Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's Not About the Fish

My husband's grandma turned 88 this week.  Because I am not wonderful with keeping track of such things, I'm thankful that his family is.  They hosted a joint party for her and Brandon's cousin, who just turned 16.  It was a fun crowd, spanning ages 90 to 1 year, if you count the dogs, and we count the dogs!
Checking in with the different crowds, there were teenage boys racing cars on the Play Station with teenage girls looking on in a bored sort of way.  Among the younger set, there was much feasting on fruit, pizza and cake, as well as a random treasure hunt.  The money finders each won a five dollar bill and a plastic golden cup.  In the grown up room, I heard talk of camera, some laughs about fish escaping from their tanks, as well as some giggles about the rapture, apparently imminent the following day.

Smiling, I sat down next to the birthday girl.  There's a lean to the way she sits, and I guess I never really thought much about why.  I knew she had several strokes as well as a bad break in her leg, so that she is confined to her wheelchair.  She is an independent and inspiring woman, having been one of the first occupational therapists in the field.  She then raised her kids on her own for a portion of their upbringing, traveled all over, and was always sewing.  When I met her, I was dating my husband, and she told me how her uncle was a tailor, and she always begged him to teach her to sew.  Until he did, she sat at his side, learning.  In her retirement, she sewed for people.  It was her way of ministering to the needs of others, and she loved it.  Just before she had her strokes, she had remarried the love of her life and father of her kids after being divorced for something like 25 years.  It was a sweet time, something like a fairy tale.  Soon, grandma's health began to fail, and there were several times the family was called in, because we were afraid we'd lose her.  Every time, she has rallied.  Maybe it's the 25 bottles of vitamins she took religiously! Grandma Vi is a fighter, and a lover, and a woman who knows how to live with true joy.

It's hard to see grandma sagging in her chair.  It's a sad way to sit, a constant reminder of what is lost as one ages.  I asked grandma why she had a fuzzy red sock over her hand, and she said that it gets so cold, like a block of ice because of the stroke.  I followed the line of her arm, past the brace and up to her face, and saw the sag in her crooked smile. Then I followed it down to her foot,  noticing the brace there, and asked if her foot got cold too, and she said it did.  But she didn't do what I expected next.  I thought she might be happy to have someone to tell her woes to, but that's not what she did.  She told a little story.  She has always told stories and jokes for the 13 years I've known her, and I'm sure much longer.   I'm sure scores of people have heard her tell this one, but I think she knew it's the one I needed to hear.

"There was a man.  He was a preacher, a judge, a lawyer, and he loved to fish.  He took his granddaughter out to the fishing hole one day with him, got his pole out, and went to fishing. They were there for a long time, never catching a thing, and then they got back in the car.  Climbing into the seat, his granddaughter noticed he had left all of his bait in the car.  'Grandpa,' she said, 'you left all of your bait.  No wonder you didn't catch any fish.'  She was very confused.  He looked at her and smiled, 'It's not about the fish.  It's about the fishing.'

Grandma raised her head at me, without saying anything and smiled, looking at me with her clear blue eyes, checking to be sure I had understood.  I tried to change the subject, telling a story about how my daughter had said she went to Disneyland when she was "still in God's eye."  The subject just came back to the fishin.'  "That preacher had a busy life," said grandma, "and he cherished the time to sit out in nature and enjoy life.  So it wasn't about the fish."

Sometimes it's hard to keep myself from seeing much else except the goals that need to be met each day,  Chores must be done, math learned, history recounted, dinner made, then to bed and to start again.  It is good to know that it's equally important to "just fish."  I overheard grandpa asking grandma how she liked the party.  She told him how much she loved seeing everyone together, and what a joy it was to her, and that she was tired and ready to go home.

The grass, whizzing by as we jog

Today, instead of doing chores when I got home from a busy day with the family, I did something different.  I decided to be silly and jog while taking photographs, like I had seen in the movie, "Yes Man."   Everyone was dragging their feet, but by the time we were done, every person had enjoyed a jog on our road, including the dog. We went in circles, picked flowers, ran through grass and around a horse barn.  We raced each other home, then went about our work.  I am so thankful that God allows me to learn just exactly what I need to each day.

