Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chrissy's Story

My daughter-in-law Chrissy wrote this story.

My most memorable Christmas to date took place when I was between the ages of 10 or 12. My mom could never afford to buy us presents for anything, Christmas included. But my Nan (who is my Mom's Mom) always had gifts for us. She asked me what I wanted for Christmas that year, and without hesitation I told her I'd like a gold cross necklace. I still think to this day, and almost immediately thought that day as a little girl, "What in the world made me ask her for that?" I mean we were not raised in a Christian home, and we certainly didn't go to church. But either way, I was proud of myself for that brief moment. I don't think I fully understood at the time why I felt so proud, but I do now. Christmas day came, and we went to my Nanny's for dinner and gifts. I still remember when I opened the little box and saw this simple, but stunning little gold cross necklace that was now my own. I remember wearing it almost every day, but eventually, being a little girl, I lost my cross necklace, but never lost my love for the Lord. That out of all the Christmases I've had and can remember is the one I always think of when I go back through my Christmas memories. It brings tears to my eyes to think how God reached out his hand to me when I never knew him.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Long Ago: My Story

My family lived briefly in a small logging town in Utah called Panguitch. We lived in a tiny green trailer-- Mom, Dad, and four children. My new little brother Shane had just been born in November the year of that memorable Christmas. Having no washer or dryer, my mother washed out his diapers by hand and hung them outside in the icy air to dry. I remember her bringing them inside, stiff and frozen.

I was seven and in second grade when we lived in Panguitch. I walked to and from school alone down the main street in town and looked into store windows on my way. Once, around Halloween, I bought wax teeth and big red wax lips in one of those stores.

That Christmas was snowy and cold. We were having a holiday party at my school. Each child drew a name, and we had to buy that classmate a gift--limit 50 cents. I don't remember the child who received my gift or even what I brought to share. Thinking back, I know it must have been a hardship for my parents to buy one more gift during a very difficult season in their lives.

I still have two of the four gifts I received for Christmas that year. A boy in my class gave me a treasure--a picture book filled with stories and poems about Christmas. It had the words to The Twelve Days of Christmas in it, and a poem about "Jesus, our brother, kind and good." There was a story about two girls taking a penny walk at Christmas. I'd never heard of a penny walk before and wanted to try it. You flip a penny at every corner while you're walking. If heads, you turn right, if tails, you go left. Oh, how many times I read that book through the years!

I also still have a doll that was mailed to me from my grandmother in California. It was a Terry Lee doll and she could walk and turn her head. I named her Sandra. My mother later told me she had two dollars apiece to spend on each of her children that Christmas. The winter in Utah was bitter cold but girls were required to wear dresses to school no matter what the weather. My mother bought me red tights. I was thrilled to have them and remember playing hopscotch on the blacktop at school while I was wearing them. Also, Christmas morning, hanging on our small blue spruce tree, I found a tiny, stuffed dog named Topper. I think the name was inspired by a TV show I had watched.

The images in my mind of our time in Panguitch are still vivid. My mother always made Christmas special, and that year was no exception. By the next holiday, we would be living in a real house and the first Christmas there was magical. But I will hold that story for another time.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stacia's Memorable Christmas

My son Dominic's fiancee sent me this story:

One of my favorite Christmases was when I was about 7 years old. I remember this Christmas very well because my family was all together at my grandparents' house. All my aunts and uncles were there, exchanging gifts and laughing together. There was a coffee table with a bowl of walnuts in it and a nutcracker, and everyone ate walnuts out of the shell. There were Christmas songs playing on the radio. Suddenly we heard a knock on the door and a jolly "ho ho ho!" We had a special visitor--Santa Claus! He came down the stairs in a red suit holding a big red bag of toys for us kids. I would find out later that it was my Uncle Greg dressed up, but of course it was Santa to us. There were many wonderful toys in the bag, but the best one of all was too big to be wrapped. All the adults got kind of hushed and Santa said he had a special present for me. Then he went behind a door and came out wheeling a bright green scooter with tassels on the handle bars. I shrieked with delight--a scooter was every child's dream! This one was sleek and shiny and very fashionable. Santa then wheeled out a new bike for my brother, and he was thrilled, too. We couldn't stop talking about our new wheels. When we got home that night my dad brought them down to the basement and we rode around and around in circles until we were tired. I rode that scooter for years until I finally parted with it at a garage sale. I think my brother still has his bike up in the attic.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Favorite Christmas

Here is Arielle's story:

I love Christmas time. Christmas is the time when baby Jesus was born. Lots of people get excited about the gifts and other stuff and they forget about what Christmas is really about. At our house we try to not forget the true meaning of Christmas, but we sometimes forget.

Every year we go to our church for a Christmas concert. It is amazing to see all the singers and hear the music. I always look forward to the concert. On Christmas Eve our church has a play of the nativity for the kids. One of my favorite Christmases was the year when my mom and dad bought me a Felicity American Girl doll. I play with her, but I am careful to keep her hair looking nice. Every morning on Christmas I wake up, get my sister, and we both go into my mom and dad's room to wake them up. When they are awake, we open presents in the living room.

All my big brothers and my big sister come over for dinner. Before dinner we all sit down in a circle in the living room and take turns opening more gifts. I love it when all the family gets together. At dinner it is always crazy when all the plates of food are passing from person to person and everyone is talking all at once. That was the best Christmas I can remember.

A Christmas to Remember

The girls had a creative writing assignment about a favorite or memorable Christmas from the past. I told them I would also write a story. So over the next couple of days, I will post them all. Readers! Please contribute!

Here is Liana's story: She was thinking of the Christmas when she was two but added some more recent details.

The countdown until Christmas has started. Soon it will be Christmas, the best time of the year. The best part was the family that would come. Even a two-year-old like me would not just care about the gifts. But I'm not saying that I don't want any presents. Christmas Eve is coming and that means the wonderful Christmas Eve concert. I'm strolling now through the house, my eyes gazing at the Christmas tree. Oh, what a beautiful tradition it is! Just lining up to Christmas is great! Going to the mall and getting the chocolate samples is awesome. On Christmas morning I got a doll house with furniture in it. It was sure a Christmas to remember.

Monday, December 21, 2009


What were you doing during the blizzard of 2009? Many people will have stories to tell in the years to come. I have a story of the blizzard of 1996 that brought us 30.7 inches of snow. I was stranded in a hotel in Philadelphia where I had gone for a chiropractic seminar. The highways and the airport were closed and no one could leave the city. The hotel had no restaurant so my fellow classmates and I had to venture out on foot and try to find some place that would sell us something to eat. We found a convenience store with a line of people wrapped around the building. But we bought food and then stuffed the containers in the snow below our window at the hotel so nothing would spoil and we could later heat our meals in the one microwave in the lobby.

This blizzard was mild by comparison, but I hope we will all remember it with a smile and with gratitude for a special weekend. The four of us were home together, gladly stranded and unable to go anywhere. Fortunately, we had no obligations like many others did, so we watched the storm arrive with an increasingly dense, dark gray sky as the light snow began and then quickly turned to a furious, relentless storm.

The girls couldn't wait to go outside and were delighted when the lawn was quickly blanketed in white. Fred and I did a quick shoveling after a few inches of snow accumulated, then retreated indoors for snacks, hot drinks, and movies by the fire. Is there anything better? At dusk we decided to shovel again even though the storm was still blasting through the area. I pushed all the snow from our wooden deck and then started on the driveway. Fred said to leave it be, that he would get out the snow blower in the morning. But I didn't want to quit. I felt like I could shovel forever. The falling snow was beautiful, magical somehow. The outdoor Christmas lights switched on and cast a colorful glow on our yard. I walked up the road in front of the house for a picture and then called the girls to come and see. Liana spent most of her time digging a big hole in the mound we had shoveled and then sat in it for quite awhile, transfixed by her own imaginary world. Arielle piled high a huge mountain of snow to make a fort. No one wanted to come inside.

