Rain

Apparently I dreamed of posting last night, because I really thought I did! Today we had a chai party to get ready for. I also had music stuff to do and some housework and some writing.

We delayed a long time before starting the chai party baking because we weren’t sure if we should have it. Rain was guaranteed. We ended up setting up in the carport where there is at least a little shelter. People dribbled in and out all evening. Areas west of us had tornadoes, so we got off easy.

Also, I got to hold a one-month-old baby.

Lina arrived safely in Zambia and is staying with friends until she heads back to Sakeji on Tuesday.

Advertisements

Another Hard Goodbye

Yesterday was very full of stuff to get Lina ready to go. (She did most of it.) We took her car back to the missionary service organization that rented it to her. She ran errands and I ran errands. Then she stayed up late packing and I went to bed because I knew I had to drive today.

It was hard to get up this morning and get ready to go, because I knew I’d be coming back alone. I made Lina some breakfast but she felt too nauseated to eat it after only two hours of sleep. I made tea in my travel mug, and Jasper lugged Lina’s suitcases out to the car. It was a beautiful, chilly spring morning such as we so rarely get here in East Texas, and the highway was lined with vivid yellow and white wildflowers, and even some faded bluebonnets. She is leaving at the most beautiful time of year!

We stopped at Starbucks on the way so Lina could have one last Starbucks coffee, and we arrived at the airport in good time. She got her luggage checked in without a hitch, and we still had some 45 minutes to visit before she had to get in the line for security.

Then came the moment that gets harder, not easier, as the years go by: that final tearful hug before we part company once again. In this particular case, there were personal things that made the parting hard, but the reality is that it never gets easier to say goodbye to your adult children, especially when they go overseas and especially when you don’t know for sure when you will see them again.

I watched her snail-like movement through the security line so I could be there to wave back at her when she turned back for her final wave. Fortunately we are both tall and can wave to each other above the sea of heads!

I took a few minutes to collect myself in the car before heading off to my next destination–the home of a friend from Africa whom I hadn’t seen in decades. She made me a fabulous low-carb salad for lunch and we talked for three hours. It was a wonderful antidote to the misery I had so recently experienced.

The drive home was breathtakingly beautiful and I savored the beauty of a sunny spring day in East Texas. I think Lina should be landing in Dubai pretty soon . . .

 

Sixteen

Today was not my favorite day. It was more than a little rough, to be honest. However, I don’t want to focus on what went wrong. I’d rather tell you about a young man who is sixteen years old today: my youngest son Jasper.

Jasper was not, as some might think, an “accident” or unwanted seventh child. He was eagerly anticipated. I remember when we told the other kids that they’d be getting another sibling, they all stood up and cheered!

I was almost 42 when he was born, and I had a hard recovery from the C-section due to the spinal headache that followed it. I had to lie down flat for three weeks. But my husband had made me a wonderful “sidecar” bed that was bolted to the side of our bed, so I could lie there right beside my baby and watch him as he slept or rub his back if he was fussy. That first summer, we called him Septimus Minimus!

I knew that due to my age, he was likely to be my last baby, and I treasured every moment of his babyhood. He had a half-dozen willing slaves in his older siblings, all of whom would drop everything to entertain him. They taught him to act out dramatic death scenes when he could barely walk. They sat through many viewings of Toy Story, his favorite movie.

As he became verbal, we realized that we had a very creative and imaginative kid on our hands. Like his big sister Lina, for many years he chose to process everything that happened to him using his imaginary friend, his “great-great-grandfather.” (Whose name was MacGyver, in case you wondered.) No matter what happened to Jasper, we’d be sure to hear a story about something very similar (but more exciting) happening to his great-great-grandfather.

He has always been an affectionate, positive kid. When he was still sleeping in his crib, I would go to get him in the morning and he’d be beaming at me. “Today’s going to be a GREAT day!” he’d say. When all the other kids complained about shopping at Walmart with me on Saturday mornings, he came with me willingly and cheerfully, week after week and year after year. When I was stressed or frustrated, he always seemed to know and would seek me out, saying, “You need a hug!”

