The Story Of Vera And Her Family, Chapter 23

27 08 2008

I continued in my belief that one day Phillip would return home.  Yet, I knew that he had to experience everything that he was living.  I didn’t want him to have a short cut to his mental or spiritual health.  The door to communicating with Phillip was very slim.  He did let us know when he moved to the half way house.  Phillip also let us know when he got a part time job while living at the half way house.  However, Phillip just wasn’t emotionally strong enough to chat for long or to give many details.  I, especially had to learn to be content that he was alive and being taken care of.  I continued to pray for him daily .  Moreover, I just had to push on with my very full life of dealing with four teenagers.

As a freshman in high school,Vera, you excelled in both language arts and math and science.  You  began talking about studying to become a veterinarian.  That became your focus which stayed with you throughout high school.  You planned your entire academic schedule around your desires to become a doctor.  Your were very active and successful as a member of the academic team and the science olympia team.  Often you traveled with these teams either after school or on the weekends for competitions. 

Meanwhile, Maria was often gone with speech team competitions.  You both still had afternoon paper routes so I ended up substituting for both of you a great deal.  I didn’t mind doing that because I wanted each of you to have spending money for high school.  Although your dad was making more money–we still were not able to just pass around extra spending money .  Thus, that was my contribution to both of you girls– so that you could be a part of your teams and  not lose your paper routes.

Sandy was enjoying getting out of high school at lunch time.  Rob, who worked for the newspaper would come over to our home each day.  They would eat lunch together and watch a soap opera. Then Sandy would report to the newspaper for her job as assistant circulation secretary.  Rob would also get back to his job at the newspaper.  They both would get off work around 6:30 p.m.  They were together most every evening.  Sandy never neglected her homework.  I don’t know how she squeezed that obligation in but she continued to make good grades. 

Sandy was concerned that Rob just needed one credit left to graduate from high school.  She told Rob that she would never marry him if he didn’t get his high school education.  Thus, he began in an adult program that fall and earned his last credit.  In December, we all went to a special ceremony at the school board for many like Rob who were just finishing up small obligations to reach their graduation goals.   He was handed his diploma from the superintendent of our school system.  We were all extremely proud of Rob.

The winter of 1994 was the harshest winter that I can ever remember in our years of living in Kentucky.  A major ice storm hit our county and the surrounding counties.  Sandy had to be at work each Saturday morning at the newspaper and I begged her to let dad drive.  She was very headstrong and demanded her independence.  She did wreck.  The traffic lights were messed up and everyone had a green light.  She was driving a huge 1973 Buick which protected her.  The front end was badly damaged. However, we were still able to drive the car.  That car was made out of pure iron.  I would hate to see what could have happened with today’s light weight cars. 

That ice storm in February left many without power in the county for two entire weeks.  The trees were so loaded down with ice that a constant snapping became a common sound.  We had our power restored in 24 hours. Many people had to move to shelters.  The clean up was horrendous.  It took the city and county months to clear up all the debris.  We still had our tree limbs on the street in early spring before the city finally picked them. 

During the ice storm, I fell down our basement stairs and broke my “pinky” on my left hand.  I used my hand and arm to hug the basement wall on the stairwell to keep from breaking my leg.  It was such a serious break that I had to have major surgery.  I had a pin put in my tiny finger.  It has taken years to get my flexability back.  Thankfully, that finger is mainly a support in playing the piano.  However, playing the piano has been the best therapy in getting my flexability back.

Ben was living his own script.  After having been sent away to a group home in l992–he made it plain that he would be leaving our home when he was 18 years old.  Ben never gave us any more difficulty .  He was very responsible at school and at work.  He was working at Wal-Mart after school.  He met an older girl who had already been married and divorced.  After the ice storm cleared up–he moved in with this girl.  She had her own apartment.  Although we didn’t agree with his decision–we knew to keep our mouths shut.  We were nice to Pam and never gave her any grief.  Actually, she did more to influence Ben to finish his senior year than we ever could have.  We simply had mo more influence in Ben’s life—period.

