Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Adventures in Baking

 Some very wise family member (I think it was my sister if I recall) got me this delightful cookbook for Christmas.  I'm not sure who was more excited: me or my family.  Regardless, we've all been eating our share of baked goods this week (and it's only Wednesday!)
The first recipe I tried was double chocolate chip cookies.
I made them before church Sunday morning and they turned out marvelously.
We brought them along to family Christmas and didn't bring any of them home at all!  I also made apple butter thumbprint cookies (they were supposed to be chocolate, but I was chocolated out!) and chocolate chip cookies.  I wasn't overly impressed with the chocolate chip cookies, but I think that had something to do with my oven temperature being off (our thermostat for the oven is temperamental).
Today I made a mango betty.  I'm not quite sure what a betty is supposed to be, but this was not a big hit with my family.  It was rather dry, so it got a sad face in the cookbook.  But after I was done baking that, I made these:

Cinnamon rolls. They were supposed to be for tomorrow's breakfast.  About half of them are left in the pan. I had never had a cinnamon roll before, so I don't know how they are supposed to taste, but I didn't hear any complaints.
Isaac pretty much inhaled his. He's never had a cinnamon roll before either.

The project for tomorrow is some sort of bread type thing. I haven't decided what yet...maybe rolls.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How Much Do You Hear?

When people find out that I'm hard of hearing I often get asked how much I actually can hear. What usually follows is a long, confusing explanation of the nature of my hearing loss.  What makes my hearing loss weird, frustrating, confusing, and sometimes wonderful, is the fact that it is a fluctuating loss.  That means exactly how it sounds.  It changes.  Below I'm going to post some pictures to explain it better.
In addition to an organic hearing loss (what I explained above) I have a central auditory processing disorder (CAPD).  The CAPD basically means that my brain doesn't always know what to do with sound.  Getting it through my ears is only part of the problem.  I might be able to hear an alarm going off, but my brain won't necessarily realize that it is an alarm.  If a sound (music, voice, etc) is coming from one location, I won't likely be able to identify the direction it is coming from. My siblings used to take advantage of this in a rather cruel, but humorous game...we had a portable telephone that they liked to hide.  Then they would push the "find" button on the base to make the handset ring and I would have to located the phone just using my ears.  They enjoyed it and if I was in a good mood, I enjoyed it too, just because I was so bad at it.
In addition to bilateral (that means one for each ear) hearing aids, I rely largely on visual input (lip reading, the written word, sign language, flashing lights), since my brain knows how to process that much better. So if you tell me something on the phone, even though I hear you in the most basic sense of the word, I'm much less likely to know what you said than if you e-mailed me.  Likewise, if I only hear your name, I'm more likely to forget it than if I saw it on a name tag or saw it signed.  If my signal light flashes I'm more likely to realize that it's time to get up and get ready for class than if an alarm clock simply rang.
Now for some pictures.

This is an audiogram...actually it's a composition of two audiograms thanks to the wonderful audiogram creator on this site that let me enter data from two of my audiograms.  The numbers on the vertical axis are numbers that represent loudness.  The bigger the number, the louder the sound.  The numbers on the horizontal axis represent frequency.  I think that has to do with lowness/highness of sounds.  The blue lines and "x" marks are my left ear, the red markings and "o" markings are my right ear.  The two lines on top are from one audiogram (on a relatively good day) and the bottom ones are from an audiogram on a less good day. 
This is another version of the same two audiograms as above, but this time with pictures.  The template was found on this site. Anything that is above the red and blue lines is sounds that I am not likely to hear without my hearing aids in.  My aids are set mostly in relation to better days (the top set of lines) since I have more better days than bad days (at least as far as we can tell without doing audiograms daily), so on a less good day (the bottom lines), even with my aids in I'm not going to get much better than the top set of lines.  This means, that on a less good day, even with my aids in, I'm likely to have trouble with hearing conversations or lectures. 
These are my hearing aids.  The clear one goes in my right ear and the other one goes in my left ear.  On better days they bring my hearing almost to a normal level, but they can't do anything for the CAPD, so even with them in I tend to rely largely on visual input for comprehension.
I also just got fitted swim plugs to keep the water out of my ears when I swim.  Because my ear canals are funny shaped, water would get in and get stuck in there and I'd get ear infections almost every week.  Now that I have these I shouldn't get near as many ear infections. :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Day, Part 1, Take 2

