Thursday, August 27, 2015

Learning Life skills.

What awesome things my kids are learning while here in NY. Many opportunities to do stuff we have never done while we were missionaries.  Grandpa has a smoker. Little Miss Sunshine helped clean a Walleye from a tournament. The Team: Dances With Fishes, Won big money for the fish they brought in. I love the fact that they eat what they catch. They had a big party and cleaned fish, they sent all comers home with the fruits of their labor, after stuffing us with deep-fried goodness.

Little Miss Sunshine loves all protein especially when its been dried or smoked.

 She started pestering Grandpa to smoke the fish. He said he didn't know how. As the pout started to form on her lips... Grandpa starts talking about how much fish he already has in the freezer. An idea formed in my mind... I said well Grandpa why not let her look up how to do it as a school project?

Sweet Potato is learning about "early" foods. I'm sure those 2 small fishes that Jesus multiplied were smoked or dried fish.. How else could Momma have packed them in the morning for his lunch? What better way to understand than to see it for yourself, and in this case taste it too! He agreed with alacrity, She ran off to get a tablet to look it up on google immediately. Well 3 days later she is holding 3 pounds of smoked fish.  She cleaned it. She made the brine, and soaked it. Today, Grandpa prepared the smoker and they smoked it together.  These memories will be priceless treasures her whole life long.  Meanwhile this non-fish eating human just loves it smoked... cause well it tastes more like bacon than fish. Yummmmmm Bacon of the Lake...

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Through Life's Storms

A friend of mine texted me today about how my life has been one storm after another for such a long time and how well she thought I was weathering it. She said she was praying for me.  Words cannot express how grateful I am for all those of you praying us through this time of upheaval. I look back at the past year and see so much loss, best friends moving on everyone in our family experienced a bestie leaving, loss of one of our dogs, a new job for hubby but at the cost of loss of fellowship with so many good friends as our Venn circles no longer overlap, loss of our housing attached to the old job, and the hardest loss of all, the death of my mother the kids grandmother.  
I have been amazed at God's timing how he put me here in New York at just the right time to be a help and companion to my father. I may not be the best of companions but at least I'm here  :-)  We are hoping to close on the new house as soon as possible, please pray for favor with mortgage companies as government entities have lost documents on us... Pray they are found or are not needed. 
I did not want the girls to get to far behind so I did order some of this years curriculum. It arrived yesterday and I started assigning blocks of work. Since we only have pieces I'm having them do about 2 of each assignments per unit. I could not imagine trying to cart all the books we needed back to Texas in the tiny car we just bought for Daddies commuter. It will be a fun trip home! ha ha ha.  
I cannot believe Little Miss Sunshine is starting Algebra she is ready. Yet this week she has discovered the meaning of brain drain. Use it or lose it! She has not done any math over the summer other than looking at price tags and figuring out if she has enough money to buy the article of clothing. She was laughing at herself today that she could not remember 3x3 is 9! I have assigned a few extra math work sheets to warm up her math skills. 
I was so glad Sweet Potato's friend was praying for her today as she absolutely flew though addition of polynomials today. Woo hoo! She was all smiles as she was sifting though the math facts to get the answers. She was really trying today so less frustration for everyone.    My poor father has his dining room table taken over for hours at a time now. The girls are using the tablets for more than just fun and games... My poor candy crush saga is going no where... LOL. I'm glad I have them working on school. It was a good decision as it has been too cold to go swimming. Today it is 66 degrees out and raining. Brr... They had been OD'ing on TV while handy to keep them occupied during the daily hospital runs, how much back to back  "Say Yes To The Dress" can one watch without getting bored?  You know they have watched enough TV when your child says "Mom I have watched every Good Luck Charlie episode." with a hang dog expression in their eyes.  Doing school has normalized the days for the girls which in turn helps them process this nomadic life we are living at the moment. 

