Surviving

On Sunday I felt so overwhelmed I didn’t know how I’d make it through the next few days. I had so much to do and I just couldn’t see how I’d be able to do it. It seemed inevitable that I’d fail to achieve at least some of my goals. My anxiety made it difficult for me to enjoy our small group gathering on Sunday evening because all I could think of was how much work I had to do.

But you know what? Somehow I got it done. Sunday night I was up till almost 2:00 a.m., but I got papers graded, grades calculated, and my teacup tree undecorated and taken down. Monday morning I finished my class preparations and taught my class, and Monday afternoon I had a tutoring student. I even stayed awake for all of it and made it to the gym to walk in the evening.

I was up late again last night preparing for today’s elementary class and getting all the grades from last semester calculated. I admit getting up this morning was harder than yesterday, but I was prepared for class by the time the students arrived. And after all that work, I forgot to give them their papers back!

This afternoon I went on a quest for plums. I didn’t think it was an unreasonable goal. I mean, we can buy bananas and pineapples and cantaloupe and strawberries year-round, right? But apparently not plums. Or apricots. I may have to resort to raspberries to make our Geography dessert for Thursday.

My really big accomplishment of the day was making two phone calls that I’ve been putting off for several days. I would rather do almost anything else than make phone calls. I absolutely loathe it. But the calls had to be made. One was to clear up a misunderstanding about a credit card—they had flagged and denied a perfectly legitimate transaction.

The other was to cancel Walter’s flight reservation for this weekend. When I made the reservations back in the summer, we thought we had plenty of time for him to train a helper who would be able to clean the daycare center while we were gone. However, he couldn’t find anyone interested in that job and here we are three days before time to leave and he has no one to cover for him. So I will be going to my class reunion alone. At least he gets a credit with the airline that he can use for another flight sometime.

Meanwhile, I have tutoring students and a Geography class to prepare for, but I’m still hoping to get at least a few hours’ sleep . . . .

A Word Fitly Spoken

I have become pretty good at compartmentalizing my emotions when necessary, and today it was certainly necessary, because I had so much cooking to do and a class to prepare for and I just had to brush aside all my anxiety about my mother and my husband so I could do what had to be done. In fact my husband had to go to his appointment with the surgeon without me, since it overlapped with my class.

We were studying Scandinavia today, so Jasper helped with some food prep. I made Swedish fish soup, Norwegian coleslaw, Danish creamed mushrooms, and Danish rice pudding. While Jasper and I greatly enjoyed the food, the others were considerably less enthusiastic. They did, however, love the beautiful photos of Scandinavian countries!

Meanwhile, Walter returned from the doctor while we were still watching a video, so I was able to follow him into another room to get a brief report. His melanoma surgery is scheduled for Friday, January 31st. It will be a big incision and I’m sure a very impressive scar. It is an outpatient surgery so I will be able to bring him home right afterward.

My mother is still in the hospital and they are still trying to fine-tune her medications to be as advantageous as possible. She is very limited in how much liquid she can have as they don’t want her to start retaining too much fluid again. She is expected to be in the hospital for another couple of days. Once she is stabilized, she’ll be released back to the nursing home with new care protocols. This is not something she’ll “recover” from. The goal is to manage her various health problems without making them worse. Thank you all so much for your continued prayers.

Lucy and Tanner returned from Austin at supper time. Students are starting to return to the university!

As I’m sure you can imagine, this has been a tough day thanks to my concern for both my husband and my mother. And in the middle of it the mail arrived and I received a padded envelope from England. Inside was a card and newsletter from my sweet friend Adrienne (whom I visited in September)—and a gift of a lovely tea towel. The quote on the tea towel could hardly have been more appropriate:

Hope. Right now we’re hanging onto hope for dear life!

Discouraging News

Today was mostly about trying to get some grading done, and I mostly succeeded. I still have so much to do, but I feel like I made a real dent today.

My friend Robin came over for an afternoon visit, which was such a nice break. She is still being chauffeured by her daughter after her surgery last month. We drank a lot of tea.

Another thing I did was start working on the food for tomorrow’s geography class. What I didn’t do enough of was going over the materials, so that will be my task tomorrow morning in between my cooking chores.

