Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Review

This has been a year of not going anywhere. Just home, Church, and the grocery store for the most part.

Each time we had travel plans, they got canceled.

Wes started working for Appriss in the Summer, after contracting there for about seven months.

Commute to Louisville every day.

Months of me without a vehicle.

Summer at the pool down the street.

My fibromyalgia is WAY BETTER than it used to be. So is my hypoglycemia. Thanks be to God, and the guaifenesin protocol. I'm firmly convinced that it is the Holy Spirit who inspired doctors and scientists to make helpful and life-giving discoveries and breakthroughs with medicine and knowledge. Glory to God for all things.

Homeschooling all four kids now, instead of just the three youngers. Loving how our family life is. Kids loving each other, being kind and peaceful.

Kids learning German! How cool is that????

Jessamine county homeschool coop for Biology and P.E. in the fall. Still debating about what the spring semester will look like.

After-Christmas trip to Missouri cancelled. Boo sniff.

Weaned B off her meds in the spring. She seemed to be doing well...we thought.

GFCF diet attempt. SCD diet attempt. Psychosis.

B getting sick in December is definitely the low-light of the year. Nine days in UK hospital. Back on meds, this time for good, perhaps.

E is into Pokemon. Why, oh why did we ever put a deck in his Pascha basket???

M is a huge bookworm: Fanatsy fiction and a Garfield fan.

A loves to draw and is very good at it.

Harry Potter, book 7!

Getting to know and love our new priest and his family! Definitely one of the good parts of 2007.

Teaching a class and leading music at Vacation Church School at the Greek Orthodox Church...a good part.

Sunday morning kid's singing time at our parish.

Lovely toddlers and babies at Church to hold sometimes.

A baptismal gown and an altar cloth to sew.

Struggling with my weight, but not hard enough, obviously, since I gained weight in 2007 and didn't really start trying to do something about it until late in the year. Oh the passions!

Weight Watchers. It's like Orthodoxy: It has hooks to hang the struggle on. Structure, and a plan.

Feeling middle aged. A husband who has to worry about his cholesterol and me overweight. Sigh.

New friends: Lisa, Lisa, Elizabeth, Heidi, etc.

Wednesday night Bible Study at Communality. Such precious people!

Husband went on a men's retreat to Holy Cross Hermitage monastery. Wonderful for him. (A direct fruit of ROCOR and Moscow's healing, felt all the way into this end of the earth.) Now the monks are praying for my daughter and sent us some gifts, via Father Justin. What a blessing!

New next door neighbors: A smiling older couple who gave us a plate of Christmas cookies with a Christian Christmas card on it. Must return the joy for New Year with a loaf of sweet bread.

Discovering the joys of crocheting.

Back porch prayer space with icons and a sleeping bag, candle and a mug of something hot.

Matins with the birds.

Kids are all outgrowing their clothes. Do they PLAN to all be in a growth spurt at the same time????

God is good. It's just all life, isn't it?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A New Beginning

Well, I gained so much weight in December that I might as well count today as a new start. Me and everyone else in America, no doubt. I did learn something: That I rely far too much on food and drink for comfort, rather than turning to the Heavenly King....

I got to go to Vespers by myself this evening. B was having a rough day and so Wes stayed home with her and the other kids so I could go out to tea with some friends after prayers. I was hoding Ian (he's about 9 months old) during the service, and St. Herman helped him to calm down. I think St. Herman likes little wigggly baby boys. It was worth it to hold wiggly little Ian, though, because his mother got then to sing in the rather dimished choir this evening, and she has the voice of an angel. So beautiful to hear her sing.

Today was Wes' birthday. He's 38. I'll tease him mercilessly until I turn 38, three weeks from now. Just kidding. I think we are both feeling the whole "middle age" thing. I've got my resolution to loose weight, and he realizes that he needs to exercise for various health reasons. The family had cake and ice cream and I had a weight watchers thingy. I'd rather it have been sugar free, I think.

For Christmas I ended up getting a pedometer...a really good one, from Weight Watchers, and a walking DVD kit, and a tracker book. The pedometer has so many different cool modes. Among other things, it tracks my steps, tells me how far and also tells me at the end of the day how many activity points I've earned. I learned from it today that I am way less active than my imagination leads me to believe. It's hard to get in 10,000 steps, let me tell ya! My total so far today is at 9371 and that's with going for two walks, AND a trip to the grocery store AND chasing or bouncing Ian around at vespers. It's nice to have goals, though. Bald honesty is refreshing to the soul.

God have mercy, it's good to go to confession. I won't share details, of course, but darn it, it's good to go!

Please keep praying for my daughter. She's still having some huge struggles each day. Hallucinations, visual and auditory. Some scary stuff. Typically such a crisis can last around six months. If so, we almost have the first month down. Pray for us. God, have mercy.

So that's the update. I got fat again in December, like I said. I didn't gain back ALL the weight I'd lost, though. And I did learn some things about myself. So not all is a waste. God, have mercy.

Perhaps I'll do a year-end summary post like I did last year, before January 1st.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Christmas Post

Christ is born! Glorify Him, Alleluia!

"Those who sat in darkness have seen a great light." And for me this gospel truth really sunk in. I think this has probably been the darkest Christmas of my life. Wes and I are just grieving over our daughter. No, she's not all better. She might never be.

And into the dark world, where things like psychosis, and schizophrenia, and terrors exist, into this dark world of chronic disease and financial strain, of expensive doctors and medicines, of car troubles (Wes' car needs a new engine)...into THIS world God is born. He takes on our flesh and becomes Immanuel-God with us.

And there is a Kingdom, and it is not of this world. And we can be a part of it, and all this stressful, grief-inducing stuff is put into it's place. The suffering has an end and the cross hums it's glory. Yes, there is death. But because of Christ there is the resurrection. And because he was born in a manger we have hope. Not just a sentimental feeling to pull us through until the weather changes. Hope that pulls us through, rather, until that day when it will always be day and His Kingdome is fully revealed to us.

Puts things in perspective, it does.

Christ is born, glorify Him. Alleluia!

Last night during Compline prayers, somehow joy crept into my heart. A joy in Christ. It can only be the Holy Spirit, because there's no human explanation for it. I'm not so naive as to think the grief is over. Grief doesn't work that way. It is slow. I'm not so naive as to think I won't get angry or upset, or freaked out tomorrow. But I thank God for today's joy.

Christ is born, glorify Him. Alleluia!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

St Nicholas Seoul Christmas Liturgy

From all over the world!

Christmas Carol Singing

Snippets of Christmas Caroling around the world. This is the St. Marys Orthodox Church choir, 2nd place in the Kairali carol singing competition.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Afghan fight for the dinner bill

This is funny. I can't understand a word and it's still funny. Hope you enjoy it, too.

USA and Torture

I think anyone would have to be really naive to think that our government does not regularly find ways to flout Geneva conventions, commit various war crimes, and torture prisoners. The other guy is doing it, so why can't we? Or why can't we at least get "the other guy" in on the act and let him do it for us? (Just for the record, I truly and deeply wish America were the white hat wearing, upstanding nation that we like to image ourselves to ourselves as being. I know we are not, and it saddens me, and I'm against torture of all forms.

Peace, goodwill towards all men, and all that stuff. 'Tis the season...

So here is my small offering for Geneva-convention friendly softening-up techniques our government might consider using instead of heinous activities such as waterboarding and electric shock. Just looking around at the faces I've seen, I think people exposed to this stuff regularly get pretty worn out and could use a break:

-acquire those couch beds that hospitals provide for family members to sleep on, for the POW's. Fail to supply instructions on how to set them up properly, so for the 50% who sleep on them half way extended, they will break down and give us information much sooner than the others, but even for the fully-extened sleepers, I'd only give it a month.

-Pipe bad Christmas music into prison cells at top volume 24/7. If this takes too long, pipe in an overlay of incessant tantruming toddler screams.

-Give the prisoners everything they need, but make sure it's poorly made plastic crap version from China that breaks down after the second use. Do not provide replacement nor means of disposal. Do not supply instructions on assembly.

-Strap prisoner to a chair and place it in the pink and purple Barbie and Bratz doll aisle at the toy store for an indefinite amount of time.

-If the Christmas music doesn't work, switch to anything from High School musical 1 or 2.

-If prison rations don't work, feed them hospital food.

-Assign each prisoner a nerdy ten-year old who speaks incessantly of nothing but Pokemon, whether or not the prisoner is actually listening or comprehending the nuances of what is being said about the game.

-Make the prisoners fold laundry while a toddler is standing by to unfold and scatter the laundry as fast as it can be folded.



But seriously:

God have mercy on ALL those who are imprisoned without cause. (And also/even those who are imprisoned with cause). Have mercy on them, and show them your comfort.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Feeling Low

I wish Christmas were not next week. I have no plans. They got cancelled. Now I suppose I have to figure out what to cook. I don't want to cook. I think I'm going to buy a frozen lasagna and some pies and be done with it.