I never realized how hard it is for my kids to meet people in a new place.  I'm totally joining the nearest home school co-op when we get back! Never before was it an issue, as we were in a large community of friends who homeschooled.  I am looking forward to moving in, putting down some roots and letting Little Miss Sunshine raise a few rabbits. We may even join 4-H club. What a thought... it meets every other Tuesday night at 7pm and I can go! I'm grateful I have a place to weather the storms, supporting my dad and being supported by him. I am looking forward to traveling home and spending time as a complete family unit again. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015


This is a poem I have been working on since October of 2014. I never felt it was quiet finished but since My knight In Shining Armor posted poetry  I sat down hoping the muse would also smile upon me.  I was able to pour out yet more of my emotions into finally finishing this poem.


Brokenhearted at the crossroads I stand.
No matter where the road turns or where I land,

You are right beside me.

No signs say this way is best,
Should I just tamely follow the rest?
Not a breeze flutters my hair,
as I ask "Which way Lord?" To the air.

Your silence is disconcerting...

Once voice says:
Your sad at my choice.

One voice says:
This is just a test.

One voice says:
You can freely choose.

So I ask again "Lord which way?"

The frogs go peep, the crickets sigh,
A dog in the distance howls a lonely cry.
Tears course down my cheeks at the sound,
They fall to the earth, rich and round.

My Lord and I stand side by side,
You hold my hand, I whisper, "Is it here we bide?'
Not a step forward or back does he go,
So here we stand; at the crossroad.

The sky turns pink at the setting of the day,
The clouds converge in a fantastic display,
Through the gathering storm descends the sun.
When will we be all one?

Do these paths go plodding on and on?
Does one lead to glory?
Does one lead to death?
We watch and I wait for the dawn.

The day has begun beautiful; yet devastated.
The death of dawn so unexpected.
Who knows the pain of walking through this door.
My grief lost in the midst of more,

My Lord holds my hand as we go through,
Saying gently, I know this too.
Hard things are worth doing is what I will tell.
All I ask, is that you finish well.


Edit: Aug 27, 2015

My daughter loved my poem so much she painted this for me. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015


I watched a Ted Talk on the art of handwriting, and how it engages the higher reasoning function of the brain. Interesting only cursive handwriting seems to do this, printing and typing do not.  I was amazed and inspired to sit down and write my Knight in Shining Armor a letter. I hope he has received it by now... In fact our relationship was built upon letters.  I wonder if that is why we can share stuff so easily. For years we wrote letters back and forth. One can commit things to paper that are often hard to say in person.

I love how a handwritten missive shows the emotional state of the person writing it. So much more is conveyed though a handwritten letter than through a typed email, or a text message... As I sealed up my letter I remembered I used to write SWAK on the back of all of them... so well I did it again. How silly, here I am 47 years old yet I put "sealed with a kiss." on the envelope.  I feel so young inside I know I am not on the outside but hey you are as young as you feel right!

I'm sure it costs way more to send a letter these days, but why not... funny I know I will face time him or call him or text him any time I want, yet I'm still drawn to writing him letters in this fairly short time apart. Think of all the wife of shipmen, in the age before telegraph/telephone. Waiting months to then get a pile of letters, did they sit down and read them all in order, all in one sitting, or wait and read one a day to make them last? What an age we live in that allows us instant communication face to face video chat. I'm still waiting for flying cars and jet packs of the Jetsons age...

So think of someone you haven't written to in a long time and send them a card or write them a long letter pop it in the mail and smile.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Dreaded Algebra

Funny how I dread teaching ALGEBRA, but as I was working through how to at least get a start on school while we wait to move in to the new house, and I'm still in NY and not in TX... Oh the ramblings and meanderings of my mind. What to do? What to do?, and who calls but Mike Austin, looking for the web guy, who is not in NY and his old phone number is not forwarding properly. Mike was so helpful, and one email later,  I have a few things headed our way that we can start on that will help us not fall too far behind.

