Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Little Sister

My sister has a beautiful heart that is often misunderstood. She loves to help others and does it in very quiet ways without a lot of bells and whistles. She likes to work behind the scenes, doing things that others don't always recognize as needing to be done or aren't able to do.

Recently, she has been volunteering her time, singing with a group of people who go to hospitals, nursing homes, and people's residences and minister with music to those who are terminally ill.

This week, I was surprised by a package that arrived in the mail from my sister which contained this:

It is a collection of some of the music they sing to those who are dying.

I immediately put it in my CD player and listened to the whole thing. It was wonderful and I picked my favorites out right away.

Of course my absolute favorite is the one featuring her as the soloist. It helps that it is a song I grew up singing and reminds me of the times I sang it at the top of my lungs in church. It also makes me think a little bit about what heaven will be like when we all get to sing our hearts out...together...forever.

Proceeds from the sale of this CD go to benefit the hospice organization in Rutland. I used to volunteer for hospice and my grandmother, who recently passed away, was taken care of by some pretty special hospice workers right up until her death. Needless to say, I think a great deal of them and what they do for people with terminal illness.

I strongly encourage everyone to purchase a copy of this CD, whether you like the music or not. Your money is going to a good organization, and you never know when you might be the one on the receiving end of their services.

Here is my favorite song on the CD: "I'll Fly Away," featuring My Little Sister.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you can call Rutland Area Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice at 802-770-1537.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Does Anyone Mind if I Scream?

My summer has not gone as planned.

I know. Huge news flash, right?

It has been filled with surgeries and doctor's appointments and recoveries and schedule-jugglings and stuff.

I wanted it to be this totally great and fun summer for my daughter. I had planned all sorts of activities that we were going to do together, but they never happened.

We have squeezed a few things in here and there, but I feel really badly about what I have not done. I am sad that summer is almost over.

Today, I went through all of Allika's curriculum and planned out her daily schedule for the next four weeks. We have decided to home-school her, and I couldn't be more excited. Yes, there are a lot of "what-ifs" and "what-on-earth-are-you-thinking-I-can't-believe-you-would-do-such-a-thing-at-this-point-in-you-lifes," but I welcome those challenges and love to discuss the differing viewpoints on the issue. Maybe I will write a post about that...someday.

I am also in the process of getting my school schedule figured out without a lot of cooperation from my academic adviser. I feel like I am entering the twilight zone when I walk into that office. Just recently she refused to give me a schedule I needed because she insisted that I already had it. Do you know how completely hair-wrenching that can be? When someone can control your destiny by telling you what you do and don't have without any real ability to know what you do and don't have? I think I can read the papers you gave me, and no, that schedule is not amongst them. She concludes that I must have just lost it in the ten minutes it took me to drive from her office to my house. Okay, we will go with that. Can you just send me another one? No, because I already gave it to you.

Ooooh. Power trip.


*Rip hair out*

Do I have a sign on my face that says, "Please just be completely inefficient and incompetent in your dealings with me because I'd like nothing more than to have to report you to your supervisor because it really adds a lot of time to my already hectic and crazy life."

Seriously. There was that time at Wub-Say, when they were going to make me take the meatballs off my own sandwich with my fingers because they couldn't put marinara sauce and pepperoni on the same sandwich, but they could put meatballs with marinara sauce and pepperoni on the same sandwich. No, I am not making these things up.

It's seriously the sign on my face.

Then, there was the time at our friendly mega huge super store that rhymes with Shmall-shmart. They wouldn't give me the money back for a brand new sewing machine that had a manufacturer's defect. Their reason? It was not their machine to guarantee; it was the manufacturer's. I would have to call the manufacturer to get my money back.

They really think I'm stupid, and I can't figure out why. I was tossing around possible reasons with my husband, who wisely agreed that he couldn't figure out why they thought I was stupid either. I came up with the theory that I must look like trailer trash and everyone thinks they can pull one over on me.

It's a theory anyway. Any other ideas?

Sorry for the very angry post. Thanks for letting me rant.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

An Attitude Adjustment

This morning I was sick, so I didn't go to church. We live in a parsonage right next to the church, so when I heard a knock on my door, I knew it was someone from church, coming to see how I was.

I have to admit, I didn't have the greatest attitude. I thought to myself, "What part of sick don't you understand?"

