Praying All the Way

Well, I am safely in Washington but it has been quite an adventure! On Friday morning I did my grocery shopping as usual and then finished my packing. I was kind of disappointed the my new carryon suitcase hadn’t arrived yet. One thing I learned from my trip to the UK is that a woman of my age and state of decrepitude needs a four-wheeled carryon. My old one has two wheels and I found it became very cumbersome and difficult to pull around when it was fully loaded with another bag strapped on top.

But I waited so long to order a four-wheeled replacement that it didn’t come in time, so I went ahead and packed my old one for this trip. Then, as Walter was taking it out to the car, UPS pulled up and delivered the new carryon! I knew it would take only five minutes or so to transfer everything over, so we quickly opened the package and I got everything transferred in no time. This is easy to do when you use packing cubes.

Even so, we were about 10 minutes later pulling out of the driveway than we had intended to be. We had barely gotten on the road before I got a text from the airline saying that my second flight (from Denver to Spokane) had been canceled. Minutes later a second text arrived saying that my first flight had been delayed, so our late departure was no longer an issue.

This was my first time to fly Southwest and my first time flying out of Love Field, which is a lot less imposing than DFW. My first order of business, of course, was to go to the desk and see if I could sort out how to still get to Spokane. The best solution I was offered was to go ahead and fly to Denver, spend the night, and go to Spokane Saturday morning. I went for it, knowing that I would most likely have to spend the night in the Denver airport.

The flight to Denver was one of the scariest of my life. We flew through some huge severe storms and the “fasten seatbelt” light never went off. During a brief lull, they started serving drinks but had to abort that mission almost immediately. The plane was tossed around like a grain of corn in a popcorn popper. I don’t know about everyone else, but I prayed the whole way! The landing was also scary but such a relief.

When I arrived in Denver the prospect of spending the night in the airport seemed a lot less appealing. I had to pick up my checked suitcase, which meant that everywhere I went I had to take two suitcases and a backpack with me. I was SO grateful to have that new carryon that rolls so effortlessly, because my larger suitcase does not roll very easily at all.

Julie has a friend in Denver that she thought might be willing to host me for the night, and she was, but the challenges of getting there dissuaded me from attempting it. Much as it went against my frugal instincts, I then thought of getting a room at the airport hotel—which was already sold out.

Another friend who saw my post on Facebook went to work trying to find a room for me, but everything was sold out due to the many flight cancellations. I resigned myself to my fate and started looking for a likely spot to hunker down. I found a seat up against a wall where I could lean my head back. Thus began a long, long night.

I hadn’t found anyplace to sit that wasn’t bordering a major walkway. Herds of people stampeded past at regular intervals, exiting the airport after their flights. Many of them had long skinny bags containing skis. I would doze off for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, then wake up due to a new influx of passersby. Every time I had to make the long hike down to the ladies’ room, I of course had to take all three pieces of luggage with me.

There was a lull in airport activity between about 2:00 and 4:00 a.m., but it wasn’t terribly helpful to me because that’s when all the cleaners were busy sweeping, floor polishing, and vacuuming. So I continued with my little cat naps, trying desperately to find a more comfortable position each time.

By 5:30 in the morning the airport was a beehive of activity. I have never been so grateful to be awake at that hour! I realized that even though my flight didn’t leave until 8:45, my best plan was to go through security immediately so I’d be in the part of the airport most likely to offer a cup of hot tea.

Getting through security was an ordeal as always but at the end of it I searched for and found a Starbucks. Normally I make a point of avoiding Starbucks, but on this occasion I happily waited in a long line so I could get a nice big cup of tea. I found a window seat at my departure gate and sat watching the sun rise as I drank my tea.

The flight to Spokane was a lot less scary, and we actually landed 25 minutes early. I texted Julie, only to find out that she was running late. So I collected my checked bag and settled down for another wait as I watched the snow gently falling outside. A cool thing at the Spokane airport is that they have rocking chairs scattered around the airport.

After Julie arrived, we set off to run some errands. Our first stop was a thrift store, where I was able to find a pair of snow pants that will work for me. Apparently the town where we’ll be having the reunion is even snowier than Spokane.

After a couple more stops to buy food for the reunion, we headed north on the 45-minute drive to Julie’s house—and the car died. Julie managed to get it off onto the shoulder, but we were close enough to the right lane on the highway that every passing vehicle rocked the car. Sometimes you get more of an adventure than you bargained for!

After calling her husband and the AAA, it seemed the most likely explanation was that she had run out of gas. So we bundled up a little more and talked while waiting for rescue.

