Tuesday, November 27, 2007


11.27.07: 2007 has been the year of seeing old relationships in a new way--with a new perspective. I think by far the most special thing to happen is the growth of my relationship with my little sister. I've always respected and loved her enormously. But this past year has taught me things about her and us that I will treasure and endears me even further to her.

When I was home--I had the opportunity to spend some time with my nieces Jessie and Alex (my older brothers daughters). The most interesting observation is how much these sisters are like my sister and I. In how we communicate, our strengths and weaknesses, our personalities, the roles we play with each other, the silly things we do and act. It was so neat to see that.

I'm so proud of both of my nieces. Jessie is engaged to an adorable man--that clearly loves and adores her and takes such special care of her and her family. And Jessie, you're so good to an old Aunt. You never cease to amaze me with how you always have the perfect come back and the perfect thing to say. I'm so happy for you and John. And Alex is so beautiful. She has really grown up since I last saw her. She's so kind, loving, silly and goofy like us. Hard workign too--holds down two jobs, is on the gymnastic team and goes to school full-time. I appreciate all the time you took out of your busy lives to spend time with me. I love you so dearly.

Here are a couple pictures--dedicated to "sisters"--from our trip home. (PS--the guy behind us is my little brother Donny--being the annoying little brother--we love him for it. The picture was taken by my Big Brother Danny.)

The leaf....

11.27.07: As a final note to the Journey Home--I failed to mention a very series of events, concerning a certain "silly little leaf". Those of you that know me--know this is typical Lisa style. Before leaving my Dad's grave that day--I carefully selected a leaf--I was attracted to it by the little hole in the top. I wanted a physical memory to bring home with me from there--I wasn't sure the next time I'd be able to visit. I threw it in the center console holder in the truck. Before we left--the stress was high--I was exhausted--Didn't want to leave--consequently Dan and I had a bit of a spat over how to load the back seat where "our girls" would ride. My niece got stuck trying to get up the drive to the house--so Dan, Chris and Shelly went down to pull her out. I decided to clean out the truck while I had a chance. I came upon that leaf--with a kurt toss I threw the leaf out the door saying to myself, "oh Lisa don't be silly...it's just a silly leaf". Dan returned--we said our tearful goodbye's and headed down the road. At our first stop to fuel (remember the first stop to fuel on the way out?), I looked down to pull out my notebook from the door pocket to record the mileage for our trip, AND there it was "THE LEAF"! I thought, "Surely this isn't the same leaf!" Infact, it was! Just beautiful. It's the little things in life--if you pay attention--will lead you down the right path. And if nothing else--fill your heart with joy, laughs and make you feel certain--that LOVE never dies--and it truly is a VERY powerful thing. This is a picture of "THE LEAF".

Journey Home

11.27.07: We labored over whether to go or not. We had been planning it for months--since my sisters last visit here in August for Dan's Birthday. But, finances are so tight, the studio is busiest this time of year, if it snowed Dan would miss out on much need overtime money, gas prices are sooo high (expected to hit $4/gal.)...the list goes on and on. I kept hearing my Dad say over and over in my head when I consulted him on whether to come home or not at various times when he was alive--he'd say, "You need to decide where your priorities are...that's all." So, in the end--family IS priority--it's how we were raised--it's how I feel--and all the other stuff will fall in place. So we thought lets just do it.

So at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday 11/17 we hit the road, drove straight through and arrived in southern Vermont on 11/18 around 11:30 a.m. At our first stop for fuel and a bit to eat--we consulted my sister on the best route from Albany to Bolton. After I hung up the phone--a wave of emotions rolled through me--as I realized--we could go route 100 which would take us up through the valley--where my Dad was born and raised and he is buried there. I could visit my Dad's grave for the first time since his funeral in 1999. Previous trips home, I had wanted to visit, but something always got in the way. Suddenly it was all clear, this is why we were meant to take this trip. Thanks Dad.

From that point on--the trip was rather easy--19 hours of driving is never easy--but the purpose and peace in knowing we were doing the right thing made me excited to be GOING Home. We looked for our house in Castleton--but couldn't find it (we lived there when I got the hives on my throat and my dad rushed me to the hospital in his police cruiser with the lights on and saved my life). Then, we crossed the bridge over Lake Bomesean--it was an adjacent lake (Lake St. Catherine) that I fell off my floaty and went to the bottom of the lake--my mom pulled me out and my Dad saved my life again by administering CPR. Amoung many other memories--these are the most memorable. I learned to tie my shoes in Castleton, got a green peanut butter cake for my birthday and got my arm caught in the wringer washer trying to be a "real mom". All stories I've told on this blog previously. It was interesting to drive through there. Next was a stop at the house I was raised in from 5-8. I still hold my dear friends Mary and Karen dear to my heart. This is a picture of me in front of the house on our trip last week.

Also pictured are the old shed my dad built over 40 years ago and the dog house he built for Gertie (our family dog).