I already had the No-nonsense Algebra here so I got it out and sat down with Little Miss Sunshine... Sweet Potato is doing summer schooling with it... we at least have moved one whole chapter! My sister found an error in the guide.  Lesson 4-6 it's problem 15 or 16 I have forgotten which one but 3 of us all kept coming up with one of the answers but the other one didn't match the answer key. My sister picked it apart for 45 minutes before declaring the key was wrong.  Her father in-law a long time math teacher said "Oh the stories I could tell you about wrong answers in the the answer key."  Oddly he didn't actually tell us any.

So we finally got into the fun part of algebra solving X & Y because we have 2 equations. I told Sweet Potato it was magic math... (insert flying rainbow unicorns here) we don't know the variables but we have enough information that we can *still* solve them.  It was fun.. I can't believe I just said algebra was fun, but there it is on my computer screen. This from the girl who never understood square roots.  So as Sweet Potato and I slog through algebra going at her pace of learning. I'm at that point where Little Miss Sunshine is starting.

What a difference, I wonder if she knows how amazing it is to be introduced to negative numbers and immediately grasp if you have -45 -3 you add them to be -48 or that mental gymnastics of -32+56 =24 even the tough ones 3-4+7-10 =-4 type didn't stump her.

She told me she hated math and algebra was hard... I told her not to be scared and discussed real life negative numbers. You want beef jerky but you didn't bring your money it costs 4$ I buy it for you you now owe me (-4$)  and you give me 5 dollars when we get home how much money do I need to give you back?  It seemed to do the trick... (Think it was the beef jerky example beef jerky always holds her attention.) Suddenly she just understood *boing* like that...  I kept giving her harder and harder problems and she just kept working her way through them.

Later as Dad and I were driving to the hardware store he said... "You are a good teacher. You praise her so much and encourage her that is the key." Thanks Dad! We had a good discussion on how hard it is for me to find things to encourage Sweet Potato on, and yet how important it is. Her stubbornness has been imprinted in her mind from the time of her birth, it kept her alive in the orphanage, yet now it causes her to not listen.  So often I have to let her figure it out, you can do it your way 15 times and bang your head against the problem your way and when you figure out you need help and are ready then and only then are you teachable, and ready to learn... Maybe some day that persistence will create some new invention. I certainly hope so, but for now I can look forward to a few weeks of light school, that she can choose to make hard or easy.

Monday, August 17, 2015

A Time To Mourn.

My Dad in an email shared with me how he feels we his children have overcome our grief and mourning more quickly.

I wonder if he is correct in his thinking have I recovered quickly? Daily I face moments when I realize my mom is not here to tell this or that story too. It hits me like an arrow to my heart, I'm saddened by my loss.  Dad hates that term loss; yet for me it perfectly describes my feelings. It's a loss for me. Mom is not lost, and I'm not lost in the sense of "I have lost my way," but I am being deprived of my relationship with her and that is loss.

I was annoyed with Amy Carmichael when I read she insisted on the funeral marches in India be happy occasions full of joy. I could see her point to be a witness to those around her but in what way did that help her and her compatriots mourn the loss of their friend?

How can I sit down and say "But Dad it is a loss..."  I'm not starting that discussion, because I don't see him in that place. It's better to just listen and let him express his emotions. Funny how so many of my thoughts are so very different, sometimes even opposite of his. Maybe I'm finally learning tact? Oh wait I'm posting it on a blog so maybe not.  

When I'm driving and it hits me, I can't take the time to cry it out. I thought I would be able to take time to grieve at my friends house which I did but it was a small window.  I have children, I have responsibilities that draw me into the world, that pull me out of my grief. My friend was in such a great need of help that I just threw myself into as much work of helping as I could and like in the line of that great Jane Austen movie Persuasion,  "How can I be melancholy? When you have come to visit?" I hope I got that right. So much to talk about; 5 years of catching up to do and plenty of weeds to pull.

Of course my choosing to work instead of cry could be denial and it will hit me when I least expect it. I do know mom was not a "daily" part of my life before. I would hoard up things to tell her in our marathon phone calls. We lived 1300 miles away.  Yet I knew if I needed her advice or a recipe I could call her. It is that aspect of our relationship I miss.

