three generations as our word choices grew ever more challenging.

It was a weekend lavishly colored with love.

Letter #9 goes to my parents, who on less than 24-hours notice welcomed us with outstretched arms.

I think now is the time to embark on more spontaneous adventures. Put down the must-dos and pick up the want-to-dos. Let’s get going people. God created a colorful masterpiece for us–step outside of the lines of your life and experience a new kind of rainbow. One you build color by color, moment by moment.

Peggy, thank you for all the moments we shared. Even now, you inspire me. I will get out and experience the beauty of this wonderland we call home. You, my friend, are deeply missed.

What a privilege to be here on the planet to contribute your unique donation to humankind. Each face in the rainbow of colors that populate our world is precious and special.–Morris Dees

Be blessed–and be a blessing,

Martha, LoudounCrazyMom

P.S.–In honor of rainbows and road trips, check out this recipe: Colorful Vegetable Fajitas.

Click above for this week's inspirational tune: "You Lead" by Jaime Grace

Help bless a Cystic Fibrosis patient with a lung transplant.

loudouncrazymom:

I’m sharing this because I have an 18-year-old daughter with cystic fibrosis. Please share this blog if you are so moved. As my pastor says, there is not a shortage of money or people willing to help. We just have to connect the two. I will forever be a CF mom, and am awed by the courage of every person who lives their life battling cystic fibrosis.

I have sent an email to the bank, and am waiting for confirmation and direction about where donations can be sent. More info when I hear…

Be blessed–and be a blessing,

Martha, LoudounCrazyMom

Originally posted on Blue Scholar Blog:

We need healthcare reform, but we need to save Lori Jo first.  I ran across this picture on my Facebook news feed and I just had to do something to help, so I’m posting it here on my blog.  D-rock Deeds Originally posted this last night.

LISTEN UP FACEBOOK FAM, I have been trying to raise money for my band to tour cali/germany this year threw a kickstarter program, instead of donating money for that( ILL GET THERE ONE WAY OR ANOTHER) i want every-one to donate what ever they can to help my friend Lori-jo get her lung transplant we are trying to raise 25,000 dollars to save her life,LORI-JO means more to me then my music carreer or tour,so TOO ALL OF MY FAMOUS ROCKER FRIENDS THAT ARE WELL OFF U KNOW WHO U ARE!!! PLEASE DIG DEEP AND HELP US RAISE THE MONEY IF U CAN ONLY…

View original 94 more words