Thursday, January 30, 2014

Heart Ache

It's been a terrible year already. I don't want to blog about life getting worse. But it has.
Captain received more upsetting news (besides job rejections) after the first of the year. He went for his annual flight physical, and a problem showed up on his EKG. It's a genetic condition that we had no way of predicting. We tried to hold out hope--waiting for more extensive testing that was ordered for the following week. But the cardiologist agreed with the flight physican: my Captain has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is the condition you may have heard about because it strikes down high school football or soccer players--out of the blue.
It's terrible news.
Of course, I am VERY glad that Captain didn't suddenly die of heart failure (which can come without any warning signals). But I can hardly think about the blessing because the hurt cuts so deeply. Captain has to give up this #1 passion. His pilot license has been revoked. Immediately and forever. He can never get it renewed with the FAA--no matter what treatments or future symptoms he has or doesn't have. This is devasting news for a man who loves flying more than food, or sports, or cars, or most anything else. To throw away 25 years of experience? and all he has worked for? This is tough news for his job search, which was already becoming an emotional burden as we passed the 100th day of unemployment.
The cardiologist is not sure what to do. He recommended wearing a heart monitor for 30 days to see if the upper left or lower left chamber is more affected. Captain might need a pacemaker or medicine or surgery. Luckily we heard about a specialist in KC from Troy and have booked a February appointment. Meanwhile, the montior is continuously linked to the hospital, and if there were any drastic changes, then an ambulance would be dispatched to Captain's side.
It has only been 10 days since the crash, but it feels like a decade. It feels terrible.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

More About Dorito

It's Wednesday.
Dorito was excited for first formal dinner as an Active.
So he wore his new Phi Kap tie.
And his "new" Phi Kap pin,
which is an antique set with real pearls and synthetic rubies that we gifted for his initiation.
Looking proudly like a Man of Faith.
I also admire the gigantic smiles captured in Meggar's photo collage.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Initiation at Phi Kap

Eric gave Dorito a Phi Kap tie to match his!
Letters! Dorito received this "family" letters sweatshirt from Spencer and Meggar 
(They attended the initiation ceremony and weekend)
Alumnus Frank Pakulski uncovered rare footage of John F. Kennedy receiving his pledge pin for Theta Kappa Phi (now called Phi Kappa Theta). The photo was taken on October 2, 1958, 
and Kennedy is receiving his pin by then chapter president Donald R. Ferrari (WPI, '59).

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Giving an Abundance

We drive past the Dave Ramsey building every day on the way to hockey practice. I like Dave because he tries to help people live within their means happily, so "Financial Peace University" is aptly named. Luckily he doesn't preach that  Protestant "Gospel of Prosperity" whose tenet says believing the Bible is a guarantee you will be rich. Of course, God wants us all to have a generous heart.
My Catholic husband would never, ever brag on himself. Yet today I am. Through the years, he has given money to every single sibling of his family and mine when they were unemployed. Significant amounts of money. With no expectation of being paid back. He gave out $100 bills as Secret Santa every year in St. Joseph. Even early in our marriage, he bought a window air conditioner for a pregnant lady when our family of six was living on $45,000 and thought ourselves kings and queens in a palace. He took $100 worth of meat to two different families when their fathers were downsized.
Lately, I have been amazed that his generosity continues during the three months since he was laid off. He went out and bought $400 worth of used furniture for a lady moving into her own place (recliner, couch, kitchen table and chairs, etc.) He also paid all the utility deposits to help her get on her feet. He sent an expensive hunting knife to the party who hosted the twins for deer season. He is paying for college and travel hockey, too. I think he does it with a great deal of trust in our Heavenly Father.
I'd like to think that I can trust as deeply, But I am a penny pincher, who likes to be in control. I find myself eating less these days and feeling guilty about shopping for groceries. Having an uncertain future is challenging to my analytical brain. Being patient is vexing to my ambitious personality. I get frustrated when people tell me another novena to pray, as if the ones I am already praying are not good enough. I wish friends would call and check on my husband--more than on his progress. (Yes, he sends out 3 or 23 resumes every day.) I'm doing good to encourage him and our children (so they won't worry). I'm proud of myself for putting a positive spin on the Christmas letter last month. But it was hard to do. Many rejection letters later, it is REALLY, REALLY difficult now.
Today's readings about the Holy Spirit confirm that an Advocate and Paraclete remains with us. His fruits are peace, patience, love, joy, generosity, mildness, meekness, long suffering, goodness, faithfulness, modesty, and chastity. Come Holy Spirit.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

