INSPIRING PEOPLE: Claire Snyder

It takes a while to realize how impressive Claire Snyder is because she does not draw attention to herself. This is so rare that I find it as inspiring as all the other cool things she does.

These include working as a dialysis img_20200128_175202nurse, mentoring and tutoring kids in a struggling school, running marathons, and going on medical mission trips. Every strength she has is poured out for other people.

The tenacity she gained from running is imparted to women recovering from addictions as she coaches them to run their first race. She is as happy with their victories as she is with her own.

 

img_20200508_111834She shares her lovely house and good cooking freely – taking meals to people who are sick, taking in an exchange student, hosting countless holidays and celebrations with a quiet, under-the-radar efficiency.

I am blessed to be her friend and the regular beneficiary of her noticing kindness. A few weeks ago when she was handing out food at our local school, she heard me telling someone I couldn’t find a mask, and my bandana kept slipping. The next time I saw her, she presented me with a beautiful mask she had sewn, in my favorite colors, reinforced with a little strip of metal that keeps it in place!img_20200421_093514

 

Claire is not adventurous forĀ adventure’s sake. She has to overcome her own fears and self-doubts to do the brave things she does. But that is what is so inspiring – she pushes through those feelings, prays for power and follows Jesus into suffering and need. She brings wisdom, compassion, humor and healing, day after day.

I cannot tell you everything she does because no one knows! I usually find out from other people. Suffice to say that Claire embodies the care of God, with a constant stream of empathic, humble, focused service. Claire is the hidden treasure of her church and her community.

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Claire with her beautiful daughters, Elizabeth and Rebecca. Claire and her husband, Dave, lived in China for a year when the girls were little so they would understand the culture of the country where their daughters were born.

INSPIRING PEOPLE: Joe Brooks

Joe Brooks inspires me because he reminds me of Jesus. Not just because he has a beard. Not even because he was always the guy leading the resistant donkey down the ceter aisle of church on Palm Sunday.

Joe reminds me of Jesus because he has been following Jesus for a long time, and we begin to resemble those we love and imitate.

One of the main reasons Joe started coming to our church, College Hill Presbyterian, was that he and his wife Helen had a sense of call to racial reconciliation. When they first came, our church was almost entirely white.

Soon after Joe began attending many years ago, he had some tough experiences – like the time he put his hand out to the greeter at the door, and the guy would not shake hands with him. He turned away. That would have been the end of it for me, but Joe stayed because he knew God wanted him to stay. That’s another thing that makes Joe like Jesus; he forgives people when they’re mean and racist.

He has given so much to our church community – teaching, tutoring, leading men’s groups, helping with kids’ worship dance, serving twice as a deacon and as an elder, not to mention unofficial security guard whenever the situation calls for it! I’m so grateful for all he has been for us, and all he has done for us.

The family and friends of Joe and Helen Brooks have added considerably to the size of our church. I cannot imagine the place without them. They have eighteen grandchildren!

The other reason Joe reminds me of Jesus is how much he loves God. The love and truth of God is on his mind and on his heart, and he always eager to talk about God in a way that makes sense to his listener. If you ever get a chance to talk with him (when he doesn’t have a group of kids flocking around him) ask him what God is doing in his life, then get ready to hear something good!

INSPIRING PEOPLE: Janet Baltzersen

When Janet walks into a room, it changes. This is true on several levels. First, it becomes a more fun place because her presence brings joy and beauty and laughter. It also often literally changes because she does interior decoration and redesign as a business.

Years ago, she asked, “Is there something wrong with me if I’m waiting in a doctor’s office and I end up rearranging all the magazines on the racks?” Obviously not, since that impulse to improve spaces has led to a successful business that she enjoys immensely.

People rave at the transformation Janet brings to their rooms, sometimes only with a few hundred dollars and the clever rearrangement of their existing furniture and accessories. Some of the more fun comments I’ve heard include:

“I finally feel like a grownup.”

“I never used to have people over and now I do it all the time.”

“I gasped when I walked in the door…”

“When I opened the door to my newly designed room, a huge weight lifted off my shoulders…”

I’m always fascinated with how people’s strengths come out in the work they do. Janet really cares about people; she wants to improve the quality of their lives. The improvement of their physical surroundings is just the beginning.

She manages the Children’s Center at the University of Mount St Joseph with such love, professionalism and creativity that it was awarded five starts, and she was given the Elizabeth Seaton Mission Award in 2018.

She is a devoted mother of three and has blessed her kids, grandson and extended family with a beautiful home and garden and a special touch to every family celebration. Her personality has that rare combination of true kindness and a wickedly funny sense of humor that makes her the person you want to sit next to at the party.

Janet is one of those people given to us to bring joy, hope and renewal. Anyone who has know or worked with her is richer for it.

Find her work at rustyfigredesign.com, and on instagram.

INSPIRING PEOPLE: Jocelyn Sluka

Jocelyn Sluka is a fabulous actress and a wonderful friend. For years we have travelled together with Friends of the Groom Theater Company, and there is not a gig we’ve done (out of hundreds) when she has not been kind and professional off stage, and nailed her characters perfectly onstage.

She doesn’t just act; like Meryl Streep on screen, she channels characters on stage. In one show alone (The Case of the Missiong Bodies) she plays a luscious femme fatale, a scrappy street kid, and a godfather knockoff. I never get tired of it; after all these years I still peek around the curtain in rehearsal to watch her transform.

It’s not just talent that lets someone play an adoring mother, a bag lady or a burnt-out heroin user with five husbands, all with equal conviction. It’s empathy. Jocey feels for people; she gets them from their own perspective.

I don’t know anyone who has forgiven more. I don’t know anyone who has stayed more faithful to God, in joy and in suffering. I don’t know anyone who’s more fun to travel with, which is a good thing because we have sstayed together in homes and hotel rooms all over the country and overseas for three decades.

