Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Great Big Feather Bed Hodgepodge

Hi-ho, Kermit the Frog here.

Sort of, not really, but may as well be, considering it feels like the last time I blogged was the last time the Muppets were all the rage.

How about some Hodgepodge mania?

1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your summer so far? Why?
(1=eh and 10=best summer ever)

About a 2.   On the fun scale thus far, we've done almost zilch as a family. I haven't been in the water ONCE. No pool, no lake, no ocean. Nothing. I don't have four kids begging me to take them places. I have one son left at home, and he enjoys playing video games. I've also had the privilege--ahem!--of helping him write four papers for English. Sad, but true. I've been sewing a lot, though, and that's enjoyable, but still --when I think of my summer right now, the word is "eh".  We will be taking a vacation to the ocean in August, and I can hardly wait.

2. July 26th is National Aunts and Uncles Day. Did you have many aunts and uncles growing up? Were you especially close to any one or maybe all of them? Are you an aunt? (or uncle for the men who join here on Wednesdays) Share a favorite memory relating to one of your own aunts or uncles or relating to a niece or nephew who call you Aunt (or Uncle).

Aunt Linda, my mom's only sister, has always been my favorite. She was a hippie when I was little and into my teens. Her first apartment had psychedelic hanging beads between the kitchen and living room, and she smoked cigarettes that I liked to "flick out" when the ashes were about to drop.  She wore maxi skirts and halter tops, and listened to far-out music that was quite far out from the Baptist hymns I was used to, let me just say.    Aunt Linda collected antiques and her specialty was antique quilts. She had a bed so tall that I had to use the wooden step stool to climb into it, and when I did, she and I would talk a long time. My sisters and I each got a turn to sleep in that great big featherbed with her when we traveled to her Ohio home with Mama,  having her all to ourselves. She was the adult that every kid needs--not a mom, but a cool adult. She wasn't a Christian; she was rather naughty with her language at times, and would belch quite loudly, and oh boy could she cook! Her culinary skills are top notch.  Nothing ever came from a box or can. She was a fresh produce/fresh meat/fresh everything kind of cook.

When she moved from Ohio to Santa Fe, she opened a bed & breakfast. It's called Casa Pacifica. You ought to check it out if you're in the area, and tell her Zoanna sent you.

I am Aunt Zo, or "Ee-Zo" as my 3 year old niece calls me. Nieces and nephews ranging in age from late 30's down to "in utero."  My youngest niece or nephew is to be next month, right around my birthday!! That will send my summer rating from 2 to 10!

3. What's your favorite food dipped in chocolate? What's your favorite food dipped in cheese?

In chocolate? Strawberries.   In cheese? Nachos.

4. When were you last astonished by something? Explain.

Last night while watching America's Got Talent. There was a very young girl who sang with such power and beauty that I had chills. Where does such a voice come from? From God, that's where!

5. Surf board, paddle board, ironing board, Pinterest board, score board, clip board, bulletin board...which board have you most recently encountered?

Pinterest board, this morning. I was searching for two vastly different things: inspiration for a greige for our rental property that we'll be selling and 2) quilts with a sea creatures theme because I have a gorgeous fabric that needs the perfect pattern.

6. What's your favorite story from scripture? Why that story?

Joseph. His brothers sold him into slavery because they were jealous of him. They then lied to their dad that he was eaten by a wild lion. In the king's palace, Joseph was falsely accused of rape by the king's wife, and was sent to the slammer for it. Joseph interpreted dreams in prison, including one that prophesied of seven years feast followed by seven years of famine. He rose from prison to power, all the while longing to be reunited with his brothers and father. When his brothers come begging for food years later because of a famine, Joseph--who has stored seven years' worth of food--has the power to feed or forsake them. He cries in private when he sees them, overcome with emotion. They don't recognize him because he's royal and speaks a foreign language.  All they want is mercy in the form of food. He doesn't just hand them food--he invites them to sit at his table and--to their utter bewilderment--he puts their seating arrangement in birth order because he knows them.  He then reveals himself to them, forgives them of all their sins against him, and bestows blessings and riches upon them.

They are undone by His mercy and kindness.

Why is it my favorite story? Because I'm not so good at forgiving when I've been done wrong for much, much less.  I want to be like Joseph, like Jesus.

7. If you were to travel from the east coast to the west coast in your own country, which five cities would you most want to see?

Portland, Maine (I got a few hours on the southern tip of ME and would love to go back and just soak in the beauty);  St. Paul, Minnesota (just because); Santa Fe, NM (where my Aunt Linda lives but I've NEVER been --gasp!); Cheyenne, Wyoming ("God's country"); Portland, OR (scenery and quilters' mecca).

8. Insert your own random thought here.

 As some of you recall. my 27 year old daughter is living in Louisville, KY for the summer, doing a volunteer internship with a ministry called Love Thy Neighbor. Her stories always elevate my thinking and increase my love for God (and for her). She is working in a bakery with women who have come out of the sex industry. 

Her team makes home-cooked meals every Thursday and delivers them to the dancers at a local strip club. (The dancers appreciate the kindness of the "church ladies" as they call them!) Sarah and others enjoy going to the park to hang out with local families and play with kids. They serve in medical clinic waiting rooms, distracting kids under stress with games and puzzles. They have helped new neighbors move in, they made up a travel basket for a single old man who became a grandpa and was driving long distance to see the new baby. They make themselves available to neighbors by sitting on the front porch and being on the lookout. (Sarah once called it a cop-out, but when that shy old man, who never spoke to them, had his daughter deliver roses to Sarah and her roommates as a thank-you, she almost cried.)

