Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I thought I should write a quick post to let my readers know that I am home now. But, I had a rough time there for awhile. Apparently I scared everyone when I came out of the anesthesia in the recovery room and had the dry heaves for an hour. The nurse had to give me shot which calmed me down and knocked me out for three more hours. Steve said I didn't move at all. I also had extreme vertigo, nausea, and double vision. I felt like I was on a merry go round going very fast! Had to stay overnight. Don't remember anything between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. I don't want my experience to scare anyone because we all recover differently. This, too, will pass. Nausea and double vision is gone but the vertigo is still there. I'm writing this on my lap (isn't that what laptops are for?)

The doctor said that my surgery went well and the electrode array curled very nicely in my cochlea. But, he needed to admit me overnight because my vertigo was so bad. I am his first adult bilateral patient! And he has been doing implants for twenty years. Steve stayed with me all day until Chris & his friend, Kevin, came to relieve him. Marissa came last night after she got done working at the Dairy Queen and brought me the sweetest card.

There are some beautiful pink roses in the kitchen from Chris and Marissa. People have been bringing food and we appreciate that so much. My friend, Susan came and visited for awhile. Right now my sister, Kathy, is taking care of me while my family is out doing stuff. Will write more later. Thanks for your sweet thoughts, comments, and prayers!

Monday, January 29, 2007

I'm Ready. . .I Think. . .

Well, it is getting close. I started to get nervous this afternoon when it was time to leave work. I got my tasks done that needed to be done and made a to-do list for my coworkers. It was cold today (my car said 16 degrees this morning!) and I had a hard time staying warm. Luckily, I had a jug of apple cider under my desk along with the necessary spices and we decided to heat it up in the crockpot. So, the Accounting department smelled good and the hot mulled cider kept us warm. Went to the grocery, Target, and dry cleaners after work. The bills are paid, house is cleaned (sort of), plants are watered, the car has a full tank of gas, and I'm finishing up a few last minute things. Now, all I need is my huggy hubby to get home from San Antonio tonight so he can take me to the hospital in the morning. :) I did ask Chris to be on "standby" in case Steve didn't make it home in time.

I am truly blessed to be surrounded by a wonderful family and dear friends for this next step in my "Dance With Sound." We don't know what we would do without our support system! My sister, Kathy, is coming on Wednesday to stay with me while Steve works and will spend the night. My dear friend, Dawn, is bringing lunch on Thursday and will stay with me that day. We haven't seen each other in two months so we have a lot of catching up to do! My Bible Study group is bringing food as well and so are my coworkers. With Steve, Marissa, and Chris at home and all their friends that come and go, it will get eaten! Most of all, I appreciate the notes, emails, and prayers. Think good thoughts for us tomorrow and pray that I don't have the vertigo issue this time like I did before. I will post again as soon as I am able. Love, Hugs, and Blessings, Laurie

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Oklahoma City Here I Come!

I've spent a good portion of my afternoon cleaning up after five college students and making reservations online for The Hearing Loss Association of America Convention that is being held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma from June 21-24, 2007. I've been communicating with Jennifer and we decided to go together! We'll have a blast! Joyce will be there, too! Anyone else want to join us???!!! Early registration ends on January 31st so I decided to get it out of the way before my surgery on the 30th. Jennifer wants to drive so she can have a car but I will probably fly.

Brad brought four of his friends home for the weekend. We had a full house! I cooked, cleaned and did laundry all weekend. But it was great. I had crockpot of chili with fritos, cheese, and cornbread ready for them when they got here on Friday night. I also made chocolate cupcakes with a mint chocolate Hershey's kiss hidden in them and frosted with homemade chocolate frosting. Those were good and got eaten up right away! Last night I made Jennifer's Italian Sausage and Ziti recipe and it was a big hit! I also made my mom's Sticky Buns for breakfast this morning. Today, after church I baked Snickerdoodles, which are Brad's favorite cookies. We also had the usual soda and junk food available. Those college kids can eat! But, we love having them here. I was sad to see them go but am happy to have a quiet house again. I have a few things I need to get accomplished before Tuesday morning.

