Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Elements


I work in a teaching hospital, which means that the hospital itself is a training ground for doctors as they come up through medical school. You may see a white coat, you may see "Dr." stitched on the lapel, but said man or woman may still be in training. All baby docs in training answer to/ are taught by an "attending." I'm not sure if I'm totally clear on the nuances, even after 12 years of nursing, but an attending is the real deal. Residents wear white coats. Attendings wear grey. When you see a doc with a grey coat, sit up, take notice, and listen, because it's the real deal. Not a staging, not supervised practice. They are important. I say this with all seriousness. And as much as a resident might bite, attendings have been through enough that they may be just frustrated enough to rip your head off of your shoulders and not even remember your name two seconds later.

I feel closer to a lot of the residents and interns. Feeling my way along. Waiting to learn something new. Quick to ask questions, but quick to listen, open to new information. When an attending rounds with his group of students, it's quite an entourage. Two, three, sometimes four students. When an attending rounds on my patients, I'm quick to be at the bedside with a chart and answers. It's a serious time.

Such was the setting when a neurologist, an attending, came to the ICU the other day. We had a fascinating case, and he was called in to evaluate the patient. Here he came... with four students in tow. One grey coat, four white coats, and me. We drew the curtain around the patient's bed and the doctor sat in front of her, conducting a thorough evaluation. He was a kind man, seemingly gentle. All nerves assessed, a detailed history, test after test... after 20 minutes the entourage had barely made a sound, watching his every move, listening to each question and answer. Then it happened. I broke the unwritten rule. I felt something softly drop on my foot, and looked down to see a tiny white sock laying on top of my shoe. It must have shaken out of my scrubs where it was stuck after a washing. Without thinking, I leaned over and grabbed it, held it up in the air and yelled, "Alright! I found it! And I know exactly where the other one is!" I almost launched into my victory dance, when I became painfully aware that the entourage, the patient, and the neurologist were all staring at me. I bit my lip and stuffed the sock in the pocket of my shirt. But the best part was that they all broke out into laughter... including the attending.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

For the Birds

I am a closet fusser. I come from a long line of fussers, both sides. At a cellular level I think I was born knowing how to worry. I have a clear memory of walking into KMart, I was probably seven, and I was tearful. When my mom asked what was wrong I said, "When will I ever lose my baby fat? I want a skinny tummy!" See? Fussing. I would worry about where we were going next, how we would get there - I learned how to read a map as early as possible to have something to do while traveling - that, and Dad explained, in no uncertain terms, that I wasn't allowed to ask ANYMORE questions. "Just ride along!" I fussed that people would stare at my handicapped sister, which they did, and then fussed about how I should respond. A glare? A sharp comment? A punch? I have always fussed.

You can rest assured that you are in my inner ring of friends if you've received a call from me at some random time that starts out with, "Hi. It's me. I just need to fuss. Do you have a minute?" Because though I've learned to master some of the crazy thinking that spins me off into a parallel universe, sometimes I need to spread my thoughts out somewhere and just acknowledge that they're there.

God has been good to me in that He hasn't left me to live in my fussy state. He's given me chances for redemption, and for that I'm grateful. Three words: Kids, Matt, birds.

Kids: I have three of them. They were all born within three years (and two days). They range in age from one to four. Every waking minute of my day is spent chasing, changing, refereeing, teaching, fixing, watching, and soothing. The things I used to waste time and energy on I no longer have space for. Remember the reference to the "funny farm"? I had a friend whose dad actually worked at the state institutions for the mentally ill when they were farms, real farms. People with mental illnesses went there and worked hard on farmland, and, according to this man, they got better and went home. There was something soothing and helpful to troubled minds that hard work with the hands healed. I guess God gave me my own funny farm right here in Illinois. There is something in the trench I work in that keeps me steady in a way I've never known.

Matt: My husband of twelve years. Words are cheap when it comes to describing one of the most amazing men I know. My husband strives to fulfill the call of scripture to "love his wife and Christ loved the church - and gave Himself for her." My husband daily chooses to value the children and me by placing a high priority on his family. I was recently accused of being a "submissive wife" (that's submissive, NOT passive). Guilty as charged. But I have the joy of being in a marriage where I gladly submit myself to my husband because he readily submits himself to me, consistently putting my interests and needs ahead of his own. Matthew has the spiritual gift of faith. While we are all given faith, his has that extra edge of permeating all of his thoughts. He sees things that I (and others) don't. He is able to confidently move towards issues that may not be clear to me, but that he knows God is in, and walks in obedience. His faith is an antidote to my fuss. Living day in and day out with a man who believes and relies on the character of God helps my worries about "woulda coulda shoulda" disintegrate into very tiny pieces.