I hurriedly dressed myself and opened the door to find my two Liberian sisters standing there. I thought we would just exchange a few pleasantries, I would let them know I was doing okay, thank them for coming, and they would be on their way.

No. They wanted to come in. They knew I was sick, and they wanted to come in and stay for a while. You've got to be kidding me. What were they thinking?

They pulled out my piano bench, and told me to sit down. So, I did.

Then, something happened that I'm still processing and marveling over. They took my hands, formed a circle, and started singing words spontaneously as they came to them.

"Our God is able. He is so able. Our God is powerful. He is so powerful."

It was a beautiful thing to hear their rich voices and thick accents singing over me. Then, just as quickly as they started singing, they broke out into praying simultaneously, each saying different words but building off of what the other was saying. They got louder and louder and squeezed my hands tighter and tighter.

All of a sudden, the floodgates broke, and I started to cry. The tears just began to fall. It felt so good because I have not really cried since I've received the news that I have cancer.

Their words were beautiful and went straight to my heart. They told God that I was his hand-maiden. That made me think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, telling God that she was his hand-maiden and he could do with her as he pleased. Now, I am in no way comparing me to her or my situation to hers, but it helps me put into perspective what the big picture is.

I am his hand-maiden, and he can do with me as he pleases. That is my heart's desire, and sometimes, it gets drowned out by my own fears and limited comprehension of what is real and what is a fake imitation.

I have never had anyone pray over me like that. I am not saying that one style of prayer is better than another. I have, however, gotten very used to the Anglicized way of praying. I know it is a cultural thing, but sometimes experiencing it from a different perspective breathes new life into something to which you've grown accustomed.

That is what my dear sisters did for me. Just the two of them plus me in the privacy of my own living room.

It was like a gift.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Mother

Last week was my mom's 60th birthday. She got to celebrate it by being admitted to the hospital and having a hemo dialysis shunt put in to take over her peritoneal dialysis. It had not been functioning properly, causing her to be sick and her body to fill up with fluid.

I really wish I could have been there on Sunday when my sister threw a tea party for her in the little clearing in the woods behind the trailer where she lives. She arrived to be surprised by a handful of friends singing "Happy Birthday" to her and started crying. She sat down in the recliner which had been provided for her and rested while my sister read a few memories that had been written for her by friends and family from all over the country. She cried again when her friend said a prayer thanking God for her life. She laughed and reminisced at photos of her from different stages in her life.

As small and simple as it all was, she told me later that it was more than she deserved.

It almost makes me cry just writing those words because if you knew my mom, you would know she deserved it and ever so much more. Her humility in that statement is just a small part of her beauty.

I thought I would write 60 things about my mom to celebrate the 60 years of a beautiful life lived.

