I feel like I am living in Heaven on Earth because of all of the love surrounding me and my family.
Thank you family and friends for your love and kindness.
When our kids were young, one of our favorite family activities was hiking at Snug Harbor and the Block House. We would try to coax other family members to join us on our hike and head out with a backpack full of snacks. Hikes were a perfect way to share quality time with our kids, get some great exercise and a little bit of adventure. Plus, it was free.
We hiked a lot with my brother Mick and his family. One time we were hiking in the early spring and ice was hiding underneath the leaves. We were walking down a hill, Mick was carrying two-year-old Bryan and he slipped on the ice and down the hill with Bryan in his arms. I can still hear Mick laughing as they were sliding down the hill. Neither Mick nor Bryan were hurt and we continued on with our hike with a little more caution.
While hiking at Snug Harbor we would climb up the back of the Sugar Bowl and if you reach the top of this hill you got your first name carved into a tree. Last fall Mark and I went looking for that tree with all of our names carved into it and couldn’t find it. We think it is buried in the sand.
Today we still enjoy hikes with family and friends. In fact, it is one of my favorite things to do.
(Pictured on the tree limb is Mick and Jackie’s kids and pictured on the sand dune is the Sterritt Family.)
In November of 1979 Mark was discharged from the Navy and we were ready to continue our life in Muskegon. We moved in with Mark’s parents until we could find a place to live. Jobless, we went looking for an apartment. We found one we liked at Beverly Hills Apartments in North Muskegon and thought we would have to wait to rent until Mark had solid employment. Mr. Cryderman, the apartment manager, let us sign a lease and move in even though Mark didn’t have a job. One week later Mark landed a job at Bofor’s Lakeway Chemical as a maintenance mechanic.
We moved into our apartment on December 1, 1979 and Chad was born on December 22nd. Everything was going great, but in February of 1980 Mark’s company went on strike for seven months. His pay was reduced to $25.00 per week which wasn’t enough to pay our rent for the month.
We had been married a year and while living in Baltimore had saved money to buy a house in Muskegon. Now instead of buying a house we were surviving on our savings. Mark continued to look for a different job while on strike but no one would hire him because he was in the union. He was able to pick up a few odd jobs but not quite enough. Our savings dwindled over the next few months until we qualified for food stamps.
We were both so embarrassed that we had to resort to food stamps but we had no choice. We had signed a year lease on our apartment so we couldn’t move back in with Mark’s parents without a lease penalty. We didn’t have any other bills but with our rent, utility bills, gas, food and formula just wasn’t enough money even with a few odd jobs here and there. So we went on food stamps.
Food stamps taught us some great lessons in life. It was a good lesson in humility and not being too quick to judge others. As a reminder we still keep a partial book of food stamps in our drawer.
After seven long months of strike pay, Mark finally went back to work at the chemical company for a short while until he landed his job at Consumers Energy where he worked for 32 years. We are both very grateful for having wonderful jobs that provided us with steady income for so many years.
A month ago I visited Dr. Robert Hylland, a Rheumatology Specialist from Muskegon. I went to see Dr. Hylland just to make sure all of my medical bases were covered and hoping he would find something else wrong with me instead of ALS.
Dr. Hylland walked into the examine room where Mark, Kelly and I were waiting and said, “I looked over your records from U of M and Johns Hopkins and I’m sorry about your ALS diagnosis.” He then asked me, “How are you doing mentally with the news?” At that moment he was more concerned about my mental attitude than my physical state. He suggested I read a book called, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle. Dr. Hylland said, “The minute you go to your past and think about the things you are no longer able to do, it may make you sad. Also, the minute you go to your future and think of what lies ahead, can be devastating. If you stay in the now and enjoy each moment as it comes, you have the potential to live with great joy.”
Mark and I have been reading Tolle’s book and it helps. We are trying to stay in the now and enjoy each moment. We are still very sad at times and I still cry a lot but staying in the moment is good for us and we are living with joy most days. Eckhart Tolle said, “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the now the primary focus of your life.”