Am I going to walk?

Backyard leaves

Rolling in the backyard leaves

I’m not sure what we’re going to do on Adriana’s fifth birthday.

We’ll have the cake and presents, of course.

The get together with friends.

But, I don’t know what we’ll do if she asks the question again.

“Am I going to walk when I’m 5?” Continue reading

A very holy October

Adri, Santi and mom at Las Nazarenas

At the Sanctuary Las Nazarenas, the main gathering place for El Senor de los Milagros. Adri in her purple robe, the main color of the celebration.

October is a very important month in Peru for the Catholic faithful. The entire month, the country celebrates El Senor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles).

For me, the stage was set early in October when we were at a birthday gathering in Pachacamac, about 45 minutes south of where we live in Lima.

Gaby’s family has some property there, which they use on the weekends for occasional get togethers.

It was a typical celebration. Nothing out of the ordinary. Until a gentleman approached me as I was carrying Adriana around the property.

I’d met him before, and we’ve held brief conversations at other gatherings. He’s the father of my sister-in-law’s good friend.

St. Jude

St. Jude prayer card

Fairly recently, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and he’s been through a difficult time, as you can imagine. I would guess he’s in his mid-70’s.

Adri and I were off by ourselves, looking for snails or roly-polies or something like that, when he approached us.

He asked me if I knew who St. Jude Thaddeus was.

Being Catholic, I felt I should know. But there was no way I was going to lie, for fear of being struck down by lightning.

He proceeded to tell me that St. Jude is the saint we pray to in desperate situations. He was one of the 12 apostles.

He was martyred, suffering death by decapitation for his belief in Christ.

Jude2He told me I should pray to St. Jude every day. He pulled a laminated prayer card out of his wallet, which he gave to me as a gift.

He didn’t mention Adriana’s disease. He never has, to me anyway.

But, I knew what he was talking about.

As a man suffering from stomach cancer, I certainly understand his devotion to St. Jude. Especially during his difficult treatments.

I know from Gaby’s cancer, things can and do feel desperate and hopeless.

His faith was evident, as he touched Adri’s legs and her head with compassion and a smile crossed his face.

So, I pray.

Although I don’t necessarily view Adri’s condition as desperate, compared to others with more serious conditions, I still pray.

Perhaps selfishly.

Senor de Los Milagros

Sanctuary of Las Nazarenas

Sanctuary of Las Nazarenas

On October 24, we visited the Sanctuary of Las Nazarenas in downtown Lima. A special mass was held for patients of Arie, a facility where Adriana receives physical therapy.

A mother whose child also gets therapy there invited us to attend.

All month, you can go to services throughout the day to pray to Christ, the Lord of Miracles. It’s really quite encouraging and powerful to see so many people joined in prayer.

We were able to take Adri and Santi right up to the large statue at the front of the church to say our prayer and let them touch the statue with their little hands.

Senor de los Milagros

Adriana and mom at the foot of the Lord of Miracles.

Celebration of the Mass

Crowds fill the church

Many parishes have their own smaller statues that they use during processions in their own districts.

Last year, I was honored to be able to help carry the statue for a short distance down our street.

I thought of Adriana.

I thought of Christ carrying the cross to his own crucifixion.

And, I plan to do the same this week when the procession passes our house again.

I’ll pray for a cure. I’ll pray for children with SMA.

I’ll pray for a miracle.

Dad and Santi

Dad and Santi in last year’s procession down our street

 

Responses Needed: Positive Thinkers Only

Back in April, I started teaching English part time for a British company that offers classes to businesses.

In the mornings and afternoons, before and after work, I spend an hour and a half teaching one-on-one classes.

The demand for English teachers is high here.

During my daily job search for full-time work, I see tons of ads for English teachers.

The economy is very strong in Peru, and many corporations want their employees to speak English because that’s the language of international business…….at least for now.

I’ve never considered myself the teacher type.

But on this rare occasion where I have the upper hand in knowledge, I do have something to offer.

I was considering this a temporary “gig,” until I find full-time employment, but with the number of responses to resumes I’m sending out, this may end up being more permanent.

And that’s o.k.

At least for as long as our savings hold out.

Don’t know what we’ll do then, but that’s a concern for another day.

Which leads me to share a recent revelation that came about, partly due to my teaching job.

A revelation about the power of positive thinking.

Baby steps toward positive

The other day, someone shared a quote on Facebook.

Lao Tzu, the Chinese philosopher and poet said:

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.

When we first moved to Peru, I spent a lot of time depressed and anxious.

Adri with Elsa

At a party: Adriana with Elsa from Frozen. When I focus on the present, and enjoy the important moments, I can’t help but feel positive.

The only times I felt good — and feel good now — were when I focused on the now. A dinner out with my wife, playing at the park with Santiago or watching Adriana at a great therapy session or surrounded by her classmates.

After almost a year of settling in, things are much better, but the negative emotions still creep in now and again.

Particularly when I’m focused on my job search.

