Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Bit of the Journey

Eleven days ago,  shortly after lunch on Tuesday the 13th of January, I received a cryptic text from Dan telling me something was really wrong--  and not to try to reach him because he couldn't talk, but that he was calling an ambulance. What?! My heart stopped, but I grabbed my shoes and my purse, left Theresa to babysit, and jumped in the car headed for Omaha. That was at about 3:00 in the afternoon; by 7 p.m., Dan was on the operating table having a perforated esophagus surgically repaired.

No small surgery, either.  It took two hours to fix the one inch tear and clean out the resultant debris from his chest cavity. Then, because his throat was (as you would imagine) swollen from the procedure and all the trauma in general, the breathing tube they'd placed for the surgery remained for a week of the time he was in the I.C.U., waiting for the swelling to go down. He also had an N.G. tube for clearing his stomach of acids that could have a detrimental effect on the repaired esophagus.

I wore Dan's ring next to mine.
Because of the threat of infection, they started Dan almost immediately on serious antibiotics (three at a time) and a saline drip to keep him hydrated, all feeding into his system through I.V.s. and he had a host of monitors on his chest and a blood pressure cuff on his arm to monitor his vital functions.  In addition to the dreaded foley catheter, he had three tubes snaking through his chest cavity to drain excess fluid out through hoses attached into his side. And to top it all off, his arms were strapped down to the sides of his bed for fear that he would inadvertently (or otherwise) pull out any of the aforementioned tubes or wires. You could hardly see his face behind all those tubes and his hands were so swollen, they gave me his wedding ring to hold onto.

In the I.C.U.
I held onto it.  And to him -- for eight day in the I.C.U. and another three in recovery.  And now  that we're home, I'm still hanging on.  It's been quite a ride, this detour portion of our life journey.  See there? I had to stop myself from calling this a detour.  You'd thing that would describe these crazy frightening days in the hospital, fearing for the life of my husband, but, I'm thinking about the meaning of the word and it hasn't been that at all.  Webster defines a detour as "a long or roundabout route taken to avoid something -- or a visit along the way."  Well.  Let me tell you, these last couple of weeks have definitely not had the character of a "visit" of any kind  (unless you count the bazillions of nurses and doctors we've met).  And while this ordeal has definitely been (and will continue to be) long and tiring, it feels more as if we've been on a very straight route, right up a steep path, than a zigzag roundabout to avoid something.  Does that make sense?

It's hard to explain, but let me try: Our normal life has definitely been disrupted (no kidding!), but it feels as if normal life up until now has been an unfocused wandering meander and the last few days have been a steep and direct climb to a goal -- with the hand of God leading the way.  We've been hanging on tight and not looking down, let me tell you.  In the intensive care unit of a hospital, which is a tight-rope of life and death, you do well to not meander aimlessly.  I'm grateful that through my zone out and freak out phases, God and His Mother still had me by the hand (or the scruff of the neck) -- and I knew I was never alone; He was so near I couldn't help but have my thoughts always swirl back to God.  And love.  And life. And how the first two which can seem so elusive are infinite, but that last one -- the most immediate and tangible one -- is so perversely fleeting and fragile. All the little niggling concerns of the every day just seem stupid when you sense St. Peter standing nearby with his hand on the Pearly Gate.

In times like this, you find out that the love we have for another --  the bone-melting love I have for Dan, the dear love and care of our friends and family, the blessing and support of our pastors -- is the only thing to depend upon, because it's all wrapped up in the love of God -- which in the end is all we've got.  And all we need.  The road map and the destination.

Dan with his ring back where it belongs.
So, anyway... Dan's home now.  Getting around rather gingerly still, with a very careful diet, and a renewed respect for his health.  We all just look at him.  There he is, the laugh wrinkles a the corners of his eyes, the way he says, "Would you mind doing me a little favor?" the wonderful sound of his snoring next to me at night.  =sigh= Life is pretty O.K. That drip in the washing machine; no big deal.  The less-than-par house we live in; piffle. The bills, the debt, the price of gas, American politics, society's woes in general: eh.  God's got it and we're on His team, so it's all good.  And Dan is home.

*For anyone who doesn't know, Dan's surgery was necessary due to a perforated esophagus.  Apparently, the years he's suffered from acid reflux caused deterioration in his food pipe, and in a bad twist of Murphy's law or something he choked on a piece of meat in exactly the wrong place, causing a tear.  One of the most dangerous results of this kind of (quite rare) injury is the "backwash" of stomach acid, food, and blood into the chest cavity; infection and pneumonia were a fear from the beginning.  We believe it was due to the prayers offered for Dan all over the world that he came through far better than anyone imagined, and was released from the hospital way earlier than the doctors expected.  We're truly blessed and very grateful!  The surgery Dan underwent has a 20% fatality rate, as opposed to open-heart surgery, which only has 3%.  So.  Truly. Thank-you so much, prayer warriors!

