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?