I'm feeling very low today. Last night, I was already tired and my husband was working late. At 8:30 he called me to tell me his car wouldn't start and that he'd called a tow truck. So I loaded the kids in the van, got gas, and some caffeine, and drove the hour and fifteen minutes to Louisville to pick him up. And then we waited for the tow truck together, got some snacks, and headed home. It was midnight when we got here.

My eyes have been bothering me. Seems like I need new glasses about once a year. I'm so sick of that. Even my reading glasses are less than perfect for reading. And my regular glasses just make me tired. But I am tired. To the core, and perhaps that is the only trouble. I'm going to wait a while before running out to get my eyes checked.

I get the feeling that everyone wants everything to be OK. "Oh, you are back in Church...that's so wonderful!" And it is...BUT... Like the immediate crisis is over, but there is a long term reality to deal with here, and things are definitely not back to "normal" yet, if there ever was such a thing. There's still daily confusion over many things, daily tears, being scared. Not being quite right. Waiting and hoping and praying that the psych meds will continue to wax effective. Hoping she'll be able to resume school work in January and wondering if the second semester of Biology lab will happen.

And these meds have such grave side effects. But those side effects are less bad than the reality without them.

Little things are getting to me today: I need a hair cut. My skin is awful, probably from all those brownies I was pigging out on in the hospital. And it's December and the rest of my skin is dry and scaly no matter how much lotion a slather on. I'm achy and feeling the fibro today. I doubt I'll do my exercise video. I'm struggling hard to keep my eating where it should be, and that depresses me. I was doing so well in that department without a struggle before all this happened. But I carry on because it is the ONE thing I can do to take care of myself in all of this (Ok, that, and getting the sleep I need). Perhaps it is iconic. And it's not about looks. It's about not wanting to be lugging around an extra forty-five pounds of unnecessary fat that I don't really have the energy to be shlepping.

Last night I had to drive over to Louisville because Wes' car broke down. Did I say this already? It's in the shop today, awaiting a diagnosis. Our van also needs some major work done on it. How pathetic is that? We are so totally that thrift-store and walmart shopping uncool family with the schizo kid, the fat mom, and the broken down vehicles....

I wish it weren't Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

What's Going On?

Today, B is crocheting a cute hat. M is busy trying to learn the dance aerobics section of the new Weight Watchers workout DVD I bought. (I got worn out on the cardio basics section.) A is on the computer and E is lazing around.

My plan is to get some room cleaning done today and then take at least some of the kids to the dollar store to do their Christmas shopping.

B is getting better each day, but woke up this morning with tears, wondering if the government was planning on killing all the autistic kids. Scary thought! Paranoid.

I got nice and fat over the past few weeks. So, now I'm trying to get back in the game with Weight Watchers. Hard to do the week before Christmas. I'd lost ten, and then regained almost six. I refuse to be depressed about it. I forge ahead.

But it does show me I need to learn better coping mechanisms. I guess I'm an emotional/stress eater. Duh. And I didn't even realize.

We made it to Church yesterday, which was absolutely wonderful.

Family movie night last pm. We watched High School Musical 2. Popcorn, fish sticks, veggies and dip. Fun.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Every little bit counts

Each day B gets a bit better and better. Today we went for a short walk, and she spent some time playing her recorder beautifully, just like before. She also has been working on a gorgeous crocheted shawl that is so very soft. We found this light blue yarn...several skeins of it...at the thrift store one time. She let me work on the shawl while I was in the hospital and she was too sick, but most of the work on it is hers, and the project is hers, so I need to find something of my own to do.

She also took several long naps, and got carsick. If you are praying for us, please pray that: her meds will no longer make her nauseous and headachy and dizzy, that her energy can improve, and that she will continue to improve to the point of starting school work up again in January.

The doctor we went to see today reminded us of this fact: This is physical. Just because we don't yet have the right test to pinpoint exactly what is going wrong in her brain, it is still physical. Psychiatric problems are physical problems. This cannot be stated enough. It needs to be demystified, and it needs to be treated like any other medical condition that must be managed long term, such as diabetes or high cholesterol.

I think the reason psych issues make people uncomfortable is that they affect behavior and that affects the community. It affects social interaction, how a person is, behaves, responds. These things can really interfere with the quality of a person's life for themselves, and also for the persons in their community. And because it affect the community, it is somehow larger than an individuals bodily limits. But the good news is, it's not catching. So it doesn't affect the larger community the way something like HIV would.

Get a movie like K-Pax, or Beautiful Mind, or Rainman, or what's that one with Richard Gere where he plays a bi-polar guy? Good examples of how it must be so much worse for the person suffering than it is for the person's surrounding the suffering person. I'm thinking especially of K-Pax, and the people in the background at the mental hospital. Look at them, and know that underneath all the drooling catatonic weirdness, persons are aware and thinking and knowing. This is humbling and frightening to consider, when I know that I (and I suspect most persons) have that natural sense of revulsion that wants to keep this sort of thing at arm's length.

But this was my own daughter. Arm's length was never a consideration.

You see, last night, when I was tucking her in, she told me that she remembers everything from when she was catatonic. It was so scary. As an outsider, (and this is true with observing Autism as well) we see unresponsiveness and an inability to communicate, and we think: "No one is home." But this is not so. The reality is, someone is very much at home, but they are locked in, and can't get out. Ears can hear, and eyes can see, but tongues cannot speak and bodies cannot move.



God have mercy!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Auuuugh!

I was out on my back porch reading a book, bundled in a sleeping bag. Reading. At home. I come in, and on the dining room table is a blueberry cobbler and a CD.

None of the kids saw or heard anyone come in and drop it off.

I am so creeped out. Someone came into my house. While I was at home, without me knowing it. Someone I know most likely...but still.

Update: I figured out who it was. Safe person, etc. ...but still...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Everything's Changed: Random Thoughts

There really is such a thing as peace that passes all understanding. I have lived it this past week. Mostly. I had some bad moments last Monday when she went catatonic and I didn't know what was going on, before all the medical testing was done.

I'm still processing everything I lived through, so the blogging will be much about all of this for a while, I"m afraid.

It's something holy, helping a helpless human being. We do it all the time with our infants, but when a person is physically mature (or more mature) and yet helpless, see the holiness of it becomes more obvious. The vulnerability of the very young, very old, and mentally infirm was highlighted for me. "Whatever you have done unto the least of these..." came to mind as I watched my intelligent, brilliant teenage daughter grasp a popsicle by the frozen part like a baby would, forget how to chew and swallow and loose all sense of self dignity.

We have such the wrong idea of what life is, if we think it's about financial stability, or meeting career goals, or looking good, or feeling good, or anything like that. Life is about that journey towards God. Nothing more, nothing less. And nothing but our own choices can take that journey away from us. God have mercy on me and forgive me for my worries! That's going to be a big struggle for me in all of this, I think. As a mother, too, I long to drag my children along with me into heaven. Lord have mercy on us all.

Everything's changed. There's a new dynamic at work here. A liminality: time outside of time in which there is a waiting, a preparation for that which is to come. That's all that life is, anyway. And Reality breaks in with "Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" on a regular basis to remind me of what is really real, and of how very much dust I am (and all of this is, really). And the truth is, everything's changing has nothing really to do with my daughter getting sick, or anything like that. This just afforded, perhaps, a better glimpse of reality for now, before the wool is pulled over my eyes again.

I'm so tired!

We got up early this morning because B had an 8:30 appointment with a therapist. This is the guy who is going to be doing all her psych testing, to determine the extent of psychosis/neurosis, what is what, etc. At least, that's what I've been told. Seeing him is part of the package deal with her psychiatrist...can't do one without the other, which is good I suppose: They are being thorough. I just wish it weren't so expensive. Well, we'll have our deductible met by the end of February, most likely, between psych, therapist and meds.

But over-all, it felt like a big waste of time today. We got re-acquainted. Three hundred dollars of re-acquainted. How lovely. I truly hope Humana is cooperative about this. I guess there are worse things in the universe than financial ruin, because that is what this will do to us if Humana doesn't pay.

On the way home I stopped at Kroger to pick up a few things, hoping to be out long enough to swing in to Weight Watchers for weigh-in on my way home. That didn't happen, as B got rather greener and greener in the store, and I cut my grocery shopping short so she could get sick in the car as we headed straight home. I am going to have to find a different weight watchers meeting to go to. Perhaps one on Saturday. All this, and now I have to keep taking care of "me", too. How do I do that?

This illness of my dd's changes so many things. She can no longer be the babysitter, and she herself needs help in all sorts of ways, for instance. I'll need to take a nap this afternoon so that I can make a Walmart trip tonight, I suppose. It's a learning process.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Home!

Thank you all for all of your prayers. We got home this afternoon. Has it really been NINE DAYS?????

For the sake of my daughter's privacy, I don't feel comfortable being very specific about her diagnosis or treatment here on the blog. We ruled out any medical (germs, poisons, toxins, damage) cause for what was going on, and then started experimenting with meds, and yesterday finally found a combination that works, after trying two other different things that did not work. So, we are grateful.

I can say nothing but good about the doctors, residents, nursing staff and other workers at the University of Ketucky Medical Center. Everyone was WONDERFUL.

This is going to be long-term, so continued prayers always appreciated.

