Why We Pray For Others…


monk-prayerNapoleon Hill, widely regarded as one of America’s most successful (and most spiritual) business leaders, believed that a negative state of mind could undo the power of prayer.

He saw that it was important we always keep our minds in the right place when we pray, but also when we go about our daily routines. That a positive mindset was critical to our success and well-being, as well as the manifestation of our prayers and dreams.

Prayer is known in many forms all around the world, regardless of religion, culture, philosophy or spiritual belief. Even my atheist friends believe there is something to prayer and what it does for the human psyche, even if only as a form of collective consciousness.

As a student of world religions, the idea that a negative frame of mind can undo the power of prayer is definitely striking to me.

My belief in the power of prayer is strong, even though most people don’t think of me as religious. It’s saved my life too many times to doubt it. And I believe in a Creator behind that power. Even now, with everything John and I face, I still believe.

But why pray for others?

Depending on how tough things are, it can be hard to stay encouraged. And stay positive.

Frankly, many of my prayers in recent months have even been angry. If the outcome of my prayers had to rely entirely upon my personal attitude, I wouldn’t get far.

The prayers of others help lift us when we struggle on our own.

Herein lies the secret I think.

I especially understand this with everything my husband is going through today. Staying positive about a terminal illness is incredibly difficult. So if a negative outlook can undo the power of Prayer, then what are we to do when we become discouraged? How do we manage “mind over matter” when our brain has been damaged? What are we to do in the face of great adversity?

Why bother to pray if what’s supposed to give us comfort and connect us to the Divine will simply be erased should our emotions get the better of us?

This is where the prayers of others are so important. We’re not attached to the trials we don’t experience. When we pray for each other, our faith that our prayers matter is not darkened by our own trials and discouragement.

The act of prayer is an exchange of energy. Collective prayer adds to the energy given.

When we are down, when were discouraged, when we’re afraid, when our faith falters – the love, encouragement and prayers of others can help bridge the gap and keep our batteries going.

No man is an island.

Humanity has always been social by nature and has never thrived on solitude.

We’re always better when we share our burdens and come together.

A single candle lights and even rekindles many others.

Thanks everyone for keeping mine lit.

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Phone Slaves…


old corded phoneRemember growing up with the old corded phones? The ones that were perfectly shaped to wedge between your shoulder and your ear?

Yeah those were the days. I wasn’t allowed to monopolize our home phone as a kid. But we did have one of those really long cords that could stretch all the way across the kitchen. My mom wasn’t really one to talk on the phone too often either, but when she did have a long conversation, she always paced the floor.  Sometimes doing things around the kitchen while she talked, but always moving.

I inherited her tendency to walk, pace and do things while I’m on the phone. One thing about the corded phones: you could always count on there being a tether. You couldn’t walk too far away from the phone, even if you had a super long cord like ours. Which also meant, whenever my mom was on the phone, I could count on the fact that she would not be walking into my bedroom before she got off the phone first.😉

I kind of miss the days of those corded phones. (Besides the fact that the hand receivers wedged so nicely between your ear and shoulder.)  If you weren’t home, no one expected you to answer the phone. People were more likely to leave messages. And people were less demanding of your time.

Everything is so instant today. Google and Amazon can give you almost anything at your fingertips. As a result, often people think you should be at their fingertips too. Some have the audacity to think that the instant they message you or call you or show up on your doorstep, that it’s your duty to drop everything and give them your attention.

Time is my most precious commodity. It always has been. (Concentration is a close second.) But especially now. If I haven’t planned for you to interrupt my day, then the consequences can be devastating. I can’t afford to lose too much time, there are too many things that I must do. And frankly some of them really are a matter of life and death. But even before, I didn’t believe in being a slave to the phone. If I’m in the middle of something important to my life, then it’s best if I call back when it’s a better time for me.

Still, way back when, we had a tendency to answer the phone anytime it rang. Because you never knew if it might be important. Of course this was another reason I wasn’t allowed to monopolize the phone. You never know if somebody might be trying to call, and can’t get through because the phone is busy! And we didn’t have caller ID back then. Remember when call waiting was a cutting edge service?

Some people are so obligated to their phones and I really don’t understand it. Personally, I don’t believe in being a slave to my phone. Just because the phone rings doesn’t mean I have to answer it. Just like as if somebody knocks on my front door and I’m not expecting them and don’t recognize them out the window, I don’t have to answer it. If I’m using the restroom, I will not answer my phone. If I’m driving, I’m not answering my phone. If I’m eating dinner with my family, I’ll not answer my phone. If I’m at the doctor’s office, I’m not answering the phone. If I’m busy with something else that really needs my attention, I’m not answering my phone.

Just for work, in my line of business as an entrepreneur, I wear every hat in the business. If I’m talking on the phone, I’m not writing ads. If I’m writing ads, I’m not making graphics. If I’m making graphics, I’m not answering emails.

I can’t do everything all at once and still be professional and effective. And I have a finite amount of time.

So I have to establish a budget for my schedule, just to get everything done.

It may be a difference of philosophy, but my phone is not my god.

I don’t let it boss me around.

The telephone is a wonderful invention and tool of communication.

But that’s just it. It’s a great tool.

That means it works for me.

And not the other way around.

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Octopi Crochet…


octopus-bookDid you see the article about crochet octopi for preemies?

Seems the soft structures with curly arms are perfect for little hands to hang on to.

I checked in with some friends of mine who are respiratory therapists for the NICU, just to confirm whether this story was true here in the US or not.

They tell me that yes! They see that the little preemies do seem to relax more and their vitals seem to be more stable, with the exception of the preemies who are on ventilators. But they suspect it’s probably because the ventilator is already overwhelming to their sense of touch.