And all evening I received a series of disheartening messages from my brother Greg, who was relaying information from my dad. They finally tested my mother’s kidney function and discovered that she is in stage 4 kidney failure. This kidney damage is a side effect of the meds she’s been taking for her congestive heart failure. The options are not encouraging. Please pray for our family as we face this difficult time.

Planning & Paperwork

Friday is the day I get to sleep in a little in compensation for having to go grocery shopping. I am glad the holidays are over and I am back to buying “normal” food. First, though, I had to plan next week’s Geography menu so I’d be able to get the supplies I’ll need.

I had a student come in to take a test after lunch and then I worked on paperwork for a while. I never run out of paperwork! I also made a run to Walmart to get things Aldi didn’t have, but I will have to venture forth to a third store for sure if I am going to get the ingredients I need for Geography class. Fennel, leeks, and rhubarb can be hard to find around here.

Since tomorrow is supposed to be a sewing day, I washed and dried the rest of the fabric I’m hoping to use. My grandchild will have some colorful things!

Now I’m waiting to make a late-night run to the airport with Lucy to pick up Tanner. Thankfully it’s just our local airport—not the one in Dallas.

Our Revels Now Are Ended

Did you all have a wonderful Christmas? I hope so. Ours went by so very fast. Tuesday we were preparing for our Christmas Eve festivities and for the arrival of Mercy and Daniel.

Spencer was playing for the Christmas Eve service at his church, so he and Jade were unable to join the rest of us at Lucy’s church, where we have gone for Christmas Eve the last couple of years. It is a short candlelight service and they sing real Christmas carols—a big plus in my book.

Afterward, the girls helped me make the cheese fondue and get the table set with the gold chargers and the candelabra and the Christmas crackers. We had our late fondue dinner and the holiday goodies and eggnog after that. There were only nine of us this year: my husband and me (obviously), Lina, Mercy, Daniel, Spencer, Jade, Lucy, and Jasper.

I wasn’t up as late as I often am, but I still had to assemble the breakfast casserole and do some planning for the next morning.

Christmas morning I was up at 5:00 making hot cross bun dough. By 9:00 our breakfast was ready but the diners were not! Some found it hard to get out of bed and Spencer and Jade weren’t here yet, but we couldn’t postpone the meal indefinitely because we had a video chat date with Flynn and Tiffany!

The last few years I’ve made a gluten free/keto version of the breakfast casserole in addition to the “real” one, but since Mary wasn’t here to share it with this year, I found I was quite happy with eggs and sausages.

We spent about half an hour with Flynn and Tiffany, opening each other’s gifts and chatting. When they had to leave to go to Tiffany’s parents’ house, we said goodbye and opened the rest of our gifts here. It was a pleasant couple of hours and I think everyone received something they really wanted. I got two new themed cookbooks to add to my collection—a Star Wars one and a Firefly one. I need to start doing special themed meals again—but this time just for my own family since I no longer host a book club.

We squeezed in a video chat with Mary and Jordan also and we roasted a big turkey and the girls helped me with all the trimmings, including making our traditional trifle for dessert.

Mercy and Daniel didn’t even get any trifle because they had to leave right after supper so that Daniel could get a good night’s sleep before going to work this morning. Walter and Lina also worked all day. It was an abrupt end to that cozy Christmas feeling. I miss the days when everyone was able to stay longer!

I had a big project to work on, and it should have taken a couple of hours, but it took much longer and it was very frustrating. But I got it done—and still had time to zoom over to the bookstore for a few minutes.

Now I’m mostly packed up for my drive to Tennessee tomorrow. Please pray for safety on the road as I go to spend time with my parents. One of my brothers is already there and the other two will be joining us also.

42 Years

Can you believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve? What I can’t believe is how much I have to do before then! I am still addressing Christmas cards!

Yesterday Walter and I went to church with Lucy and Lina and enjoyed the more traditional service. It was a quiet day since Spencer and Jade didn’t come over, but we enjoyed watching a Christmas movie in the evening.

