Saturday, October 29, 2011

Remembering to say thank you

I wrote about my varicose vein surgery back when it happened.

But in so doing, I neglected to mention the most amazing part.

I did mention that I was afraid of the anesthesia, but I did not explain how afraid I was.

I was so afraid that I did not sleep for a week before the procedure. This no doubt was part of my excuse for going to pieces and weeping during my admission process. I was exhausted.

During the week before the surgery, the week when I was not sleeping, I had to do a little marching band fund-raising for Jonathan. I don't know if I have ever mentioned how much I hate and despise fund-raising. But I do. And there I was, an exhausted, frightened woman, looking down the pike at vein surgery, trying to focus on the day-to-day, and the day-to-day was fund raising. Ugh.

One of my tasks was to try to sell a print ad to a local jewelry store. This ad would appear in the program for the band show that our school was hosting. I get a lump in my throat just thinking about trying to sell an ad to a jewelry store.

It was October, so I decided, "I will go into the store and buy something for one of my girls, for a birthday gift. And after I have made the purchase, I will ask if they will buy an ad."

So I went into the store and looked at jewelry pieces, and a nice woman helped me. She was medium height, medium build, short brown hair (more stylish than mine) and nicely dressed (as you would expect of an employee in a jewelry store). She was just a really nice person.

At some point a dam broke and I gushed out my life's story, about how tired I was because I was not sleeping because I had surgery coming up and I was so, so scared. Even as I spilled my guts, I was embarrassed and ashamed. But she looked at me sympathetically and said, "What is your name? I would like to pray for you. I'll pray for you, that God will help you get through this."

Just like that.

I didn't even know what to say, so I just said, "Ruth." I didn't tell her that I was a sister in Christ, or that God had certainly put her in my path that day because He knew I needed a touch from Him, or that my heart was overflowing with gratitude. I just told her my name was Ruth, and I bought a necklace for Shannon, and I halfheartedly offered to sell her an ad but waved it away in relief when she apologetically told me that the store owner wasn't buying many ads in the present economy.

I walked out to my car full of wonder.

And then, on the day of the surgery, when I had been admitted and had stripped down to a hospital gown and was getting prepped by my nurse, the nurse pulled out a big questionnaire. As she went down through the questions, she hit one that asked, "Do you have a particular religious affiliation?"

I scrunched up my face and asked, "What do you mean by that?"

She was of medium height, medium build, short brown hair. Her hair was sandy textured, and she had a few freckles, I think, and a cute little nose that turned up just a tad. In her pale surgical-green scrubs, she looked full of kindness.

I don't even remember what I said, but all of a sudden we were having this great chat, and she was a Baptist, too, with a brother who is a pastor in the Adirondacks or Albany or somewhere. She said, "We're all born-again here!" And even though I was so afraid of the procedure, she assured me that God would be with me and that it would be OK. It was so amazing and surreal, I can't even remember the particulars, just this incredible sense of relief and astonishment that God would reach out to me like that, at a time like that, and let me know how near He was.

And then I never even told anybody about these things. I don't even know why. But I am telling now, because God deserves to be bragged on.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

wonderful weekend

I knew my daughters were coming home this past weekend, so I bought some flowers. They were gorgeous.

However, the roses opened too fast, and were nearly spent by the time the girls arrived...

So we replaced them with some carnations to extend the life of the bouquet. It reminds me of fluffy peppermint candies.

Every year for about two weeks, my three older kids have stair-step ages. The first year, they were 0, 1 and 2. Now, that was a challenge. This year (and in this picture) they are 19, 20 and 21. Actually, 21, 20 and 19, if you want to get technical. This was taken one day before Shannon turned 22.

While the girls were home, the boys got Lu to shave their heads. Here she is scalping DJ in the garage. It was too cold and rainy to do it outdoors. Sadly, through the whole weekend, we did not get a single picture of Jon. He, however, was the one who swept up the hair in the garage, and also the one who grilled steaks for the joint birthday dinner held on October 21.

Here is Shannon in the garage, bonding with her Schu while she watches Lu wield the electric razor.

Ahhh... the birthday cake. This is a triple-layer chocolate-mocha cake from Taste of Home. It has a chocolate-mocha cream cheese frosting, and it is delicious.

We put on 41 candles, because Lu turned 19 on October 8, and Shannon was turning 22 on the 23rd. 19 + 22 = 41. Hence, 41 candles.

It took awhile to light them all. Jonathan helped.

The sight of the cake all ablaze was quite remarkable. We took our time singing, as much as we dared, so we could enjoy the effect.