And God is good. And we felt God's goodness in so many ways this week. Many of those ways were very mundane, practical, ho-hum, but they made a huge difference: The moment last night when my dd could eat microwaved chef boy-ar-dee ravioli with a fork like a thirteen year old again, and not need to be fed. The first time she laughed again, when I said something about my creaky old bones. The availability of clean linens, and the fact that they let me do the mom thing by letting me raid the supply closet whenever needed. The fridges of food and drink for late night snacks (or whenever snacks). The availability of the Chaplain, who also happened to be a friend from Church. The priestly visits and prayers with Father Justin. All the visitors we received. The fact that my parents came to help out for a few days. The meals. The child care people gave to my other kids. My warm red sleeping bag. Brownies. And the help being given to rearrange our house....Many good things.

Lowlights included deep fried mac and cheese nuggets on the food cart, catatonia, eating too much, interrupted sleep, skin allergy to adhesives, long waits for everything, having to get stuck nine times before receiving sedation, MRI, CT, EEG, ECG, LP, vomiting from Risperdol, pressure to drink enough fluids, loneliness, isolation and boredom.

I have a real sense of peace about all of this, though...at least for now. I'm sure I'll have my moments.

Why does my beloved daughter have to have such a heavy cross?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Update

My daughter is still sick. The hospital is wonderful, facilities, staff, set up, doctors, all of it. The MRI came out clean, the CT came out clean. Nothing showed up on the EEG. (But they might do a 24 hour long one at some point.) Her neurological symptoms are getting worse and she's experiencing delirium. I'm staying with her, mostly, and don't have access to the computer while there.

It's like a medical mystery...like a House M.D. episode, only the doctors are nice people who care about the patients, who listen well, and who are actually rather cautious. In real life they don't throw meds at a situation willy nilly the way they do on that show. But the show is still fun to watch.

Actual life in the hospital: I've beaten a track between our room and the coffee pot. I raid the clean linens closet on a regular basis and I'm the one helping with the bathroom trips when I'm there. I'm sure the nurses all love me for it. UK feeds the parents as well as the kids, and now that I know how to fold out the couch properly, I can actually get comfy there. (The first night included distorted contortions on a half sized couch bed.) Staying in the hospital does include lots of waking up in the night to help a moaning and groaning girl, or to chat with the nurse who does the vitals, that sort of thing.

But I know the chaplain personally and all the doctors and residents are so pleasant.

She could be in a while, figuring out what's going on and then treating it. My mom is coming to take care of the kids. Thank God for her! My Church family has been wonderful, too. We can feel everyone's prayers and support. Keep 'em coming. I'll update again when I can. I promise I won't leave you all hanging.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Please Pray!

Dear blog readers,

Please pray for my daughter, Bethany! She's in the hospital. So far the only test that has come back abnormal are elevated ammonia levels in her blood. We do not know what is causing it, or the symptoms that led us to take her to the ER tonight.

I give thanks to God that we were able to find a babysitter for our other kids very quickly this evening. Now I am home and I'm supposed to try to sleep, while my husband is at the hospital with her. Tomorrow we will switch places.

Pray for the doctors and for her healing. She just participated in a service of Holy Unction last Wednesday. She is scared and confused and in pain. I'm scared and peaceful and exhausted, all at the same time. It is strange. Lord, have mercy!

Matins and Advent

Lately I've been praying Matins out on the back porch. The sun comes up and the light of my candles in the darkness fades as the sky pales, yellow, gray and purple behind the familiar tree branch lace. The birds join me on some days, but not this morning. I could see my breath in the cold, like clouds of dubious incense.

And these prayers have become my Advent journey. It seems particularly fitting that Matins prayers start out with the "end of the story": Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among me. (three times). Followed by: O Lord, Thou shalt open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise. (twice).

Ok, so there's an element of faith there, and dependence on God's work, and not my own. I need that, early in my morning. Lately I've been all tangled up in need of God, snarled feelings and stressed. Even first thing in the morning. I'm glad His mercy is new every morning. It is God who opens my lips.

What follows next in Matins are the "six psalms". The six psalms literally lead us from our desperate need of God, through to a declaration of hope and faith, and then praise, and supplication. They are (LXX numbering): Psalm 3 "O Lord, why are the multiplied that afflict me...", Paslm 37 " O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, nor chasten me in Thy wrath...", Psalm 62 "O God my God, unto Thee I rise early at dawn..." (an old favorite of mine!), Psalm 87 "O Lord God of my salvation, by day have I cried and by night before Thee...", Psalm 102 "Bless the Lord, O my soul...", Psalm 142 "O Lord, hear my prayer, give ear unto my supplication in Thy truth...". After this the "Glory to the Father..." and then three times Alleluia (which, one must not forget means "praise the Lord").

Then Matins leads us towards a declaration of the salvation of the Lord: His coming in the flesh. "God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." There is nothing broken in the human condition that the incarnation of God does not begin to fix. He is our salvation and our hope. Human nature joined with the Divine nature, enabling us now to also become partakers of His divinity by grace... This is followed, on ordinary days by the Magnificat of Mary: Her declaration of praise and prophecy as she receives Christ into her womb, the God made flesh, Immanuel. "My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my savior..." And so the advent journey is fulfilled in this short service done each morning with a conclusion of the Doxology. We come full circle and declare at the end that which we brought to mind at the beginning:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men.
We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory.
O Lord, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty: O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; and O Holy Spirit. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us; Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For Thou only art holy, Thou only art the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, Amen.

Every day will I bless Three, and I will praise Thy name for ever, yea, for ever and ever.

Vouchsafe, O Lord to keep us this day without sin. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Thy name unto the ages. Amen.

Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in Thee. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes. (thrice)

Lord, Thou hast been our refuge in generation and generation. I said: O Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee. O Lord, unto Thee have I fled for refuge, teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God; for in Thee is the fountain of life, in Thy light shall we see light. O continue Thy mercy unto them that know Thee.

Holy God, Holy mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (thrice)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.

Today is salvation come unto the world; let us sing to Him Who arose from the tomb, and is the Author of our life. For having destroyed death by death, He hath given us the victory and great mercy. " (Jordanville Prayer Book, pp. 93-95)

And it ends with the cross and the resurrection. The whole story. So even as during Advent we anticipate the joy of his coming, the hope, a newborn baby, even here there is a cross, and even here there is His resurrection.

It just all makes me think: How very very good God is!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Blessed be the Name of the Lord

Now that the weather has cooled off, I'm back to sitting out on the back porch. I've got a very comfortable chair out there, and I like to sit in my sleeping bag with a mug or thermos caraffe of something hot, sipping and praying. It soothes the snarles and tangles of my stressed out innards.

It's been a rough week with one of my kids. Many tangles that need soothing. (Prayers appreciated.)

This morning I saw two couples of cardinals: two sets of male and female pairs. I wonder if it was a family, and a pair of blue jays. It was lovely to see them flitting around in the early morning sun. The cardinals were especially well-hidden amongst the red and orange un-raked leaves in our yard. Simply beautiful. Also, since the weather has been odd, the honeysuckle has not decided to drop its folliage this fall, and the grass is still green. A few days ago I noticed that the neighbors still have roses blooming. Confused plants.



Another thing that happened is that I kicked my best shoes off on the back porch the other day when I was settling down for some prayers. There they sat for a couple of days. We generally keep all our shoes on the back porch, so I thought nothing of it. Yesterday, I went to retrieve those shoes, and they were gone. Gone. As in: Not there.

Did I bring them inside? I've looked everywhere. I even went through the dirty laundry, in case they got picked up accidentally with a load of clothes going to the wash room. Nope, not there. I've looked under everything, behind everywhere, in everything. I've searched high and low. Those shoes, last seen on my back porch, are gone.

It's creepy. Did someone go up onto my porch and look around, decide they liked the looks of those shoes and leave with them? They were cozy brown suede Merrell slides with a fleece interior. They were my only warm winter shoes. And I can't afford to replace them.

I did not buy those shoes. Last winter I prayed: "Lord, I need some brown shoes. Please help me to find some that are good for my back, that I can afford." A couple of days later a friend of mine gave me a bag of hand-me-downs, and on top were those shoes. A bad fit for her, a perfect fit for me. Brand new. God provided.

So now I'm still hunting for those shoes, having a hard time believing that they could have "walked off", while at the same time feeling creeped out and violated. Or, I'll feel really stupid when they turn up some place odd where I put them. But did I? I don't think so. I"m trying hard not to be sad and upset about those shoes. I suppose I was too attached to them. How could I not be? Every time I put them on I was reminded tangibly that God loves me and cares for me and answered that prayer.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Lord, I don't have any warm winter dress shoes....

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Educating Alana

I've decided to shake things up a bit in our home school, to foster independent learning, and to increase the content of the kids' reading materials. Towards that end, I organized our bookshelves by category, and in the process discovered we have lots of great resources.

Also, I discovered how few English and American Lit. classics I have actually read, juvenile or adult. I want to remedy this. I might as well work on reading what's on my shelf.