Next stop was the "little falls" and the "big falls" at Granville Woods. My grandmother used to take us there black berry picking (she loved me--as I was the only one that came out with a full basket--my sisters and brother ate more than then put in the basket). She also would drive there to get fresh water (they had no modern plumbing in their house), and the best part was how beautiful and magnificant the falls were. The water ran clear as glass--and the sound was overpowering and soothing at the same time--as the water rushed down over the rocks to the pool below and trickled away down the brook that ran along the road through the woods. On a humid hot day--my mom and dad would load us in the car, put all the windows down and drive through Granville Woods--it was like air-conditioning (that we didn't have), as the road is completely covered by trees and the shade keeps the air very cool. Here are a couple pics in front of the small and large falls.

Next stop--Grammy and Grampy's House and a surprise visit with my great Aunt Jerry, she still lives in the little house across the street from Grammy and Grampy's, she's over 80 now, and still living on her own. It was so wonderful to visit her. Ironically--at that same stop--as we pulled over--there was a woman walking with a little girl along the side of the road, talking a afternoon walk--the woman was my Dad's high school best friend's sister, and her granddaughter "Iris"--who was adopted from China! Special indeed. This picture is taken in front of my Grammy and Grampy's house in Warren--we spent many 4th of July's sitting on this stone wall watching the parade with all my family. It was always a time we looked forward to.

Next stop--Dad's grave. In our rush to meet up with my sister--we drove right by the cemetery, we drove back. I couldn't find his grave marker--Dan found it--I didn't know what to say...or do. A flood of emotions rolled over me--I just miss him sooo much. That's all I could think. I had decided on the trip here--I would say, "Hey Dad, it's the Kid." He always called me "the kid". But I felt silly saying that--so I didn't. Dan and I said a prayer together. Then Dan headed back to the truck. It was time to go. But I just didn't feel right about leaving--so I looked to the sky (as pictured here) and said, "Hey Dad, it's the Kid." I looked away to Dan over by the truck--looked back up at the sky again--and as clear as day--there was a cloud, that had formed in the image of my dad as I had seen in pictures of him as a young boy. I yelled to Dan to bring the camera--sobbing with joy and elation--but the camera--just zoomed, in --and out--and in...it wouldn't focus--as the cloud was dispersing as quickly as it had formed. The photo below is of what I could capture of it. I looked at Dan, now standing beside me, and through my sobs said, "Did you see that too? Or am I losing my mind?", he shook his head in agreement, and I saw a tear roll from the corner of his eye down his face. My Dad was a very powerful spirit in life and in death. His spirit is so strong at times I can smell him--especially at my deepest times of need. And the neat thing is--many times--he surprises me with his support. He was a man of deep family convictions--he taught us the power of family, of love, of forgiveness, trust, respect, giving and compassion. He was the center of my world--upon his death--with his approval--my husband has become my center here. But he remains with us in all his power and glory. I do believe in God. I believe it is God that gives us such an amazing spirit--if we just have faith and believe. My dad too believed--that is rather obvious.

It is also a tribute to this Journey Home that a name for our little girl should be finalized (of course i always leave it open--as we might change our mind when we see her beautiful face and spirit). As we traveled to Vermont--and the highway dashed below our wheels in the dead of the night--I had time to think--it occured to me that the name I've always loved "Isabella" had the letters of my name in it "Lisa"--hmmm--and then it occured to me it also had some letters from all the names of Dan's family and mine. I was certain--this is her name. It's meaningful, it's beautiful, it's full of options for her (Ella, Izzy, ZiZi...) to fit her personality and what she likes to be called. I love it. So today I updated the blogs with her name. She feels closer and more real everyday.

I also got some good thinking/work done on our book. It was a wonderful trip. Thank you Dan for Taking Me Home. My heart really needed it. You're my life, my love, my rock.

I had the best Thanksgiving I've ever had! So many things came together for me this Thanksgiving--I was with MY family (so many holidays were spent with other families--that so generously took me in and shared their family with me so I wouldn't be alone--while my family enjoyed the holiday together--just me missing). It was my first Thanksgiving with my husband--I can't tell you the sense of peace I felt with that. Our gathering was held at my precious little sisters house--she is an amazing woman, I am so proud to be her Big Sister. We didn't have one family drama all day! We just plain had a very meaningful day--on top of the Shelly and Chris mountain, it seems only the birds were higher than us that day.

We returned home safely on Saturday morning at 7:30am--11/24/07. It was too early--I wish I had more time--I wish they all lived closer.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Lots of Little Signs and Blessings--

11.09.07: First of all, tonight we discussed names! Yup--we dared to do so. It was so fun. It Isabelle is in the running and Dan's eye glimmered and a sweet smile grew on his face, while tears filled my eyes when I suggested—Isabella Danielle (Danielle after Dan) and then I thought we could name her after both of us and call her "Isabelle Danlis. He thought that was pretty too.