When a Christian parent looks up to a child for inspiration as to how to really live, there's no better feeling in the world.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Bone Appetit

This is the first quilt I've made for Project Linus.  

The coordinator of the chapter near me says that the hospitals could use more boy quilts. Knowing that chemo rooms can be cold, I wanted my quilt to have a flannel back.  I knew I wanted puppies. 

I found this print online and snatched up 2 yards of it.  (After quilting, this is the back.)

I asked on a quilting forum if anyone could donate 6.5" puppy prints for me. 
Well, I was DELUGED by generous amounts. I have enough to make 201 more!
Narrowing the choices I was sent to turquoise, navy, tan, orange, black, white, grey, and red sure 
helped guide my choices.  

Originally I was going to do a simple sashing between blocks. But do I ever stick to original plans? No! They call me Queen Plan B for a reason. 

I played around with sashing (ie borders around blocks) and just had fun. 

I put in two of each print so the child who gets this can play Concentration. 

Most of the dogs are realistic looking, but there are some whimsically colored ones. 
Aren't they cute?

I decided to quilt a bone into each block using FMQ (free motion quilting). 

While making this quilt, I prayed for the boy who will receive it. (Could be a girl, but I'm hoping boy.)  I pictured him either  missing his own dog, or hoping for one when he's well.

I took these photos outside on my deck, with the quilt draped over my porch swing cover
which is turquoise.   It's not part of the quilt!

Bone Appetit!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lotsa Good News in the Hodgepodge

It's the Hodgepodge Day, but it's also my hubby's birthday. Woot! Thanking God today for sparing his life. This year was monumental as we went through his heart surgery ordeal together. But he's on the mend more and more, doing and going a bit more all the time.

Let's see what our Hodgepodge hostess, Joyce, is asking us this week, shall we?

1. It's officially summer (in the northern hemisphere anyway). Which summer month is best and why?

August--because it's my birth month, of course! 

2. Can you swim? How did you learn? June 27th is National Sunglasses Day. How many pair do you own?

Yes, I can swim. My mom taught me the basics, and swimming lessons at the municipal pool improved upon that. I love to swim.  I have one pair of prescription sunglasses and a couple cheapo pairs.
3. What characteristic do you judge most harshly in yourself? How about in others?

A tendency to talk too much, which I've purposefully trained myself not to do as often, and listen more. 
The trait I hate in others is superiority which manifests in condescension. I hate being talked down to!  I hate hearing others talked down to.  Mama Bear comes out when people act that way to my kids, regardless their age!

 Case in point: Recently our second son, Steve, was with a hiring manager at his workplace (he does computer programming at a well-known investment firm). Steve's boss has been creating this position for him for a few months, knowing our son's skill, talent, and work ethic (after 3 years) even at the tender age of 24. Steve knew what the pay should be, based on research. Well, Mr HR starts in with, "You know you're only like 2 years out of college, so an offer of __________ is about the best we can do,"  yada yada.  Steve reminded him he's been with the company for 3 and 1/2 because he started out as a college intern and has been with this same team for as long. His boss saw his value and initiated a position. Steve stuck to his guns and got what he wanted and felt he deserves, but not without getting that irked feeling when you get as if dealing with a used car salesman.  

4. Robert Frost wrote the now well known poem entitled The Road Not Taken. What's a road (literal or figurative) you've always wanted to travel, and where do you hope it takes you? 

I've always wanted to travel the US without a destination in mind--just go here, there, and everywhere with someone else who truly wants the same thing.  One long road trip, seeing famous sites and landmarks, finding hidden scenic treasures, meeting people in quaint towns who've been there all their lives and love it.  

5. Popsicles-yay or nay? If you answered yay, what's your favorite flavor? 

Eh--they're okay. I seldom have a hankering for one, but when I do, please give me grape.

6. Brexit-on a scale of 1-10 how knowledgeable are you on what's involved here? (1=very knowledgeable and 10=what's Brexit) Is this news you'll follow or is it something you think won't impact your life in any way shape or form?

I wish I could say 10, but I'm afraid 5 is more like it.  Honestly, I think fear more than apathy is what keeps me from trying to know more. I'm becoming more of an ostrich as time passes and the world appears to be collapsing. Put my head in the proverbial sand and hope nothing bothers me. I'm deluded, I know.
7. Share a favorite song on your summer play list.

I'm easy to please as long as you give  me 80's love songs.

8. Insert your own random thought here. 

This couple celebrated 3 years of marriage last Wednesday, bought and moved into their first house, and he started his new job all in the same week!  She was able to quit a job she doesn't like and can be Suzy Homemaker for a while, feathering her nest which she is really good at. I'm a happy mother and mother-in-law, gotta say!

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Caution: High Winds in the Hodgepodge

Thanks to our friendly, neighborhood hostess, Joyce. we have yet another batch of Hodgepodge questions. By "neighborhood" I mean the world, but it feels rather cozy in Cyberville much of the time.

Pardon my long-winded post, but I must share some really exciting news. Something that most of us don't get the privilege of having in a lifetime, but it happened to me last week.