This morning Walter and Lina went to work on his annual floor-refinishing contract, and I took Lucy with me grocery shopping because I had LOT of stuff to buy, especially knowing now that I’ll be leaving town again on Friday to go visit my parents.

After getting most of the groceries from Aldi, I still had to go to the bank and to the post office to mail several packages, and to Walmart to get some things that Aldi didn’t have. Tomorrow there will be one last shopping trip for the handful of items I can only get at Kroger!

Meanwhile, Lucy made some cookie dough and I made a batch of Nutella fudge by altering another fudge recipe. It appears to be acceptable. Tomorrow’s going to be a really big cooking day, though.

***

On Christmas Eve of 1977, my three younger brothers and I snuck into a theater in a mall across from the mission complex in Florida where we were staying for a big family reunion. We had our parents’ permission, but we had to sneak because several extended family members believed that watching a movie in a theater was a sin. So we couldn’t tell anyone what we planned to do or talk about it afterward.

And that’s how four missionary kids from Africa walked into a theater and saw the first Star Wars movie, which was still showing in theaters after being released in May. I think our jaws were on the floor the whole way through. We were gobsmacked. We’d never seen anything like that in our lives! And the worst thing about it was that we had to go straight from the movie to a big dinner and we couldn’t say anything about it!

In the last 42 years, I know at least my brother Matt and I have seen all the Star Wars movies in theaters. He usually gets to see them before me. When The Empire Strikes Back came out, he called me on the phone and couldn’t resist telling me the big plot twist: “Darth Vader is Luke’s father!” Woah. I couldn’t believe it. Now, everyone knows it, but back then it was a HUGE reveal.

So tonight, one day away from being exactly 42 years later, I went with my husband and two of my daughters to see the final installment of the Star Wars saga. We didn’t have to sneak. Still mulling it over . . .

A Very Special Coffee Shop

Somehow I didn’t imagine myself being quite so busy with social activities here, but I’m not complaining! This morning I set off relatively early to visit my friend Val. She and I went to boarding school in Zambia together many years ago, and were reunited unexpectedly eleven years ago when our kids were in the same online writers’ group and I was here with them for the gathering I mentioned yesterday.

Driving to their home, I had a great view of Pike’s Peak:

She and her husband had to leave for a doctor’s appointment later that morning, so we said goodbye and I returned to Flynn’s house to make some spaghetti sauce and brown some extra meat for them to use in the future.

This afternoon I did have time for a little nap while Tiffany went to an appointment at the hospital and Flynn worked from home. After Tiffany returned, Flynn was able to stop working a little early so they could take me to their favorite coffee shop, where they had their first date and where they also got engaged. It is a nice place run by YWAM in a former hotel. (I drank tea.)

We drove back to the house at sunset so they could have an early spaghetti supper before going on a movie date to see the new Star Wars movie (Tiffany had won the tickets at work). Meanwhile, I was waiting to see if a package would arrive in time. I had to run to the grocery store for one last ingredient and on the way back I stopped and got myself some supper.

By the time I returned to the house, the package had arrived! That meant I could indeed make a batch of my famous molasses spice cookies for Flynn and Tiffany.

The last pan of cookies were in the oven when they returned. I had Flynn and Tiffany taste-test the cookies and they gave them a thumbs-up, for which I was very relieved because I had to adjust the recipe for the high altitude and I wasn’t sure how well I did.

This evening I’ve been packing again in preparation for leaving tomorrow morning on my way back to Texas. It’s been a short visit, but I feel like I’ve managed to squeeze quite a bit into it!

Parting Shot:

Flynn & Tiffany with their little pink Christmas Tree

Out and About

This morning of course I got up and fried the rice cakes for Flynn’s breakfast. I had no idea he was out of Marmite or I would have brought him some! He enjoyed them with ketchup instead.

After he left for work, I drove to JoAnn’s to shop for fabric and meet up with Tiffany’s mom, Deanna. I was looking for flannel fabric to make sheets for the baby bed I brought up. My instructions were to look for dinosaur and space-themed fabrics, and I found both!

While browsing through the rest of the store, I came across something that I could not pass up:

A stellar addition to my literary cookbook collection. This one has a hundred recipes, each from a different classic book! And it was on sale!