New Years Resolution

Obviously, I need to help earn money for our family's budget. I sold a few big ticket items over the Christmas break--which helped. Once I got back to Nashville, I began to pursue part-time employment (again). I posted my tutoring services on Craigslist and applied for two jobs tutoring for the ACT. For the first company, they asked me during the face-to-face interview if I had taken the ACT recently. "No, not recently," I replied (as in not since October 1983). I did help Dorito with most of his ACT Prep and graded his practice tests, but that was over a year ago. Meggar went to an outside source for her ACT Prep... so I sat down cold-turkey and did the Math and English tests that first afternoon at Huntington. I went back and took the Science and Reading portions the next afternoon (during hockey practice). The only trouble was knowing how to pace myself... I didn't get all the problems done on the Math and Science so that hurt my scores.
24 = Science
28 = Math
29 = English
36 = Reading (perfect!!)
29 = My Composite (only one point higher than I scored back in high school--so I guess I'm not much smarter even though I've repeated high school three times over with my kids)
Both companies hired me.
Went to training yesterday and start Monday.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Half Birthdays

Today is Meggar's Half-Birthday!
Seems funny to mention it, since she is an adult. The tradition started as a Kindergarten lark in a hotel room where we were living as quietly as possible with an 18-month old. Some years we did it to keep up with the Weeks'. Today it's just another chance to say "We love you, sister bear!"

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Moving Forward

No one else is sad about not having the Homeschool Science Fair this year--but I am a little nostalgic today. Usually held in late January, the event was open to all homeschoolers at virtually no charge. Everyone had a one-on-one with their judge from the scientific community, listened to a science workshop, and in the end, everyone won a prize. As the main organizer for about 15 years, I help my own four kids do roughly 50 different experiments (the best ones were handed down and repeated during the appropriate grades).
That is a lot of hand-on learning and creating of display boards, and I don't even like science. But it was the only way that I could think of to make sure my own students engaged with science and enjoyed its revelations, discoveries, and complexities. There is no surer glimpse into the orderliness of God than a science fair project. Amazingly, there is also maturity that comes with the process as students face deadlines with projects that might have failed, burned up, spilled over, or fizzled out. Then there are those winners which took my breath away when I didn't expect my kids would do very well. It might sound like I'm braggin a little, but once every 15 years is probably alright for teacher evaluations.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Part-time Job for Me

I'm excited to start a part-time job in Nashville teaching ACT Prep at one of the public schools. My after-school position will run from mid-January until early April. Every little bit help$.
Meanwhile, Dorito is doing some part-time work during his college break (on the ice).
And Meggar is already back to the books, starting a full week earlier than K-State does.

Monday, January 13, 2014

For Goodness' Sake

Why do we keep traditions? Partly for the children's sakes. And partly for the sake of our own sanity, I believe. One of my traditions is to make Japanese Tempura for New Year's Day.
But this year I nearly forgot about it. My thoughts were elsewhere, and I feel like I'm holding my breath rather than living a normal, day-to-day routine. But my brother Clint reminded me. He fondly recalls Akemi (our Japanese exchange student when he was a 7-year-old), and he has been among the groups I have hosted and cooked for at various New Years in the past. Not only do I cook the way Akemi taught me, but I also dig out the entire box of souvenirs collected during the summer that I was an exchange student to her family in Tokyo. I like to invite another family to come over each year and share the cultural evening. I show photos and teach a few Japanese phrases while everyone tries chopsticks, rice, shrimp, potatoes, mushrooms, and carrots-with-onions. This year it was only five of us, but I am glad that I kept the tradition! It gives me a chance to reminisce and dream, which has a good effect on my children. As we are already a few days  into the Year of the Horse, I'm mindful of our blessings and our identity as God's adventurers.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What to do for Relaxation