Since September I've been tutoring two siblings (sister and brother)  who are originally from China. In addition to their academic subjects, I would occasionally add some Bible reading. I gave each one a Bible as a Christmas gift because they didn't have one. In fact, they didn't even know how to pronounce "Jesus."   L said "Jess-iss"--and they didn't know a thing about God, Jesus, the Bible, or anything related to Christianity.   But gradually, over the past nine months, I have been reading with them the story of Creation, Noah and the flood, the birth, ministry, miracles, and gospel of Jesus Christ.  Both kids have been sponges, asking great questions, wanting more stories, more answers.

This past Thursday ,I felt prompted by the Lord to ask the girl if she was ready to accept Christ, and she said, "Yes!"  But then immediately looked sad and said, "But, what if I sin right after I do that?"

Bless her tender heart. I told her I'm 50 years old and still sin many times a day. But the good news,  I said, is simply that if she confesses the sin to God,  repents and asks His forgiveness, He will forgive her because he loves her. She was satisfied with that answer, and then we prayed together for her salvation. We were so happy and I hugged her, welcoming her to the Family of God.

 I am floating on air!!

1. I read here a list of 13 things you should do in June. I'm paraphrasing a little but basically...

Go on a road trip with your best friend, pick fresh strawberries, host a garden party, take a morning run, treat yourself to a flower bouquet, spend a whole day hiking, discover a new coffee shop, try a new ice cream flavor, read at least one book, visit a Farmer's Market, make a swing for your home, and visit a new city. 

Which thing on the list do you most want to do? Of the activities mentioned, which one holds the least appeal? How many on the list will you attempt in June? What's one thing you'd add to the list?

Well, I  did a lot of those things in one road trip to Kentucky at the end of May. Lexington was my "new city" to visit, which really meant seeing it from the road when we got a little lost. 

From the list, I'd most want to check out the newest coffee shop in town. The owner is a 17 year old girl, Jade, who bought the shop from her previous boss, with $6000 inheritance money from her grandmother, and her dad's help.  She had always dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur, and now here she is, fresh out of high school, the owner of The Jaded Bean.  Local musicians play live on the weekends, and the reviews are outstanding. Will it happen in June? Quite possibly.

Which thing would I like least? Running. I haven't enjoyed running since I was 9 years old.
What would I add?  Meeting a blogging friend for the first time in person.

2. What's something you could do today to feel more peaceful? 

Pray.  I'm having trouble forgiving someone and I'm dealing with a difficult parenting situation.

3. June 7th is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. Are you a fan? Swiss mocha, rocky road, chocolate chocolate chip, peanut butter and chocolate, or a dish of plain chocolate...what's your pleasure? 

My favorite chocolate flavor is Jamocha Almond Fudge from Baskin Robbins. It's been my favorite since I waas little. My Granny owned a BR store and we got to try all kinds, of course.   The best was Jamocha Almond Fudge on a sugar cone.  But , as I said earlier, I've given up dairy and sugar because both have been my worst health enemies.

4. If you came with a warning what would it say?

I asked my  8th grade son if my warning would be "CAUTION: EXTREMELY HOT !" He gagged. "Not hardly, Mom. Just the opposite."   

Hmm, 30 years ago  I might have answered, "CAUTION: CURVES,"  but now it's more like "CAUTION: FALLING ROCKS."  

A friend was going to buy me a T-shirt that says, "I'm the Grammarian About Whom Your  Mother Warned" because I do notice poor grammar, spelling, and punctuation everywhere, ad nauseum.

  5.What's the most interesting website you've visited in the last week? .   I'm quite inspired by those quilts.

6. Spring, summer, autumn, winter...which season are you? Why? 

Do you mean which is my favorite?  Autumn.  
Do you mean which "colors" do I wear? Spring.
Do you mean my age and outlook on life? I'd say summer. I'm no spring chicken, but at 50, I think I'm relaxed and kicked back, but am planning for "colder weather," shall we say?

7. "You lose sight of things...and when you travel, everything balances out." ~Daranna Gidel

Would you agree with that sentiment? Explain why or why not.  

Yes ,I would agree indeed. Traveling makes you remember this world is big and you are not. Traveling helps you notice the grandeur of nature, the diversity of cultures. It changes your pace and rhythm a bit.

8. Insert your own random thought here. 

Last night my new little convert/sister in Christ said, "Guess what, Miss Zoanna? I have decided that I'm going to read the whole Bible this summer!"  

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Hello, Again.

Remember me? Your friendly, neighborhood blogger? I'm still here.  And there's been plenty going on in my corner.

How about a list for old time's sake?

In no particular order:

1. My baby sister is expecting her second baby in just two months. Four days after my birthday, and I really wouldn't mind sharing a birthday. Unless the new one starts getting better toys than mine.

2.  Our second son and his wife just bought a house. Their settlement is the middle of the month and then they plan to paint (he hates it, but I'm sure he'll "recruit" family members to help). They will move, Lord willing, on the 25th.  The new house is only about 15 minutes from their current home, or 25 from us. It's a cute, little, 1950's (60's?) Cape Cod on a darling cul-de-sac with a good sized back yard, brand new everything (the seller flipped it) .

3. Best part is that that our son emailed us to say he is getting a bunch of people from their small group at church to help them moving.  "You and Dad don't have to worry about helping this time." Good thing, because as soon as they move out (of the rental we own), we are going to prep it for sale. That'll keep us busier than we want to be!

4.  Hubby remodeled the upstairs bathroom of the rental. Not too shabby for a guy who just had open heart surgery in January. I'll post pictures when I can.  I love how it turned out.

5.  I took our daughter to her summer internship in Kentucky in May. Had a glorious trip down there, if by glorious you can include steep mountain passages without a shoulder , and no cell reception. The scenery was majestic, so who needs anything else, right?