My foot, and my daughter's.  Sparkly shoes were required running attire for her.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Nacher" Book

When I was a new mom of my fifth child, I spoke with another mom of many.  I was concerned that I wouldn't have enough time for each of my children, though I loved them each so fully and entirely.  She had six of her own.  What she told me has been something I look for and cling to in my children's lives.  She told me something like this.  When you have many children, you get to see other people be great teachers to your children, because you simply can't be everything to them.

My little girl ate the ferns!  One lesson she maybe shouldn't have learned.  Not sure if these were the fiddleheads you can eat!  She was impressed that I knew what the name for "ivy" is.  They couldn't figure it out.

When I see the moments that this happens, I am so thankful that we have many children, because out of necessity they have many influences, and therefore such rich lives.  Today at school, I got to witness other children being this to my 5 year old.  One older girl took her all over the campus to find all sorts of plants, and helped them catalog them and label them in a book.  This is something I've always intended to do with her, but never done.  They even took care to tape over the spikes on the holly leaves, so that we wouldn't hurt our hands.  An hour later, I witnessed a different older girl encouraging my five year old again, teaching her to draw eyes on princesses.  There are countless ways I see this daily, but these were the ones that stood out to me today.  Enjoy these photos of the sweet "Nacher Book."

Don't tell anyone that they picked the pretty pansies!


More Princesses!

Ballet and Blood

Today we had a beautiful dress rehearsal for my daughter's ballet performance.  She asked to stay after to watch the other girls perform.  I noticed she was picking her nose, but didn't care to embarrass her and tell her that she shouldn't, since she was sitting a few rows behind me.  3 minutes later, I heard a distressed, "moooommm!"  There was blood pouring down her nose, chin, and ballet dress!  This is a child who never has nose bleeds.  We ran to the bathroom, and were cleaning her up when a man walked in and headed to a stall.  I thought nothing of it, 'til I looked around and saw urinals on the other wall!  I said, "This is the guy's bathroom, isn't it?"  The man replied, "Yes," and we rushed on out.  In the girls' bathroom, I explained my situation and recent faux pas to a fellow mom in there.  She left, then returned in a few minutes to check on me and said, "That guy in the bathroom was my husband.  Don't worry, he thought nothing of it."  My life is always entertaining.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Homemade Laundry Soap-Save Money and the Environment!

Everyone keeps asking me for the recipe I use to make homemade laundry soap.  This soap is great.  Many people all over the country use it. It's not my unique recipe, a friend from the kids' school told me about it.   The Duggars...those people on TV with 18 kids or something... they use a similar recipe.

I originally found the recipe at this site:, but I have added my own tips to this one due to my experience with making it LOTS of times.
Go to that site to see other awesome and wonderful recipes!
Thank you Tipnut website!

  It gives you five gallons of laundry soap for under $5.  I was using Costco's Ecos soap before, and this works comparably.  I have taught many people to make it, and they all agree that it works well.  They have told me that it works well with the front loading He machines because it is not a lathering bubbly soap.

Ok, so here are the materials you'll need.  In our area, Fred Meyer and WinCo carry them.  They are all in the laundry detergent aisle.

To Buy:

*1 bar Fels Naptha Soap
*Washing Soda (made by Arm and Hammer, but is NOT baking soda.  Baking soda will not work)

To Collect:

*Large hole cheese grater ( I use the oval one from Ikea that has a container underneath to catch peelings)
*5 gallon bucket with lid (if you know anyone who works in food service or the construction industry, these are often surplus.)
*Medium saucepan
*Long-handled spoon
*1/2 c and 1 c measuring cups

You will need to grate the bar of Fels Naptha soap.  My kids like to do this for me.  They think it is hilarious because it looks like cheese, but obviously tastes nothing like it.

Once you grate it, put it in a saucepan with about 1 inch of water over the top of it.  It will float, so you will need to guess a little.  You will stir with the whisk over medium heat until the soap is dissolved.

