Monday, July 25, 2011

Weeds, flowers and thoughts...

My flower beds have been pretty neglected this summer.  That is until this past Saturday morning.  We had 3.7 inches of much needed rain on Friday night.  I guess it stormed, but I slept right through it. I knew Saturday morning was the day to tackle the dreaded job. I was pretty sure the weeds would pull easy, so it was now or never.

As I yanked on the unwanted foliage my mind traveled back to the scriptures and homily I listened to during Mass last Sunday.  Our gospel reading was the parable Jesus taught about separating the weeds from the wheat.  The challenge given during the homily was to concentrate on weeding our own garden and let the faults of others up to Jesus.   It seemed fitting to me to revisit a time in my own life when I did some major housekeeping in my faith life.

Six years ago  I entered the unfamiliar world of mental illness, Down's Syndrome and cancer simultaneously.  I had no knowledge of any of them.  I watched 3 of my four children endure the most difficult time in their lives. I wept often as I learned to cope with the heartache I encountered along the way.  I was scared, and unsure of myself, but turned toward my faith as my safety net.

Saturday, as I spruced up my yard, the lesson began to hit home.  Obnoxious weeds yielded easily to my zealous hands.  The reason?, the moisture that fell the night before softened the dry soil and I was able to remove the unwanted residents that were spoiling the beauty of my flowers.  The tears that fell worked much the same way in my own soul.  The precipitation of my anguish softened the grime as I dug deep into my being to find the strength to bear the heavy load.  Along the way, I let go of preconceived ideas about mental illness.  I had begun to do my own weeding.  As I educated myself and exchanged old thoughts for new knowledge, parts of me were tossed aside..  Much like my weeding in my garden.  As more flowers peeked out, it was less work to see the beauty.

I continued with a new found resolve.  Pull, pitch, and move to the next area.  Soon a green moat encircled my home.  As the purging continued, an unexpected pattern emerged.  New plants, hidden from view, began to appear.  Volunteer seedlings dotted the almost barren soil against the backdrop of mature parent plants.  And then it dawned on me.  My spiritual life resembled my flower garden.

Mourning the loss of our beloved grandchild, the pain and sorrow endured as I watched a child of mine fight against a brain disorder, the utter exhaustion as I cared for my grandchildren as my daughter-in-law battled cancer allowed the change needed in me to grow in my faith.  As I cleared the landscape of my heart from the undesirable traits that had taken root, new gifts began to surface.  Unexpected fruits to share with others were given the opportunity to multiply.  I found myself reaching out to others in ways I had never imagined.

Add caption
Tears and rain.  Weeds and misinformation.  Volunteer seedlings and new passions.  Life can be like a garden if I but open myself to the wonder and love of Jesus.

Looking for beauty with our grandchildren.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

April 26 - a day of memories

this post was written some time ago...

A weekend of smiles and memories

by Mona Rottinghaus on Sunday, April 26, 2009 at 5:55am
Cavanaugh Anne
Garrett Gregory

3 years ago we were so happy when Cavanaugh Anne was born on April 25 to our son Eric and his wife Trela. Less than 24 hours later, we squealed with delight when Garret Gregory was born to our son Dean and his wife, Meg. 2 grandchildren in less than 24 hours. What a joy. Of course, I couldn't wait to rush to the hospitals to meet the newest members of our family. I was taking care of almost 3 year old, Kile, so off we went to meet his younger sister. How fun! But I had to wait a few days to meet Garrett in Des Moines until I no longer had Kile 24/7. My wheels couldn't get there fast enough.

3 Grands together for the 1st time
Cavanaugh, Grammie, Garrett 
Today my Garrett Garden is in bloom with daffodils in his memory and I smile. I remember him with so much love, my heart swells until I feel it is going to burst. This spring I will be helping Dean and Meg plant their own memorial "Garrett" garden. Each plant in our garden is chosen with care. Each plant's botanical name begins with a letter of Garrett's name. On this day, I have bittersweet thoughts. I miss him so, and am sad that I don't get to see him grow up. Yet, I relish the almost 6 months he graced our lives and praise God that we saw a glimpse of the love he has for us in Garrett.

