Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Veeka's dedication

One other thing that happened recently was that I had Veeka dedicated to God at a local church. I'm not into infant baptism - want to let her be baptized when she makes her own decision to be a believer but I wanted to do something. Some friends of mine arranged for her to be dedicated to God and prayed over at an Assembly of God church in Fairfax, which is what we did. The people at Way of Faith AG were super gracious even though no one really knew me; they just knew Sue and Rebecca (show with Veeka and I in a photo here). They gave us a little certificate which I will put in my soon-to-be assembled Veeka Scrapbook.
After the service, Rebecca arranged for a 2nd birthday party at Arties, a local restaurant where we had all sorts of presents and balloons and once again, Veeka's favorite meal of hamburger and French fries. The Little One adored all the balloons and streamers. Rebecca and Sue also gave her a necklace with a heart containing a little seed that symbolized God's word growing like a seed in one's heart. Being that Sue and Rebecca are moving to Alabama shortly, it was a bittersweet time of good-byes as I am not sure how much I will see them again. The "Quitting Church" book was dedicated to them, among others, and they will be missed.
Potty training is doing well enough and Veeka is going on long jags of hours without end of accident-free days. However the slipcovers on the white couch in my living room are showing a few slip-ups and I know I must wash them before The Visit by Oma and Opa starting May 11. Yes, they will be in residence for a week, as I am getting shoulder surgery May 13 and expect to be in a sling for up to a month - am hoping the surgeon lowers that estimate (I had been told it'd be 2-3 weeks when I first agreed to do this!) - to repair a capsular tear in my right arm that has bothered me for two years. Lifting Veeka and the repetitive motion of reaching back to her car seat did something bad that 2 sessions of physical therapy did not heal.
Sooo I am trying to set up people to help me once my parents leave, as I will not be able to sling Veeka around simply with my left arm. My biggest needs are help for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening although that could change - I just do not know how mobile I will be. One friend is going to try to get some 6th-grade-age girls to help out in the evenings for their community service credits but mornings could be a problem as no one is available to help out weekdays. I did ask 3 sets of friends if they could fly here to help me (even offered free plane fare!) but people generally cannot break free.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Veeka turns 4

She was looking forward to it for days: the big FOUR. The day before, we spent Aunt Susan's check on shoes and girly underwear as Miss Veeka is finally getting serious about potty training (size 4 for any of you who want to help contribute to the cause). She was hungry and pouty at Target, so I took her down the mall to McDonalds where she cheered up after having her favorite meal: hamburger, fries and ice cream. Yum yum.
And the next day, I dressed her up and sent her to school while I put together a nice meal for a guest who was coming over (a fellow single mom-to-be from Kazakhstan). That night Veeka opened her gifts and was especially entranced by a pink scooter furnished by Oma and Opa. She rode all over the neighborhood on that one. A kind neighbor brought over a chocolate birthday cake so she could BLOW out her multiple candles. Four really is the age where they "get" birthdays and talk about them weeks before the actual occurrence. I suppose some day I will have to put together an actual party but for now, our little get-together worked just fine.
This weekend we're in the Pittsburgh area for a speaking engagement for "Quitting Church" at my old seminary while I show Veeka off to friends. Today I just filmed some more episodes for CBN, whose producers seem to like me and want to have me on for their new 24-hour channel. So if any of you watch religious TV, I'm now popping up here and there. I've finally found a hairdresser who has given me a cut that looks decent on TV and which I can easily reproduce at home. It's taken me years to find a "look" that works but that day has arrived.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter day

I really tried to get that signature Easter photo but just could not get the right shot no matter how hard I tried. We had a lovely, sunny day. Veeka and I went to church with Veeks who is dressed in a lovely pink knit given by a friend of my parents and afterwards planned a new red-bud tree I had bought at the nursery. I also mowed my jungle of a lawn, thanks to a kind neighbor who lent me his mower. Then we went to a friend's home for an Easter egg hunt (see Veeka holding her egg collection bag), then pot-luck. Amira, the lady of the house, decorated her Victorian home beautifully with roses and flowers and Scripture verses and candies placed about - it was a truly lovely day. She even had cupcakes decorated in lovely pastel icings.
Unfortunately many of us could not squeeze down a lot of the cupcakes and SO Amira told me to help myself which....I did as I need cupcakes for this Thursday, Veeka's BIG DAY whereupon she turns 4. She totally gets the concept of birthdays now and is very excited about her presents. A little pink scooter from Oma and Opa sits in the garage waiting for her delighted swoop. I got her a combo orchid/cactus hanging plant with bright pink flowers for her birthday and a cool doll from Grenada. If anyone wants ideas...well, she needs lots of little-girl underwear because Oma and Opa will be here in May to help finish potty-training. Being that she will be 4, it is TIME. (Bubble bath is a good gift idea too as we go through lots of it).
One of my kind neighbors has offered to bring over a cake plus I'm having a friend in who is thinking of adoption.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Back from the Caribbean