6.  School is out for my son in 7 days. This coming week is crunch time with finals and projects. Then he will be officially a high schooler.  Is that impossible or what???

7.  I think we can finally say that summer weather is upon us here in Maryland. Or late spring. Or actually early spring because the flowers are blooming. I mean everywhere. Our cold snap and monsoon that lasted for weeks kind of put the kibosh on a "real" spring.

8.  I'm almost finished my current quilt which I will donate to Project Linus in my county. There's a hospital five minutes from us; some dear child would like a quilt in his room, I'm sure, to give him comfort during a long stay.

9.  While in Kentucky, we stayed with my sister in her log cabin. Had a relaxing, do-nothing kind of stay, which was perfect for all of us. Down time. Just the three of us.

10.  My daughter is loving her 4 new housemates in Louisville. She'll be there all summer ministering alongside 22 other interns.  Her first request from home was coffee. Lots of it. All the girls drink it. And she had stocked up but left most of it here. I'm mailing 8 bags tomorrow.

That's about it in the proverbial nutshell.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Sophia is with Jesus Now

Many of my readers have been aware of a baby named Sophia, the only child of my friend Lauren and her husband. 

With great sadness I tell you that Sophia lost her battle with brain cancer on Thursday, May 14, 2016. She was 16 months old. 

Today I will gather with family and friends for her graveside memorial service. It's been gray and gloomy literally and figuratively, on and off, for weeks.  I'm praying the sun comes out and that there's even a rainbow at the cemetery at some point. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

What Mothers Do in the Hodgepodge

1. What's something fun you're looking forward to on your May calendar? 

Driving to Kentucky with my daughter to visit my sister in her beautiful log cabin again. I'll stay five days, but my dear girl is staying on for three more before starting her internship with an organization called Scarlet Hope. I'm looking forward to the estrogen fest (I think??) and the change of pace and scenery.

2. What are some images that come to mind when you hear the word mother? 

Holding a baby at the breast, getting up at all hours of the night with a fussy infant, maneuvering a stroller full of shopping bags while carrying the child on her hip,  caressing the wispy soft hair of  toddler as she drifts off to sleep, playing ball with little boys in the yard, panicking when a child is lost at a department store or playground, driving kids to soccer/baseball/piano/school/youth group ad nauseum, negotiating and refereeing differences and disputes, lying in bed awake at night dealing with Mom Guilt, drinking more coffee than either Guatemala or Colombia can produce in a year, taking care of the pet that the kids PROMISED to feed/water/walk/bathe/brush/not complain about, praying for good friends for her teenagers, watching the clock from the first moment that teenager drives the family car alone for the first time until he or she is back in the driveway,  cooking umpteen hundred thousand gazillion meals after shopping umpteen hundred thousand bazillion times for food that costs $1008  a week and is gone in two days (or at least the "good stuff around here").... 

I also see images of mothers my age who love to just sit and listen and talk to her grown-up kids about anything and everything, just to be in their presence, adoring their beautiful eyes, the curl of their hair, the lilt of their voices, and wondering where the years went. 

3. What's something beautiful you own or have seen that's made of glass? 

I have a gorgeous handblown glass vase in  hues of fluorescent blues and greens,  that's shaped like a basket with a handle. My mom gave it to me. It's hand-painted with roses.

4. Was today typical? If not what made it unusual? 

So far it has not been typical.  My daughter is here, babysitting my niece for my sister whose husband is job hunting.  This little girl is talking up a "blues streak" as they say. She's bossy to our 80 pound golden retriever. Funny how he obeys a  two-and-a-half-year old when she shakes her finger at him and says "Sit, Wally, sit!" (His name is Reilly.)  It's also so cute how little kids pick up on the slightest thing you do. I was reading a book to her and needed to lick my finger to turn the page. Well, wouldn't you know, on the very next page, as I was reading, she licked her finger...

5. What is a quality you wish you could have more of?

Will power.

6. What's the next major purchase you need to make? Will it happen in the month of May? 

We need to remodel the kitchen of our rental in order to get top dollar when seeking to sell. So we've been pricing cabinets.  My hubby had planned as of last July when we bought the house to do all the fixer-upper things himself. But that was before he knew he'd be having major heart surgery in January. Can I just say that he has no umph to face the rigors of redoing a kitchen now.  And he hates the thought of losing profit to pay someone to do it. 

Will it happen in May? Don't know.  It's hubby's call on his timeline. 

7. What responsibility/job/work did you dislike while growing up but has proved helpful to you as an adult?

I had a LOT of responsibility/jobs/work while growing up. I hated cleaning bathrooms but it sure is helpful that I know how. I also wasn't at all fond of doing the dishes (still am not) but that's been helpful all my adult life. It wasn't until I went to college that I was SHOCKED how many girls didn't know how cook, clean, make a bed properly, groom a horse, weed a garden, set the table, sew a button on, dust furniture, or drive a stick shift. I just grew up assuming that's just what everyone learned from their parents.

8. Insert your own random thought here. 

Please pray again for the family of baby Sophia, whom I've mentioned on here several times. Her mom's a dear friend of mine.  Sophia is 16 months old and has been fighting brain cancer for 10 of those.  Her doctor believes she is near the end, that she has given up, her body tired out. It has been 13 days since she last opened her eyes. She has been at home for a couple of months because there's nothing more doctors can do. They feed her through a tube, suction her because there's little gag reflex, she doesn't respond to touch or voices any more. Her parents spend their days crying and crying out to God for healing or to take her. They don't want her to suffer any more, but they can't bear the thought of life without her, either. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Quilting while Waiting

I took two little doll quilts to the hospital waiting room to keep my hands busy without being on an electronic device .

