Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Little Nurses

Something should be written about this momentous day. Although, for many people it would be just a routine, boring nothing. For me, it was years of procrastinating due to fear of the unknown. But I finally did it!

You know, it's the routine screening that is supposed to be done at age 50. I'm always skeptical with anything the medical profession tells us is "necessary." (Example: flu shots.) But it seemed advice was coming at me from all sides. Two friends of mine had the procedure and gave me details. My family doctor was the clincher though. She said every year in her practice three or four people are found to have pre-cancerous lesions that are removed with this procedure. She said it saved their lives. Okay, it's time to do it.

No food yesterday! No lovely hot, creamy coffee in the morning. That was the hardest part, really. By the end of the day I felt weak and had no energy. And then I had the "prep," which turned out to be not so bad. It was really nothing like I expected.

Now this morning: We woke at 5:30 a.m. because mine was the first appointment. Someone suggested making that early appointment to avoid waiting. Still no eating. I was really spent and just wanted to go and get it over with. We left way too early for the drive, but traffic around here can be horrendous and I sure didn't want to arrive too late and not get this done.

A good friend of mine offered to keep the girls, but Fred promised them breakfast in a restaurant so they were excited to go, early as it was. After we arrived, I told them to leave. No sense suffering with mind-boggling boredom sitting and waiting if you don't have to. I forgot my book! So it was very boring. And I did have to wait because I was there much too early! As the time inched by I got more and more nervous. Finally they called my name. I was led back to a curtained off cubicle to wait for the anesthesiologist and the doctor to come in. Panic! What am I doing here? Was I out of my mind? Is this really necessary? Those were my thoughts. I was ready to jump up and run. A nurse asked me a couple of times if I was okay.

Soon I was wheeled in the gurney to the treatment room. A few bits of conversation with the nurse and doctor and then the next thing I knew I woke up in a different room. It was over.

Fred and the girls were waiting. It was wonderful to see them and receive their hugs. I was still groggy and disoriented, but little Liana took my hand and helped me out to the car. I was so thirsty! My good husband stopped at Barnes and Noble and got me a chai tea latte. Perfect. It was so hot and comforting.

As soon as we were home, the girls rushed around making me a nest on the couch. They brought me pillows and blankets and told me to get in my pajamas. Liana helped to heat up some soup and brought my book to me. Arielle washed and sliced my favorite kind of apple so I could enjoy it when I wanted it. My nurturing little daughters, taking good care of me. I am so blessed to have them. They told me they won't let me do any work today.

Yesterday I made homemade chicken soup for Liana since she has a cold. It's going to taste great tonight after my fast. Anyone agonizing over whether to do this procedure or not? Do it for the people who love you. It's not so bad. Call me, I'll give you the details.

If this post has errors or doesn't make sense, sorry. It's the drug I got today. I was told not to do anything that requires good judgment. Does that include blogging?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

House with No Foundation

I'll never forget the dreadful, sinking feeling I had when I visited the site where our house was to be built on our property in South Carolina. I had flown to Spartanburg with Arielle who was just a baby at the time. I rented a car and drove out to Oconee County to our 7 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I was there to check on our builder. We were having trouble communicating with him, as he seemed to be avoiding us. We needed to know what was going on with our house. Fred was busy at work and planned to drive down in a few days.

I drove the windy road to the top of the hill. The builder was there that day, to my great relief. But when he saw me, he took off in the woods. I saw he had built a flimsy shelter that was supposed to be our garage. It was just a bare skeleton of wood frame. I carried Arielle over the rocky, uneven ground and then tramped through the loose fill dirt to the place where our home was to be built. Now I knew nothing of home building. But when I saw what looked like just an outline of cement in the shape of a house, I knew something was seriously wrong. This man had been given months of time and our life's savings to build us a house. What had happened?

Shaky and scared, I put Arielle back in her carseat and drove the two hours to my mother's house in North Carolina. I called Fred with the bad news. We were in for a long battle. Our builder had cheated us out of our money and was only giving the appearance of building so we would continue to send him checks. I'm not sure now that he even knew how to build a house. Our dream of moving south ended that day. We sold the beautiful property but never recouped our house money.

Today I read Luke 6:46-49: "Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great."