Sometime in the middle of the night the Nor'easter left us to head further north. More shoveling awaited us. In the bright, cold sunshine we cleared at least another six inches. This time, our work was more drudgery than fantasy. The girls bickered and threw snowballs at each other. Fred and I just wanted to get done. The magic was gone. But I will always remember the snowfalll that evening when we were caught up in a winter wonderland.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Looking for Christmas

Christmas is coming way too quickly and we are going through the motions doing all the same actitivies we do every year to get ready. I'm enjoying them all! But I notice with each thing we do, we try to capture that essence of Christmas--something fulfilling, nostalgic, meaningful. Deep in our hearts is a wistful longing for the excitement and magic we experienced as a child. Or if not that, then something we can't name, something elusive, something we can't quite grasp.

Fred and the girls and I have been shopping at the mall and had a fun time trying to hide gifts from each other and not give away secrets. We went to the tree farm on the coldest, windiest day of the season (again!) and froze as we rode out to the fields in a hay wagon driven by two big horses. We cut the most beautiful tree we've ever had. It is 7 feet tall, full and lush. Fred placed thousands of lights on it and the girls hung our ornaments, each one attached to a memory.

My friend had a ladies' Christmas party in her 180-year-old country home, fully adorned in Christmas finery. We snacked and talked and sang carols, and listened to a dramatization of Jesus' birth. On Sunday we attended the concert at our church and heard a full orchestra and choir presenting glorious music. If you can't find Christmas there, where would you? We're building traditions and the girls are forming their own warm and fuzzy feelings about the season.

It struck me that when I'm looking for Christmas, I'm really looking for Jesus--a touch, a word, a connection to Him. It's His birthday, after all. He is not elusive. He's at the mall and the farm, in our homes and churches. He is in our hearts. Maybe I need to just stop and talk to Him, slow down and listen for His voice.

Why do we love the trappings of Christmas? Our huge tree reminds me of life, the rich full life God has given me here on earth and the hope of eternal life. I love the tiny, twinkling lights on the tree. They shine like the stars forever and ever. I love to sing the old carols. We'll one day join choirs of angels singing praises to God. We so enjoy giving gifts to our children, just as God loved us so much that He gave us His son.

All these things are glimpses of what can't be fully realized now. They are a hint of the future, the promise of what is to come. We cling to our little earthly traditions and long for heaven.

At the concert we heard a beautiful song that was unfamiliar to me. I found the words on the web, but could not find any site to post here so you could hear it. It's called, "All the World Was Waiting." I don't know who wrote it. If you find it, let me know. I want to hear it again.

All the world was waiting, for the promised One,
Prophets through the ages claimed that He would come,
Would He be a warrior, or a conquering King?
Could he be the one who'd save us from our sin and suffering?

All the world was waiting on the night that you were born,
God of life eternal, in a fragile form,
Shepherds gathered closer, gazing at your face,
Wondering how this helpless child could save a fallen human race.

All the world was waiting, as you became a man,
Truth was in your teaching, healing in your hand,
Though your heart was sinless, you laid down your life,
To pay the debt that only perfect love could satisfy.

Now the world is waiting, for another day,
When your Sovereign hand will turn the final page,
And all will be accomplished, our trials and tears will end,
And those who've longed to see you will never wait again.

Monday, December 14, 2009

On aging

A friend of mine sent me some great thoughts on getting old from Max Lucado. It's always bothered me that we are supposed to buy into the idea of making ourselves look younger than we really are. Why? What's wrong with looking our age? I'm all for keeping healthy, but don't you think our culture goes a little too far in promoting youthfulness? To all of my friends who are my age--we've traded our looks for the great wisdom we've acquired! I think it's far more valuable.

"How precious are your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!" Psalm 139:17.

Aging is a universal condition. But the way we try to hide it, you would think it was a plague!
There are girdles which compact the middle-age spread for both sexes. There are hair transplants, wigs, toupees, and hair pieces. Dentures bring youth to the mouth, wrinkle cream brings youth to the face, and the color in a bottle brings youth to the hair. All to hide what everyone already knows--we're getting older.

Just when the truth about life sinks in, God's truth starts to surface. He takes us by the hand and dares us not to sweep the facts under the rug but to confront them with him at our side.

Aging? A necessary process to pass on to a better world.
Death? Merely a brief passage, a tunnel.
Self? Designed and created for a purpose, purchased by God himself.

There, was that so bad?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Let it snow!

Finally! A free weekend. Nothing at all planned, but snow was in the forecast. The girls were hopping with excitement. They were out the door when the first few flakes began to stick to the grass.
It was a warm snow, coming up from the South. It fell wet and heavy, pulling down our bamboo and breaking a huge branch from the lilac tree. But it frosted the trees with ice and was so beautiful. The snow was great for packing and the girls made the first snowman of the season.
Inside, Fred made a fire in the wood stove and we ate snacks and watched silly Christmas movies all afternoon-- Elf and Christmas with the Kranks. We also watched parts of The Santa Clause series AGAIN. Highly recommended!
Fred's leg is healing. He has to be reminded to be cautious because he tends to overdo. I am making an effort to massage it well every night and that has helped a lot with the swelling. Our hands have healing in them. I believe it and scripture supports it.
Our wonderful weekend is ending. Fred prayed at dinner, "Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to see another winter and another snowfall." We are grateful. Another season upon us and we are here to celebrate it!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, Daughter!

My daughter turned twelve today. In the early morning quiet I thought back over my years with her. The tears my mother and I shed when we first saw the empty crib in that hotel room in China just hours before Arielle was mine. Tears because I really, truly, would have a daughter at long last. Indescribable joy when the thin baby with the huge dark eyes was placed in my arms.

Her hair grew thick and black and her big eyes didn't miss a thing. Even as a baby she carried with her the wisdom of the ages, serious and thoughtful. My little girl spoke in sentences just past her first birthday and could read all the letters of the alphabet before she turned two. She's always loved books and as a toddler would quietly take each one from her shelf and page through it, her little face so intent on learning and understanding. Then she would stack the books neatly beside her as she finished them. They were her treasures.

I think of my little ballerina in her many tutus and later my girl with her black hair braided with red ribbons performing at Chinese New Year. She learned to play piano and entertained us at home with joyful abandon but never enjoyed the recitals. She couldn't bear the thought of making a mistake. Once, as I watched her playing a lively tune, a word of scripture clearly came to my mind, "She's the apple of my eye." God's. And mine.

Her mind is her strength, but with caution and persistent effort she learned to swim and ride a bike. She's never been interested in sports but loves our vegetable garden and has diligently worked beside me year after year, planting, hoeing, harvesting. She has learned to sew and has begun to cook. Oh, there is so much more I want to teach her!

She loves the ocean. Our last trip to the shore I watched her edge further and further from us. Her thoughts were her own as she plunged into the swirling water, alone, but under our watchful eyes. What are your dreams, precious daughter?

The years fly faster and faster and soon she'll soar away too. Wait, please wait! I'm not ready for her to go! She is becoming a beautiful young woman, poised, confident, and never losing her sweet and gentle nature or the ancient wisdom in her eyes. Happy Birthday, Arielle! We love you!


For weeks Fred has been looking forward to Black Friday, maybe even more than Thanksgiving. After several years of repetitive behavior, people tend to call something a tradition. So we continue our tradition this year.

We're not like those fanatics who go out in the middle of the night to camp out around the Walmart waiting for the doors to open. No, we leave the house around 7am and head to the mall, search the already packed parking lot for a spot, and then join the throngs of shoppers. Usually we don't do much buying. We just soak up the festive atmosphere, eating chocolate samples from the speciality shops and drinking Starbucks coffee. Maybe get a glimpse of the REAL Santa. Yes, we have the real deal at our mall.