Eventually, a man showed up with a can of gas which he dispensed into Julie’s tank. Sure enough, the engine fired right up! Naturally we made a beeline to a gas station where she could fill the tank before continuing on our way through stunningly beautiful snow-covered woodland.

Julie’s new home is a cottage that she and her husband are still in the process of renovating. It is by a lake that just looks like a snow-covered field at the moment. It was such a relief to arrive and have a cup of tea! After which both of us took naps . . .

In the evening we got to work on kitchen duties for the reunion. I did all the cutting of stew ingredients while Julie coated and browned the meat. We also spent quite a time working on a jigsaw puzzle she had set up. Her husband Ken arrived back from a business trip also.

Before I knew it, it was 11:00, which was 1:00 in the morning Texas time! I don’t know how I managed to keep going that long. But I have to say that after spending a night sleeping in a chair in an airport, getting to take a hot shower and then climb into a warm comfy bed seems like the most luxurious thing in the world.

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 . . . .

False Alarm

Today was a day when I wished I was in another state—the state of Colorado, to be specific, so I could have gone to my daughter-in-law Tiffany’s baby shower. All that sewing I did last weekend was for the baby shower—6 sheets, 8 burp cloths, and a blanket. I sent them to Tiffany’s mother so she could take them to the shower. Everything was either space themed or dinosaur themed.

But since I was here in Texas, with way too much work to do, I did work—mostly for school, as my full teaching schedule starts up again on Monday and I am still trying to finish my grading from last semester.

At the same time, I had received an alarming email saying that my “local” World Market store would be closing. In my case, the closest store is an hour’s drive away—but I felt I had to make time to go and stock up on a few imported goodies for my Geography class.

I zoomed over to the store in very heavy traffic, and found the place doing a booming business with no sign of closing or going out of business. Today happened to be the day they were giving away free cookbooks, and a very patient young man helped me sign up as he was so determined to give me a cookbook. I asked him if the store was closing and he said no. I stocked up anyway. I mean, I don’t get over there all that often.

When I went to check out, the cashier looked in bemusement at the items I was getting. “That’s a very eclectic assortment,” he said. Yep. That’s me. Eclectic. I told him I taught a Geography class and had to get things from different parts of the world.

Meanwhile, Jasper took down the outside Christmas decorations and my husband heroically tackled the taking down of the Christmas tree. It is a huge job, and it took him much of the day. By the time I returned from my shopping trip, the tree was back up in the attic and my chair was back in its rightful corner. And Lucy and Tanner had returned from their day at the university.

We had our family dinner tonight because Walter and I have life group tomorrow, so Spencer and Jade came over to eat and visit with us. Jasper was at his gaming night but there’s not much we could do about that!

There are still a few decorations to come down, including my teacup tree, but I got all the ornaments off it this evening so the rest can wait until tomorrow.

Meanwhile, there is a stack of papers waiting to be graded . . .

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!

In Which a Miracle Occurs

Huh. I guess I missed posting on Twelfth Night. I fell asleep at my computer trying to prepare for today and I guess I figured maybe I should go to bed instead of struggling to be alert enough to write something coherent. And our Twelfth Night festivities have been postponed due to Lucy’s being out of town (with Tanner visiting his grandparents).

Yesterday ended up being another very intense sewing day because I was trying to meet a deadline and I also had to make it to the post office to mail a couple of things before it closed. (I succeeded.)

I also stopped by the clinic and finally made an appointment for Jasper. His severely infected toe is not getting any better, despite his protestations, and I really do not want a repeat of what we went through with Flynn when he was a teenager. After a couple of years of treatments, including surgery and intravenous antibiotics, and thousands of dollars, he still ended up getting both of his big toenails permanently removed. The bad news is that Jasper’s appointment isn’t until the 27th, so he will have to suffer a little longer. If the subject of permanent removal comes up, we will jump on it.

For the rest of yesterday, I was knitting and also preparing for today’s tutoring session. My English classes don’t officially start until next week, but I have some new students starting with my younger class, so I had them come today so I could do my best to prepare them for jumping in midstream, as it were. I think it went pretty well.

After lunch I set off with dread in my heart. I could no longer put off a task I’ve been avoiding since July, which is when I bought plane tickets to Spokane for next weekend. Unfortunately, Walter won’t be able to accompany me after all, but I still plan to attend a reunion up there in the frozen north. My problem? Footwear.

I have no footwear suitable for wearing in snow, or even very cold weather. In fact, I have exactly four options: my three-year-old men’s flip flops, which are my everyday wear; men’s leather sandals; men’s clogs; and a pair of neoprene slippers which I pretend are shoes and which I wear when I am trying to dress “up.” None of these things will work in real winter conditions.