There were some troubles with the pictures in the original Christmas Day, Part 1 post, so I'll try again and it should work better this time around.  Sorry for the troubles!
The Lucia buns rose in a "warm friendly location" (aka a seldom used shower) on Christmas eve day.  They were devoured Christmas morning
The advent tree was finally complete...for about 37 seconds.  Then we began to eat it.
Lollipops are the best breakfast ever!
Especially lollipops with rubber ducky tea!
If the wood pile falls when no one is home, does it make a noise?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Day, Part 2

Mauschen knows exactly which gift is hers.  She also knows better than to open it before it is time.
Our tree.  We all sit and admire if for a time
Even Mauschen admires it for a time.  Then the little boys started to get impatient.
Styrofoam packaging makes excellent helmets...
We can't really see each other...
My head is stronger than your head...
Reuben and Isaac try out a new game together. 
After all is said and done in the house, the little boys head outside to start constructing an epiphany piƱata
(Their final product is only about half this size...I managed to talk them down)

Christmas Day, Part 1

There were some troubles with the pictures not loading on this post, so I've taken them out and put them in this post.  Click on the link and you should be able to see the pictures that I wanted you to see in this post.  Sorry for the troubles!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Christmas Cross

I got a delightful book from my dear Aunt Nancy on Christmas morning.  She knows me so well.  At first I wasn't sure what to be most excited about: the fact that it was called "The Christmas Cross", the fact that it was a beautiful picture book, or the fact that as I started to read it I discovered little envelopes inside of it to lift up. I got excited about all of it, one step at a time, but mostly and longest lasting I was excited about the Christmas Cross.
Christmas and Easter.  You can't very well have one without the other.  Before the end of advent, I was already counting down the days until Easter (119 days from Christmas day this year if anyone wants to know). Jesus was born to die.  We couldn't have Easter if we hadn't had Christmas.  And Christmas would be meaningless if it weren't for Easter.  The two go together even better than goat cheese and smoked salmon on lentil crackers (or peanut butter and jelly).
That's why yesterday, when I made Christmas chocolates, I grabbed the bunny mold as well and made Christmas bunnies, because Easter is part of Christmas.

Cute Christmas bunnies!  
The manger and the cross.  The tradition that Mary road a donkey to Bethlehem and the triumphal entry on the back of donkey to Jerusalem.  "Away in a Manger" and "The Old Rugged Cross".  Chocolate letters and Easter eggs.
Merry Christmas and Happy Easter!
(now I just need to decide if I want to make an Easter calendar like an Advent calendar...)

Friday, December 24, 2010

What's in a name?

As I talked with people at church Sunday morning before the service started, I was approached by someone who had known me for a long time.  We shook hands and he expressed how good it was to see me again (when I'm away at school I don't attend my home church.  I'm only there a couple Sundays total during the school year).  We made small talk for awhile and then he said "I hear you're called Joy now." (He, like most people at my home church, have known me only by the name my parents gave me, Joellen)  I explained to him that I had been called Joy ever since I left for college and that it was really only people at home who still called me Joellen. He smiled, winked at me and told me it fit me.
The exchange reminded me of something I had been thinking on for a few weeks. Names.  What is in a name?
In Old Testament class we had to learn a lot of names and people kept changing their names or having their names changed by G-d  and other people lived into their names providing irony of sorts.  What follows is a non-comprehensive list of some examples.
Names changed
Abram (exalted father) had his name changed to Abraham (father of many) when he made a covenant with G-d (Gen. 17:5).
Jacob's name was changed to Israel after he wrestled with G-d (Gen 32:28).
Naomi (pleasant) changed her name to Mara (bitter) after her husband and sons died (Ruth 1:20... this didn't really catch on though)
Saul's name was changed to Paul sometime after his experience on the Damascus road (Acts 13:13 is the first time I see him being called Paul...I know it's a NT reference, but it fits where I want to go with this post)
Living into names
Malachi's name meant "my messenger" and provides some irony of sorts in Malachi 3:1, which our English translations render "I will send my messenger").
Ruth means "faithful friend" and fits Ruth perfectly, especially when she professes her faithfulness in Ruth 1:16-17.

