Keep On

For the few of you who've asked about how Wayne is doing, here's the update. I'm on a daily email list which informs those who wish to pray about his family's walk with cancer, and today's contained joyful news! Quick update: Wayne has already had four rounds of chemo, and although surgeries are inevitable, we've been praying that he would avoid high dose chemo, for all its attendant risks. Since he was diagnosed around Thanksgiving, they've been traveling between here and Sloan-Kettering in NYC as well as a hospital in Philly. Last week, he was strongly urged to begin high-dose chemo by today, but his tumor markers have unexpectedly lowered in the past week. Praise God!

Now doctors can proceed with the first surgery without high dose chemo, as long the markers stay down. Thus far, God has given them courage to be powerful witnesses for Him instead of despairing; pray that He will continue to do so. In her email, Karen gave a few more specific prayer requests, so if you would, continue petitioning for them.

Here's a portion of her email, cut and pasted.
Our hearts are filled with rejoicing today. We had a full day being shuffled from surgeon to oncologist, and back to the surgeon to plan for surgery next week! The Lord has done GREAT things for us, whereof, we are GLAD!!!

The tumor markers came back down 2 points from
Wilkes-Barre, and down FIVE points from Sloan. This is a MASSIVE answer to prayer! THANK YOU for praying. PLEASE thank God with us!!

The oncologist has determined that it is safe to proceed with surgery! This will be the abdominal surgery -- through which they will remove the tumor in the lymph nodes of Wayne's back (4.5 cm last we knew). They will also have a liver surgeon come in during the operation to remove the two spots on Wayne's liver at the same time. Surgery will take approximately 5 to 6 hours. We do not yet have a start time, but he is to report for the surgery on Wednesday.

The plan in to go down on Monday for several pre-op appointments. We plan to stay through because Wayne will be given pre-meds on Tuesday that will affect his ability to travel comfortably. Surgery will be Wednesday, and he will be hospitalized 7 to 10 days, then released to home with activity restrictions for months. This is the first of up to 3 surgeries.

PRAYER REQUESTS... and there are many!!!

1) For Dr. Sheinfeld as he does the surgery (and also the liver surgeon (we forget his name))
2) For the preservation of Wayne's kidney. The tumor is attached to the kidney by blood vessels. In order to get the entire tumor, they may have to take the kidney. That's part of why they have waited so long; if there was (or is) a chance that Wayne needs more chemo in the future, he would need both of his kidneys to filter it.

3) There are some other possible dangers and side effects to the surgery --IF THERE IS LIVE CANCER, chemo will be necessary. Just pray that Wayne will escape unscathed... that they will remove the tumors and there is NO MORE cancer!!!

4) For insurance approvals -- this happened so fast, it will take another miracle to get clearances!

5) For Karen's housing accommodations. Friday is really the only business day before we will need to use some sort of housing. Pray for something cheap and SAFE where Karen will feel comfortable staying without Wayne. (The social worker is supposed to call Karen tomorrow -- pray that he DOES IT!!!...And that he has options for us!)

6) Kiddos -- just pray them through... pray them through!

7) For us to show Jesus wherever we go. The doctor kept saying that there were alot of unusual circumstances with our situation. Wayne joked on the way home, "Well, we are a peculiar people!!!" Pray that we show it MORE! Pray that we have MORE BOLDNESS!

PRAISES... and there are many!!!

1) We were spared high dose chemo! How can we say "thank you" enough!?

2) The oncologist was more humble and compassionate today than he has ever been!

3) We really like the surgeon (still!)!

4) God is already a step ahead of us planning out ride situations, kid situations, etc. Many things are already being sorted out, Praise His name!

5) Peace.... nothing beats peace.... Unlike the situation with the high dose chemo, we just feel peace about this step. We know God has prepared us already in some ways, and we know He will continue to provide for every need our hearts have.


Ol' Blue Eyes

The picture's a year and a half old, but you get the idea. Much-loved and missed brother Luke, designing who knows what in Connecticut, is 25 years old today. Half a fifty-cent piece, a quarter of a century, and as such, very old.

Happy birthday, brother!
(Aren't you glad we no longer have to share a party?!?)
May God bless you in the coming year, and may you see His face.