I immediately knew the foundation the builder lay on that loose soil would not support the two-story log home we had dreamed of. It was not built firmly on the rock below the surface. I knew our dreams were shattered. Our decision to move south had not been built on a rock either. We had hastily made our plans and rushed headlong into disaster. Still, so many times through the years I have thanked God for this calamity in our lives. Our motives for moving away were not right, so we suffered the consequences. But what another planned for harm, God intended for good. I could write volumes on the blessings and lessons that came from our financial ruin.

Today we are not building a literal house, but how well am I hearing the voice of my Lord and doing what he says? Every day requires digging deep, seeking his face, doing his will. Fred and I survived our disaster because our faith was on the bedrock. We knew God had not betrayed us. We went back to our strong foundation and built a new life. The building continues. Storms may beat and batter us, but we will not be shaken.

Fall Soup

Autumn is officially here! My favorite time of year. One reason I like fall is that I like to make soup. In general, I don't like to cook. But I love to make soup. There is something about having a big pot on the stove, adding nourishing ingredients, hearing the gentle simmer, savoring the fragrance, and anticipating the warmth at dinner time.

We do not eat hot soup in the summer. It is a special treat for cool nights and blustery days. At the very end of our garden harvest I made a big batch of our favorite, Tommy's Soup, and put it up in jars in the freezer. We will eat it on the day we have our first winter storm.

I got a good price on butternut squash at our local produce market. Here is a recipe for a quick, easy, nutritious soup.

Butternut Soup

2 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 potatoes, cubed
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cubed
4 cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter and saute the vegetables in a large pot for about 5 minutes. Add enough chicken broth to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Save the rest of the broth. Then reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 40 minutes until all vegetables are tender.

Scoop out the vegetables with a slotted spoon and put in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Return to pot and add the saved broth. Heat and season with salt and pepper.

I'm looking for good soup recipes. Anyone have any? We love soup!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Rest of the Weekend

Dominic and Stacia brought joy to our house! Fred and I always seem to be caught up in never-ending tasks and forget to have fun. Maybe that's one reason the girls are so thrilled to have guests come. Then their parents relax and are open to adventure.
We didn't do anything big or travel far. We went lamp shopping at the shop where Gretchen works. But then Dominic and Stacia turned it into fun by suggesting we stop at an ice cream shop. Then we enjoyed our treats while walking around the town.

On Saturday night I thought the younger people would want to get away and spend time with friends or the other kids. But Dominic suggested we play miniature golf. And he wanted to wait until dark. Usually Fred and I would be setting our minds on finishing chores and getting ready for bed at that time. But this night we headed off to the golf course. What fun we had! Of course, it was better in the dark, playing in the lights and shadows. None of us are very good at golf--well, maybe Fred and Stacia--but that made it even more fun as we shot balls into waterfalls and sent them rolling down hills. Liana even got a hole-in-one on the last hole and won a free game!

After we finished the game, someone suggested the batting cages. Dominic, Stacia and Fred got their helmets on and hit several rounds of balls. Next, there was the driving range. The guys bought a jumbo bucket of balls and we all took turns trying to send them off into the dark field. Even the girls gave it a try. Dominic said last time he did this he hit a fellow golfer and knocked him out. That wasn't too reassuring, so we decided to move our bucket to the end of the range, out of the way of others.

Dominic carried the bucket over and as he set it down, he spilled the balls. They started rolling down the slope as he tried to gather them. For some reason this struck me as hilarious and I laughed and laughed until I was in tears. This was so typical of Dominic! He always made life humorous and fun. My heart swelled with love for him, even as I laughed hysterically. He is a grown man, but not above reverting back to his boyish antics. He is still my little boy!

I told Stacia later it was so good for my husband who works so hard to actually get out and PLAY. Stacia said Dominic also needed to just play. We all do. Laughing and just being together. It's the best of life.

The next day we had another family cook-out. Each person in our family came, with the exception of Kelsey and Seth who are in Minnesota. All our kids are together so infrequently that it was time for a photo shoot! We cooked and ate and sat outside until the night became cool. The big kids played bocce ball and the little ones played on the swings. Dominic gave Liana and Lana horsey rides. We told stories and passed Deacon around when he got fussy. We ended the evening with Marissa toasting waffles and serving them with ice cream and homemade strawberry topping. Oh, life is good!

Summer is over, but what a last hurrah!

