Dropping Lily off at school this morning:
Me: Hello! Please excuse anything that might be missing. Lana wasn't here, and I don't know if I followed all of the instructions.
Therapist: Oh, I'm sure it will be fine. (Looking through the bag)... Does she have her iPod Touch?
Me: Oops. I did think to plug it in, so it's charging at home!
Therapist: (Fake smile) No big deal.
Lily reaches for a cup on the outside pocket of her bag.
Therapist: Sorry Lily! You can't have that one until lunch. But you can have your regular morning drin... (looks back at me) Did you pack her a morning drink?
Me: I packed the thermos with the extra lemonade in it, but not an extra cup. I didn't know! The sticky note didn't say pack an extra cup!
Therapist: (Second fake smile - eyes saying "You're a moron.") No problem! We'll just get her to drink it straight from the thermos out of a straw.
Me: I remembered her jacket! (Very proud of myself)
We wave goodbye awkwardly, both fully aware that there are sure to be missing elements from her bag throughout the day. And I'm having second thoughts about the leftover Chinese food I put in her lunch to save time.
So I'm not the only one today who is reminded of all the little things she does that no one ever notices or applauds. And it dawned on me that it might be a good opportunity to tell you how amazing this woman is who exposes our quirks to the world on a daily basis through this blog. Here are a few things that Lana loves:
1. Lana loves the big city for very short periods of time. She loves the country for long periods of time.
2. She loves 80's rock. When we met, she had more 80's hair band albums than anyone I knew, which was a bit bizarre for a very preppy "Duran Duran" profile girl. It still amazes me, when Van Halen, or White Snake, or Wenger come on the radio (If Wenger every actually comes on the radio), how she can identify song, band, lyrics, and some bizarre trivia about the band. Who have I MARRIED?
3. She loves books. But then, if you've read this blog, you already know that.
4. She loves sports more than she lets on. And will often shock me by commenting on a play or player in the midst of a game in a way that shows me she's very aware of what's happening. (This isn't really true, but I slipped in one that I hope becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. Who knows - maybe she really DOES love sports more than she lets on! I once went to an NBA game with Lana and her parents. She and her mom talked the entire game about things totally unrelated to Carmelo Anthony and Tim Duncan. It was an amazing game, and a shot at the buzzer put the game into overtime. I looked over at Lana and said, "Can you believe this?!?" To which she replied, "I never noticed until right now that there is a Disco Ball hanging in the ATT Center! Do you think that's just for concerts?")
5. She loves little, mischievous boys. You know those ones with the look in their eye like they're up to something no good but they're trying to pull the "Eddie Haskell" fake innocence? The six-year-olds who are the first ones who will find trouble if it's within twenty feet of them? She's always loved them. Even as a teacher, when she wanted to strangle them, she would come home and tell the stories of what they did, and then smile almost in admiration. I have often thought it would have been dangerous if we would have had a son, because he would have gotten conflicting messages about his bad behavior. "Son! Just because it's sort of the right shape doesn't mean you can play football with the lamp! What were you thinking? Now its broken forever. But, then again, you're kind of cute when you're bad. Let me take your picture for my blog!"
6. She loves old people. And by old people, I don't mean to offend the old people reading this. If you're offended, then you're not old enough to be the ones I'm talking about anyway. Do you know how people get old enough that they start bragging about their ages again? She loves those people, and I've always enjoyed watching her love on them, engage them in conversation, and listen intently to their stories. It always makes me think she'll be a really good old person when she gets there. But then again, it's hard to picture Lana bragging about her age.
7. Lana loves being at home with her family. She would prefer this more than just about anything (with the exception of the aforementioned time alone), and so our home always feels like the most welcoming place on earth.
8. She loves her extended family, and loves hanging out with them too. Incidentally, we have two nephews who have that "look in their eye" like they're up to something. I will not expose them on this blog. They know who they are. One of the challenges of having Lily has been a lot less travel to see everyone, and she misses that.
9. She loves sitting by a warm fire on a cold day.
10. She loves coconut gelato.
11. She loves the babies at the Baby Rescue Center at our missions partner in Zacapa, Guatemala. If I would let her, they would all live at our house. (By the way, the same rescue center Lana has told you so much about and has raised funds for was featured on Fox News this past Sunday, where our good friends Vernon Brewer and Noelle Yeatts. You can watch the clip here.)
