Don’t Judge People For Where They Park

You Don't Know Their Story!

parkHating on the Cheaters Who Park in Handicap Spots

I used to steam internally when I saw a perfectly healthy person park in a handicap spot. “What is WRONG with that person?” I would mumble. “Don’t they understand that they could get fined for parking there?”

Of course, what I really meant didn’t sound as nice, but I usually had kids in the car with me, so I filtered myself.

parkAll of that changed when Pedro had cancer. His weight dropped from a healthy 190 to an emaciated 130. My brother-in-law helped me get a temporary permit to park in handicap-designated spots.

I would hang the placard on my rearview mirror whenever I took Pedro to doctor’s appointments or the pharmacy. But twice, I felt deep shame because I became that healthy-looking person exiting or entering a car alone whilst parked in a handicap spot.

The first time occurred when I had to take Pedro to the emergency room at the hospital. He couldn’t even walk to the door without assistance. The doctors admitted him, and when I had to leave a day later, Pedro remained for further tests.

Because of my harsh internal attitude towards ‘cheaters’ who parked in handicap spots, I cringed when I got in my car. I wondered if people judged me, a perfectly healthy person with the temerity to park in a handicap spot.

The Weight of Guilt

The second time it happened, I said something. I had flown into San Francisco, rented a car and drove to a different hospital to pick Pedro up. This time, witnesses saw me park in the handicap spot, and my guilt compelled me to explain.

“I have to pick my husband up, and he can’t walk,” I said to the group of people walking past my car as I go out. They gave me odd looks and continued on their way—I doubt they even realized what I spoke of.

Ever since then, I have squashed my inner Judgy McJudgerton each time she squawks about the rudeness of healthy people who park in handicap spots. “You don’t know their story,” I remind her. I have learned to smile with compassion rather than scowl with condemnation.

After all, I don’t know the story of why they park where they do.

All Those Comments

Which voice will be yours?

We’ve all heard them – those cringe-worthy comments that are delivered with care, but little experience or understanding.  Those phrases that slap a caregiver upside the head and leave one reeling with hurt, confusion and a struggle with faith.  Those sentences that are well-meant but not well delivered.

“God must have needed you to slow down.”

“God is just looking for a chance to provide a miracle.”

“If you just have enough faith he’ll be healed.”

“If you spend an hour every morning in prayer…”

“If you would change her diet…

“I have the perfect home remedy for you, you know those medicines are evil…”

“Have you searched your heart for that un-confessed sinf?”  And I hear the unspoken:  “because obviously your four-year-old doesn’t deserve this so you must have done something.”

These kinds of comments fling themselves at caregivers more often than you’d think. They, along with other pat answers and common consolation phrases jump out of a mouth and crawl around in our heads and there are moments that we want to beg for someone to just BE there.  To listen.  To cry.  To laugh.  To go out shopping.  To provide a book.  To sit with the patient.  To smile.  To understand.

That’s community.

My sister lost her son in an accident years ago, but every time she meets another mother struggling to walk through life without a child, there is an instant connection, usually involving a hug and some tears.

A friend has a daughter with traumatic brain injury.  She has new friends undergoing the same struggles with a child or sibling or spouse.

My mom is coming up on the year anniversary of my dad’s death, and she goes out to eat with some widow friends and sometimes they talk about their spouses, but other times they say nothing at all about it.

I have a new friend, because her son was diagnosed with leukemia in the first week of school (just like mine) and the similarities were haunting.  We bonded instantly, but I find myself without words now, because her boy lost his battle with cancer.

A friend had a miscarriage a couple of years ago and wrote her story.  The response is huge, all voicing the need to know they’re not alone in their pain.

Anita’s husband is the miracle. Pedro is the one who made it, against all odds, but it has taken Anita time to get over the effects that caregiving creates.  She and I developed a bond over the phrases, “Don’t you wish someone would have told us?” and “Can you believe someone actually said that?”

I also have the miracle.  My healthy 16-year-old son, while still struggling with some remnant effects of such strong drugs for so many years, is doing great.  Oddly, and much against my will, I still find myself wanting to talk about it, or hearing the word leukemia and shuddering, or nodding in sympathy when hearing of anxiety attacks or the inability to sleep because of caregiving.

When I meet another parent of a leukemia patient, we have no shortage of words, understanding nods and hugs.

This is community.

This blog is created for community.  We each need a place to know we’re not alone and to hear that we did NOT create whatever catastrophe has struck our loved one.  We need to know that we’re not crazy when we can’t sleep and weight gain (or loss) is typical and somehow, some way and some time, we will be okay again.

November is National Caregiver’s month.  We are looking for guests to share their journey.  Let someone know your story – it might be similar to theirs and you might become that understanding nod, that smile or that hug that someone needs.  Sign up to share YOUR STORY here.  You might be that voice telling a caregiver that they’re not crazy and definitely not alone!

Be the voice to create community with positive comments #caregiverconnections #caregivermonth Click To Tweet


Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

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Calliope Hummingbirds Can Teach us to Trust



Calliope Hummingbirds are Migration Machines

The Calliope Hummingbirds drop by my feeders for brief visits during their very long migration.  The smallest breeding bird in North America, Calliopes weigh about the same as a dime and can reach 7-10 centimeters in length (that’s under four inches long!). During Spring and late Summer migration, they travel between western Canada and the northwestern parts of the United States to southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize.