Today we left a little later because we were bringing Dominic and his fiancee with us. They came to visit from D.C. and we talked them into joining us on our "day-after-T-day tradition". This year the coffee line was too long and the peppermint bark quota had already been distributed at Williams-Sonoma. Penneys had no more of the free snow globes they advertised and Fred and Arielle couldn't go off to shop together because I was pushing Fred in a wheelchair! That was quite an adventure. Wheelchairs are even harder than strollers to maneuver in store aisles and trying to get Fred up a ramp was near impossible if not for Dominic coming to the rescue. But wheelchairs are great for holding things. My purse went on Fred's lap and shopping bags were linked over the handles. Friends, don't you miss strollers for that reason alone? I wish I had my old stroller just to use as a shopping cart.

Our big bargain of the day--a Land's End coat for Liana that was 50% off! The most enjoyable part of the morning--a late breakfast at a diner with Dominic and Stacia. After our busy morning we got to relax and talk before they headed back to the big city.

Black Friday evening will hopefully become a tradition too. Fred made a fire in the woodstove, the girls roasted marshmallows, and I wrote my blog notes on paper so I could be downstairs with my family. On Thanksgiving around the table our kids had said what they were thankful for this past year. Over and over we kept hearing from each of them, big ones and little ones, "Family." My heart if full of gratitude tonight.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Indian Sam

I remember well the autumn I turned 12. I was in 7th grade and my school was on double sessions. I left the house after lunch and came home on the bus in the dark. My family lived in suburban St. Louis and we appeared to be an ordinary family, making snowmen in the yard in the winter, riding our bikes around the neighborhood in the summer, battling the bully on our street year-round. But we were not ordinary.

My own daughter Arielle is now exactly the same age I was that eventful evening, November 20th, long ago. I wonder how she would have reacted to my circumstances. If I remember right, it was also a Friday night, like it is now. My favorite show, Gomer Pyle, was about to start and I missed it because my new brother was coming into the world, right in my parents' bedroom.

My mother was against hospital births. Actually she is still pretty much against the medical profession in general. She gave birth to five children at home. But this brother, born when I was 12, was the most memorable for me. I remember the mysterious noises coming from the bedroom and my dad having me run get things for him. It was both scary and exciting. I was worried about my mother but knew something incredible was happening. I was privileged to see my newborn brother immediately after he was born. My mom and dad nicknamed him Indian Sam because his little face was so red. (We didn't worry about political correctness back then.)

For homework that weekend I had to write a report for English class. I wrote about what was foremost in my mind, of course! I told about how I had assisted with the birth and everything about Indian Sam, the baby I already adored. I read my report aloud in class. The teacher's reaction was stunned silence. My classmates didn't stir or say a word either. I knew then that it was a weird thing that I had witnessed and maybe my family wasn't like other families.

My mother probably influenced me to have my firstborn son at home, attended by a midwife--a MAN--and his trainees, who sat around and smoked cigarettes in the bedroom where I was laboring. It was a horrible experience and the rest of my boys were born in the hospital. (Those births weren't much better, but at least the air wasn't toxic.) After nursing school I worked in maternity in a hospital in Oklahoma City hoping to make other women's births a little more pleasant. I experienced many miracles there, for every child born into this world is a miracle.

Indian Sam was a very special brother. My other two brothers were playmates, lots of fun most of the time, but this one was my baby. I claimed him as my own. My mother gave me a lot of responsibility in caring for him and I thoroughly enjoyed him. Even today, we have a close relationship. So, Happy Birthday, Little Brother!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


"The Lord takes pleasure in His people." Psalm 149:4. I know, hard to believe. This word comes after an exhortation to praise, rejoice, and sing. If God desires our praise, I will give it.

I was cooking dinner and Liana came into the kitchen and looked out into the backyard. "Mom, look at the sky!" I turned the light off so we could see better. Our window faces the setting sun and the sky was painted with glorious streaks of color. Liana ran for the camera, and we went outside on the deck to enjoy the view. No photo could capture this moment.

I'm so glad my children haven't become cynical, taking for granted the special gifts of the earth. They are both vigilant, scanning the outdoors for wonders--a deer that strays from its family to explore our yard, the groundhog quadruplets born in the spring, the little birds that find our feeder. Even a caterpillar or ladybug or praying mantis will excite them.

As we each look at our little piece of the earth, are we struck by the beauty of it? In the morning I watch the soaring birds departing from their roost in the bamboo grove. The sun rises like a glowing red ball and illuminates the shocking yellow trees, their leaves now falling gently and covering our lawn. Fred has been unable to do his usual autumn leaves clean-up, and they are piled high in the corners where the wind blows them. I enjoy listening to the rustling as they are scattered about. "God has displayed His splendor." Psalm 8:1.

Does God really delight in us that way, like we find joy in His creation? Does He smile at our human-ness, faults and all? Is He like a mother who tenderly gazes at her children, adoring them, even if five minutes ago they were being most disagreeable?

"God makes the dawn and the sunset shout for joy." Psalm 65:8. "In His right hand there are pleasures forever." Psalm 16:11. Don't miss them, and don't forget that your Creator also takes pleasure in you.

Monday, November 16, 2009


I had the best grandmother in the world. I think I've said that before. We lived in Tucson and she lived in San Diego, so visiting her was infrequent, but what an exciting time for me when we went to her house. She adored me, simple as that.

I was thinking of her yesterday. Arielle and I went to my daughter-in-law's house to pick her up, along with my granddaughter Lana. We pulled in the driveway, and Lana dressed in pink hearts bounced out to the car, her long hair gold in the afternoon sun. I adore that child. I hope she knows it. Girls' Day Out! We had an afternoon of shopping planned.

Chrissy and I are both on very limited budgets, so we were very discriminating about what we put in our cart. Lana, being a typical 6-year-old with no cares about money, wanted a stuffed animal. Over and over she implored her mother to get her one. I too loved stuffed animals when I was a child. Unlike my daughters whose rooms are filled with them, I had just four animals over the course of my childhood. Each one was so very special. My grandmother bought one of them.

On a visit to California, my sister and I were in a store with my grandmother. Maybe we were clamoring for a gift, I don't know. But I remember my grandmother saying we could get something. I was old enough to realize she did not mean a big something, just a little treat or toy. A huge display of plush teddy bears caught my eye. Could we have one of those? I can still see my grandmother's face. She hesitated, wanting to say no, it was too much. But she said yes! My sister chose a brown and tan bear. Mine was pink and white.

Lana never asked me for anything. I could tell Chrissy wanted to get her something, but she needed to buy clothing instead. So I knelt down and told Lana about my grandmother and my bear. And then I told her that her own grandma would get her the animal she desired. She must have already had one in mind. She ran to the display and immediately chose a gray kitty.

Lana didn't need another stuffed animal. Maybe she shouldn't have been allowed a toy, since she kept asking after her mother said no. But isn't that a grandmother's role? To give when it isn't deserved? To indulge a child, to be the pushover? Parents so often have to be the "no" person. I want to be able to say "yes" to my grandchildren.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Great Healer

Fred went to the doctor yesterday for a new x-ray to see how his leg is mending and to determine if surgery will be necessary to repair the damage. Great news! The doctor said he is amazed at how Fred is healing so rapidly. No surgery is needed. In fact, he can begin partial weight-bearing on the injured leg. Maybe even driving again soon.

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14. God gave our bodies the incredible means to heal. Broken bones repair themselves. Even the enormous swelling in Fred's foot and ankle had purpose--to splint the fractured bones until new bone was formed. We are very grateful for this healing.