...and when they blew out the candles, there was a great cloud of smoke. We opened the slider to the deck to air it out, and averted an issue with the fire alarm.

I'm not gonna lie, that was one mouthwatering, magnificent, momentous birthday cake.

The next day, Shannon and Shawn and I went apple picking. The apples are disappearing fast. When Shawn learned that Granny Smith apples were prolific right now, and that they are only good for baking, not for eating, he was all for picking "...just a few more of these!" We enjoyed a great, big, fresh, apple crisp to eat that very evening.

That night we all bundled up and went to see Jonathan play in a marching band show. Even though we didn't take any pictures, I will try to get a generic marching band picture of Jon on here, but I'm having some trouble right now. Just imagine a very tall, dark eyed trumpet player who marches sharply and in perfect step, blowing sweet high tones through his horn into the crisp fall starlight of central New York... It was a great night, and we weren't even too cold.

AHA! I got it! Kind of a formal band uniform mugshot, but even so, you can see how handsome my boy is.

And there went another fall weekend where the pool did not get closed. Poor old pool, full of leaves and raindrops. Poor old us, that will be one cold, wet job now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dreams I wish I'd stop having

Last night I dreamed we were in the Homeland Road house again.

The six years we lived there were probably the most unhappy years of my entire existence, which is really sad to think about, because three of my children were born there. It is ironic that the years I spent on "Homeland" were the years I felt less at home than any other time in my life.

I was so happy, so relieved, so beside myself with contentment when we finally got out of there.

And now I keep dreaming that we are going back.

Last night I dreamed that a realtor let us in and we spent the night there. In the morning, we had to run along a sidewalk next to a rough embankment to get back to this house so we could pick up socks and coffee. Shawn stayed here with the coffee, but I ran back to Homeland alone where I found that the old neighbors who used to live across the street had moved into our old house, and they were remodeling it. It was the grandma and her grandchildren. They remembered our kids and tried to be civil. Still, they were quite perturbed that we were there, as they were getting ready for company. The grandma asked me to please get my stuff out of the house as quickly as possible.

There was also a lot of stainless steel--weird 1950's style stainless steel kitchen counters that assembled and dissembled to perform different functions--and a giant steel mixer mounted to the kitchen floor. I have seen that same mixer in other dreams, in silhouette, and thought it was an animal in the kitchen until the light increased and I could see that it was a machine.

These Homeland Road house dreams are not terrifying, but I do not usually like them.

There is another recurring dream I have that I really hate. It stemmed from those dreams about being in college and not having been to class. Those particular dreams abated at one point when I dreamt that I was in a flat, ranch-style house with green carpet, chasing my toddlers around and trying to get to class. Someone came to the door to get a paper from me, and suddenly I stopped and cried out, "No! This is not real! I am not a student, I am a mother of three!" A sucking, suffocating, pulling sensation ensued and I landed in my bed, awake and shaking, but very relieved.

Since then, those dreams have morphed into a dream about being in a high school and needing to go to the bathroom. I hunt and hunt, and finally find the bathroom on a remote floor in a remote corner, but it is always unusable. There are usually many, many toilets, laid out in circular patterns, and I desperately seek for one in a stall, because it galls me to use one out in the open. There are always people in the bathroom--sometimes hoards of them, and sometimes just a few--but it is never private. The people are not nice, either. They are what one remembers from high school as "mean girls." There are also a few smokers, which is annoying and slightly threatening, but they do not produce the same sensation that one gets from the mean girls.

Eventually I will find a stall or two, but they are always full, or out of order. Sometimes I try to wait in a line. Eventually I always end up going back to the exposed toilets in circles (facing out, with a dirty ledge running behind them), because I need to go to the bathroom so very badly. People (females) are sitting on some of these toilets, but the open ones are always full of putrid feces and I gag and put my hands over my nose. I cannot bring myself to go to the bathroom on top of someone else's putrid feces, next to a stranger in an open room. I don't want to touch anything, and I cannot find soap and water.

Finally I wake up and have the privilege of going to the bathroom all by myself in my very own private bathroom, washing my hands with nice smelling soap, drying them on a clean towel and going back to bed.

I feel so weird for having written about these dreams. I haven't ever talked about the bathroom dream before. Maybe by exposing it, I can stop having it, or at least identify it concretely in my mind as a dream so the next time I have it I can wake myself up earlier. I hope so.

Coming soon... pictures of our wonderful weekend with the WHOLE FAMILY AT HOME!!!

Friday, October 21, 2011


Yesterday I found myself at the intersection of Soule and 57. A blue truck sat in front of me, an ordinary blue truck, not particularly old or worn or even rusty.