I have known for months that I would have to find boots of some kind by this month. But when shoe-shopping is fraught with frustration, disappointment, and humiliation every time for decades, it’s hard to make yourself do it. It’s not just that my feet are large due to my height, and wide due to growing up barefoot. I suffered a very serious injury to my left foot and ankle as a teenager, which was not properly treated, and the resulting arthritis has made it almost impossible to wear anything but sandals, flip flops, and clogs, no matter how high the price tag might be.

I trudged into the sporting goods store with very low expectations. I knew better than to even look in the women’s section. I glanced at the knee-high wellingtons and hoped that wasn’t my only option. As I expected, most of the boots on offer fell into the categories of very expensive work boots or even more expensive cowboy boots. After looking at all my options, I decided to try on a pair of “tactical” boots. Apparently these are designed for law enforcement.

This is when the miracle occurred. First, I was actually able to get my feet into them, and do the laces up over my misshapen arthritic ankle. Secondly, I was able to stand up and walk in them without gasping in pain. They aren’t by any means the most comfortable footwear I’ve ever worn (that would be my men’s slippers!) but I think I should be able to wear them for short forays outdoors while I’m in Washington, especially if I make myself wear them to walk in for a little while every day until I leave. I’ll just have to schedule my walks in them for times when someone is home to help me take the boots off, because it was a bit of a struggle in the store. Downright embarrassing, to be honest.

There is nothing cute or fashionable about my new boots. No woman my age wants to be out and about wearing police boots. But, if they’re functional, and if I can wear them without being in actual agony, that’s more than can be said for 99% of the footwear I’ve tried on in the last 20 years, so I’m calling it a win. And I found them at the very first store I tried!

I went for a walk around the campus at sunset (NOT wearing my new boots) and enjoyed the dropping temperatures and deserted landscape. Over the next few days the students will return and the school will roar back to life. I am already into class mode, trying to catch up with the grading that fell by the wayside during my holiday travels.

Mission Accomplished

If you’ve been reading this journal for long, then you may have noticed that I tend to sew in spurts. I can’t seem to find time to fit in a few minutes of sewing in my daily life, so every now and then I work really hard on a project for hours or days until I get it done.

Because I start teaching again next week, and because I’ve done so much traveling recently, I knew today was going to have to be a sewing day if I was going to do what I had committed to do—make some sheets for the baby bed I took to Flynn and Tiffany last month.

I had all the materials. All my fabric had been prewashed. Still, I had other things I had to do this morning, including running a couple of errands, so I didn’t even get the table all the way cleared for cutting out until noon. And I still had to do all the math to figure out what size rectangles I needed to cut.

Since this bed takes a cradle-sized mattress, I had to measure the mattress, figure out how the sheet would cover it, and add seam allowances, etc. Fortunately, I have a mattress here that goes with the cradle, because it would be really hard to fit the sheets properly without it.

The first sheet was a prototype and fit a little too snugly, so I made adjustments before cutting any more out. Once I had it all figured out, I could form an assembly line of sorts. Cutting out, ironing, serging, sewing, etc. I had to take several little breaks because nonstop sewing is really hard on my back and shoulders these days. During my breaks I worked on vocabulary for my students.

My goal was to get six sheets cut out and sewn today, and I did it. Whew! I know it doesn’t seem like much. Sheets are not complicated. These particular sheets are designed like an envelope with an overlap on the bottom, so they can’t come off the mattress no matter how wiggly a baby might be. But simple or not, it still took me all afternoon and much of the evening to get them done. I made four flannel sheets and two that are plain cotton.

In addition, I cut out a blanket and 8 burp cloths which I hope to assemble soon. I felt I had to take advantage of having the table cleared off, and cut out as much stuff as possible.

So for once I feel like I had a pretty productive Saturday. Meanwhile, Jasper did some blacksmithing with a couple of friends this morning and then helped fix a car and went out for coffee. Lucy and Tanner went to a wedding and then went out for coffee too. Walter did some work around the house this morning, but he is still pretty sick so he spent most of the afternoon napping. I think this illness is dragging on so long because he doesn’t get enough rest, so I’m glad he was able to today. Now that my sewing is done, I am looking forward to resting my aching back . . . .

A Glimmer of Hope

My husband’s cancer diagnosis isn’t exactly a surprise, given his family history. Both his grandfather and father died of cancer, and his aunt and uncle have both had it too. I knew he was at high risk for skin cancer because he is very fair-skinned and he worked outdoors in the sun for years. In my mind, it was not “if” but “when” he would get it. Somehow, though, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept when it actually happens.

