Sunday, January 7, 2018

Project 365, 2018 Edition

Last year I decided not to continue with Project 365 because I assumed (correctly) that 2017 was going to be a crazy year. How crazy even I couldn't have guessed! I'm glad I didn't document the year because it is, frankly, one I'd rather forget for the most part. Don't get me wrong, there were some wonderful things (can we spell g-r-a-n-d-c-h-i-l-d-r-e-n?!?!) but most of the year was just HARD, HARD, HARD.

I'm ambivalent about doing Project 365 this year because of so much uncertainty in our lives right now. I reserve the right to stop at any point if it becomes too much, if 2018 follows in the path of 2017 and becomes just as (or even more) crazy.  I'm going out on a limb here and hoping and praying that this year will be less stressful, more enjoyable, and full of things I'll want to share here. Vamos a ver!

The year did not start off auspiciously. New Year's Eve found me in a local urgent care facility getting a diagnosis of bronchitis with acute asthma. Meanwhile Ivan was pretty sure he had another abscessed tooth because of the extreme pain he was experiencing, so he was taking antibiotics we'd brought back from Argentina, in an effort to reduce the pain and inflammation. Happy New Year to us!

Monday, January 1, 2018

My side table has been filled with these goodies this week as I battled a persistent cough, congestion and difficulty breathing (not shown is my inhaler but it's nearby):

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ivan was able to get in to see the dentist first thing this morning. Turns out it's not an abscessed tooth after all, but muscle inflammation in his jaw from clenching so tightly (2017 was a stressful year, I'm telling you!). He'll be getting this device to wear at night:
Really hoping it helps because the poor guy is having trouble sleeping from all the pain.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

I'm totally keeping my Christmas tree up through February! The twinkly lights make me happy and makes it feel festive inside, something we need this winter. I took all our special Christmas ornaments and red globes off, and turned it into a blue, silver and white tree for January. I'd like to find some white snowflake ornaments but that ain't happening for a while (I haven't been outside since going to urgent care).

Thursday, January 4, 2018

We are blessed to live in a beautiful place. Our walk out basement apartment overlooks trees and bushes and a creek. All day we see a variety of birds, especially bright red cardinals. Could not get a decent photo of one; this is the best of the worst (haha!) and if you look carefully, you'll see a little red glob in the middle. That's a cardinal!
Even if I can't get a decent picture of one, I'm just grateful to be able to enjoy them daily. We can see them from the kitchen, dining and living rooms.

Friday, January 5, 2018

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, IVAN! My honey turned the big 6-0 today! Our daughter,  the grandkids and her niece brought a wonderful lunch from Rua's, which we thoroughly enjoyed together, along with some play time.
Ivan had gone shopping in the morning and picked up those super sweet mini bananas which the kids enjoyed eating.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ivan left with Tina, to go to Jonesville for the weekend festivities as our former home church installs Rob Stewart as the senior pastor. Rob started attending our church as a Hillsdale College student who helped out with AWANA, then began helping Ivan with the youth group, proceeded on to seminary and finished just as we were making the switch to missions, so there was a smooth transition from Ivan to Rob as the youth pastor at Countryside. Fast forward fifteen years and the church has added more staff (the current youth pastor is a young man who grew up at CBC) and after three years of Senior Pastor John doing less and less and Associate Pastor Rob doing more and more, they are officially handing over the baton as Rob becomes the senior pastor. I'm sad to miss this really special occasion but I'm glad Ivan and Tina could go!

Meanwhile I'm hunkering down, doing my best to get better. In hopes I'd feel well enough to get started on Eisley's quilt, Ivan picked up an overhead projector from a friend for me to use. I spent a few days playing and "auditioning" fabric for the quilt, so I have a pile ready to use (trust me when I say there WILL be changes, there always are).
For those who have read my blog for a while, you know I design my own quilts, using a projector to transfer the pattern, first to paper that serves as a master for the design, and then onto freezer paper that I can cut up and use for pattern pieces.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

While Ivan's gone I'm in charge of taking care of his winter project:
Can you guess what it is? I think I'll leave it a mystery for now. See if anyone can figure out what it is (Rita, you can't answer because you already know! haha!).

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

My 2017 Reading List

Kind of funny that I thought I'd read more being back in the U.S. and having access to the public library system. The opposite side of the coin is, life is much busier and goes at a faster pace here, so end result: fewer books read. Final tally for 2017: 43 (and several of those were novellas).

I'm rather appalled to look back and see I finished only one non-fiction the entire year. Reading was my escape from what was happening in real life and I turned to novels. Not a lot of standouts, sad to say. It's my own fault because I haven't taken the time to learn about what's new and good out there. I'd go to the library, check out a ton of books and end up returning most of them unopened because of lack of time and/or disinterest. Many days I didn't read at all, because by the end of the day I was too tired. I fell behind on following blogs, on reading books and articles and magazines... Has anyone else found that it takes a lot of emotional energy to engage in books? I don't remember that being an issue in the past, but it sure was this past year.

