Boden James Birkey

Boden James Birkey arrived early on June 6th, 2020; for us a bright ray of joy in troubled times.

His name means shelter or sheltered (or a whole list of other things depending on which baby name site you choose.) He is certainly being sheltered in his new home and family and he is reminding us of where we need to put our hope–in the God who offers us shelter “under his wings.” Psalm 91.

We have been so grateful for our home, our shelter-in-place venue for the last four months. We recognized the privilege that we’ve experienced to be able to stay home and feel protected. We know it has been much more difficult for others and the recent protests have made that even more evident. How do we appreciate all the good without ignoring injustice and compassion?

Not that everything is peaceful and sweet here within the walls of our home. We have allowed Johnny to shelter with us, which has been mostly a good thing, but not easy. There is a sense of taking two steps backwards in all the progress of the last year as he hasn’t been able to work during this time, a factor that normally gives structure and stability to his life. He hasn’t been particularly problematic, but he has slipped downward into increased depression, which is difficult to watch–and live with. Lizi has experienced more anxiety, missing the structure of work in her life as well. Cancer symptoms and treatment have added stress, worry and a lot of questions.

Still, we are sheltered, protected, and for the most part, we are trusting God as our Sovereign Lord over all the details of life. It’s just that there are so many details!

Like so many other grandparents, being “sheltered” away from our children and grandchildren has been an added sorrow. During the first few months, we had the local grandkids over a couple times to play (or swim) in our backyard, socially distancing with them from our high deck while they played in the yard. Sometimes they showed up on our doorstep with the groceries their parents faithfully delivered to us. Facetime phone calls to New Zealand have continued as always, but it is a hard to not know when we will be able to see them again.

When Taylor called us in the early morning hours of Boden’s birthday, we went to stay with the kids while Mom and Dad were at the hospital. Upon awakening, the kids snuggled up to us–our first hugs in 3 months–to await news of the baby’s birth. While we still are cautious when visiting their home and holding little Boden, his arrival opened up that part of our lives again. What a relief! For now, I’m focusing on being with my family and just a few close friends (outdoor deck dates or walks in the outdoor air.)

While sheltering, I’ve focused on quilting, genealogy, and completing a family scrapbook. I finished a bed quilt for Simee, who turned two this week, and a baby quilt for Boden. For once I dug into my quilt stash and decided to make a “bee” quilt out of fabric that I had previously bought to make a quilt for their “Bee School” homeschool several years ago. I kept telling Laura that they should name the baby with a “B” name to go with my quilt, never imagining that they were already thinking Boden. (She enjoyed chuckling over my suggestions.) The quilt also features six pieced bees–one for each of the Birkeys. Small things, but coincidences that make me happy 🙂

I really love his name for its meaning in the midst of a hard season of life (for practicably everybody.) I like that his middle names is James and that he was born on our James’ birthday. And I like my B/bee quilt for all the above reasons. But what I really enjoy are those moments of holding our sweet baby boy and resting with him in my arms.

hypomenē

Make every effort to add to your faith……..hypomenē. Huh?

This has been a long season of waiting. I wouldn’t call it suffering and barely can call it a trial (even if it isn’t particularly fun.) I keep reminding myself of the privilege I have of being able to stay home. I know it is much harder for others–those working under stressful conditions; those juggling home and family; those who are financially struggling and most of all, those who have lost loved ones without the opportunity to say goodbye or grieve in normal ways.

One of my Zoom groups was studying 2 Peter last week, written to people who were really suffering persecution. In chapter 1: 5-8, Peter reminds his readers to “make every effort to add to your faith virtue, knowledge, self-control and hypomenē, translated “steadfastness” or perseverance. Karen introduced us to the meaning of the Greek word, hypomenē: choosing to remain under a trial. She related it to addictions, to the intense urge most people have to escape their pain by running to an addiction for relief. When Karen experienced the loss of her daughter, it helped her ‘stay under” the pain of loss, rather than falling back into old addictions.

I really thought her lesson was beautiful and meaningful. Everyday I watch my son manage his addictions to get through this this period of isolation and crisis. So many of the men John has worked with at Wayside easily fall into addictions when things get tough. Even those of us who wouldn’t consider ourselves addicted, can fall into habits and patterns when life disappoints or people hurt us.