I will be very busy tomorrow at work getting tasks done so I can be out for awhile. One of my jobs is to send out letters and try to find owners of unclaimed property that we have at the credit union. If someone has not touched their account for the last five years, we are required by law to forward it to the state by May 1st. Here are some links for you to search for Unclaimed Property.

Tennesssee residents: Free search site to reunite you with unclaimed property maintained by the state officials who are guarding it. Also, select one of the links below to find property that is held in other states:
I know I've listed a lot of links in this post. But, I wanted to share a few things with my readers. It's hard to believe my surgery day is two days away. Someone called from the hospital on Friday to get some information from me. I called them back and was able to answer their questions with little difficulty. The person who called was a man and spoke very slowly and clearly. He also said "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am" when I tried to clarify what he was asking for and that made an impression on me. Very polite and professional. My pre-surgery instructions came in the mail yesterday. I'm actually very calm and at peace right now and know that everything will go well. I can't explain it. Well, maybe I can. It is the same feeling that carried me when my mother was going through her last days. It is the peace of God and the prayers of the faithful who are praying for me. I just know it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Things are Changing

Only six more days! I'm not really nervous or anxious yet. I think it is because I've been through it before and know what to expect. Hopefully it will be easier the second time around. Prayers and words of encouragement from others are a great source of comfort. My greatest concern is the vertigo issue. I just hope and pray it isn't as bad as it was last time. I called Dr. Merwin's office this afternoon and left a message to let them I didn't have my pre-surgery instructions in the mail yet. Teresa, his nurse, called back shortly afterwards and said that I will need to be at the hospital by 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning and surgery will start at 7:30 a.m. It's starting be be more "real" now. Steve will be flying home on Monday night from a business trip and will be able to take me this time. Last time his flight was cancelled the night before because of Hurricane Katrina and I didn't see him until after I was in recovery!

I've made it over a week without my hearing aid. I'm not missing it too much anymore but I do notice that things *sound different* at times. Especially in the evenings after a long day. I'm also noticing that I can comprehend longer phrases and more words on the radio, in normal conversations, in prayers being said in church, on TV, etc. without needing to lipread as much. It is almost as if sounds are becoming crisper and clearer. Maybe my hearing aid wasn't really helping at all and was just "in the way." I guess I couldn't let go of it earlier because it was so much a part of me all these years. I still need to lipread and probably always will to some degree. The nonverbal cues are such an important part of hearing and understanding, even for those with normal hearing.

I had lunch with my friend, Linda, today at McAllister's. I needed a hug from her before Tuesday! Also went to Bible Study last night and prayer meeting tonight. I'm also VERY busy at work trying to get some work caught up before I'm out of commission again. Brad will be bringing two carloads of friends home this weekend from Virginia Tech. They come every January to spend the weekend and go to Gatlinburg. I'll be too busy cooking and cleaning to get nervous about surgery! Think good thoughts for our family on Tuesday - especially for Steve. He gets anxious every time I "go under the knife" and this is the third time in five years.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Jason!

Our oldest, Jason, is 26 years old today. Where does the time go? I was 23 when he was born. I spent a good portion of my afternoon today trying to locate a particular picture of him as a toddler walking around in his daddy's golf shoes. But, I cannot find it. He is currently living in Texas pursuing his dream playing professional golf. We are so proud of him.

I'll never forget the time when Jason was about two weeks old and I couldn't hear him crying. Steve was in the Navy at the time and had left for a three month tour on the submarine he was stationed on. My mother was flying out to Connecticut (where we lived at the time) a few days later to bond with her first grandson and help me take care of him. I was very alone with a brand new baby that would not stop crying. I fed him, bathed him, changed him, rocked him, and did everything I could but nothing seemed to calm him down. I was also very exhausted and tired and it was 1 a.m. in the morning. I laid him in his bassinette right next to me and told myself I would just let him cry for ten minutes and then I would pick him up again and nurse him. I turned my hearing aids off with the intention of just closing my eyes for a few minutes. I panicked when I woke up three hours later and found a very red faced and upset baby in his bassinette! I felt like a terrible mother because I did not hear him crying! And he was right next to me! I never fell asleep again with my hearing aids off unless someone else was in the house with me. Later we got one of those baby monitors and kept the volume turned all the way up. I always had the hand held remote with me.

