SAL-VA-TION: by grace

E-LEV-EN: children from 1984 to 2006

HOME-SCHOOL-ING: since 1990

DOWN-SYN-DROME: susie and gabe

GRAND-CHILD-REN: since 2010

FAITH-FUL-NESS: my steadfast rock, my biggest supporter, my leader, my friend, my love, my husband

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reflections on a week

My week was filled with overflowing fullness, trials, busyness, schedules, schedule adjusting, teaching, friendship pains, maintaining, heart-battling, simple joys, thankfulness, and tears. I don't typically compartmentalize and process my thoughts and emotions. I generally press on taking one thing at a time and when it's past I move on and let the swells come as go as they may. But a single event happened this morning that helped me to put it all into perspective, to internally (not just mentally) connect the blessings with the difficulties.

The first trial came when I was standing in the bathroom with Gabe and a heavy glass light cover unexpectedly fell from its mount and crashed all around Gabe. The force of it was great enough to chip off a sizable piece of the ceramic sink top. I comforted my very frightened little boy and then went to work cleaning up. The ONLY mark on Gabe was a very small nick on his right cheek below his eye. His head was about 8 inches from the place where the ceramic counter was broken.

Sunday was a happy day of celebration as I watched my middle child turn 17. For some reason, 17 is the in-my-head-coming-of-age birthday. It seems to be one of the most significant milestones marking a move to independence and responsibility. I felt it when I turned 17. 16 was "fun" but 17 was serious. Serious matters were close or immediately at hand and decisions made at this age are life forming. It was a sobering thing for me to know that more than half of my children have now hit that mark.

My goal for the week was to finish two baby quilts I am making for my twin grandbabies who are only days away from introducing themselves. Something about a working sewing machine seems to encourage every project and problem under the sun to surface and demand my immediate attention. Our daily school routine claimed a reasonable number of hours as did three dentist appointments.

Somehow, this week was also the perfect time to shop for a chair/love seat for Troy's room. We've talked about it for awhile but after receiving a table/lamp for his birthday to go with the yet-unpurchased-chair it felt like an imminent need. I had assumed that a thrift store or Goodwill would be our best bet, because we were not looking to spend hundreds of dollars which is what a new piece of furniture would certainly cost. But we looked anyway. And God blessed our efforts. In a clearance section we found a damaged sectional piece that was marked down from $800 (probably a very inflated price to begin with) to under $100. It was a very worthless piece of furniture, being an unmatched and damaged part of a set with a missing cushion.

Thankfully, my husband saw its potential along with me and we happily brought that piece home and spent a few hours very meticulously taking apart the damaged end of the couch while leaving the leather covering intact so that I could sew it over the open end. What we've ended up with is a leather-one-armrest-love-seat-with-a-recliner that perfectly matches and fits in Troy's room. God provided! I trust He will provide the time for finishing the project too...

The baby blanket that I was working on went to good use as Gabe decided the colorful rows made a wonderful highway for his hotwheels.

Back to sewing. But wait, an electrical outage in the kitchen took its share of time as I flipped breakers, replaced fuses, and finally rerouted the phone, refrigerator, and overhead light to an extension cord--which was out in the barn-- and an electrical panel to accomodate the plugs--which was being used in my room, so my clock and lamp are now out. This problem later showed itself to be a blessing when the electrician came to solve the problem. Keith is pretty good with electrical work but this one baffled him. Unlike the electrician, he did NOT check each and every outlet on the breaker (which was wired many years ago and is slightly overloaded). What was found was a short in the circuit that caused this behind a bed in Troy's room.

We are in awe of God's staying hand on the devastation that could have been. The kitchen is being rewired next week, by our now-favorite-electrician Andy.

Back to sewing. I had a glorious FOUR HOURS home alone with Gabe on Thursday while Kelly took our kids to the homeschool sports club. I was sure the sewing would be finished if not close to it by that evening. God had other plans. My machine seized up just as it had about six months ago. That time I took it to be repaired and gave up two weeks and $50 for the effort. I was not ready for that sacrifice, so I put on my do-it-yourself attitude and eventually got my machine running. I have not completely fixed the problem and I'm certain there is something that keeps getting stuck in the works to jam it because I've had it apart four more times. Each time I get it moving again, though, and have another half hour of work time.

Friday I was teaching three science classes, going to two basketball games, and hosting our Italian exchange student, Gabriella, for the weekend. Saturday I was scheduled to work the concession stand for Bryce's bb tournament but ended up with no one to watch my young ones. I requested ("demanded") that Shane miss his practice to take my place while everyone else went their separate ways--Keith to a meeting, Dana to Minneapolis (helping J&J with those twins soon--and WITHOUT two blankets in tow), the boys to their games (along with 50 bags of snack mix I had to prepare last night as my contribution to the concession stand) and practices. Shane's only request was that I write a note for his coach excusing him--what a note it was :).