My mom...
1.) Is intelligent.
2.) Is a fighter.
3.) Is content in whatever circumstance she's in.
4.) Made a life-changing decision about 35 years ago to follow Jesus wherever He leads her and has never looked back.
5.) Is not perfect and has never pretended to be.
6.) Is strong.
7.) Has sacrificed everything for her family.
8.) Is humble.
9.) Is a hard-worker.
10.)Does not gossip.
11.)Has NEVER interfered with my life or my family since I left home and got married.
12.)Is underestimated.
13.)Home-schooled five kids through high-school graduation.
14.)Is simple.
15.)Used to be a hippie.
16.)Is a trail-blazing, mold-breaking pioneer.
17.)Is named after her grandmother (Dorothea Brande) who was a well-known author.
18.)Was a preacher's wife for twenty-five years.
19.)Is a teacher.
20.)Writes beautiful commentaries all over her Bibles which I love to inherit when she has to get a new one.
21.)Has had one kidney transplant and is waiting for another one.
22.)NEVER complains about her health and actually tries to minimize it to people.
23.)Is not materialistic in any way (she is very hard to buy gifts for).
24.)Has been known to have complete break-downs while raising us kids, from which we have gathered many embarrassing stories and like to tell them every now and then.
25.)Tries to believe the best about people and forgives even when she has been mistreated and slighted.
26.)Opened her home to many troubled people over the years.
27.)Is a self-proclaimed bad cook (but I actually miss some of her dishes now that I'm gone).
28.)Is open-minded and willing to listen to others.
29.)Is the oldest of eight children.
30.)Hitch-hiked across Europe for two years.
31.)Loves to sing alto at the top of her lungs.
32.)Has been married to my father for 36 years.
33.)Used phrases such as "That's the way the cookie crumbles," "It's as fair as elephant's knees," and "Because I'm mean, old, ugly, and bald-headed" whenever we children complained about some perceived slight or unfairness in her dealings with us.
34.)Had one daughter, Gwendolyn Lareau Pratt, die when she was four days old.
35.)Grew up on a farm.
36.)Has ten living grandchildren and is a wonderful grandmother to all of them.
37.)Let us dress ourselves from the time we were little kids and never made us change no matter how mismatched and unsightly we looked.
38.)Plays the piano and taught us girls how to play.
39.)NEVER gave the answer, but made us look for it until we found it.
40.)Made my husband ask her permission every day before he could come pick me up from work while we were dating.
42.)Was always known as "Justin's daughter" growing up.
43.)Was always known as "Jessica's or Tanager's or Corinne's or Andrew's or Danielle's mom" when she grew up.
44.)Has never been vain a day in her life and is annoyed by primping and prissiness.
45.)Loves museums and took us to every free one within a 200 mile radius when we were growing up.
46.)Got up at 5:00 every morning to help me and my sister deliver newspapers for years.
47.)Is very frugal.
48.)Is practical.
49.)Loves and cares for people no matter their status.
50.)Wants "Big House" by Audio Adrenaline played at her funeral.
51.)Can speak German, Spanish, French, and English.
52.)Plays the cello.
53.)Had a horse that she loved to ride when she was growing up.
54.)Was on the ski team in school.
55.)Learned to roller skate in her forties (and broke her arm doing so).
56.)Learned to knit an afghan during her first round of hemo dialysis 12 years ago.
57.)Made us buy everything we needed growing up and never gave us money; we always had to earn it.
58.)Brought us kids to the nursing homes to sing for the elderly people when we were little kids until we were older.
59.)Was my doula for the birth of my first daughter.
60.)Is my hero and inspiration.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!

Friday, August 14, 2009

And a Good Time Was Had By All

Here is a hodge-podge of my week. I probably should break this post down into several, or just spare you the ramblings all-together, but I'm not going to. I did, however, spare you all from a cute, little song I learned while growing up about getting wet and being bad and drinking tea. Even though it would have been very appropriate right about now.

We went canoeing this week. The last time we went canoeing, I was six months pregnant, and we didn't know how to do much of anything but run into the bullrushes. This time we did much better about not running into the vegetation. That's only because there was no vegetation. Instead, we were in a group and kept running into other people's boats.

I am not sure how much I should say about this whole thing or not. The whole subject is a very volatile one. It has something to do with who is better at handling a canoe than someone else, but that someone else doesn't think that is the case, and the who doesn't want to hurt the someone else's feelings (although the who was quite adept at telling the someone else everything he/she was doing wrong). So we will just leave it at that.

Van said if we got out of it alive and with our marriage in tact, we were never going canoeing again.

I found a wonderful recipe for CHOCOLATE DESSERT that I can eat on my low iodine diet. I am so excited. This is a very fun cake to make, and it doesn't take any eggs or milk. The cocoa powder is okay to have because it isn't milk chocolate.

Wacky Cake
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cold water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together flour,
sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt into an 8 x 8 inch baking
pan or dish. Mix thoroughly. Make 3 holes in the
dry ingredients. Place oil in first hole, vinegar in
second hole, and vanilla in third hole. Pour water
over all and mix well. Spread batter evenly in pan
and bake in the dish that batter was mixed in. Bake
30 minutes or until center is firm. Cool.

I made a frosting by getting Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips (they don't have dairy in them and are worth their weight in gold), about two tablespoons of non-dairy butter (I can't remember the name and I don't feel like getting up and looking in the fridge right now), and a little bit of coconut milk. I melted that concoction in the microwave and poured it over the cake...simply DIVINE!!!

I have had a lot of fun quilting with a friend this week. We went to a Minnesota Shop Hop a while back. It's where you get a "pass-port" with 85 quilt shops from all over Minnesota, and you try to hit them all and get a stamp. You can turn your passport in for all sorts of prizes that don't even come close to what you've spent in time and gas money. We ran into some real die-hard quilters. They had their R.V.s and were tooling all over Minnesota so they could fill their passports and get their prizes.