Now, suddenly, he is taller than me and his voice has deepened. Where did the years go? He still hugs me every day and willingly helps me around the house. He works with his dad on Saturdays and takes care of his bees. We didn’t really celebrate his birthday much today because of the other stuff that happened, but don’t worry—we will. He did get an outing with his big sister which included a walk along some railroad tracks. He came home with a nice collection of discarded iron spikes to use for his blacksmithing endeavors.  That’s another thing I love about him. He is thrilled to pieces with his rusty iron spikes!

Happy Birthday, Jasper!

4-21-17 Jib at Medieval Times

An Early Birthday Meal

Once again, there has been a little lapse in my posting here. We had a busy weekend, especially yesterday when we had two big meals to contribute to. Since it was Lina’s last Sunday here, she had been asked to give a presentation, which she did after the service and after the potluck that followed. Unfortunately, attendance was very low yesterday, and by the end of the potluck she didn’t have much of an audience.

Still, I prepared plenty of food for the potluck and most of it came back home with me. We didn’t eat it for supper, though, because that was Lina’s birthday dinner. Her actual birthday is at the end of next month, but we wanted to celebrate before she leaves.  So I made a huge pan of Sombrero Dip (a family favorite) and a cake. Well, Lucy made the actual cake–I made the raspberry filling and the mocha icing and assembled it!

All four of our college students came for dinner, so we had a full table for once. I admit I felt a little sorry for myself since I had to abstain from eating, but I enjoyed visiting with everyone.

All day yesterday I felt myself beginning to succumb to the cold that has claimed the rest of the family except Walter. I had hoped that my strengthened immune system would fight it off, but alas that did not happen. Therefore, today was a day of taking meds so I could get through paper grading and then teach my final class of this semester.

As always, I have become fond of my students over the course of this semester. I will miss them, though I’m quite sure they will not miss me!

Our friends Don and Gwen arrived this evening to spend the night en route back to Dallas. They finally got to catch up with Lina, who has been out of town every other time they’ve stopped by in the last few months.

Only two more full days with Lina . . .

He Keeps Me Singing

He Keeps Me Singing

Luther P. Bridges

There’s within my heart a melody
Jesus whispers sweet and low,
Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow.

Refrain

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Sweetest Name I know,
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain,
Jesus swept across the broken strings,
Stirred the slumbering chords again.

Refrain

Feasting on the riches of His grace,
Resting ’neath His sheltering wing,
Always looking on His smiling face,
That is why I shout and sing.

Refrain

Though sometimes He leads through waters deep,
Trials fall across the way,
Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep,
See His footprints all the way.

Refrain

Soon He’s coming back to welcome me,
Far beyond the starry sky;
I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,
I shall reign with Him on high.

Refrain

A Birthday, Emotional Whiplash, & Andalusia

First, the birthday. My sweet daughter Mary turned 26 today. Here she is when she was much younger, with Lina and Flynn:

Mary in pool

I did get to talk to her a little this evening, and am looking forward to seeing her in person in a couple of weeks.

I know I’ve mentioned before that I am normally a one-event-a-day kind of girl. Sometimes, though, I have no choice but to participate in multiple events in one day, and today was one of those days.

I was up early this morning to take a shower before Lina, Jasper and I left for Dallas at 7:00. Way back in the fall I had signed us up for a field trip to Medieval Times, the restaurant/entertainment show in Dallas. We got there in plenty of time and met up with others from our homeschool group. Medieval Times lets you in the door a full hour before they allow you to actually go to your table. During that time, you are trapped in a large room where they try to sell you all kinds of medieval-themed things. Not a problem for us, but hard for parents with young children!

We were seated in the section that was assigned to cheer for the red knight. Before they got down to the business of jousting and horsemanship though, the cast acted out a series of little morality plays that were clearly aimed at schoolchildren. The plays used the code of chivalry to demonstrate how a “good” person behaves as opposed to someone who is unchivalrous. Some of the topics covered were bullying, gossip, and public humiliation. Very preachy but the message was good!