There are other parts that I don't miss, at one point in my life I sat down and wrote myself a list of do's and don'ts for my relationship with mom. It really helped me set up healthy boundaries with her and I grew as a person. I would love to talk about that and walk through that aspect of my life, but not with my father. He doesn't see it in the same way that I do, nor do I expect him to. He will always hold a parental point of view. So I suppose to him I look like I'm over it.  In some ways I am and in others I'm not, I still get ambushed by my emotions.

I have lived with grief for so long. It is something I think people miss when one shares about infertility. When you go to adopt a child they make you take a long hard look at your grief, because if it's ignored it can cause so many issues in the adoptive family.  Maybe that is why I don't show it as much. Grief over all the children I never got to hold in my arms, the kick I never felt in my belly, has been a long term companion, yet it has been practically ignored by those around me. For me infertility equates tremendous loss, the death of all of my children by reading a paper with test results on it.  I would get funny looks if I burst into tears over my infertility. I mean come on, "you can just adopt", Or "God has a better plan for your life." "You are supposed to be married but without the encumbrances of children." The things people said you would not believe. My grief became very private shared with only a trusted few.

After mom's death I tried once to explain how I felt to dad,  about how infertility and grief is linked, and my experiences with the process of loss. He pretty much shut me down immediately, in no way can I compare the loss of children I have never known to his life with mom. So I guess he is right I can't know the depth of his love for her and sadly he cannot know the depth of my grief for my un-conceived children.

His pain is so real and raw and my pain is a re-healing wound.  I have felt this pain before, I know I can live with it, and because God is faithful, I know I will still have joy. If it bleeds I will let it, but at this point I'm not picking at the scab.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Voices In My Head

I contemplated my homeschooling choices for my kids this year.  it was like I could hear my mom (All day)  saying to me; "You have the best educator right here in your father but you never ask him for advice." She has actually said this to me in the past.  In the spring I sent my dad an email and he did give me advice.  Today I sought it again, but I didn't pick my moment well. Ah well the risks we take... at least it has silenced the "mom" voice in my head because I sought his advice.

It's good to know he believes in me, and thinks I can teach art without a box of curriculum supporting me. I know my strengths and weaknesses. The thought of building a program of art for Sweet Potato daunts me. Not to mention would suck up a huge quantity of time I'd rather be playing candy crush... oh did I just write that.. well maybe Sudoko.  It is so true but feels sad to say that, I need boundaries placed upon me to be creative. The thought of having to start from scratch to create and teach art at a high school level with a "the sky is the limit" boundary is freakishly scary to me. 

When I quilt I use a pattern, yes I have made patterns up but it was to please an individual. For example one person told me the loved rubber duckies. That limited my colors, rubber duckies are bright yellow.  That boundary got the creative juices flowing. Bathtub, blue water, bubbles, and it all came together in my head. Three months later it came together in fabric. I can think of time and time again where boundaries cause more creativity than the lack of them. 

My dad keeps correcting my grammar me and I, can and may...  still get me confuszled. Then he follows it with Mrs. S... was a bad teacher she was more concerned with spelling than good grammar.  Funny she was the one who used to say "The sky is the limit."  I like the the fact we can reach for the sky but I think for some people like Sweet potato and me total freedom of choice makes it impossible to choose.  

So I chatted with my sister and bounced ideas off of her and came up with a plan for homeschooling my high schooler with special needs... that plan may change 15 times before I order the stuff. I at least have my scaffolding to place it on. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust.