When she was a young actress she heard a clear call from God to leave Hollywood and devote herself to theater that embodied the love of God. How superbly she has done this, how faithfully and cheerfully. I think when she gets to heaven, there will be a long standing ovation.

INSPIRING PEOPLE: Carolyn Ison

Many people are beautiful to look at, but some also create beauty wherever they go. That is what Carolyn Ison does. People have always been drawn to her lovely, calm demeanour, her snow-white looks and captivating eyes, her kindness and grace.

Her work has always involved an extension of that beauty. She is a painter, and her pictures have the same magnetic, soothing quality that she does. All the homes and gardens she has ever lived in are little oases.

I have beneffitted greatly from these qualities, because I am her daughter. There is not a domestic image in my memory that is not picturesque. There was never a holiday that did not have a delightfully set table. My home is filled with paintings that give me joy.

Love can only be given away after it has been breathed into us. I am so grateful to have been loved by this beautiful woman. Her care for people and cultivation of beauty was a gift she passed on to her daughters, and we are so much richer for it.

INSPIRING PEOPLE – Bill Scheid

Living through a pandemic that has killed 25,000 so far with no end in sight makes you appreciate people. So for such a time as this, a series on people who inspire me seems like a good idea. I’ll start with someone close to home. At home, actually:
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It’s hard to find someone who just keeps getting up and doing the right thing every day. That’s what inspires me about Bill Scheid.

For thirty-two years he has put in tenacious workdays as an IT manager for Procter and Gamble problem solving how humans and technology best interact to keep his corner of a global business thriving.

For twenty-seven years he has stayed married to the same person (me, actually) with unwavering loyalty and devotion. Whatever it takeswhatever our differences, he is all in.fb_img_1524665630011

For twenty three years he has poured his energy into the well being of his three sons, taking them on wonderful vacations, coaching teams, helping with homework, teaching them skill after skill and always coming up with the next fun thing to do.

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So many people benefit from knowing Bill. He lets his faith in Jesus influence every area of his life. At our church,College Hill Presbyterian, he teaches Sunday School, runs a men’s group, takes kids to camp.

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His friendships have endured through decades. He faithfully visits his family and his in-laws. (Only Bill could have persuaded my mother to join him in dressing as a hockey player for her nursing home’s Halloween party!)

Bill is one of those people who walks into a room and can see right away what practical thing needs to be done to help. He’s the guy who puts the last chair away. He’s the guy talking to the quiet person at the party. He’s the guy bringing in donuts on Friday morning to cheer everyone up. Bill exemplifies a long, steady journey in the right direction, and does it with a good humor that inspires the same.

“Toys” to Help Students Read

(Fifth in a Series on Tutoring)

When an occupational therapy student showed up at our tutoring site last year with three drawers full of stuff that looked like toys, and told me they would help students with their reading, I was skeptical.Kidsco Puffer Balls - 6 Pack Assorted Colors, Blue, Green, Orange, Yellow, Pink and Purple, for Kids Sensory Stress Relief, Therapy Toy Favor, Goody Bag Filler.

One drawer was labelled ‘calming’ the other ‘alerting’, and the other one had what looked like a big sock full of rice or beans or something.

The calming drawer was full of stress balls, squishy toys and colorful little things to fidget with. I took one look at it and imagined all that stuff flying through the air, books and reading abandonned to a free-for-all.

The alerting drawer looked even more problematic – gum that could end up stuck under tables, more distracting fidget toys, and a big inflated ‘wiggle seat’ with soft plastic spikes that I figured no self-respecting kid would be caught dead sitting on.Trideer Inflated Stability Wobble Cushion with Pump, Extra Thick Core Balance Disc, Kids Wiggle Seat, Sensory Cushion for Elementary School Chair (Office & Home & Classroom)

Turns out, I was dead wrong to be so cynical! We did have to be strict about not letting kids use the objects to play with, just to hold them while reading, but pretty soon I was hearing stories of how different gadgets were helping kids focus.

Then my nephew came over to my house and saw the wiggle seat, which I hadn’t even taken to the site yet, and said, “Oh those are really cool. We get to sit on them at reading time at school.” Get to – shows how much I don’t know!

The real clincher was the story I heard about a little girl at another site who had been unable to sit still at all. She was so distracted she had never completed a book during tutoring. Then her tutor got her a ‘weighted lap belt’ – the big stuffed sock I had mentally mocked on sight. Apparently the little girl sat calmly through her whole session, finished her book, held up the lap belt and announced joyfully, “ThisĀ  makes me smart!”

So now I no longer mock the Whiz Kids Sensory Tool Kit. Our site has hyperactive kids squeezing squishy balls as they read, tired kids sucking mints and little kids using colored film strips to underline their words as they read. We even use the spiky cushion.

Last year, these kits were researched and put together by Jillian Cloud, OTD, OTR/L, as part of her doctoral program. Children can have a range of sensory processing issues that interfere with learning – trouble focusing to over-sensitivity to noise or touch.

The handbook that Jillian wrote for tutoring sites not only explains the best use of the tools, it also includes a long list of calming strategies, ideas for taking quick breaks, and suggestions for improving sensory processing.

A helpful chart, called “Zones of Regulation”, gives tutors a way to guide students to identify how they are feeling and what their level of alertness is. In the green zone, they are ready to learn – happy, calm and focued. In the blue zone they are sad, sick, tired or bored. In the yellow zone they are frustrated, worried, wiggly or excited and in the red zone kids are angry, scared, yelling, hitting or elated. Picking a zone helps kids see whether they need to do something to help get themselves under control.

When you only have an hour a week to make an impact on a student’s life, these little toys are making a big difference.