Monday, November 28, 2011

Quiet Moments with the Birthday Boy

Today is Ethan's 4th birthday. When I picked him up from school, he announced, "I think I would like to go to the park today!"

So we did.

We marveled at the gnarled trees split down the middle, and mammoth branches still strewn on the ground from the storm.

We admired the buoy in the pond, which Ethan first called a football, and then, after I told him what it was called, said later, "I like that boo!"

We approached the playground, where Ethan announced, "I want to go on that tire swing!" I pushed him until he was dizzy. His eyes sparkled and his grin was huge.

"Watch me go down the pole!" he called a few minutes later, so absolutely proud of himself.

He told me to count while he hid and then proceeded to hide next to a tree right in front of me, in plain sight, with his eyes covered.

Then he told me I had to go on the monkey bars, which I attempted and failed miserably.

In the unseasonably warm November sunshine I could only think about how far we've come. I thought about the tiny newborn, born 15 days early, I held four years ago. Unlike his sister, he had trouble staying awake. He seemed to want to stay in the fetal position, fists clenched. He seemed to have a little trouble swallowing. He failed his hearing test at first.

My boy, starting out in this world with a neurological system that didn't fit him quite right.

But how he's adapted. He's learned so much.

I'm so proud of him.

The morning after Ethan was born, I looked out the hospital window and happened upon a beautiful sunrise. This morning, we had another one...all fiery orange and pink. Then tonight, there was a magnificent sunset as well. People were sending pictures of it to the evening news.

The sky was absolutely glorious, and all I could feel was blessed.

Ethan, a few hours old

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

To Be Real

The idea seemed so good at first.

Ethan started getting "into" trains awhile ago, meaning that whenever we'd be at the library or Barnes & Noble, he'd spend a good deal of time at the Thomas the Train table, pushing trains around the track. When a friend mentioned on Facebook before Christmas last year that she was selling a train table and tons of trains, I thought we should leap at the opportunity.

So I drove out to her house and figured out how to wedge the thing into the back of my car.
I lugged it into the garage and Dan put the pieces back together.
I attempted to pry off the old track glued on there, meeting with limited success.
I spent a great deal of time attempting to fit their assortment of different brands of train tracks into some sort of layout, which was infinitely more difficult due to the scattered tracks of various sizes still glued to the table that I somehow had to incorporate as well.

I spent WAY too much time on that part.

We presented the table to Ethan on Christmas and after the holidays moved the table up to his room, where, lo and behold -- he rarely played with it. He would for a few minutes, or if someone else was playing. But anytime he was left alone in his room, I'd inevitably hear him start smashing the tracks.

So I mustered up some determination and glued the tracks down.
He smashed them again.
So I glued them better.
And he smashed them.
So I decided, with some guidance from Dan, to screw the tracks in to the table. Even on my best day, I'm possibly the least handiest person in the world. Somehow I managed to split a number of tracks in two, but I did eventually get things screwed down.
But somehow Ethan managed to break those tracks off, too.

Some days I'd leave the table a jumbled mass of tracks, washing my hands of the matter. Every once in awhile, Ethan would say, "The tracks are broken," and I'd half-heartedly put most of them back together.

I wondered when exactly along the way all of this had begun to feel like a battle.

Last month all was quiet in Ethan's room on a Saturday morning. Too quiet. I went in there to find he had peed on the train table.

This is not something he does often, peeing on toys or ruining toys or books. Every once in awhile he will, but thankfully Ethan doesn't tend to be destructive. Every time he is, however, feels like a punch in the gut.

Every time he does something like that, I remember being a kid, and Andy and his bathroom incidents all over the house, the clothes and furniture he destroyed -- not out of malice, just out of frustration; confusion; not understanding.

Every time Ethan does something like that, I fight getting a very bitter taste in my mouth.

With Ethan watching, I began to rip up the train tracks, furiously cleaning, tossing things into a garbage bag. That was it. I was waving my white flag. I was admitting surrender.