The show is very entertaining. Everything is scripted but it’s still fun to watch. There was a dressage demonstration by the master of horse on a stunning Andalusian stallion. Fights and jousting with exploding lances! Sparking swords! Handsome knights! A free-flying falcon! We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

On the way home, we stopped by an outlet mall so I could pick up a gift I needed to buy. This evening I had two events to go to and they both started at the same time. First I drove to a funeral home to pay my respects to the family of my friend Sarah, who died earlier this week. It was good to see her granddaughter after so many years. The memorial service will be in Sarah’s home state of Alabama, so it was very important to me to be at the viewing today, even though I couldn’t stay long.

There was a weird coincidence at the funeral home. When I asked Sarah’s son about the funeral, he explained that after she is cremated there will be a memorial service for her in her hometown of Andalusia, Alabama. How often does anyone mention Andalusia? Yet this morning we enjoyed the performance of a horse originally bred in Andalusia, Spain, and this evening I learned that my friend Sarah was also from Andalusia–Andalusia, Alabama.

I went straight from the funeral home to a wedding shower for a young couple. The groom has been going to our church throughout his college years and in fact is the longsuffering violinist who plays with me most Sundays. I sure am going to miss him. There was a good turnout at the shower, with lots of their college friends and some of us from church too.

When I left to drive home, though, I found myself in a strange place emotionally. The day started off lighthearted and fun at Medieval Times, only to turn very sad as I said goodbye to my friend Sarah and saw her lifeless body at the funeral home. It was hard to jump from that into being happy for the young couple who are soon to be married, and underneath it all is the looming reality of Lina’s departure. It took me a couple of hours to recover from the emotional whiplash.

Parting Shot:

4-21-17 knights

Knights at Medieval Times

Car Trouble & a New Recipe

This morning after I got Jasper going on school, I headed out to run a couple of errands. My first stop was the health food store, where I found everything I needed. Then when I got back in the car and tried to leave, the car would not start. *sigh*

I called my husband, but he couldn’t come help me because he was driving some VIP wives around town for the day. (He is a “spare” driver for the university in addition to his real job.) Lina was gone taking her big teacher test. So I called Spencer, and he reluctantly rolled out of bed and drove across town to give me a jump start.

When I got home, I left the car running for half an hour to charge the battery, and then in the afternoon I finally had a chance to go grocery shopping at Aldi. When I was ready to leave Aldi, the car seemed a little reluctant to start, so I told my husband about it, and after he checked it out he grounded the car until we can deal with the battery issue. This means Lina gets to drive us to Dallas tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the reason I had gone to the health food store was to get several essential oils. My autoharp teacher had sent me a recipe for an essential oil mixture that has been very helpful for her muscle and joint pain, and I wanted Lina to have some to take back to Africa since she has ongoing shoulder pain. It was a complicated recipe–15 ingredients!–and everything had to be measured carefully. I made a big batch so Lina can take some and we will still have some here for Spencer’s rugby injuries and my old age infirmities! I hope it works as well for us as it has for my teacher!

A Bad Student & Good Friends

So, it’s been a busy couple of days. Yesterday I had an autoharp lesson, so I left at lunchtime. It’s a 90-minute drive to my teacher’s beautiful place in the country. For a while, I have felt “stuck” in my autoharp playing. I have reached a level of skill where many things are now easy for me, but I have been struggling with how to get “better.”

So, during my lesson we practiced specific techniques I can use to add “color” to my playing. It was very helpful. I am so grateful to my teacher, Ann, because she is a very patient lady who puts up with a very noncompliant student. I have realized lately what a truly terrible student I am. It is mostly due to the difference between being a teenager and being a middle-aged woman.