No, we did not go to all 85, you silly people! We only went to seven. Each shop gives you a different block pattern, a piece of Minnesota-themed material, and, if you spend $10.00, a charm for your bracelet. It's kind of silly, but I felt like I was on a treasure hunt. And if you're into quilting, it's so much fun to browse the shops. Quilts are actually magnificent pieces of art.

I am still working on the same quilt I've been working on for...ahem...two years now. It's a stack-and-whack. I've gotten all the blocks done; now, I'm just working on piecing everything together. I really wish I could work on it more because it is so relaxing and fun. Sometimes, while my machine is purring away, I think, "Wow. This is wonderful. Why don't I do this more often." Then, my life and my schedule smack me up-side the head, and I become ever so aware of why I don't do it more often. It's a shame, really.

Well, this is becoming very long-winded. My mother always said I had diarrhea of the mouth. So, I will just leave you with the link to the sermon I promised you a few weeks ago. It is one of my favorite sermons by my favorite preacher-man.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What's in a Name?

My dear, sweet sister declared in no uncertain terms that I need to explain the title of my blog. She is tired of giving people my blog information because it is such a strange name to give a blog, and she wonders why I would have chosen such a thing.

She had strep throat and was rather grouchy.

I love you, dear, sweet sister.

And I owe everyone an explanation.

After my daughter died, my other daughter experienced a lot of internal emotions that she was not able to express in words. One way she verbalized the anxiety going on inside of her was by saying there were lots of mosquitos inside her. I thought that was a very accurate description of what she must have been feeling.

Since this is a blog for her, dealing with issues that could produce that same physical phenomenon (in her and me both), I kind of tweaked her metaphor by combining it with the age old saying "butterflies in my stomach" because I think anxiety is more like mosquitos than butterflies.

A while back, I wrote a dramatic monologue for a literature class I was taking, and I used as my subject her perspective in the death of her sister.

Here is the result:

A Girl and Her Sister

I holded my baby in my little blue rocky chair.
It’s okay baby, It’s okay baby.
I’ll give you some milk from my shirt.
Would you like a little tebby dare?
My baby is quiet now.
She shushed for a long time.
I don’t know what all the big people are doing.
Why do I have all these worries inside of me?
I think there’s some mosquitos inside me.
I haven’t seen my baby.
There’s the building with the pretty pictures in the window.
That’s where we left my baby.
I want to go get her.
Why don’t we just go get her back out of that building with the pretty pictures?
She’s not in that building anymore.
She’s down in the ground.
She's also up in heaven.
It’s a place you really like.
I don’t want to go there.
I want another little sister.
We can’t make a little sister.
Only God can make a little sister.
We can’t even make one out of paper.
Only heaven has that stuff.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Be Still, My Soul

This is an amazing song about my desire to control and tendency to struggle against God and what he requires of me for my ultimate wholeness. I included my favorite performance of this song by Selah.

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change God faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: your God will undertake
to guide the future, as in ages past.
Your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

To Dive Or Not to Dive

Allika has been petrified of jumping off the diving board for the duration of her swimming lessons. All her fellow-swimmers conquered the board, but Allika had too many fears associated with attempting a jump.

"The board wobbles when I walk out onto it, and it scares me."

"I'm afraid it will hurt when I hit the water."

"What if I hit my head on the way down and pass out. Will you come rescue me?"

And on and on and on.

We tried to be very patient and did not put a lot of pressure on her, but all throughout her swimming classes she showed no intention of trying to dive. She also isn't prone to peer pressure, which is a good thing, I suppose. Even when those in lower level classes were jumping, she was not. She seemed perfectly content to jump off the side and swim like a fish in the deep end, but for some reason, she couldn't bring herself to jump off the diving board.

Over the last few days, though, we started encouraging her to at least give it a try. We told her that we didn't care if she didn't actually jump, but we wanted her to walk out on the board and make somewhat of an effort.

Then, we pulled out the big guns. We told her that if she jumped off the diving board by the last day of class, we would take her to eat at one of her favorite restaurants. We took the bribery a step further and told her she could pick a prize out of her prize basket, also.

Well, it's been a slow and steady progression over the last several days, but here is the final result.

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention she insisted on wearing a life jacket, which was completely unnecessary.

