Bunny Love

Thought I would do a quick post on this since I just added it to my etsy shop. My sweet little nephew had some pretty scary surgery last week, so I thought I would take the opportunity to try my hand at stuffed animals and send him a little get well gift. I sent it in a box with cards from my boys. My oldest boy loves making cards, and he was intently working on some pictures, when he stopped to ask me a question.
“Hey mom, look. I drew a hospital bed, an oxygen mask and a stethoscope, but what else should I draw? Oh, I know. Should I draw a picture of a big knife?”
“Well son, maybe not a big knife. How ’bout we stick with some nice flowers or hearts or something.”

Anyways, thankfully the surgery went well and I liked how the gift turned out, so I am putting another one up for sale if anyone is interested.

Introducing the Cotton Jersey Rabbit.

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He, or she I guess, is real soft and snuggly and stands about ten inches tall.

Choice

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I’d like to share something serious and very personal with you today, but I am nervous and afraid to address such a touchy topic. What, for lack of a better term, I feel compelled to write about is one of the most controversial topics I know of, and controversy and I don’t get along. If there is one thing that causes me to lose sleep, or to start getting ulcers, it’s controversy.

When I was young, I had a bad experience at school after I committed a trivial offense I was too afraid to admit to. The result was an austere teacher and punishment for the whole class for a week until the culprit ‘fessed up. I never did confess and was sick to my stomach for that whole week. For a long time after that, I would confess to many offenses that I had never committed, just to avoid any similar stressful situation.

But here I am facing that dread, hoping to accomplish I don’t know what, but feeling a need to write that I can’t ignore anymore. Ever since I started this blog and wrote briefly about the death of my daughter Hosanna, this topic has been nagging at me. I have been pushing it back, telling myself that nothing I have to say could be helpful for those who might be struggling with this issue.

I have been praying hard all morning, and mostly to avoid writing, I googled the words Pro-Choice Articles. I clicked on the first link. It was entitled Pro Choice as an Act of Love. I am timid to even put a link to the article for fear that the author might get wind of this and start slinging mud my way. I never could figure out how her abortion was an act of love, but it is not my intention to tear her article apart, or denounce her logic or reasoning. I mention it because it was so startlingly similar to my own story- just the flip side of the coin if I had made her choice. She was straight forward and graphic about her own harrowing ordeal in the hope of helping other women be confident in their choice of an abortion. I’m going to relate my own story from the other side.

About five months into my pregnancy with Hosanna, we were “dealt a bum hand” as the author of the above-mentioned article put it. It had been a strange pregnancy, following closely after the birth of my first son. They would have been fourteen months apart if she had lived. I felt great, and had already had a few doctor’s appointments where we had heard the heartbeat. I didn’t feel any worry, even though at five months, I was hardly showing at all. People were starting to comment on my good luck! How I carried my babies so discretely!

One day I went in to find out the sex of the baby without my hubby since he was so busy at work. The technician came in to do my ultrasound with a big grin on her face, but as she started taking pictures, the grin faded. She called another nurse in. They started printing reams of pictures and hurrying out of the room with them. I was really nervous by this time and asked the nurse if she could tell what sex it was. “It’s a girl,” she replied absently, and continued clicking and typing. Then she left me alone for quite a while. I sat there shaking on the table, wondering what was going on. Then my midwife came in with that look on her face. Something was terribly wrong with my baby, and we would need to do some further testing for diagnoses. I somehow made it out of the office, and drove to my hubby’s work where he was in a meeting. I walked in the door, and I must have looked terrible because the other man in the room excused himself as quickly as he could. Then I fell apart and the next several weeks are kind of a blur in my memory.

We went to the hospital for an amniocentesis. In my ignorance, I didn’t know what that was until they stuck a huge needle straight into my belly and took a sample of amniotic fluid. We would have the results in a week or so. When they came, the hospital called us in for a conference. The problem turned out to be a chromosomal disorder called triploidy. My daughter had three sets of chromosomes instead of two. The survival rate for such a diagnosis was zero percent. The blow was devastating enough, but what followed was perhaps as traumatic for me.

The man explaining things to us was a hospital counselor, and he had two folders on the table in front of him. He explained very clearly that there were cases where a triploidy baby had actually lived to be born and even survive a few months, but ultimately there would be no hope. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of carrying a baby full term only to lose it. We had already had an early miscarriage before our son was born and that was hard enough.

He then explained the possible complications to the mother if we continued with the pregnancy, and that word if broke through the fog of all the information he was giving us. I suddenly realized what the man was getting at. I didn’t know what to say. He never used the word abortion or termination, but I noticed his fingers drumming on one of the folders on the table. I had a sudden sickening feeling of what information was inside it and I had a moment’s horror, realizing that we were being given the option of killing our own baby. The room started spinning and then quietly but firmly, my husband held my hand and let the counselor know that termination was not an option for us.