Dad drove past the cemetery, he was talking and telling me "That cemetery is the other one." I looked over at him askance. I have no idea where we are; driving around in the beautiful hills of upstate New York, to go find a tiny cemetery that a family friend owns. He took me there before, it is a beautiful location up on a hill over looking a verdant valley. But thats how the entire drive has looked so... Five minutes later he's is turning around saying "What am I doing here?" As we travel back we both muse on how little sleep we are getting. Altho this morning I overslept horribly. I also got 8 hours of sleep but I have felt muzzy headed all morning.   Sipping my mug of Dragon Well green tea, a favorite of my Dads. It's a delightful green aroma, tangy with a small acrid bitter finish. Time seems to be turning in slow motion. We pull in to the cemetery and no one is here... but as soon as we park, the white truck on the neighboring farm starts up and comes over.

Dad and I walk over to the plots, they are marked out in lime and with sticks, apparently headstones take months to carve, oh look the movies get it wrong... Such a small hole. Dad takes the box of mom's cremains and holds it out. It's so small. It can't be more than a 7 inch cube, it's heavy.  He asks his friend (A person I regard as a sister from another mother.) "What we do now?" She says that it is up to us... Apparently Catholics usually all go away at this point, they have a service in a church. We have already had the service and it's just dad and me on top of this hill. With the family that owns this tiny cemetery.

Meanwhile I'm fascinated by how small the hole is. There is at least 15 ants and 3 beetles down there. Life in the cemetery, it strikes me how much life is here. The wild flowers they let grow dot the expanse of the graveyard. They dance in the slight breeze to a tune the winds sets for them. It's so lovely and quiet.

Such a small cemetery, such a small hole, such a small box, this cannot express the greatness of my mother. She is not in that little box, who we are is secure in Christ. My mom is only represented by this small box of ashes, this is all that is left of her physical body, but she is not here, She is in heaven.

Dad interrupts my musing and says "Well shall I put her in?" So he does lovingly with such gentleness that just shows the great love their marriage held. He took one last photo. He won't let me have a copy, it's ok. I'm a visual person and the image of that tiny box, in the tiny hole that cannot contain the love they had is what struck me so powerfully this morning. Dad speaks of reading in his bible the passage today about how God spoke to Adam and said from the earth you came and so shall we one day return to the earth.  Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, because out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you will return.

One awkward moment later he says "So where is the dirt? What happens now?" I love how human it all is. They bring over a wheelbarrow full of earth and said "Well you're in charge. Do you want to fill in the hole or?..." leaving the sentence hanging in the air. Dad takes the shovel and puts in the first shovel full of earth, unable to contain them tears spring into his eyes. He then hands me the shovel,  tears bittersweet overflow my eyes. I go to scoop up the dirt and find so many rocks. I avoid them and pour a scoop of sweet earth over what remains of my mom.  The young man takes back his shovel, and deftly, carefully fills in the rest of the hole. Placing the sod back on top. Some of it is missing... so perfect! My mind delights, what a true refection of how imperfect our life is, even in death. I walk away and find 3 wild flowers I pick them and take them back to the bare spot and place them on it. My Dads friend also goes to her moms grave nearby and plucks some blossoms and adds them to mine. So sweet a moment and yet so painful.

We hug
We cry
We say goodbye

Saturday, August 1, 2015


I find it odd the things that ambush me at this time of the loss. Walking in the back yard and expecting to see mom on the swing. Thinking of a funny story that I want to tell her, but she is not here to tell. I could go all day long and be fine and then someone pours out sympathy for my loss and the tears start to flow. 

Yesterday while my dad was paying bills he came across the Easy Pass bill. It had all the comings and goings as marked by the toll booths. Two AM trips to the hospital. Returning home at 11pm at night. Weeks of traveling everyday. It was like he was reliving each of those moments. 

We ran into the Hospice chaplain at the farmers market today.  He said something that was actually comforting.  All the sadness, grief, and the loss; it is just an expression of the depth of the love they had for each other.  I really see this as true. The loss it cuts so deep, because they were so deeply in love. Their lives beautiful intertwined in a graceful dance of love and God and family. 

I'm still in utter awe that God has given me this privilege to be here just where I can be of help.  To be present, that theme that runs throughout my parenting. Presence instead of a present, time spent is so much more important than the things we give.