When I was a kid, for whatever reason, one of my favorite stories was Pinocchio. In the story, a fairy tells Pinocchio the wooden puppet he can become a real boy if he proves himself "brave, truthful, and unselfish." The part I always remember and always loved is the end, when Pinocchio is jumping around for joy, so thrilled and awed to be a real boy.

The more I thought about the train table fiasco, the more I wondered: had the train table been for Ethan, or had I been pushing the whole thing in my own vain efforts to mold Ethan into a "real" boy? A typical kid? Someone who would meet my ideals and expectations?


One of the most painful things about having a child with special needs is really nothing about the child. It's the way the experience turns a spotlight on your insides, your motives, your intentions...and highlights every impurity, every darkly selfish part.

It's okay to grieve. But what if the greatest tragedy was to spend life pining for the wrong dreams; longing for the things that aren't even real, things that don't actually bring us the ultimate fulfillment we're all searching for?

I can't forget something Beth Moore once said, and I'm paraphrasing: God's plan for each of us is not that we're a perfectly happy and content, but that our lives have meaning and purpose.

I DID need to surrender, just not in the way I had thought.

Ethan IS a real boy. Ethan is my boy. He loves music and computer games and trains (when we're not at home), cul-de-sacs and bells. He loves...he shows love...and he shows love unashamedly, without conditions. I am the one who can be hollow inside; not genuine.

Pinocchio finally becomes a boy when he chooses to sacrifice his life for his father. He lives out the fairy's admonishment to be brave, truthful (after some slip-ups!), and unselfish.

To be brave, not filled with fear, in the face of challenging circumstances. Truthful with not just others, but myself. Humble and unselfish, loving people for who they are rather than what they can do for me.

This is what it means to be real.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Wherever you look these days in our little corner of the world, you'll see the tree debris. Piles of brush -- branches that fell during the snowstorm -- lie on the sides of the road, waiting for the town to pick them up. Some branches are still wedged on roofs. Small trees the storm wrestled from the ground lie strewn about in unnatural angles. Some bigger trees have lost their grandeur -- many of their sweeping branches were snapped by the snow into jagged, stubby arms.

I look at some of these trees and wonder if they will survive.

Years ago I went on a trip with my mom to the Southwest. The experience was unforgettable -- I was awed by the beauty. I fell in love with the red rocks, the cactus, the desert landscapes. When we returned home, however, I was surprised to be struck by something as we walked to the car that day in May. We were enveloped by the aroma of green, of new leaves. My mom and I both inhaled deeply, thankful to be home.

That was the first time I think I realized how much we take comfort in our surroundings, in the familiar and sometimes even mundane, without realizing we are doing so.

Long after people had stopped talking about the horror of 9/11, I would often think of the people in Manhattan, trying to navigate life again, trying to navigate the streets again, without the anchor of the twin towers. The towers were how I got my bearings, how I knew where I was, I remember one man saying.

When a severe ice storm hit my mom's hometown several years ago, she had to drive up to north-central Mass. and see the damage. What she saw left her in tears. The trees, the grand trees she remembered from her childhood, had snapped like twigs. Something different was left.

I have been looking in my backyard at the fallout. Thanks to the storm, the light has changed. More sun is able to peek through. I can see more. It's that way all around town. Things that were previously obscured are now in the open, exposed. At times this feels a little peculiar, and a little sad.

Yet there are times we need to be jolted in order to really see. Sometimes it's only when we lose our anchors that we realized we were tethered to something we shouldn't have been. Sometimes we have to let go of things in order for something new to grow.

Some storms come and are out of our control. There is nothing we could have done in our own strength to stop the deluge. But then, even then, we can look beyond the debris and find something of worth left behind. Something we can learn from. Something we may not have ever seen, had the storms chosen to pass us by.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bells are in the Air

So, we've ever-so-slowly started to ease out of Ethan's interest in cul-de-sacs and are now journeying to wonderful world of bells.