So, there is was in my kitchen Saturday morning wondering what happened to my week and where the productivity and sanity was in all of it and frustrated that my Bible reading and prayer time felt like they were to no avail as I scrambled to tie the fragmented ends of my sanity together. Then Gabe asked me for some juice. I held his straw cup as he tipped his head down and lifted his eyes up to meet mine while he sipped. He just looked so cute, runny nose, crossed eye and all.

I squatted down to his level when he finished and said, "Give Mama a hug." He gave me a huge smile and an even bigger hug. As I held him I looked at my kitchen cupboards from his eye level and bemoaned their need of a scrubbing and a new coat of paint. I reflected on my own real need for a scrubbing and maybe a coat of paint as well. And as I held that happy loving little boy, I didn't care.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Grandma in Training

Lisa asked me to babysit for her this morning. She was busy cleaning her room and getting her jobs done. I figured I could handle my work with one extra teddy bear to look after. However, this mama had her demands:
You need to hold her.
If you have to do something with two hands you can set her on a chair.
If she gets fussy give her a bottle or a snack.
Then, if she gets hungry you can give her lunch.
When she gets tired you can put her down for a nap.
So, daughter/daughters-in-law, when the time comes for me to care for your wee ones don't feel shy giving me a list of demands and a tutorial on the care your infant. Lisa is paving the way in assuming that I have no clue how to care for babies.

She does have a point, though. While I was deleting the unused baby bear pictures from the camera Lisa found my charge lying on the floor.....where Gabe had thrown her. On second thought, maybe I'm NOT qualified after all!

Camera Art

I seldom say no when Bryce asks if he can use my camera. If we don't like the pictures we can just 'delete', no film wasted. And because it's fun it inspires creativity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sam and Stuart

Those two names, Sam and Stuart, are stuck in my head today. They represent two young (to me) men whose lives were both upended by leukemia in 2008.

Sam graduated from high school with my son, Keith, in 2004. I didn't know him personally, but I heard his name, read about him in the paper, even sat as a judge when he gave his graduation speech to a preliminary panel. As valedictorian he was an automatic "in", but the speech stood on its own, a testimony to its creator's gift for language.

I didn't think about Sam after that day until I was told, four and a half years later, that he was in a battle for his life with leukemia. Sam's girlfriend, his "high school sweetheart", is the daughter of my friend Mary, who works with my husband Keith. My very distant connection with Sam became somewhat personal.

I was given a link to Sam's blog and have periodically checked up on Blog Strong: The Leukemic Adventures of Sam Weis to keep up with his condition/treatment/progress. The road has been grueling for Sam as he has endured, I believe, six rounds of intense chemotherapy along with radiation treatment and an assortment of medical procedures in between poking, prodding, testing, recovering, hoping, fighting, reflecting, and various stages of sickness.

Sam finished his treatment about two weeks ago, had a bone marrow biopsy done last week, and is waiting to hear the results. As Sam puts it,
If that comes back clean, we'll move onto maintanence and I should actually get my life back. If it doesn't, well, instead of reaching the summit this climb will get a hell of a lot steeper.

So, where does Stuart come in? I noticed this "Stuart" always commenting on Sam's blog in a vein of comradery that spoke of his own cancer journey. But, I also heard the voice of a follower of Jesus so I clicked on his blog and learned that he, too, was fighting leukemia in the prime of his life.

Stuart's treatments are finished and he is on a maintenance program. While thinking of Sam today I clicked onto Stuart's blog to see if he had updated in the many months since I last viewed it. What I found was a most touching and poignant video about Stuart and Candace's (his wife) story called "A Marriage Journey with Cancer: Stuart and Candace"

I am grateful for the gift they give to others in sharing their story and giving all praise to A Great God for all things in all things.

My prayers today are for Sam: for a clean bone marrow test; and for him, too, to raise his voice in praise of the Great God who IS worthy to be praised.

UPDATE: Sam's test came back clean! It appears he has passed the summit.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Determined to be bored

While on a long drive recently, Lisa told me what I already knew--having nine children go before her, growing up with three younger siblings, having thirteen younger cousins, and remembering my own childhood better than may actually be healthy--
"I'm bored."
I often make up games to help with seven-year-old-boredom (which strikes at the most inconvenient moments). One of our most recent games came during a lively varsity basketball game. To relieve that boredom we silently counted the number of times the ball touched the floor between whistles. Then, when the whistle blew, we compared numbers to see if we counted the same. A couple of pre-teen boys sitting nearby even joined in the game after about the third whistle. (You may be interested to know that the average number of ball-bounces between whistles is about 25.)