Names mean something, especially names that are changed.  A name is a reflection of some essence of a person. In sign language, when someone is given a sign name, it often reflects something about them (not always, mine is very simple, given to me by an interpreter in the special education room after she had known me for about 30 seconds).  I have a friend named Bruce.  His sign name reflects the fact that he is wheelchair bound.  One of my sisters is really into horses.  Her sign name is a combination of her initial letter and the sign for horse.  I have a friend who has the gift of healing.  His name is a combination of his initial letter and the sign "to heal".   All their names reflect some essence of them, just like Abraham means "father of  many" and Malachi means "my messenger".
With both Abraham and Malachi, the name itself came before the meaning came into fulfillment.  Abraham was Abraham long before he was the father of any, let alone many.  I think the same is true of my name.  There was no angelic messenger or voice from heaven that changed my name.  It was a process. Initially, it was changed to "Joy" (or something very similar) in Africa because the children couldn't say "Joellen".  When I cam back from Africa it morphed into "Joyellen" and then it went back and forth between the three for some time, until I left for college.  That is when I became "Joy" for good, at least most the time.
Coincidently (or maybe not so coincidently) my journey to being able to live in true joy followed a similar path.  It wasn't something that happened all at once, but slowly, over time, step by step I learned to live in true joy.  And now, I can (at least most the time) agree when people say my name fits me.  I might not always be happy.  Sometimes I'm sad, frustrated, hurting, angry and a million other things, but nothing will ever take my joy away.  Besides, with a name like Joy...well, let's just say that if there is a pun to be made on my name or a song to be sung about joy, I've probably heard it and smile every time I hear it again.  And while we're on the subject of names, my journey to Joy/joy happened, in part, in Pella, which means "city of refuge".  Fitting, yes?

And some song lyrics to close this post out ( got really long.  I have lots of thoughts on names).  This song was sung in church about a month ago.  I scribbled the lyrics down into my journal while it was being sung, so have some grace if the words aren't quite right.
"I will change your name.
You shall no longer be called
wounded, outcast, lonely or afraid.
I will change your name.
Your new name shall be
confidence, joyfulness, overcoming one,
faithfulness, friend of G-d, one who seeks my face"
In the Old Testament reference above, it wasn't usually the people who changed their names.  G-d changed their names and their lives.  G-d did the same with me.  He gave me a new name and a new joy. All glory, honor, and praise be to Him!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Party Fun, part 2

This was the other star of our Christmas party, though not as welcome as Sadie.  (16.5*C is about 61*F. By the time we went home it was down to 15*C)
Elbert even came to try and fix it (since it was his house we had taken over).  He wasn't successful. We put on our coats and listened to Abba on an 8 track, because we are cool like that.
It was definitely a boy house...there were tractors everywhere.  These were my favorite though because they were made out of matchsticks.  Elbert made them himself.

Christmas Party Fun

Sadie was the star of our Christmas Party this year
Sometimes she even almost looked at the camera
We all watched her have her bottle.  She wasn't quite sure how she felt about that.
Olga took advantage of the carpet to have some tummy time with Sadie
Sadie is all bundled up and ready to go home and take her nap

