Monthly Archives: October 2013

Katelyn’s Happy World

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Mark and I are blessed to have so many wonderful nieces and nephews and we truly love all of them. In fact, I could write something very special about each one of them if I had more time. Today I’ve decided to write about our youngest niece, Katelyn.

When Katelyn was born I was excited to be at the hospital with her mother, my youngest sister, Mary. Shortly after we arrived at the hospital Mary was rushed into the delivery room because both her and Katelyn were at risk. They both survived the delivery but Katelyn was taken to DeVos Children’s Hospital where she was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus. Baby Katelyn survived and eventually had a shunt put in her head to regulate the amount of fluid going to her brain.

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Katelyn has always been special to us but about five years ago Mark and I started spending more time with her. Katelyn started calling us every night to see how we were doing. At first she didn’t have much to say so our conversations were pretty short. Now when she calls she has a lot to share with us.

Katelyn’s world is full of love, beauty and exciting events everyday. She has a family that loves her unconditionally and she feels it. Whenever we see her she is shy at first but can’t wait to give us a tight hug. Sometimes she will call us three to four times a day and leaves the most beautiful messages. Katelyn is concerned about my health and always asks how I am feeling and always says, “I hope you feel better tomorrow.” If we talk with her she always follows our conversations with a lovely text message that says, “I love you guys with all my heart!” or “I will always love you and Uncle Mark and your kids. I hope you get better soon.”

Katelyn sushi

Almost two years ago Mark and I thought it would be fun to open up Katelyn’s world for her 17th birthday so we took her on an adventure to Chicago. We wanted to expose her to as much as we could during our overnight stay downtown. We did many things but one of the things we did was eat sushi. Katelyn politely ate the sushi for us but probably would have enjoyed pizza so much more.

Oftentimes instead of us opening Katelyn’s world, she opens ours. I know she enjoyed her Chicago adventure but what Katelyn really loved about her trip was so simple. She just loves spending time with the people she loves and really doesn’t need all of the frills.

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Another important part of Katelyn’s life are her amazing teachers at Reeths-Puffer. Last month Katelyn invited Mark and I to attend a field trip at Snug Harbor so we could meet her teachers and friends. When we arrived at Snug Harbor an excited Katelyn saw us and ran up to greet us with a beautiful bouquet of flowers that she and her dad picked up the night before. She immediately pulled us over to meet a few of her favorite teachers and some of her friends. She was beaming with excitement and was so proud that we all got to meet each other.

Katelyn will graduate from Reeths-Puffer next year and we will be proud to see her walk across that stage.

Katelyn and Mark

“Success isn’t how much money you make but how much of a difference you make in people’s lives.”

Michelle Obama

Katelyn has made a big difference in our lives.

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Beautiful Music

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Last summer while sitting on a bench in the woods with my very young but wise friend Katherine and her mom Sheila, I asked Katherine how she deals with difficulties in her life. At that moment Katherine said, “By giving to others.”

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Katherine with an update on her answer.

I think about your question you asked me on the bench all the time. I think I’ve finally found my answer. MUSIC. Whenever I am in a mood where I feel like I need to deal with something, I listen to music. Music is my way to escape reality.

I loved Katherine’s answer because music helps me escape reality, too. The minute we walk into our home we turn on music. I play music in every room and especially the bathroom because showers can be so exhausting for me now. With music playing while showering it helps me forget about my difficulties and weaknesses.

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While visiting Corey in San Francisco a couple weeks ago he and Bevan gifted us with beautiful music. We heard great musicians and vocalists while attending the church service at Glide. That same afternoon we attended an amazingly entertaining and funny performance of Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon. And Corey knows how much I love musicals, so he treated Mark and I to tickets to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. King’s music brought Mark and I back to our youth and taught us that Carole King wrote so many amazing songs for other artists.

I absolutely love musical productions, so lucky for me I will still be able to attend shows even after I am no longer able to walk or talk. And I will still be able to listen and enjoy my music without saying a word and my world will still be good.

“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic far beyond all we do here!”

Albus Dumbledore

Bryan’s Broken Arm

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On a beautiful Friday evening at least 12 years ago the Saliszs were having a beach party on Lake Michigan. Bryan rode home with Sheila Salisz after school so Mark and I met him at the party. As we were walking through the trail to the beach we met up with some of Bryan’s friends and then Joe Salisz who was holding Bryan up as they walked. Joe told us that the boys were playing football on the beach and Bryan fell and broke his arm.

We arrived in the emergency room and got right in. Sure enough, Bryan’s arm was broken. While the doctors were casting his arm I called home to tell Chad, Kelly and Corey that we were at the emergency room with Bryan because he had broken his arm. I wasn’t quite ready for the unsympathetic response I received from our kids.

In unison Corey and Kelly said, “It serves him right. Do you know how much Bryan embarrassed us at school today?” I had no idea what they were talking about. They told me that during an all-school assembly, which included grades six through 12, Bryan and one of his best sixth grade friends, Jake Paquin, ran into the middle of the gym in front of the whole school and started dancing to some music that was being played by the United States Navy Band. Kelly and Corey were mortified that Bryan would choose to randomly run out in front of the whole school and embarrass them in front of their friends. I think they were ready to disown their baby brother.