It all started on September 11, when at church our pastor spoke for a few minutes in honor of the 10th anniversary while from somewhere a bell started tolling in the background.

Ethan was fascinated. I was actually a little intrigued, wondering if in fact our church did have a bell up in the steeple that I just hadn't known about. At the end of the service Dan broke the news that indeed, the sound was not a real bell but a sound effect blasted through the sanctuary's sound system.

"It's not a real bell, just a sound effect," Ethan says at church every week.

We drive and drive and constantly I am peppered with the same questions.

1. Does that church have a bell?
2. Is it an upstairs bell or a downstairs bell?
3. Can I hear it?

One day during the power outage as we bombed around in the car we were gloriously blessed with the sound of bells ringing from a church in the town of East Granby. I rolled down the windows so both kids could hear. Ethan's smile couldn't have been bigger.

As we sat in the autumn sunshine, waiting at a red light and listening to the tinkle of those bells waft past us, I thought of what a beautiful sound it really was.

In Ireland, my neighbor who grew up there told me yesterday, the bells ring several times a day. The older generation, the Catholics who hear it know at that moment that they are to stop. The men remove their hats. They take a moment to pray.

But here in New England, in an area rife with small villages and town greens and brilliant white old Congregational churches, the bells don't often ring. Even when the bells ring, most of us are too busy to listen. Racing by in our sealed up cars, we don't even hear them.

Once again, Ethan's eyes and ears, his different perspective, have me noticing details I never would have otherwise.

We incorporate bells into play. A typical game these days is building a tower with blocks, placing a bell on top, and then having the Fisher Price people gather below to listen. One morning last week Ethan woke up and began performing a bell concert in his room. From below I heard something like this:

"Ring, ring, ring, ring, RING, RING, RING!!
Ding, ding, ring, ring, dingdingdingdingding, RING!!! RING!!!"

We've promised Ethan in the summer we will go up to Springfield and back to Dan's old church, a beautiful, imposing Methodist structure right on one of the main avenues in the city. Every summer they have a series of concerts in the early evening. People gather and sit on blankets to enjoy refreshments. Children run through the cool grass in their bare feet. Then, as the sun sinks lower in the sky, they listen to the bells play.

Christmas is coming. I'm going to hear "Silver Bells" on my XM radio holiday channel any minute now. Those jingle bells on the one-horse open sleigh are about to start jangling. I have the feeling we'll be visiting many, many Salvation Army bell ringers in front of stores before all is said and done.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hope in the Unseen

Ethan has been doing great lately. Ethan has been doing fabulously well. The other day his speech therapist sought me out on the school playground just to say how amazed she was at his progress.

"He was pretending to make a screwdriver blast off like a rocket!" she raved. "He's such a model for the other kids in the ABA room on Mondays." Her face was beaming. The other day I watched him trot off with the typical kids in the three-year-old class, no aide in sight. The special ed teacher nearby gave me an amazed glance, as if to say Well, would you look at that?

At home that little imagination is starting to take shape. His ideas are simple and repetitive but HE is generating them. Ethan is the one deciding the retractable tape measure is actually Swiper the Fox's house. Ethan is putting his creatures in a line and pretending they are waiting to go down the big tunnel slide. This is a big deal, people.

And I have absolutely no idea why.

The old saying about autism being a puzzle ain't kidding. If autism wasn't such a mystery, we'd have a cure by now. If any of us knew that all we had to do was A plus B to automatically generate C, we'd obviously we doing just that.

We haven't increased his therapy. In fact, it's decreased. I haven't done the one-on-one play dates I've wanted to plan for him. He hasn't had less technology/screen time to focus on more explorative and imaginative play. During the power outage he lived on a steady diet of DVDs and Angry Birds. He had an unscheduled week off from school in the dark and slipped back into the routine without blinking an eye.

It's hard not to wonder.