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Activity" scenes

I have always loved Nativity scenes.  My favorite is the wooden one that my grandfather built over the years.  It is completely kid proof and he even built me a whole host of angels after I complained that 1 angel did not equal a host.   Our flock of sheep is a little small, but Grandpa has been celebrating Christmas with Jesus for 5 years now, so it won't grow anymore.  I dream one day of having my own wooden nativity scene, patterned after that one.
Anyhow, one Christmas, when Isaac was rather little yet, he excitedly started talking about the "activity scene".  We couldn't figure out what he meant so he showed us the wooden nativity, pointing and saying "activity scene". I remember correcting him initially and then realizing how correct he was.  That scene is really the hub of activity and in our house, it truly is an activity scene.  It isn't set in one location and it does not remain stationary, by any stretch of the imagination.
The stable waits in Bethlemhem, empty, except for a donkey and the manger. Sometimes the star hangs out before Christmas, other years it doesn't appear until Christmas eve.
Mary and Joseph travel with their donkey from afar, moving a little closer to Bethlehem each day.
The shepherds keep watch over their three sheep.  This year they have a little "fire" to warm their hands at.
The angels are waiting to make their big debut and proclaim the birth of Jesus.
The wise men and their camels have the farthest to come.  They won't make it to the manger until January 6 (if they make it all...depends when Christmas stuff gets packed away this year).
By Christmas morning everyone (except the wise men) will be at the stable in Bethlehem.  It truly is an activity scene.

Since I love nativity scenes so much, I actually set up four of them this weekend when I was decorating with the boys.  Here they are:
This is my least favorite of all of them.  Its one redeeming quality is that it doesn't have three wise men.  Scenes that have the stereotypical 3 wise men bug me to no end.  Long story there.
This is the newest piece in our family's collection.  It's from Peru and sometimes we pretend the llamas are really alpacas.  It's living on top the fish tank this year.
This is our tiniest nativity scene.  Some years it hangs on the Christmas tree.  This year it's sitting in the window sill
This is a close up of the tiny baby Jesus.
This is my second favorite nativity scene.  It is mom's and she got it when she was in college or something, so it's older than I am.  This year, faith is meeting science in a whole new way.
A close up of the manger.
Only the wooden one moves around, but it is a enough of a reminder that here, from Nazareth to Bethlehem, from the fields to the stable, from the East to the West, here is where the real activity of Christmas happens.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Is it good and is it right?

As I sat in church this morning I was distracted by a rather large Christmas tree, prominently displayed to the left of the advent wreath.  As I sat there, listening to the pastor, I was bothered by it. It wasn't gaudy, it was actually quite tastefully decorated.  What bothered me was its placement, right up front, overshadowing the advent wreath.
Before the service I had noticed the nativity scene set up in the foyer...The wise men and their camel were set up above the front entrance, the shepherd and his sheep huddled by a large rock tucked away, almost unnoticed in a corner by the stairs, and Mary and Joseph with little baby Jesus were tucked away by the stairs to the balcony, a rough looking shed behind them, with an angel positioned to appear that it was singing the good news.
It was the same nativity that we had used at church for years and it was comfortingly familiar. I was however,  delighted to see it spread out, not all crowded together.  I'm curious to see if the shepherd will move to the manger for Christmas, and whether or not the wise men will show up at Jesus's side for epiphany. (Our activity scene at home is very mobile throughout the house during the Christmas season with characters moving as we re-enact the story...more on that later.)
Anyhow, the juxtaposition of the Christmas tree in the sanctuary and the nativity spread throughout the foyer/vestibule, bothered me.  What was a symbol of the world doing in a sacred space? And why was something sacred put out where we exchange small talk?  It bothered me enough that I hardly heard what the pastor was saying in his sermon (Sorry Pastor Kramer!).   The more I thought about it though, the more I realized  how appropriate it was.
So often we compartmentalize our lives.  We separate things into different categories.  Some things belong to the world, others belong to the sacred.  Some parts of our lives belong at work, others at home.  Our faith gets to shine in some areas and is hidden under a bushel in others.  Christmas trees belong in our homes, nativity scenes belong in churches.
I'm not convinced that this is good or right.  As Christians, we are called to share our faith; to go and tell.  We can't do that if we keep our lives in compartments.  Maybe it is good and it is right for the Christmas tree to share the spotlight with the advent wreath and for the Holy Family to look on as children run and play and grown-ups exchange small talk over cups of coffee.
Maybe, it is time for our faith to meet our world and for our world to meet our faith.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How to Study for Finals