I’m not sure Kelly and Corey have forgiven Bryan for that stunt he pulled but he wasn’t scathed by it because after he got his cast on at the hospital all he wanted to do was go back to the party.

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So we did.

The Anointing of the Sick

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On Saturday night Mark and I went to mass at Prince of Peace for the anointing of the sick. In the past this is the mass that has always made me cry. During mass the people that are sick stand at their seats and wait for Father to anoint them with a special oil. The meaning of this anointing is powerful but gets to me every time because people stand before the congregation and profess to the whole church community that they are sick. The sickness may be mental or physical.

This time was emotionally worse than ever. As soon as Father mentioned it in mass I checked my emotions hoping that the little blue pill I take for emotionality is working extra well. I thought to myself, ‘I can do this without crying.’  But nope. I was worse than ever. I cried even before the anointing. It’s a good thing we had extra Kleenexes. I was fine during the anointing but couldn’t hold back afterwards. Mark and I had to leave church because I couldn’t get it together. We sat in the library for a while hoping to return to mass but I just couldn’t do it so we left.

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But my sadness didn’t last long because of two surprise visitors. My friends and former classmates Darrell White and Leon Manning came to visit Mark and I after church which brightened our night. Darrell lives in Muskegon and Leon was home for a few days to attend the funeral of his older brother.

Listening to Leon joke and reminisce about our high school days filled our evening with so much fun and laughter. Our night ended up being a great one thanks to old friends.

Good Food and Great Friends

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One of my family’s favorite activities is a candlelit dinner. The dinners aren’t necessarily about the food but about the great conversation that typically happens during a meal. While visiting California, Corey set up a bunch of dinners so we could see old friends and meet new ones.

Dinners have become a little bit difficult for me because I’m having trouble swallowing and because my fingers, hands and arms are weak which makes it hard to feed myself. So for some reason I get a little nervous or maybe a little self-conscious about my disabilities during meals, though I know I shouldn’t because friends and family don’t care and are so willing to help.

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Our first dinner on the trip was with one of my best friends from high school, Nancy Mingle Bates, and her husband Michael. We dined outside at a beautiful oceanside restaurant near San Luis Obispo, California. We all ordered fish and chips which was a relief to me because I could pick it up with my fingers rather than using a knife and fork which is difficult for me to do.

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Our second dinner was at Bevan and Corey’s house. They invited José Cisneros and Mark Kelleher over for pasta. At the start of dinner Corey poured me an inch of wine in a light plastic cup because it was easier for me to lift. The meal started with appetizers and without hesitation our friend Mark offered to put crab dip on a chip for me, which made it easy for me to eat. During the course of the meal I started to choke a little so I walked away from the table. Everyone casually kept talking while Mark and Corey helped me get back to normal and return to the table. No one made a big deal out of it, they just acknowledged it and kept talking. My speech is also slowing down, but everyone listened attentively with patience as I told my stories. The dinner conversation was lovely and I ended the night feeling as though I had climbed a mountain.

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On Tuesday of last week Ronnie Matthews, one of Bryan’s best friends from St. Michael’s Elementary, drove three hours from Fresno to visit us in San Francisco. Mark had to run an errand for part of the day so he left Ronnie and I alone to venture out to get something to eat. Ronnie was so protective and gently held my hand as we walked to the restaurant. It felt so good to see the boy I’ve known since he was very little grow up into such a beautiful, kind and gentle young man.

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That same night we hosted our nephew Christopher and another Muskegon friend Deborah Ferguson and her boyfriend Adam who all currently live in San Francisco. Deborah and Adam brought food, wine and dessert to make our dinner easier for us. They were all very helpful and understanding. I hadn’t seen Christopher since I was diagnosed, so when he saw me walk for the first time he immediately got up and hugged me tight as if to say “I’m sorry.”

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The last two dinner parties were hosted by Peter and Maureen Keller who flew in from Vancouver, Washington to visit their daughter Kari and to meet us. Corey and Kari became great friends while working at Square and were excited for their families to get to know one another.

Kari’s parents arrived in San Francisco around 2:00pm on Thursday, bought groceries, cooked a meal and hosted a fabulous spaghetti dinner at 7:00pm. Kari invited friends Marc and his wife Marlowe, Adam and his girlfriend Chris and Beth to join us. Mark and I met all of these wonderful people last year and were anxious to see them again, even though I was a little nervous. But during the course of dinner everyone offered to help and made me feel very comfortable. While having dinner I got a little messy because of my lack of coordination and Mark said I had a little spaghetti on my face. Chris was sitting next to me and immediately helped me clean my face like it was no big deal.

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On our last night in San Francisco we went to a popular restaurant called Bar Tartine to try to see Mary and Charlie Fritz’s daughter Molly. Bevan was sitting close to me and cut up my food and served me. By now I am beginning to feel comfortable with people helping me.

After dinner we headed to Easy Breezy for dessert and by the end of our evening I was tired and my arms felt heavy so my right arm dropped while eating my frozen yogurt. Corey picked up my spoon and fed me my last few bites. When I was finished I said to him, “We’ve come full circle.”

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Our San Francisco trip was different this time than last but awesome anyway thanks to all of the wonderful people we saw. Mark and I won’t be so nervous to venture out next time because everything turned out better than we could have imagined.