When I finally had my lab work repeated and learned that the hemoglobin had only gone up 0.4 points. (8.8) I was really discouraged. I grumbled and complained for a couple days, calculating that at this rate, my whole summer would likely pass before I felt normal.

And then, I thought, hypomenē, just stay “under” what is. Persevere. Surrender. Steadfast.


Storyworth Question:


What was something you believed all through childhood and were surprised to find out was false?

I think the thing I believed all through my childhood–and later learned was false–was that faith was something I had to “do”, something for which I needed to strive.

I grew up in a conservative evangelical home and church in the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s. I was taught from my earliest days that Jesus loves me and that the Bible told me so! I learned that I needed to ask Jesus into my heart, and did so one night at Happy Nights at Dunning Park Chapel when I was 7 or 8. I was taught that I was a sinner and needed Jesus to die on the cross for my sins, but that the only way for that to actually “work” was for me to accept the gift that God was offering me. Later, I was taught how to have “quiet times”, to memorize scripture, and even later, taught how to do inductive Bible studies. I learned a LOT about the Bible over the years, having “walked through” it a few times and also reading it through in a year several times as well. I went to Christian college (Taylor University–my dorm nickname was “Rev”) and studied Bible courses there, and later to Moody Bible Institute for further biblical training.

Along the way I also picked up a few more false ideas. The Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, popular in the early 70s (and especially enjoyed by my Dad) encouraged me to vow to read God’s Word every single day (a vow I later broke.) Another message learned there was that if I did what I was supposed to do, God would surely bless me. If I honored my parents, kept myself pure until marriage, chose well, and stayed in the Word, I could expect a pretty good life. Focus on the Family, a popular Christian radio program in the 1980s taught me to well, focus on my family and expect God’s blessing with children who followed Jesus.

When life didn’t exactly turn out that way–when I didn’t feel blessed either generally or specifically in my family life; when the church fellowship that I committed myself to for 28 years pretty much blew up in our faces–I started to distance myself from my faith. I still went to church, participated, prayed and studied/read the Bible but emotionally I kept God at arm’s length for about ten years. I gradually learned that he never really promised what I thought He did, but I was still discouraged and distant for a long time.

In 2011, we sent Annie to a Capernwray Bible School in New Zealand. In October of that year I visited her for two weeks. We memorized Isaiah 43:1- together, with me inserting my name into the text. (Annie didn’t think I could/should do that.)

“Thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Chris,
He who formed you, O Christine.
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you;
when you walked through fire, you shall not be burned;
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you…

(I added…I could already see where this friendship with James was headed)

Fear not for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold,
bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.”

I also started reading Major Ian Thomas’ book, The Life of Christ, on the way home and for several weeks thereafter. His phrase, “I can’t, but You can” really struck a chord in my heart. I learned from him that I wasn’t even supposed to be striving so hard to live the Christian life.

In the years since, this message has been reiterated in many ways and times. Jesus told us that in this life we WOULD have trouble, not the message I learned early in life. And yes, in the 90s, and all the way through the first twenty years of 2000-2020, I’ve faced a good number of life challenges. I am still learning this truth: I cannot please God no matter how hard I try (He is already pleased with me, because he chose to love me.) I can’t earn salvation or blessing. I don’t need to “advise” God through my prayers. Instead, I need to trust him and lean not on my own understanding. I need to ask his Spirit to guide and empower me. I need to rest in Him and wait, knowing that he is a good, good Father and has everything in his sovereign control. Everything.