A little project to pull out or put away as the mood (or opportunity) strikes.

It's a good thing to have a hobby that requires no electricity or battery,  is productive, quiet, and portable.  I highly recommend hand sewing. (I've tried knitting and crocheting, and hated my results.)

Quilting time is praying time when you're a praying person. Which I am.

Waiting for a cardiac surgeon to come out and tell you how things went with your husband is a long wait.  Prayer is essential. Quilting is optional. But when you can do two things at once, it's great.

Unfortunately, I hated the binding job I did on those two quilts, so I won't show them till I've redone them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Got L: Now for M, N, O, P

I'm pretty sure that M would stand for "Mmmm, I don't think so. Writing 4 posts in one day?" N is for Not Happening.  O is for Only Four People Read This Blog Anyway, I Think.

Or M could be for My Weekend was More than Full with a Women's Retreat. N could be for  the Nervous Energy I used in  Saturday's skit. O could be  Oh Good, Roommate, We Agree We Need Sleep More than a Campfire and S'mores.

Or, to stick with the theme of hubby's surgery for the A to Z Challenge,  I could do a very quick recap of the things I was originally going to make into full posts.

M would have been for Marriage. Suddenly after 29 years I was thinking that we were just getting started in this love journey. The years had gone by too fast. I wanted to grow old with him, not just to middle age. I wanted the joy of being grandparents with him. I wanted to celebrate his retirement and then we'd do some traveling. I wanted to capture all the details of his face, remember the color of his eyes, feel the strength in his hands, keep hearing his voice in more conversations. I didn't want the marriage to end on the operating table.

N was for the Nurses. Hat's off to them!! Two things I must include would be:
1.  Ashley was our favorite.  We had her for three days. On day 1, she was chipper and
sweet, professional but down-to-earth. Day 2, chipper and sweet. Professional and down-
to earth.  My husband asked her on Day 2, "Are you always like this? I thought maybe
on the first day it was because I was the new kid on the block, but you're always so cheerful."
She giggled and said it was her personality, and she loved her job. Day 3 we were convinced. God bless her!
2.  Male nurses are a far different breed from female nurses. One small example: the way
they make a bed and give the patient an extra blanket. The females would take the fresh sheets and get the "hospital corners" just so. Fluff the pillow. Help hubby into bed from start to finish. Gently lay a blanket over him and tuck it in at the feet. The one male nurse , on the other hand?  Polar opposite. Yanked the clean sheets, shoved the corners under, did a quick swipe for more-or-less straight results, offered  Paul help into bed,  but presumed he was okay on his own (he needed more help as the chest does a lot of work when you're trying to lie down). Then he didn't offer a blanket; I had to ask.The male nurse then said, "Oh, sure" then snapped one open and practically tossed it willy-nilly onto the bed. Like he was a frat brother or something.  It wasn't bad, just different.  Made me smile at the difference in the sexes when it comes to nurturing.

O would have been for Operation, had I posted in full. But I'll talk about the results later.

The serious talks we had from November (when we consulted with the surgeon) till January 5th (the date of surgery) completely refocused us. What had been minor was now unimportant. What had been major was a little less important. And what we had dared not face before was now inevitable. We drew closer.  We discussed what we had avoided.

POA --Power of Attorney. The legal stuff we had been too afraid to face in our younger days was now not so hard. Our three grown kids were each responsible to be appointed POA if we needed. All three are good with finances, two are professionals in financial fields and understand the lingo.  It's wonderful when your choices are "good, better, and best" in a weighty matter.

We are so thankful that all of our kids and daughters-in-law get along well and there's deep trust that they will stick together and not fight over who gets what we're we dead and gone. None of them wanted our "stuff" when we asked about specifics. Maybe that'll change but they all, right now, are minimalists. They aren't attached to material things. To me, that is so gratifying. They have such confidence that God will provide for their every need. They are not big spenders but are savers. They are generous. They love to be together. They are hospitable. They value people. What  a blessing!! I can't overstate that enough.

We chose a POA from among them, and they agreed it was a good choice.   We chose a guardian from among them for our youngest son. He's 14 and we asked for his input. He was insightful and mature about it. Decisive, too.  So that choice was also easier than I imagined.

So writing our wills was relatively painless. POA, executor, guardian--all those terms that I had emotionally shunned when all our kids were minors--weren't scary anymore.

Talking about end-of-life  medical stuff was MUCH harder.  We gathered for a family pow-wow with our four kids one Sunday afternoon to discuss all the legal issues.  The most painful part was medical directive. What IF Dad died in surgery? Did he  want the DNR order (Do Not Resuscitate) ? Heroic measures? Resuscitation but nothing heroic--just food, water,  oxygen, morphine,  but no more interventions? That part was hard to talk about, but necessary, and certainly having Paul choose what HE wanted, and telling all of us at the same time so that there was no question about it later, gave me a peace. He opted for the middle ground --revive/food/water, but let him go if there was no quality of life.

Well, this post was just about 4 days long. But at least this is the last sentence. I didn't mean for it to be as long as a last will and testament!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Loeys-Dietz Syndrome

Letter K  of the A-Z blog challenge has been excused from my alphabetic posts for good reason: my daughter came home from Florida last night and I was busy all day prepping, worked in the evening, and stayed up  from her 10:30 PM arrival till after midnight consoling her. Blogging was not important.