The High Priest's Servant

Every year, as Easter nears and meditations circle around the steps of our Lord to the cross and His steps out of the tomb, I take out a book John gave me a few years ago ( A Cry Like a Bell by Madeleine L'Engle). This year, I reread the poem below and wondered why it had never stuck to me before now.

As "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani" echoed in darkness, Christ bought us with flowing blood. When He rose the third day, leaving linen in the grave, He rose with our freedom in hand. The only true freedom is a paradox found in being willingly bound to Him. It's a freedom that should shatter our lives, and we should never forget the price of it. Unlike Malchus, we have no tangible talisman, but here's the poem anyway.

The High Priest's Servant

Sometimes I take it out and look at it
(unrecognizable now,
unless one knew it full of blood and sound)
shrivelled like an old heel of bread
or piece of fungus.

I was certainly not prepared.
I knew my master had it in for
some itinerant preacher,
and it seemed to me that his high priest's fear and anger
exceeded anything this Galilean might do.
But my master was always given to extremes,
and what could I do but go along
with him and the others
on that warm, crucial night?

It would have been simpler
to take the man by day (though less dramatic).
We came to the agreed-on place,
where an ill-named friend approached to kiss him
so we'd be certain we had the right man.
After a sudden flurry of torches and shouting
a stunning pain slashed down my head.
The roar of anguish within me
was louder than my scream.

And then he touched me, this strange man we'd trapped,
and the intolerable roaring cleared,
and I heard the small song of a night bird,
and the wind moving in the olive trees
beyond the heavy breathing of frightened men.

I bent down and picked it up.
Then lifted my hands,
felt my head, and two ears, warm and hearing.

And my life was shattered, turned around,
and changed forever. I left the high priest,
never to return.

There is danger now.
Often we do not understand
our freedom, and the fresh blood flowing in our lives.
That is why I sometimes take it out and look at it,
unrecognizable now,
unless one knew it full of song and sound.

One More

Again by Madeleine L'Engle, a fitting companion to the one above.

Temper My Intemperance

Temper my intemperance, O Lord,
O hallowed, O adored,
my heart's creator, mighty, wild,
temper thy untempered child.
Blaze my eye and blast my ear,
let me never fear to fear,
nor forget what I have heard,
even your voice, my Lord.
Even your Word.

Suds and Serfs

Most nights, the girls either set or clear the table or do both. Recently, Millie has begun to wash the dishes, as well. Susannah is rather young, but apparently she has a high opinion of her abilities. I found her at the post Mildred neglected to fold away.

Though I wiped the whiskers off, when I happened upon her, she was fashionably bearded.

The next night, she joined them again. (Now I know to keep the kitchen barricaded off.)

Aprons in Miniature

A month before Susannah's birthday, Millie wanted to embroider a onesie for her. She also wanted to embroider an apron for Annika's doll. Since I didn't teach her to embroider, last week she sewed a felt heart on some fabric instead. I told her to take the needle up the mountain and then down the mountain; judging by her first leap from the mountain's peak, she was eager to get to the bottom.

Yes, she'd been running barefoot in the dirt, and, yes, those are chocolate remnants by her mouth. (She definitely favors her mother...)

On Monday (Tuesday?), I made aprons for Annie's and Millie's dolls, and Millie proudly gave Annika her late birthday present. "I shouldn't have made such a very LARGE stitch, Annika," she said, though I'd assured her it was fine.

I sewed the cherries on, almost as eager to reach the bottom of the mountain, so who am I to judge?


She Turned Wee on April Dirst

The Nixie is three!

Three years ago, around ten o'clock at night, I begged for a little Fool. On eleven o'clock's nose, Annika landed in the nurse's arms, earning another pearl on her necklace formed by the babies she'd delivered. The apologetic midwife, speeding from home, arrived ten minutes later and marvelled at her swiftness.

Child Chinook-- our little Fool. She's beautiful and crazy and sweet and tart all rolled into one, and I'm so very glad God gave her to us and not to another.