A year ago he was having 10-plus hours of therapy a week while making steady but certainly less significant gains.

Many, many others who have children with autism do everything possible to get their kids the most expensive therapy and latest treatments, they move heaven and earth to rearrange their schedules or their family's diet or their jobs, they get down on their hands and knees and they work and they pray and they play with their child and in the end only witness their child make the smallest of gains.

My own brother spent years at a school for children with autism and yet has never learned how or cared to play...never expressed an emotion with words...never said "I love you."


I know I could rest in my laurels and believe it's something I've done, or it's some testament to my faith and belief in Ethan's ability, in God coming through for me. There are so many people out there who believe if you just do enough, just believe enough, just (hold onto the illusion that you are completely in control) then everything will work out the way you want it to.

Or I can take the more difficult path. I can choose to trust when the why questions can't be answered. I can thank God for the gift of my son and the gains he's made, without the guilt of wondering, "Why us and not someone else?" I can choose not to be bitter about those who continue to struggle greatly, about a life that doesn't always have pat or logical answers.

I can believe that God has a plan for every single person with autism, for every person with special needs.

I can do my best as a parent and then throw myself back into the arms of His grace, a place where I don't have to make anything happen. And neither does He -- because He already has. Amazing things are happening in each life touched by autism, and sometimes those things have nothing to do with words spoken, or letters on a paper.

We had a guest speaker at church awhile ago who has a grown son with disabilities. I believe his son is in a wheelchair and is blind. He told a story about being on the beach one day when he saw a group of guys his son's age playing volleyball. He sat there in awe for a moment, watching the strength of their muscles, the way they were laughing and interacting with each other. And then he heard the vilest of voices whisper in his head, "Your son never got to play volleyball with you. You've seen other people healed, but not your son."

He gathered himself, and then he spoke back.

"Oh, I know," he answered. "But I see us playing volleyball. I don't know if it will be next year or 10 years down the road, in this terrestrial realm or in the celestial realm. But there will be a day when my boy and his daddy play volleyball. Maybe we'll have perfect heavenly bodies. Then we won't run, because we'll be able to fly."

I rejoice at Ethan's progress, but my hope cannot be in Ethan's progress. My hope, or my doubt, can't spring from cold, hard facts.

There is something beyond facts. There is Truth. There are miracles everywhere, in this world and in the world to come. If only I can see. If only I can remember.

Look beyond the window there
To the sky above to the open air
Look beyond what you can see
Close your eyes and just believe

The lion roars and the lamb lays down
They live together in a whole new town
They're calling me and they're calling you
From the cold hard facts that we're on our own
To the age old truth that we're not alone

- From the song "Emma (You're Not Alone)," by Jason Upton

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What Happened When the Lights Went Out

Snowstorms where we live in southern New England are by no means uncommon. Just last December a storm left 22-plus inches on the ground. Snow in October, however, is rare. "I want snow! I want snow!" Anna had been shouting for the past month, and every time I reminded her that the most we ever see in October is a quick flurry. The most, that is, until Saturday, October 29, when the snow began in earnest around 1 o'clock here in north-central Connecticut and kept snowing throughout the night. A foot of heavy, wet snow on the branches of trees that had still had many leaves meant trouble. Very big trouble. Just a few hours after the snow had started, the branches, trees, and power lines began tumbling down.

Day 1
Our power went out at dusk while the kids were playing in the wonder of October snow. "Can I eat it?" Ethan was asking with joy. Anna mushed the flakes into snowballs and began lobbing them at me. I looked around and marveled at the world turned white. Our pumpkins and mums on the front steps were quickly disappearing. Next door, I noticed the flicker of a candle in the neighbors' kitchen. Glancing inside our own home, I saw indeed that our lights were gone. This was not so much of a disappointment but rather a piece to add the adventure. We could do this! Two months ago we'd prepped for Hurricane Irene only to be left with a lot of batteries and jugs of water. Our street never lost power never lost power in general. We'd hunker down and camp out and this would quickly blow over.