It wasn't easy having our babies and not being able to hear them or understand their cute little conversations with each other. My mother always told me that I had "mother's ears" because I always seemed to know when they were waking up or needed me. Steve was a great daddy for our babies and was also my "ears" for me. When he was home, he would get up with them in the middle of the night and called that "his time" with them. Our kids probably also figured out that if they cried loud enough, Mom would come.

Friday, January 19, 2007

PBS Show Premiere

On Wednesday night PBS aired a show called 22nd Century, which is about brain implants and the World Wide Mind. This particular episode was written by Michael Chorost, who wrote the book Rebuilt about his cochlear implant. Michael was one of the subjects interviewed in the show and talked about his implant and how it works. If you missed the show, you can see it here. He did an excellent job and described the struggles of losing one's hearing and having it restored so perfectly. It is his hope that his interview about cochlear implant technology will pave the way for future innovations for all types of brain implants.

Michael had sent me an email earlier and reminded me to watch it. I would not have missed it for anything. I follow his blog and write to him every now and then. I emailed him after the show and got a nice response back yesterday. He is hoping that his PBS show will be approved for a series. I also asked him if he had heard from AETNA yet about his second implant. He said that he is still waiting to be approved for it.

Today I start Day 4 without my hearing aid. I'm doing okay so far and have resisted the urge to put it back on. I hear fine with just my CI. But, if sounds or people are on my right side, I don't hear them very well or not at all. I do not miss the ear mold, though!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Only Two More Weeks

As you can tell by the ticker on the top of this page, it is only two more weeks until my second CI surgery. I am getting excited and nervous at the same time. I'm also very busy trying to get things done before I am out of commission again for awhile. I feel like I'm getting ready for another "trip." And it is really another "trip" to hear better. I took my hearing aid off yesterday for the last time and have made the decision to "wean" myself from it. I've had so much trouble with feedback and whistling coming from it lately and it is aggravating. It's probably because I need a new earmold. I won't be able to wear it after my surgery so I might as well get used to hearing with just my CI for now. I can honestly say I don't like being without my hearing aid. I miss it. It's almost like a security blanket for me and gives me a little bit of hearing in the low tones that my CI doesn't provide. I'm hoping that within a few days, my brain will make the "shift" and hearing with just my CI will become the "new normal" until my second CI is activated. So far, I've made it one whole day without putting my hearing aid back on.

This blog is supposed to be about my cochlear implant journey and has evolved to other parts of my daily life. I'm trying to decide if I should start another blog (I already have one for knitting, cooking, and my book chapters) or if I should just continue to write here. Any thoughts or words advice out there? Please feel free to comment. You can do it anonymously if you want. Just click on Comments at the bottom of this post. I'd love to hear from my readers, if there are any out there. :)

But, you know what? Even though I share about my family, friends, and events in my life, it is all part of my CI journey. I am able to function as a person, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, coworker, etc. with a hearing loss. We all have difficulties in our lives that we have to overcome at one point or another. Part of the reason why I write is because I want to encourage others who struggle with a hearing loss and give hope to them. Also, I want to encourage parents who are dealing with a deaf child. This journey has not been an easy one. But it has shaped my life and made me the person I am today. I would not change a thing. My CI has improved my life and family's significantly and we are looking forward to the new changes that are on the horizon. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

I will end this post with an excerpt from a letter from my Russian pen pal & friend, Elena:

"I know what a significant day the 30th of January is for you. And I do hope, I believe, I know that everything will be a success. Because you have never been just a passenger in the boat named "Life", and all your struggle with yourself and for yourself, your aspirations, your main (Jason, Chris, Brad, and Marissa) and not main achievements should definitely support and help you. May I add my purely Orthodox voice to your prayers and prayers of your friends?"