Fred has 9 more days of school. He has persevered in his work and will graduate at the top of his class. The girls and I are counting down the times we have to make the mid-day drive to pick him up. They have adapted, and I have overcome my fear of the traffic and the stress it caused me each day. Thanks again to all our friends who have offered to help us. In the big picture of life, these weeks are few and could just be called an inconvenience. Running with footmen, not horses.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Great Leader

Years ago before we had Chinese children, I read Wild Swans by Jung Chang at the recommendation of my son who was reading it in his Asian Studies course at college. It remains one of the most memorable--and horrifying--books I've ever read. It is a memoir about three generations of women in Chang's family and it is also a historical account of China during the 20th century.

After reading Wild Swans, and while waiting for Arielle to come home, I immersed myself in Chinese history. I was stunned by the brutality of the Mao Tse-Tung regime, in part because it was such recent history. Many events happened during my lifetime. In fact, Jung Chang was born the same year I was, so I would relate my life to hers at the same age. I was also stunned by my previous lack of knowledge about China. My history classes in high school and college were quite lacking in content.

Jung Chang has written another book titled Mao: The Unknown Story, co-authored with her husband. When asked why she wrote this book she says, "Mao was responsible for the deaths of well over 70 million Chinese in peacetime, and he was bent on dominating the world. As China is today emerging as an economic and military power, the world can never regard it as a benign force unless Beijing rejects Mao and all his legacies. We hope our book will help push China in this direction by telling the truth about Mao." Of course, the book is banned in China. Mao's portrait still dominates Tiananmen Square in the heart of the capital and he still reigns in the hearts of many Chinese.

So why does any of this concern me and why would I take the time to write about it here? Three reasons: 1) I am reading another memoir right now called Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng. This author was imprisoned for years and her daughter murdered by Mao and his cohorts. The great tragedy of the Cultural Revolution is on my mind right now. 2) I am still amazed by the comment made by the White House Communications Director, Anita Dunn, who said that Mao is one of her "favorite political philosophers." Please, someone explain this! And 3) An article in our big city newspaper last week was very disturbing.

The article was titled, "Vows with a dash of Mao: Looking for wedding outfits, young Chinese are reaching back to the Cultural Revolution." Chinese women are getting married in green military outfits with the red stars on the hats--the uniform of the Red Guard! The article says there is "nostalgia about the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution." And then this quote, "Estimates of the number of people killed, starved to death, driven to suicide, and died in acts related to political persecution run from the tens of thousands to around a million." Compare those statistics to those quoted by Jung Chang. Was it tens of thousands or 70 million? In either case, would Mao be your hero?

Supposedly two or three couples a week come in for their Red Guard portraits. The manager of the studio says, "I think it is fun to pose as a Red Guard. That is a special period that most young people do not know about. It definitely makes you feel different when you are in the green army uniform." The young woman responds, "I think it's very cool."

Young people in China have an excuse for their ignorance, living in a media-censored country. But what about us? Read, learn, and speak out! My children will learn about Mao. They will know the history of their country of origin, sad as it is. They will not be fooled by our political leaders or our newspapers that downplay what happened there. Did you know that public education in our own USA practices its own form of censorship? I will write more on that later. History is being re-written and it is absolutely appalling.

I know my friends and family follow this blog to read family news. You probably want to know how Fred is doing! For now I have to write what is on my heart.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


I'm getting tired. It's only been 10 days since Fred's accident, but I am running on empty. Fred is tired of being in pain, tired of trying to get around on crutches and a very heavy, bulky cast. The girls are getting cranky. We had an hour drive one way to pick Fred up from school yesterday because of traffic. Then we had to turn around and drive home. Today we got up at 5:30 in the morning for Fred to get ready for his classes and do it all over again.

I have been reading a Charles Spurgeon devotional in the morning. It often seems to speak just to me. Here is today's verse: "For my strength is made perfect in weakness." II Corinthians 12:9. Our little family is weak right now. Spurgeon adds, "Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for there must be a consciousness of weakness before the Lord will give you victory. Your emptiness is but the preparation for your being filled, and your casting down is but the making ready for your lifting up."

The other day I remembered a verse from long ago and had to look it up because I didn't remember where it was: "If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses?" Jeremiah 12:5. I'm reminded this little accident of Fred's is small in light of the problems other people have. If I can't do this, what would I do if something big actually happened? Even so, in my own strength, I can do nothing right. Whether problems are big or small, we all need to go to God and ask for His strength for the task.

Yesterday Liana and I took a short walk around the yard. Even in November, the trees are glowing with a golden light. The mums are blooming and we brought their bright colors into the house to cheer us. Life is good.

We often ask people to pray for those we know who have needs. This is a different kind of prayer request. As you read this post, pray blessings down on our friend Pete. He is at our door every morning at 7am to take Fred to school. It's a very long drive through rush hour traffic. He does not even work in that area, yet he faithfully ministers to our family in our need. What a faithful servant of the Lord he is!
Blessings to all you who have helped in some way. A friend of mine took me out for a cup of tea. She would never know how much that meant to me and how refreshed I was afterwards. Someone else brought us two rotisserie chickens. Hurray, no cooking for 3 whole days! Everyone who has called and offered help, thank you, thank you. May God bless you richly!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Comfort food

After a stressful, hectic day, nothing seems to satisfy as much as hot, filling food. Not food that is exotic or fussy, rather something old-fashioned. When I was sick as a child, my mother always made me potato soup. Maybe that's why I like this recipe. Potatoes equal comfort to me.

I found this recipe last year and made it a couple of times. To my surprise, my picky husband likes it and Arielle loves it too. (Not Liana, but that's not surprising.) It is called Colcannon and is a traditional Irish dish, usually made on All Saint's Day. (Happy Birthday, little brother!) We have a smidgen of Irish blood and while my mom never made it, I think I will start a new tradition and we will have Colcannon every October when the weather turns to cold and damp.


Boil about 8 potatoes and mash with cream or milk. Fry up a half pound of bacon until crisp. Crumble and set aside. Chop up half of a small head of cabbage and an onion. In some of the bacon grease, saute the cabbage and onion for about 10 minutes. Then mix the cabbage and onions with the mashed potatoes. Add pepper and salt, if you like. Mound into a big bowl and top with butter, as little or as much as you want. Mmmm...

There is even a little song to go with your Colcannon:

Did you ever eat Colcannon
When 'twas made with yellow cream
And the kale and praties blended
Like the picture in a dream?

Did you ever take a forkful
And dip it in the lake
Of heather-flavored butter
That your mother used to make?

Oh you did, yes, you did!
So did he and so did I,
And the more I think about it
Sure, the more I want to cry.

God be with the happy times
When trouble we had not
And our mothers made Colcannon
In the little three-legged pot.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Update on Fred

Our friend brought Fred to school Monday morning and I was left to make calls and try to get him in to see an orthopedist. He got an appointment for that very afternoon, so after the girls and I picked him up, we went right to the office. No wait! Whoever heard of that?

Fred was already prepared with his argument for not having surgery. He wanted to see the X-rays himself and he wanted to try to heal on his own. The doctor is a sports medicine specialist and knows all about ankles, and he was willing to listen. He took another X-ray to determine if tendons had been torn and when he saw they were not, he said he would give Fred two weeks and check his progress. No surgery! Praise God for that!

The cast that was put on in the ER was big and bulky and straight, no bend in his knee, going all the way up his thigh. Fred was really having trouble getting around. This doctor took it off and gave him a "boot." This is a big black contraption that straps on his leg (but only the lower leg) and can be removed for bathing. Fred was so relieved to have this. It is heavy to lift but will make life so much easier. Fred can do more for himself but he has to be very careful not to re-injure the leg. Thank you everyone for your prayers. God is good.

