Thursday, February 26, 2009

you are dust

"Remember, you are dust and unto dust you shall return"

Given the recent loss of Heidi, this just made me cry all through Mass. All of the songs about ashes seemed pretty cruel the day after losing my little friend. But at the same time, I am reminded of the Cross of Christ. I must pick up my Cross and follow Him, no matter where He leads or how hard it might be.

And that, actually, gives me hope.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

adult decisions

A good way to avoid hurt and sadness in life are to stay away from a few signs. #1: when Facebook says Single, looking for a relationship. #2: when a sign says House-broken dog $60. But then again, It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

My poor little puppy, Heidi, died today. We had to put her to sleep after she fell last night. She had fallen down a flight of stairs this past summer and injured her hip. It had taken her several weeks to be able to stand up on her own and she had deteriorated a lot. The entire 12 years that she was with our family, she acted like a full of life. But the last 6 months she was struggling to get off of the floor from a lying position, she walked really slowly, she was getting cataracts, and she was not hearing as well.

So last night she was jumping up and down (forgetting that she wasn't a puppy anymore) and fell down, injuring her other hip. She laid on the ground, unable to get up, panting heavily and crying. She was unable to go to the bathroom since 6pm the night before and had thrown up twice.

I found out about it on my way to Ames last night and was hysterical. I was going to drive home, but decided that I was too tired and too upset to be driving. So I slept (or tried to sleep) for about 5 hours and then drove back home in the morning. My sister arrived later in the afternoon. We just held Heidi and cried, brushed her, and lavished her with attention. She calmed down a lot when Emily arrived. (I think Heidi always thought Emily was one of her puppies.) She licked up in the face when we cried and just rested in our laps.

It was so hard to see my dad's reaction to her being so hurt. He obviously loved Heidi very much and felt helpless. He would support her belly and help her to limp around the yard. He carried her to and from the house. Eventually he just sat with her on the kitchen floor for 2 hours, petting her, staring at the wall.

He had to make an adult decision today. These decisions are not easy because you have to make them based on what is best, not on what you want. I admire my dad's bravery so much.

After Emily arrived and had spent some time with her, my dad's friend Dave came over to help my dad take her to the vet. We walked Heidi around the yard one last time with a towel under her belly for support. We were all relieved when she was finally able to go to the bathroom with the towel support. After Emily and I hugged Heidi for the last time and she gave us each a good lick in the face, my dad carried her to the back of the van where he had prepared a little bed for her. Dave sat back there with her to comfort her. Emily and I stayed home to talk about Heidi and the good times we'd had with her.

An hour later my dad returned. Alone.

The vet had given her a full exam. Apparently Heidi had dislocated her good hip. Both of her hip muscles had atrophied to the point that they were almost useless and would be unable to regenerate, so she wouldn't be able to walk again. She had fatty tumors in her abdomen pressing her hip joints back, making it harder to walk. She also had severe osteoarthritis in her joints, making walking very painful for her.

At age 12, surgery would be too much, and their wasn't really a surgical option anyway. The only thing we would have been able to do was to have a doggie wheelchair made that she would have to sit in and use her front paws to propel. This would not solve the pain of her dislocated hip or her osteoarthritis, however. So, we had Heidi put to sleep.

I've never seen my dad cry. I've seen him tear up twice: today and when Emily left for Europe for 6 months. I only know about him crying twice: with each time we had to put a dog to sleep. He said he cried like a baby and they had to bring him a box of Kleenex. But it was a peaceful death for her and she went about 10 seconds after the injection.

I don't think I've every cried so much in my life. I pretty much cried all last night and all day today. Heidi wasn't just a dog to us, she was truly a member of our family. I feel as if I have lost a sister.

She was such a good dog. She had her naughty moments, but they were all pretty funny to look back on. Like the time she stole our pot roast from the counter top and dragged it under the kitchen table. Knowing she wasn't supposed to have it, though, she just licked it for a little bit. When we discovered her with it, she sent herself to the basement before we could send her there ourselves. :)

There's a lot of good memories that we shared and laughed about together. As much as it hurts to have her gone, I am so glad that she was with us for the past 12 years. She has showed me so much about what unconditional love is. I will miss her so much.

Jesus, thank you for Heidi and for the time you gave us with her. Please heal our hearts and help her memory to live on.

Friday, February 20, 2009

practice #1

I decided (against the advice of many) that I am going to make my own wedding cake. I know that I can make a nice one, (contrary to the example above) but I want to make some practice cakes to see just how much effort it takes to make a layered cake. After all, I want to be good at it so my wedding cake doesn't fall apart.

So last night I was at they boy's house with nothing to do. After cleaning their kitchen out of boredom (a 2 hour job) I decided to make a cake. So I whipped this thing up in about 4 hours.

Unfortunately, I didn't bring any of my circle cake pans and had to make the cake using some lasagna dishes. It is a bit lopsided because the drive back to Des Moines from Ames was a bit rough on it. I also decided that making a square cake is kind of out of the question because all of the crumbs from me having to cut the rounded edges off got caught in the frosting. I was pretty upset about it at first until I decided to make it look like it was on purpose and turned it into a cookies and cream cake. So cute!

I'm going to take my practice cakes to work (where they will be highly under-appreciated but quickly consumed) unless anyone has any special occasions coming up and would like a practice wedding cake to be there. I'm making one for Kim's baby shower in March, but that's it!

Some tips to remember:
-Buy more frosting than you think you'll need to make a couple of layers to hide crumbs.
-Don't use lasagna pans...just don't do it.
-Mistakes can be ok if you're creative.
-Don't drive a cake 45 miles in the sun with no one to keep it level!