But that brings us to the Letter L...

In case you're wondering, the genetic disorder is called Loeys-Dietz Syndrome. It was named for the two main physicians who researched for nearly 20 years before isolating the gene responsible.

My husband's side of the family (and all the offspring) have had the "privilege" of being seen directly by one of those researchers-- Dr. Harry Dietz , of Johns Hopkins University.  I say "privilege" because--well, being a test subject in studies of a connective disorder that has proven fatal in the family isn't exactly enviable.

My kids remember having echocardiograms, "wing span" tests, eye exams, poking and prodding in their palates, bending every which way while trying to remain modest with a hospital gown on, and
hearing they might have to put raw spaghetti up their noses. They had their skin pulled on, their feet measured, their ears bent (literally), their kneecaps rattled, and on and on. My daughter says it felt so invasive, that it was the beginning of her hating to visit any doctor.

That being said, to have the head of genetics at this world-renowned hospital looking at you--not just your file or your films--is indeed a huge blessing. He is a genuinely caring person who never made any of us feel rushed or stupid or annoying. When I asked, "What do we do if we ever get to an ER and need to relay information about this rare condition to them in a hurry?", Dr. Dietz handed me his card with his cell phone number on it.  "You have them call me any time, day or night, I'll take care of it."

It really doesn't get much better than that.

The family has actually been treated like VIPs in the genetics department at Hopkins.  Don't be jealous, but to say we're a big deal there isn't far from the truth. In fact,  they were calling the syndrome by our last name before Dr. Dietz and Dr Loeys (of Belgium) renamed it for themselves.

Essentially, because of Loeys-Dietz Syndrome,  my hubby had to have the cardiac surgery which I'm blogging about in this A-Z Challenge.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Just breathe

I found myself holding my breath quite literally between November and January. It was completely subconscious, but became almost a habit.  Deep in thought pondering the "what ifs", I had to remind myself to exhale. And inhale all the way.  Is this normal or common?

"Take every thought captive ," scripture says. I'd have to swap a thought like "I'm too young to be a widow" with "Jesus, you will never leave me or forsake me ."

Another thought would be how big this house would feel with just me and my son in it. Big and quiet and full of memories.  Lonely, scary, overwhelmingly big.

Breathe....he's not dead! Be thankful for how capable he is, and tell him. "Encourage one another while it is called Today," I'd remember. And I got much better at expressing my gratitude to Paul for how handy he is and quick to fix things around the house.

Another recurring thought made me panicked: I couldn't be a single mom! No way!  But God would swoop into my mind and say, "My grace is sufficient for you."  

After awhile, it seemed as if this exchange of negative thoughts with God's eternal promises was coming more easily. It occurred to me that my thinking on scripture should be like breathing.  Take it in deeply, let it out. Of course sin will always interfere this side of heaven, but I can make conscious decisions throughout the day to think on Him, the Breath of Heaven.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Indelible Words

The morning of surgery,Paul had a vicious headache and of course, had had nothing by mouth since midnight, which didn't help matters. But the headache, he admitted, kept his mind off what was coming.

When we first got to Hopkins and registered at o'dark thirty, we had some time to talk, just the two of us. His head hurt badly, so I stayed mostly quiet, but I did ask him, "When they take you back to meet with the doctor and anesthesiologist,  who do you want back there? Your brothers and me? Just me? Me and the boys?"

"Just you and the kids,"  he said without hesitating.  For a split second, I felt bad for his brothers who hadn't seen him since the day before. I thought it might be good for them to see him  again before he "went under the knife" since they probably wouldn't see him alert the rest of the day.

But he was forthright. Decisive. I respected that because I know the need for privacy and protection of my priorities when I'm the patient. You need an advocate, a representative, a trusted caregiver. "Immediate family" after you have children puts them before your family of origin.

Out in the waiting room, we were beyond blessed to have all of Paul's brothers, a sister-in-law,  later two nephews show up to support us.  I was at complete peace.

Our youngest son  Joel (then a month shy of  turning 14) had chosen to go to school that day. He wanted to "not have to think about it as much," he said. Wise call.  Our daughter was in Florida.  She was in constant communication by text. We felt her presence and prayers.

My older sons and a daughter-in-law went back with me. We kept our voices low because of Paul's headache. The boys each prayed over their dad, which --I gotta say--choked me up. Such godly young men of strong character. Truly a reward after years and years of parenting in the trenches.

At one point the kids were talking among themselves, and Paul took the time to motion me close. He looked straight at me, holding my hand.

"Two things I want you and Joel to remember if ...things don't go...the way you hope:

(He held up a finger.)

  God is good .

 (Then he held up a second.)

 And don't be bitter."

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Hold Me

I wanted to be held tightly and often. To feel safe in his embrace. To smell him. To hear his heartbeat.

It was not uncommon for me to stop him in his tracks on his way to the fridge and say, "Hold me. Please?"

I reached for his hand in the car whether we were going two miles or twenty.  Our son, if he was in the backseat, would groan. "Again, Mom? Really?"  But I think he secretly enjoys the affection between his parents.

For most of the interim between scheduling the surgery and actually going through it, I had tremendous peace and seldom cried.  I had such peace,  peace that only God gives. And crying is cathartic, and certainly not the antithesis to peace. It's just that I didn't feel the need to cry very often.