Spring finally arrived.  Ben and Sandy were excited about graduating from high school.  Ben had no desire to attend college.  He loved working with his hands.  In fact , one of the jobs that he did at Wal Mart was to assemble all of the bikes, lawn mowers, etc.  He had also done some apprentice work with a home builder.  It was his goal to learn everything he could about carpentry and building homes.  I knew that he would be successful.  Sandy wanted to continue her job at the newspaper so she applied to be a student at our community college.

It was May!  Ben and Sandy graduated from high school.  Jim’s brother and his family traveled from Iowa to be a part of the celebration.  After the graduation ceremony, Rob asked Jim if he could ask Sandy to marry him.  Again, we felt that we would never win by denying that request.  Sandy would be a very young bride even if they waited a year.  Sandy happily excepted her engagement ring.  How had the years passed by so quickly?  How could we be the parents of a young woman who had just become engaged?  Our desire for Sandy was that she would earn  a college degree. 

Ben also announced that he was engaged to Pam.  We stood in the shadows of the lives of our young adult children.  The bend in our lives was again turning…….


Life 101–The Results

25 08 2008

It was fairly tense for our household last week as we waited to learn who was laid off at my husband’s factory.  Ninety people lost their jobs but Jim was not one of them.  We thank the Lord for His mercy upon our family.  Yet, we feel sad for those who lost their jobs.  Our prayers will continue on for each and every family. 

I didn’t get a chance to celebrate at first because a terrible stomach virus attacked me.  I didn’t think I’d ever want to eat again.  However, I’m well now and food sure tastes wonderful. 

I hope to write more later this week.

God bless each of you!

Life 101–Revisited

20 08 2008

I’m not a casual blogger.  I just won’t write unless my learning experiences might possibly help someone else.  Well, life has been very full lately with both positive and negative experiences.  My top positive is that our Orthodox mission church is really developing smoothly.  We just finished our third Sunday in the original chapel of Grace Lutheran Church in Clarksville, Tennessee.  The Lutheran pastor is so kind to us.  He has stopped by a couple of times during our coffee hour and chatted.  This past week, he stopped in while we were having a parish meeting.  We all got a laugh when he told us that he is starting to use incense more and that his ushers ask folks if they want the smoking or non smoking side.  He was serious–his ushers really do ask that question. 

Three days a week an add is run in the Clarksville newspaper.  We have gotten two families to come our way so far because of the ads.  Both families are Orthodox and have had to drive to Nashville for services.  They never knew there was a community of Orthodox  Christians at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.  We are so happy to have new faces and we know our parish will continue to grow.  Jim is Fr. Peter’s alter boy.  I used to think there was not a whole lot  of work to that job until Jim started learning how to assist Fr. Peter.  Fr. Peter gave him three single spaced pages of instructions a couple of months ago.  There is certainly more than meets the eye with assisting a priest.

Fr. Peter appointed me as one of the officers of our parish.  I’m the recording secretary.(Later on, when our incorporation has been completed, the congregation will vote on officers.)  We have a parish meeting after coffee hour once a month. I’ve never been a secretary of any organization but I’m loving every minute of this job.   Jim and I get to church very early.  Jim gets started on his duties.  I help set up coffee hour.  We have a table in the hallway with one outlet.  I get the coffee started and put out all of the things that we need to make our coffee hour smooth.  I usually prepare something to eat.  Others come in with food.  By the time it is time for our service to begin–we have enough food for coffee hour.  This is a tradition in the Orthodox church because we are supposed to fast before we take the Eucharist.  Therefore, after church we are very hungry.   Coffee hour is a wonderful time to fellowship with one another.  If anyone in the Clarksville area reads this –our name is The Protection Of The Virgin Mary Orthodox church.  Please come visit us.

Now on to the real 101 lessons of life.  There has been murky water at Jim’s workplace for about six weeks now.  Jim at first told me that he would be laid off for a couple of Fridays and that the entire plant would be shut down Labor Day week.  Everyone would draw unemployment.  The recession was finally affecting his plant.  I know all during the winter and spring of 2008–I didn’t believe there was a real recession.  Jim was making $1000.00 a week before taxes and other fees were taken out.  When Vera was preparing for her mission trip– one Orthodox church said they couldn’t help because so many of their people were out of work.  I just had a hard time believing that.  It took me until about the middle of July to believe that there might actually be a recession going on.  Now I’m convinced. 