Fill your bucket half full with hot water, then pour in the dissolved naptha soap mixture, immediately followed by 1 cup Washing Soda and 1/2 cup Borax.  It's a good idea to have the washing soda and borax ready to go so the detergent gels correctly.  Stir with your long handled spoon until dissolved.

It will begin to gel pretty quickly, but will take overnight to gel completely, as it cools.

Add hot water to within 1-2 inches of the top of the bucket, and put on your lid.

Once it gels, it will be a gel like substance and a liquid.

I use about 1 cup per load, keeping the cup in the bucket,  but you can experiment with what works for you.  I have heard that people stir with a long handled spoon or ladle before each use, but I just make sure to get a little of the gel and the liquid together in each load, and it works fine for me.  Again, this is where you will want to do what suits you best.  I used to put it in my old detergent bottle and shake before each use.

When there is heavy soiling of clothes, I use about 2 cups of the stuff, though I'm not sure that's necessary.

Enjoy saving dollars and using soap whose ingredients you can list on one hand!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The First McFly to be Born in America

Matt at his college graduation this weekend

My brother, Matt, who is eight years my junior, just graduated from the University of Hawaii.   All I could think was, (in an Irish accent) "The first McFly to be born in America..." My two brothers and I grew up watching the Back to the Future trilogy like we knew video cassettes were going out of style.  It is thus appropriate that my mind choose a snip of that movie to commemorate this occasion.  Matt, the youngest, is the first kid in our family to graduate from college, fulfilling the American education dream, and making his big sis very proud.  Being born in the USA was one of the first ways to be American in the old West, and I think being a college graduate is the modern translation of that idea.  

I was in a funk this weekend, and I couldn't decide why until I realized that I wished it was me in that picture.  It's funny to say that, considering the blog post I wrote on education last week.  That's when I said it didn't matter what we "should" learn, but that we are generally interested and passionate about learning, so that we do it well and wholeheartedly.  In a sense, a college degree says that.  It tells everyone that you figured out what you wanted to be when you grew up, and you learned all you could about it.  You found your passion, and you paid to learn more about it.

Matt is a naturally smart guy.  He took the military ASVAB exam and had recruiters calling him immediately due to his high scores.  He scored well on the SAT, got great grades without trying too hard, and is a great friend to many people.  He has had many ideas of a degree as he has gone through college, some being accounting, law and politics.   What is most admirable, however, is that he stuck to it through two deployments to the Middle East with the Hawaii National Guard.  He is graduating with a specialty in human resources.   I think what a college degree says is that you are able to bring a goal to fruition.  It's Matt's badge of honor, saying that he's trustworthy and will complete what he finishes, and when he does, he will have done it well.  He's had the idea that he could be in politics, and I think he could, because he is the kind of person who engenders trust.  A college degree will only serve to further the kind of credibility he'd need for this.  

  My brother Danny, 5 years younger than me, is an amazing craftsman.  Coming from our family, you will find this to be a miracle.  None of us have a handy bone in our body, but Danny can think about something, learn how it's do be done, and build it.  It seems like his natural skill precluded any need for him to study at college.  He could teach himself anything he needed to know, and indeed he does, having figured out how to wire in lights in his home, put in various kinds of flooring, wire electrical outlets, hang drywall and build houses on mission trips in Mexico.  He is a person who makes a difference because he shows up and works his best, which is always the highest quality of workmanship.

I wondered, then at my tinges of jealousy at Matt's graduation.  I am not overly concerned with going back to college.  There are no major feelings of regret at leaving my formal studies in order to grow a family.  I know however, that there is that innate desire to prove myself trustworthy: to finish what I started.  It's a gift and a burden I have.  I do not quit things easily, and am therefore dependable, but I also will not leave things that should be left.  My parents always told me I didn't need to get a job when I was in high school: my job was to learn.  I see now the gift that was, considering that it was that education that prepared me for my life today.  I was free to pursue core studies, and then to take my interests further by spending extra time in the photo lab, the ceramics room, and in foreign language studies.  I was able to volunteer with children in church and girl scouts, and to really understand what my passions were.   It is this space that I was given that I am thankful for.  I have a background in arts that I can share with my children and their friends.  I'm beginning to understand why the degree is not essential to my work.  My children see my persistence and dedication to helping them to learn to teach themselves.  My work is to help them to feel that same sense of pride in their accomplishments that a first generation American, a college graduate, a craftsman and a good mother feel.