The hateful folder disappeared under the table and the other folder was opened. Instead of a description of an abortion procedure, the assurance that the fetus was not really a child yet, and the hospital’s guarantee that it would take care of the waste discretely, it was a ready made speech about how we needed to celebrate this little life as long as we had it- that we should name her, begin funeral preparations and sign up for the “Empty Arms” support group. We even got a certificate from the hospital acknowledging her valuable but short existence.

Hosanna died a month later, and we went through the nightmare of inducing a still birth. The story of the pro-choice article was almost exactly what we experienced, except we were in a friendly hospital, not a cold abortion clinic: the labor inducing drugs, the terrible pain, and finally holding our child in our arms as we wept. We went home to bury our daughter and to be comforted by a gracious God, loving family and friends and our joyful one year old son. It took a while for the healing, and I still can’t go through an ultrasound without great trepidation, but God has granted us three wonderful boys after her loss.

What continues to haunt me is that there were two folders on the table that day, and that there are two folders set before every woman in such a situation. Many people have worked tirelessly to insure that when someone like me finds herself in such a situation, I might be given a choice to take matters into my own hands and end a life on my own terms. That when dealt a bum hand, I could, in theory, have handed the cards back and asked for a new set, just like that. There was no hope for my baby after all. Why waste so much time waiting for her to die, or preparing for all the possible complications, when you could get it all over with and start afresh with a better model? I imagine all of those women who are presented with that folder, being told it is a gift- a blessing to be able to take control of their own destiny. I can only say that this is a lie. This is no game, and you cannot hand back what you are dealt.

I’m not here to argue about whether or not a fetus is a child, or whether there is ever a situation that justifies an abortion. I’ve heard all the arguments, and as I said before, I don’t want to argue. I simply want to relate my own experience when presented with that dreadful choice. And it is a dreadful choice. The poor counselor was trying to do his job by offering it, but he couldn’t read both of those folders out loud to us. There is a reason he hemmed and hawed and skirted around the issue. He knew the contradiction was too ridiculous. I’m sure he was glad he didn’t have to spell it out for us. Do you want us to end this little life, or do you want us to help you nurture it as long as you can?

I consider myself blessed in my situation since in reality, there were never two choices for me. My beliefs made it impossible. I believe in a God who is the author of every life and I am so thankful I was allowed to leave that responsibility in His hands. I was not pressured or cajoled into taking ” advantage” of that hard earned right to choose that would have put such an impossible weight on my own shoulders. I don’t have to carry that burden with me, and I don’t think any woman should.
I have no arguments for those who have been raped, or whose lives might be threatened by carrying their child full term, or the myriad other situations that I hear so often brought forward. I simply want to say how I long and pray for those faced with such a terrible choice, to come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and to know there is hope. I pray for those who have no strong husband, no supportive family, who feel they have no choice but to choose death. I weep for those who thought they wanted the responsibility of that choice but have found it to bring only despair and the never ending question, “What if?”

I feel totally inept as I write this. I wish I had answers and solutions for those faced with this choice as I was, or for those who have actually made it. But the only answer I can offer are the words that comforted me in the darkest hours- the words of the Lord of Life himself-

“Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

You say zucchini, I say courgette

I was prompted to share this recipe by a little facebook conversation I had last week. The conversation was started by my friend who was resigning herself to making more zucchini brownies with the surplus squash she had. My sister then chimed in, telling her that my hubby had a great zucchini soup recipe. We bantered back and forth about creative ways to use up extra garden bounty, including playing zucchini baseball, and then I sent her the recipe. I hadn’t thought about this soup in a while since our squash met the same mildewy fate as our tomatoes this year. Not one zuke did we get, but it’s a great recipe for using up some of those zucchini bats you may be fortunate enough to have laying around your kitchen counters.
But before I give you ingredients, I must tell you that it is the hubby’s recipe- one of the few he learned how to make in his youth in France. And now, since it is a french recipe, and since I am tired of trying to remember how to spell zucchini, I will tell you a little story about his soup a la courgette.

One of these days, I will tell the full and harrowing tale of my Big, Fat, French/American wedding, but today I will just give a little snippet about our rehearsal dinner. The hubby- well, let’s call him the fiancé in this story, was determined to have a big French sit down dinner for our wedding reception, involving several courses and only inviting close family and friends. This idea wasn’t working out very well since we had already invited over five hundred people to the wedding.