So today my husband received in the mail the actual printed report from the dermatologist about his cancerous mole, and it definitely cleared some things up for us.

When the doctor’s office had called the report in to him, he was working in the garage and had no way of writing anything down. What he heard was “stage IV melanoma.” But looking at the report today, I saw that it actually says “level IV” melanoma, which is a completely different thing. After a few minutes of research, I had a much better idea of what has actually been discovered so far.

Level IV means that the cancer had spread down into the next two layers of skin, but NOT into the fat layer below. The thickness of the tumor was under the size that is usually associated with aggressive spreading, so it is actually unlikely that the melanoma has spread to other parts of his body.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s still cancer and it’s still scary. But after reading the report and looking everything up, I find I can be cautiously optimistic for the time being. He was able to make an appointment for a consultation with the surgeon for next Thursday. Maybe we’ll know more after that appointment, but in the meanwhile the situation doesn’t seem as dire as it did on Monday. I’m so glad he requested to have the report mailed to him!

Today everyone was back at work. Despite being sick for the last week and a half, Walter went to work, and so did Jasper. Lucy was back at her job in the library. And I had to start organizing my papers so I can have some hope of being ready to start teaching next week!

I also made an excursion to JoAnn’s in Tyler to pick up some fabric I ordered. I’m hoping that Saturday will be a big “sewing-for-the-baby” day so I wanted to make sure I had all the materials I might need. And I enjoyed the rainy drive. It wasn’t raining hard at all—just sprinkling.

A Rough Road Ahead

Like many of you, I’m sure, I sometimes think of the New Year as opening a door and walking from one room (last year) into another room (this year). We never know what is on the other side of that door until we open it and walk all the way into that new room.

Sometimes, though, we know enough to have some idea of what we’ll be facing—and that’s where the analogy breaks down, because with a real door and real rooms, you can choose whether or not to step through the doorway. With time, you don’t have that option. I already know enough about this new year to know that it holds a great deal of pain and probably grief and loss. Yet, willing or not, I have already stepped through that door along with the rest of you.

One ongoing challenge will be our parents’ situations. My parents and Walter’s mother are all facing health difficulties. I drove to Tennessee on Friday knowing that this visit might be the last time I saw my mother—or my dad, for that matter. I stopped briefly on the way to drop some things off for Mary and Jordan and to visit with them and our mutual friend Rebekah, who had come to visit them.

It was long after my aunt’s bedtime when I arrived in Crossville but I got a key from my dad and let myself in. I think I’m the only one who ever stays in her guest room and I am so grateful for it.

Saturday morning I headed to the nursing home. It was hard to see Mom in a nursing home and watch how helpless she is. She needed help to get from her bed to the wheelchair. Help to use the restroom. Help to get dressed. Eating and taking medication were very difficult for her and she seemed to struggle with manipulating her utensils.

She was so happy to see me and my brother Jon (who arrived the day before me). Jon and I spent all day Saturday with Mom, telling stories and helping her in any way we could. She opened the photo book I’d made and really loved it. “This book has everything I could ever want in a photo book,” she said.

I was the only one with her at lunchtime, and despite using all the wiles at my disposal, I couldn’t get her to eat anything but her dessert. Dad is much more effective at getting her to eat.

By the time I left the nursing home on Saturday, I was feeling pretty wrung out. My original plan to get my computer and go somewhere with internet went out the window. Instead, I picked up a $5 movie at Dollar General and holed up in my room at my aunt’s house and drank tea while watching the movie on my computer. (My aunt goes to bed very early so is not around in the evenings.)

Sunday morning I got up to drink tea and visit with my aunt before taking her next door to the church to meet up with my dad and Jon. It’s been many a year since I sat next to my brother in church! And I love that little church and the chance to sing real hymns and Christmas carols.

After church the others went out for lunch while I went back to my aunt’s place and made myself a big thermos of tea to take to the nursing home. The previous day I hadn’t so fortified myself, mistakenly believing they’d have hot water and teabags there. They did not. They only had hot coffee and iced tea (bleh). I was so desperate I actually drank a cup of black coffee. Not wanting to repeat that experience, I made sure I had plenty of tea to make it through the rest of the day before driving over to the nursing home.

When I arrived, my youngest brother Greg was there, having driven in from Ohio. By that time we already had a routine established: when Mom was awake, we focused on spending time with her. When she was ready to nap, we congregated in the lobby and spent time visiting with each other. This is the most time I’ve spent with my brothers in decades!

By a little after 5:00 p.m. my brother Matt had arrived from Indiana and our family was complete. Mom was so happy to have us all in one room.