Both Gaby and I worry about finding work that pays enough to preserve our savings.

Then yesterday, she said, “I’m not going to worry about it anymore.”

We always tell each other that something good will come along soon.

Actually, she says it more than I do.

Adri and Santi with Anna

Adri and Santi with Anna from Frozen

But it all comes back to positive thinking.

And, in our case, the faith that God will provide everything we need.

He’s done it so far, so there’s no reason to believe otherwise. Or so says the positive thinker in me.

The last couple of weeks, my lesson plans for a couple of my English students revolved around positive thinking.

We read articles about positive thinkers and how they are typically more productive, healthier and happier than pessimists.

We went through grammar exercises where the student responded with positive or negative responses to statements I made.

For example, I would say: “I’m getting married.”

The student would respond positively with, “Congratulations! I’m sure you’ll be very happy.”

And negatively (or perhaps realistically) with, “You’ll be divorced in a year.”

Just kidding about the “realistically” part.

Sadly, it was all too easy for me to formulate the negative responses.

I guess that comes from a lifetime of leaning toward pessimism.

Yesterday, I asked Gaby what type of job she really wants.

She said she would like to work for an airline.

I immediately jumped on the pessimist’s bandwagon.

“You want to commute three hours a day?!” I asked.

I could argue that I asked her “nicely” and with “great concern,” but there’s really no nice way to dash someone’s hopes.

That’s when I pray to God to make me the loving husband she deserves. The one that can show her just how much I love her.

One might argue that this would take a miracle.

But, I’m positive I can transform………..about 75% positive.

Or at least I can begin the transformation. With God, any miracle is possible.

Oh and if you have any suggestions on living a more positive life, send them over.

This is definitely an area where I lack in knowledge.

Note from God: You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be!

Cousins!

Santi and Adri with their 2-week old cousin, Leonardo!

As we got more and more serious about moving to Lima, we leaned more and more on God.

We asked him to guide our decision.

We asked him for the wisdom to trust that he will always provide what we need.

Now that we’re here,  I continue to ask him for strength and the faith that we made the right decision.

We’ve had our setbacks, and we’ll have more.

But, when I see our children’s faces, I realize that, right now, this is where we’re supposed to be.

I hope the same realization comes to each of you!

[Since Adri started hippotherapy, a little less than a year ago, she’s never ridden by herself. This week, her therapist got off the horse, and for the first time, Adri rode Facunda solo!]

Note from God: Adri will attend preschool today

The stars aligned today and gave us a miracle.

Ok, maybe not a miracle, but indeed a joyous event….which in itself can be a miracle.

Gaby had just returned from taking Adriana to her physical therapy session. When she drove up to the house, Santiago’s school next door was preparing for a “march” to celebrate what’s called the “Semana de la Educacion Inicial,” which is a week of events to highlight the importance of preschool.

IMG_0637

Adri’s first preschool class

All the classes were lined up right outside the door, ready to march.

Adriana saw them and wanted to participate.

Gaby, who is much more in tune with Adri’s developmental needs, told her that she could follow the march in her wheelchair.

I simply would have carried her and followed the procession.

IMG_0630Adri was excited to be part of the march, as she enjoyed a bit of independence in her chair.

Lately it’s been a bit difficult to motivate Adri to use her chair, but this time, she wanted to do it all by herself.

She wanted to be a part of it all!

It didn’t end there.

When they returned, Adri was bringing up the back of the line in her chair.

IMG_0631She wanted it to continue. She wanted to follow the classes back into school.

So, we took her into the three-year-old classroom to participate in music class.

She sat in wonder of her new classmates, about 10 in all.

She moved her body to the music.

IMG_0635

Sleeping with Ms. Patty, as the other kids sleep on the floor

She pretended to sleep when the other kids did the same.

IMG_0639

Ms. Patty helping her with the maraca

She got help from the teacher, Ms. Patty, who last year was Santiago’s teacher.

She laughed when the others laughed.

She held the maraca when it was her turn to play music.

She watched her classmates jump up and down to the music.

My heart ached and Gaby cried as we wondered what she was thinking.

“Daddy, I want to jump,” she must have been saying to herself.

But, she never complained.

And, although she didn’t want to leave, we brought her home, and she was happy.

Gaby’s intention has always been to take Adri a couple of times a week to school, but the timing just hadn’t worked out.

God imposed his timing on us today, and Adri attended preschool for the first time!

IMG_0632

Her classmates were just as excited to meet their new friend

It was all unplanned by us, so in my mind, it was part of God’s plan.

And so we’ll continue down this new path we’ve been shown, anxious for every new experience!

And we’ll continue to pray that our hearts and minds are open to receiving the plans God has in store for us.

Much love to everyone!

Where’s Our Miracle?

The coming of the New Year in Peru means weekends at the beach.

I remember Gaby commenting, more than once, how boring she thought Denver was compared to Lima.

“There’s nothing to do here,” she would complain.