On this particular trip Lisa wasn't so easily entertained. I turned the radio to a classical station (partly for my enjoyment, partly for her educational benefit, partly for the game) and told her to close her eyes and tell me what she imagined. She was reluctant.
"I can't close my eyes," she said.
"Sure you can," I countered, "just shut them."
"But they won't close," she insisted.
"OK, then cover them with your hands," I said and then asked, "Are they covered?"
She sighed and reluctantly admitted, "Yes."
Victorious I said, "Good, now listen and imagine what the music is describing. Tell me, what do you see?"
She answered, "My hands."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Aunt Susie and the Menor Cousins

Last week I ventured up to Duluth with Owen and Lisa to attend the funeral of my Auntie Jannie. The weather was not ideal and it took us longer than expected. I had intended to check into our hotel room before meeting Bill who drove Aunt Susie up from Minneapolis. They ended up arriving before us and we went straight to the funeral home to meet them. Susie was happily sitting in a chair, dangling her legs, and "pigging out" (as she would say) on cheese, crackers, and sausage.

Jannie was Susie's only sister and it was imperative that Susie be there for the funeral. Growing up, her family mistakenly chose to shelter her from unpleasant news. So, when her dog died she was told it ran away. When an uncle died he was just not talked about. When her mother got sick it was glossed over, and when she died Susie didn't know how to cope. I made sure Susie was prepared for the death of her sister. I told her as soon as Jannie was diagnosed with cancer and kept her informed throughout the brief illness. Sue knew all along that the cancer was going to take her sister.

We visited with relatives, watched a slide show, read the cards on the flowers, reminisced over the photos on display, and shared memories about Janet at the funeral home on Thursday evening.
Susie shared, and talked, and laughed, and cried, and shared some more. Looking at the pictures of the family when they were young, when I remembered our family spending weekends at the house and extended visits to the cabin, brought the tears to my eyes. My memories of those times are happy ones.

When we returned to the hotel Owen, Lisa, and Sue changed into swimsuits and we headed for the pool.
Owen and Lisa enjoyed the swim time immensely! The lengthy stay at the funeral home had not been all drudgery for them as they enjoyed getting reacquainted with all of the second cousins. Jannie had fifteen grandchildren and six of them were close to the ages of Owen and Lisa--three boys for Owen and three girls for Lisa.

Even though the funeral didn't start until 11 AM on Saturday it took us a full three hours to get dressed, eat, pack, load up, and get in the car. Susie only observes one time zone--the SLOW ZONE.

It was a bit of a balancing act making sure that Sue was an appropriate part of the family during the funeral, but also making sure she didn't take over and step on the emotions of Jannie's five children. I think we managed to accomplish both.

A real highlight for Susie was being able to see her brother, David.
Dave had to be introduced to a few of the nieces and nephews and when he ducked out during the luncheon he hugged me and said, "When you say good-bye to everyone say good-bye from me, too." I was sorry to have to tell my cousins that their uncle who had blown in with the wind had also blown out as quickly and unnoticed. But, that's just his way.

In all, I think I walked away from the funeral feeling like most people feel after such a time--asking myself why it takes a death to bring us all together in one room--and thinking about how much the one who is gone would have loved to see everyone together. I think I am due for a few reunions.

The Way We Were--Summer 1974
Back--Danny, Uncle Rick Front--Jannie, Patrick, me, Gypsy, Kathleen, Tom, Kathy, Tony

I distinctly remember arriving at the lake on this particular trip--driving up the road, getting out of the car, and walking up to the cabin . My baby sister, Kari, was just a few weeks old and my parents had not wanted to make the trip and bring her if it would upset Jan. Just a few months earlier Jan had lost her fourth full term baby--a little boy (she would lose one more several years later). Jan insisted that we come up to the cabin, so we did. I remember sensing an uneasy feeling from my parents as we made our way across the grass, Mom carrying baby Kari. I don't remember who all came out to meet us. I only remember seeing my Auntie Jannie walking toward us with a big smile and tears running down her face. She walked straight to Kari and took her from Mom and hugged and held her, that same smile beaming on all of us as the tears continued to flow. She laughed at herself and called herself a name, maybe a "sentimental fool" or something like that and hugged us kids with her free arm to let us know she was OK. My parents later talked about how glad they were that they made that trip and how much good it did Jan to be able to hold her baby niece. I wish Kari had been in this picture, taken by my Dad, but it is evident that she must have been in the cabin being taken care of by Mom.

The Way We Are--Gypsy, Kathleen, and me

Danny, Tony, Pat, and Susie

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Music Montage of Chet and Priscilla

When you have about 15 minutes take a look at the slide show/video that Joey put together for Chet and Priscilla. It was played at their wedding reception and I sobbed through most of it. It really does something to a mother's heart to see her son married and then turn around and see him as a toddler with his brothers and sisters. The emotions were just too great and the tears spilled over.