My one and only non-fiction was "Daring Greatly" by Brené Brown. I love her books and her honesty; her words resonate deeply within, and I find myself physically nodding my head as I agree with much of what she writes. I haven't read her latest, "Braving the Wilderness" although I checked it out; again, that lack of emotional energy coming into play.

The other non-fiction I started is a book I haven't finished, one Ivan and I are reading together: "The Summer of the Great Grandmother" by Madeleine L'Engle. Just hit a little too close to home with mom's hospitalizations and then Sharon's death. Hopefully we'll be able to finish it in 2018. We plan to read all four books in L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals series (this is #2).

Now for the fiction... Maybe because of what was going on, the books that touched a chord were those that didn't necessarily end happily, but felt like they ended honestly. Like "The Atomic Weight of Love" by Elizabeth J. Church. Spanning the 1940s through 1970s, we follow Meridian Wallace from university in Chicago to Los Alamos. Her search to find meaning and purpose in the life she's chosen reads more like a true life memoir than a novel. The story bore no relation to anyone I knew, but it brought to mind scores of women like my mom from that time period.

"The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry" by Gabrielle Zevin was another heart rending story. One of the publicity blurbs said, "You don't want it to end" and that's exactly how I felt.  I sighed when I finished it, and would have petted the cover except it was a Kindle download from the library.

My last book of the year was another sad but satisfying book: "The Story of Arthur Truluv" by Elizabeth Berg. I loved how the author brought such disparate characters together to create a "family" of sorts; well, more like a mini community that supported one another. The book was not at all what I expected, and maybe that's the reason I liked it so much.  

Aimed at the young adult audience, "Amy & Roger's Epic Detour" by Morgan Matson made me laugh, cry and want to physically cheer the duo on in their grand adventure across the U.S. It also made the mother in me want to wring their scrawny necks!

My wackiest choice of the year was without a doubt "Sourdough" by Robin Sloan. This doesn't fit neatly into any genre. It's part romance, part sci fi, part magic realism...but always fun. And funny! This book made me snort laugh.

Rounding out my top picks for the year are two by favorite authors. I signed up on the waiting list for both months in advance, as soon as I knew their publications dates. Neither disappointed.

"Glass Houses" by Louise Penny is the latest Inspector Gamache novel set in Three Pines, Canada. Ever since reading "Still Life", the first in the series, I've been hooked! Would love to see these made into movies; the plots are unexpected, and the writing lyrical. Not your typical mysteries at all.

I'll end with what had to be one of, if not my absolute, favorite books of the year: "To Be Where You Are" by Jan Karon. The thing with Karon's books is that the characters have become like friends, to be welcomed back into our homes again and again, picking up where you left off like you do with good friends. More character than plot driven (although yes, there is always a plot), to read a Mitford book is like sitting down for a nice long chat over tea with a good friend, preferably on a porch with a light breeze blowing and the scent of lilacs in the air. Comfort reading at it's best!

Only eight books out of 43 made the reading list for last year. The rest of what I read was okay, but not good enough to pass along here. So how about it, friends, what have you been reading that you can recommend?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Limping into 2018

"Relax in my healing presence."

That was the opening line in my daily devotional this morning. That had double meaning for me today.

I need physical healing after coming down over the weekend with bronchitis complicated by acute asthma. Not much sleep, sore stomach muscles from excessive coughing, and just the sheer exhaustion of trying to breathe have me yearning for the healing touch of God.

But even more than that, I yearn for emotional healing. I'll be frank, 2017 kicked my butt. It's a year I'm happy to see in my rear view mirror. Unlike those who joyfully jumped into 2018 with great anticipation, I sorta limped in, worn and battered by the events of this past year -- both on the world and national stage, and personally.

I'm not even going to try and fake enthusiasm. I'm just going to be honest and tell you I'm hurting but daring to hope God will use the mess of 2017 for His glory.

We enter 2018 with so much uncertainty, and I know that's true for everyone, but it feels like there's nothing solid beneath my feet except the promise that He knows the plans He has for me (Jeremiah 29:11).

I'm appalled at the attitude many believers have taken toward those who are fleeing war torn homelands, toward those who grew up here but are somehow "less than" because of their ancestry, toward those who are in need of protection from predators... The list goes on. Where is the love that is supposed to mark us as different from the rest of the world? Why are we not bending grace as lavishly as He gave it to us? Too many Christians are choosing to ignore large portions of Scripture that clearly show us how to treat those around us, including the most basic command after loving God: "Love your neighbor as yourself."  (Mark 12:31)

I hope to share some stories over the coming year that bring into focus the fact that "those people" are individuals just like us.

During Advent we were asked to share and light the fourth candle: the love candle. Personally, we are asking God to show us what love is, and what does it look like? It's something we're grappling with in a difficult situation. We can say with certainty that comfortable, convenient and simple are not words that have surfaced. We doubt that Love was any of these for God in human form, yet He, being God, loved perfectly.