Friday, February 06, 2009

why i love groundhog's day

So it's almost been a weeks since I've gotten engaged and I probably should tell you all how it happened!

Ryan is sneaky. I'll start off by saying that. We have been seriously talking about getting married at the end of the summer since October or so. With the required 6-months engagement period in the Des Moines Diocese, that meant that by February we would have to be engaged. (No pressure, Ryan! I am horrible at being patient.)

It didn't look like it was going to happen by then, so I was trying my best to be patient and supportive of Ryan as he worked on lots of school stuff, band stuff, church stuff, etc. We did go to look at engagement rings in January and decided on two options that I really liked. I had asked that we look at rings when he wasn't ready to propose. That way he would know my preferences and then I wouldn't become neurotic after two weeks when I knew the ring would be done and ready to be picked up.

I went to the March for life the week after we looked at rings. While I was gone, Ryan showed up at my parent's house (Thursday). He was so nervous as he stood in the living room making small talk with my dad about his work. After about 15 minutes, he announced that he had come to ask my father's permission to propose to me. My dad was so pleased and told Ryan how happy he was about him, how good we were together, and how welcomed he would be into our family. Then he called my mom downstairs and informed her that Ryan had asked for my hand. :)

So that Saturday (I was driving back from the MFL), Ryan took his brother Adam and Adam's girlfriend Kimberley to Des Moines to order the ring. The ring came in a week later and he picked it up last weekend.

Then he asked me if I'd want to come up on Monday (2/2) to celebrate Valentine's day early. With it being Groundhog's day and all, I found it hilarious. Even better was that he had blurted out that he had gotten me chocolates (from Stam) even though it was supposed to be a surprise. But that was good because I bought him beer, which is equivalent to him buying me chocolate. I also got really dressed up in a little red dress, did my hair, put on my foo-foo shoes, and even wore lipstick!

I was a little suspicious that he wanted to propose to me, but thought that he wasn't ready to do that yet. So the whole way up to Ames I was praying to God for patience, trying to find my worth in Him, and to surrender my desires to His will.

When I got to Ames, we had to leave immediately to go to St. Thomas where Ryan had a 2 hour meeting. Luckily I got to hang out with Kimberley, which was fun.

After the meeting we went to pray in front of the tabernacle. We put our chairs right next to each other, sitting hand in hand and head to head. He was so fidgety! He kept looking up at me then looking back down. He would look up again seconds later, kiss my forehead, and look back down. This repeated for several minutes until he said "Are you ready?" and then we left.

The whole time I had been praying and the whole way home, I was trying so hard not to think about getting engaged. I kept singing I surrender over and over and over again. I was trying so hard to find my joy in the Lord rather than in anything else. I was trying so hard and was almost on the verge of tears at one point.

Back at his house he brought the chocolates out, which I thanked him for. Then he said "Oh wait, I have something else!" Is it a ring? I wondered... And he pulled out a bottle a wine.

K: "Oh...Thank you so much, that's very nice."

R: "And I have one more thing..."

He pulled out a little grey box... That had better not be a necklace!

K: "Are you serious!!?!?!"

R: Nodding, gets down on one knee. He was shaking so badly and couldn't even open the box at first!

K: "Are you serious!?!?!?!?!"

R: Nods vigorously. "Kathleen Balch, will you marry me?"

K: "Yes! ... Are you serious!!?!"

He put the ring on my finger and jumped up and hugged me. I kept saying "Are you serious?!?!" I was so happy and couldn't believe it. The next 30 minutes we just spent staring at each other.

And then we told EVERYONE. :)

And now I'm telling you! The wedding is going to be August 8th of this year! So I have a lot of work to do in the next 6 months! But it is the good and happy kind of work that I've always wanted to do!

Jesus, thank You for having better plans for me than I could have planned or imagined for myself! I love You and I trust in You!

Monday, February 02, 2009

letting go

I have been struck recenly by the idea that to begin to get what you want, you often have to let go first. This is especially applicable to me as I seem to really enjoy pressuring Ryan in a certain area.

I was listening to music yesterday and was struck by this line from Coldplay's Fix You...

And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth

I tend to place my worth is what others think of me. Yet, I need to truly let go and place myself in the arms of God, finding my worth in Him! (Not as easy to do as you'd think, but I'm getting better.)

The priest at confession cautioned me that if I kept pressuring Ryan and did get what I wanted, I would forever wonder if the gift was sincere. That was sobering enough for me to make an attitude adjustment.

Here are some more good quotes as well, though mostly unrelated.

Initial enthusiasm is easy. Afterward, though, it is time to stand firm, even along the monotonous desert paths that we are called upon to traverse in this life--with the patience it takes to tread evenly, a patience in which the romanticism of the initial awakening subsides, so that only the deep, pure Yes of faith remains.
Pope Benedict XVI (from Jesus of Nazareth pg 262)

God doesn't require us to succeed, He only requires us to try.
Mother Teresa

Stupidity is also a gift from God, but one mustn't misuse it.
Pope John Paul II

yes please

I always need confession, but sometimes I have an acute realization of that need.

I went to confession on Saturday and was amazed at how present Jesus really was to me during he sacrament. After I confessed my sins, the priest paused for a few moments and then reached deep into my soul, touching a place that I didn't even know was hurting!

I cried for the next 15 minutes, snotty nose and all!

How amazing is that?

Jesus, thank You for holy priests and for the sacrament of confession!