What lessons in marriage we are learning. We have snapped at each other a little--Fred being a little too demanding and me being too resentful of the changes in our lives. This is the hard part. I remember how wonderful Fred was to me when I was sick five years ago. I need to learn patience.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Birthday gifts

Great birthday. That's what I thought when I woke up Sunday morning. Fred had a restless night and we both were very tired. I helped him wash his hair and shower and get dressed and settled him in on the couch. I had to get ready to go to church and take food from the freezer to the refrigerator for Alpha Tuesday night. Also, the church was collecting blankets for some Thai refugees and during the week I had made a fleece blanket with thoughts of some small child snuggling up in it, so I wanted to add it to the pile.

The drive to church was absolutely gorgeous. I don't believe I've ever seen the trees so colorful. The sunshine was bright and the earth was golden in it's light. The brilliant yellows, reds and oranges of the trees were almost blinding. Thank you, Jesus. His gift to me on my birthday.

I walked into church between services to take my blanket to the drop-off table. Numerous people stopped me and asked about Fred. Somehow it was announced that morning that he was injured and the congregation had prayed for him. People asked what they could do to help. As soon as I got home someone called and said she and her husband would do everything that was needed to be done with Fred unable to help with Alpha anymore. That was a great relief.

Back home the girls and Fred gave me a wonderful gift! It was a squirrel-proof bird feeder on a metal pole that just had to be pounded into the ground. We set it up right outside the kitchen window and waited for the birds. (None yet.) I've missed my birds from last year after the squirrels destroyed our other bird feeder. Then my friend's son stopped over with a gluten-free cake, a card, and a book I've been wanting to read.

Another call came--my friend's husband offered to drive Fred to school early in the morning! What an unbelievable blessing! It is a long drive and I couldn't imagine how I was going to get the girls up so early, drive Fred down there, then either wait several hours or make two trips to come and get him when his classes were over. This man says he will bring Fred every day. I've prayed blessings down on Pete. What a good and generous man he is.

Later in the afternoon two of my boys stopped over and brought joy and laughter into the house. I am so grateful for my kids. My granddaughter Lana made me a card. It says, "Have a happy birthday, Grandma. Dream about your birthday all night!" I will, Lana.

Saturday night in the ER

It was a relaxing Saturday, rainy but warm. I had done some cooking and had just made a cup of hot tea and took it downstairs to do lesson plans for the week. Fred was working on framing the electrical service he just put in. He was going in and out of the shed cutting wood and watching some silly sci-fi movie while he worked inside.

As I sat at my desk I heard distinctly a cry of despair, screaming sort of. I glanced up at the TV and some psychopath was chasing another character. I heard the cry again, and thought for a minute it was Fred. But no, it must be the TV. Suddenly there was a pounding on the back door and a clear shout from Fred. I ran to the door. He was on his hands and knees yelling that his leg was broken. He looked like the swamp creature himself. Fred had just crawled through the mud from the shed to the door. It was not the movie on TV but Fred who was calling to me. I grabbed the phone and called 911.

Fred was taken by ambulance to our local hospital and the girls and I followed in the car. The waiting room had kids suffering with flu, as I suspected it would, but fortunately the girls and I were able to go right back with Fred. He was X-rayed and released 4 hours later. Three fractures in his lower leg from his slip on the wet ramp going into the shed. The ER doctor gave us an orthopedic contact and said most likely Fred would have to have surgery on Wednesday.

Not our plans for a quiet night at home with the girls. Fred was in pain and struggling to get around on his crutches. He is worried about his classes, as he is due to graduate in 4 weeks. He is concerned about having surgery and how long it will take for his leg to heal. He can't drive or do much of anything for himself. I am thinking I just can't do it all, driving him around, caring for him, plus teaching the girls. We were all very discouraged Saturday night.

Enjoy the ordinary-ness of life. When you are suddenly thrust out of your daily schedule and rhythm of life, all you do is long for it to return.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Valley Forge

Valley Forge National Park hosted a special Home School Day with several hours of special exhibits and tours. It was a great, free educational event to teach the children about Washington and his troops during the winter of 1777-1778. The day was a gift--warm sunshine, friends, autumn colors, and the freedom to roam and not rush. We had no schedule and could just be in the moment.
We met at the Visitor's Center and a guide dressed as a Revolutionary War soldier marched 75 children up a hill to a high point in the park where we could see for miles. He explained how a sentry would watch and wait for the British and how he would sound an alarm if he saw anything. After we arrived in front of this man in the picture, he demonstrated how his weapon was loaded and fired. Sadly, we could see how cruel and savage a war in those days would be.
The children marched on alongside fields of milkweed and tall grasses with orange and gold trees in the background. The beauty brought peace to my soul. We came to a cluster of log cabins and it was bustling with activity. Costumed guides taught us about medical care in those days, complete with real surgical instruments. (Gruesome.) We saw how the soldiers were housed and fed that brutal winter. A woman in Colonial garb had an assortment of toys that children in those days might have played with, and they were fascinating to modern children like Liana too. Later we drove to Washington's headquarters along the river and toured the home he had that winter. It was the Pentagon of his day, the military command post.
It's amazing what an outdoor walk through beautiful country will do for you. The children ran around freely, exploring and playing. Moms could relax and talk and gaze across the rolling hills and imagine living in other times. Simpler times maybe, but with their own hardships. We all came home refreshed.
October, my favorite month, did not disappoint. But don't leave yet! I haven't had enough of autumn. How did it speed away so quickly? I wasn't looking, that's how. I need to stop and reflect more often. The cold and darkness of winter will soon be here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Big Brother (of a different sort)

My two daughters are so blessed to have five big brothers. I wonder what it would be like to have five men who adore you and only want the best for you. I was the oldest of the eight kids in our family. My little brothers were often pesky and annoying. (Not now, of course!) But my girls have fun brothers who play games with them and let them climb on their backs and dance with them. When good-byes are said at the end of a family gathering, the girls will jump into their brothers' big strong arms for a hug.

We had a fun family birthday weekend. My granddaughter Lana turned six! It's hard to believe. We were at her house in the kitchen and I realized, all four of my sons were together in one room. That is a rare moment, so I grabbed the camera. Fred's son Anthony was in the other room holding Deacon, my newest grandson. This picture reminds me of one I took long ago of Anthony with my other grandson Seth. The two boys were both up in a tree, and Anthony was holding Seth securely in his arms. Oh, family is a wonderful thing. I pray these relationships stay strong through the years, long after us old folks are gone. I am so grateful for all my brothers now, and I know my girls are too, and Arielle and Liana will become even more appreciative as the years go by.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Your government at work

In our state, a bill has been introduced called the "Emergency Health Powers and Procedures" which would give the governor the power to proclaim a health emergency and authorize forced vaccinations and medical exams, and to isolate and quarantine, force relocation and incarcerate and fine anyone who refuses vaccination. In addition, not the state, nor the governor, nor any public health official, nor anyone else administering a vaccine shall be liable for any vaccine-related injury or death. Of course, this vaccine issue has arisen because of H1N1.

No matter what your opinion is on the safety and efficacy of vaccines, do you really think the government has the right to compel us to have our bodies injected with a virus, plus the mercury and all the other preservatives contained in the vaccine? This is America! Don't we have rights anymore? If the vaccines were so effective, and you are vaccinated yourself, why would you worry that I was not?

Here is where it gets ridiculous: Supposedly thousands of Americans have already contracted swine flu. The CDC stopped counting the cases. Why? In the face of a public health emergency, wouldn't they want to know how widespread the disease is? How can a governor make the call that we have a crisis if no one knows how many cases exist?

Are the thousands who have had swine flu already going to be vaccinated anyway? What are the health implications for that? No one has ever before suggested that a person who contracted an actual disease should then be vaccinated against it. My children already had chickenpox. So do they need a vaccine to prevent it? It's ludicrous.