I will celebrate Cavanaugh's 3rd birthday later today with princess gifts. I have made her a castle that fits a card table and will be decorating a castle cake when I finish my morning coffee and typing. I'll post photos later. Right now I have a couple of castle's calling my name.

Also this weekend is the birthday of our nephew, Ryan. He is also Rick's godson. Happy 16th Birthday, Ryan. Your Red Sox/ Bosco gift awaits you!

If I go back further in my memory, I remember this day as one of great joy for our friends Rick and Joan Kresser. We watched 34 years ago as they professed their love for one another at St Athanasius church in Jesup. Hats off to you on the committment you made 34 years ago! Happy Anniversary!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why Me?

God has chosen me for a job in this life. I'm not sure why He picked me. I certainly have no more qualifications than the next mom. And I know lots of people with faith, so why me? At this point, that question is not important to me. I only know there will be heartbreaking, beautiful, God seeking experiences for me as I travel this road. This week is one of them.

Sunday night I could not sleep. I haven't had a night like that in a very long time. I awoke about 12:30 a.m. and rest eluded me for the next 5 hours. The usual techniques were attempted, but found my mind wanted to race, I wrote about a similar night 31 years ago. I recalled with joy another sleepless night, the journey of labor and delivery of my only daughter, Kathy.

I was able to take a nap about 5:30.

A few hours later the phone called my name and I happily greeted the caller. My jovial manner was inhaled for another time after Julie, a sister of a dear friend gave me the news of a passing of a life. Emily, Bill and Ann's daughter had left our world. Emily, age 31, the same age as my own daughter. Emily, with her beautiful walnut colored locks and brilliant pearly white teeth was gone. A perfect blend of ebony and ivory surrounded her porcelain skin. Unfortunately, lurking beneath the surface for this lovely woman was the gnarled fingers of mental illness. It had snaked itself way through her personality until almost all of the old Emily we knew was hidden. Emily wanted to fit in, to be a good mom, a trusted employee, but her brain disorder continued to beat her down. Beneath a mind trying desperately to be a part of our world, was a silent invader. A demon we could not physically see with a simple glance or a blood test, continually picked away at her strength and happiness.

Early Monday morning I wrote about the joy I received as I embraced the gift of my daughter, Kathy. Meanwhile my friends entered the nightmare of returning their daughter, Emily, back to her creator. Every parent's worst fear had come to pass for them. Anyone with a beloved child who suffers a devastating illness visits the scene at some time in their journey, but tucks it away under 'please, may it never be me.'

I planned to go them, Ann and Bill, when I closed shop yesterday. But the Holy Spirit continued to prod me until I sent my helper home, snapped the dead bolt to lock the entrance, flipped the sign to closed and rushed to their side. My heart broke as I held Ann while our sorrows melded together. I embraced my friends with my arms, hands, eyes, heart, mind, and spirit in the name of Jesus over the few hours I spent in their home. I let the stories of Emily, both the painful and wonderful, sink into my being. A true friend is a gift from God. I can be that for my friends, Ann and Bill. I can never really know the pain they are experiencing. I can never understand why a beautiful child of God has to endure the scourge of mental illness. I only know I can go to the families that are affected. God has given me the gift of compassion, the gift of listening, and holding the hurting. The Holy Spirit comes to me daily to give me the words these fragile souls hunger to hear spoken aloud. The Holy Spirit guides me to embrace the hurting, to put myself in their shoes if even for a few moments.
Why me? Why were we, two ordinary women, given a ticket into the world of mental illness? This is a question Ann and I asked together. We didn't find the answer, but we both know, we will take the assignment and rely on our God to give us the strength, love, patience and understanding we need to complete the task.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sleepless night

July 11, 2011

I had a hard time sleeping last night.  I was awake most of the night.  This explains why I am at my computer screen at 4:17 a.m.  2 hours have passed and I am still wide awake.  It sort of reminds me of  31 years ago.  I had a difficult time that night, too.