Thank you, Elena. God listens to all kinds of prayers!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

After Trip Musings

Well, it is Saturday morning and we are up early. Steve and I worked the last two days and crashed in our chairs last night before we even decided on a TV show to watch. *sigh* Marissa came in and said "Wake up, old people!" So, we were in bed and out by 10 p.m.!!! Today we are meeting some former Navy friends in Newport, TN that we haven't seen in 25 years. Should be fun and interesting!

We had the best soup in Latvia. We have it every time we go there and it is so delicious. It is called "Solyanka" or "Sojanka" soup and is a tomato/vegetable based soup with a dollop of sour cream in it. I have tried to find the recipe numerous times online but cannot find anything that looks even close to it. I also have a Latvian cookbook but it isn't in there either. Apparently it is a soup that is made with whatever ingredients are on hand but the key ingredients are dill pickles, lemon juice, and olives. I'm making ham and bean soup today in the crock pot with leftover ham from Christmas. Comfort food.

It is actually colder here in TN than Latvia (at least it seems that way).

Kristine, one of our Latvian students (and adopted daughter) came over last night to see our pictures and pick up some of the gifts we brought back. She stayed almost three hours. She left Latvia over three years ago and was amazed at how much her city has changed. She said we will have to go back with her to show her around! I also gave her some dark bread and gingerbread cookies from Latvia, which are some traditional foods that she misses.

We brought back so many gifts for other people and will be delivering them this weekend. Those gifts alone added about 35 pounds to our luggage! These are presents that our friends in Latvia wanted us to bring to our/their friends in TN. We did manage to have a little room to bring back things we had purchased.

Our living room still looks like it did the day after Christmas. I hope to take the Christmas tree down and put the gifts away this weekend. We didn't even get our Christmas cards and letter out before we left so I'll be working on that as well. Monday is a holiday so I'm glad to have an extra day to catch up!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

New York Pictures

Our Suite at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in NYC Second Room in Suite!St. Bartholomew's Church next to hotel See the *Yellow Bugs* on the street!
Clock in the Lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. This clock is really old and weighs 2 tons!

More New York Pictures

MetLife Building in NYC Flower Arrangement in lobby of Waldorf Astoria hotel. These are real! (Do I look like a peacock?) Chandelier in main entrance of hotel
Lunch at the Tavern on the Green at Central ParkBroadway!

There Is No Place Like Home!

We are home! And we are glad to see the kids and dogs and be back in our own beds. It is also nice to see the sun, too! I have so much catching up to do on this blog and will do it this weekend to fill in the blanks. . . .I have several entries started but they are not ready to post. Steve and I traveled for 24 hours straight on Tuesday from Latvia to New York. We had a ten hour layover in Amsterdam and that wasn't very much fun. The chairs were not comfortable and there was no place to lay down. There are also no places to go to get away from smokers and I needed a breath of fresh air so badly. (People are allowed to smoke in public areas in Europe.) I was getting a little claustrophic. :( We flew KLM airlines this time and sat in business class again. We had a comfortable and roomy trip back to the state but Czech Airlines still is the way to fly.