I'm facing a mountain of emails and Things To Do after being gone 7 days on a boat. Yes, that's what the family told Veeka: That her mommy was gone on a big boat. When I got back late Saturday, she could not stop kissing my face. Now she is back to throwing tantrums when I turn off the TV.
Anyway, I flew to Puerto Rico and wandered about old town San Juan for awhile before boarding this large cruise ship. The large fort built by the Spaniards over a 200-year period had magnificent ocean views. We took off late March 28 for Sint Maarten, a Dutch/French island that was our first port of call. Now I had been in touch with a Christian charity that is funding an outreach out of Philipsburg, the largest city on this tiny island - and I was interested in seeing some of the illegal immigrants (from Haiti and other places) they were helping. Although a lot of Haitians get to US shores, even more land on other Caribbean islands. I missed my appointment with a Catholic priest cuz the ship came in later than I thought so I wandered off to a beach for a few hours, then returned and tried calling him on my cell phone. Amazingly, I found the man and after showing me his food pantry, he assigned a parishioner to take me around to the slums of Sint Maarten to meet poor and desperate people.
The next few hours were amazing. I am posting a photo of one little girl standing in front of a container - that is where her family lived in the midst of an auto junkyard. Her dad, in his 60s, cannot find a job. They were beyond poor. I happened to bring along some stuffed animals (purloined them from Veeka's stash of thousands) with me, so gave her two and she was so delighted to get anything resembling a new toy. Another woman I visited had taken on 17 orphans - all dumped on her front doorstep by druggies and prostitutes. Another woman, who had diabetes, was desperate for funds for her medication and to pay her daughter's school fees. She was an illegal immigrant from Guyana, where she said life is even worse. Her husband, also illegal, had been deported and was of no help. Another family had been cheated by a ruthless Chinese merchant and was being evicted from their home. They need a lawyer but cannot afford one. Most of the women I met had no husbands or male support whatsoever. The men tend to abandon the women so in one instance, three women had moved in together and pooled care of their kids.
I hope to do an article for the WTimes on Easter Sunday about this as the situation was truly pitiable on an island that's known as a tourist draw. The money that this US-based charity provides has to stretch to accommodate 250 families who are all in dire straits.
The following day, we were in Dominica, an eco-tourism spot I had long wanted to visit. First thing we did was visit an aerial tram that sped us through the tree-tops of pristine forest. A biologist with us was dishing out reams of info about herbal remedies, tropical woods and the rain forest. Of course we got rained on while in this gondola-like contraption. Am posting a photo of me on an 84-foot suspension bridge over a gorge in the rain forest. Then we visited Trafalgar Falls where some of us found lovely natural hot water pools - see the third photo of me submerged in cloudy aqua water. Then we coaxed our driver into taking us one-quarter of the way around the island to see a lovely place - the Emerald Pool - in another rain forest. It was a long day but our favorite island, as it turned out. It's not an easy island to fly to but I'd really recommend going there to anyone who likes to hike. The paths were beautifully kept up and there are NO MOSQUITOS on the island cuz of the sulphur from the volcanic lakes.
I didn't get to see much of Grenada, the next island, because I was exhausted from Dominica plus I needed a place to use the Internet and purchase gifts. I found a lovely beach and died for a few hours.
The last two islands: Bonaire and Aruba, are very different. They are mostly desert - lots of cactus. I snorkeled and water-skied near Bonaire and on Aruba, I tried wind-surfing. Maybe John Kerry makes it look easy but it was HARD. I fell off that board many times into the lagoon and the boom would hit me or the sail would slap me. A few times I did manage to glide along but then I could not *turn*. The weather was fabulous the whole time; my roommate was very friendly and the group I was with was very cordial. The beaches and the ice-blue water was wonderful. Aruba was far more developed and touristy than Bonaire. I was not impressed with the snorkeling in Bonaire - maybe it was a bad reef day but I've seen better elsewhere.
Fortunately our last day was spent solely on the ship before sailing in Saturday morning. I managed to find a lovely bike path near the San Juan airport that I explored part of Saturday - cool mangrove swamps and great orange-sand beaches - before catching my plane which turned out to be 3 hours late! I tried not to eat too much on the ship but gained 3 lbs unfortunately. Now it is back to real life.