I shook Rick, my husband of 5 years, and whispered, "I think I'm in labor."

"It's 2:30 in the morning.  Can I sleep for a few more hours?"

"Well, I guess, the contractions aren't 5 minutes apart yet.  So, yeah, go back to sleep.  I'll wake you if they get closer."

Rick settled back to sleep in no time, but I dosed, counted the tightening of my tummy and waited.  About 6 a.m. I shook him again.

"Let's leave the house before Dean gets up.  He'll cry when I leave."  

Eric, age 3, would be okay, but our toddler, Dean at 18 months, was sure to wail when I left. To sneak away while they slept seemed like a good option.  Our babysiter had joined our household earlier after a phone call, so we dressed quickly and left the house by 6:30.   We stepped into the hospital just as the day shift was arriving.  The elevator was filled with white uniformed ladies heading to their destinations for the day.  Seeing Rick and I, one gal asked if I was checking in and was I in a hurry?

  "No," I replied with the voice of experience, "the contractions are 5 minutes apart, but I don't have any pain at all.  I'm sure it will be hours yet, so we can wait for the next one."

After stopping at the desk in the labor and delivery wing of the hospital we settled into a room about 7:15 a.m.  A middle aged nurse did an initial exam and blurted out with a panicked expression, "You are ready for delivery! "  and I was wisked away to the next destination.  Robert Hedican, M.D., my favorite of the OB/Gyn Partners was pulling on his mask and  head wrap just as the doors to the delivery room opened and I was wheeled into position.  The team of nurses scrambled around the room, each carrying out their appointed task.  I, meanwhile, chatted with Rick and Dr. Hedican.  When all things were ready, I was given the go ahead, "You can push now."

"Can I wait through a few more contractions to see if I get a pushing one?" 

My question to my bewildered doctor was answered with, "You want to wait?"

"Yeah.  It's easier to push with the right contraction.  I'll wait to for the right one."

I don't think that happened very often to this young doctor, but he agreed and the conversation started up again.  The earlier deliveries of my young sons had given me the experience to know the difference in stages of labor.  After one more set of 'labor pains' with the emphasis on labor this time and not pain, the time was right and at 7:37 a.m., after less than 20 minutes in their care, I was the mother of a beautiful, brown haired, tiny miracle.  Kathy Lea tipped the scales at a mere 6 pounds, 3 ounces.  She was so petite, every miniature body part was perfect.  A painless labor and delivery was part of the amazing package deal.

 My little girl.  I had a daughter after 2 boys.  

And so I began the next stage of the journey called life.

Happy 31st Birthday, Kathy Lea.  I am so glad you are my daughter.  Together we have learned so much about each other, our faith, the world and how to deal with the things life hands us.  I am so proud of you.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rockin' the Town

A major event in my life as a child was Jesup Farmers Day.  As a farm girl growing up in the 50's and 60's,  I led a fairly sheltered existence.  Dad, with the help of my 8 brothers, milked dairy cows during those years.  My 'vacation' each summer consisted of 3 excursions.  A trip to the Temeyer farm in LaPorte City, Iowa, a Sunday family picnic at Backbone State Park and Farmers Day!  Many weeds lost their lives as I earned precious dimes to spend at the annual town celebration and carnival.  The 3 day festivities were the highlight of my summers. It was a time when the world came to me.  My brothers and I lined the curb at the edge of my grandparent's lawn in eager anticipation of the parade to pass by.  We scrambled for candy thrown from local businesses, saluted the flag as the proud American Legion members marched and feasted our eyes at the sight of the amazing floats overstuffed with napkins that were part of the procession.