Birds: I've tried something new. I went out and bought bird feeders, filled them, and hung them in the front and back of the house. The little birds who come and feed aren't incredibly exciting. I live in suburbia, for Heaven's sake. But several times a day I'm reminded of the line in scripture, "Why do you worry about what you'll eat? Look at the birds. Your Heavenly Father feeds them...". Well, I guess I feed them, but it flows out of all that the Lord has provided to me.

Why should I fuss about the future? Why should I fuss about this person and that person? My Heavenly Father knows, has known, and will continue to know everything. My only mandate is to rely on Him, enjoy His hand on my life, obey, and stop worrying. So between the funny farm, a godly man, and the birds, I'd say I'm finally learning to stop all the fuss.

The Heard of Cats

Some days I think shepherding cats would be easier...


(Izak and Liberty are standing in the kitchen, staring at a Munchkin all coated in white.)

Liberty: "Gibbergibbergibber 'white donut' gibbergibbergibbergibber."

Izak: "No, Yiberty, it is called (slowly with much clarity) POWER SUGAR."

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Somewhere amidst the diapers, tiny socks, bagel crumbs, tears, unclear speech, unclear fits, fits of laughter, short lectures, "hellos"/but a mostly "see-you-later" day...

I thank God for the blessing of twelve years of having you for my husband.

Happy anniversary, Lover.

Friday, November 10, 2006

It's my responsibility to provide the selection of library books from which Matt and Izak pick their night reading before bed. Today I gave into my dark side and got the funniest book ever - Walter the Farting Dog. I give it four stars out of four. What's best was sitting downstairs listening to my husband read it with all seriousness to Izak, who was amazed by the content. All the while, I couldn't stop giggling!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Communion sacrifce

Just posting a meditation that I wrote for communion last week.

John 15 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. “ I can think of a small handful of people whom I have known and loved enough in this life that I would readily give my life for them… or rather, that I would have readily given my life for them.

Four years ago, my definition of sacrifice and nobility was redefined by the birth of my first child, a son. Several years followed with the birth of two more children, a daughter and another son. Now the thought of :"laying down my life for a friend" doesn’t ring with the same tone… I cannot imagine being separated from my children, the willingness to die for anyone other than my babies, or my husband has grown rigid within me.

Yet another notion crossed my mind the other day - no where in scripture does it command me to show my love for another by sacrificing the life of my child. Lay down my life, yes, but lay down the life of my child? Though there are those I love deeply, I would never, ever secure their freedom or safety by giving up one of my children. My boy who has blonde hair and green eyes, my girl who has fire and sugar all rolled together, my baby who lays in his head on my shoulder - I wouldn’t part with any of them for a friend, let alone an enemy.

God is the only Father in the history of the world who chose to set evil men free by giving up the life of His perfect son. His son was the only child in history that had the ability to satisfy the debt of all of our sin because He, in no way, deserved it. And it was done one time, for all of mankind.

As we take the bread, be thankful that there has only been one case when God needed a parent to sacrifice the life of a child. Thank Him for His sacrifice.

As you take the cup, be mindful of the innocent man who died for all of humanity to offer true freedom

I need.

There are seasons when I'm not totally sure what God's up to. As many of you experience, chasing three little ones keeps the feet flying and the mind comfortably numb. I'm usually preoccupied with what to make for the next meal, who's where and doing what, is the baby gate up, what's that noise... etc. Despite the pace, I feel like the din of life is finally stabilizing, that, or I'm growing used to the chaos.

Many thoughts come and go regarding what I'd like to blog about. I miss sitting down and taking the time to capture it all. This is a little of where my heart is.

One Sunday I was rambling around my kitchen with my sister-friend, Lo. I was talking through some issue, have no recollection of what it was, and I said, "I am sick of having to say what I need. I'm sick of having to spell it out. Why can't they read my mind, or just know what I want?" Rants are less and less a part of my life, there's no time, and usually no appropriate audience. It's not often that I voice the frustration of needs gone unmet. But Laura said something profound, "This seems to be the recurring theme over the last year and half. You have to tell people that you need."

How true, how true. As hard as I've tried, I've been unable to eradicate need. Crazy enough, the choices I keep making in my life (having babies, lots of 'em close together, moving to another state, staying at home) seem to compound my inability to be the self-sufficient, private person that I imagine myself to be. I have to ask for help. I have to tell people how I like things done, what I will and will not do, what I like to eat, where I keep the sugar, that I don't like caffeine, that I prefer no network television until after the kids are all in bed, that I do things this way for this reason. Living in Buffalo for seven years allowed me to settle into a pattern with people who knew and loved me. I felt known by an inner circle of friends who understood enough of my past and personality that they could see why I did what I did, and in those friendships I felt free, without judgment. I believe I've found true friendship here in Chicago as well. God has clearly surrounded me with a loving church body. He has been specific about the friendships He wants me to pursue. But no matter how led I feel to become someone's friend, at some point I feel like I'm standing there, vulnerable, pants around my proverbial ankles having to say, "Let me tell you what I need...". Gosh, sometimes I feel like a part of the cast of "What About Bob."