Be watchful. Big Brother is coming to your house. Little by little our basic human rights will be taken away by the government. Maybe you think all vaccinations are a great idea, but just wait until your cherished rights are gone. We'll be living like the Chinese under Mao Tse-Tung. In fact, Anita Dunn, appointed White House Communications Director by the Obama Administration, has already said Mao is one of her "favorite political philosophers." Does that frighten anyone? Do people know what happened in China under the rule of Chairman Mao? Does anyone care? What is attractive about Mao that a leader in our government would have him as a hero?

So just what is this Communications Director? I didn't know so I looked it up. According to wikipedia, it is a senior staff position of the President and the responsibilities include developing and promoting the agenda of the President and leading his media campaign. Anita Dunn, aside from her high level appointment, is married to our President's personal attorney. Wake up, America! "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." (Ronald Reagan)

Jesus, when warning of catastrophic events to come, said, "See to it that no one misleads you." (Matthew 24:4)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jesus' last command

Arielle was baptized yesterday! What a joyous day it was! My daughter has never been so beautiful to me as she was this day.

Several weeks ago Arielle told me she decided she wanted to be baptized. I told her to contact the woman in charge of our children's ministry. I wanted this to be totally Arielle's own initiative. The believer's baptism should be a personal decision, not one made lightly, and I thought she should take the steps herself to find out how this could be accomplished.

Arielle started attending special classes at church every Monday afternoon for four weeks. She has enjoyed these classes with other children preparing for baptism. Each one had to write out a testimony about his or her decision to follow Christ. The testimonies would be read aloud in church, so they were practiced in class and edited for clarity. The children were also taught the Biblical foundation for baptism and the qualifications for a person to receive baptism. They also studied circumstances in the Bible when people were baptized.

So we finally arrived at church for the big event. It was a glorious fall day, golden sunshine and trees beginning to bronze. Arielle put on her gown and waited with four others. Three of those four were siblings adopted from Romania. One of the boys was nervous and excited. Arielle was quiet and confident, as usual, but her eyes were shining and her smile extra bright. We filed into the sanctuary and saw our dear friends and family members. How wonderful for Arielle to be so supported! Thank you, everyone.

Each person addressed the congregation and read the prepared testimony. I'm sure the Romanian children brought tears to people's eyes as they told of their harsh circumstances in the orphanage and how they had prayed for a family. When the time came for the baptisms, the parents came up to assist their child into the water and to wrap him or her with a towel afterwards. I've never had this view before. Standing right above Arielle, I saw her go under the water, her black hair swirling, and then up she came, her face wet and glowing. My precious daughter, her act symbolizing the death our bodies on this earth and our resurrection to eternal life one day because of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Everyone met back at our house for a celebration, a day to share with the people we love. Arielle, as always, finds so much pleasure in our house full of guests. We all ate and laughed and talked and the children ran around outside in the fallen leaves, carefree and joyful. Arielle has one foot on the path to womanhood, but she is still a child, my own little girl.

As parents, Fred and I have tried to obey Jesus' last command after His resurrection. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19, 20) Now our daughter, a member of God's family of believers, will continue her journey of personal faith to equip her to go and make disciples of her own, whether one or a multitude, and to lead them to baptism and teach them God's word.

Jesus' last words are a promise, one Arielle expressed in her testimony. "Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Men with toys

No, this is not Fred's toy, thank goodness. He has been storing Marissa vehicle in our shed and she was coming to pick it up. So Fred took it out for a spin around the yard. As long as we've had it here at our house, he occasionally will start it up and ride it.
What he really wants is another motorcycle. He knows it is not a realistic dream. We can't afford such an unnecessary item and he is too old and it is too dangerous. One motorcycle accident is enough. Yes, he had one years ago when we first moved into this house. I rode with him once and it was enough for me. I kept looking down at the pavement rushing below my feet and thought about how it would feel to hit the street with a lot of force if we had a crash. No, thank you, not for me! On the day before my graduation from chiropractic school, with all the family gathered at our house, Fred's motorcycle got out from under him and dragged him down the street. My little three-year-old niece ran into the house and said, "Uncle Fred got hurt!"
He was surely hurt. An ambulance came for him and he was in pain for a long time with all the skin scraped off one side of his body. He hobbled in to my graduation ceremony on crutches, bandaged head to toe. What is it about men that they would want to risk this again? Of course, women ride motorcycles too. (My hairdresser does.) But, in general, it is the men who want toys and thrills. It's their adventurous spirit, I guess. I've had enough adventure to last a lifetime.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


We go to church in a very wealthy area of the city. Not everyone, but many in the church have great riches, evidenced by lovely homes, cars, clothing, and vacations, and private education for their children. Many also give generously of their time and treasure to the church and the community. However, our family has at times felt like second-class citizens among them.

On Sunday our new pastor, fresh from Kansas, spoke on greed. When I realized what the sermon was to be about, I was silently cheering, "You go, Pastor! Give these people some good Midwestern values!" (But I was quickly put in my place.)

The sermon keeps resonating in my head, so I will summarize it here, not just for you, but for me so I can organize my thoughts and impress these truths in my mind. The passage from scripture is Matthew 6:19-34, Jesus' words, so familiar to most of us. It starts, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth..."

Our pastor put to rest once and for all that the "prosperity gospel", the "name-it-and-claim it", and the "you'll be rich if you just have enough faith" messages are false doctrine and our church does not embrace any of them. God never promises us material wealth and I challenge anyone to show me where He does. (Our small group disintegrated, in part, over this very issue.)

Money has tremendous power over us. Materialism has a blinding effect, so much so that we can't see our own downfall. Our pastor said people have confessed many sins to him through the years, but never once has anyone said, "I have a problem with greed." The power of money is in its deceptiveness. Since Sunday I have prayed and asked God to search my own heart.

What we spend our money on becomes our treasure. We value what we have sacrificed to buy. If we spent a lot on something, we worry about keeping it safe so it isn't lost or stolen or broken. Look around at what you bought--there lies what you value. Jesus says, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

We define ourselves by our "stuff." People who have less, we tend to think of as less than us. Or maybe we think we are better than those who have more because they are the ones who are "greedy." But it's not a matter so much as to what we have as to what we want. How do others see us? Do they see that we have an eternal hope, investing in the things that last forever? Or do they see us in the same rat race with the rest of the world, accumulating worldly goods?

So how do we break greed's grip on us? Our pastor said by anchoring our confidence in the goodness of God. We can't give to others and we continually want because we think God won't come through for us. Although He certainly promises that He will supply all our needs. Jesus said clearly, "Do not be anxious about your life..." We need to think daily about our dying, the pastor said. Be constantly aware that our life is short. At the end, will we be glad when we see what we spent our money on?

We need to treasure what God treasures. And that would be people. Value what is truly valuable and spend money and time there. "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich." (II Corinthians 8:9). Rich in faith, rich in hope, rich in peace, rich in eternal life. Jesus sacrificed it all for us. What are we sacrificing?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Here he is!

I've had the privilege of spending a couple of HOURS holding this tiny little boy! Deacon is so calm and hardly ever cries. Today I spent the day with his big sisters Mattie and Laci while Nick went to the hospital to wait for mom and baby to be released. We got to see their homecoming when the three of them pulled in the driveway and walked up the steps. Here is daddy as he entered the house.

I expected Arielle to make over the baby when he arrived because she hadn't seen him yet. But she was a little hesitant to approach him. Maybe because Deacon is so tiny. To my surprise, it was Liana who wanted to hold him, and then she didn't want to give him up.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

New baby in the family!