Recently, a friend told me she was “so glad that God had given her the gift of faith. She had never doubted God.” My first thought was that he certainly hadn’t given me the gift of faith–I am a natural doubter and have been all my life. I thought that was okay; God gives different people different gifts. But this spring when Covid-19 and Cancer coincided in my life, I found myself finding faith kind of easy. I knew that I had absolutely NO control over the cancer or the coronavirus and what either would mean for my life in the weeks ahead. I might as well trust God, who did know. (It turned out to be rather a blessing to have both hit at the same time as I was able to see doctors and get tests done quickly and my lack of energy fit well with the lockdown guidelines.) As I’ve gotten a little bit better, I started figuring out ways to “help” Johnny make better decisions, and then soon realized that I have no control over his choices either. I don’t think God has given me a lifetime pass on the gift of faith. I have a feeling I will still struggle with doubt at times. In the meantime, however, I want to rest in faith, trusting that he knows the number of my days and the hairs on my head (which I plan to keep this time around 😉

My (New) Life

I wanted to post my story about Annie’s life (see previous post) as a way of setting the stage for the next part of my story. I was waiting to include some cool videos of Annie chopping wood, but haven’t been able to transfer the files.

One of the reasons I was so impressed with Annie’s hard work is that I was feeling weak and tired most of the time I was there. I couldn’t walk up and down the road or neighbor’s driveway as I had in the past. I had to pace myself to do small tasks. I just didn’t have the energy that I was used to.

When I got home, I saw my PCP right away and began testing to see what was going on. I suspected that the cancer was back.

First we looked at blood disorders. My hemoglobin had dropped from 10.7 to 9.4 so we knew I was anemic but not why. Most of the blood tests came back within normal limits so the following week I had a CT of the chest, abdomen and pelvis. Along with the anemia I had lost weight. I lost ten pounds intentionally in November, but when I started eating normally, the pounds kept slipping down instead of up, as they always had in the past.

The CT scan showed lesions on my spine, the likelihood of metastasis to the bone. The next week I met with my oncologist from Rush on Monday, a new oncologist out here on Wednesday, and had a bone marrow biopsy on Thursday and a PET scan on Friday–all this in the midst of the Covid-19 quarantine. (I think the timing was a benefit as I was able to get all this done fairly quickly and with few other people around.) We are assuming that the bone marrow will show the same kind of estrogen positive receptors as were involved in my breast cancer seven years ago. If so, the treatment (already begun) is a simple change in my daily medication. I’ve been taking Tamoxifen for six years. Most breast cancer patients take it for five years and then stop. My oncologist told me from the beginning that because of my lymph node involvement I would need to be on one of these drugs for the rest of my life so they were stretching the Tamoxifen to see how long it would work before starting another. It probably stopped working sometime late fall, but the effects of it didn’t catch up with me until February.

She promised that this time around the treatment would be “slow and gentle” and optimistically told me I could live for a long time with it. Right now, I am waiting for the meds to kick in and do their job, hopefully reversing my anemia and allowing me to function more normally.

But hey–who’s life is normal these days anyways? Its easy to be quarantined with so little energy and I’m not having to do it “alone.” Everybody else is in the same boat. John and Lizi are taking good care of me. I am at peace knowing God is in control of all the details, even in the midst of of a world pandemic. My heart aches for all who are suffering as a result and I certainly understand that people are feeling anxious and stressed. I’m in one of those places in life when I can’t do anything to change the circumstances of my personal life or that of the world around me, so it’s fairly “easy” to trust God.

 

  • Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, You are my Lord, I have no good apart from you.” –Psalm 16:1
  • “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and come to know that you are the Holy one of God.” –Peter, in John 6:68
  • For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a Rock, except our God? The God who has equipped me with strength.” –Psalm 18: 31-32

tP. S. I’ve heard back from the doctor on my tests: The PET scan showed no new hot spots and the bone marrow biopsy showed that this is the same cancer from the breast, which means we are already on the right treatment path, not a new cancer. That’s actually good news. My hemoglobin went up tp 8.4, so the medicine seems to be working, though slowly. My doctor said it would take 3-4 weeks before I will start to feel better.

One last thing: Here I am with the “cancer quilt” my sister-in-law made for me seven years ago. Still wrapped in the encouragement from all who contributed. Also enjoying the sunshine 🙂

Annie’s Life

I am back home after my month long, now annual, visit to Cherry Lane Cottage iin New Zealand. James was busy with Adventure Bible School, Charlee had “kindy” (preschool) three mornings a week, and Simee needed a midday nap, so we mostly hung out and shared Annie’s life as mum and caretaker of their two acres. They are seriously considering buying this “lifestyle block” (for what seems like an astronomical price) so I have been thinking a lot about Annie’s life.