Moon at Dusk

Last year, our income (before taxes were taken out) was under 16 thousand, and subtracting general bills and the amounts we mail each month toward my undergraduate debt and John's graduate debt doesn't leave many extra coppers for building our dream house. That's okay. Our dream isn't so much a house as a location, anyway. We desire a place where our children can explore and learn about God's creation, the land, and what lives in and on it; a place where we can have a larger garden, dig a root cellar, raise animals, and take small steps toward sustainable living; most importantly, a place where family and friends circle around. There are no prison libraries nearby, and there are no regular library jobs open, but all that comes with this land trumps the higher pay these jobs would bring. Even if John does take a library job in the future, it will likely be only for a time in order for us to live debt-free. God, in his inexplicable plan, has given John a vocation in which he works with people he loves, a place among overlooked souls who enlarge his humanity and give to him as much he gives to them. I am grateful for this and proud of him.

Family from my side clusters here in this area, sibling shoots who took root and grew families of their own. My oldest brother Andrew is brilliant. His mind sees the finished form of things and the steps one must take to get there, and his confident hands wield the tools necessary to shape. I celebrate what he's already done for us and the knowledge he's shared. "Just for fun" is the reason he spent some free time at work sketching up a house plan and compiling rough cost estimates of building materials for our home. Lord be willing, and with His help in this venture, we should be able to build our house (a half basement, first floor, unfinished second floor) in the next year and a half. In the last year, Andy has listened to our brainstorms and ideas, which ranged from old pipe dreams of John's (living in an r.v. or yurt) to serious plans to build a pole barn and live off the grid for a few years. I researched all manner of composting toilets and NYS rules and regulations in preparation for pursuing one of these choices, and after weighing positives and negatives of all the above, it seems most wise for us to do the following.


1. As soon as this infernal, beautiful snow stops falling, get rid of asbestos, pronto.

2. Lug and haul and heave and sweat. Disassemble and sort the gutted house into mounds of burnables and metal and stone. Burn. Take to dump. Salvage.

3. Assuming we accomplish 1 and 2 without killing ourselves, we proceed to the basement, where my cousin's husband and his backhoe take center stage. We clean out the half of the basement that isn't solid earth, brace the original stone walls with an ingenious plan, and then pour cement. (Andy's explained the ingenious plan and shown paper sketches, but there's no way I can possibly transform what he said into plain English. It's enough to know that it's ingenious, and it cuts the originally estimated cost in half.)

4. Jeff and his earth mover form slopes, we cover the basement with plywood, and then we tarp it for the winter.

5. We take out a loan, if we're able. We're still not sure which route to take and trust that God will direct us to the proper place. Neither John nor I want to take out a large loan, and we're content to live bare-as-bones for a number of years, taking out a small loan and repaying it before taking out another. The cool thing is that Andy's estimates total under $30, 000 for the whole shebang. This is taking into account the fact that we'd be sweating onto the wood and nails under the direction of Andy and his father-in-law, a carpenter with whom Andy used to work. We also wouldn't finish the upstairs for several years, working on it as finances allowed.

6. After we have a loan, whatever size, Andy, along with Mr. Smith, my brother Joel (who doesn't yet know he's volunteered), John, and whomever else lends their hands will raise our house's frame and roof next spring. Then, we move in.

7. We live in our glorified tent for the summer, putting money we would be paying toward rent toward building materials: electric & plumbing, wood stove, etc. (We could skip electric, etc., but we won't be able to get a certificate of occupancy without them, and though the road has very little traffic, we live right next to it, and there's only so long we can live in the house without someone noticing.)

8. Next fall, we officially move in by getting a certificate of occupancy. Yes, I knock on wood.

9. We pinch our pennies to add flesh to our home (i.e. kitchen cabinets, paint, floor coverings other than plywood, baseboard, etc.) little by little, for a lifetime, if need be.

I've never thought about room placement, wall colors, or decor for our Someday. I was, and am, perfectly content with the bounty God has provided and does provide. When I recently read this post, though, I smiled in kinship as I read the last two paragraphs. She's absolutely right, and I look forward to what's to come.

Now begins the dreaming.

Homesite (Sights)

Here's the real home-- these three and the one that I left in my mother's kitchen.