Anyway, we got to New York around 9 p.m. on Tuesday night and took a taxi to the Waldorf Astoria hotel. We would not have been able to get to our connecting flight at LaGuardia from JFK airport so we decided to stay in New York City for a day before going home. Our "taxi" from the airport was $90.00 for a 30-minute ride!!! Yikes! Later we realized we got taken advantage of. It wasn't a taxi but a limosine service. The guy asked Steve if he wanted a taxi but didn't say he was a limosine service. And it was not a limosine. . .sigh. . . I've always wanted to ride in one. Anyway, when we got to the hotel we were pleased to find out that we were upgraded to a suite because of Steve's Hilton Honors ranking. So, we were able to relax and get caught up on some sleep. Yesterday (Wednesday) we went to Starbucks and got our breakfast and ate it as we sat in the lobby. The Waldorf Astoria is a gorgeous old hotel. There was a clock that chimed every 15 minutes and on the hour and it was so pretty. Our suite on the 22nd floor was really nice, too. We even had his and hers bathrooms! When I woke up after a good night's sleep I opened the windows to see what the city looked like. I saw at least three dozen taxis on the street below us. They looked like little yellow bugs going every which direction. I don't think I've seen that many taxis all a once! We also saw St. Bartholomew's Church next to the hotel and the New York City skyline. For breakfast we went to Starbucks on the first floor and ate it as we sat in the lobby. We checked out of the hotel before noon and checked our bags so we could tour the city for a little while. We had lunch at the Tavern on the Green at Central Park. That was a beautiful place, too! The highlight of our day in New York was seeing the Broadway play, "The Color Purple" and it was GREAT! I wanted to see it last year and thought it ended on December 31st. The season must have been extended. I was thrilled to have a chance to see it. When Steve told the clerk that I was hearing impaired, we got front row seats for a great discount! As soon as the show was over, we walked back to the hotel to get our bags and take a taxi to the airport. This time our fare was less than $30.00. We'll know what to do next time. Chris was waiting for us and was glad to see us. Our bags were already at the baggage claim so it didn't take long to get out of the airport. We got home about midnight.

The jet lag is getting to me. I have a meeting to go to tonight but will go to bed instead. I did go to work for a few hours and Steve worked all day at home. But, we had a great trip and miss our dear friends in Latvia already.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Sunday in Riga

Today was another full and busy day. We won’t be able to rest until we get home! We went to 1st Church in Riga, Gita’s church, for the 11:00 a.m. service. Most of it was done in Latvian, but Juris translated for us. I love hearing the Latvians sing in their native language. During the service Gita asked Steve and I to come up to the front. She caught me off guard and asked me to share something with the congregation. I briefly shared my story about being hard of hearing for all of my life, and how difficult it was growing up. I also shared how I used to pray for perfect hearing as a child and how God did not answer that prayer. Then, as I got older, I would pray that I would keep what little hearing I had. God didn’t answer that prayer, either, because my hearing loss started to get worse in early 2005. And then, I got my cochlear implant later that year and began the journey to hear like I've never heard before. When God answers prayer, sometimes He says yes, sometimes He say “no,” and sometimes He says, “I have a better idea.” God did not make me deaf to make my life miserable. I realize now that He has used my deafness to mold me and shape me into the person that I am today. And He isn’t finished with me yet! I know He wants me to share my gifts with others and share my story. No matter how difficult or hard life may seem, God is always going before us and has the perfect plan for our lives. I also shared how I received the wonderful gift of sound because others used their God-given gifts and talents to be blessings to others. I also thanked the congregation for praying for me when I had my surgery in 2005 and asked them to remember me in their thoughts and prayers on January 30th. Steve spoke a little, too. Then, the congregation presented us with a prayer shawl that one of the ladies in the church had knitted. It is yellow and represents sunshine because we bring light to them. She wrapped us in it and said a prayer for us. God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.

After the service, we had coffee, tea, and cookies upstairs. The Latvians are very good hosts! They love visitors and treat them well. We are all the same, no matter where we live or how we worship. We are one big family.

Steve and I had about ½ hour after church to change our clothes and get ready for the opera. I had never been to the opera before and there was one playing at the Opera House. We saw "Die Zauberflöte” or “The Magic Flute,” which was done by Mozart. Our tickets were 3 Lats apiece, or the equvalent of $5.62 U.S. Dollars for a total of $11.64. Not bad for opera tickets! The Opera House was beautiful and very ornate. We had great seats, even though they were near the top. The program was all sung in German so we didn’t understand a thing. It was captioned in Latvian but not English on a small black screen near the ceiling. That was the first "close-captioning" I had seen in Latvia so far. I had looked up the story on the Internet this morning so I knew a little bit about what was going on. The costumes and displays were strange (probably because Mozart was quite a jokester). . . but the music sounded good and it had a happy ending. The opera lasted 3 hours! It was 6 o'clock by the time we got out of there.