Three times was all I remember crying before surgery.  The first time was when we sought our pastor's counsel and he asked me how I, as Paul's wife, was holding up.  Instead of saying, "Fine," I reached for Kleenex as salty tears ran down my cheeks. "It's hard," I said. "I don't want to lose my husband."

The second time was at our Thanksgiving table. Our tradition is to have each person express five things they're thankful for. Well, I had barely said "Paul" before the lump in my throat gave way to hot tears.

The third time was the day before surgery.  Our daughter, who had come home from Florida for a two-week Christmas break, had returned that morning. I deeply wanted all my birdies under my wing for the big event, but she had to go back, and she had said everything she wanted to say to her daddy.
I was feeling emotional.

Paul and I were standing in the living room and I threw my arms around his waist.  With a small, shaky voice I said, "Hold me, honey. I'm scared."

"Not a bit! I'm ready. I'm not looking forward to the pain afterward, but I'm not at all scared--"

"I said I'm scared!"

We both laughed. A simple misunderstanding broke the tension but not the hug.

"Oh, I thought you were asking me if I was scared."  He stroked my hair and held me a little tighter.

"I love you so much!" I said.

"I love you, too."

Friday, April 08, 2016

Glued His Chest Back Together

Yep, my post for "G" in regard to the theme of my hubby's heart surgery is GLUE.

Pardon my first world ignorance, but I had no idea that surgery and glue could be used in the same sentence. I mean, when a doctor practices his craft, I'm not picturing Elmer's  in his hands.

Neither of us thought to ask how Paul would be sewn up on the OUTSIDE when it was all over. I assumed stitches, and was okay with that. But as we found out after the fact, the aorta was sewn up with stitches, the sternum was put back together with wire, and the skin on his chest was glued shut.

I joked, "Honey, if you come unglued, I'll come unglued, too!"

Turns out the glue is a medical grade Super-glue type stuff. That's as technical as I can be without googling and linking and all that.

I've never seen a better looking scar, either. Clean and straight.  And nothing to be removed or to have fall out!

What will they think of next?

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Fatherly Feelings

When I asked him what he was most afraid of when facing heart surgery, my husband said, "It's not death. If I die, I'll be in heaven. And if I live, I live."

He paused and gathered words to express deep emotion.  "My biggest concern is for you and the kids. Mostly the kids, because I know what it's like to live without a dad at their age."

His dad died in 1992 at the age of 68. A sudden, massive heart attack.   Paul was only 26--younger than our oldest son is now.   Gone was Paul's earthly hero. No more conversations. No more watching the Orioles together. No more showing off his kids--and oh, how Dad loved his grandchildren. No parent left to lean on in hard times. No one to call when the plumbing acted up. No dinners to have together or restaurant tabs to fight over.  No Christmases, Easters, or Thanksgivings with his dad at the table.

Paul didn't want his own children to experience adulthood without their father. That was more troubling to him, I believe, than leaving me a widow. We had the conversation a few years ago about remarriage if one of us should die.  We've given each other our blessing to do that. We only had that conversation once. Once is enough.

One of the things that was most attractive to me about Paul when I met him, and first started getting to know him, was how fatherly he was. He wasn't looking for a girlfriend. He was looking for someone to create a family with.   In fact, when he proposed to me, he asked, "Will you be my wife and the mother of my children?"   (Unbeknownst to him, those were the exact words my father used to propose to my mother in 1961 !)  In his heart, Paul was already desiring children. He is such a natural with babies, energetic with toddlers, creative with kids, wise with teens, and happily helpful to our adult children.

 He didn't want death to deprive them of what he has missed terribly for almost 30 years. His prayer was to live to be there for his kids and to enjoy the fun of being a grandfather someday.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Ear for Guitar Music in the Hodgepodge and A to Z Two-fer

My A to Z Challenge entry is combined with the Wednesday Hodgepodge today. I've been talking about my husband's heart surgery as  a theme of sorts. For the letter E,  let me just say that he has an ear for music, and I love his guitar playing. Before his surgery, I often got secretly choked up whenever he would start strumming a familiar tune. I know beyond any doubt that I would miss his music terribly and don't know that I could ever sell his guitars. His hands have been all over them, each guitar having a unique and beautiful sound. 

1. What does retirement mean to you? Are you planning for it, not thinking about it, looking forward to it, or dreading it?

Retirement means not having to work for someone. It means hanging up the hat that comes with a mandatory schedule and pleasing a boss in order to keep the paycheck coming. It means having more choices about how you spend your time, what you give yourself to that isn't necessarily tied to earning money. We are planning for it. My hubby has heard that the people who adjust best to retirement don't retire from something, but they retire to something. Something meaningful, a new adventure. He thinks about retiring every day, but is still at least five years from it. I'm not sure I'd know what to do if he was around all the time every day messing up my rhythm--haha!   

He wants to retire to building and selling guitars. A lot of personal satisfaction and a little cash.
But no boss.

2. It's International Guitar you play? Does anyone in your family play? What's a song you especially like to hear played on the guitar or a favorite song featuring the guitar?

Speaking of hubby and rhythm, what  a perfect segue to the answer to this question. He plays guitar very well.  I don't play at all. He has a small collection of guitars, and one of our spare bedrooms is now called the Guitar Room. It's also an office, but our daughter decorated it just for him one weekend when we went away for our anniversary! Guitar theme all the way. 

There's  a piece he plays that's my favorite called Bouree in E Minor, by Bach.  If I die before he does, I want him to play it at my funeral. He plays it more slowly than it's written, which I prefer. ( Shhhhh....Don't tell Bach I said that.)