Actually though, letting myself admit that there are things that I need is making me a better wife because I'm not laying those relational/life/household demands on my husband. It's making me a better mom because I'm able to advocate on the behalf of my kids with a backbone that I never had until I became a mother. It's making me a better friend because I can give people the Cliff's Notes version of where I'm at and why it matters. And ultimately, I think it's making me a better Christ-follower. In having to admit need, I am learning to partake of grace. I'll be the first to admit that until a few years ago I had NO IDEA of what grace meant, other than it's book definition. But now I'm starting to get it... especially since I can admit that there are things I can't do for myself... I need... .

I entitle this piece... "Futility"

Fall 2006 Furrbabies


I know there are friends in Buffalo who are wondering what our new place looks like. I thought I'd post a picture for you. Matt (and Rick) did a great job of picking out our home. I love it.

The Boys' Birthdays

Monday, October 09, 2006

You know you're a SAHM when...

you have one drawer for shirts, one for pants, one for unmentionables, and TWO for pajamas.

Salt, pepper, sugar

Today is family day. We hole up, ignore the phone, and concentrate on one another on Mondays. Since Matt preaches every week, Sunday evenings are generally quiet. The kids are getting more tolerant of watching football all day (Who's lovin' Sunday Night Football?!?! Hello!?!? Me! That's who!) and hanging around the house. So Mondays are a great time to play and run around together. Family Day.

I was in the basement playing with Levi, doing a little dance and making him laugh. He crawled off and busied himself with a big box of toys. Suddenly, I was inspired to go on a long-awaited search for my missing salt and pepper shaker, and sugar bowl and spoon. Since our move to Illinois last January I've been unable to find them. I didn't pack our house up, several friends did. I was on the peripheral, playing with the kids, trying to keep a level head and not get overwhelmed.

I had narrowed the boxes down to a few which contained my second set of dishes. As I rummaged through I was surprised by the feelings that surfaced. Each box was so lovingly packaged, hand-written notes on top about contents. I began to remember the day - snowy, cold, we probably got about 18 inches that day. And the people who loved us enough to come and pack us. Leslie (a lovely Australian woman, newlywed, took a partial day off from running her farm) and Stacia (Matt's administrative assistant) packed up the kitchen. An enormous task. Leslie is tall and Stacia is, well, not tall, so they worked their way around the kitchen, each one packing what was within her reach. How smart, I thought. Mike McGarry and his son Thane tackled the uninsulated attic, this is January in Buffalo remember. The attic was not tall enough to allow you to stand up straight, but they collected, sorted, packed, taped, and labeled boxes for several hours. From time to time you would hear Mike burst out laughing over a box of old pictures he found, or his gentle voice of instruction spelling out a word for Thane as he labeled, "B-u-s-i-n-e-s-s". "C-h-r-i-s-t-m-a-s." And then sweet Carrie. You have to know Carrie to know what a labor of absolute love it was. Carrie is one of my closest friends. She avoids sadness at all costs, so to spend a Saturday packing up her girlfriend's belongings only days before a long goodbye was a terrific sacrifice.

I opened one box labeled "kitchen dishes" and started to pull out little stacks of carefully wrapped bowls. Then I smelled something - pepper! I dug into the bottom and there they were! Salt and pepper, sugar bowl, lid and spoon.

It might sound crazy, but I cried.

Saturday, September 30, 2006


We returned home from Bay City on Monday, where we had stayed for 5 days. We had a lovely Memorial for Grandma with a full church and full hearts. It's funny how I seem to miss her more and more. Since I was not there when she passed I think it'll come upon me more slowly... . Probably the coolest part of the service was at the very beginning when they played the video clip from Gaither's "Heaven" DVD - a piece by Wintley Phipps called "Go Down, Death." It was profound and beautiful and perfect. If you get a chance to listen to it, please do.

The kids are steadily readjusting to being back home. A wise woman said, "It will take you as many days as you were gone to readjust to being home." By that count it should be today.

I took lots of pics. (Mom with Levi, Dad, Kat - my little sis - and her husband Dave, Stef - my big sis - and me) It helps capture things while my heart and head seem strangely empty...

Matt was my hero. He drove to Michigan with us Thursday, turned around after the service on Saturday and came back to Chicago, arrived in time for a visitation at another funeral home, preached twice Sunday, officiated another funeral, drove back to Michigan, arrived at 2 a.m.. We left at 9 a.m. for home. That man drove 24 hours in a matter of 5 days. God bless him. I do love him.

After all that driving we decided to make the move on a new minivan. It's perfect, I feel like we executed the decision and deal with great wisdom. The best part is it's red! Candy apple red or Inferno red... I guess it depends on my mood.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


This morning shortly after 8 a.m. my grandma went Home.

