7.30.2014

Beatrice DePalma Lione

Keith's maternal grandmother, Beatrice DePalma Lione, has gone to heaven.

Grandma Bea (or, as Keith called her, B-ma) was as quiet and reserved as Grandma Ruthie was irreverant and exuberant. On the other hand, as I discovered over the years, she had a sharp wit she used sparingly. It was the rarity of her humorous remarks that caught me by surprise and made me laugh so hard.

I have three favorite memories of Bea. The first occurred before Henry was born. Joe, Bea, Michael, and Madeline had come to Durham for a visit, as well as Linda and Tom. Bea joked throughout the weekend that I should not allow Linda to wear out her welcome in our home. In typical Linda fashion, she went upstairs and put on her robe and slippers, came downstairs and cried, "Look, Mom! I have my own room here! Keith and Meredith even gave me this robe and these slippers." I had never seen Bea be particularly comical before that moment. She dropped her jaw in mock horror, looked at me with a severe expression, and responded, "Keep the mother-in-law OUT."

One Thanksgiving several people came down with an awful cold/sinus infection. As we played Dirty Santa/White Elephant/Chinese Auction (whatever you prefer to call it), Grandma Bea sat wrapped in an electric blanket in front of the fire. When it was Erika's turn to choose a gift, she gently asked Grandma for her Williams-Sonoma lotions. Grandma Bea did not understand and thought Erika wanted her electric blanket. In a voice raspy from coughing, Bea choked out, "How about a cough drop?" I know you had to be there, but we all roared with laughter!

Finally, as we left Atlanta after Thanksgiving 2009, our first with Henry, Bea took me aside and said, "I've always loved Keith, but I think love Henry more." While Linda was mortified, I thought it was a wonderful example of senior citizen honesty and a heartwarming expression of her love for our son. I will never forget it.

As for Keith, he loves to tell me about how he played bartender behind the bar in the basement in Carle Place, New York, as B-ma did her ironing. She told "the bartender" she was planning a party for her grandson Archibald, and Keith took orders for Archibald's party.

He played running bases in B-ma and Grandpa Joe's backyard, a place that once seemed large but he now recognizes as small. I know that feeling. Being a child makes all our memories larger than they really were. But as one of my favorite authors, Tim O'Brien, would say, memories are more real than reality.

Joe and Bea took Keith to Red Sox spring training in Florida and made trips to Atlanta for birthdays and school activities, always remaining as present in his life as they possibly could from New York.

The last time we spoke to Grandma, as always, she kindly but firmly asked Keith to put Henry on the phone. He joyfully told her all about the large black caterpillar with yellow legs we had just seen in our yard. She laughed as usual, even when she couldn't understand what Henry was saying, and her spirits inevitably seemed lighter. I don't think Keith will ever forget their last conversation.

May you fly with the angels now, Bea.

9.10.2013

The end of, or at least a fork in, the road.



Over 6 years ago I began this blog as a way to keep family and friends up to date on the happenings in the Dangel household. (I now do that here.) Along the way I picked up more readers than I ever imagined - not thousands, but certainly more than our family, and I began to write more from my heart. 

Then God began moving in my spirit to do something more with my writing. I attended She Speaks twice. The second time I came away with a crystal clear idea of what God intended for my writing in that season, and I worked hard at making the blog content the best it could be.

My regular and long-time readers have probably noticed that my heart is simply not in this anymore. I've tried to muster the inspiration, but it is not there. You might wonder why God would lead in one direction only to seemingly change His mind. I wonder that too. In fact, for a long time I've thought perhaps the calling was the same and my attitude was the disagreeing factor. But I don't think so anymore. 

I cannot explain the ways of the Lord; I can only hope to hear correctly and follow. If the opportunity and calling arise for me to write again, I surely will. For now, I am ending Still Delighted indefinitely and will continue to document our family life at Delighted Dangels.

"Thank you" does not seem adequate, not nearly adequate, for the encouragement, support, and love you have shown me here for the last 6+ years. In comments, in emails, and in person you have made me laugh and cry. You have been more than readers and lurkers; you've been friends. I hope we'll continue that friendship by other means.

Until I see you again in person or somewhere on the internet ...

9.08.2013

My solo vacation: a recap


A little over a month ago, I announced I would be taking a solo vacation for my birthday. On Friday afternoon I did just that.


After my announcement, my friend Jenn pointed me to a series of posts at the Inspired to Action blog. Motivated by Kat's tips, I packed nothing more than my Bible, a few books, and a notebook. I did not take my computer and barely used my phone. (I originally planned to turn it off but decided against it.)  The mini-vacation was, in one word, restorative.

You can read more about my birthday here. I'll be back soon to talk more about my day away from home and why I believe this restorative work is good for all of us.

Have a great week!

9.05.2013

Invisible in the trenches


"Parenting wounded kids is terribly challenging, which you know in your head going into adoption, but starting your second year, you really know it in your lifeIt’s hard, like maybe forever hard, and you feel that because you are a human, not a robot, and that’s just true. There are some tears in the bathroom during this stage."