Sharon is a retired nurse and
was absolutely invaluable!
* Most special thanks, though, to Dan's Mom, Sharon, who flew from California to be here and was the night-shift angel for us (she loves her little boy!) * Also, our special appreciation to Dominic for taking care of the house and children while we were gone (keeping up morale and making life interesting).  * Hugs and love to our amazing little-big girls who carried on the daily routine in spit spot order. * And a shout out to Gabe and William, too, who were so good the whole time (even though they both got a stomach bug!) We love you all so much! What would we ever do without you?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

On the Feast of the Holy Family

Consecration of the Family to the Holy Family

O Jesus, our most loving Redeemer, Who having come to enlighten the world with Your teaching and example, willed to pass the greater part of Your life humbly and in subjection to Mary and Joseph in the poor home of Nazareth, thus sanctifying the Family that was to be an example for all Christian families, graciously take to Yourself our family as it dedicates and consecrates itself to You this day. Defend us, guard us, and establish among us Your holy fear, true peace, and harmony in Christian love; in order that by conforming ourselves to the divine pattern of Your family all of us without exception may be able to attain to eternal happiness.

Mary, dear Mother of Jesus and our Mother, by your kindly intercession make this our humble offering acceptable in the sight of Jesus, and obtain for us His graces and blessings.

O Saint Joseph, most holy Guardian of Jesus and Mary, help us by your prayers in all our spiritual and temporal necessities; that so we may be enabled to praise our divine Savior Jesus, together with Mary and you for all eternity."

* Perfect reading for the feast today and through the week, the book The Family for Families by Fr. Francis L. Filas, SJ
It used to be free online, but I can't find it any more...  :(  But it can be found here.  A bit pricey, but worth the read!

* Blog post from a while back, with thoughts on the feast day -- and the story of how Mary and St. Joseph were not the only ones who ever left behind -- can be found here

* Mindfulness of the Holy Family and how we can make our families holy --  in blog some posts this week!

Problem Solving 101: William-style

Good Grief, William? How many doughnuts did you eat after Mass this morning?

"What?" he asks as if everything is perfectly normal.

"William?" we ask through half-covered smiles, "Why are you so FAT?" 

"Oh, that. These pants didn't fit, so I stuffed them. Now they fit."
(People falling down laughing at this point, running for their cameras...)

Inside the pants:  one long scarf, one pair of Minion pajama pants, and one super hero cape.

Perfect get-up for sledding.  Padding all around and his pants won't fall off.

Crazy kid. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Quiet Evening at Home

Seasons to savor.  Even when they're not really so quiet.

Entertainment compliments of Theresa and Dominic.

The Epiphany Blessing

Father Gronenthal, a priest friend of long-standing and one of our parish cornerstones, was able to come over to our house last night and do the Epiphany Blessing of the Home.  Most years, our option has been for Dan to do it -- which has always been fine...  But having Father over with all the official sacramentals -- and the proper and beautiful prayers of the Church in Latin (followed by his re-reading in English) prayed by a good priest, who is also a friend...  Well, we feel as if our house is triply blessed!
Here's the text of the prayers of the Epiphany Blessing in English:

Peace be to this house.
And to all who dwell herein.
From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.
During the Magnificat, the room is sprinkled with holy water and incensed.
My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name. And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear Him. He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever.

In the small round containter, Father brought real frankincense and myrrh to burn
in the thurible!  It smelled amazing!  Very exotic.

Dominic was home and acted as thurifer for Father.

After this is completed:
From the east came the Magi to Bethlehem to adore the Lord; and opening their treasures they offered precious gifts: gold for the great King, incense for the true God, and myrrh in symbol of His burial.
Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and  forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead and lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
All they from Saba shall come
Bringing gold and frankincense.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray. O God, who by the guidance of a star didst on this day manifest Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we who know Thee by faith may also attain the vision of Thy glorious majesty. Through Christ our Lord.
Be enlightened, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee-- Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary.
And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light and kings in the splendor of thy rising, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee.
Let us pray. Bless, O Lord God almighty, this home, that in it there may be health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy, the fulfillment of Thy law, the thanksgiving to God the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. And may this blessing remain upon this home and upon all who dwell herein. Through Christ our Lord.
After the prayers of the blessing are recited, walk through the house and bless each room by sprinkling with Epiphany water and incensing it. 
Father "incensed"  all the rooms of our home with the frankincense and myrrh, starting here in the living room.
 Taking the blessed chalk, Father first wrote the initials of the three Wise Men, connected with Crosses, over the inside of our front door (on the lintel, if possible). Then he wrote the year, breaking up the numbers and the year so that they fall on both sides like so:

20  C+M+B  15

with the "20 "being the millennium and century, the "C" standing for the first Wise Man, Caspar, the "M" standing for Melchior, the "B" standing for Balthasar, and the "15" standing for the decade and year. It is also popularly believed that the Kings' initials may also stand for "Christus mansionem benedicat" ("Christ bless this house").