And even as I cry for myself and my family, I celebrate that there is hope beyond all this. Jesus is absolutely worthy of my praise.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Of course, Grandma has been heavy on my heart and mind today. My little sister, Kat, and her husband are there now, planning to leave in the morning for Pittsburgh. We have been texting throughout the day: heart rate way up, blood pressure way down. The end nears.

At a subconscious level I have always had a heart for immigrants. I don't think I've begun to piece it together until recently that I feel a strange connectedness with those who have come here from other countries because of my family history. I have no doubt that the many stories I heard at my grandmother's knee have come forward to shape my world view. My husband and I have discussed immigration policy, the right to immigrate vs. the reality of immigration, exploitation, discrimination, humanity vs. constituency, and so on. The county I live in is 33% Latino. I suspect that illegal immigration issues may apply to many families, but I am unwilling to treat every non-English speaking person like they don't belong here.

I delight to the very center of my soul when I'm at work and I'm surrounded by people all speaking different languages: Spanish, African, Russian, Arabic, Gypsy, Italian, Indian, Chinese, and the list goes on. I feel in balance when I am only a representative of the American English-speaking culture. We are so much more than that as a whole country. Each story being special, each blend unique and precious.

My grandma tells many stories about the family that she used to keep house for: the Christians (name, not faith). They were a rich, rich family living in Owosso post-depression. My grandma was a very young girl when she went to work for them in order to supplement the family income. I don't know if her service to them was a part of the immigration agreement that I mentioned in my previous post. Nonetheless, she gave at least ten years of her life to them as a housekeeper and servant. One of her "while I cleaned the house" stories involved perfume. Now, you have to know Grandma, she's always smelled good, with a particular habit of using liberal amounts of Estee Lauder perfume. She took such personal pride in her smell that the cashiers at the local grocery market said they always knew when Frances came into the store because they could smell that beautiful perfume. Grandma had never been exposed to perfume as a young, poor immigrant from Czechoslovakia, so when she was cleaning Mr. Christian's bedroom and found this handsome bottle of wonderful smelling cologne she unabashedly helped herself. "I splashed it everywhere", she would laugh, "but for some reason I didn't think that anyone else could smell me. I thought it was a secret." She realized, after time, that one of the reasons the kids at school would occasionally keep their distance was that the smell was so over-powering! Grandma was always able to pull one over on you if you weren't watching, but Mr. Christian, who was quite a pistol himself, let her in on his little secret. One day he whispered to her, "Kid, I don't mind you using the cologne, but will you let us know when we're running out?" Grandma would always giggle at that point.

Flash forward to today: The kids and I were burning daylight before Daddy came home from work. I decided to take them to the discount store on the corner to buy a few more toy cars, which we need like another hole in the head. I located the nearest family-sized cart, and as pulled up to load the kids I noticed a young Latino woman working at starting her car to no avail. After I had secured the kids I went to her window. "Do you want me to call someone?" "No, no," she smiled. We went in and came out a few minutes later only to find them still attempting to get the car started. The young boy approached me for a jump, which I did without any result. Omar, the boy, probably about 11, was going back and forth between his mother and me translating. It began to rain. "Can I take you anywhere?" Translation. "Yes, please. Can you take us home?" "Sure," and I opened the back door of her car to find two more children, a baby in a car seat and a 6 year-old little girl with long black hair and brown eyes. I rearranged the seating in the van, and I asked Omar (the only English-speaking family member) what his little sister's name was. "She is America." Ah. America, daughter of hope. Of course. And as I reached in to pull her out and load her into my van, there was an overpowering smell of perfume. "Oh, America, you smell so GOOD!" Her brother laughed and told me she had been playing with the perfume samples in the store. (Grandma, how could I not remember you in looking at this little girl?) We piled all eight of us in my seven-passenger van and headed home. I was watching in the rear-view mirror as America leaned all the way over to my daughter, Liberty, sitting on the other end of the seat. She softly took ahold of her hair, feeling it, running her fingers through it. I couldn't help but smile. Yes, little one, we are a little different, aren't we? America was babbling in Spanish and Liberty was responding in her 2 year-old English. In that moment my heart was so FULL...

We left them in their driveway. But even as I drove away I could smell the perfume from America that had rubbed off on my clothes, both literally and figuratively.

Monday, September 11, 2006


We just arrived home from a "suicide visit" to East Michigan (12 hours of traveling in a thirty hour period). My grandma, who seemed to be improving shortly after my last post, has taken an irreversible turn downward. Hospice. Hospital bed. Nothing to eat since Wednesday, barely drinking. All along I felt that I was okay with letting Grandma go from a distance. Friday as I was out running errands I felt this pinch in my gut. I needed to go home to say goodbye. I hesitated bringing it up to Matt, I didn't really know how we would execute this, but within minutes of me sharing it, he had come up with a plan. My husband is my hero. He works hard, loves well, sacrifices willingly, and engages fully. No post seems to be adequate to capture my utter admiration and adoration for him.