The light turned green and the truck took off, simultaneously emanating a thick cloud of inky black smoke. The cloud grew expansive, hovered and finally dispersed. I decelerated and waited, holding my breath, feeling as though I were under water and an octopus or a squid had just made a grand escape. The only thing was, I felt more like the prey. Trucks are far more predatory than DJ's eleven-year-old Corolla, which I was driving.

Also, I have been dreaming about our old Homeland Road house a lot lately. In my dreams, it always has huge wings we'd never discovered, long hallways filled with bedrooms and bathrooms, even lobbies. In past dreams, these newly discovered spaces have been in bad shape, requiring a lot of fixing up, particularly plumbing. A few times, I've even encountered dysfunctional jacuzzis. But lately the expanded spaces have been livable. Last night I dreamed Shawn and I were in a very large bedroom, similar to but different from our bedroom on Homeland. The blue painted walls and wallpaper border were the same, but the border was peeling near the ceiling.

Then I woke up in my four poster bed and wondered why, why do I keep dreaming myself there?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Very Strange

I wrote a post today, but it got posted to 10/10/11. Bizarre.

Click the hyperlink if you want to read it. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Coming soon...

I have a couple of posts rolling around in my head, but I can't quite catch the right opportunity to get them written.

Until then, I have been fairly faithful about updating my other blog lately, so if you want something to read, you could take an amble over there.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Musing on home and other things

When Shawn and I moved from our married-student-housing apartment at the University of Minnesota to our first apartment in central New York, and then from that apartment to our first house, it was surprising how the continuity of "stuff" created a sense of home. Constant through all these moves was an old basement sofa my parents had donated to us when we first married. Olive tweed, long, sturdy, it lasted through my mother's married life and much of mine. Currently it sits in our garage, awaiting a ride to the dump. The upholstery is shot, but it is still as sturdy and well constructed as ever. I wish I knew how to reupholster. Every time I open the garage door to put something into a recycling bin, I see that old sofa and I feel a pang. Memories are hard for me to dump.

There were a few things... certain wall hangings we received as wedding gifts, that sofa, the WWII army footlocker that we used as a coffee table for so many years. We'd get to a new place, and we'd unpack these things, and suddenly it seemed familiar, "ours."

Shannon's new apartment is like that, somehow. Her room at home is different now, but with her bookshelf and her desk in place, her apartment feels homey. We also took her the dresser she used when she was a little girl. Someone had donated it to us, and Shawn and I stripped it, stained it and replaced the hardware. It was one of our projects, back in the day. At a certain point we replaced it, but I kept it in the basement and filled it up with craft supplies. In honor of Shannon, I cleaned out the drawers and packed it along to her new place. It's a little piece of the olden days, standing in the corner of her bedroom.

It felt good to be at Shannon's a week and a half ago. It felt like home, like another home, another place in the world where I actually belong. I think feeling at home has something to do with being allowed into a refrigerator. You are not truly at home unless you can open up the refrigerator and get out the makings of breakfast or lunch.

Recently, Shannon wrote, "I catch myself calling two different places home, now. It's kind of odd - almost like a mental break. I still have home programmed into my GPS as New York, and I can't bring myself to change that. What do you do when going home means two different things? I think it's just out of convenience that I refer to this apartment as home. It's faster than saying 'I'm going back to my apartment.' People seem to understand."

That resonated with me, caught as I am in New York while never having stopped feeling that Minnesota was my home. In today's world, "home" becomes so fragmented, a splintering concept that disperses in all directions as family members move farther and farther from one another.

When Shawn and I arrived at our first apartment here in CNY, it was July and we didn't have much more than a shower curtain. A day later, the moving truck pulled up and we arranged our stuff, made it home, and settled in.

I remembered our first NY apartment while we were at Shannon's, because they have not turned on the heat on in her building. This reminded me that they didn't turn the heat on in our first apartment building until (I think) October 1. Maybe it was November 1. We froze.

Shannon had been freezing in her apartment, too. It was about 57 degrees (inside) the evening we arrived. Her apartment handbook says, "The heat will be turned on in the early fall and off again in the late spring." I'm not sure what constitutes "early fall" but I suppose they are purposefully vague. We piled on the blankets that night and awoke to a nippy morning which we combated with hot tea, hot coffee and hot baths. Oddly, the pipe to the shower-head doesn't seem to pull much hot water, so you are better off's a fantastic, giant, cast-iron tub. Shannon has the blue checkered shower curtain that graced the kids' bathroom upstairs until we remodeled this past year. Another shout-out to familiarity... I love familiar things.