Hawaiian Sleeping Grass

Here's a sweet experience we had with sleeping grass in Hawaii last year.  I grew up playing with this stuff, and now I got to show it to my kids!  It's non native, but it's everywhere in Hawaii.  It is especially useful when you are bored during outdoor assemblies at school.

The Effects of Coritisone Shots

I am sure all of you have heard of cortisone shots, and may have even received them yourselves.  Because of my unexpected experience with them, I feel I need to share, so that others can be better informed than me.  

After I ran a half marathon in Sept. 2010, i began to experience shooting pains in the area where the 5th metatarsal hits the outer right area of my foot. I also noticed that I had a bump that protruded from the front right area of my lower ankle, which doctors described as either a ganglion or bursitis.  I would hear popping in the tendons that spanned that area whenever I took a step.   From examination of foot anatomy, i could see that there was a nerve that extends from the area of my bursitis in the upper part of my foot down to the outer right part of the foot. It must have been under pressure because of the bursitis, whatever it is. 

When taping, icing, rest, shoe inserts, and even foot manipulation, or popping of bones did not work with the first podiatrist, I went to a new one, who immediately said cortisone shots were the only way to reduce the inflammation to allow the foot to heal. By this point I had been injured for 3.5 months, and was needing to be able to walk without pain. I did not have insurance at time of injury, and the podiatrist said he could not do anything without an MRI except cortisone injections, which he seemed very confident would solve all my woes. This was not the case.  Shots took away the shooting pain, but when I ran after my prescribed amount of rest time, pain resumed due to the bursitis remaining.  The area around the injection site became sunken and the veins looked strained.  The skin cracked and peeled painfully, so that I needed to put lotion on it daily.  I have read that cortisone shots can damage the tissue surrounding the site of the injection, but I was not prepared for this.

I also experienced daily night sweats and periods every two weeks for 2 months.  No one told me that cortisone would affect my menstrual cycle.  I would not have received it, had I known this.  I researched, and sure enough, side effects listed on the drug website include menstrual irregularity.  This month I am again experiencing a period 2 weeks after I had one, as well as night sweats.  This is not normal for me.  I have always had regular periods when not pregnant or nursing.  I don't know how long this is going to go on.  I do know that I will not be running anytime soon, and I don't know if my foot will ever heal.  I now have insurance, but do not want to have surgery if it will put me in pain again. I would rather have no pain in every day walking than a new pain from surgery.   I also wonder if the shooting pain will resume when the cortisone is fully flushed from my body.  If you've had any experience with cortisone, shots, I'd love to hear about it.   I  am coming to a realization that anything put into the human body that is not natural to it can easily behave like a poison.  The human body has a delicate balance in every system, and any time one of those systems is upset, it takes a long time for equilibrium to reign once again.

Right foot was injected 2 times with Cortisone at base of ankle,  front right side. where redness is evident. This was done after visiting a podiatrist for two months and trying other methods such as exercises, icing, taping, and rest. The injury was apparently sustained during a half marathon I ran in September 2010 after having run regularly for 9 months.  Injections were done November 2010 and December 2010.  This photo is taken in May of 2011.  6 months later, the effects of cortisone shots are apparent not only externally, but hormonally.

 The site of the injection, 6 months later,  still peels daily, and must be treated with moisturizers in order to prevent irritation and pain from peeling skin.  Veins in the area are thin and weak.  The area of the injection has sunk and the actual bursitis it was treating has grown.

 This is the same spot on my healthy left foot.  Notice healthy coloration of skin.  No sinking in, no pronounced tendon at ankle, and obviously, no bursitis.

Left foot and right foot together.  Left foot is healthy, right is very unhealthy