For instance, I've never read a book by Roald Dahl. Yesterday I started BFG (Big Friendly Giant). I don't know what I think yet. Books by Robert Lewis Stevenson and Jack London are on my "to read" list. Along with Wind in the Willows, Mary Poppins, and also Swiss Family Robinson. I don't particularly look forward to this process, but it must be done.

If anyone is stumped for gift ideas, bookstore gift cards would always be welcome, towards the goal of us building an excellent library. It is better to have a good book on hand than not. But we also use the library a great deal.

And some of our books are simply old and falling apart. We have an incomplete set of the Little House books and the Anne of Avonlea series. Narnia books are in tatters, and many others just don't exist in our home library.

I've been very disappointed with worldbook.com this year. They never seem to be able to load the articles I request. That's a resource I'm not spending any more money on in the future.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Think About It

If we consistently pray to God "Thy will be done", WHY are we surprised when life does not go our way?

(...speaking of myself of course....)

How often do we say those words, when what we really mean is "Dear God, please let your will be MY will, and let, therefore, MY will be done."?

Think about it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Doll Making



Today I made this doll. She's a commission project, and represents about three hours of work. She's about twelve inches long. The dress is removable, but the hat is sewn on. You can't see it in the picture, but the crown of the hat is trimmed with the same rose trim as the dress. Her clothes are the softest flannel and her hair is made out of recycled wool.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I ought to post something...really, I should.

Well, Thanksgiving came and went and all went well. Food was good. Nobody over-ate. Nice visit with some relatives. As usual I am slammed. So tired. Our whole family is introverts, so even a short visit with people leaves us all rather tired.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Day Full of Jesus

We got up early and went to Divine Liturgy this morning for the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. That's my favorite thing to do on a weekday. And between now and Nativity, there's going to be a weekday liturgy about once a week. Tomorrow we go again, for Thanksgiving, so this week it's two! This makes me happy.

Of course I can't comprehend receiving Christ Himself in the Eucharist, but the reality is there nonetheless. I meet Him. And He fills me with life and joy. Even on the bad days. I cannot touch Him, yet he comes and touches me. I cannot apprehend Him, yet He gives Himself to me.

On the way home, I dropped some food off for someone who is ill, and was also giving a ride to the doctor for the brother in my parish who makes my chronic illness situation look like the walk in the park that it is. But this man is more full of peace and joy than just about anyone I know. He prays.

So, we are rolling along, up Harrodsburg Road discussing transformation, theosis and morphine; God's goodness and chronic pain, when suddenly we hear this funny noise. At first we thought the brakes, recently fixed, were going bad. But that seemed unlikely. He told me to pull over, that I had a flat. I can never figure these things out on my own. Turns out he was right. I would have driven on it much further if he had not been with me. I would have done serious damage to my car, most likely.

Between the two of us we managed to figure out where the jack was, get it out (both of us had hurting hands), figure out how to crank the screw loose that enabled the spare tire to drop to the ground underneath the van, unbolt the old tire (that took me standing on the lever to get it to budge...a good thing I'm so heavy), get the jack and laboriously crank it up (we took turns working and resting). I wasn't in much pain today (except for my wrists which have been "going" lately), but my friend was. He helped anyways, perhaps more than he should have. What a gentleman.

And in this humble service, I saw Christ in my brother. There on the side of the road. Cars whizzing past. Cripple and Crippleder changing a flat tire. It reminded me of washing feet. And I could see this transfiguration in my brother in Christ, I could see peace, and joy, and a light, humility and love.

There was more in my day, more glimpses of Jesus, but this one story is enough.

The cornbread for the stuffing is made (I was going to get a mix until I read the ingredients and wen't "Yuck, I'll make it from scratch!"), the butternut and acorn squashes are cooked, "Mrs. Smith" has been so kind as to make all those nice pies for me, so that is done as well.

Tomorrow it's just slow cooking the turkey, making the gravy, stir frying the green beans, and doing mashed potatoes, seasoning the squash, and that will be that.


Happy Thanksgiving to all, and also a blessed feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple. Glorious Feast Day!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Monday, Monday

icon link
Well, Monday is not my least favorite day of the week. I generally like the fact that after a busy weekend (and this weekend was particularly busy!) I get to just be at home and do the things I do around here.

Today is a little bit different, though, since the coming Thanksgiving holiday requires a major clean-fest. I plan to have the house spotless, since I have in-laws coming, and that includes a baby and a toddler. I don't want anything dangerous or gross lying about, if you know what I mean.

And I don't like to clean, but must do it. So, here I go...

Why am I such a reluctant hostess? Hospitality is difficult for me, and even more so for my reclusive husband. So, it falls to my shoulders, if we ever have anyone over for a meal, or anything like that. And having people spending the night gives me anxiety.

I guess it's because all my feelings of inadequacy come to the forefront, and I feel the oddness that is our life. And I wonder what others will think, or whether their particular needs will get met while they are here. I'm not the type of woman who will have her cloth napkins and table linens ironed for the big day, but they will be clean and on the table, at least. But truth be told, my home is very humble and that is the part that I'm slightly embarrassed about. I'm too materialistic and I can't ignore that part of me as much when folks are coming over. In my eyes, my stuff is never as nice as someone else's stuff. I'm too attached to the things of this world, see?

So today my job is to try and de-stress, and to pray about those feelings while I clean. I think if I can get this house clean, guide my children in helping me, and do it without losing my temper, without stressing out unnecessarily, and without forgetting to pray, and without feeling sorry for myself, I will have accomplished something very big. Invisible, but very big.

Perhaps St. Martha can teach me something. And perhaps her sister, St. Mary, can teach me something as well. Holy friends of Christ, pray for me!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Communicating

I have a hard time communicating my faith with others. I get mush-mouthed and I never know quite what to say. I have a hard time pinning it down. Sometimes I read something, that really communicates what I would want to say, if I could say it so well.

I'd like to recommend the Blog "Glory to God for All Things" by Father Stephen Freeman.

He writes:

The great good news is that this faith worth believing is true. It survives even into the modern world because the modern world is weak and crumbles. It cannot feed a modern man, while the faith once and for all delivered to the saints sustains human beings even through the unimaginable horrors of the modern world. God is with us.

If you wait on your modern heart to just suddenly become the heart of a desert monk - you’ll have a long wait. The first floor is full of strange and wonderful things, but your heart will have to be changed in something longer than an instant (most likely). But most of us can find our hearts changed with something less than 40 years of weeping in a desert or a 20 year sentence in the cold of Siberia. Instead, you’ll have to pray even when you don’t feel like it and fast when you’d prefer to forget it, and attend Church like an old “Baba” in the dark years of Stalin. If the doors are open, be there - or at least try to be there - as if your life depended on it. It does. And the faith worth believing will come. Day by day it will come.

And then. in this modern world, you will see something that others don’t. You may be asked to tell what you see. Or you may prefer silence. But the reality of what you see will have removed the anxiety in your heart and replaced it with true faith. It is enough.

Homemaker

Last night I went to bed at 8:30 pm and slept for eleven hours. I didn't even hear my husband's snoring, which usually keeps me up half the night. That's one of the reasons I was so tired. It's been a mostly sleepless week.

I also went to bed fighting some very low feelings: Like, I'm a big fat(literally) nobody with a nothing life. I can't really delve into the whys or wherefores of those feelings, as just typing the words is bringing them back.

So, I'm a homemaker. But I'm not the good kind. I'm the kind with unfolded laundry and dubious kitchen floors. My house is the muggle version of the Weasley's place, the Burrow. Yay, rah. Who cares about homemakers? The world is certainly not impressed with me. And if I were getting a grade (I was always SO good in school!) it would not be a good one. Certainly not an "A".

I'm the kind of homemaker who would rather be cruising youtube for 9/11 conspiracy theory vids and researching the latest drama in the Autism community than mopping my floors or dusting. (By the way, Autism Speaks seems to have a bit of a eugenics bent to them: trying to develop a prenatal autism test. WHAT good would that do, except to encourage moms to abort their potentially autistic kids. Yikes. OK, so I've never had to deal with fecal smearing or intensive therapies, BUT STILL. What is the value of a human life?)

And I guess that's the gist of my question, and the gist of my negative feelings: What's the value of THIS human life? I'm only a small fraction of the person I thought I'd be when I grew up. I can't do it all. I'm a mediocre homemaker at the end of the earth.

But right now I really need to get off my butt and get some stuff done.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Not Such a Great Idea

I made a vegetable soup with canned oysters today. It was very STRONG, fishy. It stenched up the house. My oldest seems to like oysters better than I do. And no one else ate the soup. Or else my oldest child is just very stubborn and is forcing herlself to eat it because it's there. I'll probably force myself to eat another portion of it tomorrow, because it's there, but I won't be cooking it again. I'd rather just do veggie soup and do the oysters on the side. Perhaps smothered in mustard sauce, or something. Or shrimp. It's much milder.

We had to cut up and cook some apples, an orange and some five spice in lemon juice so that we could get rid of the fishy smell.