We bolted for my childhood home after Matt returned from church. Arrived about 9 o'clock EST, which is WAY, WAY past my kids' bedtime. There were several meltdowns, but once they got to Grandma and Grandpa's they were fantastic.

My grandma is a first generation immigrant from Czechoslovakia. She came in 1916 on a ship with her mother, Frances Kathryn Ledvinka. They left under threat of death during dangerous days. She came to Ellis Island. She was one of the nameless faces that you see in the pictures.

Through a series of events she found herself in Canada trying to farm in Saskatchewan. It was a hopeless situation. Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa re-entered the US by indenturing themselves to wealthy land owners to work their fields as a means of passage. Upon arrival to Owosso, Michigan, my great-grandfater was diagnosed with inoperable stomach cancer. He died a painful, tragic death, leaving behind his wife, who spoke no English, and his two little girls. You cannot imagine, you cannot imagine the stories she's shared with me over the years. Perhaps I will share them with you over time... . You must not think of Grandma in soft, fluffy terms. She has always been proud of her nickname as the "Battleship of the Fleet." She was a tenatious, scrappy woman who has had to fight for almost everything in life. Tough, yes, but good? Oh, yes.

What you must know is that my grandma was the first one in my father's line to become a Christian. She began hanging around with the local minister's daughter, and part of their time together involved going to church. My grandma began to listen, heard, and received the message of Christ's salvation into her young heart. She dedicated her life to following the Lord, and has always been quick to recount the ways He saved not only her soul, but her life here on earth. When no one was for the "dumb Hunky," she was convinced the God was for her. When she was humiliated, victimized, shunned, God stood by her. When they had nothing, no food, no money, no hope - when Great Grandmother sat her two little daughters on the table and said sadly that she was sorry but since there was nothing left she would have to kill them now, rather than see them starve to death - how in that very moment a kind hobo knocked at the door, looking to rent a room for which he would pay a proper amount. God saved her time and time again. He gave her dignity and hope... which she gave to others... Her mother was a stoic, tough woman, who drilled her daughter about her whereabouts, so Grandma would have to recount the sermons for her, word for word. Great-Grandma became more and more interested. Grandma was convinced that if her mother found the Lord it would be awkward, she was sure she would shout and cry - and when Great-Grandma found out there was a way to be saved here on earth and in eternity she did shout with tears of joy.

So with great joy and bittersweet sadness I took a short watch with my grandma. I sat in the chair at her beside in which my mother has spent countless hours. I looked at the pictures of the old ships on the wall, ships that have reminded Grandma of her voyage here for as long as I can remember. Her breathing was labored, erratic at times. Her eyes were closed, her body was quiet. She would open her eyes and smile and little when I would say, "Grandma, it's me, Heidi. I'm here." I told her I loved her. I told her thank you for finding God and for giving me a godly legacy, how it has made my life so much better. I told her that Heaven awaits her, that she will see her mother again. But mostly I sang. My grandma has always been fond of my voice (this is the same woman who taught me the saying "Every mother crow thinks her baby is the blackest."). So I found an old, old hymnal and sang. One Day, Abide With Me, My Jesus I Love Thee, When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder, What a Friend We Have In Jesus, many more... but the one that really grabbed me was this little hymn:

Pass me not oh gentle Savior, hear my humble cry
While on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by

Savior, Savior, hear my humble cry
While on others Thou art calling, do not pass me by

Let me at a throne of mercy, find a sweet relief
Kneeling there in deep contrition, help my unbelief

Trusting only in Thy merit, would I see Thy face
Heal my wounded, broken spirit, saved me by Thy grace

Thou the spring of all my comfort, more than life to me
Whom have I on earth beside Thee, whom in heaven but Thee?

Indeed, Grandma, who is there on earth who has loved you half as well as God loves you? What hope is there in the Heaven other than that of the reality of your Savior, your Champion, Jesus Christ? Do not wait for me. I will find you there.

Love, Heidi

Monday, August 28, 2006

Prayer request

Generally, I do not ask publically for prayer. This is not a pride thing as much as it is a privacy thing. But I know that if you can pray, you will, and that's all I need.

My grandma is 97. She is living at home with my mother (it's mom's MIL, my father's an only child), who has been her caregiver for years. My grandma fell last week and fractured her pelvis.

I don't know that I'm asking for healing, while that would be nice. But Grandma has been wanting to "go home" for a long time now. Mom feels it may be nearing that time.

Please pray for Grandma's pain control. Please pray for her peace and comfort. Please pray that God ministers to her in a special way and lightens this burden.