After the opera, Steve and I walked down to Old Riga and found an interesting restaurant for dinner. It was called "DaDa" and you basically picked a sauce, filled your bowl with vegetables, noodles, meat, etc. and they stir fried it for you. It was good but different! We made another stop at Leduspukes for more ice cream before taking the tram back to our hotel. We've had a full day!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Occupation Museum

Saturday I asked Steve to take me to the Occupation Museum. I didn’t get a chance to go there in 2004 the last time we came to Latvia. It is a museum that shows what happened to Latvia, its land, and its people under Soviet and German occupation between 1940-1991. It is a reminder to the world of the crimes and horrors committed by foreign powers against the state and people of Latvia. Latvia lost a third of its population, or 550,000 people, during this terrible time. We were moved by the various displays of history that we saw. I felt so much emotion as I walked through the displays and felt like I was in a very sacred place. Wow. Steve and I only spent about 1 ½ hours in there and that was about all I could handle. It is probably one of the most difficult museums I've ever been in. Can you imagine seeing a display of the barracks where the soldiers slept one top of one another? If one soldier needed to turn over, they all had to turn over in unison. If one got up to go to the restroom, they lost their sleeping spot. So, they would just 'go' wherever they were. I would not have wanted to sleep on the bottom bunk. The Latvians were proud people and had much of their dignity stripped away during this time. One needs to spend more than one visit just to absorb all the information. Steve saw it in 2002 and it made such an impact on him. This place is filled with historical documents, artifacts, pictures, and personal keepsakes that the Latvian people managed to save and hide from the Soviets and the Germans. As you walk in, there are notebooks in several different languages that one can carry around and match with the different exhibits. The Latvians were not treated like human beings at all. We all know about the Holocaust and persecution of the Jews during Hitler’s reign but little is known about the Latvian holocaust. You can visit the museum here. It is located in the historic center of Riga, also known as Old Riga.

(Note: I'm standing under the sign with the white hat.)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Traveling to the Countryside

We have traveled out of the city of Riga into the country these last two days. On New Years’ Day, we were invited by Gita and Juris to join them at his cousin’s house for the day. They live on a farm WAAAYYYYYY out in the middle of nowhere about an hour’s drive from Riga. The countryside is so beautiful and untouched with fields and pine trees. Houses and buildings are miles apart from each other. Towns are very small and have unusual names that I cannot even pronounce. Traffic is very light on the highway, unlike the U.S. To get to Juris’ cousin’s farm, we traveled on a dirt road for about 5 miles. Since it has been rainy and cold here, there is no snow, only MUD. I was afraid the car was going to get stuck in the mud! When we got to the farm, we were greeted by Elga and her husband Aris, and their three daughters, Dace, Aija, Eva, and then little Betty Anne, who is Eva’s daughter. Betty Anne is two years old and is the life of the party. She was so cute! Aija’s husband, Vasili, was also there. (I know I’m not spelling these names right but am trying to write them the way they sound.)

I felt right at home because it reminded me of being at my Grandma Royer’s farm with the front porch and mud room and the wood stove in the kitchen. We all sat down very closely around a table and had a delicious meal made with meat and vegetables raised on the farm. We had sauerkraut, pork patties, chicken, potatoes, carrots, fresh squeezed apple juice and orange juice. Aija spoke English well so she sat between us to translate for us. Gita also included us in the conversation as well. We had a delightful time and there was some more gift giving with songs and poems. Little Betty Anne got a kitchen set and played with it on the stairs and we all had to play “pretend” with her. It is humbling to go to homes like these because they are so family oriented and don’t have much in the way of material things. After we toasted the New Year with champagne, we had tea, coffee, and dessert. Elga made the most delicious waffle cone type dessert and there were gingerbread cookies and some kind of torte. We left just before dark and got back to our hotel around 7 p.m. There is a Double Coffee just down the street, which is like a Starbucks, so we go there to get on the Internet and have a cup of tea.

