Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday

While everyone is out shopping on Black Friday, we have a tradition that began when I was first married and has continued down through the years. The day after Thanksgiving is the day to bake Christmas cookies!  The tradition began with baking them with my sisters. Sometimes it would be with a friend and as the children grew they joined in.This year my annual cookie bake included my daughter and son-in-law, my daughter-in-law and her mother and her two nieces, my daughter in heart, and my two grandchildren.  

We have our traditional favorites that we make every year. Sometimes we try new ones and sometimes they don't turn out the way we expect.  This year we each brought our dough all mixed up and ready to bake.  We baked  nine different kinds of cookies.  There was lots of laughter and joking. And of course tasting as we tried each new batch of cookies. 

First cookies - eggnog snickerdoodle
A very important job - unwrapping chocolate kisses for Peanut Butter Blossoms and Lemon Kiss Cookies

Nean and Jeff making Orange Craisin Oatmeal Cookies
LeLe dropping cookies

Decorators at Work  (LeLe and Dante)
 We had a busy day and made 58 dozen cookies so we all had lots of delicious cookies to take home with us to enjoy throughout the holiday.

Friday, November 26, 2010


This year as always I have a lot to be thankful for.  First and foremost, I am thankful for my dear husband.  When he was told at the beginning of the summer that he had a heart murmur, it started for us a roller coaster of uncertainty, emotions, doctor visits, and decision making, culminating in a valve repair on October 5th.  Now, a valve repair in this day and age is pretty much a routine surgery as far as the doctors are concerned.  It is, however, major heart surgery and with any major surgery there are risks and with the heart -- well, you can guess the emotional roller coaster we were on for a couple of months.

However, surgery is behind us.  It's been almost eight weeks and recovery has, in fact, been rather fantastic.  Although several friends who have been through this type surgery have told us that it will take about a year until he really feels like himself, he is gaining strength every day -- and we are indeed grateful!  And as we celebrated Thanksgiving, we were extremely thankful that we were both here to celebrate it together.

Jeff, Zoë, Jeannine, Ami, Joyce, Mike
Jeff, Mike, Bob, Vicky, Dante
Yesterday as we gathered in our "new" home to celebrate the holiday, our 7 year old grandson wanted to go around the table and have everyone tell what they were thankful for.  As we honored his request and I listened to each person voice their thankfulness, I was struck anew with how grateful I am for family and good friends.  Although missing from the table this year was my dear mother in law, we had added friends who are indeed "family in our hearts." Also at our table was a little 3 year old who three years ago, we did not know existed -- our beautiful curly-haired little adopted granddaughter, Zoë. What joy she has brought to us and to her parents and brother and to those who know us these past three years!

As we were nearing the end of our round the table thankfulness yesterday, my grandson who had gone first, blurted out, "Say Jesus. Isn't anybody going to say Jesus?"  And yes, even though on this earth I am thankful that Hubby is here to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family, I am even more grateful for Jesus, for without Jesus there is no Life to enjoy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Summer of Change - Our Moving Journey Begins

The story of our decision to move goes back several months. Living next door to our daughter and son-in-law and the grandkids was a wonderful experience, but we really were getting tired of paying rent. And we were conscious of the fact that we were growing older and would want to eventually retire in a home of our own! Couple that with the fact that our daughter's children were growing older and bigger and their house would not much longer accommodate growing children.

And so my dear hubby and I had a conversation regarding the future. What did we want to do if and when our "neighbors" moved into a bigger house? Did we want to continue to rent? After all living next door to our daughter and family was the draw to live in that particular house.

At the same time I had been following a friend's blog of her journey in moving to State College and all that entailed. I read how in spring they were preparing their house for sale and they had a prospective buyer. I didn't think anymore about it. But then in May, I read a post in which she again stated she was cleaning the house to get it ready to sell. But wait - I thought they already had a buyer.

On a whim, I decided to send her an email. That little email set off a whole chain of events. She sent me an email and invited us to come and see the house, so we did. We immediately fell in love with the location and the house itself. But we weren't ready to make a decision. Elvin's mother was rapidly declining in health and we needed to make some decisions regarding her care. So we told our friends to go ahead and put the house on the market if that is what they were ready to do. In the meantime, we would pray about it. But our friends had been praying too and they called us with the offer to wait a couple weeks to give us some time. Wow! We could both feel the Lord at work in our decisions. God was already directing our steps and as we continued to pray, we knew this was the house for us! And so our "journey" to a new home began.
Here is a view of our house at this beautiful time of the year!