First of all, she loves it—and can think of few things better than owning this little piece of the world. Actually, she visited this house way before she was married and told me that was where she wanted to live. She loved the kitchen in particular, but thought the house was the best. It was/is owned by Peter & Elizabeth Thomas, then principal of Capernwray school. About five or six years ago, the Thomas’ moved to Australia to help with the work there. Their kids have grown and settled in the area, so they are considering selling the house and settling in Australia.

Cherry Lane Cottage is just off the main highway, the second house along a short road consisting of four or five farms and two or three ‘hobby farms. (The difference is whether the farmers also have a day job that supports their lifestyle.) Anne and James live on a narrow two acres, that includes the house, two or three paddocks, a chicken coop, a small hut, and a big shed. It is a bit overgrown, in spite of the fact that John arrived two weeks before me and worked hard clearing some of the overgrowth. Huge pineapple-type trees, hydrangeas, lillies, roses, fuchsia, a “truffula tree” (or Dr. Suess Tree) as well as a large vegetable garden and a small orchard (lemon, peach, apple, fig, avocado, fejoa and grapefruit trees.) There are currently about nine chickens, a rooster, and five ducks, as well as two horses (temporary) and eight sheep. Oh, and a cat and a 14 week old puppy dog.

The house is an old frame ranch with three bedrooms, two baths, a lovely kitchen and living room. It has a wrap around porch hosting a hammock at one end and swing at the other. It also has no insulation and had no screens until John started building magnetic screens a few years ago. I think he has built three or four so far. It also has five french doors to the out-of-doors, which is lovely in summer but hardly airtight the rest of the year. It is heated with a wood stove and a few room heaters as needed. The water comes from a couple cisterns which regularly run dry in the summer drought.

Although it sounds idyllic, it’s also a lot of work, especially with two small children and a puppy. Fortunately Anne loves physical labor, truly enjoying mowing, working in the garden, caring for her family and pets, and chopping wood. I’ve been impressed with how hard she works.

Some things just take longer. She does a couple loads of laundry most days that are pegged on the clothesline and then taken down later (on good sunny days.) Not quite like pushing a button on the dryer and having soft warm clothes as a result. The towels are rough, the clothes somewhat wrinkled and stiff. Dishes require hand washing. (They do have a broken dishwasher but probably wouldn’t use it much even if it worked because of the water/energy usage. Water needs to be conserved as well as electricity.)

But don’t feel sorry for Annie! She is young, strong, healthy and loves her life here. Her children are growing up with space to run and play, lots of fresh air and fresh food (and boy, are they ever cute!) She and James are supported by (and contributing to) great communities at church and at Capernwray.

I’m pretty proud of my Annie girl.

Below are some typical pictures of the house, land and a few of my beautiful granddaughters.

Storyworth

It has been a long time since I wrote anything here, but nothing seemed noteworthy. I was sick for several weeks in the fall (a nasty cold that went around.) I spent November writing 50,000 words about my half of our family tree*. I got through the holidays. Big deal.

Laura and her siblings gave both John and I a subscription to Storyworth. Each Monday we receive an email that asks us to write, answering a question they’ve chosen, or choosing one of our own. We can write as little or as much as we want and add pictures. This gets emailed to them and at the end of the year, they’ll turn it into some kind of a book. Two books, I presume, one for John and one for me.

I can’t tell you how much I love this gift and how excited I am on Monday mornings!

* I am also a little excited about my November writing project. I was a little unprepared for my usual writing so I decided to write about my ancestors who have finally found a place–physically–on my family tree.

When Johnny moved out last spring, we cleaned and painted our new guest room. I decorated with my tartan quilts, genealogy notebooks, and a big family tree placed in the corner so that my side of the family could branch out on one wall and John’s could branch the other way. It’s still a work in progress, but I am working on it.

My half of the family tree…still working on John’s half.

I got off to a great start in November writing John’s story. (I offered to let him do it himself, but he declined.) One afternoon I wrote 5,000 words about “John the Shoemaker.” Does anyone remember what that refers to? I wrote my story, “Pieced Life” and then started writing about my parents, grandparents and so on. Both my dad and my father-in-law wrote autobiographies when they first retired, but both lived another thirty years and refused to write anything more. So I wrote about “Old Man Marshall,” a story I particularly enjoyed because I got to watch my dad become a kind, sweet old man who deeply trusted his Lord in the midst of worry, loss and even depression.