Today, Gita picked us up at 9 a.m. and we drove to Leipa, Cesis, and Straupe. Again, this was a long drive out to the country. Gita has a project dear to her heart called the Hope Center, which is a safe place created by the church for young, unwed pregnant girls and mothers. These girls come from dysfunctional homes or have been abused and they have no place to go. Their stories are heartbreaking. Some are as young as 14 years old. These girls and their babies are loved on and are taught how to be mothers and are given a place to stay until they can support themselves. They are expected to do chores and take care of their babies. There is a new Hope Center being built in Leipa and Gita wanted us to see it. We also went to Straupe, where we met three young girls (younger than our own daughter, Marissa) and their babies. We also met Rigonda, the manager of the Straupe Hope Center, the two housemothers who rotate and stay with the girls, the psychologist that came for the day, and Dzintra, who helps run the center. (Dzintra was also the same gal we spent New Year’s Eve with.) While we were visiting in their big room, we were served tea and coffee. Next thing we knew, the table was being set and they served us lunch! We had chicken, rice, gravy, and a tomato/cucumber salad. The oldest girl prepared the meal herself for us! The center is almost finished but the Center was having problems with their heating system. It was either too hot or too cold so Gita was trying to help solve the problem while we were there. It was comical to hear four or five women all talking at once! Aside from that, I got to meet little Veronica, who is almost two, and held two babies less than two months old. One mother had just had a baby and was in the hospital so we didn’t get to see her. Pray for these girls and for the Hope Center ministry. Their stories are heartbreaking. You can see their pictures and read their stories here and here. . .

Gita, Steve and I stopped at a little café on the way home for hot chocolate. It was dark again by the time we got back to the hotel and was time for dinner. Steve and I walked a couple blocks to the Steiku Haoss for dinner. We both ordered beef stroganoff, which was very good. Then we went back to the Double Coffee to check emails and get ready for the next few days.

New Year's Day Pictures

Little Betty Anne - isn't she darling?!!!This is the kitchen and you are looking at most of it. We sat around this table on stools for a New Year's Day meal and again for dessert, coffee, & tea. There were eleven of us altogether.
A New Year's Day toast with Champagne!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Pictures from 2nd Church in Riga

Ilze and Skaidrite (?)

Here we are with Martins, our translator

Ziggy and Laurie

Apolonija, Steve, Rev. Milda, & Laurie

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Eve

Where do I start? We are having a wonderful but busy time here in Latvia. Yesterday (New Year’s Eve) Steve and I woke up early and got dressed for church. The service started at 10 a.m. and we thought we had plenty of time to get there when we left at 9:30 a.m. When we stepped outside we were greeted with a cold, rainy drizzle. We had a 15-20 minute walk to the trolley that would take us to the church. We stood in the rain for another 15 minutes before our trolley came. They run about every 15 minutes so we must have just missed the last trolley when we got to the stop. We were 15 minutes late getting church and as we approached it, I saw someone walk out the front door. Then Steve’s cell phone rang and I heard him say, “Hi! I see you!” It was Ziggy calling to find out where we were and within seconds we were giving each other big hugs! Ziggy is the brother of one of our exchange students studying in Tennessee. I met him two years ago when I came to Latvia on a mission trip with the Faithful Men singing group from our church. Steve met him on his first trip to Latvia, which was about six years ago and has seen him every two years since then. The church service was very nice and Milda, the retired pastor, preached. Apolonija arranged for Martins, our translator, to be there so he translated the service for us. As I sat there listening to the music and taking it all in, I saw BIG snowflakes falling outside the window. Finally! SNOW! But it was gone after the service. Latvia (and the rest of Europe) is experiencing a mild winter and has had unusually warm weather and very little snow. I hope to see some snow before we head back home. Anyway, the music in church was sung in Latvian and was beautiful. There was even a quartet of men. The Faithful Men would be proud. When they first came here, the men were almost non-existent in the church. But the service today had almost as many men as there were women!

