Happy Anniversary!

One year ago today, my parents – Carlos & Marijane Castells – moved in.  In that time, so much has happened.  It seems to me that the best way to summarize is to use photos that are worth 1000’s of words.  (Easier to “read” too . . .)

DSCN2752 Birthdays w-'buelos

2013 – September birthday celebration for  Kathryn, Bradford, and JT

DSCN2709 Abuelito's chair a triumph

Yay, John installed in the chair-lift!

Foto of Abuelita in Autumn

Autumn photo of MJ in front of new home


Granddaughter Tiffany’s baby shower on Sept. 15.

Castells' Singalong  (7)

Ho, Ho, Ho, it’s time for the Castells’ Christmas Singalong

Castells' Singalong Family Photo

Carlos & Marijane Castells and their descendants pose for the annual Christmas photo

Family Christmas 2013 Elliott - Castells

Castells/Elliott household on Christmas Eve

2014 3-10 Abuelita & Jane

Abuelita & Jane going to lunch during “Spring” break


Tiffany and Pedro bring ’round the first great-grandchild, Jackson!


April 2014 Cherry Blossom Festival

Easter 2014 (3).JPG Carlos & Marijane - Happy Easter

Happy Easter, Carlos & MJ!

DSCN4378 group3

Memorial Day Graduation party for Cayla & Caytie in Pennsylvania

2014 July 5 Bisabuelo, Jackson, and Jeannie

Family Reunion – 4th of July, 2014


Family Reunion with adult children (minus Carlos, Jr.)

 It’s been quite a year.  Praying for continued blessings during year 2.

Visit to UVA

Dad John and I drove together to UVA because he had a judging to do for the E-school (Engineering).  While Dad worked, Jane hosted me; while she was at class, I did CCD prep at the “Stud” (Christian Student Center).

First we went to lunch at the Corner and wandered through the gardens, taking photos.

Jane & Mom UVA - resized1

Jane & Mom UVA - resized3

Jane & Mom UVA - resized4

Jane & Mom UVA - resized5

Jane & Mom UVA - resized6

I really should visit Jane more often!

Today is Saturday, August 18.  It’s been about 8 weeks since his fall that caused the fracture of his C2 vertebrae.

Dad (aka as Grandpa or Howard) is currently in his fourth facility.  The first was Inova Fairfax Hospital, then Virginia Hospital Center Inpatient Rehab, Burke Health & Rehab, and now Fairfax Nursing Center as a rehab patient.   We are currently in the mode of planning what is next.  His followup with the orthopaedist is one week from yesterday on 8-24-12.  In preparation, John has gathered previous tests, and Maria will take him to get a final (hopefully) CT scan of the affected area of his spine.

Meanwhile, we are learning what home care assistance is available as well as information regarding long-term facilities should he not be a good candidate for coming home.  He is 91-years-old and has suffered a number of losses while in these various places; it’s not certain he would receive the best care at home.  It seems that support and care for elders in their final years can be a complicated business.

Because we love him, this process has been trying to the soul; however, we have faith that good decisions will be made.  So we appreciate your thoughts, prayers, AND comments, should you be so inclined.  Btw, the photo below is Grandpa Howard last Christmas.


No Fun

Catheterization is one of those procedures that I heard about but never fully understood.  Till yesterday.

My father-in-law is in the rehab hospital to recover from fracturing his C2 (upper cervical spine) vertebrae.  It’s the bottom of the two on which your head pivots on the neck.  A broken one causes excruciating pain with movement, and today marks the one week anniversary of his condition.

As if that weren’t enough, Gpa was informed two days ago that he may be “retaining urine” in his bladder, even after relieving himself.  The powers that be decided the thing to do was insert a catheter so that he could completely empty the bladder to avoid infection.  He was familiar with the procedure from the past.

I’m not saying that this was a “bad” idea, but it did add one more suffering to his overall experience of being treated.  He experienced two abortive attempts to insert the catheter before they called in the most experienced person (the urologist) who used lidocaine before trying the third and final time.

I awoke this morning and cried to think about what he is going through at age 91 and with confusion.  John has decided that his father needs to receive regular prayer by the men in our community in order not to lose heart during this very challenging time.  Thankfully, they are stepping up.  (All your prayers and kind wishes are appreciated!)