The way “normal” music lessons work is that you find a good teacher (at least I did that right!) and then he/she teaches you how to play your instrument by assigning you various pieces and techniques to work on. Unfortunately, I have not been terribly cooperative when it comes to practicing the songs that Ann has assigned, and she has now given up on that whole approach. It’s not that I have any objections to the bluegrass and folk tunes that are “standard” for autoharp players. It’s just that at my age, I know exactly the kind of songs I want to play and I figure life is too short to waste my remaining years learning songs I don’t love. I’m afraid that as a result I’ve been a terrible disappointment to Ann.

However, being the sweet lady that she is (and also a consummate musician), she has adapted to my “I’ll play what I want” approach and now focuses on helping me get better at playing the stuff I have picked out for myself, even if my choices are not what she might prefer. In my case, that means playing a lot of hymns and old European/Celtic folk songs and whatever else strikes my fancy. I am able to get away with this in part because I can figure out the chords to any song on my own. It’s been over a year since I even peeked inside any of my autoharp songbooks. I prefer arranging songs myself—and Ann is helping me increase my skill. Having this skill frees me from ever having to search through published music to find a particular song I want to play, and I love having that freedom.

Shortly after I returned from my lesson, Lina and Jasper and I drove to the home of our dear friends Jim and Joan to have dinner with them and their son Steve and his family. Steve and Angie are missionaries in Kenya who are also home on furlough, and somehow they have missed seeing Lina at all until now. Jim and Joan are retired missionaries who have been part of my life since I was in high school! So we had a wonderful time of fellowship together and we stayed later than we should have.

This morning seemed to be the best time to go on a mother-daughter outing that Lina and I had planned to do while she was here. I didn’t think we’d end up doing it at the tail end of her visit when we didn’t have time to make a day of it. We drove to the historic town of Jefferson (a one-hour drive away) and spent a pleasant few hours. Jefferson is known for its antique shops, so we worked our way through the biggest one.

I don’t enjoy looking through places like that unless I’m on a mission to find a specific item in a specific price range. Today, I was successful and came home with a couple of things that I plan to use in a project. We also browsed through the General Store, which is less enjoyable for me now that I can no longer sample their fabulous honey butters! I was at least able to get some pralines for Walter.

We ate our lunch in a bar that dates back to the mid-1800s. They had a salad that was perfect for me. And yes, sometimes I do get really tired of always having to order a salad when I eat out—but it beats sitting there hungry while everyone else chows down on food I like but can no longer have.

After lunch we paid a quick visit to our favorite hotel courtyard:

4-19-17 Lina

And then we had to head home. Lina has a big test to study for and I had a company dinner to prepare. My friend Robin and her husband Doug came over for supper tonight so they could visit with Lina before she leaves. It is always so much fun to spend time with them. Lina gave them a demonstration of her spinning wheel and Jasper took them on a tour of his beehive.

 

 

A Painful Loss

I wasn’t planning on posting again today, since I already did a health post, but this evening I was stunned by the news that my friend Sarah had passed away, and I feel so bereft I can’t think of anything to do except write about it.

Sarah used to be a neighbor of ours. She lived down the street from us in a little white house, where she was raising and homeschooling her granddaughter, who was about the same age as my daughter Mercy. We were in the same homeschool group.

Sarah was an old-fashioned southern lady. Conversations with her took a long time, because she spoke very slowly and deliberately, and with a charming southern drawl. She was unfailingly polite, always kind, and always positive, despite the fact that through all the years I’ve known her, she has suffered from severe chronic pain and a host of health problems.

Despite her many challenges, we could count on seeing her every year when we went to vote, because she always helped out at the local polling place. She greeted everyone with a smile.

Several years ago, Sarah began reading my blog, back when I still blogged over at Xanga. Somehow, reading my little vignettes about our family life led to her becoming very interested in our family. She prayed faithfully for us over the years. When my daughters went on mission trips, she gave sacrificially from her meager income to help support them.

When Mary and Jordan were first married (and penniless), Sarah sent them money every month to help pay for them to do some of their laundry at the laundromat, so Mary wouldn’t have to do it all by hand. I knew that any time I asked Sarah to pray for something, she would pray faithfully! And once when I posted something about not having transportation to go to an event, she insisted on loaning me her car.