Please pray for my mom, who is exhausted and spent. Pray for her as she ministers minute by minute to Grandma. Pray for her mind to be at ease, and her body to be strong. Pray that God ministers to Mom in a clear voice. Pray for supportive people to come around her and help with joyful, gentle hearts.

Please pray for my handicapped sister, Stef, 38, who also lives at home with Mom. Pray that she will be a vessel of the Holy Spirit, as she watches Grandma and prays for her over dinner, prays that Grandma will go home to be with Jesus.

Pray for my Dad, that he will be comforted and quieted by God's hand; that he will continue to bear the blessing of the Godly legacy that my Grandmother gave him with thankfulness.

Thank you.


She is excessive. He is symmetric.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Muslim up close

This post has been on my heart for awhile. I'm a slow thinker and an even slower typist. Thankfully I have a few quiet hours tonight.

It was the morning of my daughter Liberty's second birthday. Early in the day the news came that Al-Zarqawi had been killed. I jokingly said, "Well, happy birthday, baby girl. They killed a terrorist on your big day!" And I didn't think another thing about it until later that day...

Many of you know, I'm a nurse. I specialize in Intensive Care nursing, but specialize within that in oncology (cancer) ICU nursing. I treasure few things as highly as working with people who are living and dying with cancer. I rarely get to work in my favorite area because other departments are busier and more needy. But that evening I was sent to the oncology unit.

My assignment was pre-determined. I sat taking report from the offgoing RN. Patient #1 was a bone marrow transplant patient. Doing well, slated to be discharged to the floor soon. But patient #2 was a problem. She was from Syria, non-English speaking, brought here by her physician brother to treat an aggressive recurrence of cancer. She was not doing well AND she couldn't communicate with us. "She's sweet, but almost impossible to understand. We're working on getting a translator hot-line number." Muslim probably, I thought. I've never taken care of a Muslim.

I readied myself to go in and meet her. We have to wear masks and gloves to protect our fragile patients from easily transmitted infections. But I was glad for the mask because as I entered her room I was nervous. In the front of my mind I knew she wasn't a terrorist, of course; she was probably a mother, a worker like me. But the uneasiness remained. I think I was nervous because I was afraid to be found as ignorant as I felt, and I was afraid I would unwittingly insult her culture and her religion. And this old evangelical quip kept flashing through my mind: Christians and Muslims are enemies, aren't they?

She was sitting at the foot of her bed with her hijab covering her head, drawn, pale, quiet. Her brother and sister-in-law were in a full-blown conversation. I quietly turned on the monitor, assessed her, took vital signs. I'd never really listened to Arabic before. In other languages I occasionally hear a word or two that I understand, or at least think I do, but in Arabic there was not one thing that sounded familiar. It was soft and filled with sounds I might use when calming a crying child or telling a secret. It was beautiful. I spoke to my patient through her brother: Did she have pain? Nausea? Any trouble breathing? No, she told him. The brother and I sat and made a list of basic yes/no assessment questions that we could use in his absence. I could point to the Arabic writing that followed my English question. But how could I really ask what I wanted to know? How can you leave your home, your country to come here to gamble getting better? Do you understand how very sick you are? Are you afraid? Are you lonely? As I turned to leave the room , she caught my hand and said, with a thick accent, "Thank you, thank you." And then she kissed my arm.

It was a good thing I wore the mask because I'm not much of a hugger, let alone a kisser. My mouth was probably hanging open. I know I blushed. I felt the heat in my face. I did something and excused myself, taken aback by her gentleness. Something in the back of my mind began to come forward. Prejudice. I was prejudice because she was Muslim and I was not. Yet she didn't represent Al-Zarqawi, just like I don't represent the screaming, yelling TV evangelists that you see on cable.

Later that evening, after her family had gone I reviewed my notes. She was required to bathe twice a day, according to doctor's order. It was standard care for leukemics to keep the potential bacteria from infecting their body. I leafed through the notes. No bath. She'd been there a few days and it didn't look like she had been in the tub once. I went into her room and tried to pantomime a bath. She wasn't getting it. She was waving me off, expressions that looked like No, no I don't need one. Too tired. Too sick. I picked up the phone and called a relative that had agreed to translate. "Please tell her that I need to give her a bath, ask her if she's had one. She needs to be clean." The family member was very kind, spoke with her for several minutes, and then told me, "No, there has been no bath. She says she will go with you."