Tuzzin Shadows or Ode to Asbestos.

The mastermind. We mind the master.

Our beautiful basement. Dirt floor. Stone walls. Five feet high on one side and about four inches high on the other.

Front lawn, view one.

Front lawn, view two. Manure spreader as viewfinder.

Some metal to haul. A testament of faithfulness.
A graveyard of sorts.

And the tree before the hedgerow, which caught, then cradled, the tangled tails and wings of innumerable kites every windy spring.

Mildred Full Of Longing

Birthday Apron

Never in a million years did I imagine myself saying this, but I think I like to embroider. The last time I was forced into it was probably when I was 10 or so. My mom wanted me to embroider something to enter in the Broome County fair (we were in a horse-oriented 4-H club), and alloted a painful 15 minutes per day to be set aside for this exercise. I hated it. It was torture. By the time we reached the french knots section, she'd taken over, and I probably got a blue or red ribbon for her embroidery skills.

Last week I drew an elephant on cloth, though, and embroidered it on Annika's birthday gift. AND I LIKED IT! Weird. I called my mom to figure out how to do an outline stitch, and then because I was too thick to understand her instructions over the phone, I had to look up stem stitch instructions on the internet (bless the blasted internet). Now that I know that Hell does indeed freeze and I enjoy embroidery, I'm going to unpack those baby onesies I bought, with good intent but little resolve, to embroider 2 years ago.

Everyone needs my mother. The apron cost me nothing to make because she gave me bias tape and ric-rac from her garage sale stores, along with embroidery floss and little red buttons. (The red fabric is from a brilliant sheet I put on our wedding registry at Walmart and then sucked into a vacuum cleaner two years later. Since then, I've recovered the rocking chair cushions with it, hung a red-stripped closet cover, and made a few cloth tea bags for the girls.)

So now I've made my first item of clothing ever! (I don't count the straight seams on polyester skirts my mom finished for me in high school and college...) I'd planned to use a pattern, but the vintage pattern I had for a wraparound cobbler apron was in a size 8/10, so it wasn't much help. I spent a good day cutting cloth, sputtering, and draping red on Annika, snipping, shaping, and resizing. I began it on Thursday afternoon, and a grumpy sewing machine wasted Saturday, but it was finished on Monday, and Annie wore it one day late from a procrastinating mama. I love it, even though it's not exactly what I'd envisioned.

The three-pocketed front.

The wraparound back.

The tiger in our bathroom. Roar.


The apron used a goodly portion of the red sheet, but the leftovers, when supplemented by the scrap of fabric left from these and a cut-off turtleneck sleeve from McGamma, formed enough fabric for a dotsy doll dress, which, after my apron euphoria, became my second garment sewn. Anyone who's a fine seamstress (Titi!) isn't allowed to look closely. (And nobody snicker at me for using the phrase 'apron euphoria.')

I didn't use a pattern, but I wish I had, because I'd like to duplicate it without tedium for Mildred, who now looks covetously at Annika's doll. Pictures of two doll aprons to come.

I wanted it to easily fit over this giant head and to accomodate dolls of other sizes, too.

A creepy picture, but here's Annie's baby wearing her ankle-length dress.

And here's my old rag doll wearing the same knee-high dress.

The Pre-Birthday Party

My parents had their monthly all-day Meeting at church on Annie's birthday, so we celebrated in Nanticoke the night before. I spent most of the day in an argument with my sewing machine, crying uncle only because I had to make a cake before we left. For the second year in a row, Annika requested an elephant, only this year, she wanted a blue one.

For those who don't know, Annie has a love affair with elephants from time to time. One of her top three costumes is her elephant suit, and she sleeps with her blue elephant exclusively when she's in the Elephant Mood.

Here's the cake-- a mite sloppy but quite clearly a Blue Elephant.

Before we left for Nanticoke. She's holding little plastic elephants that John found in a box at work and lamenting the pink one's broken ear.

The party with Grandma, Grandpa, and all the Nanticoke tuzzins (including Johnny and Noah).

I didn't plan this, but her presents from us were mostly elephant-related, with the exception of this stack of library sale books. She was delighted by them all, but this week has revealed Jan Brett's "Annie and the Wild Animals" as a definite favorite, only Annika requests it as "Anka and the Wild, Wild Woods."

