Saturday, June 27, 2015

A loving vine-dresser

Today we read together the Common Prayer for June 27 and were awed by words so appropriate to our present circumstances.

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We would like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time. Above all, trust in the slow work of God, our loving vine-dresser.”  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Today is a  last-day-before-your-life-changes day. Tomorrow our teenage granddaughter arrives to make her home with us until whatever time she is ready to launch into the world. She has one year of high school left. Her life is full of change and unknowns. So is ours.

We are excited and a little nervous. So is she. We have talked a lot about what this could look like, but do we really know? No. What we do know is that she wants to be with us. We love her and she loves us even if I can’t listen to her music that vibrates my ribs and stuns my ears. Yeah. I used to, but those days are gone along with some of my hearing. Give me a little Mozart adagio and I’m happy. There are a lot of details to look forward to. Like Dr. Who episodes and driver’s education and a part-time job and new paint for her room. My only stipulation was – sorry, not black. It’s too hard to cover if you want to change it some day.

This isn’t what we imagined for this stage of life. But isn’t that often how things turn out or don’t turn out? And don’t we wonder if only we could skip the hard parts and fast forward to the place where outcomes are certain and wouldn’t that be just be so sweet? We believe there will be sweetness in ways we don’t know. That in adding to our family – we are doing exactly what God has in mind for us. And for her. And that his work in our lives is a long, slow process. At least that’s how it’s been for me.

Friday, June 5, 2015

New Normal

Today is packing-the-car day. Tomorrow we head to Tennessee to see our children and grandchildren. More than ever we want to be with them. There is a story unfolding. Here is a piece of it.

Costco Delivery!

Last December the LaRose family all came down with a stomach virus and were sick as dogs right around Christmas. Everyone recovered in about four days. Except for our daughter, Sember, hers hung on for days. A month passed and she was still unable to get out of bed for a full day at a time. More weeks passed until finally she went to the doctor to see if they could find figure out what was going on.
It’s a long story, but she ended up at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale where she was seen by a friend of ours who is pretty much a medical genius at sleuthing and he diagnosed her with Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS disease). POTS sometimes occurs after a virus attack or some other trauma to the body. Here is a link that gives some idea of what life is like for a patient. With one caveat. Young people have a much better chance of recovery. For older adults there is no cure. Dr. Bergstrom compared the quality of life as that of a person having congestive heart failure or kidney failure with dialysis.

The prospect of having another life-long, chronic illness (along with CFS) has precipitated a time of grieving for everyone, but especially for Sember. She feels like she’s on the steepest learning curve of her life as she figures out how to live with her new normal. There are days when she can’t get out of bed because of overwhelming body pain and wicked exhaustion. (In the midst of it she somehow maintains a spirit of kindness and humor.) Parenting, keeping a home, feeding the family and so many other things are now difficult if not impossible.

Their community and church has rallied around them in wonderful and unusual ways. One way was figuring out how to help with meals. It is one thing to deliver a meal or two to someone who has had a baby or has been in the hospital, but to help someone who has an on-going chronic illness? Finding ways to help without burning out is definitely a need? A friend devised a solution by inviting people to contribute to a fund that would hire a person who cooks:

Anne wrote to friends and family: “I have a friend who is a private chef. She cooked for us for a while when we were uber busy, and she is amazing! I would shop for proteins, starches, and vegetables, and then in four hours, she would put it all together and make enough food for several days. She likes to make healthy food and is very knowledgeable when it comes to cooking for people with food issues such as gluten or dairy allergies. Better yet, her food is yummy.”

After figuring what it would cost to hire Cassie for four hours a week, there was enough money donated to make it happen through the next three months! (If there is anyone out there who would still like to contribute – let me know.)

This was such an amazing gift. Who would have thought? I am deeply moved because if it were possible, we would personally remove this thorn from their lives. Impossible, of course. So this solution is a great comfort to everyone who loves them.

All this has meant that parenting five children will be a big challenge for both Sember and Shaun. Our own lives will be changing along with theirs because we have invited our 17-year-old granddaughter to live with us and she will be coming at the end of June. We love her and I think it is safe to say she loves us and is looking forward to life here in Minnesota. 

We didn’t know we’d be joining the ranks of grandparents who have grandchildren living with them. But this could be a very good thing for all of us. In a way it will mean that we, too, will be finding our new “normal.” We look forward to seeing what God will do as we step into the unknown.