We hung out with the Evans family this weekend. The twins and Miles decided to "black out" their rims. Plus there was early morning Chick-fil-A and hide-and-seek with Henry. For my part, I took things easy. I enjoyed Donna's homemade salsa with a margarita, an episode of "Downton," and a cooking lesson with two little monkeys.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Shakespeare Play at Belmont

We are back in Nashville, and the three of us went to Belmont University for their production of "Othello" on stage (joining the Catholic homeschoolers for this field trip). The Shakespeare expert at the theatre department adapted the script and was able to hire Eddie George as the Black Moor and main character. (He is a Heisman trophy winner from Ohio State who went on to play for the Titans.) Although the plot focuses on a soldier returning to ordinary life, it is his falling into jealousy that ultimately dooms this tragedy. It was great to have a Q&A session afterward and hear how an athlete combines strength of body and mind into his career now. Besides the great acting, I thought the costume designer used a sense of period modesty which made this even more authentic and enjoyable.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Another Chef in the Kitchen

While we were out-of-town last weekend, Dorito rustled up his own food. I was impressed to receive this peek at his masterpiece: BBQ Chicken Pizza from his own "Southern Living Barbecue" cookbook.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Epiphany Cake

I made a Christmasy cake for the Feast of Epiphany. It's rich enough for Three Kings, and deliciously uses up the left-over fresh cranberries and dates and walnuts from the holidays. (I've always been the Queen of Leftovers, and find a way to use every scrap, but this season of unemployment has me aware of the contribution I can make that way.) Nice change from my other recipe for Cranberry Cake.
Winger was waiting with anticipation, so he snapped a photo as I was drizzling on the icing.
Cranberry Upside Down Cake
1 c. fresh cranberries
1/2 c. chopped dates
2 T. chopped walnuts
1 t. grated orange rind
1/2 c. soft butter, divided
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 T. fresh orange juice
1-1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 egg
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 c. powdered sugar
1 t. melted butter
2 T. fresh orange juice
Prep: Coat 9-inch square or round baking pan with cooking spray and dust with flour.
1. Combine cranberries, dates, walnuts, and rind in separate bowl and set aside.
2. In saucepan, melt 2 T. butter then stir in brown sugar, cinnamon, and orange juice. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Pour brown sugar caramel sauce into baking pan. Sprinkle cranberry mixture evenly over top.
4. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl.
5. In large bowl, beat 6 T. butter with sugar until fluffy.
6. Add vanilla and egg and beat well.
7. Stir in flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
8. Spoon batter over cranberry mixture in pan.
9. Bake at 350' F for 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick comes out clean from the center.
10. Cool for 5 min. on wire rack. Run a knife around to loosen edges. Invert on plate.
11. Drizzle with glaze and serve warm.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Return to Television

The roads in St. Louis would have made it impossible to get home, so we stayed an extra day in Nashville. Luckily our "landlord" has cable TV, and we cozied up for the 2-hour season return of "Downton Abbey" on the couch. Of course, we can rewatch the episodes online the next day if we are travelling or back home. Meggar resisted the urge to watch the show early (as it was released in England last month) and texted me her impression: "Lovely!"

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Back on Track with Hockey

The twins are back together on the ice, and their team seemed to play better together, too! They pulled off five wins this weekend in Nashville!
Our high point was a defeat of their arch-rival Belle Tire team, who is No. 1 in their division. This is the second time Thunder has defeated that team from Detroit and their loud-mouth moms in the stands. I was so excited that I convinced the team manager to let me spend some of the meal budget on ice cream sandwiches to celebrate!
We are also excited that former Russell Stover '97 player Finnegan committed to Quinnipiac University!  This is big news for dedicated players from the Midwest! Remember that Quinnipiac is in Connecticut, and we saw they currently had twin brothers on the starting line-up!
Joining us in the stands this weekend were new TN friends:
Jimmy and Quinn on Friday, and
the whole Morel family on Sunday (boys shown here).