Dear Lord, be in this situation and console Howard with your comfort.  Thank you for helping him to realize that you are with him through it all.

In my previous post, “Praise Report for Howard”, I shared about a significant, life-changing event in my father-in-law’s life.  I can remember it.  But probably, he can’t.

If an immense redwood tree falls in a forest with a resounding crash, but no one hears it, does it really make a sound?  I have always said, ‘yes’ in the past.  Now I’m not so sure.

I am taking the position that that Howard’s openness to the Lord through prayer represents an orientation in his rational mind.  Even if his short-term memory loss issues keep him from recalling it, the memory is there somewhere in his brain to be restored to his thinking at some point.  Some things matter; this is one of them.

Please pray for Howard as he is dealing with some of the most excruciating pain known to Man, and he is 91.  He is also not known for his interpersonal skills to begin with.  But this is a really tough situation, and he needs all the help he can get.  Unfortunately, he forgets quickly and says, “Don’t help me, I’ve got to do this myself,” when in fact, he does need assistance to avoid the pain.

We need prayers too, to know when to offer, when to back off, and when to “help him anyway” because that is what he really needs.  End-of-life issues …

~from “I Will Praise You in this Storm” – Casting Crowns

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

Christmas Eve 2009 – wearing the “Elliott” tartan

This post was written on Sunday night; it shares a “praise report” and quick answer to prayer.  First, Howard – 91 years of age – is my father-in-law, the quintessential “self-made man”, a widower these 12 years, who has considered living alone to be an imperative in his life.  He has been growing in instability [regarding walking], and decreasing in his ability to prepare food and do other activities of daily living and has also been generally dismissive of religion and specifically scornful of needing God’s help.  We did not let that stop us from helping him both as family and in Jesus’ name.  He has lived with us in our home since April 1 following an injury when he fell in his kitchen.

Howard had fallen again, four days earlier, sometime before 4:00 a.m., but was found and quickly transported by 911 EMT’s to the emergency room with excruciating pain.  He had fractured the C2 cervical vertebrae, the “pivot” point on the spine for the head!  “Cervical spine (C-spine) injuries are the most feared of all spinal injuries because of the potential for significant deleterious sequelae. Correlation is noted between the level of injury and morbidity/mortality (ie, the higher the level of the C-spine injury, the higher the morbidity and mortality). Craniocervical junction injuries are the deadliest.” (http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1267150-overview)

In our church this past Sunday, we remembered St. John the Baptist and honored his important role in preparing the way for Christ.  However, the day was filled up with visiting Dad (or Gpa) and looking at facilities to which he could be transferred the next day.  After this, while John attended our usual People of Praise community meeting, I stayed home uncharacteristically to rest.   John came after the meeting to bring me back to the hospital and said he had invited two couples up to the hospital room and we would all go out to dinner.   I expressed concern that John’s plan would not give my father-in-law enough of a visit and that we simply mustn’t make a “big evening of it.”  John was surprised – one couple included my former heads of household from which I was married!  Our Father had other plans for us.  I decided to acquiesce.

First, Dave and Beky arrived; they are members of the Evangelical Free Church, a frankly joyous couple who exude the peace of Christ.  Dave mentioned to Howard that he was looking forward to heaven.  “Heaven!” said Howard, “I think of hell which is where I expect to go.”   Dave said, “We would all go there if it weren’t for the one who saved us.”  Howard replied, “I don’t have any savior.”  Silence ensued briefly until I stood up and put my hand over his and said, “Dad, you DO have a savior.”  “Who is it?” he asked.  “Jesus Christ is your savior and He loves you; you know that!”  John jumped in to tell a story by Mark Twain called, “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven“.  That’s probably more in line with the kind of thinking about heaven that Howard could understand.  (Twain wrote it shortly before his death and it appears to be unfinished at that time.)

Shortly, Frank and Carolyn, members of St. Ambrose Catholic Church, arrived.  They have a VERY evangelistic bent as well as being long-time acquaintances of Howard’s whom he greatly enjoys.  Carolyn sat down first. saying how unfortunate that they had to meet under such circumstances and other expressions of solidarity and compassion.  Then Frank spoke truthfully about Howard’s current situation not being able to help himself or to “stand” on his own any more.  He mentioned that Howard needed to trust God in this situation to help him.  Howard said that “he [God] had better get busy because he isn’t doing much at the moment.”  Not deterred, Frank pointed out that he needed healing and offered, “Would you like us to pray with you for healing?”  Howard:  “I would like that”.  Frank:  “Is there anything else we should pray for?”  Again there was momentary silence, into which I volunteered, “You have had a problem with balance…”  He said, “Yes, I have a problem with balance.”  So Frank said, “Well, then, we’ll pray for both physical balance and spiritual balance.”  And so we began.