Now we are not the kind of people who live off the fatted cow and have nothing  left to live on in hard times.  We have faithfully tithed our income and shared our surplus with many.  We have also saved at least 10% of our income monthly.  So we are prepared for the lean times.  Still, I know we could have done even better.  My regret is that we didn’t save at least 15%.  I just have to keep learning through life 101.  I don’t think I’ve graduated to life 102 yet by any means.

However, I just might learn enough skills to graduate to life 102 in the ensuing months.  Last week, Jim’s plant announced that they would be laying off 90 people.  There are a little over 300 employees at Jim’s plant.  They will lay off one out of every four on the floor. Likewise, 40 office workers will be layed off.  Tomorrow is the big day when Jim will learn his fate.  He thinks he will keep his job because he has worked at this plant for 15 years.  I’m never very upbeat and positive intially.  I have to do a great deal of self talk first.  I have the idea that they will keep those that they don’t have to pay as much.  We will find out tomorrow.  Everyone will get to work through the end of August.  The plant is having the unemployment agency come to the plant to register everyone who lost their jobs.  This is so no one loses a paycheck for a couple of weeks after they are laid off.

If Jim loses his job–our biggest loss will be the medical insurance.  My cancer medicine costs $330.00 a month without insurance.  Jim is also taking many expensive medications.  Yesterday, I went to our health department to ask about their services.  They have a full time doctor and many nurse practitioners.  They see people who don’t have insurance on a sliding scale.  I’m very thankful for their service to our community.  I hope we don’t have to use their services but I was just doing my homework to be ready.

I teach piano part time.  I don’t have enough students to help out with finances if I have an unemployed husband.  I suspect that I will have to put my substitute teacher hat on once again.  And, I’m thankful that I am qualified to do that whenever I want too.  Because I’ve never had any bad reports in my record –all I have to do is have  a TB skin test and be finerprinted once again.  I could be back to teaching in days, if necessary.

I’m trying to stay thankful for all the mercies the Lord has showed our family.  No matter what happens tomorrow–we are still wealthy globally speaking.  It would do us all good to think global on a regular basis.  The Lord will take care of our family.  I suspect we will do a great deal of stretching.  Just maybe we  will stretch enough to graduate from life 101.

God bless each of you!

Guest Blog: Mary’s Points To Ponder

15 08 2008

My friend, Mary, asked if she could write a guest blog.  We both became teenagers in the l960’s.  Mary is particularly fond of those days.  So here is her contribution to my blog!

Growing up in Southern California as a teenager –I became a beach kid.  I loved the Beatles and all the other bands that hailed from England.  We also loved “Mama Cass” yelling out her song California Dreaming. I was so proud to be one of the “chosen few” who actually lived in southern California. 

During high school, I spent time with my friends trying to learn how to surf.  My best friend actually spent a great deal of her time waxing her surf board. I don’t know the reason why she did this except that the Beach Boys sang about it in their song: Surfin USA. We all wore our St. Christopher metals around our necks.  Before going into the ocean we would kiss our metals and ask St. Christopher to pray for our safety. As a young 15 year old I thought that St. Christopher had to be the greatest surfer that ever lived.  Why else would God have made him a saint?  I thank God for Psalm 24 in which is written …”recall not the sins of my youth….”

As a 58 year old woman, I still like to listen to the music of the Beach Boys.  The other evening I was listening to one of my compact discs and singing the song Little Deuce Coupe  with Mike Love.  I then looked over to my icon corner at my icon of Christ and the Theotokos.  Somehow, I felt God’s pleasure that I could enjoy some good clean entertainment. 