Then he added the initials of the Three Kings, interspersed with the digits of the year.
You can see here that he had a rather awkward angle to reach the lintel of our front
door, as our jigsaw puzzle table happens to be in front of this door for the duration
of the winter...  But Father is a good sport.  After he climbed down, he laughed and
said, "That piece you'll be missing when you finish the puzzle, will probably be on
the bottom of my shoe."  (gglggl)

Here he is adding the same emblem of the Kings over the chief entrance of our home, coming
into the kitchen from the mudroom.  (A little easier reach here!)

And finally, incensing and blessing (with holy water) the Summer Kitchen.

Next, he added the King's emblem above the lintel of the  Summer Kitchen.
See the close-up below.  The white chalk shows up best against the grey cedar!
(I don't think he noticed he was standing right under the mistletoe -- and we didn't
dare say anything about it.  ;) I expect the Blessed Mother kissed the top of the
head of this good and faithful servant, though.  I can just imagine that she would!
After the blessing, we sat down to a nice visit and a good dinner of stuffed cabbage with Father.  A wonderful time was had by all!  And the devils are most likely having fits.  No way they're getting in this house with all the blessings it's gotten in the last couple of months!  Many thanks to Fr. Gronenthal for coming so far out of his way to do the Epiphany Blessing for us!  (It's an hour's drive from the Church to our house...)  And to Fr. Borja, as well, for the blessing he did a couple months ago.  We are truly and well blessed!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"Whatcha Doin', Girls?"

L-R: Penny, Cathy, and Anna
Out the kitchen window today:
"Don't know where you're going, but I'm with ya, wherever it is."

"What are these things, anyway? They don't smell good.  Why did you bring them up here?"
"Oh, OK.  Leaving them there.  Let's go, then.  Up the hill.  I'm with ya, girls."
"What the...?"

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy Feast of the Epiphany from Our House to Yours!

We'll continue to light the white candles at the feet
of  our Lady's statue until the Feast of the Purification.
And I think we'll leave our Baby Jesus for a while --
just because we love Him.  Did just add the little painting
 of the journey to Egypt, though, and will likely remove the
tinsel and holly tomorrow morning. -- as the Liturgical
Year continues...

O God, Who by the guidance of a star didst this day reveal Thine only-begotten Son to the Gentiles, mercifully grant that we, who know Thee now by faith, may be so led as to behold with our eyes the beauty of Thy majesty.  Through the same...
Prayer from the Mass of the Epiphany
Favorably regard the gifts of Thy Church, O Lord, wherein no longer gold is offered, nor frankincense, nor myrrh, but He who by these gifts is signified is become our sacrifice and our food, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who with Thee reigns...
Secret from the Mass of the Epiphany

Cathy working on her much-craved
"Magi Bread."  Wonder who will find
the ring in it this year...
Table decorated for the Epiphany feast tonight. We'll be having "Pig in the Pantry."
(That's Anna there, if anyone wonders...)

+Gaspar, Balthazar, and Melchior, pray for us!

+ Many years worth of posts on the Feast of the Three Kings can be found here!

Monday, January 5, 2015

An Exercise in Geometry

This lesson requires a snow suit.  It's been in the single digits around here the last few days.  Not overnight, mind you -- in the middle of the day.  Here's Gabe, dressed for the weather.  You know what he's saying, don't you?
"I can't put my arms down!"
This is the story:

Gabe's been studying geometry but having trouble memorizing terms, and I just bought a little pedometer to track the 10,000 steps a day required by my new diet regimen.  In a typical day, however, I fall approximately 9, 630 steps short of the goal.  (Go figure that.*)  So, because Gabe needs to understand what perimeter means...  Well, guess who suited up, clipped on the pedometer and walked around our ten acres today?

Not me.

Good old Gabe did double duty, checking to see if the pedometer really works, while walking his math lesson around the outside edges of our little forest.  It was cooold and he came back with very pink cheeks -- but also a walking understanding of the word "perimeter."  We now know how far around our little property is:  if the pedometer tracked properly, Gabe walked 522 steps!  That's .41 kilometers,  a little over a quarter mile.  Fantastic!

