Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ordinary days

What a glorious weekend! Spring came a few days early with temperatures in the 70's. I don't remember my son Nick ever having a birthday when it was warm outside, so this was a first for him. Friday night we met a local park in the evening and had a fun time eating pizza and playing with his two babies. We attempted a walk on the trails but too many little ones made that impossible. We all went home when the sun melted into the horizon.

I had forewarned the girls that on Saturday we would be cleaning the house--long overdue. They finally had a break from 4-H, our usual Saturday excursion, so clean we did! Then we headed outside to help Fred pick up sticks in the yard from the hurricane-like storm we had last weekend. He also needed help in the shed doing some cutting on his table saw. Deja vu! The last time he was in the wood shed, he slipped and broke his leg! I was very much aware of how a serene afternoon can turn ugly.

Then it was time to clean the guinea pig cage! The girls had been looking forward to this. Since it was warm, we planned to let the little critters graze in the fresh green grass while we sprayed down the bottom of the cage. Of course, we put the wire top over the guinea pigs while they were out in the yard since we always have hawks flying overhead who would just love a rodent dinner. The girls enjoyed watching their pets' excitement over the new scents and tastes outdoors. Anyone who thinks animals can't experience joy hasn't seen these little animals.

Sunday was Anthony's birthday. He came over with his wife and their new baby--a boxer. Everyone relaxed in the warm spring air by playing several games of bocce ball. As they came up on the deck for dinner, I took this picture. What an ordinary family doing such ordinary things. We sat outside drinking coffee until the light left the sky.

Spring is not really here, no matter what the calendar says. Today it is chilly and rainy and dreary. Normal for this time of year in the Northeast. We got a taste of spring though. A hint, a glimpse of what will soon be coming. The gift of ordinary days. Days of joy and hope.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring resolution

There probably comes a time in every older person's life when the doctor gives an ultimatum. Do this-- or this will happen. Stop smoking, start exercising, lose weight, etc. Well, it happened to Fred. He was told he is "fat and out-of-shape" and must start eating right and getting some exercise. Fred protested to the doctor, "But I had a broken leg for four months!" No excuse.

For the record, Fred does not look overweight at all and he is so strong and active. But the doctor must have given him a dire warning (that he did not share with me) because he has immediately changed his diet and we also got a treadmill and have been using it faithfully. I too need to do some weight-bearing exercise with my old bones. So we have a new resolution this spring to become healthier.

With the urging of my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, I have been reading about nutrition and a different way of looking at the food we buy. Stacia gave me Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about the author's year of exclusively living off the fruits, vegetables and animals she raised on her farm and what she bought from local farmers. It is a fascinating book and I have learned a lot. Adding to this knowledge, one of my sons recommended a DVD called Food, Inc., and it was very eye-opening about the way food is produced in this country. As I watched it, I made a list of companies we will boycott from now on.

Our environment is killing us. From the pollution in the air and the water, to our furniture and carpeting, to our food we put into our bodies every day. Some things we cannot control, but we do have a say in what we eat and we can make better choices.

Since my Christmas "angel" warned me about eating too much sugar more than a year ago, I have really cut back. (By the way, if anyone remembers that story, this woman with stage 4 ovarian cancer diagnosed two years ago is doing quite well.) But what else? I have been gluten-free for about three years now. Unfortunately I have only half-heartedly tried to make any other lifestyle changes. It's time!

Fred recently went to a wellness seminar and told me about some wacky ideas for diets. I don't go for the fads. Here is my food philosophy: God created many good foods on this planet for us to eat. If we stick with those--meaning God-created, not man-created--and eat those foods as close as possible to the natural form, we'll be doing well. Stacia also gave me a cookbook called The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. Simple food. That's key to me. I am simplifying our meals. So what are we eating?

1. Only organic milk and yogurt.
2. No more nutrition-less bread that is full of preservatives. Liana and Fred love store-bought potato bread. No more of that! I am making homemade, whole-grain bread every other day in my bread machine. Liana, who would never eat whole grain bread before, likes this! (Thank you, Dominic.)
3. Less meat because I am looking for organic, free-range meat and it is expensive.
4. More beans, more vegetables, more fruits. This spring we will find local farmers selling produce and buy from them. And of course, we are planning our own garden.
5. Whole grain pasta for Fred and the girls. Arielle and Liana protested at first, but now they eat it.
6. No more plain white Korean rice that we all love. I've been making brown.

Those are my small steps for now. We have a long ways to go but maybe it is not good to overwhelm my family all at once. And walk, walk, walk on that treadmill. I love it! Books on tape are my motivation. I'm happy to spend half an hour listening to a good story.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Best vacation EVER

Arielle came up with the title for this post. We traveled to Lancaster to see another show at the Sight and Sound Theatre--Joseph this time. I highly recommend it! The best scene was when Joseph was reunited with his brothers. What a lesson in forgiveness we can learn from this.

After the show the girls swam in the hotel pool and we shopped at the outlet malls and then had a nice dinner. The next morning we saw the reproduction of the Tabernacle at the Mennonite Information Center. This was our third time to hear the presentation and we still learned a lot.

All this was fun for the girls, but none of these activities made it the "Best Vacation Ever." But on our way home we stopped at a huge pet store and they finally got their guinea pigs! This store had the youngest and most well-cared for guinea pigs that we have seen. The girls immediately saw the ones they wanted. They were both SO EXCITED!