The Boys

The Kids

The Girls

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cooking Lessons

Dominic and Stacia came over Labor Day weekend. We always have lots of fun with them. Both are very attentive to Arielle and Liana, so of course the girls are thrilled to have them here.
Stacia has taken the time to cook with the girls nearly every time she is here. I remember them making homemade applesauce and green beans with almonds on previous visits. This time Stacia made stuffed peppers with Liana. We had just gone to a local farmer's market and bought the peppers and Stacia already had a good recipe. This was a rather labor-intensive project with lots of prep and many steps to do. I tried to stay out of the way and let Stacia and Liana have their time together.
Liana likes to get out the aprons, making it official that she is cooking. Stacia allows her to do things in the kitchen that she hasn't done before and that makes Liana feel very capable. And she is quite capable. It is hard for me to accept that my baby is growing up and can do many more things than I imagine she can do. Stacia gives her the freedom to test out new skills.
When I saw them working so closely together over a bowl, I had to momentarily interrupt them to take a picture. This moment was precious. The two of them were talking softly, about what I don't know, but Liana was enjoying it immensely. She was so focused on her task and Stacia's words.
The finished product! Liana was so proud of herself! The peppers were delicious, too. But even more important than a great dinner was the relationship building between the two of them. For Liana, this was an event, a memory to be cherished. Stacia could have quickly prepared these peppers by herself. But she took the time to nurture a little girl. Maybe she is following in the example of her own mother who took time to teach her to cook. Stacia is a treasure and I appreciate how loving she is with my daughters. I have a lot to learn from my future daughter-in-law, and I look forward to the years we have to share together.
Now for anyone feeling sorry for Arielle left out of this cooking experience, she was having her own fun with her big brother. No matter how busy he is, Dominic always takes time for his sisters. These two have an on-going Blokus competition and here they are again. After several games, I think it ended up a draw. They will continue next visit, I'm sure.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Perfect Gifts

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights..." James 1:17.
Fred read that verse at Arielle's dedication. It was very meaningful to us because our baby daughter was the perfect gift from God. Right now my two sleeping girls are still perfect gifts, as is my husband hard at work since early this morning.

God gives many gifts if we have the eyes to see them. The other night Fred came home and told me a praying mantis was on my car. Arielle and I ran outside to see. We slowly approached with the camera and as we did, the insect pivoted his head and glared right at us. We snapped a picture anyway. We were amazed to see that the mantis was a mixture of red and green. Did it change color to be camouflaged against my car?

Yesterday the hibiscus I just bought at a bargain price opened its first wide, purple flower after basking in the sun all afternoon. I have been waiting a long time for hibiscus to bloom on my deck. I do believe it is my favorite flower. Unfortunately, I killed two beautiful plants by leaving them outside after a frost and I have wanted another plant every since, but they are usually so expensive. I was lucky to find this one.

I was talking with my friend Connie in the kitchen a few days ago and a brown streak flew by the window. Then another and another. We ran to look out the front of the house and there was a herd of deer standing under our big maple, in the middle of the afternoon, not six feet away from the window. What beautiful creatures! My usual annoyance with them for the damage they do to our garden was suspended as we watched them.

All gifts! All perfect gifts from the Father! This morning I was reading World magazine as the sun rose over the field in front of our house. An article entitled "Wanted: Spiritual Eyes" by Andree Seu made me think about these things. What exactly is a good and perfect gift? She said what it meant to her was to "see God's love in the details of my day."

It is easy to see God in nature. But what about events and circumstances? Maybe ones that appeared good but turned out to be not so good? Do we withhold judgment on whether these are good gifts until we see the outcome? If the outcome is poor, was it not a gift? Or what about real problems that arise? What if those things are as she states, "a necessary stepping stone to better things" and therefore a gift? I don't know all the answers.

When I look at the sunrise, I'm good at blocking out the telephone wires and the noise of the traffic to see the beauty. I love cool September mornings like this, despite the ragweed pollen that clogs my nose. Fred and the girls took a hike and played around with his metal detector. After a strong positive reading behind our house, Fred dug out of the dirt a honey-combed black rock bejeweled with sparkles. The girls were so excited to find this treasure.