Later, Shawn and I left Shannon studying for her organometallic chemistry exam and went for a walk. The day had warmed up to about 80, and I found myself shedding layers as we clipped along.

We decided we'd better tell Shannon to open some windows and let the warmth in, so we headed back up the hill. In front of a large gray house with curving concrete steps, a gray squirrel busied himself ravishing an oak tree. There were so many acorn treasures, he was quite overcome with joy. He leapt along with a huge tuft of oak leaf sprouting from his mouth; curling green foliage sprigged up one side, and a nutty brown cluster of acorns hung down the other.

Back in the apartment building, icy air hit us like a blast of air conditioning. We helped Shannon open up the windows. By then the afternoon sun was shining in too, so before long we warmed up luxuriously.

We walked to our favorite burger place for dinner. To get there, one must cross a town square. Through the center lies a grassy village green, and along the west side (or maybe the north side?) three churches stand in a row -- modern, liberal, main-line churches. Along the road, buses continually pull up in front of the churches to pick up and drop off riders. The many park benches, presumably placed for the convenience of bus riders, overflow with tired, sad, economically-depressed people. Some people get on and off the buses, while others huddle together beneath newspapers, trying to find some comfort in a wearisome world. Belligerent, grammatically and vocabularily challenged youths cavort on skateboards and do their best to block foot traffic. And just beyond all this, a pricey wedding spilled out of one of the churches. Formal black tuxedos, posh golden bridesmaids' dresses and white, feathered flower arrangements, a bride and a flower girl adorned with the latest and greatest NYC fashions, all posed for photos among distinguished family members and friends. The party was beautiful, and so were the church and the park. I am sure that the photographer strategically aimed her shots away from the buses and the street people. I thought how different the photos would look from the view we got as we walked down the sidewalk. A photo frame is a powerful thing.

In the restaurant, business was hopping. Since every table was full, the host invited us to sit in three chairs around the corner of the bar. Of course, this infuriated the bartender, as we had no intention of buying drinks. But he sucked it up pretty well and let us have water and Coke while we watched Notre Dame kill the Air Force Academy and waited for our food. A solitary lady next to me spread out her reading material and picked at her plate, a colorful melange of lettuce, tomato and other unidentifiable but eye-catching substances. She approached her glass of beer with infinitesimal sips. Her elbow crowded me, and I wished she would hurry up, finish her dinner and leave. But then I realized that it was a Saturday night, and she was all alone in the middle of that loud, crowded place, all alone dragging out her meal while pretending to read newsprint. When the bartender took away her not-nearly-empty-but-stagnating plate, she folded up her reading material and got out her phone, proceeding to read through old text messages and emails until she couldn't make the beer last any longer. And then I felt sorry for her. I was so happy to be with Shannon and Shawn, laughing, catching up, trading stories.

The next day we went to church, and then we did some shopping. Back once more, our arms loaded with packages from the store, we approached the steps to the apartment building only to see two squirrels cavorting in the sunshine. One was a normal looking squirrel, big and bushy. The other one was tiny. Are there baby squirrels around in October? The big squirrel ducked into the shrubbery as we approached, but the little one stood on the step, quivering, nervous, hopeful. I have never been so close to a squirrel before. His face was as wistful as Schubert's. Shannon thought he must want some food and sent Shawn in to get a piece of bread. The little guy peered up at us, as cute as a puppet or a cartoon drawing (and if you know anything about my hatred of rodents, you know that this one was excessively cute if even I thought so). We could see the varied colors in his facial hair--brown, gray, white--his small black eyes, and his upside-down Y of a mouth. His feet and hands were huge in relation to his body, with long fingers and finger-like toes. But they weren't icky the way DJ says the rat paws are in the lab where he works. They were innocent and almost duck-like, maybe because they were just so huge in proportion to his little body. Anyway, now I understand how squirrels climb across power lines. Our little guy couldn't quite decide what to do. He seemed frightened but not terrified, shaking, hopping towards us a half-a-hop and then finally darting away into the shrubbery after his companion. Shawn said that perhaps someone else has been feeding him and taming him. I hope there are no cats around those apartments, or he'll be a goner very soon.

So that was our visit to Shannon. We left DJ and Jon alone and Jon got locked out of the house for the better part of Sunday, but I am not going to write about it. It ended OK, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

I felt at home at Shannon's. She has a black futon rather than our old tweed sofa (the one that awaits its demise in our garage), but the futon makes a much more hospitable resting place for Shawn and me. It folds down into a very comfortable bed. And home is also a place where you can get a good night's sleep.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Visiting Shannon

Shawn and I are visiting Shannon while the boys and the dogs hold down the fort at home.

This is a new thing.