After checking out, Deanna and I went to Panera where we could enjoy hot drinks and conversation. Flynn and Tiffany’s baby will also be her first grandchild, so I’m sure you can imagine that we are both pretty thrilled!

From there I drove straight to my friend Jane’s house to visit. Jane was the first person I ever stayed with in Colorado Springs, back in 2008 when I brought a vanload of kids up here for their annual writers’ group get-together. Poor Jane fell and dislocated her shoulder on Friday, so she has her arm in a sling and isn’t allowed to move it at all. Fortunately she was up to talking as we had a lot to catch up on.

When I left Jane’s house the sun was shining and it was 50 degrees. During my 15 minute drive, the sun set behind the mountains and when I pulled into Flynn’s driveway it was already down to 38! I arrived back at Flynn’s house shortly after he did and made them some of my famous chicken enchiladas for supper, after which we watched another Christmas movie.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, Jasper finished baking and delivering all his cookies and Walter finally went to a dermatologist and had a worrisome mole on his arm removed. They will be testing it for cancer but we don’t expect to hear the results for several days.

My mother is still in the hospital and is unlikely to be home for Christmas. She is doing very poorly but may be moved to a rehab facility tomorrow.  Please continue to pray for both her and my dad.

Socializing and Cooking

When I got up this morning the temperature was 14 degrees and the windchill was 5 degrees! Tiffany had already left for work but I was able to drink a cup of tea with Flynn before he left.

A little later I put on layer after layer of clothes before venturing out into the cold snowy world. It was a spectacular day! Pike’s Peak was glittering in the brilliant sunshine as I drove from Flynn’s house to see my friend Evangeline. She is the daughter of my friend Donita, whom I saw yesterday—and both are fellow writers.

Driving in snow is definitely not my favorite, but the main roads were clear and I made it to my destination without any mishaps. We had a nice long chat over tea. Her three cats and her dog hung around listening.

Afterward, I ventured to a supermarket to pick up some ingredients for things that I had talked to Flynn about making while I am here. He had requested crumpets for supper, so I made those as well as a batch of candied peanuts for him and Tiffany to enjoy over the holidays.

After supper, we watched a holiday movie—my first of the year! Then I still had to make rice and form the rice cakes for Flynn’s breakfast tomorrow. So overall, a pretty busy day.

My mom is still in the hospital and very weak. It looks like she will need to go some kind of residential facility to get some therapy once she is released from the hospital. Not exactly what any of us wanted for Christmas! Please continue to pray for her.

Sometimes You Lose

Today has not been a very successful day, despite all my efforts to make it so. This morning I got right to work putting together today’s Geography food—a South American chicken stew that has a really long list of ingredients, including fresh thyme, which is the only thing that has survived my neglect of my garden this year.

Jasper helped me set up, and we even got the garlands up on my teacup tree, but that is all. Maybe tomorrow I can get the lights and ornaments on!

As class time neared, Jasper made quesadillas to go with the stew. We watched a video during lunch like we always do. These boys have been very enthusiastic eaters and I thought they’d like the stew—but they did not. I really, really hate to throw food away but they barely touched it. At least we have a dog—who had a very large fancy dinner today!

The boys were more enthusiastic about the array of German goodies I put out for dessert—and the mochi ice cream too. Then we spent the rest of the class reviewing for next week’s test.

After class I finally had time to sit down and put the glitter glue on one side of my red diamond. That was another fail. That was some seven hours ago and it still isn’t dry. I may die of old age first! And this is even with using my hair dryer on it at regular intervals! I wish they had mentioned on the glue bottle that using this glue may benefit your grandchildren rather than yourself. [I just Googled it and learned that it may take 24 hours to dry. Good thing the parade isn’t until Saturday!]

Meanwhile, I picked up the poster I had ordered with the card back on it, but now I have to go out and buy more foam board because someone else volunteered to do the front and she’s using a different size of paper. So tomorrow I’ll be heading back to Hobby Lobby one more time.

I have spent all evening critiquing student papers and have finally finished doing the ones that have been turned in. It is a very slow and time-consuming process. I have no sense of victory because I have so much other grading and school work to do!