I’d ask her what we’d be doing if we were in Peru.

“We’d be at the beach,” she’d respond, with a smile on her face.

“Yeah, but doing what?” I’d ask.

“Nothing, we’d just be at the beach.”

I’d give her my customary eye roll……..after she turned her back to me, of course.

Now, Peru does have some beautiful beaches. But the Pacific is a bit cold for my taste, and the waves are quite strong compared to, say, Miami or Fort Lauderdale. At least that’s been my experience. 

But going to the beach is what they do in Lima, so the best thing I can do is suck it up and get used to having sand in every part of the car, house, etc. for the next three or four months.

This past weekend, we went to a beach called Asia. Some friends of the family were throwing a birthday party at their condo, and we were invited.

The waves at this particular beach are really too strong for the kids, but luckily the complex had a nice swimming pool.

Santiago slipped on his inflatable vest and had a ball with his cousin and with a new friend he made at the pool.

I’ve mentioned before how Adriana loves the water. So, we’re thankful for any pool time we can get. She doesn’t even realize what wonderful therapy she’s getting as she moves her arms and legs, free from the constraints of gravity.

It was idyllic.

After swimming with the kids, we went to the party.

I knew many of the guests because we often get invited by the same group to their social activities, which are pretty much non-stop.

It’s a wonderful group of people, quick to laugh and genuinely concerned for each other’s well being.

My drink of choice for the evening was a chilcano, which is ginger ale, a twist of lime and Pisco, a common Peruvian liquor made from grapes…..kind of like what tequila is to Mexico.

The Pacific Ocean: Our New West

After a while, I found myself – off by myself – looking out at the Pacific Ocean, just out the window.

I looked at the sand, then the water, then the waves coming in, again and again, and then out into the gray vastness that was (and is) the Pacific.

I was in a Pisco-induced awe!

I mean, we used to live in Denver, Colorado, so the mountains out there to the west were pretty impressive.

But, with the mountains, there was a finality to them, in my mind.

You could see the tops. And, if you drove west for five or so hours, you reached the other side.

With the Pacific, there was no end.

I mean, of course there’s an end somewhere out there with a piece of land or another ocean, but this sucker’s huge.

[Just for reference, I’m about three drinks into the evening at this point.]

Then, the enormity of the world started to weigh on me.

As we drove back to Lima, I noticed the hillsides lined with dilapidated homes (if you can call them homes).

They’ve always been there; I just happened to fixate on them this time.

There are millions of people in Lima…..a great many of them are poor.

There are billions of people in this world….a great many of them are poor!

And, who knows how many are praying for their miracle to come true, just like we are with Adriana….the miracle that she’ll walk soon.

What makes us so special that God would grant us our miracle?

I have no answer.

Then I started to question: have we already been granted our miracle – or miracles?

God’s presence

Gaby was diagnosed with breast cancer almost at the same time Adriana was conceived.

One of the first tests the doctors wanted to perform was a PET scan, where they would have injected radioactive material into her body.

The nurse who was going to perform the test asked Gaby if she might be pregnant. We had been trying for a second child, but Gaby didn’t think she was pregnant and told the nurse that.

Gaby was really only thinking about the cancer diagnosis she had just received.

The nurse refused to do the PET scan without confirming that Gaby was not pregnant.

So, Gaby went to Walgreens, bought a pregnancy test, went back to her office and – shortly thereafter – found out she was pregnant with Adriana.

What would have happened had the nurse gone through with the PET scan? What damage would the radiation have done?

Was God watching over Gaby when our nurse refused to give her the scan?

Of course, you might say the nurse was just doing her job….confirming a young woman is not pregnant before giving her a PET scan.

I will always feel that God had a hand in it.

Or, did God grant us a miracle when Gaby had the dream that caused her to check for the lump in the first place? The dream that something was wrong and she better visit the doctor?

With a Stage 1B diagnosis, Gaby caught it early enough and she’s now cancer free.

Was that the miracle we get in this lifetime?

Or, is it the fact that Adriana survived Gaby’s chemotherapy while in her mama’s belly?

Or, the fact that Adriana has SMA, Type 2 with enough copies of the SMN 2 gene that allow her to breath on her own, or eat through her mouth instead of through a tube in her stomach?

So many beautiful, innocent Type 1 babies never make it to their 2nd birthday.

Is that our miracle?

Or is the miracle being able to see Adriana crawl, if only for a short time, before the disease took that away?

adri_crawling

Adri at about a year old, when she could still crawl.

Or, did the miracle happen this week when, for a few seconds, she stood by herself with the help of leg braces?

I guess in the end, it doesn’t really matter if these were miracles or not.

We’ll continue to pray to God for a miracle because, the way I see it, he’s the only one in the business.

adri_standing_treadmill

Adri standing on a treadmill with the help of leg braces.

Only now, I’ll try to be a little more open to what form the miracle may take.

It’s amazing what a little Pisco and a lot of ocean can do.

Adriana working with her therapist