- Jen Hatmaker, "The Truth About Adoption: Two Years Later"

Last night I read this heart-wrenching and poignant post. Today I am struck anew by how similar her words are to my own. Just substitute "wounded" with "special needs." Jen adopted two children from Ethiopia while also raising biological children; I gave birth to a boy with a special brain. Our struggles are different, but her words express the sameness of our emotion.

I also know we're not the only ones experiencing (or who have experienced) the trenches. You don't have to be a special needs mom or even a mom to endure something so hard you almost wish you were a robot. Something you knew would take all your strength, but you didn't know it would take all of that and more. Something hard enough for gray matter but almost impossible for the heart.

No, it doesn't take any one sort of person. Life happens to every kind of person. Moms, dads, marrieds, singles, adults, teenagers, kids. Sometimes those difficult places make us think no one else understands or cares. Sometimes we feel terribly alone, even in a sea of well-meaning people. Sometimes we cut ourselves off and feed into the loneliness; other times we share too much and make others uncomfortable. It's not an easy place, the trenches.

That's why I want to say today: Wherever you are, whatever you feel, whatever you are doing right now...

God. Sees. You.

And that is enough. He will always be enough.

How?, you might ask. How can an invisible Being possibly be enough? If you're asking that today, I would love to share with you how He has always been enough for me. I assure you, He is.

The One who is enough sees you today. May that carry you through whatever you face from the time you rise to the time you fall asleep. And, pretty please, will you share with us in the comments how He carries you or has carried you in the past? Let's encourage one another throughout the weekend!

9.04.2013

What is inspiration?


Not long ago someone hugged me and whispered, "You're an inspiration." Her words melted me deep on the inside, for I know she knows what I experience some days. And the fact that someone takes a moment to recognize your pain and your struggle - to see you? It just about takes your breath, doesn't it?

I want to be clear about how much I appreciate words like this, because I don't want what I say next to offend.

I don't want to be an inspiration. I don't have a choice in what I do; this is the hand I was dealt. Oh, maybe I have the choice to ignore Henry's needs. I could pretend his anxiety is just "what kids do" when they're mad. (Um, no.) I could say it's normal for a 4-year-old boy to wear diapers. (It's not.) I could keep him home on Friday mornings instead of spending my time and lots of money on therapy. (Who wouldn't like to save time and money?)

But what good mom would do any of that?

I gave birth to an enormous gift, who teaches me daily what it means to be a better person and lover of God and people. The stuff I endure is just a side effect, and the choices I make aren't really choices.

You wanna know what I think is inspiring?

Making a difficult choice that will change your life, your family's lives, and maybe even more lives than that. Maybe a whole lot more.

This morning a student came to see me in the office. He is a handsome young man with a gorgeous accent from Saudi Arabia. He wanted to discuss his potential research topics for the semester, which are the slavery of women in Saudi Arabia or the challenges of female entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia. Don't tell me this kid isn't going places.

Then I smiled and asked, "How long has your family been here?"

"I don't have any family here. I came for school in 2012."

That is inspiring.

Several years ago I taught a beautiful woman who wore American clothes but kept her black veil. Her family, if memory serves, was from Pakistan but enjoyed their new life in North Carolina. One evening two young ladies wearing veils came to my room before class began and explained that my student would not be in class. She was at home grieving. Her father, who owned and managed a neighborhood grocery and convenience store, had just been shot and killed inside the store. It was all I could do to hold back the tears of my grief as I expressed my concern for her well-being.

Her friends stated what I already guessed. "You know her. She's strong in her faith. She's doing ok." True to their words, my student was back in class the next week - albeit more quiet, but with her same gentle smile and strong work ethic. I continued to check in with her frequently, though I never sensed her composure was inauthentic. She may have been grieving, but her peace was real.

That is inspiring.

May I ask what inspires you? Who are the people and what are the choices that give you hope and push you to betterment?

9.02.2013

When the devil wants a foothold


Saturday evening our neighbors invited us over for apple pie and ice cream. We enjoyed a lovely couple of hours. The couples conversed and the boys played nicely together - perfect. But on the way out the door, it happened.

We have become so good at anticipating Henry's triggers that we barely think about them anymore, but there's no way we can expect others to know those triggers too. Henry had been sipping water but did not finish it. As we walked out, Henry saw his friend's mom pour out the water.

"NO! I NEED MY WATER! I NEED THE LITTLE CUP! MISS ____ POURED IT OUT!"

All the way down the street and into his bedroom, Henry cried, shrieked, and screamed. He finally calmed down, but I went to bed feeling something worse than sad, though not quite depressed.

God, I'm so tired of explaining something even I don't fully understand. I'm so tired of wondering if anyone believes me and hating myself for caring what anyone thinks. I'm tired of seeing Henry in distress. I'm tired of diapers. I'm tired of everything.

I woke Saturday morning feeling only marginally better, but at least I was looking forward to our trip to the NC Zoo. Though I don't care for zoos much myself, I love watching Henry. As we walked along I marveled at how he never complained about being tired, needing to be held, or being hot. And I remembered how he was the same way one year ago. He observed the animals with wonder and enthusiasm and eagerly forged ahead to the next exhibit. I smiled as my eyes followed his.