A HUGE thank you to Joey for the hundreds of hours spent putting this together. I wish I'd thought of asking him to do something like this for our 25th Anniversary. With twins due in a few weeks I fear his photo editing days are numbered. Maybe for our 50th, Joey..... Or, I could get the software and have Bryce get on it. I think it would be right up his alley.

Here's the link to Joey's blog page and then you just click on the video--Chet and Priscilla.

PS Light and Mendo--you two even got in here! It was nice to "have you at the wedding".

PPS Note the picture of Chet in a high chair flanked by two other little guys in high chairs. Those two are cousins Marty and Kaleb (Kaleb is wearing a bib that says 'Kip'). Marty and Kaleb both stood up for Chet in the wedding--another emotional bit for me.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Following a time of rejoicing over Chet and Priscilla's wedding we returned home to some sad news.

Least of all were the dry boiler to the woodstove, the flashing warning light and a non-working septic system, water in basement, a son with an infected blister on his foot, and one with a fever and sore throat. Those are just the hazards of every day life and each was handled in turn and the household is up and running and health has returned.

However, the message on my cell phone Saturday that my Auntie Jannie was likely taking her lasts breaths on this earth was definitely sobering. On Sunday, just hours after our arrival back home I learned that she had passed away on Saturday evening, just 26 after her husband's death. Her five children had spent the day with her and two of them were sitting with her still at 10:30 when her heart stopped its beating.

I'm leaving today to be with family as we remember her and reminisce together tonight and then attend her funeral service tomorrow, exactly one week after the wedding.

God has given and God has taken, and He is blessed and good and merciful in both.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Reception

Part 5 of 5
For Part 1 go to In Wyoming for the Wedding. For Part 2 go to New Year's Eve/Wedding Rehearsal . For Part 3 go to Pre-Wedding. For Part 4 go to Chet and Priscilla's Wedding.

All the responsibility is over and Don and Mary look so relaxed!

It's not too often that the father of the bride is the one to perform the marriage ceremony. It's even more rare to find a father who is responsible for making the wedding cake! What started as a joke, then became a dare, turned into a reality and, after weeks and months of samples and reading Cake Decorating magazines, the wedding cake was produced by Don Thomas himself!

The bridal party making their entrance

Huddling before moving out to the center of the room

The attendants moved to the center in pairs in various styles of dance, struts, or other moves.

Notice Julia holding her 3-year-old son Elijah, who ran onto the floor after her

Instead of coming in the front entrance, Chet and Priscilla came in the opposite end of the room via a huge garage door opening up for them. It definitely made an impression! Then they danced (more like polka-ed) their way to the rest of the group.

The guys gave speeches and roasted Chet

Jared told the story of his first impression of Chet during freshman football "hazing" where the new players are called on to perform. Keith actually did a little reinactment of the ritual at his wedding reception and Travis called on him to sing "I'm a Little Teapot".

When Chet was on the stool in front of the team and they asked him what he could do he responded, "I sing and dance." So they cleared the floor and told him to perform. He had been in the high school show choir just weeks before and the song and dance to Bon Jovi's "Shot Through the Heart" was still fresh in his mind and he did it. Well, we got him to get up for us and do it again despite his claims of "not remembering" the dance. It's possible that some of it was ad-libbed, but he remembered an awful lot of it and was a good sport to do it. I think we all enjoyed it as much as the team did 2 1/2 years ago.

There were also some serious moments and times of reflection. Joey created a slide/video presentation for Chet and Priscilla with pictures from their separate lives and then together. Seeing that little Chetly was the most emotional part of the day for me. Paul also said "good-bye" to his sister and shared with us the story of how they used to be asked if they were twins and would try to stand close together and be "siamese twins". He asked Priscilla to stand with him one last time and be his "siamese twin".

I think everyone was touched by the letter that Chet read from Priscilla. She had it given to him on the morning of their wedding, 1-1-10. It had a personal note and then there were some pages torn from a journal dated 1-1-05. It was Priscilla's prayer, exaclty five years ago, that God would give her a husband, a godly man with whom to share her life. She confessed that her greatest desire, however, was that she would be completely satisfied in Christ and that He alone would be able to satisfy her every need.

Cake cutting

No, they didn't smash it into their faces

Pictures from the dancing

These two were good, and Gabe knew it!

Tossing the bouquet, Gabe wanted to get in on the action

Diving for the garter

I think they should have said "all ELIGIBLE" singles! Owen and Lisa are hardly in the marriagable category.

Keith and I with Sharon Ann and Dorm Land

Farewell and off to Florida for Chet....who's missing someone