Since I began my business in 1994, I have entered a float or two in this annual gala for my hometown.  I have never felt satisfied with my endeavors, but enjoyed the excitement the parade produced once again. I was now on the opposite side of the candy tossing ritual to small children who shouted and waved in the hopes of receiving an extra dose of sweet treats. The joy on their faces as they bolted to scoop up the hard confections I launched in their direction was the only reward I enjoyed for my entries.  I decided to watch the parade instead of putting myself through the stress of participation.

Each year the Farmers Day Committee chooses a theme.  This year's affair was named "Rockin' the Town".  I knew Mona's Originals had to make an appearance one more time.

I enlisted the help of my right hand partner in crime, my husband.  Rick is my favorite fan, always encouraging me with his support of sweat and labor.  And this year was no different.  During our daily breakfast date on Friday, the morning before the parade, we planned our attack.  When the meal was finished he began constructing devices to work with items we had on hand and by noon I had finished my jobs for the week. I could now put my machinery to work for me.  We spent the afternoon consulting each other and making sure all systems were go for Saturday morning.

By 7:30 a.m. we headed for Jesup and assembled our creation in my mother's driveway, near the parade route.  My brother, Fritz, kindly offered his expertise and we dressed the trailer, normally used to transport our lawn mower from farm to farm, into a replica of the 50's diner in our basement.  Vinyl lettering announced "Mona's Originals Rockin' The Town With Embroidery and Print" to the crowd assembled along the streets of Jesup. We put on the finishing touches and secured our place in the parade line up.

I have Coca Cola bottles, glasses and plates securely fastened on the diner table along with a small juke box.  The black and white border along the side is left over tiles from our basement floor.

Finally, it was our turn.  The music from the boom box was lost in commotion from the clusters of people who watched as we passed along the roadways of this small town in Iowa.  The music played in my head instead I danced my way along the route.  I couldn't lob candy due to a new rule implemented this year by the Farmers Day Board of Directors, so I expressed my appreciation to loyal patrons with my waves and smiles.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time as I rode the float and took many spectators with me on the trip down memory lane.

My brother-in-law, Bob, did a great job pulling the float using my father-in-law's 1950 something diesel tractor.
The back.  The pink poodle skirt is Trela's skirt from our 130 year celebration party held 6 years ago.
I am so grateful to the assistance given me from Rick and Fritz, whose labor was invaluable in the construction, and brothers-in-law, Dennis and Bob, and great nephews, Nathan and Justin.  Many hands made light work as we dismantled my diner in motion when the parade was completed for the year 2011.

Later that day I attended the Domestic Art Show at the town library to witness the judging of the arts, crafts and culinary talents of the community.  I entered a few of my efforts from the past year in the professional division.  I am so pleased with the results of Jesup Farmers Day 2011. My parade entry received 2nd place in the business floats division, my 'Green Designer Purse took Grand Champion, Cavanaugh's Christmas dress, my University Bath hooded bath towels, along with my caps and t-shirts all returned to my shop display with blue ribbons. I am extremely grateful for the gifts I received from my creator, and hope you will join me in praise of His name for a successful weekend.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Event of the Century

“If it is to be, it is up to me.”

I have been tossing the idea of a fund raiser for Brain Health Research for several years.  The first time I heard about NARSAD (now Brain & Behavior Research Foundation) and what it did, I knew it would be one of my favorite causes.  I loved the fact that 100% of donations go to funding scientists and doctors to study the brain. In the last 6 years I also have discovered most of our population is affected in some way with Autism, ADHD, OCD, PTSD, Schizophrenia, Depression or Bi Polar.  Almost every family I meet is dealing with at least one of these areas. Yet, this foundation is a pretty well kept secret.
I decided it is time to change this.

There are 11 letters in the two words brain health.  When I realized this, I knew my idea for a fund raiser had to happen this year.