1. Start by determining which subject you will be evaluated in.  In this case, it's  Old Testament, specifically the prophets and post-exilic period.
2. Open the study sheet file and glance at it briefly.
3. Have a snack.
4. Go to internship and remember how much you love your job.
5. Play with small children at internship.
6. Discover quality study materials, such as those pictured below, while looking for material for your Wednesday night class.
This really does count as studying, right?
7. Share your high quality study aids with someone else taking the exam.
8. Discuss the resource with someone who should know the material but doesn't.
9. Eat supper.
10. Prepare to teach your Wednesday night program.  Decide that glitter paint and snowflakes is a great plan.
11. Realize that everyone else except you knows that Wednesday night programming has been changed.
12. Make sure your teaching partner grabs the stuffed monkey/bear puppet, Grampy.
13. Make sure Grampy has a scarf and all your children have their coats, hats, and mitts.

14. Get on a bus with five small children and drive to the Hospice House.
15. Appreciate the fact that you have practiced playing "follow the leader" many times.
16. Keep track of the winter gear for your five children.
17. Carol nicely with many children.

18.  Return to the church with all your children, all their hats and mitts, and Grampy.
19.  Give them all milk and cookies and send them home.
20. Go home and finish writing a paper.
21. Post pictures on FB.
22.  Scan your notes.  Realize that you have written such gems as "Nahum is the oddest book in the Bible" and "I’m coming down with the flu so I’m not following real well anymore."
23.  Write a blog post.
24.  Realize your brain is not likely to retain much information at this time of night.
25.  Go to bed, wake up and reread all your notes.
26.  Say a prayer and take your final!
27. Make a promise to yourself not to procrastinate so much next semester.
28.  Repeat.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Update on my wrist

I met with the orthopedic surgeon this afternoon for follow-up on my wrist. The verdict is both good news and not so good news. 
Good news first: it is not broken and I won't need surgery. 
Now for the not so good news: it is badly sprained and in the process of spraining it I "inconvenienced" a nerve at its insertion point so I have limited sensation in my thumb and first finger. By "inconvenienced" I mean that we could not decide whether it was just stretched or pinched or what happened to it.  We just know it's very grumpy. It's a very weird feeling. It also means that my thumb is not being very cooperative. 
Instead of the partial cast I now have a removable wrist splint that I can take off for pool time and showers and such, but need to wear if I'm doing anything that might hurt.
So that's the story for now.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Waiting Room

I'm still not typing much due to my wrist (orthopaedic surgeon visit on Tuesday), but worry not, I am still thinking and as long as I can remember those thoughts, once my arm is better, there will be lots to be posted.
For tonight, lyrics from a song a dear friend sent me.  The artist is Johnny Diaz and the title is "Waiting Room".

Here in this waiting room yearning for You to say go
And though I’m convinced that a yes would be best
This time You’re telling me no

It’s not that I don’t have an answer
It’s just not the one that I’d like
But through this time Lord I must keep in mind
You’re always wiser than I

You have a much better purpose
And You have a far greater plan
And You have a bigger perspective
Cause You hold this world in your hands

The things that I seek are from You
Like the strong healing touch of your hand
But when You say no help me trust even though
There’s a reason I can’t understand

When that miracle comes cause Your answer is yes
I will praise you for all of my days
But when Your wisdom declares that a no is best
I will praise You just the same

And a video for those of you who would rather hear it while you read it (The lyrics are in the video and as best I can tell, are accurate):

I could expound more, but my wrist is sore (even though I copy/pasted most of this post) so I'm going to stop now.

Friday, December 10, 2010

3 days later

This is what my hand looks like three days after I fell. The swelling has gone down considerably, but it's still pretty colors.  The other hand is my left hand, just for comparisons purpose.