Kind of reminds me of someone else I know who is afraid to take a few leaps she is perfectly capable of taking.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Love

One of the things I miss the most on my low-iodine diet is my milk. I use milk for my cereal, baking, etc. Furthermore, I can't have the essentials, like chocolate and ice-cream because of the milk in them.

So I set off on a quest to find some kind of substitute. At first, I thought maybe goat's milk would work. However, after asking the dairy guy at the store, I learned that goat's milk is considered dairy and has iodine in it, as well.

I can't have soy, so that eliminated that alternative.

Almond milk? It has sea salt in it (what??!!).

Oh!! I know! Oat's Milk! That will work! Until I read the label. It has soy in it, too. Why?

I was beginning to get quite discouraged and was on the verge of giving up.

And then, I saw it in the distance.

It was standing so tall and erect like a beacon in the night. I heard music playing softly in my head as I bridged the gap between us in slow motion, the wind gently blowing my hair in wisps across my face.

Coconut milk. I have found you at last. How have I ever lived before this moment. And the things you can do with ice-cream simply amaze me. Ours will be a long and beautiful relationship.

Yes, it will.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I Love This!

Everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I may have Christ and become one with him.

I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God's law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith.

As a result, I can really know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I can learn what it means to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that, somehow, I can experience the resurrection from the dead!

I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.

I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

I hope all of you who are mature Christians will agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must be sure to obey the truth we have learned already.

Pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. Their future is eternal destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and all they think about is this life here on earth.

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.

He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same mighty power that he will use to conquer everything, everywhere.

Philippians 3:8-21

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Yay! More Junk!!

I am getting ready to go on a little two-day trip tomorrow. Every time I leave my family, I feel like I will never see them again. I just hate being away from them for any length of time. Yes, I have issues.

I will be leaving in the afternoon and be back Monday evening, at which time we will have a camp-out in the back yard. I'm actually looking forward to that. I just love my family and spending time with them.

Today, I thought I would do some fun things with Allika since I won't get to see her for a few days. (Can you tell I'm really having a hard time with this?) She absolutely loves garage-saling, so we went to a few. It is difficult taking her at this point because she thinks she has to buy something at every sale. If I tell her we really don't need that right now, the obvious answer is, "Then why are we even garage-saling in the first place? Do we need any of this stuff right now?" Oh, the dilemmas with which our children present us.

I have tried that whole "buy it with your own money" thing, but that does not stop her from buying the first thing she sees at each sale until she runs out of money. It just doesn't teach her a thing about thinking through her purchases.

The solution I came up with was to tell her that she could only buy one thing for the whole day. She would have to make sure whatever she decided to buy was something she knew she really, really wanted because it would be the only thing she was getting the whole day.

Of course, she found what she could not live without at the very first garage sale. Ugh.

"Allika, you need to wait until you have looked at other garage sales because you might see something else you would rather have, and you won't be able to buy it."

"I know this is what I want. I don't want anything else."

Kind of defeats the whole point of taking your daughter garage-saling to spend some time together.

I told her she could not buy it until we had gone to all the other garage sales, and she still wanted it. I also added some fine print to which she agreed. If she bought it, she had to let me get rid of several of her things to make room for it. I am no dummy.

Well, at each new garage sale, she declared, "I don't see anything I want here. This is just other people's junk. Maybe that's why they're selling it, so other people will buy their junk." Very perceptive six-year-old.

I tried to convince her to buy another, more practical purchase that was $7.00 cheaper and took up much less room (about 3 sq. ft. worth), but she would have none of it. Even after I had the lady open the box and show us how it worked.

When it was all said and done, we made our way back to the original sale where, much to my chagrin, it was still there. I had been secretly hoping it would have sold while we were perusing the other sales.

(Yes, this is a blog for my daughter that she will read someday, and I will be exposed for what I am.)

My daughter came home the proud owner of a new contraption, and I promptly cashed in on our deal to rid her room of lots and lots of junk. It was kind of a win-win situation in the long run.

By way of an update on "The Thyroid," we found out that my insurance will cover the more convenient treatment that doesn't require me to go off my thyroid medicine for three weeks. The reason why this is a good thing is because it means I will not have to have really bad mood swings and not be able to get out of bed and function. Yay! That is an answer to prayer.

I am going to try to post something tomorrow because I have been marinating in this cool passage for a while now. I want to share it because it has really had an impact on me. If I don't get the time (with church and my trip and all), I will just have to contain my excitement until Tuesday.