As I climbed the family tree, I knew less and less about the actual people. I had dates and facts, but little real understanding of their personalities and character. When I could, I imagined what their lives much have been like, writing fiction based on what I knew. This was a time-consuming project because I had to go back and review what I’d previously gathered and update my search. By the time I reached the upper branches (or photographed family members) I could only trace the facts of their lives and couldn’t even guess at what their lives were really like. I did include small family trees that identified names of far-back ancestors, as well as an old watch, a couple pictures of ancestral homes, etc.

About halfway through the project I decided to put all this writing into a notebook that could stay in the room with the tree. I’m still working on that. Hopefully at least my kids and grandkids will read through it someday and enjoy the family stories. They can throw away all my genealogy notes and files if they want and still have a pretty good record of their ancestors–my own Storyworth.

Quilt Shops

One of the ways I work through the long miles of a road trip is to stop at quilt shops along the way. When I retired last year, my work gave me (among other things) a big book listing quilt shops across the country and Canada. I couldn’t fit it in my limited baggage for the trip so I took pictures of the pages and also googled “quilt shops near me” to find several along the way.

It’s fun to visit different quilt shops. Each one is unique and almost all of them are interesting. I try not to buy too much, since I already have a stash that I probably won’t ever use up in my lifetime, but I also want to support these small stores when I can.

I didn’t visit a lot of stores on this trip. One in Seattle near Pike’s Place and one in Missoula, plus two or three others on the long drive through Nebraska and Iowa. (I know my family’s limits when it comes to quilt shops.)

Here’s what I bought: a few animal pieces for my baby quilt stash; a 12 Days of Christmas piece for a possible table runner; an America panel of States; a unique Seattle piece (not sure why); and my favorite–two yards of radio schematics. This seemed just right for a quilt for my husband.

I also liked the small plaque reminding me to “Always take the scenic route.” It matched the America piece perfectly and is my favorite philosophy of travel. We took many scenic byways through Washington, Oregon and Idaho. By the time we got to Wyoming and Nebraska, we had to stay on the major highways so my quilt shops were short detours into small towns and byways. 

Road Trip

We are homeward bound after four weeks on the road. We’ve been through parts of Alberta, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Yet to come: Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. It’s been a fun trip, a good distraction from saying goodbye to our Kiwi family. We visited with two families that we knew in Alaska many years ago, an old Elmhurst neighbor, and another family from our Woodside days, plus friends we know from ABS in New Zealand when we were traveling with James and Anne.

We’ve seen a lot of scenery. As I write we are winding our way through the Wind River Canyon in the Copper Mountains of Wyoming. We stamped our National Park Passport in Olympic National Park, Mount St. Helens, Hells Canyon, Lolo Pass, and Yellowstone. Our real passports have been stamped in Edmonton and Victoria. All of it has been beautiful and fascinating, but Oregon has been the biggest surprise.

First of all, before I ever set foot in Oregon I was tutored in the proper pronunciation: the last syllable sounds like “gun”.

Second surprise came as we left the Columbia River Gorge and the rest of the state turned dry and brown. I thought the whole state of Oregon would be lush and green, but once we passed the Cascades, we were in high desert for two-thirds of the state. The Oregon Trail took on new meaning as a result, as well as portions of the Lewis and Clark Trail.

In Halfway, we learned about irrigation as a way of life. One man in church told us that he’d been threatened with his life over water issues in the 1970s as a newcomer to the area. Yikes!

Today we made a diagonal beeline through the state of Wyoming, starting at the northwest corner (Powell) and ending in Cheyenne, enjoying the last of the mountains along the horizon in both directions. I so badly wanted to dip down into Colorado for more adventures rather than heading east into Nebraska. Do we really have to go home?

I’ve decided that I like road tripping. It probably helped the we were able to pick up our car on the west coast and only traveled in one direction, but it has been fun to see so much in a brief time. The airbnb’s at the beginning of our trip were fun; the hotels not so much. The best accommodations were with friends.