The last time I saw Sarah was on November 28. That was the day Jasper and I delivered the poinsettias he’d sold as part of his 4-H fundraiser. Sarah hadn’t ordered one, but I wanted her to have one, so I got one for her. I also took a bag of my private recipe spiced chai mix, because I knew how she loved it. We had a bit of trouble finding her apartment (she moved years ago) but in the end we located it and knocked on her door.

It would be hard to imagine a more surprised and grateful lady than Sarah was on that night. She had been feeling very “low” and lonely (and in a great deal of pain) and she burst into tears when she saw us standing there with flowers and chai mix. I think she was often lonely in recent years, once her granddaughter grew up and moved out. I am so sorry I didn’t make more of an effort to spend time with her.

I can’t be sad for her, of course. I picture her standing straight, walking without a cane, and stepping forward with joy to greet her Savior. It’s me I’m sad for—and for all the people who never had a chance to meet and know Sarah. She had a radiant soul, and I will miss her.

 

Days in the Danger Zone: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

I knew that Easter weekend was going to be a challenge, right? It’s hard to keep saving your life on family holidays. For one thing, there’s the candy: jelly beans, peeps, Cadbury eggs, Reese’s eggs, etc. My family loves those seasonal goodies so it’s not as if I could just not buy them, even though I love them too and can’t have them anymore.

But for me, even a Cadbury egg pales in allure compared to my homemade hot cross buns. Our long-cherished family tradition is to have hot cross buns on Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas morning. We all are pretty passionate about them. In recent years, I’ve had to make a gluten free version, but now even that poor substitute is off limits for me.

Times like this are very dangerous for me. The temptation is overwhelming to think, hey, it’s a holiday that only comes once a year. What would be so terrible about sampling a bite or two of this or that? I think we all know the answer to that. For me, a bite or two leads to many more bites–not right away, but eventually. It’s times like these that my zero-tolerance rule about moderation is very hard to stick to, and as a result I tend to be grouchy and out of sorts because I am feeling sorry for myself. To help myself out, I got rid of the last of my insulin so I don’t have that to fall back on. I can’t “cheat” and eat something that will spike my blood sugar, because now I can’t flood my body with artificial insulin to get it back down.

I didn’t want to just sit there and stare at an empty plate though, so I did plan ahead and make my first loaf of paleo bread. Paleo bread has no grain in it. It is made from seeds and nuts and eggs. My kids would say it tastes like pencil shavings and they are not far off the mark. I don’t really think of it as bread. It’s more of a convenient way to convey cheese to my mouth.  Since everyone else was having hot cross buns, I had cheese crossed bread:

4-14-17 cheese crosses

 If you pile enough cream cheese on it, it tastes mostly like cheese. It hardly takes the place of hot cross buns, but it also did not spike my blood sugar, and that is the point. So I focused on being there with my family and enjoying our traditional Good Friday teatime.

Easter was easier in some ways. I had to forego hot cross buns again at breakfast, but at least I made an egg-and-sausage casserole that I could eat. I had to do without ham for dinner (which I love) because it wasn’t done when I had to eat, but of course I will have some leftovers tomorrow. Today is a pancreas vacation day, otherwise known as a fast. In the afternoon, I opened all those bags of Easter candy and divided them into “goodie” bags for my kids and our “adopted” college kids. I didn’t even eat a single black jellybean.

I wish I could say that all this self-denial is getting easier—but it isn’t. Not yet. I am also struggling with a weird form of guilt. When I have to be in the kitchen a lot, preparing food for other people, I find myself feeling very guilty, as if I’ve totally blown my whole pancreas rescue plan and have eaten far more than I should—even when I haven’t actually eaten anything, let alone something that’s off-limits for me. At some point I suppose I will be less afraid of screwing up, because I’ll have more of a track record of success, but for now, I find myself often fearing failure.