On a sad note, my youngest lost her baptismal cross today at the place where I go to Wednesday night bible study. Please say a prayer that we can find and retrieve it successfully. She and I are both very sad. Of course she didn't tell me she'd lost it until AFTER we'd left, and the building was locked up. I really hope I can get hold of someone there tomorrow, and go to find it in the play room.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Big Clear Out-Part 2

We got to Church this weekend with out car full of stuff, and I was amazed and gratified to see that we weren't the only ones. I wish I had a picture to post, of the huge mound of bags, boxes and hangers full of clothes and goods that people gathered. And from what I hear, many are still working on it and will bring more in in the coming weeks. The pile will grow.

Through a personal connection of a member of our parish, I think it's going to Hurricane relief in Haiti. Yes, some folks there lost everything. People he knows and is related to.

After Divine Liturgy, the pile was moved into the nave, and the priest blessed the stuff. Later, I supervised a crowd of very enthusiastic children who were eager to help move it out to the fellowship room. They made many trips back and forth. At the very end was a Rubbermaid tub, rather large and heavy, full of dishes. I went to find a strong young man to help carry the container, when lo and behold, here come a herd of kids, cooperatively pooling their strength, pulling that heavy container down the hall.

Now there's a picture of the Church at work, if ever I saw one!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Big Clear Out

This, lifted off the OCA website...I can't find the reference anywhere, although here's the quote: St. Basil the Great wrote in the fourth century: "the coat that hangs in your closet belongs on the shoulders of your brother who is naked, the extra shoes belong on the feet of the one who has none..."
So, getting ready for the Nativity fast:

I'm learning that there is a special emphasis on Almsgiving during the Nativity fast. Our hearts need to be quieted, and to be freed from materialism, especially during this time of year. The world wants to lead us quite in the opposite direction.

There are some really good notes here about what it's all about.

Father Justin read the famous quote by St. Basil the other day...the one that by the extra clothes hanging in our closet we are robbing the poor. I'd heard it before, but this time it really struck me.

I generally consider myself to be fairly non-materialistic. I don't own as much as many people do, and much of what I own, I consider to be fairly low-brow/crappy. There's a hint about what's in my heart, if ever there was one. Because what is in my heart is quite a bit of materialism, I think. This desire to own nice things. Or at least things nice enough that I can fake feeling good about my stuff. I drive by the mall, say a few disparaging things about it, but secretly wish I could shop there. I secretly am embarrassed about my home and the fact that I have duct tape in my refrigerator and a hole in my bathroom wall. So I don't practice hospitality very often. Yeah, that's what's in my heart. And it needs to change.

So, our parish is having a closet clear out. And then we are going to find a way to give our stuff to the poor. This fits with the "100 things" clear out that I've seen on other blogs.

I found I own way too many dishes. Way more than I need. And I've been hoarding more clothes for the kids than they need. And those clothes that are hanging in my closet that get passed over again and again. I had already done a big clear out in my closet a few months ago, so the problem there was minimal, but I did detect a few pieces of evidence of my greed. I thought this was an area where we were doing well (much smug self-righteouness) but shining the light of the gospel on it, shows up my sins. What struck me most was what I had to deal with in my own heart as I was going through our stuff.

The good result is, that I got a storage area of our house that was very very messy cleaned up and organized in the process of doing this work. So that is a good thing, as well.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Pumpkin Clam Chowder


1 T. oil
1 Onion, chopped...sautee in oil
3 cups or so of some sort of broth (I used fat free homemade chicken stock because the canned stuff is not on anyone's diet, but a veggie boullion cube and some water would work well.)
3-4 cups of cooked pumpkin
2 cloves of crushed garlic
juice drained off from 2 10 oz. cans of clams

Make the above into a soup. Once the pumpkin (it was in the freezer) is thawed and it's all hot, blend it all in a blender. Use a towel to hold down the top, lest it explode and burn your hand. Ask me how I know this.

2 cans of clams, chopped
1 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
parsley
pepper
chives to taste.

Add the last ingredients after the pumpkin part is smooth and blended. Get it hot and serve.

This is really really really good. And it's low carb, legal or both a gluten free/casein free diet, Specific Carbohydrate diet and it has only 2 Weight Watcher points per serving. (I'm pretending like the recipe makes six servings).

Just in time for the nativity fast

Eat Your Vegetables

I had a nice time with a new friend yesterday. One of the ladies from the Communality Bible study I go to on Wednesday nights. She came over for "coffee" and we all know that that really means whatever smorgasbord of hot beverages a person can manage to lay out. I asked her if she wanted cocoa, coffee or tea...and she said "Cocoa, as long as it's sugar free!" I knew right then we'd be kindred spirits. So I made us a pot, and cracked open a packet of sugar free shortbread cookies. It was good. I counted the points.

Yes indeedy. I believe I blogged a few months back about giving up artificial sweeteners, and such. Well, I'm here to announce that reality land for Alana is that they are going to have to stay a part of my life. The sugar, honey, fructose, type of stuff, and various lower glycemic blends of various more natural sugars that exist still make me ill. And I just can't manage to NOT go for anything sweet ever. But I digress.

We drank some delightful hot cocoa and told each other our stories. I love hearing people's stories. Each one is unique, and each one is precious. But at the same time there are always some common human themes in the stories, and we share that human connection with each other. And when the person across the table is a Christian, there is an even greater bond.

Lisa told about how she came back to God at the mega Church my friends and I love to mock (God have mercy on me a sinner...), and about how she ended up sort of coming to the end of that place, moving on, and doing the whole "intentional living/simplicity/inner city/reach out to the poor" type of lifestyle choices together with her new faith community. I have so much to learn from friends like her because my heart yearns in similar directions (as far as outreach to the poor goes), but so often the bare facts of life prevent me from knowing what to do, doing, or having the energy or other resources to follow through with my desires.

I got to tell my story, too. All my Orthodox "weirdnesses", and how God brought me to this place I'm at. We compared notes on what it's like to be married to computer geeks. We chatted about her job. She's a Physician's Assistant.

And my favorite nugget of the day: Rolling her eyes she says "My beef against the whole Organics thing is...Well, it's not the people who are loading up on all those Kroger [conventionally grown] vegetables that are the ones that are coming in to the clinic with health issues, ya know."

Now THAT puts things in perspective.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I lost weight this week!

1.4 pounds for a total of six since I started weight watchers.

And that, despite my trip to Nashville and my fibro-flare up.

Yaaaaaaaay! I was dreading weigh-in so much. And I'm glad that's behind me now.

Ky Highway Safety

My homeschool list is a treasure trove of information today! Here's more:

Important Travel Safety Information
>
>
>
> They will help change your tire, etc. Good number to keep with us in the
> car!
> Put this number in your cell phone, you never know when you will need it
>
> Today I found out that we have a free roadside service for highways,
> parkways, and interstates in KY They are funded by our taxes. They will
> change your tire, help with battery, or anything needed for an emergency.
> They do not want any money at all, not even a tip.
>
> Keep this number in your car and you can phone them 365 days a year, 24
> hours a day.
>
> 1-877-FOR- KYTC
> 1-877-367-5982
>
> He gave me a sticker to put on the windshield with the number listed above.
> I didn?t know this service was offered. He explained that not many people
> do and ask that I tell my friends. They were ever so helpful.
>
> Website: Highwaysafety.ky.gov
>

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

This is a cut and paste from info passed around on one of my homeschool lists:

Will you help us get the word out? November 11-16 is
National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and
we’re planning several activities to highlight our
clients and their needs. Please share the following
information with all of your friends and contacts.
Please feel free to forward this e-mail directly.


National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week
Activities:

November 11-16
Everyone is invited to join the Hope Center and the
UPS Stores throughout Lexington and Winchester to
deliver Hope in a Bag to the homeless citizens in our
community. It’s easy to participate:
Fill a bag with personal items for a man or woman and
include a personal note of encouragement. Label
whether the bag is for a male or female. Bring the bag
to any Lexington or Winchester UPS store and your bag
will be delivered to a homeless person in the
community. Suggested personal needs items include
travel-size toiletries and cold weather wear (soap,
shampoo, deodorant, disposable razors,
toothpaste/toothbrush, lotion, white socks, winter
hats, gloves and chapstick). This is a perfect project
for a school group, church group, civic organization
or family.

Tuesday, November 13
The Hope Center has partnered with Max & Erma’s
Restaurant to hold a fundraiser event on November 13
at their Hamburg location. Twenty percent of the sales
from any customer who purchases a meal at Max & Erma’s
at any time during that day, and presents a Hope
Center Fundraiser coupon, will go directly to the Hope
Center . Please plan to enjoy a meal at Max & Erma’s
in Hamburg on November 13, and benefit the Hope Center
at the same time! The coupon is attached. Please
forward it to all of your friends and contacts. You
can also download the coupon from www.hopectr.org or
call 252-7881, ext. 3008.

Thursday, November 15
We’re inviting the community to come for a tour at the
Hope Center at 360 W. Loudon Avenue in Lexington .
Tours will be held at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. We’ll
show all aspects of the facility and how it runs.
We’ll also provide highlights on the Hope Center ’s
Recovery Program for Women and the new George Privett
Recovery Center for Men which is currently under
construction.