If you are the praying sort, we would definitely appreciate prayer. What this will mean for me, I’m not certain. For some reason, as you could perhaps tell by my long absence from this blog, I haven’t been able to write for awhile. But today, I felt compelled to at least put this out there before we leave tomorrow morning.  Thank you for stopping by.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Shaggy Mane Mushroom

When you’ve been away for as long as I have it is difficult to slip back in without making a lot of fuss.  But today, I’m back because we are heavy into spring and mushrooms are rocketing through the rubble of last fall's debris, pushing up overnight. If you can identify them, some will become your treasures to be picked and eaten for free. We are on the lookout for our favorite mushroom of all time – morels.

However, this morning Anita found another kind of edible mushroom on her walk and brought back a batch of shaggy mane mushrooms also known as lawyer’s wig, because that is sort of what they resemble.  They are edible and being one of the few that are easily identified, it is okay to bring them to the table.  
Shaggy mane mushrooms in various stages of maturity.

Shaggy manes deteriorate quickly, turning into an inky black puddle in just a few hours. They will stain whatever they touch. Not appetizing at that stage. In the past, shaggy manes, which are a part of the inky cap mushroom family, were used as ink for writing.  They are found in fields on hard ground and along pathways, especially in spring and fall. They can grow quite large – up to eight inches tall. Generally found singly rather than in dense clusters like their smaller ink cap cousins.

For more information on them – and a good resource on foraging for wild foods check out this Minnesota chef.

Although I had just eaten a dish of fruit and yogurt for breakfast, I decided I’d better prepare them immediately. But one precaution to keep in mind is that shaggy manes have a mild form of antabuse, a powerful drug that sickens people who then consume alcohol. Some people could react to it. You might not want to consume your favorite beer along with them.

One of the easiest ways to prepare them is to make a light batter of flour, water, an egg, and salt. Whisk it together and dip a mushroom. Saute them until crispy and golden in olive oil and butter. Can be seasoned a little more with garlic salt and pepper. Delicious. 


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Look at the moon!

Creation can shine on a chill and dreary day – which is the kind of day it is today. It always surprises me how effortlessly it tosses us bits of excessive wonder. I love imagining how ever in the world could God come up with so many things that radiate light into our lives. I’ve pondered Jupiter this month as it glows next to the moon in the month of April. I’ve said it so many times and why is it that you probably do too? We say, “Look at the moon!” as if we’ve never seen it before? Today I’ve watched chickadees arc to the feeder at a hundred miles per hour and land delicately as a ballerina on a teeny perch. Last night we flash grilled marinated beef on skewers – my version of sate and it tasted killer good. We wonder how two fallen, scratchy people, image bearers of God, can stay together long enough to be old fogies and even laugh about it. And why are bunnies so stinkin’ cute when they eat carrot peels? 
And right now, this minute, if I stepped out and opened my mouth to the sky I’d probably choke to death because a rare spring snow is falling in beautiful enormous chunks. 
 In the words of David Clowney’s hymn, I believe:

God, all nature sings Thy glory, and Thy works proclaim Thy might;
Ordered vastness in the heavens, ordered course of day and night;
Beauty in the changing seasons, beauty in the storming sea;
All the changing moods of nature praise the changeless Trinity.

Even I, flawed as I am, proclaim his might and beauty. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Maundy Thursday

It is spring and this is Holy Week on the church calendar – the most celebrated time of the year for Christ’s church.

The last few days have been so beautiful. What we thought was dead is showing signs of resurrection. We are coming out of winter, landing fast and hard in sunshine and soft breezes. Only last week the snow was still melting off our deck. I love it when the sun warms my bones and does not yet burn like summer.
 The birds are nuts with singing. Across our neighbor’s little meadow, a ground hog emerged to sit in the warmth. We have waited all year to watch the magnolia tree, a shapely little bush off our deck open its paper white blossoms – the first flowers of spring after the forsythia. It is, I think, a star magnolia. The buds are bursting but not quite ready yet.

I’m thinking of getting a little dish of meal worms and orange slices to put out on the deck to see if we can entice bluebirds and tanagers. We are two months away from our one year anniversary in the House Between.

And last night the barred owls returned. We heard their haunting calls drawing closer and closer, coming through the woods until one landed in a tree just outside my office window, softly, strangely hooting: “Whoo-oo cooooks for you? Who cooks for you?”