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Summer of Change - Saying Good-bye

It is nearly the end of October and as I sit back and think about the incredible turn of events that have surrounded us throughout the last several months, I cannot but marvel at how God has led us step by step. As the school year ended, I was looking forward to finishing the school year and relaxing a bit over the summer. We were planning a week's vacation with my sister and her husband in mid-July. I was also looking forward to spending a month long break from the routine of work. Elvin's mom was continuing her battle with declining health. From time to time we would discuss what to do when she was no longer able to live on her own. Her one desire was to stay in her own home and we wanted to honor her wish if we could. As a family we celebrated her 86th birthday with a Memorial Day picnic at her house.

Less than a week later, we realized that the time had come that she could not continue to be on her own, so with the help of the Hospice team, we decided to hire someone to provide 24 hour care and by mid June had a lovely young lady staying with her and providing minimal care for her. At the same time we were contemplating the purchase of a house and Elvin had been told that he had a heart murmur that needed some attention (more about both to come).

As June came closer and closer to an end, we questioned whether or not we should cancel our vacation plans or what we should do. Mom was declining; she was no longer able to get around without her walker and finally unable to get up on her own. By the end of June she was bedfast.

In spite of her discomfort, she was delighted to have us visit. We spent lots of time with her that month. The last week of her life was spent in bed and on Friday afternoon, July 2, we were by her bedside as she took her final breaths and entered heaven. A change had come, it was time to say our final good-byes to a wonderful mother and grandmother!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Tribute to My Mother in Law

I was 38 when my Mom died. I have lots of fond memories of my childhood and growing up years. My mom gave birth to eleven children, eight of whom are still living to this day. In addition to be a busy mom, she helped my dad on the farm, quilted, and did lots of other things. And yet she still had time for each of us. Many of my memories growing up are of working side by side with my mom in the garden or in the kitchen where she taught me by example to be a wife and homemaker.

My husband and I will have been married 39 in a couple of weeks. July 2nd my "second" mother died. It occurred to me that I had the joy of being her "daughter" just as many years as I enjoyed life with my own mother. In addition to having raised my wonderful husband to be the kind, loving husband and dad that he is, her example taught me what it is like to grow old gracefully. She loved gardening and hated the fact in the last two years that she couldn't take care of her flower beds anymore. She loved baking especially shoe fly and lemon sponge pies and sugar cookies. Every Easter she made peanut butter and coconut eggs. We will miss all those baked goodies and sweet treats. She always made sure we had more than enough to eat when we visited.

My children were very young when my mother died and even before she died she was confined to her bed in a rest home. So when my children think of Grandma, it is their Grandma Brandt that they think of. She was the Grandma who took care of them when Mom and Dad were both working and they were sick. She loved having the children come to the farm and spend time with them. And she spoiled them, but that was okay - that's what Grandmas do. Cookies before lunch? Sure, why not. Life is short; a cookie won't hurt them! I do believe something happens in the brain between the time a woman raises her own children with all the rules, etc. and the time the grandchildren come to spend the day!

Both of my mothers lived out their final years as widows and both taught me that life goes on even when a loved one is gone. I never felt like the "daughter in law" since from the moment we were married I was openly accepted as one of the family. In the past two years I have taken her to doctors' appointments and sat with her in the hospital and stayed with her at home when she came home from the hospital. She seldom complained, other than to wish we didn't have to take so much time to take care of her. She loved simply spending time together, regardless of whether we were talking, playing a game, watching TV together, or just sitting.

I love you Mom Brandt and we will all miss you.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Staying Home

It's Sunday morning and I am at home. No, I am not sick, nor is anyone in my family. I decided this morning that I really need some quiet time for reflection and being alone with myself and God more than I needed to be in church. The last several weeks have been busy with my mother in law's care, my normal work schedule, Bible study groups, a conference, etc. I have been on the go almost constantly.

Seems like there was just no time to sit and reflect - unless you count the late nights after I get home. But by then, I am usually too tired to enjoy the time or just reflect. At that time of the evening I just want to crash and relax. So this morning I have decided to just to spend time alone - just me and God. Away from people and with no expectations. And what a joy it has been.

It has taken me many years to get to this point. After all, I grew up with the expectation that a good Christian needed to be in church on a Sunday morning. That is unless you were sick or caring for a sick child or some other major calamity had taken place in your life. Even on vacation you found a church to visit (I got over that one a long time ago!) But Sunday was sacred; one needed to be in church.

Now I am a big fan of Christians gathering together for the purpose of worship and I firmly believe that I need to be a regular attendee at my place of worship. I also realize how easy it would be to find good reasons for not being there. But I have also learned that God is more concerned about me and my relationship with him than whether or not I am sitting in the church building on Sunday morning. How many of us sit in the church building, but aren't really in "church" anyway? So I gave myself permission to just stay at home this morning and worship in my own way. And I find that I am renewed and refreshed and ready to move on into the rest of the day and the new week. And unless something major occurs, I'll be back in my place of worship next week.