3. What's your comfort food?  

I have a few: mashed potatoes, cereal, rice pudding, donuts.

4. What's one activity or area of your life where you absolutely never procrastinate?

Absolutely never procrastinate? Those three words and "I" might absolutely never be found in the same sentence. I'm going to say it's cleaning the lint trap in the dryer after every load. I'm kind of OCD about that. I've heard horror stories about dryer lint catching fire and the thought scares me to death.

5. Who does the grocery shopping in your house? Does your local store bag the groceries for you or is it a do-it-yourself kind of place? Do you like someone packing your groceries?

We both grocery shop. I hate it, he likes it (or doesn't mind). Our local stores will  bag the groceries unless you say otherwise. I prefer to bag groceries myself because so many baggers just don't know the importance of 1) separating glass jars from each other  2) not putting cleaning supplies with vegetables   3) a good weight to keep bags (or my arms) from breaking . I have a system . I organize things on the conveyor belt in the way I want to bag and unload them.  Don't mess with my system!

Have I just said way more about grocery bagging than anyone cares to read?

6. What's the coolest thing you've seen in nature?

Day after day, it's the sunset. No two alike. God's infinite color palette and His way with a celestial paintbrush positively take my breath away sometimes. This one was somewhere between South Carolina and Florida when my girl and I were driving  to St. Pete in late November. 

7. Share a favorite quote about home.

"Home is a place I've never been."  --said by a man named Dave from our old church, whose house burned three days after Christmas one year  (when an unattended, open pillar candle fell over on the dining room table).

He and his family made it out alive, unharmed,  they were able to rebuild, but in the year that they were homeless, Dave realized afresh that this world is not his home.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Have I announced on here that my sister is expecting her second baby?  Little one is due four days after my birthday in August!

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Don't You Dare Ask THAT Question

Choosing the best surgeon for your operation is always at the top of the list when you have time to choose. That is, except in an emergency, you have time to research your options. You have tons of questions, especially if it's a life-or-death procedure like this.

Living in northern Maryland,  we are only an hour away from the best hospital in the world--Johns Hopkins. We count ourselves extremely blessed. Given the names of the top three recommended by Dr. K, one stood out: Dr. Cameron.  After all, he had performed the surgeries of Paul's two older brothers and a nephew.

Since those happened 26, 20 and 7 years ago, and the men are still alive and kickin', we had no reservations about him.

Three weeks later, in early November,  we were sitting in his office. And by sitting, I mean playing with our phones for a solid hour and a half waiting for him because Dr. Cameron is a very busy man, who clearly takes all the time his patients need for a consultation. I never have trouble waiting for a doctor if I know him or her to give me the same length of attention.

While still alone and waiting, Paul and I went over our questions together to make sure we'd thought of everything.  How exactly is the surgery done? How long does it take? Recovery time? Medications? Can he save the valve? What about time off work? Exercise?

I told him I was going to ask about sex, and he gave me that look. The look of boyish embarrassment, trying not to smile,  chin down, eyebrows up, eyes riveted on mine as if to say "don't you dare."

"What?! Don't give me that look! He said bring all your questions! That's one of mine!"

Paul shook his head in that "what in the world am I going to do with you?" way of his that I find super charming. (My sister-in-law calls him a recovering Catholic.)

Dr. Cameron came in at last.  Mid-60s, I guessed, balding, confident handshake,  gentle voice,  twinkling eyes, a humble demeanor, an ever-present smile, and a well-starched shirt. I liked him. Yes, I do like a man in a well-starched shirt!

He began explaining the procedure with a drawing. Remove about 3 cm of the enlarged, stretched out, weak, aortic root (which is on the south side of the heart) and replace it with a synthetic one. Could he save the valve? That was Paul's burning question. "Possibly. We won't know till we're in there, but we'll sure try. If there's any doubt, we'll go ahead and replace it. These days we use ..."

I thought he said "Kell valve".

 "It's natural tissue they've found that's closest to the human heart valve, " he continued. "Lasts about 10 years and you don't have to go on blood thinners."

"Natural?" I asked. "Where does it come from?"

"From cows,"  he stated, smiling, but not condescending at all. (But he must've thought I was  dim.)

"Oh,  COW valves, "  I repeated, in my lightbulb moment. "I thought you were saying Kell valves--like something synthetic named for their inventor. "Need more cow valves!" I blurted out.

They chuckled in spite of themselves.

Dr. C said that the label of  "ticking time bomb" was not quite accurate.  (It was a description used by a pediatric cardiologist who'd been the first doctor to read the echo. To her credit, she is used to doing surgeries at obviously much smaller aortic diameters.) He did agree that the medical team unanimously agreed that surgery was necessary, though.  Between now and next summer, he counseled. The timing was up to us--and the availability of this doctor who travels internationally to medical conferences when he's not in the OR.

What a relief. We had time to gather more information, more counsel, get some necessary things in order, think through our options.

Our appointment wrapped up with my hubby saying, "As I recall, Doctor, you play guitar?"

"Yes, that's right. Good memory!"  That started a "whole 'nother' conversation, as they say. Put my strumming man completely at ease talking about guitars, music, old rock bands, collections.

Dr. Cameron sat forward on his chair, about to get up. "Do either of you have any other questions about the surgery or anything else?"

"I have one more."

Paul shot me the look again.

"What about sex?" I asked.

With a wink Dr. Cameron replied, "I'd prefer you wait till you get home."