If it is to be, it is up to me.  So I have begun planning an ‘11’ party/fund raiser.  The date, of course, will be 11-11-11.  I will capitalize on the number 11, use, overuse, and probably abuse it. 

The first item on my agenda to make this happen: get some others on board to help me.  I hope to enlist the help of ‘11’ people, including myself, and form a committee.  At the time of this writing, I have 4 great members.   We will meet each month until 11-11-11 on the 11th at precisely 7:11 p.m. 

Next item – rent the hall to hold this spectacular event.  I have begun this process.

Other ideas I have rumbling around in my brain:
  1. Sell advance tickets for $11.  Tickets will also be available at the door.  Get the ticket printing donated.
  2. Offer a simple, but delicious homemade meal for $11.  Get all ingredients donated.
  3. Sell t-shirts that promote Brain Health awareness for $11.  Get the t-shirts donated.
  4. In conjunction with the meal, have a bake sale.  Plates of cookies, cupcakes, etc will contain ‘11’ instead of 12.  Of course, all baked goods will be donated.
  5. Have a silent auction, asking donations from local businesses, craftsmen and anyone who wishes to donate.
  6. Have information tables with free literature on different areas of brain health or brain disorders, such as NAMI organizations, etc.  Basically, ‘Where to turn for help if your family is affected.’
  7. Sell Silver Ribbon campaign items.
  8. To help defray expenses, ask business and individuals for a donation of $11.  Extra money will be donated.

Ready, Set, GO!
Let’s have a party.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Baby And A Herd Of Goats

A baby and a herd of goats

Deuteronomy 26:7 (New International Version)
… we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice …

The silence of the night was interrupted by a sharp cry as I bolted out of bed. Glancing at the clock I groaned.   My footsteps were hurried as I rushed to my infant’s crib.  I had rested my weary body for a mere 2 hours.  Kathy was up again.  Her tiny knees were drawn up to her tummy, fists clenched, and her rough pimply skin was fiery red.  She cried inconsolably. After a clean diaper I nursed her, rocked and soothed her back to sleep. This was my daily routine.  Allergies to milk, fibers and environment had made my 3rd child’s world a sentence.  Her petite body was covered in an angry rash while cramps invaded her abdomen.  Sleep for both of us came intermittently.

 I tried everything to bring Kathy comfort. Breast feeding was my first choice of nourishment for her, but Kathy reacted severely to foods I was eating.  I tried several formulas, but she vomited them.  So I continued to nurse her. I chose my food with care and avoided things I knew triggered a negative result for Kathy.  She found some relief residing in a front infant carrier, tummy to tummy.  Often she rode there all day, the warmth of my body soothing hers.  Exhausted,   I cried out, “Lord, what do you want me to do?  I have tried everything for her.” 

Days later, while visiting my great aunt I shared my frustrations about Kathy’s situation.   She told me of a family that fed their children goat’s milk.   They were the healthiest children she knew.  After much searching I found a can of evaporated goat milk in a health food store.  It was very expensive, but I purchased it, diluted it as directed and fed it hopefully to Kathy.  She didn’t react.  She slept!  I saw her first smile!  Excited I returned to the store and obtained another can.  I used it sparingly because of availability and price.  But I had hope.

A month passed.  I went to vote at the neighborhood polling center. While there Kathy began to wail again. The elderly gentleman registering me inquired about her distress.  I explained our situation about her allergies, the goat’s milk and our lack of it.  Russell, as I soon came to know, lived nearby.  Upon hearing my story he smiled.  “I have a herd of milking goats.  Come get some milk for your daughter.”  For the seven years Kathy lived on goat’s milk, I had an abundant supply of fresh milk for her.  Shortly after her need for it was gone, so was the goat herd.  The market for goat milk had dwindled and the herd was sold.

Thank you, Lord, for answering my call and supplying our needs.  Thank you also for giving me the grace to hear your voice through people you placed in my path.

Mona Rottinghaus