12. She loves driving around looking at houses, and really enjoys walking through them. After moving five times in the past eight years, I think we've kicked the habit of moving into them, but she still likes looking. In fact, she found the house that my parents ended up buying when they moved to Austin.
13. She loves shopping with cash. That may seem odd, but if I get her an outfit, she appreciates the effort and sometimes appreciates the outfit (I can't really tell until it sits in the closet for a year. I also don't want to make it sound like this is a common occurance. I've purchase maybe three outfits for her in two decades.) She's okay with just going shopping with me or me saying, "Go get yourself something fun!" but I still don't get the same excitement. I think it's because, with the checkbook or bank card, she knows it's coming out of the budget. With the cash, there's no connection to real life. What she really likes is, "Here's $_____ cash that can only be used on you and nothing else. Go to the mall and get something you love!"
14. She loves special needs children. And this is not a phenomenon that happened when we had one. Lana has always been the one to walk across the Wal Mart to say hello to a child if she felt it would make his or her day, and make the mom and dad feel better. This is noteworthy, because Lana is not a chatty socialite with strangers. But she'll go out of her way if it's someone she thinks a person is hurting, sad, alone, or marginalized. When we first had children and we started planning for what attributes we wanted to instill in them, Lana's priority was compassion. She often said, "If there's a child at school who others make fun of and is all alone, I want our girls to be the ones to walk across the room and be a friend when no one else will." Incidentally, that describes our older girls pretty well.
15. Lana loves frosted sugar cookies almost as much as life itself. Please send them to her by the dozen.*
16. She loves long walks on a cool day. We spend lots of time on the Hike and Bike Trail in Austin. This is her most relaxing time.
17. Lana loves you! She loves this blog, and interacting with the community of people that have gathered here. She loves the idea that she might be able to take some of our experiences and bring joy to a family who is hurting and overwhelmed - as we have been at times - and share that there is hope. I have a friend who has been dealing with the overwhelming challenge of a brain tumor, and he recently wrote, "Laughter feels like faith to me." I think that's true. Laughter is an expression that life is not so serious, that the sun will still come up tomorrow, and that there's joy found even in the midst of difficulties. Lana's ability to spin our lives in a way that makes us laugh at ourselves has been a blessing to us, and hopefully a reminder that having a special needs child is not one big pity party.
18. She loves suspense movies and TV shows. I count that as a great blessing in my life, having not married someone who loves chick flicks. If people will be murdered and others are trying to solve that murder and there is some government conspiracy, it's her kind of film. (This sometimes concerns me. If I turn up missing, don't automatically assume I ran away. Check the backyard for fresh dirt.)
19. She loves her children. Lana taught elementary school when we first got married, but her dream was always to pour her life into her own children as soon as they came our way. And that's exactly what she did. I have never, ever seen a Mom love so much, offer so much insight, and inspire so fully (and I had a GREAT mom!) Since Ryley was born 18 years ago, I've been amazed by her ability to recognize a sense of "time and place" and accept her role for the season. In other words, she has other hopes, dreams, aspirations, etc, but she puts her children first - and doesn't really care whether people are mad because she doesn't accept the position on the board.
That's why Lily's coming five years ago so profoundly impacted our family. Not just that Lily can't speak yet, or that she's another mouth to feed. It's that Lana has once again re-calibrated her plans and expectations to give everything to her family. And you might say, "What choice did she have?" But she had plenty of choices - even within the obligations that every parent holds. Lana hasn't simply "held on" to her obligations with Lily, or kept plodding along as a mom. She's poured her heart and soul into Lily Bird. She's read every book she can get her hands on to help improve her quality of life. She's been her advocate when it's meant being rude, when it's meant faking niceness to people she didn't like, and when it's meant pleading with doctors, nurses, or insurance companies to move things along.
Lana has literally given her life to her family, and I don't know if there is a greater example that any mom could follow.
20. She loves me. I still haven't completely figured out how I pulled that off, but she does! And twenty years ago today, at 11AM, I had the privilege of marrying my very best friend. Every year since then has been better than the one before.
*Actually, I'm the one who loves the frosted sugar cookies, but I felt like I should get something for my effort today.