I pray my spiritual eyes can be more attuned to filter out the pollution and dirt of this world and see the gems, those perfect gifts, the gifts from the Father, given freely for us.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Rest of the Gettysburg Trip

The next morning the girls and I returned to the Visitor's Center and spent a lot of time in the bookstore. My son Jon, like Liana, was drawn to the Gettysburg Address as a child. His birthday is coming up and I saw a picture book in the store that the girls and I read last year. It is called, appropriately, The Gettysburg Address and the author is Abraham Lincoln. That's all it is, but the illustrations and how the text is divided on each page makes this a beautiful book. I thought Jon would enjoy reading this to his daughter.

We don't usually spend money on souvenirs when we take a trip, but I told the girls they could each get a little something in that store. Liana chose a book of paper dolls of a family at the time of the Civil War and Arielle chose a copy of The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. We did not visit the Cyclorama or the museum again due to the cost, but for anyone traveling to Gettysburg, these are a must! As we were leaving we saw a display set up where visitors can send a postcard to our service men and women, so each of us wrote a message and mailed it.

It was near lunchtime so we found a Farmer's Market nearby. August is a little early for apples, but to our delight, one farmer had his first pickings. Nothing compares to a fresh apple right from the tree! And he had my favorite, Honey Crisp! He also had fresh, ripe peaches and tomatoes. Great lunch!

Fred had some free time in the afternoon so he took us out to the battlefield. We climbed the high tower at Culp's Hill and then said the girls could return to their favorite places. Liana chose to see the Pennsylvania Monument again and Arielle wanted to go back to Devil's Den. I wanted to visit Little Round Top. We all had recently seen the movie Gettysburg, so we could picture some of the events in these areas. Now when we hear about Pickett's Charge and General Armistead leading his troops across the fields, the Highwater Mark is more meaningful. When we walked through the woods where Colonel Chamberlain ordered the bayonet charge down the hill, it is not just a history lesson but real people who walked and died on this ground.

Back in the hotel, Liana busied herself cutting out her paper dolls and Arielle watched a movie on TV. They look forward to the pool later with Dad. How relaxing to be together and have no agenda or schedule. It was a wonderful vacation.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Time With My Girls

I spend lots of time with my daughters, actually, most every minute. But vacation time is different. We had three and a half days in Gettysburg to do whatever we wanted while Fred was attending his seminar.

First we had to figure out the lay of the land before we could roam around and look for things to do. Soon we had a map in our heads and knew where everything was. Gettysburg is not very big, but the battlefield can be confusing to find where you want to go with all the one way streets.

The girls' choice for our first event--go to the outlet mall at the outskirts of town. Shopping at home is usually stressful for me. There is always some item we must find and we are always on a tight schedule to get back home. This day, no pressure. We wandered in and out of stores and the girls found some fall clothes. They both finally spent the Claire's gift cards that they got at Easter. Liana bought earrings and Arielle bought a purse.

We drove into Gettysburg for lunch. The girls wanted Chinese food and we found Ping's Cafe on Baltimore Street in the center of town. On our April trip we ate the worst Chinese food ever at a different place, but this restaurant was one of the best. We each thoroughly enjoyed our food, but best of all, we had fun just being together. It is a special treat to have lunch out with my daughters. We just never do that at home.

We visited small shops along the street after we ate. The girls won't let me take silly pictures anymore. I had to coerce them to pose in front of the statue of Lincoln, but of course, they don't want me to post those pictures here. We passed the David Wills house where President Lincoln stayed when he came in November of 1863 to dedicate the National Cemetery and deliver the Gettysburg Address and I really wanted to tour that museum. But this being our first day, we had to plan our expenditures, and the girls had already told me they wanted to see the Hall of Presidents.

So that is where we headed next. This tourist attraction is a wax museum with life-size models of each President. Visitors go from room to room and chronologically listen to each President tell what was happening during his presidency, and in some cases, hear his actual words in his own voice. It was a condensed history of our country in about an hour. Some of the Presidents looked remarkably like the real person, some not so much so. Still, we found it very interesting and sometimes creepy when certain figures seemed to be looking right at us as we sat listening.

The girls said later they enjoyed seeing the men's fashions change through the years, as each was dressed in the attire of the time period when he lived. In another room were smaller models of each First Lady. These figures were not made to look like the actual women, but attention was given to their clothing and hair styles that they wore to the Inauguration. We were told they were modeled after the Smithsonian collection, so of course, some day we would like to see that.
So ended our Day 2 in Gettysburg. We met Fred for dinner and headed back to the hotel. For the girls, evenings in our room while on vacation are just as fun as whatever we did during the day. I love seeing them so happy.