Friday, November 16
Asbury College is hosting a very special event to
benefit the Hope Center . The evening will include
dinner, a speaker, and a silent auction all held at
the R.J. Corman Hanger. Dinner is being donated by
Abuelo’s Restaurant. The speaker will be legendary
jockey, Chris McCarron. Tickets are limited, and are
$30 each or four for $100. Please reserve yours today
by calling Kim Livesay at 859.252.7881, ext. 3008 or
klivesay@hopectr.org.


Thank you so much!!!
Kim Livesay
Associate Director of Development
Hope Center
P.O. Box 6
Lexington, KY 40588
E-mail: klivesay@hopectr.org
Phone: 859.252.7881, x3008
Cell: 859.230.1205
www.hopectr.org



__________________________________________________

Can't quite get it together

God have mercy! I'm having one of those weeks, and it's only Tuesday. Everything I do seems to be teetering on the verge of failure. Yesterday I was going to sew something, and then I realized I'd misplaced the paper that had the dimensions on it. So I had to e-mail the person who could tell me what they were. So I'll be sewing today, instead.

Yesterday I wanted to watch "The Hobbit" with the kids, since we'd just finished reading the book together after realizing my sewing project had to be put on hold. We got the popcorn made, and realized the version we'd checked out from the library was in Spanish.

So, we packed up to go to the library, and of course had to place a copy of the video we wanted on hold because it was at another branch.

And when we got home, realized that for all of that, we'd left that Spanish copy at home so we'll have to go back sometime today and get it returned.

I went for a walk even though I was mostly feeling sick and lousy and started feeling better...like I may actually make it two miles, when I had to cut my walk short at a mile and a half because it started to lightning and thunder. (Since the time I was out walking and lightning struck the street a few yards behind me, I don't mess with that kind of weather, ever.)

And the daylight savings switch is messing up when I get hungry. That makes me grumpy. Grrrrr.

Anyways...such is life.

Glory to God for all things.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Roadtrip

Thursday morning, I got in my car and drove down to Nashville, TN for a Koinonia Coffehouse Reunion Concert. I went, hoping to see some folks I knew from my High School youth group, and I was successful: I did get to see my youth group leaders from back then. These people blessed me tremendously and I wanted to hug their necks.

Neck-hugging is important.

I also wanted to pick up some Dogwood music, and I was successful with that as well.

A bit of history:

Koinonia Bookstore/Coffeehouse was a ministry spin-off of some people in Belmont Church, started back in the early 1970's. They had Friday and Saturday night concerts there, and many many people were reached for Christ during that time. Lots of baptisms, apparently. Of course, spun off from all that were things like "New Believer's Classes" etc. All of it very woo-woo-charismatic and exciting.

But apparently those concerts at Koinonia were sort of the beginning of the Nashville contemporary Christian music scene. Big names such as Amy Grant (after she sang she was sitting right in front of me), Michael W. Smith (he was the warm up act at the concert...leading the audience in some songs of the "praise-n-worship" variety before the actual concert proper.

So, the acts that I most enjoyed were the singer/songwriter bits: Alan Robertson (I used to babysit his kids), Billy Sprague (He wrote "Oh Heavenly Father, Oh Light of the World...do you remember that one? My husband who lived nowhere near Nashville ever does. Music spreads, I guess. I knew Billy as the song leader for your youth group summer trip to Florida in 1984), Jim Weber (whose wife Mel was one of the most influential youth ministers in my life as a teen, and whom I will always love. Jim's music is good, too.) and of course, Amy Grant (who did a teensy bit with the youth group here and there...I remember she let a few of us girls sing with her on stage during church one sunday...I think it was Thy Word is a Lamp unto my feet...does this mean I can claim to have been an Amy Grant backup singer? I think not).

But best of all was Dogwood. I cut my teeth on Dogwood's music as a kid. We were in Nashville and saw some Koinonia action in 1974, but most of the connection, for me, was the fact that somebody sent us boxes with record albums in them. Lots of Dogwood, some Fireworks (they sang at the concert as well), etc.

Life back then seemed very "happening", especially for these musicians, starting a whole new "thing".

Is it really as simple as some people getting together with a bit of equipment and a stage, some songs and a small audience? Perhaps it was back then. Right time, right place, etc.

When we came to America (25 years ago yesterday) my dad's first job was managing Koinonia bookstore during a time of remodeling and transition. By that time, the Koinonia concerts had been moved next door the the Belmont Church building. And it was all a big deal, a happening. Very exciting. But definitely not the simple and humble beginnings from ten years before. People seeking God, for sure.

So, there I was. At the reunion concert. Everyone was rather Geriatric except for Amy Grant, who actually must have some Merlin thing going on because she looked younger, not older.



And I wondered about people. Have they changed as much as I've changed? There's no time at an event like that to really sit and fellowship. It was more like: "Oh, Hi! Where are you now?" That's a loaded question, isn't it? What does that mean? Does it mean "Where do you live?" Does it mean "Do you still love Jesus?" The summary is quick: I live in Lexington KY, married, four kids, homeschooling them. The funny thing is, the people I saw who were my youth group leaders started their families later than I did, so we have kids the same age, even though I'm more than ten years younger than they are. So we talked shop a bit. One man's son is also on the Autistic Spectrum, so we compared acronyms: PDD, ADHD, AS...it's a parent of a kid on the the spectrum thing.

It was just so good to see people, even if ever so briefly. I also hooked up with my parents, and got to spend some time with them. We stayed at my cousin's house, which was great, too.

I gave out my blog addy to a few folks, so I'm wondering if they'll remember to stop by here and read this blog to catch up in that way. I hope so. I'm thinking of writing a "here's been my life journey since I graduated High School" type of post.

But not right now. I'm glad to be home again, and I'm glad the Holy Spirit has brought me to where I am. And I trust God has been faithful in the lives of my old friends as well.

Friday, November 02, 2007

25 Years

in amerika.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How to Utterly Avoid Halloween

I just have to write about my day.

I got up at 5:30 am. After getting myself ready, I got the kids out of bed, into their clothes and into the car. Seven a.m. Divine Liturgy in honor of St. John Kochurov of Chicago. He is such a cool saint.

He's Russian, of course, but came to America to labor as a missionary priest, late 1800's, early 1900's. He did. In Chicago. If you are ever in Chicago, go check out Holy Trinity Cathedral. He's the priest who over-saw the building of that Church. His parishioners were very poor, so he went to Russia to raise money for the building program. His ministry also was marked by lots of good preaching, and many chrismations and baptisms.

In 1907 he and his family returned to Russia. For a while he was a teacher, but then his wish was fulfilled and he became a parish priest again.

Was it the wrong place at the wrong time, or the right place at the right time? In October of 1917, after a prayer service, when his town was surrounded by Bolsheviks, he was arrested by them when they took over the town. Taken out to a field. And beaten. And shot. Cruelly. He did not die right away and his body was abused.

St. John was the first Hieromartyr (that means he was a priest who was martyred) of the Russian revolution. Evil times. The first of many, many, many. More than can be numbered and only God knows all their names. (More Christians were killed during the 20th century than in all other centuries combined, most of them in Russia.)

Today is the anniversary of his falling asleep in the Lord (his REAL birthday, so to speak), so the Church remembers him, and celebrates.

It's like meeting a new friend. What a dear, beloved Father, to come to America to labor as a pastor for so long. He did much while here. And then to go home and face martyrdom, eventually.

Most saints, I tend to think of as musty relics of the past. This morning the ambo bore not only two different icons of St. John, but also a framed photograph. That puts things in perspective.

After liturgy a bunch of us gathered in the back for some oatmeal. Father Justin has some photo albums of his trip to Russia (2001...back when he was a REALLY young man.) My priest was actually friends with some of St. John's descendants. Grand daughter, great-grandson, that sort of thing.

And so we sat around looking at this fabulous photo album of Russia, amazing pictures of all over, and hearing stories, connections, cultural idiosyncracies...it was wonderful.

Makes me want to go to Russia for a visit someday.

After that we all adjourned to the Church office where the sub-deacon was burning samples of ALL the incense our parish owns, and making a master list of what would be good to use when. It was fun to give opinions. A great time was had by all, and I think we were all a bit drunk on the incense smoke. It was like a wine tasting party...only not. Tshaikovsky was playing in the background.

So now I know a new saint. That's special.

This evening we all met again on the hill for a special prayer service to/with the saints of North America...followed by marshmallows and s'mores down at the fire pit. Good times had by all. I think the priest's little son shnookered more than a dozen marshmallows off various folks.

Glorious Feast Day!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Things

*I utterly have no desire to finish reading the book I was on. Nor to pick up the next one in the same genre.

This is leaving me feeling somewhat restless, but I gar-on-tee you that my house will be cleaner as a result. (I'm one of those readers who can totally get lost in a book and only come up for food...air optional. Not so good when I'm the homeschooling mom of four kids.)

What to read? I like John Nicholas' suggestion of the Psalms, but I think I'm going to plow through the New Testament first.

*New friends: I'm being blessed. That's all I'm going to say about that. I'm so bad at the beginning of a friendship. Never quite know where the lines are or what to do. But I'm muddling along, and I'm grateful for the ladies in my Bible Study.