Whenever one lands on my feeder, I pull out my camera and try to snap a few photos. This summer I had the privledge of photographing several spectacular males over the period of three days. Some people have wondered about the white background in my hummingbird photos.  The feeder hangs about 18 inches from our sliding glass door.  In the early mornings, I go outside and leave the sliding glass door and screen open.  That leaves the white curtain as the perfect backdrop.

Each time I see a Calliope, I marvel at the Creator who built in the genetic navigation system for this tiny bird to travel 5,600 miles each year. Along the way, they play an important part in pollinating flowers. Hummingbirds not only migrate without getting lost, they memorize where to find food sources.  They rely on sap from trees (they take advantage of sap wells created by sapsuckers),small insects, and pollen. As their natural sources deplete, we can help by keeping feeders out for them. During peak migration, my ‘pets’ (I have four species that come by) go through 1-2 gallons of sugar water a day!

Second-Guessing God

Any time I worry that God won’t know what to do to help me in my present need (yeah, I actually think that at times), I just have to remember that he has promised to guide me.  He will teach me all I need to know to negotiate each situation that comes my way.  If he has a plan for the tiniest of birds, he has a plan for me.

If God has a plan for the #calliopehummingbird, I know he has a plan for me! #caregiver Click To Tweet

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story?

Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week.

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

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An Open Letter to Those Who Sent Us Mail


To all the kind people who sent us mail during Pedro’s struggle with cancer;

Thank you.

I’ve saved each letter and card in a bulging file folder that goes wherever we go. I haven’t reopened the mail since you sent it, back in 2002, but each piece holds a special place in my heart.

That mail represents the thoughts and prayers of countless people who prayed us through cancer.

Some of you were complete strangers, yet you took the time to write. Those cards always took me aback—that someone who had never met us would take the time to say, “I’m praying for you. I’m thinking about you.” You’ll never know how much those kind words of support meant to us.

The cards and letters from family and friends played a special role, too. Each card that said, “We love you. We care about you,” felt like a bear hug. Thank you for taking the time to reach out.

Back in the days before Facebook and Twitter, phone calls and the written word served as a tangible reminder that we didn’t battle alone.

And to those of you who took the time to leave a note for me, the caregiver, let me explain what you did. You validated MY need for prayers and support. You acknowledged that often times, taking care of someone with a catastrophic illness feels just as life-changing as the diagnosis does to the ill one.

I just wanted you to know how much your words of kindness meant to us, to me. I don’t think I had the presence of mind at the time to respond or acknowledge your gift.


Anita Ojeda


I hope this encourages you, the reader to take the time to send a card of encouragement to someone who struggles. Whether you write to a patient or a caregiver, know that your words will serve as a lifeline of hope.

The Process of Transformation Doesn’t Always Feel Good


Fairy Lake nestles at the bottom of Sacajawea, one of the mountains in the Bridger Range in Montana. It’s one of those places that I don’t enjoy driving to because the road is so rough–full of potholes that do bad things to ordinary vehicles. But the drive is always worth the effort.

Likewise, the process of allowing God to teach us and work in our lives isn’t always pleasant–but the results are always worth it.

God as Our Guide Helps Us Become a Reflection of Him


When we allow God to guide us, we discover that our life starts to reflect his beauty and love. It doesn’t happen overnight or automatically, it takes time. The inner beauty is worth the effort of letting God teach us..

Understanding Green Hope


Green Hope

The minute we crossed the creek that emptied into Ressurection Bay near Seward, Alaska, I fell in love with the green. Deep moss muffled each step, and Tonsina Creek babbled nearby. Our tour guide explained that the trees had fallen during the Great Alaskan Earthquake back in 1964.

The devestation has since turned into a cathedral of green. The color soothed my soul and the silence filled me with peace.  I could easily see why God is the God of green hope.

Before I Was Born, God Knew Me


God Knew What I Needed

I took this bright and beautiful photo on a grey and dreary day in a zoo in Alaska. The zoo was nice, and the company even nicer (Pedro), but I knew it would be our last day together in Alaska. I had a long trip ahead of me, and I felt a little blue.

But God knew. Yellow flowers show up better in photos on cloudy days. They also make me very happy with their cheerful layers of yellow, orange and red.  Yep.  I found the perfect bouquet at the zoo to remind me that my Creator knows me inside and out.

God is Our Rock and Refuge


God Our Rock

We missed our easy chance to stop at Bow Lake in Banff National Park on our way north to Alaska at the beginning of the summer. I had marked the location in the guidebook, but I let other things distract me.  When I glanced over at the last minute and saw the Carribbean-blue lake–and the crowded parking lot, I murmured my regret. When pulling a trailer, one finds it easier to pass by than to try to turn around on a narrow, heavily-trafficked road.

On my way back from Alaska, I made sure to keep close track of my location so that I could stop. I didn’t have to fight crowds in the parking lot, so I pulled in and parked.  The lake, the glacier and the majestic peaks awed me with their beauty.

Late in the season, when most of the snow has melted, one can see the formidable and rocky faces of the mountains. They made me think of how God has promised to be our rock and refuge.

The Word of God Endures Forever


Not Much Endures

I teach both world history and U.S. History.  And the more I teach, the more I realize what I don’t know.  One thing I do know, though; nothing endures.  Not the Egyptians, not the Aztecs, not the Romans–none of those empires endured.  Things don’t endure either.  They wear out, fall down, and get destroyed. Beautiful things like flowers last only a moment in time before they fade and die.

But God’s word? It has endured since the beginning of time. It will endure forever. You can count on it!