"Deb, you've got to see this," Dan was calling from the front yard. I rushed over with the kids and saw our small dogwood tree so laden with snow that several branches had already snapped. "Noooo!" shouted Anna. "I love that tree!" We frantically grabbed brooms and tried to brush the snow off the leaves to relieve the pressure. Our efforts were futile. In ten minutes nearly all of the branches on the tree had snapped.

Heading to the backyard, I realized the snapping sound was everywhere. In our backyard... across the the neighbors' yards. By the time 10 more minutes had gone by a small evergreen had come down in a yard two houses down. I heard a crash across the street as a huge oak branch fell in the road. A branch cracked and fell on the other side of our house, not far from where Ethan and I had just been walking. At that point the snow was no longer fun, but for the first time in my entire 36 years living in New England, frightening. We ushered the kids inside and lit candles. We listened to the radio; we saw lightning and heard the rumble of thunder snow. After the kids were in bed, Dan and I stepped outside into the fury. The crackling of limbs was all around us. In the snowy darkness I saw more fall. Transformers exploded again and again, sending an eerie glow in the sky. I heard the whine of sirens in the distance. In bed attempting to fall asleep, I truly wondered for the first time ever if a tree was going to fall on the house.

Day 2
I woke when it was still dark. Downstairs, I lit a candle and stared out the window. We live on a fairly busy street and once in awhile a car drove by. Every time one did the car headlights illuminated a massive branch down across the street. How bad is this? I wondered, waiting impatiently for the sun.

I watched the candle in my hands flicker and dance, watched the way it threw shadows on the walls. Once I got up too quickly and the light snuffed out. I reminded myself how fragile the light is. I thought about how fragile we are. We are blinded sometimes by our invincibility, by the supposed surety of bright lights and buttons and screens, yet there was a beauty in the little candle's quiet dance that I'd never appreciated before.

When daylight came I ventured carefully into the backyard to survey the damage. No trees were down, just very large branches. The kids' climbing tree was most likely going to make it. Wires were down across the street. The snow had transformed us into January overnight.

That day we ventured to Lowes, where of course the generators were gone, and found a charger that would help us run a little electricity off our car's battery. We learned that 800,00 other houses were in the dark as well. A search for gas turned up a few open gas stations within a 10-mile radius. At one, we waited in line for a half-hour (Ethan was quite happy, I must add, that we spent much of that wait parked in front of a street that had both a "No Outlet" and "Dead End" sign). When I finally went in the gas station to buy some bread, I suddenly heard a man shouting, "Here's right there, officer!" and two cops were yelling and handcuffing a man on the ground right in front of me. Apparently he had stolen a car and then waited in the gargantuan line to get gas, where his owner had come by and recognized the car.

Two hours later I went searching for food in Hartford (which had much more electricity) and ended up finding a McDonalds and a gas station open. Waiting to fill up Dan's car took 45 minutes. People were running out of gas in line and making the traffic worse. Almost everyone was filling up both their tanks and gas cans for their generators.

Over in McDonalds was more craziness. Apparently it was one of the few restaurants for miles around opened. I saw other people from our town, including the mom of one of Anna's classmates. Two ladies from Texas and California from a hotel across the street were also in line. They had come to visit family and look at the foliage, which of course was now buried under the snow. The line took another 45 minutes to get through, and in the end they got our order wrong. But as I drove home I thought about about how that was the most conversation I'd ever had while waiting in line around here. Connecticut is not the south or even, say, Maine. People keep to themselves. But now everyone had a story to share.

Day 3
Monday was Halloween, only everything was cancelled, including the Harvest Party at Anna's school. No one was thinking about trick-or-treating, anyway, with branches and power lines all over the sidewalks.

We drove 25 miles north to my parents' house. Their power was out but they had heat and hot water. Their street in Springfield looked worse than ours. The kids and I enjoyed the beauty of bathing and showering and we visited for awhile. Driving down I-91, all I could see was empty store parking lots. All of the towns in our little north-central Connecticut world were still dark.