I guess it is what we are aiming for when we begin to raise a child. We hope that the child will grow up to be a self-supporting, productive member of society.

So here we are at Shannon's, eating her waffles and her cookies and her soup and sandwiches and guacamole. I used her soap this morning, and Shawn borrowed her hair gel. Now we are all contentedly pecking away at our respective computers. She is studying for an exam on the organo-metallic chemistry of transition metals, which she has to take on Tuesday. Shawn is catching up on things for his work. And I am writing a blog post. This is family togetherness in 2011.

Of course, there is a part of me that wishes she had just gotten married, bought the house up the street, and settled down to provide me with grandchildren. But really, it is so amazing that God has allowed her these opportunities to grow and expand. She spent the summer working with a professor who was recognized recently for discovering a way to chemically synthesize a new and ground-breaking medicine that treats ovarian cancer. Who knows what God might have in store for Shannon?

It was really cold last night, and they have not yet turned on the heat in this apartment building. In addition to eating Shannon's food, we drank a lot of her tea. This morning we opened the blinds of these huge, airy windows and looked out on a sunny, blue-skied courtyard. There is a tree in the center, a tree whose leaves are still green. A deep residual cold lingered in the apartment, but outside the day is warm and wonderful. We discovered this on a short walk, after which we returned to open the windows, let in the fresh warm air, and listen to the birds in the bushes.

It's funny how things come out. I love how Shannon has organized her little kitchen. It simply delights me. I wonder if there is anything I taught her that contributed to her logical sense of order. Maybe? My life recently has been a train-wreck, as is my house, but there have been times when I have been on top of things. Maybe that's why I love it here so much. It reminds me of seasons in my own life when I have been on top of things.

Well, we are only going to be here for a short time. I don't want to waste too much of it blogging...

Monday, October 3, 2011


My husband is in a singing group called "Theophonics." They are an all-male a cappella group, and you can listen to a few of their songs here. Don't miss the "Praise Ye the Lord" one... it's my favorite!

The guys.

The guys again. They'd been trying to induce Schubert to pose with them.

They have real jobs and wives and children, but they love to sing together when they can. I've been lucky enough to have them practicing at my house for the past month or so. It's so nice to listen to them... especially when they've pretty much got the music under their belts and are fine tuning it. They travel around to area churches to sing, and just take a love offering to help cover their travel expenses and to help them afford to buy sound and recording equipment. They sing locally and have gone as far as PA.

Because this is my blog, I am shamelessly putting my husband first. He usually sings the very top parts. If you read my blog, you know all about our family, so I do not need to belabor his bio.

This is Ron. Ron is really the guy who started the whole thing. He organizes practices, arranges music, dreams big and keeps everybody excited. In real life, he is a music teacher at a school in the area, and he also directs a really wonderful homeschool choir. Like my husband, he is a high tenor. He and his wife have a two-year-old daughter and an infant son. The group used to practice at his place, but the noise interfered with bedtime. So I got them! And I'm glad I did!

This is Brian. He is also a chorus teacher in a local school district, and he directs the school's plays (at least, the musicals). He and his wife have three children, two teenage daughters and a soon-to-be teen son. Brian has a beautiful gift for writing and arranging music and often lends his skills to the group. Brian is a baritone, and it's a good thing he is, because this group is heavy on tenors, as you will see.

Here we have Mr. Jim. He does the vocal percussion for the group, but he also sings lead sometimes. He has a wonderful, folksy, slightly-higher-than-baritone voice. Jim and his wife have a son in elementary school and a daughter in junior high.

This is the "other" Bryan. He is the newest member of the group, and what a fantastic addition he has been! He has a stunningly gorgeous high tenor voice, classically trained at Eastman School of Music. He and his wife have a preschool age daughter, a one-year-old son and a new baby due on November 17. So Theophonics will not be booking in November. Sorry, but families come first!

This is another Shawn. I will not call him the "other" Shawn, because he is great friends with Ron, and they started the group together, and he was probably the person who actually invited my Shawn to join. This Shawn is a tremendous team player with a second tenor voice. He's willing to sing whatever part is needed, which usually ends up being something super-difficult in the middle, so it's a good thing that he's a good music reader! He never complains, and he's always on time, always agreeable, always doing whatever it takes to pull things together. He and his wife have a newly potty trained daughter!

So, that's Theophonics. If God wills, maybe you will hear them sing in person some day. We'd all like that.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dark day

It is dark, chilly and rainy.

Either I have a cold, or my allergies have gone berserk.

I had very few goals today, but even so, the only thing I've managed to get done is a lasagna.

Shawn says it could be a lot worse.