I readied the bathtub and towels. She slowly began to pull her hijab off, and stopped. She looked directly in my eyes and said, "Sorry. So sorry." As her scarf came off I saw the thin little whips of hair that I've long associated with the disease. "Con-ser, con-ser" she said slowly. Conser... oh! Cancer! Yes, I whispered and rubber her shoulder, I know, it's from the cancer. It's okay. Syrian or American, women still grieve their hair. We steadily shuffled arm in arm to the bathroom and I helped her undress. She began to shiver violently from the cold. I eased her into the tub and began to carefully and quickly wash her. My mind was buzzing. Am I doing anything wrong? Have I offended her beliefs at all? The bathing of another person is always a holy moment for me, but none so much as this one. In that humble position, kneeling before her, my mind and heart wrestled through thoughts: Muslim vs. Terrorist, American rhetoric vs. Middle East, Mohammed vs. Christ, friend vs. foe - and then... she quietly leaned over and kissed the top of my head. "Thank you, thank you, " she whispered. With my head bowed, I tried not to cry. God had brought the image of Al-Zarqawi and my patient side-by-side, I heard my glib comment to Libby replay in my head, and then He said, "Who's judge are you? I created both. I love both. Don't let your over-exposure to the radical Muslim mislead your understanding."

I still think about her. We sat on her bed later that day and shared pictures of children, showing age by the universal "hold up the number of fingers" technique. I didn't learn Arabic, and she didn't learn English, but she bridged a gap for me that no article or special interest story could. I was changed by that night. Part of redemption is allowing God to work out areas of darkness in us that we don't even know exist, like prejudice and ignorance. It may have been Liberty's birthday, but the gift that night was all mine.

Friday, August 11, 2006

August Furrbabies

Yes, that's me.

Yes, I'm the mom at SuperTarget that drives the huge 19-seat cart that you need a trucking license to operate.

Yes, I'm the mom that picks up a whole bag of spilled chocolate teddy graham crackers off the store floor, puts them back in the bag, and hands them back to the child to continue eating. Yes, I also say, "It's okay, just be careful so we don't have to pick them up again."

Yes, I'm the mom that you hear holding discussions like, "Hey, don't put your penis in the pretzel bowl." "Why?" "Because we don't put our penis where our food is." "Oh, okay, Mommy."

Yes, I'm the mom at the restaraunt that lets my daughter dip everything, everything in ketchup, but has to draw the line every now and then - "No more ketchup in your hair, Honey."

Yes, I'm the mom that is standing in the line at Linens N Things with a tiny toilet seat, calmly explaining to my three year old, "Dora goes poopy in the potty. Boots goes poopy in the potty, and Swiper goes poopy in the potty too." Incredulous toddler, "Swiper goes poopy in the potty too?!?!" Mommy, with a straight face, "Yes, Swiper poops in the potty."

Yes, I'm the mom that sings rousing Wiggles sing-a-longs with the kids while clipping through the grocery store at 3.8 miles per hour. Yes, sometimes I'm the only one singing.

Never thought I'd be a mom. Never thought things like memorizing the Nick Jr. line-up would be important, nay critical information. Never thought I'd have a refrierator magnet collection that consisted of the entire alphabet, farm animals, and a magnet that says, "If beauty is a state of mind then I'm a frickin' genius!" Never thought I'd have en educated opinion about Teletubbies. Never thought I'd sacrifice, bend, or bow to the power of motherhood. Never thought I'd hear myself say, "I have three little kids." Never thought I'd love what I do as much as I do. Never thought losing my old self to this new life would be such a great gift.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

August toewear

There have been a few since this, but I thought you'd enjoy this one. Toes by Mimi Nails in Sweetwater Crossing.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Late Night Visitors

One week ago, about now, we were heading upstairs; Hubby was turning in for a night of sleep before preaching, and I went in the nursery to quiet a particularly cute, but miserable teething 9 month old. When I came out I heard the quiet clicking of the front door knob. Funny, I thought, Matt must have had to run out to his car and forgot the door is locked. So I went down to let him in. Something told me to check first. When I peeked out the window, much to my surprise, there was a young man I did not know trying to get into my house. I flipped on the porch light and saw, unfortunately, no change in his expression. Eyes partly closed, swaying side to side, and his hands still busily trying to get in the door. Either he's drunk or tripping or both. I don't see a weapon. I knocked on the window, no eye contact. "Wrong house!" I shouted. No change. I ran to the phone, dialed 911, and called for Matt, who was just on the verge of sleep. My knight in shining armor came running down the steps and immediately took the situation in hand, continuing to try to convince the man that this was not his house, and he needed to leave NOW. Well, poor man, he had now started knocking politely and occasionally ringing the doorbell, seemingly oblivious to us. It was at that point that he took out his credit card and began working on the dead-bolt. "What's your emergency?" "There's a man I don't know trying to get into my house." I'm imparting pertinent information and now see a new problem arising. Knight in Shining Armor is getting more and more pissed off and protective by the second, pupils dilated, he begins to sway a little too, his hand on the inside doorknob. Matt said he was trying to figure out how to run out and knock the guy off the porch while I shut the door behind him... Attack Daddy was starting to emerge! I was staying on the line with the dispatcher while Matt was growling in the background about the response time. I kept saying, "I have little kids. Three babies. Are you close?" "Yes ma'am." "Please hurry, I have little kids. They're sleeping." Keep the intruder out, keep the husband in. After what seemed like forever, four police cars, six officers and a K-9 unit converged on our front lawn. Matt is narrating, "Okay they're here. They're coming. Okay, they've got him... oh! Not the new bushes!" After much shouting and handcuffing (poor kid was so drunk he just sort of fell in a heap), it became clear that he was a neighbor kid who'd been at a party, got smashed, was sleeping if off in his buddy's car, and then decided to walk home. Ideally to his home, but unfortunately, he ended up, persistence and all, at ours. The officers were very nice and took him somewhere to sleep it off.