The house was getting colder. Dan and I talked and decided if the temperature went below 50 degrees, we'd find somewhere else to say. We put on layers and ate chicken off the grill. Anna and Ethan slept bundled up together in Anna's bed.

As I sat shivering under the covers, I kept thinking of the Laura Ingalls Wilder book "The Long Winter." I remembered the morning she had woken up with frost on top of her quilts while a blizzard howled outside. Something about the fact that other people had gone through this long ago brought me comfort, and I slept.

Day 4
Our fireplace, used just once in the seven years we'd been in the house, suddenly became a necessity. We found some logs and got the thing going, although it certainly wasn't going to heat our house or even the entire living room. Still, some heat was better than none.

While Ethan napped in the afternoon, Anna went to play with her friends at the neighbors' house. They had a generator, and when I went to retrieve her, I was enveloped by the heat and lights. They had numerous family and friends over there; someone had driven all the way to Long Island to get the generator and everyone was trying to make the most of it.

Anna was sad to leave the jovial atmosphere. I couldn't blame her. We discovered the homemade sauce and meatballs I'd had in the freezer was going to go bad, so we cooked pasta and sauce on the grill, making many dishes before realizing our kitchen sink was clogged. The pots went in the backyard and were filled with snow. We'd figure that out later.

Day 5
In the middle of the night, I heard whimpering. I went downstairs and found Ethan, half out of his jammies, lying in bed shivering. He'd had a bathroom accident of the worst kind while he was sleeping. Apparently at some point he'd tried to get out of bed and go to the potty but couldn't clean himself up. There was poop everywhere.

My heart broke at the sight of him shivering uncontrollably. In the lantern-light I cleaned him as quickly as possible and got him into fresh clothes. But there was a mess on the floor and Anna's rug is white. I knew I had to clean everything then and there, so at 3:30 in the morning I began scrubbing and crying. Dan came down and threw the poopy things out in the trash. Who knew when we could run a washer again? I scrubbed and shivered and wondered just how Ma Ingalls had done this.

In the morning, Dan said he'd stay home from work to help us (his office in Middletown had somehow never lost power and life was going on as normal there). We left that morning on a quest for firewood, gas, and maybe a heater we could run off the car battery in spurts.

Heading up I-84 towards Massachusetts, we found what the things we were looking for. We drove a little further, into Sturbridge. As I got off an exit, I came across a man in a car with New York plates frantically waving me down and telling me to open my window.

"Where can I find gas around here??!" he was yelling.

"Um, I'm not from here. I just filled up 15 miles down the road," I told him.

"I'm about to run out!!" he shouted and drove away maniacally.

That night in the car Anna and I saw men working on the high tension wires that span the Connecticut River. In Price Chopper, the one supermarket in town with a good working generator, everyone looked a little bit frazzled and a little bit unkempt. "Is this food fresh?" a mom with two young girls asked the pizza guy.

"You would know if it wasn't," I told her, thinking of the Shop & Stop down the road, running on minimal power and smelling of moldy, decaying food. She smiled gratefully.

At home, we had a laundry situation. Thankfully, everyone still had clean underwear, but otherwise we were running very low. I considered washing clothes in the tub but after attempting with one blanket I abandoned the idea. How would they dry, anyway? We decided to go through the least dirty of the clothes and wear them once again. Ma Ingalls would not have been impressed.

Day 6
We had developed a new routine each morning. The kids would wake and we'd eat breakfast around the fireplace and listen to the governor update everyone on power situation on the radio. Then we'd go somewhere, usually to find hot coffee and hot chocolate. Later, the kids would amuse themselves with our portable DVD player or games on Dan's phone.