Also--I have a VERY, VERY special friend, she knows who she is—she is also an adoptive mom of 2 boys. She shared with me the St. Theresa story and a prayer they said often through out their journey to adopting their two boys—and in the end—she gave a sign that indeed she was there for them and assured them of their path and destiny. I am so grateful for her and for the prayer she shared. It will always be very special to me and to our little girl. :) Saint Theresa is known as the Saint of the Little Ways. Meaning she believed in doing the little things in life well and with great love. She is also the patron Saint of flower growers and florists. She is represented by roses. I know you’re curious—so I’ll share it with you—the prayer goes like this:
St. Therese, The Little Flower, please pick me a Rose from the Heavenly Garden and send it to me with a Meassage of Love. Ask God to grant me the Favor I Thee implore and tell Him I will Love Him each day More and More.--Amen.--Thank-You my sweet, dear friend Pat.

AND we rec’d our infamous “brown envelope” from China today! It’s the last paperwork we need from the US Consulate Embassy in China for our little one to be ours. We can not accept a referral to our little one with our this precious package! I had actually not realized we would get it so soon. So it was a complete surprise...and beautiful sign. You don’t know the joy in my heart when I realized the very generic—direct mail looking piece of mail rolled up with tons of other junk mail was our BROWN ENVELOPE from CHINA!!! Wow!

So—with all that said—it’s all in the stars my friends. We just need to have faith and pay attention. The littlest things are the biggest blessings.

I'll close with another prayer from St. Theresa that was sent my way from my friend Bobbi tonight--a perfect end to a day of blessings.
St. Theresa's Prayer:

May today there be peace within. May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith. May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.

May you be content knowing you are a child of God. Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.--Amen

Monday, November 5, 2007

Our "Squishes Quilt" for our little girl!

Our amazing online JulyLID group of women has inspired me once more to get moving on a project I have wanted to do, thought about doing and haven’t figured out the parameters of yet. So...as they talk about their quilt project—mine (of course it has to be different—anyone that knows me, knows, I like to be different) I have formulated our quilt.

Actually quilting goes back in our family, as I made my first quilt when I was just 13 and “tyed” it on an antique quilting frame at my grammy cota’s house. I remember cutting the squares on rainy days at the pool when I was a lifeguard. The photo is of me with my finished quilt--at my Grammy's house. (...just FYI Green was my favorite color--and the color matches the walls in my room at the time). The super cool thing is—I inherited that antique quilting frame that was my Grammy Cota’s. It’s a family treasure.

Here’s how the tradition got started—the “Squishes Quilt” is a Chinese tradition, so it will have special meaning to her as well.

Chinese Squish Quilt Tradition--In parts of China there is a tradition in which family members and friends of expectant parents give them scraps of cloth or old clothing, and with this scarp of clothing a card with their good wishes. The fabric is then made into a quilt, which will wrap the child with the energy of good luck and wishes. The cards with good wishes are kept in a book, so the child has a map of sorts to each square—indicating who gave this wish. This is also a visual way to show the child how many people loved them even before meeting them!

I love tradition—especially when it’s especially meaningful to your family and friends. The idea of making such a lovely keepsake is a must do for our family!

The details of the ARNDT Family Squish Quilt--So here it goes..our little girls very special “Sqwishes Quilt” will be:
-- meaningful
-- soft
-- colorful
-- and it will be used! Not a show piece.

Be Creative--Many of my family members live in Vermont—the weather is very cold—and fleece is a favorite fabric choice for clothing. If you so choose—you could use an old fleece shirt, pullover, jacket to make the square. This would follow the tradition of scraps of special fabric in the traditional Chinese Wishes Quilts. The only requirement is it should be lightweight fleece. OR—you could opt to purchase a piece of new lightweight fleece fabric—I’ve been told sometimes the best way to purchase fleece is to purchase a small blanket or throw. It’s really up to you—whatever moves you—feels right for our little girl and her new family. Whatever you chose wil be perfect.

I would love you to participate in my quilt project by sending us a squish.

CREATING A SQUISH (A Fleece Fabric Square plus a Card Wish ):

For example “Squishes” click here

1. Choose any Lightweight FLEECE fabric that you like-any design or color. You may use a piece of old fleece fabric that is special to you, or a new fleece fabric that inspires you feel inspires good feelings, good luck and good wishes.

Note: If it is a new piece of fleece—please DO NOT WASH it.

2. Fabric Square--Cut one 12" x 12” square from the fabric.

3. Card Wish--On a 3"x5" or 4"x6" card attach a small piece of the fabric (so we can to match which fabric goes with which wish) and write your wish on the card.
Your wish can be your own original writing or a favorite poem, a prayer, a blessing, a quote, or anything else you like to say to our little one from your heart to hers. Please sign your wish and include, a photo of your family or yourself, your city, state and date of your wish on the card. The date is important—as this wait looks like it will be years—and those dates will show her the love that was here for her for YEARS before her arrival.

4. Mail the fabric square and wish card to us.
If you need our address—please email me at ljcotaa@mchsi.com

That’s it. We have had wonderful support from so many people during this process, and we thank you very much for all that support as well as for your participation in this project of creating a beautiful gift of meaningful wishes for the little girl.