Yesterday was the Maundy Thursday service. It was two hours long, but we did not notice, absorbed as we were in the readings and songs. A part of the service was foot washing - if you chose. I’m done with boot, crutch and all that - just walking with a slight limp now, so I went forward. I was a little unnerved, never having done such a thing before. When the person sitting in the chair with her feet in the basin is washed and dried, she gets up from the chair, and kneels to wash the next in line. At my turn, a young father with his 3 year old son tenderly washed my feet carefully holding my scarred ankle. The little boy insisted on helping. Who wants to hold anyone’s calloused cracked feet? Clammy, white growths housed for six months in slippers and shoes? Christ would. His humility and love are still shocking and this ritual reenacted reminds me of how little I understand. How difficult it is to bend and serve. Had we been there, he would have held my feet in his lap. And I would have felt like Peter, disturbed and nervous, knowing there was no way I deserved to have this man on the floor in front of me, but not sure I wanted to wash the others’ feet either. I know Jesus included us that night even though we live hundreds of years and many generations away from that first Maundy Thursday.

In that last good-bye-for-now conversation and prayers with his disciples, he prayed saying, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one.” (John 17:20)

 The final reading was from the Gospel of Luke – Peter’s denial of Christ. The lights dimmed, a few candles left, the altar ritually stripped, the cross shrouded in black, we sang the Kyrie Eleison, and left the church in silence. On the front steps, I was surprised by a small fire burning as we passed into the night. By then it was chill and a cold wind was blowing. Peter’s good intentions, gone, passed into the night as well. Just so.

I believe in Jesus. But I need help. He must awaken spring in me year after year as I live and wait for our final restoration.

Friday, March 13, 2015

National Pie/Pi Day Fail

A little crispy

This is what you get when you leave the house in a hurry with a pie in the oven after you THOUGHT you turned it off but all you did was turn off the timer. Some days it doesn’t pay to do ANYthing. Just stay in bed.

Tomorrow is National Pie day and since pies are one of my most impressive talents, I needed very little encouragement. I thought I’d show off to whoever’s around and make a peach pie from the yummy frozen Colorado peaches we still have in the freezer. I whipped out a crust put in the filling. Then left the house with it baking away. Two hours later: this.

And now my ankle break which has been healing nicely, hurts like the dickens because I stood around rolling pie crust and hopping about the island with flour down my front and sticky peach juice spilled on the floor

It was supposed to be bonus! because Pie Day coincides with Pi day so if you eat a piece of pie at precisely 9:26 and 53 seconds a.m., which I planned to do, the date and time will be 3141592653….. and something magic will happen. I can’t tell you what. After you eat mine, the magic might be a dose of barium sulfate.
Peach Pie. Anyone? Anyone?
The irony of this is that only yesterday I signed up to bring two pies to our church for a bake sale. Now I’ll probably not only be kicked off the list I may be sent to confession for pride and avarice (in this case greed for praise).

I only tell you this because a few people, not many, I admit, have been deceived into thinking I’m a great cook and furthermore, a perfect person. I try to be honest….

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Children who love

Children have often been a source of light for me. I have admired their sense of purpose, their kindnesses, their creative ways of coping with life and their wonderful senses of humor. I know there are countless similar acts out there among you.

A few that have touched me this past week:

Ezra, 5, whose ankles and knees were aching the other night. As his mom massaged his legs, she explained he was having growing pains and they should pray to ask God to help him with the pain, he paused in his tears and said, "ok, let's pray for Margie too cause her ankles hurt too." He also sent me a “get well” card. Thank you Ezra!
Various hospital & doctoring illustrations by Ezra
Kaiden, our 12 year old grandson, told his twin brother, “No, you go first, you’re older.”

Ava Lou, 5, brought her mom two sealed envelopes to mail to us, her grandparents. About the same time, her dad noticed his stash of quarters was missing. On questioning likely culprits, Ava began to cry. She had taken them to send to us because, in anticipation of seeing us this weekend in Fargo at the hockey tournament*, she wanted us to have money we could give her for treats. (It’s our habit to buy them treats and she was trying to generously help with the cost! NOT steal the money from her dad.)

Granddaughter Isobel, 9: “It is important and good to say ‘thank you’ for the presents you send. I love the earrings with cuffs and the nail polish and jeans. Thank you.” (She hardly ever uses contractions.)

And finally, this from our son when he was five. It recently made its way back to the refrigerator door.

Self-correcting Priorities
 “God’s kingdom is made up of people like these” Mt. 19:14. (The Message)  So thankful to be part of this great troop of children. What privileges we share! What joys and sorrows!

*Sadly, after all, we will not be able to join our family for Anson’s hockey tournament in Fargo this weekend. My back went out. When it takes you twenty minutes to get to the bathroom and back? You’re in trouble. I guess from horsing my kneeler around and shifting to crutches and walking boot. Whatever. Trying again to be “spiritually philosophical” about things out of one’s control. 

Thanks for stopping by. If you have any children acts of kindness encounters you'd like to share. Send them to me.