When she was ready to go to sleep for the night, the rest of us reconvened at a Mexican restaurant for supper and fellowship. I can’t overstate enough how much I enjoyed hanging out with my brothers.

Monday was my last day there. Once again I visited with my aunt in the morning before leaving. I changed my schedule a little and decided to leave that evening rather than driving the whole way home to Texas on Tuesday. So I did pack up a lot of my stuff before heading to the nursing home. I stopped to fill my gas tank on the way so I wouldn’t have to do it at night.

My brother Matt spent the morning helping my dad at the house while the rest of us went to be with Mom. She was able to sit up in her wheelchair for longer than we’d ever seen and was eagerly awaiting her physical therapy, which she really looks forward to every weekday. They are working with her on regaining her strength and mobility.

While I stayed with Mom during her lunch and therapy, the others went to the boys’ hotel to eat lunch. When Mom finally finished her therapy, I thought she be ready to nap, but she asked to be put back in her wheelchair because she didn’t want to miss anything! I finally convinced her to get some rest because I knew she needed it.

Meanwhile, at about the same time, I received a text which changed my life and my outlook for the coming year. My husband texted me that test results had come back on the mole he had removed on December 18: malignant melanoma. They told him it was “stage 4” but I have since realized they have no way of knowing this yet. Stage 4 would mean the cancer has spread to other parts of his body and that has not yet been investigated. But still, it was devastating news and it came at a time when I was already emotionally compromised.

I met up with my dad and brothers and told them the news. All of them except I think my youngest brother Greg have had skin cancer and have had it successfully removed. Not sure if any of those were melanoma though. At the time, I had to compartmentalize that information so I could continue to focus on my mom for a few more hours.

Back at the nursing home, my mom was thrilled to see us. We took her on a walk to the lobby in her wheelchair so she could see the birds they have there. We were quite a procession with wheelchair, oxygen tank, and four tall men! The photo I posted yesterday was from that excursion.

We arranged for mom to have her supper in the dining room so that we could sit at the table with her and visit while she ate her supper. I’m not impressed with the food at the nursing home, but I also realize how hard it must be to make meals to accommodate so many different dietary requirements. And everyone who cared for my mother was so kind and sweet and patient. I’m thankful for each one of them.

So anyway, that was a real treat having the six of us around the table telling stories and talking with Mom. Afterward, she was tired and Dad helped get her ready for bed. Then it was time to say goodbye. It is so hard to say goodbye when every goodbye could be the last one. The four of us stood at the foot of her bed to say goodbye. My three brothers would be there another day, but I would not.

Mom was already in her nightgown and Dad was getting ready to put on her bi-pap machine that helps her breathe at night. She looked so tiny and frail lying there looking up at us—but she also had a huge smile on her face to see her four kids all there together at the end of her bed. I would go so far as to say her smile was radiant. We said our goodbyes and started to leave but I had to turn back for one last look at Mom. The smile was still there. I can’t even remember the last time I saw her look so happy—which made it even harder to walk away.

My brothers and I met up at a restaurant for supper—just the four of us. I really enjoyed that time together as siblings, something we have so rarely had as adults, living as we do in four different states.

Eventually, of course, we had to say our goodbyes so that I could get on the road. I went back to my aunt’s house, collected my stuff, loaded my car, then drove to my parents’ house to give my key back to my dad and say goodbye to him as well. I finally hit the road at about 9:30.

As I drove that night to the far side of Nashville, and the next day also, I had a strong feeling that I was driving away from one heartache and toward another. Tuesday morning I stopped for over an hour in Memphis to visit with Mary and Jordan and Rebekah again. It was a nice break from all the driving.

Later yesterday, as I neared our hometown, I saw many fireworks going off. On an impulse, I stopped at a fireworks stand and waited in a long line to buy a few sparklers to bring home, and then stopped again to get the supplies for our traditional New Year’s Eve chocolate fondue.

By the time I reached our neighborhood at 8:00, the air was already full of smoke and gunshots and fireworks were going off almost constantly.

And now—I’m here. Walter has a daunting series of tasks ahead of him. As of today, he no longer has health insurance (the university has stopped providing it). Tomorrow he will call a surgeon to set up a consultation. For sure he will lose another big chunk out of his arm where the mole was.

We are looking at at least one more surgery, biopsies of lymph nodes, and a more thorough examination to look for other cancerous moles. Depending on what they find, other treatments like chemotherapy and radiation may also be in my husband’s future.

It is hard to start a new year knowing that this road lies ahead of us. At least we know that one very happy event is coming up this year—the birth of our first grandchild. For the rest of it, we’d appreciate your prayers.

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 . . .