P.S. Johnny obviously managed life without us. He had a rocky start, but did well enough with the help of “Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Dunc.” Continue to pray for him as we push for a more settled lifestyle and more independence over the next few months.

A Whale of a Good Time!

I so looked forward to having our Kiwi family in North America for three months. Charlee and I talked on the phone about the “little pool” in my backyard (hot tub) and the “little bed” we found at a garage sale for her. I bought blue paint for the room, a stuffed whale for her bed, and two wallhangings featuring whales. I decided to make a small whale quilt for the bed. We never actually finished painting the room or hanging the pictures. I finished the quilt a few weeks into her visit. (She didn’t care in the least.)

We must have had fun because the time just flew by. They are settling back into life at home and I am grieving their absence and all the things we didn’t get to do. (I’ve always been more on the cup’s half empty side of things.) It was a busy, crazy time filled with lots of people and activity–and miles. We all traveled to a weeklong wedding event in Ontario to kick off the summer. Then we spent six weeks at home, entertaining guests from Germany, Spokane, and the Ontario bride and groom. Anne and Laura had two-and-a-half years to catch up on and the cousins spent a lot of time together.

The Birkey’s and the Bruce’s took off the same day–on a road trip to Colorado. They spent four days together in Breckenridge before going their separate ways. Anne and James spent another three weeks visiting friends and the Capernwray centers in Estes Park (Ravencrest) and Winter Park (Timberline). From there they drove up through Wyoming and Montana, stopping to enjoy Glacier National Park on their way to Canada. They stayed with friends in Red Deer (near Calgary) and Camrose (near Edmonton) where we joined them for the last thirteen days of their trip, days filled with–you guessed it–people, activity and more miles.

They hosted ABS reunions, visited friends, camped and rock climbed pretty much up to the very end. At one point, they realized that their whole staff from the past two years was all in western Canada, kind of a bittersweet reality. They probably visited or met up with 100 past ABS students on their Reunion Tour with three major reunion events and several mini-reunions.

And then, it was over. They flew out of Vancouver on August 27th and we started our slow trek home, first visiting Vancouver Island and Olympia National Park. We will wend our way home at a fairly leisurely pace, visiting some of our friends along the way.

In July I saw a scrapbook with a whale on the cover. I bought it and decided that I would make Charlee a scrapbook of her visits to America. I had a lot of pictures printed and brought it to Canada. We spent a few hours in the car assembling some of the pages, but I have found it healing to work on the project when I feel sad. The first page states “When Charlee comes to visit…we have a whale of a good time!” A few pages remind me of her 2016 visit at eight months of age and our trip to Disney World. The 2019 pages will picture a completely different kind of trip. Lots of cousin time. James, Charlee and Simee’s first 4th of July. A trip to the American Girl Doll store for tea. Road tripping and camping; visits with many friends.

Yes, we had a whale of a good time. (So why am I so sad?)

Adventure Awaits

We’ve made it through Security for the second time in 24 hours. John, Lizi and I are on our way to Edmonton where we will meet James, Anne and the girls for the last 13 days of their summer trip. We will put them on a plane in Vancouver and start a road trip through the Pacific Northwest. We hope to enjoy Vancouver/Victoria and Olympia National Park. We want to visit friends in Washington and Oregon and then decide which route to take home, maybe finding more friends along the way. We could be gone for as long as a month.

Or not. Although Johnny has a “home” in Chicago, he is not comfortable there. He has been staying there on work nights and hanging out in our guest room on the weekends. Two nights before we left he was up all night obsessing about being “abandoned”. We kept moving forward, step by step. He took a few more things (a bed, TV and personal items) to his room on Tuesday night and Wednesday we boarded one of our (two) favorite airlines, Alaska Air bound for Seattle. Our compromise was that we will come home sooner if necessary, taking a week at a time.

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So while adventure awaits (and we’re very excited about that) we feel like it was an adventure just getting out the door! Please pray for us and particularly for Johnny as he manages life a little more independently. He still has the support and help of family and friends but he has to make good decisions and manage his emotions. We’re hoping it will get a little easier every day and he will experience the benefits of independence.