*New chance to serve: I've volunteered to become co-leader of the Lexington Fibromyalgia Recovery Group. The Guai protocol works. I'll be there to open the room on occasion, sing it's praises and help newbies get started on the protocol.

*New workout: I dusted off my dumbells about a week ago. Those are seeing action again. Without neglecting my walking.

*Nativity Fast is just around the corner. Time to get quiet. I'm looking forward to it.

*We have a new motherboard on our furnace. The nice repair man even let us keep the old one, and showed us the burnt out spots and the jiggly bits. Now our house is warm.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Furnace

Is blowing cold air.

Blarch!

Recoil

Sometimes great ideas backfire. Or they have an effect that one does not anticipate. Or an effect that one does not want to anticipate, but would if one took the time to think about it beforehand.

So, do you remember my big plan of reading a gospel after each crappy fiction book? Well, in two weeks I've read all four gospels.

And the crappy fictions books are much less appealing.

What ever will I do?

Church

Church was really really really good this weekend. Between Vespers last night, a late night dinner of chicken soup with the family, pre-communion prayers, and a quiet, smooth morning, it felt like a retreat.

We were in the zone!

I think that's what it's supposed to be every week. Normal Orthodox worship: No distractions. A space for quiet. A build-up to the Eucharist.

Thanks-giving and fellowship afterwards.

Now, how do I, as MOTHER(aka family puppet master), make this happen every week? Or at least more often?

I think the thing that made it all happen was just letting Saturday night be set aside as a time of prayer, and not for anything else. No movies, or books, or games. Just prayer.

I so needed that.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Walking in the Rain

I've been really busy and have not really had any whispers from God these past few days. That's probably for the best.

I've had to do my walking in the rain, these past three days. I was so grateful today that it was not a downpour, but rather a misting sprinkle, since the air temps are in the 50's, which feels cold right now. Having been in the 100's and 90's for so many moons and then still hot until just this week, it seems like a sudden onset of fall weather. (Our bodies are not adjusted. My kids are convinced it is freeeeezing!)

The rain is welcome. Our reservoirs have been distressingly low.

The first day of walking in the rain was pure joy. The air was warmish and I relished every step. Splashing, drops in my eyes, streaming down my face. Perhaps I looked happy with a dog-riding-in-a-car-with-his-head-out-the-window expression. That's how I felt.

Yesterday was colder, but dstill fun. It rained even harder and I was happily soaked to the bone. Oh, what an adventure! By mile three I didn't even have to bother with avoiding the puddles, since my feet were already wet.

Today, I just wasn't in the mood. One of those "force myself" days to begin with, even under the best of conditions. But I went anyway. For an hour. In the chill damp wetness that is today. Gray and alone with troubled thoughts turned into prayers. My black polar fleece jacket was enough to keep myself dry today.

I'm very aware of the ups and downs of my moods, and the fickleness that is the essence of me. I think St. James was writing about me when he admonished believers not to be blown and tossed about.

So, that is my point of growth these days: Steady, keep on keeping on, doing the right thing no matter how I feel. No matter my mood.

And it's not just with my "spiritual life" that I need to learn this, but also in other areas. I had a good week with Weight Watchers this past week. A very good first week. So much enthusiasm, so much energy. That energy will wane. And so will the enthusiasm.

And then I will need to keep on keeping on. Because that is what repentance looks like.

Ain't that the way it is with everything, though?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dropping the Gauntlet

I can't remember precisely what Father Justin said last week in his homily, but something in me clicked, and I got one of those Holy Spirit nudges: I need to be reading the Gospels/Scriptures more, in greater proportion to my other (very light and very brain-candyish) entertainment reading.

So I resolved: To read a Gopsel (I may change that to book of the Bible at some point) after each non-Scripture book I read. In other words: Crappy fiction, Gospel According to Matthew. Crappy Fiction. Gospel According to Mark. Crappy fiction. Gospel According to Luke. Crappy Fiction. etc.

Currently I'm already on John. And I've actually not read as voraciously as I usually do this week because I have been spending some time ramping up with the Weight Watcher's info.

But over all, I think this is going to be good for me.

I've been having this thought this week, that we spend time with what we love, and it is certainly possible to make a rational "this-is-my-will" type of decision about feeding the good. We are not slaves to our passions, after all, and it IS possible to cultivate a taste for things divine, even when tempted to do otherwise. But I"ve also learned enough about my own heart to know that I have to go slow, and build brick upon brick, inch by inch. Otherwise I crash and burn.

God have mercy on me a sinner.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Swiss german for beginners

1:23 am on Saturday morning. I had caffeine today. I can't resist!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mo-tee-va-tion!

Well, looks like I shouldn't have ANY trouble getting my HSA to pay for Weight Watchers since I was diagnosed with both Obesity AND Hypertension today.

So that explains those palpitations and that shortness of breath I've been experiencing.

My caregiver said that if my BP does not drop with weight loss, I'll have to be put on meds. I should check it regularly at the grocery store thingy.

No wonder I've been feeling older lately. Gone are the days when my weight does not affect my health. My knees hurt, my BP is us, I can feel pressure in various places and pulls on various ligaments.

So, I will NOT listen to my friends when they tell me I look good for my height, or when they say I carry my weight well. I will listen to my body which is clearly telling me I do NOT carry it well at all.

Pray for me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

What's Up, Doc?

My weight.

I joined weight watchers yesterday. So far, there are some nifty e-tools to play around with. So far it's not getting on my nerves. But this is only day one. He he he.

But progress is progress: Dieting without self-loathing. Now there's a concept.

Conclusions: I drink too much wine, I cook with too much fat and indulge myself in illegals such as pastries at Church about once a week...far too often. Yeah, that about sums up my fifty pounds of overweight.


Things I'm already doing right: eating fruits and veggies. Eating whole grain sugar free cereals, and limiting the carb portions each day. I read labels. That also puts me ahead of the game. I rarely eat out and I cook from scratch.

Now I just need to learn to cook with less FAT.

And I HAVE been walking. I'm back up to 2.5 miles nowadays.

Since I have family history for everything: heart disease, diabetes AND cancer, perhaps I can get a doc to write me a nice little note to get my HSA to pay for this.

Wouldn't that be nice?


So, wish me willpower, self control and a dying to self indulgence. It's that part of me that wants to indulge myself that gets me every time.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Go Cats!


The Kentucky Wildcats just beat #1 ranked LSU in triple overtime with a final score of 43-37.

Amazing! UK has not ever had a good football team in all the years we've lived in this town.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Interesting Opinion Piece in Christian Science Monitor

If I include the link am I breaking some law? Here it is:

An Orthodox balm for Europe

By Nicolai N. Petro Thu Oct 11, 4:00 AM ET

Kazan, Russia - For decades, many social scientists had pretty much two things to say about Eastern Orthodox Christianity: 1) that like all religions, it was disappearing with the advance of modern civilization; 2) that it derived most of its support from the reactionary tides of authoritarianism and nationalism.
ADVERTISEMENT

Those pronouncements are being proved wrong. Today, as in the parable of the prodigal son, throughout Eastern Europe people are returning to the Orthodox Church in droves, and the effect in the public sphere, contrary to most expectations, is quite benign.

Though historically viewed with suspicion by Catholic and Protestant Europe, Orthodox Christianity can actually help bridge the Russia-West gap.

At the heart of much of the miscommunication between Russia and Europe today lies the unacknowledged and untapped longing of Orthodox Christians to be recognized as part of a common European cultural family again. The latest effort to bridge this divide was Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II's remarks in France, where he spoke poignantly of how the Christian identity Europeans historically share should promote dialogue on issues like human rights and peace, even with atheists and members of other faiths.

The patriarch was pointing out that, while they may differ on specific political issues today, a profound religious bond actually underpins Western and Eastern European cultural and political values. Sadly, this common bond is rarely mentioned, in either Russia or the West. Today's Slavophile Russian nationalists seem uncomfortable recalling that, despite his uncompromising critique of Western secularism, their avatar Fyodor Dostoyevsky always regarded Europe as Russia's "mother" civilization.

In the West, this oversight has more to do with the fact that Catholic and Protestant Christianity have so often denied an equal voice to those who disagreed with them. In both instances, Orthodox Christianity is seen as part of the problem in East-West relations, instead of part of the solution, as it should be.

Western suspicion of Eastern Orthodoxy can be traced back to before the Great Schism that divided the Christian Church in 1054. One hundred and fifty years later, it fueled the Crusaders' zeal for the sacking of Constantinople. In the 18th century, it became a main theme of Edward Gibbon's influential interpretation of the Roman Empire, which was later echoed in the writings of Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee. And in modern times, Samuel Huntington, among others, has warned direly of the potential for clashes between "Slavic-Orthodox" civilization and the Catholic-Protestant West.