"Grandchildren are the crown of the aged"
Proverbs 17:6
I certainly don't feel aged, but my fifth grandchild was born yesterday! It's a boy! He follows Kelsey, Seth, Lana, and Laci. His name is Deacon. All these beautiful grandchildren! What joy they bring our family! I have not seen this new baby yet since his mom was not up for visitors yesterday after a C-section. I will post a picture as soon as I get one. Today I hope to go to the hospital, but since my girls can't get in to the maternity unit, I have to wait for Fred to get home. I am anxious to hold this tiny, precious boy.

"May you see your children's children..."
So ends the blessing of Psalm 128. Yes, I have been granted this privilege and I am grateful. Yet I pray to see my Chinese grandchildren someday... Is it too much to ask for?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Missing my babies

On Saturday, Liana was invited to spend the day with her best friend and Fred was showing property, so Arielle and I had time to ourselves. Girls Day Out! First, we went to the church bazaar across the street from our house. Arielle is such a bargain hunter. Her best deal ever was an American Girl doll she found several years ago for a dollar. I don't know if we'll ever beat that. But this day she found a set of the old Polly Pocket toys that sell on ebay for $25 to $30. Again, this one was a dollar. She also found a Josh Grobin Christmas CD and a picture book of Civil War battlefields. She has an eye for these things. We later went to Walmart and then food shopping. Not special in itself, but I so much enjoyed just spending time with Arielle.

Eleven, almost twelve, Arielle is approaching my height. She is a delightful age, but maybe it isn't just age, it is the way she is. She has such a level personality, not swinging up and down. She is calm and gracious, quiet and thoughtful, but out-spoken and opinionated. She's always seemed wise beyond her years. I was proud to introduce her to an old acquaintance at the bazaar. My daughter, my friend, my joy.

Later in the day Arielle got out scrapbooks from long ago. I teased her that she must miss her sister so much that she wanted to look at pictures of her. I used to be meticulous in creating the photo albums, complete with captions and narratives. But I haven't even looked at them in a long time. This day, the pictures stirred in me the feelings I had for my baby girls, my precious little ones, with their sweet faces and chubby bodies. "Remember this?" Arielle would point to one. Yes, I remember. How could I ever forget?

When Liana came home I was telling my friend about grieving for my babies and how sad it was to look at the pictures and realize they are gone. My wise friend reminded me, "Yes, but look at what you have now!"

Of course. It's the way of life. I have Arielle on the verge of womanhood, a girl after my own heart. We prefer so many of the same things, and we're alike in a lot of ways, except I'm lacking her good qualities and she's doesn't have my bad ones! Then my Liana, my little sprite, my fireball, who adds the spice to our family. She keeps me hopping, but I am in awe of her creative spirit and I watch eagerly to see where it may take her. Yes, look what I have now!

Yet my heart is tinged with sadness. These two girls I have now will also soon be gone. Gone the way of my sons, grown with their own lives, apart from mine. The watercolor ponies on my refrigerator rode away. (Remember that song? It used to bring me to tears when my boys were little.)

But I can't let my mind go there now. I need to remember to live in the moment of each day, in the present. I am grateful that at least for today, my girls are here with me. Right now they are asleep in their beds, and right now I can prepare their breakfast and then wake them with a song and a kiss. I am blessed!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Word for the day

I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:1-3

Sunday, September 20, 2009


My friend invited me to attend a quilt exhibition held not far from our homes. I love seeing quilts and sewing quilts and learning about quilts, but I was also just glad to spend an afternoon with my friend. Arielle had a cold and didn't feel well, so she decided to stay home. (Unusual for her.) Liana was tired from our school day and also elected to stay home. (Typical for her.)

What an unbelievable display of the most beautiful quilts in the world! And I do mean world because included in the show was a traveling world quilt exhibit. These certainly aren't the kind of quilts that kids romp on and drag around the house. They are true works of art, absolutely stunning!

I knew the girls would have enjoyed this, so the next day Arielle felt better and Liana wasn't tired, so I took both of them. I told them they could vote for their favorites, as a prize would be awarded for the viewers' choice. They took pen and paper and were busy writing down their favorites. Arielle also wanted to photograph the ones she loved most. I asked a white-gloved attendant if we were permitted to take pictures and she said yes. The girls were drawn to the foreign quilts. They have such an interest in faraway places. We walked among the quilts for two hours before either of them mentioned heading home.

Arielle was inspired to make another quilt this winter. She made a small one of bright red and black Asian fabrics a couple of years ago, but she had gotten so bogged down doing the tedious machine quilting that I didn't think she'd ever want to make another. I want to encourage her interest so I allowed her to buy some fabric that caught her eye. It was a little discouraging to see the crowd at the show. The vast majority of people attending were older women. Who will continue the craft of quilting when we are all gone?

I will never make a quilt worthy of display, but I enjoy making practical, kid-friendly quilts. I finished piecing the top to Liana's over the summer. This picture was taken before the borders were added. After I find some good batting for it, I will begin my own winter project of doing the quilting. The girls and I like nothing better than to be downstairs sewing on a cold day with the fire in the wood stove crackling nearby.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I am not a city girl. I don't remember even visiting a city until I was a teenager, unless my grandmother in San Diego actually lived in the city, but I think her home was more in the suburbs. I'll have to ask my mom.

When I was in 8th grade our school was on double sessions. That meant we started at noon and ended in the evening. Our bus driver would play the radio during the dark ride home and I remember Petula Clark singing,

"When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go, downtown,
When you got worries all the noise and the hurry seem to help, I know, downtown,
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city,
Linger on the sidewalks where the neon signs are pretty, how can you lose..."

You know the words. The city seemed so exciting and glamorous to me then. When I was in high school my best friend and I skipped school and rode a bus to the big city of St. Louis. I wasn't impressed. It was exciting to be on our own for a day, but the city was smelly with diesel and I still remember the awful lunch I had in a downtown cafeteria.

Since that time I've walked many big cities of the world--Madrid, Paris, Washington D.C., Guangzhou. More recently, the girls and I were invited to a birthday party in New York City and we all had a marvelous time. Big cities can be thrilling with the bustle of the crowds, the skyscrapers, the exotic food, and watching people who live an entirely different existence from ours. They ride taxis all day and have important jobs where men always wear suits and women don't even wobble in the highest of heels. But always in the shadow of the glitz is the poverty and crime. It makes me uneasy, at the same time sad and on guard.

We live near a big city now, but I never drive there. Occasionally we take the train. This year, for the first time in my life, I've seen why people love the city and choose to live there. That's because a friend of mine moved downtown. Twice this summer she invited us for a walking tour, shopping, and lunch. Finally, the city in my own area became more familiar to me, not a foreign, scary place. My friend is so comfortable there that she put me at ease.

Last week we met her at the subway station for a day at the aquarium. The girls and I were amazed by the variety of creatures God has created. We enjoyed the exhibits and also our lunch outdoors along the river, catching up with my friend and our families' news. In the afternoon she dropped us off at a corner in Chinatown. It's rare that the girls and I would be loose on the streets of the big city to do whatever we wanted! Arielle and Liana's big request: they wanted bubble tea. That's what they had last time were in the city with our friend. We wandered around looking into shops and then headed for the train station, the girls quiet on the way home as they considered our adventure. I watched the heavy traffic along the highway parallel to the tracks as we all enjoyed our relaxing ride.

I love the freedom of getting around without a car. I love the history behind our city and the generations of people who made it their home. I love the diversity of people of every race and ethnic group. Kind of like the aquarium, so many different kinds, all swimming together, and for the most, living peacefully with each other.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Carrots, anyone?