In the afternoon, the kids played outside with the neighbors' kids in the quickly melting snow. As they laughed, pelting eachother with snowballs, I realized how much kids needed play, especially in times when their schedules are uprooted. Over the past few days Ethan had taken to carrying an old clock radio around and plugging it in in various places, pretending it was his movie theater and asking us to come watch. He would bring it in the car, too, almost like a security blanket. In his own way, he was trying to cope through play as well.

That night driving on another errand with Anna we spotted power trucks on our street and houses lit up a mere mile or so away. When our street turned dark again Anna began to cry. Seeing the houses with light reminded me of the whole other world that was going on without us, the world with power. On the news on my XM radio in the car, no one was talking about this storm. They'd moved on.

I thought about Katrina. Joplin. Even 9/11. When we're not personally impacted, when our lives aren't specifically uprooted or affected, how quickly we forget and move on. Not that we were experiencing that kind of suffering, but even our little taste was a jolting reminder that people going through tragedies and natural disasters are hurting long after the cameras have left.

Of course I wanted our lights back. But as I looked out at the night I realized I'd miss being able to see so many stars.

Day 7
Everything went on exactly as it had the previous six days. I saw more power trucks and felt hope. The temperature kept dipping lower inside.

I realized that not every day has a profound lesson to learn, except perhaps that sometimes the only lesson is to just keep going, keep persevering, when absolutely nothing seems to be changing.

Day 8
I heard the trucks before I saw them. Rushing to the window, I could see them working far down the street. The sun had been up barely an hour and already the neighborhood was buzzing with chainsaws as everyone attempted to clear their debris.

By lunchtime the trucks were closer. I could see they were from a company named Pike from Savannah, Georgia, one of countless crews from states around the country who had come to help. I could hear their slow, southern drawl echoing over the intercom as the guys communicated about what to do next.

We dragged our brush to the curb. The kids filled leaf bags. We watched Pike inch closer. By 2pm they were outside our door. I wanted to hug them. I wanted to offer them warm cookies and hot drinks, except I had none. Our neighbor, after learning one of the guys collected souvenirs from every state he visited to help, gave them an old Connecticut license plate.

A man with a salt and pepper beard and sunglasses gave Ethan a little wave as he watched them work. Another man chatted with the boy next door about school and tossed him a bottled water. For some reason, that made me want to cry. I asked the man if a small branch resting on one of our wires would be a problem, and he promptly got a long pole out of the truck and poked it down for us. "There ya go, ma'am," he said. "Now that won't give you any trouble."

"Thank you soooo much," I answered, wishing I could convey how much I truly meant the words.

Our online notification was that power would be back on by 6pm. We went to dinner hoping to return to lights, but our street was still dark. We drove the next town over, which was also dark. Online via Dan's phone, they were now telling us power would be restored the next day, that they had run into more problems.

We considered bringing the kids up to Dan's parents house, since they were away in Maine. I began to wonder for the first time when we'd wake up and real life would begin again. I kept thinking of the verse that talks about God enabling us to do anything with His strength. "It's like having a jar of medicine with you," I said, trying to explain to Anna using a not-so-good analogy. "Sometimes you don't need as much. But there are days when you really need a lot of God's strength to get through. This is one of those times."

We drove home, defeated. Yet as we drove we noticed the lights were on closer and closer to our house. The intersection right nearby that had been dark for a week was working, and as we pulled into our driveway, for whatever reason, we saw the lights on in our house that had been on when the snowstorm first hit.

And then there was great rejoicing.

Today as I write there are still thousands of people without power in Connecticut. I pray that they too will soon return to life as we usually know it. But there are some things I still want to hold onto. I want to remember to say hi and chat with people I don't know just a little more often. I want to remember to appreciate the smell of clean clothes from the dryer or clean skin from a hot shower. I want to remember that we are not as invincible as we've convinced ourselves we are. I want to relish the silence sometimes. I want to sit in the dark and be still and just listen, and watch the tiny flame on my candle dance. I want to never forget my true source and provision. As we sang in that old hymn in church yesterday:

"Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light."