After the service, Steve and I talked with Milda for a bit and passed out the gifts that we brought from others in the U.S. Milda said her heart was so happy to see us! I also talked with Ilze, the mother of another one of our exchange students. She and I have exchanged letters and cards for the last few years and it was nice to see her, too. It is hard to converse with her in English but we were able to communicate with simple words and hand motions. There was coffee, tea, and some light food available after the service and everyone sat around a table having some fellowship time. Martins, our translator offered to drive us back to the hotel and we left about 1 p.m. I was glad because I was getting a little cold and damp. The wet weather didn’t do anything for my hair, either!

Steve and I relaxed for a bit at the hotel before Gita picked us up at 5:30 p.m. She took us to her home where we were greeted by her husband, Juris. Ivars, Dzintra, and Dzintra’s daughter, who attend Gita’s church, also came. We celebrated New Year’s Eve together and had a delightful evening. We also learned some Latvian traditions that are done on this night. We were served perogies, which is a meat filled pastry, and hot wine. Then we sat and the table and started off with peas covered with chopped bacon and onions. Peas represent tears and Latvians end the year by getting rid of all the peas in the house so there are no tears for the next year. Then we were served ham, pork, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. Juris made the sauerkraut and hand picked the mushrooms for the gravy. Gita said that he likes to experiment when he cooks and never makes things the same way twice. Our food was delicious!

We observed some more Latvian New Year’s Eve traditions as the evening went on. We moved over to the Christmas tree where Gita presented some gifts to us. But, before we could receive our gift, we had to sing a song or say a poem! Ana recited a poem in Latvian, Juris did his “slowly, slowly, slowly the snow is falling” poem and moves his arms up and down making snowing movements. He repeats that phrase over and over and one wonders where he is going with it! Apparently, this is something he does every year and the family teases him about it. Anna and Dzintra quoted another poem together. Then, it was my turn. I couldn’t think of anything to say so I said, “Roses are red, Violets are blue. . .I’m so happy to be in Latvia with you!” Steve quoted a poem that I had never heard before. I guess I still learn something new about my husband once in a while! Another Latvian tradition was a game we played. There was a tub of water on a chair and the names of different countries were taped to the sides of the tub on the inside. We had to stir the water in the tub and float our little boats made up of walnut shells. When our boat stopped, that was where we were going to go in the next year. Mine landed on Venice and Steve’s landed in Japan. If we didn’t like our choice, we got to stir the water again. Another tradition we observed was melted leaded pigs and dropping the hot lead in cold water. We had to open the pigs with pliers first to find a hidden message inside of them, like a fortune cookie. After we dropped the hot lead in water, we had to analyze the shape of our newly formed lead. Mine just looked like a big blob! Steve’s was interesting and was in several pieces. Then we left and went to the Freedom Monument Square in the center of Riga where we heard the Prime Minister and President of Latvia speak before the fireworks. The fireworks were equivalent to our 4th of July fireworks show in the U.S. and they were shooting them right over our heads! I don’t think we’ve ever been that close to fireworks and it was neat. It wasn’t too loud for me because my processor is set up to cut off the sound at a certain decibel level. But, I enjoyed them nonetheless. There were people everywhere, partying and drinking and having a good time. Steve and I walked back to our hotel instead of being driven back and enjoyed our “midnight” walk. We always take a “midnight” walk on Christmas Eve, which is our own tradition. It was so nice to take our first “midnight” walk on New Year’s Eve halfway across the world (and we celebrated New Year’s Eve before the U.S. did!) May 2007 be filled with God’s richest blessings for you. Happy New Year from Riga, Latvia!

Happy New Year!

On Freedom Square in Riga, Latvia

More Pictures from Freedom Square


Gita & Juris Mednis

Ivars, Dzintra, Gita, Anna, Steve, Juris, & Laurie