What we do know is that what love is, and what it should look like, don't always go hand in hand. We are severely crippled by self in the loving department. It's an ongoing exercise to be more like Him, to love like Him, and have the attitude towards others that He has. Showing grace doesn't come naturally, but throughout this situation God has constantly reminded us that He's the one who changes people; what He's asking of us is to be faithful, to be obedient in loving like He loves. Each moment has to be informed by His Spirit and His Word because on our own we're incapable of showing true love.

My prayer is that 2018 will be a year marked by love and grace, shown abundantly by His people to those who need it most. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christmas Decorating: the Nostalgia Factor

It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon in December, warm enough for just a sweater -- at odds with the Christmas music playing in the background and the twinkly lights on the fully decorated tree. But no complaining from this corner! I'd be happy if we get a light dusting of snow on Christmas Eve and then nothing for the remainder of winter. Other than Christmas and soup and fires in the fireplace, I'm not a big fan of this season.
So let's go back to that fully decorated tree... Ivan and I had a bit of a disagreement about when we'd last had a tree. This little ole blog came in handy, as I looked back through, and found we never put up our big tree in the casita, as I asserted and he disputed. We had, however, set it up in Sta. Rosa one year. But I determined it was too much work to decorate, enjoy for five days, and then have to take it back down, so that was that.

Christmas trees make me inordinately happy. And I think I may know why: according to scientists, decorating for the holidays can "create that neurological shift that can produce happiness... Christmas decorating will spike dopamine, a feel-good hormone." Nostalgia is a powerful force, my friend. Happy memories from childhood will make you want to recreate those same feelings, and I think that's definitely true in my case.

My mom made a big deal out of Christmas. (Well, actually, mom made a pretty big deal out of most holidays.) No doubt I get my love of over-the-top holiday decorating from her... no such thing as too much tinsel!... and I still remember how giddy she got when they came out with spray snow in a can.

Moving to Argentina, I downsized from probably ten big bins of Christmas decorations to two. TWO! And when we returned to the U.S. last year, that was further reduced to my most precious ornaments, the nativity set we bought our last year in Argentina and nothing else. I honestly thought I'd also also brought back our tree topper, the lovely wooden nativity from Betty in Paraguay, and the beautiful handmade tree skirt a dear friend made for me, but they are M.I.A., so I must have been wrong. I cannot believe I left that nativity! What's weird is I have the base for it, but the nativity itself is missing. We still have two suitcases waiting to be brought to the states for us, so maybe they're in one of those. I can only hope!

All that to say: we're pretty much starting from scratch here. I picked up our tree a couple weeks ago at the Mennonite thrift store in Goshen. Last year they had dozens and I filed that in my memory bank for this year and stalked the store until they were set out. Wow! There are some really ginormous fake trees! I was working within the constraints of a small space and low ceilings, so had to bypass the majority of trees in my search for one that would fit. My choice is no Charlie Brown tree, but it's also not one of those ceiling scrapers you see in McMansions either. Rather like Goldilocks, I feel my tree is "just right".

Besides those precious ornaments I toted back, I filled in the tree with unbreakable silver and red ornaments picked up last year during the after Christmas sales. Since I'm not about to pay the exorbitant prices they're charging for tree skirts -- even at Walmart! -- and I don't have time to make one, for now a long piece of red cotton fabric is wrapped around the bottom of the tree in loosey goosey fashion. And in lieu of a topper, I conscripted a large angel ornament to fill that spot this year. Our Argentine nativity graces the mantel.
And can we just talk about the mantel? I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. An honest-to-goodness mantel you can hang stockings on! Alas I'm too cheap to buy anything to decorate it. LOL  Plus I'm having major DMD about what I even want. Glitz and glamor? Homespun holiday? International flair? So for now the nativity shares space with what was already up there. Blah, I know. But it's just the beginning of December so maybe inspiration will hit and I'll figure out what I want to do while there's still time. Or not. Vamos a ver.

Meanwhile I thought I'd share some pictures of my tree. I told Ivan I was keeping it up until February, to make up for all the years I didn't have one :) What do you think? I could decorate it with blue and silver balls for January, then red and silver in February. Isn't that a marvelous idea?! Happy twinkly lights for three months. Might even help me get through the winter. 
Isn't this ornament adorable? My sister sent this to me in Argentina a few years ago. Of course I couldn't bring my pretty Ice blue KitchenAid mixer back to the states with me, but I could bring this ornament. (And my sister gifted me a new Ice blue KitchenAid mixer as a housewarming gift this summer!)
I love these two ornaments, grandson Simon on the left and son Jon on the right. Aren't they adorable?!
Thirty years ago we were living in Florida and my "secret pal" in the lady's group made two beautiful silk poinsettias for my Christmas gift. The wires on the white one rusted over time and I ended up having to throw it away, but this red one is still (somewhat) holding up. The wire is starting to come loose from the leaves, so I need to figure a way to fix that. Ideas?
 Have you decorated for the holidays yet? Did it made you happy? How did your childhood Christmases influence how you celebrate today?