My heart then sank as I remembered the night before. How can you be so shallow? How can you allow the few moments of distress to overshadow the many moments of joy?

I almost gave Satan a foothold then, as I've done many times before. He could have ripped me apart, attacking mercilessly until I could no longer muster an ounce of hope. Instead, I recognized the moment for what it was, a chance to be different. To be grateful for the beautiful morning I was enjoying with my husband and son - my son who is both enchanted and enchanting.

I chose to let God in. I chose to see His goodness and grace, His never-ending fount of gifts, His constant mercy. For every night Henry cries in pain, there are a thousand more days he laughs in delight. And I would rather take joy in that than beat myself up for occasionally succumbing to sadness.

9.01.2013

Soulmates

If ever I forget why I love Keith Dangel, all I have to do is listen to his Pandora station. In the last 12 hours I've heard:

Marvin Gaye
Counting Crows
Frank Sinatra
Jamie Cullum
Smokey Robinson
LL Cool J
Nelly
Hootie
John Mayer
Phil Collins
Pearl Jam
Jason Mraz
Louis Armstrong
James Taylor

and many more!

(Wasn't that like a Time Life Music commercial?)

God could not have found me a more perfect musical companion.

(Well, maybe if he liked classical piano. But no one is perfect, right?)

What's one thing about your spouse that no one else could possibly match?

8.29.2013

Read it, love it, be changed.


Sometimes it's hard to put words to feelings. I've been working on a post for a couple of days now, regarding an odd web site I found recently. I keep deleting and rewriting and deleting. I hope to get it finished for you soon, but in the meantime I thought I'd tell you about a book you might like.


I got this last year at She Speaks, before it was even available for purchase. I was so. psyched. because it couldn't have come into my life at a better time. And it sat on my shelf until a few weeks ago.

At the time of that conference I was in hunt and gather mode, learning all I could about Henry's diagnosis. Then it was time for him to start school, and not long after that I fell into the abyss. When I began my process of healing, Keith suggested I allow myself to read something just for fun. Not about autism. Not nonfiction. A story. I took his advice; it was blissful.

Then it was time to pack the house for the move. Unglued was in a box for a long time, but now, thanks to our new bookshelves, she's back. Last year might have been a great time to read it, but now is a good time too. Particular issues (isn't issues a nicer word than sin?) - ok, particular sins - persist in my life. I need direction.

If you ever struggling with negative self-talk, exploding, stuffing, or just handling difficult people, this book is for you.

If you read it, let me know what you think!

PS There's also a DVD series for small groups, as well as a devotional!

8.23.2013

Five Minute Friday: Last


Many Fridays I participate in Five Minute Friday. Lisa-Jo gives us a one-word prompt, and we write for 5 minutes. No editing. No over-thinking. No tidying up the ending afterward. Just raw writing. Check the clock. Ready? Go.

Five Minute Friday

How I wish these days would last.

These days of eyelashes on cheeks during afternoon naps.
Asking for kisses. "I need a lotta kisses."
Kisses when Mommy is hurt.
Teasingly wiping off kisses.
So many kisses.
Family hugs. "Hey, don't forget me!"
Watching out for friends. "Stop, Abel! Don't go in the road."
Constant singing.
No inhibition.
Silly dances.
Tapping his cheek as he thinks.
Wonderment.
Confident independence. "I do it all by myself, Mommy."

But other things - I want them to end.

Dents in my walls from banging doors and hurling trains.
Trembling lip when he sees what he has done.
Screaming in frustration.
Diapers.

Most of all, what I don't want to last?

Always wondering what people are thinking, wondering if they're judging me.
Wondering if they see in him what I see.
Wondering if he'll have friends.
Wondering if people will love him.

8.19.2013

This passing season

It's that time of year again.

I'm supposed to be excited and, honestly, I usually am. Walking into the departmental meeting invigorates and inspires and both mentally and emotionally prepares me to meet my new students.

But not today, not this time. Summer, which almost always goes by too quickly, must have traveled at the speed of light this year. I couldn't help but drive to school this morning feeling like I have so much left to do...

Walls to paint, furniture stores to peruse, books to read, parenting videos to watch, Bible studies to complete, Sunday School preparations to make, yard work to finish ...

So what did I do with all that time?

I took naps with Henry, his soft arm wrapped around me and warm breath falling against my cheek.

I enjoyed play dates with our new friends up the street.

I read a lot of picture books.

I went to Bible school.

I attended an outdoor symphony performance for free.

I helped Henry slip-n-slide.

I bought antiques.

I hosted supper for two young couples who still make eyes at each other.

I hunted for tadpoles.

I watched deer in my backyard.

I went to Carowinds.

I went to Atlanta.

I went to Hilton Head.

I went to Chicago.

I went to Spartanburg.

I fell in love with "the southern part of heaven."

So, maybe I got it right after all. Maybe I spent my time doing exactly what was right. Maybe what I did was experience summer in our new home exactly as it was meant to be experienced.

And I don't regret a moment.