Guinea pigs require time to adjust to a new environment, so they need to stay in their cage undisturbed for a couple of days, even though the girls can hardly stand to just let them be. Right now Arielle and Liana are sitting quietly in a half-darkened room hoping their little pets will come out of hiding. They really are very cute creatures. And gentle. Neither of the guinea pigs made any attempt to bite when they were handled. Arielle wanted me to tell the names. Hers is Sunshine, aka Sunny, and Liana's is Poppy.

Knowing this was a momentous occasion, I took the first picture before we even left the store. I know all you readers are anxiously awaiting more photos!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Called to shine

Once a year our church has a mission-focused week packed with speakers and activities and a major fund-raising project. Last year we raised $50,000 for a hospital in the Congo. This year we hope to raise $30,000 to build a community center, school, and home for a traveling missionary in northern Thailand.

We begin our week with a parade of flags from many nations, and once again Arielle was eager to participate. Last year she carried the China flag, but this time the flag of Honduras. That was meaningful to her since my niece recently took a trip to that country. After the flags, some people from a Burmese church in the city spoke and performed some songs. It was very emotional to see these former refugees sharing their faith and their hope, even though their lives right now are so difficult.

The theme for the week is "A Community Called to Shine." Our speaker Sunday was Dwight Robertson from Colorado. He's written a book called You are God's Plan A (and there is no plan b). He is a dynamic guy and he challenged us to join the laborers in the field, not in a foreign country, but in our own daily circumstances. We've heard that before, of course. But how exactly do we go about doing it?

Dwight made some interesting observations from Matthew 9, small words we could easily overlook by our familiarity with the verses. How did Jesus reach out to people? "Getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city." Note: his own city. And people came to him with their needs. "As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man..." He SAW a man. That man turned out to be Matthew, an unpopular character, but Jesus took notice of him. Look at the legacy Matthew left behind--the gospel of Matthew we're reading today, all because Jesus stopped to talk to him.

In the same chapter, Jesus is walking along and a woman who wanted very much to remain anonymous reached out to touch the fringe of his garment. She believed that to do so would heal her. "Jesus turned, and seeing her, he said..." Jesus SAW her, one of many faces in the crowd, but he stopped what he was doing for this woman. Later on we read, "And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him..." Jesus ministers to them also. Then, "As they were going away..." someone else with a need was brought to him.

Jesus was always on his way somewhere or leaving one place for another and this is where much of his ministry took place. What kind of people do we meet "on the way?" We're always on the go, aren't we? There is the sullen cashier in our local food store, the busy waiter at the restaurant, the silent librarian when we return our books, the bored young woman at the bank.

Dwight had us cover our eyes with our hands. (Yes, silly gestures but it helped us remember his message.) Often we go about our tasks with our eyes covered. I know I do. I want to get my errands done with the least amount of interaction with people. Dwight said to uncover our eyes and SEE people, notice people. He had us hold up our hands, palms out--STOP. Then we tapped our wrist. Give a little time. SEE-STOP-GIVE TIME. Jesus modeled The Plan for us.

So many people who cross our paths our invisible to us, and I admit sometime I feel invisible too. Nobody gives the time of day to older women. But we need to notice people, care about people, and give them a little time. That might be an encouraging word, or at the very least, a smile. We need to let them know they are not invisible. It's so simple, but sometimes so difficult. I'm going to make an effort to try this. When God sees we are willing to care for his people, we open the door for him to work. He will bring those with needs to intersect our lives.

The end of Matthew 9 says, "When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'"

God's Plan A is us, his laborers. Dwight describes it this way: "Laborers are ordinary people who deeply love God and actively love others. They seek to live a life of love...every moment of every day."

Monday, March 01, 2010

Guinea pig dreams

We have ancient pets. Our outdoor cat of 18 years had some sort of accident a year ago and we had to bring him inside. He was crippled and appeared to be dying. Today he is thriving in his retirement home in the laundry room. Fred has some salt-water fish he transferred to a smaller tank, also in the laundry room, when he dismantled his big 50 gallon tank we had in the living room. Most of the fish had died but the survivors remain today. They have lived well beyond their life expectancy.

Now we don't wish harm on our old pets, but Fred and I were eager to be pet-less. No more responsibility of caring for animals. We can go away and not have to worry about who will feed them. No more cat litter on the floor. No more frozen brine shrimp unthawing on the kitchen countertop. Suddenly I find out Fred and the girls have been talking. He has agreed to guinea pigs! When I questioned him about this decision, he said it will be good for teaching the girls to be responsible. And that they need a pet to care for and love. He had pets growing up,he reasoned. (So did I--every kind imaginable.) I made it clear these will not be MY guinea pigs.

I think back on the gerbil and the rat that my boys brought home for the summer from their school. The gerbil ran on a squeaky wheel all night and kept us awake. The rat was very stinky. Then there was Marissa's pet rabbit that she begged for but quickly got bored with. I cleaned up rabbit pellets for years after she took it to her mother's house. So I'm thinking, guinea pigs? I know nothing about them.

The girls checked out books from the library to learn about their future pets. They discuss guinea pigs endlessly. They've written lists of possible names. They debate the best colors. Today in school Liana wrote a story about the day her guinea pig arrives home. We visited two pet stores and watched the guinea pigs for awhile. They are cute little creatures, I admit. The books say they are gentle and seldom ever bite. Last night the girls were fighting over who will buy the toys and such, and for example, if Liana bought a brush for her pet with her own money, would Arielle have to ask permission to use it on her pet? Important issues to settle. Fred was angry over their squabbling and told them he is re-thinking the whole idea. Liana sobbed at the dinner table at the thought she might not have her guinea pig after all.

The saga continues. Pictures will follow if our family expands.