I managed to convince him to settle for the rehearsal dinner being several courses and only inviting close family and friends instead of the reception. It all sounded great until we started counting up those close to us. By the time we had whittled down the list to the bare minimum, we were left with about 125 people. I come from a big family.
Well, we planned doggedly on, but the cost of food started to look alarmingly high when confronted with all those courses. We tweaked and retweaked the menu to fit the budget, when he suddenly remembered his soup a la courgette. It was the middle of summer, people had gardens, and surely everyone would have a few courgettes to share. He wasn’t wrong.

In retrospect, it was a bit of an insane idea, holding a multi-coursed rehearsal dinner for 125 people in my parents back yard the night before our huge wedding, but we were young. And the soup at least, was easy and cheap. The fiancé made it himself, in the biggest pot my parents owned. We had an army of young cousins who were volunteered by their mothers to be waiters.

The first hiccup came when the day turned out to be ridiculously cold for the middle of July. It wasn’t raining, but it was overcast and so chilly that when people started arriving that evening, we had to go hunting through the house for every available coat and sweater we could find. People started in on the appetizers, but the soup was the first real course, so we started serving it up in preparation. But as I mentioned, it was a cold night and much as my waitering cousins hurried, the soup was growing stone cold. This wasn’t a huge problem since the soup could be served hot or cold, so we continued on. It wasn’t long however, before we realized that we were going to fall short by quite a bit. It was too late to make more, so I ran to the fridge and pulled out some cream. At first we just added a bit to stretch it, but as there was no end in sight to 125 bowls, we just started dumping it in. The last ten bowls or so were pretty much just cream.
When the last of the soup was served, we finally sat down. It was only then that I realized the evening was not only chilly, but exceedingly windy. All the tables were set up in my parents backyard which is overshadowed by two large evergreen trees. The wonderful soup a la courgette had morphed into bowls of cold cream with pine needle garnish.

We had to throw away a lot of soup that night, but it really is a great recipe and so easy! So now I will finally share it with you. I can’t believe I had to buy courgettes in summertime, but I got green and yellow, just for fun. And the rest of the ingredients are pretty basic-

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Chop up two onions and about six cloves of garlic and start sautéing them in a bit of butter or oil until softened. If you are friends with me on facebook, you’ll know I bought 8 pounds of butter yesterday, so I went with butter tonight.

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While those are cooking, chop up your courgettes. As for amounts, I usually just fill up the pot if I can- they cook down a lot. Say goodbye to giant, counter-filling zukes!

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Cover the pot and let them cook at about medium for twenty minutes or so, stirring occasionally. While they cook, sit down and sew a couple of limbs onto a few dolls if you’re really trying to multi task.

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Once they are really soft, pour in enough chicken broth to cover the veggies.

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Then the secret ingredient- cream cheese! I usually just throw a whole 8 ounce box in, but all I had was a 12 ounce tub, so I used about two thirds of it.

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Add salt and pepper, and now it’s time to blend. The hubby enjoys pureed soup so much that he bought me this wonderful immersion blender years ago. I use it all the time, and it’s great for blending hot soups, but you can easily blend this in a couple of batches in any old blender.

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Just blend until smooth, adjust seasonings as you go and avoid stepping on your baby and his plastic cup castle.

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Serve hot (or cold, as the case may be) with a nice crusty bread. But try to avoid the pine needle garnish.

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His ‘n Hers

Well folks, here’s another custom order. I had a request for a light-brown haired doll with green eyes, so here she is, with green dress to match. I had so much fun with the green eyes. I would love to do another one, although next I think I will try one with red hair. The dress is a little different this time- a higher collar with a bow and different button detail. It’s fun designing dresses! She has brown shoes to match her buttons and hair ribbon.

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After she was done, I decided to listen to my sons and try a little something for them. No, it’s not a pirate doll, but I thought it was time for an attempt at a boy doll. He turned out to be a little newsboy. I was inspired by the hat I guess. I am putting him up for sale, but if no one buys him, he will probably be a Christmas gift for someone around here. Speaking of Christmas, I have this dream of selling enough stuff to get us six plane tickets to my folk’s house for the holidays. Hmmmm, that would be an awful lot of sewing……

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Here’s a couple of shots of them together, laughin’ it up, and having a good old time during our photoshoot.

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Like I said, greeny is already sold, but I am happy to duplicate!

To sing or not to sing

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I’ve been told that a blog needs a focus- a mission statement, a raison d’etre if you will. As I look through the thirty or so posts I have put up here, I am laughing at how totally random this blog is becoming. Clothes and dolls and cooking and childhood memoirs- it’s all a hodge-podge without much aim. But it’s a pretty good picture of my life. I’ve always been a multi-tasker, so my blog should be too, right? Can I add one more thing to the mix?