Harvesting root vegetables after a heavy rainfall is the easy way to do a difficult task. Fred and I went out to the garden early on a drizzly Saturday morning and pulled the last of the carrots from the mud. It rained so much I sank to my ankles in the muck. The carrots don't look very pretty, but they are quite tasty and so nutritious!
The growing season is about over. We have a few sad tomatoes, a couple of little eggplants and some brussel sprouts left, but that's about it.
Fred and I tore the tops off the carrots while we were still outside and then Fred washed them off with the hose. Arielle and I cut them and washed them several more times. I saved the tiny ones to eat raw and to keep handy, and all the rest I peeled and cut up for the freezer. We now have six quarts lined up next to the corn, green beans and tomatoes, put away to keep for soups and stews this winter. I'm on the lookout for good carrot recipes.
We pulled the last of the beets a couple of weeks ago. We plant the beets for Fred. His Polish mom made beet soup when he was growing up and he loves it. I've tried her recipe and don't like it too much. But I found another GREAT recipe that even Arielle and I both liked, and we're not even beet-lovers. It's too good not to share:
4 cups water or beef broth
1 pound good beef stew meat
6 small or 3 large fresh beets, peeled and sliced in strips
1 large onion, chopped
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 cups chopped cabbage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 T. plus 1 tsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. dry dillweed
sour cream
Brown the onions and beef and put in a big pot, along with the beets. Add water or broth and cook covered until beef and beets are nearly tender, about an hour or so. Add potatoes to the pot, cover and cook another half hour. Add the cabbage, vinegar and seasonings. Cook covered another half hour. Top with a dollop of sour cream after it is served into bowls. Good winter soup! I love having good soups in mind when it's cold and dreary outside.
"Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace, let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce..." Psalm 144:12, 13.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Labor Day

I am a week behind on things I would like to write. If I don't have early morning time, forget it. But the girls' school work is top priority. We did have a fun holiday weekend. We attempted another bike trail and this time Marissa went with us.

This trail was safer but much more strenuous. We climbed steep hills huffing and puffing and we flew down curvy slopes. I was very proud of the little girls. No one fell and they both kept up.

At one point the path led us into an area very familiar to us in earlier times. Fred and I had taken our big kids to play in this wildlife refuge years ago when they were the age of Arielle and Liana now. We came here often because we lived in a development right next to the park. We hadn't been back here in the woods in a long time and were surprised to see paved bike roadways where before there were just dirt foot paths. Suddenly we were all alone. The trail was so steep I guess most cyclists avoid it. Marissa and I kept pointing and saying, "Remember that?" We found a drop-off through dense vegetation where we once slid down on our bottoms, covering our clothes with mud and our hair with dry leaves. (I can't believe I really did that, or why. Wasn't I worried about poison ivy?) I looked over the edge down into the hole and was amazed at my foolish younger self. What fun we had though! Funny though, Arielle and Liana could never be enticed to do that.

We found the old path where Fred and Marissa used to race each other, Marissa trying hard to beat her old man. And then there was the place we once made a fort in the woods with Jon, Anthony and Marissa. We played some kind of pursuit game there, I remember. There was the grassy field where deer slept at night, and I guess still do, and where we once found our lost cat after he was missing for days. Later on, I got off my bike and looked through the overgrown brush to the apartment building where we used to live. Fred asked, "Going back in time?" Yes...but the present is so much better. It's not good to look too long at the past.

We were all in a thoughtful mood as we rode our bikes back to the car. I noticed people gathering in the pavillion. It looked like it was set up for a wedding reception. The last time we were in that pavillion was in February for the memorial service for our hometown soldier. Today the park is green and lush and warm. It's hard to believe it was once a place of sorrow and tears.

As we approached the parking lot, we heard music. Three people were singing, one playing a guitar. Their voices clear and sure sang, "Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace, streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise..." God's hand was on us this day, the beautiful music a gentle reminder of his constant presence, in times of heartbreak and also on a perfect day like this.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Damien's band had a show Saturday night and so Jon and Chrissy could go, Lana came for a sleepover. Years ago I would have loved to sit in a smoky bar and watch my son all fired up on the drums. We have gone to see him only once, I'm ashamed to say. He's fantastic! Naturally talented with no drum lessons ever. But the girls can't go to bars or stay up late, and the last time we went I got a severe asthma attack from the smoke. So I do my part by babysitting so Jon can go and see his brother play.

We love when Lana is here. She and Liana go off to their fantasy world of play. Arielle mothers Lana, making sure her teeth are brushed and pjs are on, and Grandma gives Lana strawberry ice cream and makes her pancakes and lets her know how special she is to us.

This time all three girls wanted to sleep in the living room. So we made a big bed on the floor. I asked if they would like me to read a book before bedtime, but Lana and Liana were so into their play they didn't want to stop for a boring old story. They had taken last year's Easter baskets and turned them into homes for tiny stuffed animals. The baskets were complete with beds, pillows, blankets, food and toys for their pets.

I love to see this kind of creative play. Too bad Liana can't market the idea. It's like the old Polly Pockets on a larger scale. The two of them finally fell asleep, but the minute their eyes were open in the morning, they had their baskets out playing again.

I hope these three girls grow up close and become great friends when they are women. Lana is not their cousin (a niece) but they are like cousins. I never had cousins nearby when I was a child because my parents had no brothers or sisters, but I think it would have been a great fun!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

In the moment

Time flies. Because that's such an overused cliche, it shows that many people have this experience. Of course time moves the same for everyone. But many of us feel we are rushing through life, especially people my age. When I was in high school and it was January, I sure didn't feel like time was flying. Maybe other people equally imprisoned by circumstances don't think it to be true either. But this has been bothering me for awhile. I look at my little girls growing up so quickly. It's frightening to think summer is over already, and this year is on it's way out!

When you're young you know you have a limited number of days on this earth, but there are just so many of them (you think) that you don't need to analyze this reality, and it's okay to waste some of these days. But I often think now about the finite number of years I have left and in the words of a song, "I don't want to miss a thing." I don't want to throw even one day away. So how do we put the brakes on a life careening ahead to its final destination?

I need to be in the moment. Not thinking about what is happening next week or that night or even the next hour. I tell myself to slow down! I practiced this on Friday. I am a task-doer. I have things to do and all day long I do them. Always thinking about the next task and how to efficiently complete it. I miss so much that way. My kids will remember me as busy, busy, busy, always doing. So last Friday, this is what we tried instead:

I sat next to Arielle at the computer while she did math and instead of looking ahead to see how many more problems she had left so we could get on to the next task, I enjoyed watching her work. What a gift to have my daughter beside me, helping her grasp the concepts and work the problems. I took the moment, pondered it, held on to it.

We walked to the mailbox and I noticed the the cool breeze that has come with September and what a perfectly heavenly day it was, sunny, with the late summer chorus of cicadas. On the back porch I found a perfectly whole, dead cricket, a female with an ovipositor, and I brought it inside to show Liana since she is studying insects and had just learned about the ovipositor!

Later, Marissa came over and I had laundry to fold and dishes to wash, but I just sat at the table with her and the girls and talked. I made her some gazpacho to try but mostly we did nothing but enjoy the evening. (I feel like I'm becoming my mother. She loves to sit and talk and, come to think of it, she used to be so busy too. But she has learned to slow down.)

Liana set up a Polly Pocket town and she wanted to show me who lived where and what each little house was for. These toys are very old. Marissa had given Liana her childhood collection. I didn't look for a way out of the doll talk but engaged in it. Liana wondered why there were no black haired dolls and I couldn't adequately answer that. (Toy companies weren't concerned about political correctness back then.)

At night I got both girls to bed, an accomplishment no matter how old your kids are, and then I noticed there was a full moon with a very bright star next to it. I went on-line to see what that "star" was. It was Jupiter! So I got the girls back out of bed so we could look outside at God's wonders.

One day of being in the moment. Not rushing, just holding and examining the treasures of life. The past is full of regret, best left alone. The future is uncertain for us all. But we have right now and this was a perfect day. I need something to remind me to stop when I'm tempted to DO rather than just to BE.