Frank led the prayer during which we all laid hands on Howard and supported charismatically with quiet prayer in agreement.  It was a powerful moment.  I took the opportunity to pray directly to Howard’s guardian angel asking the angel to keep reminding Howard of this prayer so he would not forget (he has short-term memory lapses.)  After a few moments like this, Frank ended the prayer, “… in the precious name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.”  Then incredibly, Howard continued praying TO GOD, thanking Him for all that he is doing for him and for our prayer and for all of us.  He concluded by asking God to continue blessing all of us.   It was an unprecedented moment that brought me to tears.

Our family and various members of  the People of Praise have been beseeching God on Howard’s behalf for years.  His wife Loretta, who preceded him in death in 2000, prayed faithfully for him well into her struggle with Alzheimer’s, staying after church services to lift him up.

Shortly after this miraculous time of prayer, we did go out for a celebratory dinner – a fun time of fellowship and sharing about all that the Father is doing in our area currently.  During the conversation, I expressed that I had felt terribly burdened earlier in the day but now felt freed and relieved.  Immediately,  Beky shared about a prophecy that had been given at the earlier POP meeting; it discussed the diabolical intention that we would feel heavy burdens and be tempted to move away from our community relationships.  However, the solution to the problem was delving deeper into the relationships!  I agreed that this evening for me had been the fulfillment of the prophecy.  We were all very built up and impressed with how the Lord had worked mightily in the circumstances surrounding Howard’s life!

Glory to God!

Lent, It’s time for CHANGE …

Yes, we have all heard this before, the call for change.  Being Roman Catholic is part of  who I am.  Today is

Ash Wednesday

and I am all about dedicating myself to change … in so many areas … thought, word, and deed!  I read an article this morning on the website of American Catholic bishops.   In the article, Bishop Ricken (chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) presented some wonderful ideas on how to observe Lent well.

Being a CCD teacher, I synopsized the list for my 7th grade class; it follows.  If you want the full story, click on the link to Bishop Ricken’s article (http://www.usccb.org/news/2012/12-032.cfm).

10 Things to Remember for Lent

(based on an article by Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin)

1.  Remember the Formula – PRAYER, FASTING, ALMSGIVING.

2.  It’s a time of prayer.   Spread out over 40 days, we go on a journey that brings us closer to Christ.

3.  It’s a time to fast.  With the fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meatless Fridays, and our personal disciplines interspersed, Lent is the only time many Catholics these days actually fast.

4.  It’s a time to work on discipline. The 40 days of Lent are also a good, set time to work on personal discipline in general. Instead of giving something up, it can be doing something positive such as exercise more or intentionally setting aside time to go to Confession regularly.

5.  It’s about dying to yourself.   The suffering and death of Christ are foremost on our minds during Lent.  So more than simple self-control, Lent is about finding aspects of yourself that are less than Christ-like and letting them “die”.  (Again the Sacrament of Penance is a big help.)

6.  Don’t do too much.  Don’t be tempted to try to “re-invent” yourself this Lent.  Focus on a couple of simple ways to grow closer to God.

7.  Lent reminds us of our weakness.  We have trouble keeping even our simple goals – when we fast, we are one meal away satisfying our hunger.  Seeing our helplessness makes us seek God’s help more urgently.

8.  Be patient with yourself.   When confronted with our own weakness during Lent, the temptation is to get angry and frustrated.  Instead, receive God’s grace to be patient with ourselves and others.

9.  Reach out in charity.  Experiencing our own weakness and suffering renews our compassion for those who are hungry, suffering, and in need.  The third part of the formula – almsgiving – means throwing more in the collection basket and helping others with God’s unconditional love.

10. Learn to love like Christ.  Giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like Christ.  Let us ask His help, join His suffering, and learn to love like He does.


Let’s all draw closer to God this Lent.  Cheers!