Matt and I had quite an adrenaline buzz and stayed up until midnight replaying the events. The main thought that kept coming up was how unusual, yet divinely prompted it had been that I threw the deadbolt closed after having returned home from running to the store an hour before hand. Normally I lock up the house on my last pass through before bed. Had the door been opened it might have been a very different story.

Vive la suburbia!

(Since then, Matt had a chance to greet the kid in his driveway. Once he knew we were the family in the white house with the green shutters, he was thoroughly embarrassed and contrite.)



Izak's favorite new conversational tool: "Why?"

(H) "Izak, please get ready to go for a ride. Get Blankie and your sandals."

(I) "Okay, Mommy. Why?"

(H) "Because we need to run errands before Levi gets sleepy.

(I) "Why?"

(H) "Because then he will need to take a nap."

You guessed it. (I) "Why?"

I'm trying to reject the "because I said so" response, though I can't promise it's not in my future. But Matt found the perfect closer. "Because I love you." And almost as a rule, when you answer him with that, he stops asking why.

Quieted by love. There is something timeless and universal in that, isn't there?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Friday, July 14, 2006

Awkward Silence

Ah, Jeannie, thank you. Yes, I'm still here. This past 30-some days has been a whirlwind. I'm a schedule-lightweight, so when things approach mild to moderate levels of chaos, I cut blogging. Truth be told, with the little ones pecking me to death like a pack of ducklings, I pretty much stop thinking coherent thoughts all together.

I struggle to articulate myself. This is hard, this mothering of three little ones. Many days I'm exhausted, wondering how I'll survive tomorrow. I flirt with the "Dear God, what have I done?!?!" thoughts lately. And the universe doesn't need another whiny blog, so I clam up. If we were in person you might not be getting much more than a blank stare either. Nothing witty. Nothing encouraging. I feel poured out.

I struggle with loneliness. Two of my closest friends are back in Buffalo. One has a newborn, the other will deliver within a month. And I'm here. I know they felt this way when Levi was born in Illinois. It just makes me sad. I'm working to connect myself with women. I'm not fast, but I'm very deliberate. (Points for intentionality.)

After Levi's dedication he was tested for allergies at Children's Hospital. Nagging eczema on the hands and face. Sure enough, he's allergic to dairy and egg. He was exclusively nursing (because it was easiest, and I suspected he might have some allergies), so since I'm unable to accommodate all the dietary changes for myself, I weaned him to a soy formula. His skin cleared up, but the process was rather fast. I don't feel well, probably some hormone stuff, but a little sad because it's over. We also just returned from a 10-day trip to West Michigan and Buffalo. 2,000 miles on the minivan. The kids were stellar. It was NOT easy, but the good (which was plentiful) outweighed the difficult (which was also plentiful). I'm still processing what being back in Buffalo meant to me, but remember the beginning of this blog... no complete thoughts to myself...

It's late. I hope to have time in the future. I feel bad that I have little to contribute, but know that I'm lurking in your worlds when I have a spare second.

In small group tonight we shared what people have said or done lately to encourage us... Last night I took care of a very, very sick woman in an ICU. She had two teenage/college age kids who I spent some extra time with, talking, getting to know them. Their dad, an awesome man, wandered out to the nurse's station before he left. "I wanted you to know that my kids approve of you." "Thank you! That means a lot." "And they said you look like Neve Campbell, whoever that is. Do you know her?" I blushed, "Yes, she's a very pretty actress. Thank you." And this wrung-out, slightly melancholy, weaning mother of three sat up a little bit taller. A good word goes a long ways, doesn't it?

Peace. I'll be back.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Levi is dedicated

Sunday we dedicated baby Levi to the Lord Jesus. May God's hand rest on Him.

He is wearing the dedication gown that my mother crocheted. I wasn't able to put the hat on... it was so small it looked like a yarmulka. My other two children were dedicated at 6-8 weeks of age. But I did manage to cram his feet into the booties. I look forward to handing down this gown to my children.

Matt was teasingly bemoaning the fact that another one of his boys had to "wear a dress." I asked him to think of it more as a robe...