Now I know the pedometer works -- and Gabe knows what "perimeter" means. A good day all around! (No pun intended.)  I have to confess that it'll be a while before I make the trip, myself, lacking a proper snow suit (and any kind of eagerness to do so), but the pedometer has paid for itself today, adding to the general store of knowledge here at the Davis house.  The whole exercise has been a win/win/win.

Tomorrow I'm going to wear the pedometer and see what happens if I swing my feet while sitting at the table teaching school.  I'll let ya know what I find out. :)

* I have studied the matter conscientiously and coming from a perfectly practical standpoint I've determined that exercise is impossible for me. No, really it is.  Impossible.   Even if I had a burning desire to walk 10,000 steps (which you know I do not, so I won't lie to you), 10,000 steps in any direction outside our house would lead me to the bottom of a snowy ravine (or it could, anyway, if I slipped in any one of a dozen snowy spots on the road). So walking outdoors: impossible.  At least for now. Ask me again in spring -- when it's muggy and buggy and the road is muddy...

Also impossible would be taking 10,000 steps inside our very small (quaint, cute, charming?) cottage in one day.  If I tried it, I'd remind you of the lions you see at the zoo walking around and around and around and around a 10'x10' enclosure.  It would drive you mad to watch it; it would drive me more mad to do it. Dodging children and cats and purposely instigated obstacles...  Coffee spilling all over the place..

 So why don't I get in some steps by  going up and down the stairs?  A reasonable proposition and I considered it, I truly did -- but, honestly, our staircase is 100 years old, steep and narrow with a low ceiling, the wooden steps themselves worn and slick,  Though the children would undoubtedly enjoy the spectacle, I'd most likely break my neck running up and down them.  Impossible.

So exercising at home is out.  What about going somewhere else to get in those 10,000 steps?  Even if I had time in the day to do such a thing, leaving kit and kin alone at the house, it would still be impossible.  We have no malls anywhere near us to traipse around -- and it's a good bet Dan would see through the thin excuse to go shopping be wary of my doing such a thing if we did.  We have no gym anywhere near us, either, and, in case you wondered, no space in the house for a treadmill or stationary bike -- or anything but a chair that I can sit on and kick my feet for exercise.   Which is the only one I like the sound of, anyway!

So, yeah.  Just clarifying.  Justifying? Hating exercising.  (Don't anyone tell my diet support group about this, though, OK?.  They might think I have a bad attitude or something...)

The Creche, 2014/15

Since we have so little room in this country cottage to spread out with a large elaborate Nativity scene, we decided to make use of vertical space and build a large elaborate Nativity scene up the living room wall.  Dominic, as usual, was the chief architect, though everyone pretty much got in on the process -- especially on the creative placement of hidden objects that the Littles are turning into an Eye-Spy challenge, complete with a search poem. (Still not finished yet -- I'll try to remember to post when it's complete!)

But, for posterity...  (I say that a lot, don't I?)

Here you see the big picture of the Davis Nativity diorama for this year.  The little cheap camera we are stuck with have right now doesn't pick up the light properly; the effect is much better in real life.  Since I had to use a flash the blue of the sky doesn't look quite right, the stars don't twinkle properly, and you can't appreciate the shadows of the interiors.  But you can get an idea, right?

It was too complicated to take the TV down -- and, well -- we'd have been very sad to miss all our favorite Christmas movies, so we just worked around it... (Sorry so fuzzy!  This camera...)
A side view so you can see the Holy Family.  The Three Kings haven't arrived yet, but are traversing the path above the stable, before arriving to worship the newborn King on the Epiphany...
A view from the other direction.  If you look closely, you can see some of the Eye-Spy objects
tucked in to the scene.  For instance, it's hard to miss the playing card, but can you see the
little hour glass?
Owl Landing, with a rather unexpected tire swing -- and a clam shell with "real" pearls.
Can you see the weasel, the rather large grey rat, and the poker chip?
Another perspective, showing two of the ladder/steps.  There are four sets of steps or ladders all together.
The temple at the far end.  Can you find the forks (easy!), the button, and the
fainted "big head" doll?
One of the six wooden soldiers hides (not very well) in this shot, but can you find the DVD player?
A bit of a trick.  Sorry!  Bou could see just a corner of it in the above picture.
And here again, from another view, we find the Magi crossing the wooden bridge.  One more
flight of steps and another day before they reach their destination - at the feet of the Christ Child.

Great job, Dominic and worker bees!  I hope you're pleased with the record-keeping we're doing here on AWTY.  I bet you'll be looking back at these pictures next year to remember what you did this year. So, in preparation thereof:

Hey. there, Davis children, 2015/16! I love you!  Thanks for stopping by!  Now go hug your mother!