Millie gave her an elephant bank she'd picked out at the dollar store. I love this picture, despite its poor quality, because Mildred looks so outrageously pleased and goofy.

We gave her the books, an elephant umbrella, and an elephant family that John impulsively bought for her on the day of her party.

She loves them. Here she is getting ready for bed the night of her party.

And here she is, freshly awake the next morning. She walked downstairs with a curiously stiff gait, and when I inquired about her injury, she grinned. During the night, she had stuffed all the elephants into the right leg of her fuzzies, and the elephantine lumps are somewhat visible in this picture.

The Not-So-Big Day

Eli, Becky, and their children weren't able to make to Nanticoke for the big party, so after Becky got home from church on Sunday, we decided to invite her three older girls for a mini-party before the evening service. I made cupcakes. Blue elephants. (Between Susannah's bird and Annie's elephants, my food coloring tube is nearly empty.)

They wanted to use the tea set. Soda bubbled in that pot, but they called it "tea," anyway.

Poof, again.

Everyone left the table.

Becky followed the present theme by giving her a booklet of elephant activities.

And then they walked to their next-door home, and Millie and Annie picked candies off the mother cupcake.

Molten Gold

It poured right in, and I was richer than the king.

Pudding's Proof

This backdoor scene convinced me more than any other sign that spring was here to stay. I was wrong, but it was fun while it lasted.

New Growth....and Death

Broccoli, red bell pepper, jalapenos, and two leeks in the bathroom. Yes, Titi, I said TWO leeks. I didn't put a note on the stove. "Surely," I thought, thought me, "Surely I need no note to remember to take the leeks out of the oven before I turn it on to preheat."

Melted leek and potato soup isn't exactly gourmet fare, so it's a good thing I'll be scouring the woods for wild leeks in a few weeks. Wild leek and potato soup sounds delicious...

So I ordered some genetically unaltered seeds from Fedco's this year.
My hopes rest on...

Sweet Basil
Greek oregano
German chamomile
lemon balm
Dark Norland Red potatoes (yet to arrive)

half a dozen varieties of lettuce and mesclun mix

Waltham Butternut Squash
Baby Pam pumpkins
jalepeno hot pepper
pickling cukes
suhyo long slicing cucumber
red sweet bell pepper
Pricipe Borghese cherry tomato
sungold cherry tomato
Gentry summer squash
Black zucchini

Most of these I'll direct sow after danger of frost has passed, and I'll buy all other seeds and plants locally once spring hits. My nose twitches anticipating the smell of newly dug soil, and my unsmudged hands feel naked.
Come, spring, and welcome!

Going To the Baptist School Dance (Only Without the Dancing)

My sister Debbie is the sort of girl who's good at just about everyhing, but you can't hate her because she's so stinking sweet. (Side note- she was just accepted to the Freshman Honors program! Hip! She may not be able to go to Houghton, but hip, anyway!) She's quite similar to my sister Becky as a high school senior in this regard, and you needn't bother asking how I fell off the wagon.

Debbie recently starred in her high school play. John stayed home with Susannah and bought us candy so the older two girls and I could have a trip to the theater, complete with crackling wrappers in the dark. Here we are on our way, swooping around Kamikaze Curve on the highway while I stupidly take a picture of us.

Here are Debbie and Millie after the show.

I include this one because Annika makes me laugh.

Okay, the following pictures are not here to make up for stodgy lady with wrinkles pictured above. When we went to Nanticoke for the party, Debbie tried on her Jr./Sr. Banquet dresses for me (the banquet is the Christian school answer to the secular prom). She's agonizing over which dress to keep and which to return, and I can't offer her any help as I like them both.

They're lovely, and she's lovely, but she can only have one. So, I told her I'd put the question to my blog readers. I was shocked when she agreed because she hates attracting attention to herself. This shows how desperate she is indeed to pick The Perfect Dress. (I made her look to the left, look to the right, stare stonily straight ahead as I took these snapshots.)

So, what'll it be?

Olive brown

Only one vote per person please.