Does that surprise me?  Nothing our God can do surprises me anymore.  I now live in the South.  God had to bring me to the “Bible Belt” to discover the Orthodox Christian Faith.  I live in a town with only four other Orthodox Christians that I know of.  However, God is beginning to move in a wonderful way in Western Kentucky and on into Tennessee.  I have seen how the Holy Spirit is raising up converts to the Orthodox faith.  I have witnessed first hand the work at St. Elizabeth the New Martyr Orthodox Christian Church. In fact, I became a catechumen the same Sunday morning,  that my friends Nichole, Jim and Vera were chrismated into the Holy Orthodox faith.  Later, I was chrismated while attending the community of Orthodox believers at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.  Our little community was named Saint John the Evangelist.  The mission of St. Elizabeth  in Murfreesboro is growing so fast that they are now looking for property of their own.  They have been renting a space for almost four years. 

The community of Ft. Campbell has now become an actual parish.  We meet in the old chapel of Grace Lutheran Church in Clarksville, Tennessee.  Our new name is : The Protection Of The Virgin Mary Orthodox Church.  We are part of The Orthodox Church In America.  

There is also an Orthodox mission that has started in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  They are being sponsored by St. Michael’s Orthodox Church in Louisville, Kentucky.  Nichole, Jim and I have visited some of the Orthodox folks in Bowling Green during one of their Tuesday evening fellowship hours.  We pray for them and they pray for us.  Their mission is named: Holy Apostles Orthodox Church.

I have been in Catholic and Protestant churches my entire life.  I was involved with the Jesus Movement in California during the l970’s.  I have experienced many different kinds of prayer groups but I would have to say that by far the Orthodox Christians have the greatest depth to their prayers.  At least that is my opinion.  People who know me– who are not Orthodox– ask why the Orthodox Church prays so much.  I believe it is because we have this constant sense of our communion with the Holy Trinity and the saints.  My saint is Mary of  Egypt.  Although she is not living on this earth–she can still pray for me.  There is not the division between life and death that is taught in other faiths.  I truly take comfort in the communion of the saints. 

Now how did we get from the Beach Boys to the Orthodox faith?  We got there by tracing the steps of my youth towards the path of my becoming an Orthodox Christian.  I’m often referred to as the comedian of our little parish.  I continue to listen to the Beach Boys here and there.  I love to sing along with their music.  Somehow , I think God still smiles at me.  He created me and He knows that I’m still a Californian at heart.  His pleasure towards me is truly the greatest joy of my life.

Computer Woes and Vera Is Home From Romania

8 08 2008

Some kind of computer virus messed up our computer last weekend.  We didn’t get our computer back from the shop until yesterday afternoon.  We had no time to hook up our computer because we had to drive to Nashville to pick up Vera.  Living without a computer for almost a week in 2008 is hard.  We don’t spend hours each day on the computer but if I have 10 minutes here and there–I like to check my email or check various blogs.  Jim and I both experienced real withdrawel symptoms.

Vera’s flight from Chicago was expected to arive around 6:20 p.m. last night.  We decided to leave for the airport early.  So we were on the road around 4:00 p.m. when Vera calls frantic that she will miss her flight to Nashville.  She was in a security line with over 100 people ahead of her with just 25 minutes to catch her plane.  Her lack of time started with being delayed in Vienna.  At the last minute an entire family decided that they wanted off of the Vienna plane.  Thus, all their baggage had to be removed.  That took about a half an hour.  Moreover,Vera told me the runway was too crowded –so they had to wait until it cleared for their flight to take off.  And so her time to deal with customs and security in Chicago was short changed.

After Vera’s call–we started praying for her to be able to board her plane on time. She called back about 20 minutes later to say that she was on her plane.  Later, she told us that she just begged security to let her through.  Her plane to Nashville was a small one out on the airfield.  She had four minutes to run across the field and board her plane.  Thank goodness she made it on time.  We all breathed a sigh of relief and thanked God for answering our prayers.

Vera’s heart is very full with stories of her mission trip.  It will take weeks for her to relate all that she experienced.  She has he own blog and we are looking forward to reading the stories that she will write.  Her blog is


I’m looking forward to catching up with my blogs and email.  I just wanted to take a few minutes to say that Vera is home and we are back on line.

God bless each of you!