With the exception of Greece, this sad legacy has made Western Europeans notoriously slow to accept countries with large Orthodox populations into pan-European institutions. In the current expansion eastward, however, it is inevitable that the values and mores of European institutions and alliances will be shaped more and more by the traditionalist views of Orthodox Christian believers and less and less by the modern, secularized Protestant assumptions of Western European democracies. Orthodox believers already far outnumber Protestants across Europe, and by some estimates they may eventually even surpass Roman Catholics. If 21st-century Europe ever develops a religious complexion, it will be predominantly Eastern Orthodox.

In the long run, therefore, while the greatest challenge to Europe's cultural and political identity may come from the growth of Islam, its more immediate challenge is how to deal with some 40 million to 140 million Orthodox Christians who, when given a voice in European policymaking, will argue that churches should have a more prominent voice than heretofore in the shaping of social policy.

There are two ways of dealing with this challenge. One way is to stick to a narrow definition of "the West." Make modern-day secularism the gold standard of democracy and decry all challenges to secularism as examples of a "values gap" between East and West. This tried and true formula has the advantage of already being familiar, thanks to the cold war. Unfortunately, it is also a recipe for a conflict within European institutions. And, given the rapidly growing numbers, influence, and wealth of the Orthodox Churches of Eastern Europe, it is a conflict Western Europeans are likely to lose.

Another way is to expand the definition of what is "Western" through dialogue with Orthodox Christians. The goal of such a dialogue would be to stress the common roots that bind various religious traditions, to encourage models of tolerance that do not presume secularism, and the different ways to balance the disparate roles of church and state, while avoiding total estrangement of one from the other.

Such a dialogue would allow Europe to build a new foundation for East-West relations that is based on the common Greco-Roman and Christian heritages. Most important, it would promote a greater understanding in the West of the Orthodox churches' de facto role as the largest nongovernmental organization in Eastern Europe. In this capacity, they inspire the philanthropy, social welfare, and civic activism that help establish a healthy civil society.

It's time to rethink old assumptions about Orthodox believers and to tap the enormous contributions that they can make to the creation of a peaceful and prosperous continent.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

White Pumpkin Pancakes



These were delicious. Very similar to potatoes in taste, but more fragile than potato pancakes would have been, due to the higher water content of the pumpkin. Next time, I'll try to squeese some of the water out by putting the pumpkin in a colander and sticking a weighted plate on top for a little while. Many "ersatz" potato recipes that use cauliflower call for this step.

Also for next time: chopped onions...for more of a hashbrowns effect.

I ate these with ketchup for supper last night, my daughter had them with honey-mustard sauce, and my husband and another daughter ate them with maple syrup. The other kids wouldn't try them.

Very yummy, and a definite "repeater" in some form or other.

Oh, I forgot to add: this was about 1/3 of the pumpkin flesh, four eggs, processed in the food processor, cooked in an oiled pan.

And notice, please, how CLEAN my stove top is! I got the black gunk off with several of those magic eraser sponges and lots of elbow grease and some knife scraping. Just thought I'd mention it. I'd let my stove top go to pot and it was quite a job, rescuing it. I suppose this shows that my health and energy is improving.

The Poor Among Us

Thinking about Almsgiving.

Not something one talks about much. After all, the right hand does not need to know what the left hand is doing. It should be done in a modest way. (Not modest quantitatively, but modest as in covered up.) So, no specifics.

What is before me: Alms-giving to specific people and their specific needs that I know of, or alms-giving to anonymous type organizations.

What do you all think?

I'm thinking if I have to choose one or the other, the personal trumps the impersonal, even when the personal can be done anonymously so as to preserve the modesty of almsgiving.

What do my blog readers think?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Great White Pumpkin





Is this a Charlie Brown tribute? Or was it Linus? I never can remember.

Well, Bethany and I found a White Pumpkin at the store the other day. Since we are all about pumpkins and squashes, now that she's on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, we picked up this beauty, and decided to give it a try.

Baking pumpkin from scratch is not difficult.

First I wash the outside with dishsoap and my scrubber. Then I plunk it, as you see here in the top picture, into the baking dish. Oven at three fifty until it smells done.

What does "done" smell like? Burning rind. It's not rocket science.

Once it's baked, it is soft. The skin is no longer rind-like, but is rather fragile and easy to peel back. After that it's just a matter of cutting it apart, scraping the seeds out and (which is much easier after it's baked than before), and scooping out the good stuff.

In this case I decided some of the flesh was still a bit on the firm side. So it is now in the steamer, getting even softer.

What, you ask, does a white pumpkin taste like? Well, this one is not sweet at all. It is rather bland and a bit squashy...but will make an EXCELLENT potato substitute, I think, for those of us banned from eating potatoes.

For a sweet tooth, get those little pie pumpkins, or a butternut squash. And acorn squash can also be sweet, depending the blessings of the random squash sweetness fairy. A large orange pumpkin is not as sweet as the smaller ones, and a bit stringy, similar but not as pronounced as spaghetti squash.

A wonderful thing to have in the oven on a fall day that feels cool just by virtue of it being "not hot".

I like the Photo Booth




I like the fact that I can actually get pictures of myself that don't make me want to scream in horror and run away. I'm very camera shy, and this tool lets me be more in control.

Therapy.

So, here are some, from yesterday. My age is showing, especially around my eyes, if you look closely. You know what? THAT'S OK!

I'm pushing 40 (got a couple of more years to do the pushing) but I have to say that this phase of life is feeling much more fulfilling and less desperate than the last ten years or so.

Feels like I've rounded some sort of corner. And I can look in the mirror and smile instead of cringe.

Proof that the Holy Spirit is hard at work mending the broken places, I guess.

So, nothing silly....just me in the middle of the day yesterday.

Here's wishing I could have a nice cup of coffee and a chat with each of my faithful blog readers....all five of you, LOL.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

THE. GROSSEST. THING. EVER!

So, my kitchen has been stinky. I've cleaned it thoroughly every day, like I always do, but it's just had this smell.

Today I continued sleuthing and threw out a bag of narshty rotten potatoes that I discovered on top of the fridge. That was probably overkill, getting rid of the whole bag on behalf of a few baddies, but I was grossed out and it seemed the thing. Rotten potatoes are particularly vile smelling, for some reason.

Lately I've been on a bit of a cleaning binge. I wanted clean. So I got rid of the rotten taters, scrubbed the basket, scrubbed the top of the fridge and rearranged stuff.

Now things should be nice and fresh.

Well, it was almost good.

But still there was funky around the edges.

....Later in the day.....

Time to make dinner. I'm loading the dishwasher, getting ready to peel a bunch of carrots, apples, onions, and other stuff of similar ilk to go in the baker with the chicken.

And I see this tail.

A mouse tail. So, why is it not rapidly disappearing?

Oh dear! It's a dead mouse tail that got stuck between the edge of my cabinet and the wall.

Oh even more dear! It's a HALF DECOMPOSED DEAD MOUSE TAIL WITH THE SKIN CURLING OFF OF IT! And a dead half decomposed mouse body attached, wedged in a great tightness, leaving drippy stuff on my wall behind the splash guard behind the sink.

OH! MY! GOODNESS!

Time to haul out the biohazard suit that I keep on hand for just such occasions. Eeeeeeeeew, eeeeeeeewwwww, eeeeeeeeeeew, eeeeeeeeeew, eeeeeeeewwwwwwww!

Yes I cleaned it up. And I even managed not to vomit.

That, my friends, ranks so far as the grossest thing. Ever.

It's all about ME ME ME!...or is it?

On Wednesday nights I participate in a women's Bible study. I'm the lone Orthodox in the group and one other person is heading towards Rome even as we speak. The rest of the crowd are of the Emergent persuasion. Is that protestant? They do seem to be protesting many things, but things different than Luther and Zwingli and those guys. Defies categorization.

It doesn't matter. We have some good talks and good fellowship and some good good good delving into the Prophet Hosea.

Boy, there sure are some zingers in that book, let me tell ya!

And I know it was directed, originally, to the idolatrous and unrepentant Northern Kingdom of Israel. I know this.

So how come I keep finding myself in those pages, as well. My faithfulness is also like a vapor. I say that I'll press on the seek the Lord and then my zeal fizzles out. This happens over and over again. I guess I'll just keep pressing on. Doh!

And I KNOW there are idols in my heart. Ones I have not even begun to see yet.

One prayer that the priest prays over the penitent during the sacrament of repentance (confession) is for the light granted in this confession to shed further light on sins yet uncovered. That's putting it in my own words, but you get the idea.

I always have this mental image of my heart being like the grand canyon, with lots of twists and turns. And I'm traveling down at the bottom, in the dark with a lantern. Each confession is a step forward, and a bit of light is cast. But only God knows the depths of my heart, and only God knows what lurks in the darkness.

Because each and every time I go, there's always then more to be uncovered down the road. Step by step by step.

That's why the book of Hosea is all about me. I'm learning, slowly, that my heart really is that black, and twisty. And there are things that matter far to much to me that a month ago I never would even have contemplated to be a problem...but the light of one confession sheds its rays into a new corner. Some healing over here suddenly reveals the sickness over there.

You know, like if you have two things hurting at once, the bigger one is all you notice until that heals and then you see the other thing. It's like that.

And I KNOW for a fact it's not just me. We are all the same, aren't we?