It’s just that it seems strange to try and share the ways that God has worked in my life without mentioning music. I am a musician- a singer to be more precise. Yep, really. I have a piece of paper and the student loans I am still paying off too prove it.  But it’s not just a piece of paper. I was born into a rich heritage of singing. My mother and all of her sisters and most of my female cousins were and are strong alto singers. You should hear one of our family reunion hymn sings- so much harmony, very little melody. My father grew up with three sisters who used to travel and sing together and they could raise the roof off a church when they got going. .

I learned piano from my grandma, had music class at school, and I sang alto, and even tenor in school and church choir. I loved piano and worked hard to excel, but my fingers just wouldn’t do what I told them to do. When it came time for college, I thought about studying piano, but was afraid it would simply be too frustrating. Then a friend suggested I study singing. I thought it was a funny idea- to study singing.  I already knew how to do that- there would be nothing to learn, right? So I signed up for singing lessons as an easy option.

When I auditioned for college choral, I proudly wrote down my singing range as alto 2/ tenor 1. I sang a nice alto solo and showed off my impressive part reading on a few hymns. My teacher then asked me to sing the tenor part an octave higher, which I did, straining for the higher notes as I went.  When I finished, he simply said,  “Ah, that’s what I thought,”  and put me down on the roster. There was just one problem. He put me down as soprano 1.

Through the next four years I fought that designation as I struggled to stretch my range. I thought it was absurd. I was an alto. My teacher had clearly never been to one of my family hymn sings! But he persevered in asserting that there was a soprano buried deep in there.

I was pretty sure I didn’t want to be a soprano. Soprano’s were warbly and shrieky, and, well, prima donna-y.  They sang opera and wore helmets with horns on them and they were showoffs.  I didn’t want to be classed with that type of person.  I was raised to play a supporting role- to be a strong and unseen foundation, not a diva.  But there was no denying my love of singing, and I slowly grew more comfortable with the high notes.  There were discouragements along the way, like the day I was practicing and a guy knocked on the door of my practice room.  He asked me why I made my voice all wavy like that. Embarrassed,  I asked him if he meant my vibrato. He said, “Yeah, that.  I don’t like it. Can you do something about it?”  and walked away.  I mean, sheesh!

Then I had a terrible misunderstanding with another teacher when I got lost on the way to a concert in which I had a big solo to sing. I never made it to the concert, and in the aftermath of that mistake he intimated that I was the most stuck up prima donna he had ever met and threatened to fail me.  I was crushed and I almost left the music department.  No matter how much I tried to the contrary, I was going to be branded as the self-absorbed diva.  I didn’t know how to reconcile the humility God demands of his children with my love of standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people and singing.

After college, I really struggled with decisions.  I was already married at that point, and I couldn’t figure out if I should continue on for my masters and teach,  pursue a career in opera, or give it all up and start a family.   Or maybe I should just be content to play a humble role in a struggling church choir somewhere.  But I had my diploma in hand and I figured I couldn’t just give up like that, so I started hunting around for auditions.

The first one I found looked really fun.  It was a local production of the Sound of Music.  I had been mimicking Julie Andrews since I was yay high, and maybe here was my chance!  I got to the auditions, but much to my chagrin, I realized that all the lead roles had already been cast.  I was told by a very snooty Mother Superior that I could play nun # 972 if they could find enough habits.  I wasn’t willing to spend all that time in a production if I wouldn’t even get to sing “How do you solve a problem like Maria” so I tried for option 2.

A small local opera house was putting on Madame Butterfly.  The main lead was already cast, but I thought I might have a shot at one of the minor roles.  Ah naive child that I was!  I dressed nicely in slacks and a blouse, grabbed my folder of music and headed to the audition.  I got there early, so I was able to realize my folly to its fullest extent as I watched each subsequent soprano come through the doors in satin and sequins and fake jewels, followed by a harassed looking agent in a black suit, carrying her portfolio full of glamour shots and talking rapidly on a cell phone.  I wanted to sink through the floor.  When they called my name, I could feel all of those false-eyelashed and scornful eyes burning into the back of my Target clearance-rack blouse as I walked past.  I was nervous as all get out, but once I started singing, things went a little better.   Even so, as the song ended, and before the judges started talking, I knew the answer would be no.   More importantly, I wanted the answer to be no.  I thanked them for their time, sneaked out the back door and laughed at myself all the way home.

I decided for the time being to find a struggling little church choir, or maybe teaching wouldn’t so bad.  And hey, at the very least I could now sing the melody at family reunion!