Anyway, so if you do charity crochet for preemies, check it out!

If you are new to crochet for preemies and need some guidance on materials to use, hospital policies, etc., check out my previous article on Crochet For Preemies.

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Worcestershire and vanilla do not taste alike…


Appearances aren’t everything…

I’m just sayin’, my cinnamon hot cocoa never stood a chance.

They may have similar bottles.

Their liquids might be the same color.

They’re kept in the same cabinet.

And in the dark they seem very much alike.

But they are by far NOT similar in taste.

Pays to be more awake when you are getting creative in the kitchen.

Or turn on the @*&#! light.

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November is coming to an end…


November is coming to an end this next week, as will NaBloPoMo.

NaBloPoMo has been a different animal for me this year.

I tried to write for two blogs at the same time for this year’s challenge, registering my Frell Cancer blog for the challenge along with Aberrant Crochet.

Frell Cancer made it daily for 2 weeks. And then I just couldn’t. So I decided to focus on Aberrant Crochet for the rest of the challenge alone. I haven’t lost the challenge in years. I don’t want to lose this year. And I want to get writing regularly again. I know I need it.

But with just Aberrant Crochet, it’s still been a challenge. And it’s not for lack of ideas of what to write, or a lack of wanting to write.

It’s simply been a lack of energy and bandwidth to bring those ideas to fruition. The difference between a good idea and great writing.

FC fell by the wayside in part because it’s so emotional to write about something cancer related every day. I have so much good information to write about and share, to help other glioblastoma families. I really want to do that. But it takes time to do it right and it also takes all the energy from your emotions every time you relive something.

With AC, I want to write about crochet and fun things. And experiment with various fiction and writing styles, like always.

But… I’m just so wrung out all the time. Life is so much different this year than last year or any other year.

I spend hours on the phone talking to insurance and billing departments, trying to get our bills sorted out. With weekly and bi-weekly medical visits, it’s a constant job by itself.

Don’t get me wrong, our insurance people have been great. Some are even working overtime to help us get things sorted out.

But there are always errors from one side or another. And it always takes a lot of time and energy.

And while I often seem like an extrovert to people, I’m really not. I’m an introvert with leadership skills. I derive my energy and reboot my batteries through quiet alone time. Which I get so very little of anymore.

It’s a constant influx of people. Constantly having to talk with and reason with people I normally wouldn’t have to. Constantly driving all the time. And at some of the doctors offices, the staff are not always friendly, which also wears me out. Natural diplomat that I am. I expend a lot of energy sorting out what’s going on, why are appointments running late, what’s the problem with insurance this time, why didn’t anyone tell us we needed abc before xyz…..

Doing all this for work is one thing. But the stress of handling your family’s personal health is so much more.  And the stress of brain cancer means more than just the fear of John dying and whatnot. It’s all the other stuff it brings into your life.  Including new rules we didn’t use to have to live with.

And then there’s all the management of daily life. Cooking, cleaning, taking over tasks that John cannot do. Groceries, budgeting, rides for the kids, what can I sell, don’t forget work.

With the holiday weekend, I’ve finally had a space where I can focus solely on working on the house. Which needs help.

Come Monday, I’ve a list of phone calls I must make before we deal with MRI, eval and “report card” week for John.

And one more item just got added to my list today. Local lab (new to us) told me our insurance company said we owed the cost for last week’s lab work. I know that there hasn’t been enough time for the lab work to have been filed with our insurance properly. But the technician wanted me to make a payment for something we don’t owe. We’ve already met our maximum for the year. So frustrating. And especially because I think she was reading the notes from her billing department wrong.

So come Monday I will have to call both my insurance company and their billing department, on top of the other calls I already have to settle, because Monday is the only day next week I can really make these calls. (Oh yeah, and work ahead so I can camp out at the hospital all week.) With the NO team wanting weekly blood work, we have to do it asap so they don’t refuse to do the tests. And it’s so close to the end of the year.

Why is the system always so difficult?

Anyway, once I’ve been through a day of all that, it’s like I’ve used up all my energy to write words. I still have my ideas, but the power behind my words is gone. Like running out of color ink on my printer. I can print a pie chart in black/white, but it’s not as useful or interesting.

I don’t like ranting for a post. But this is what’s eating my soul today. I’m trying to pull myself together, finish my coffee and then get busy reorganizing things in my pantry so I can function and figure out a good meal plan.

And, now my post is done for the day. I’ve been mostly writing at night, when I’m the most tired.

Maybe I’ll actually go to bed on time today.

Yeah that might help.

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Dogs Teach You Love – Cats Teach You Manners…


It’s no mistake that dogs are great teachers when it comes to unconditional love.

You can make mistakes and they still show love and affection.

They forgive. They forget.

Pull their tail, and they’ll forgive you.

Eat their dog food when your mom says you have to wait for dinner, and they’ll share.

Take their toy when they’re playing with it and they’ll include you in the game.

Not so with cats.

If you forget to dip the litter box, they’ll let you know how rude you are to leave their toilet so dirty.

If you don’t get up to feed them, they’ll make sure you’re aware of the fact that you are not attending to the dietary needs of your guests.

If their water dish is empty, they will get the water for themselves after destroying your kitchen.

If you go on a trip, they will not forgive you right away. They will turn their backs and let you know when you are being rightfully shunned.

Accuse them wrongfully, and they will hold it against you.

Crowd their space too much, or touch them in the wrong way, they’ll let you know – painfully.

Rude human behavior can always be repaid with a hairball or worse.

Cats won’t let you get away with bad manners.

One way or another – you’ll learn!

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Gratitude…


Thank you God for my friends and family.

Thank you for showing me amazing good in so many people.

Thank you for so many human angels who’ve reached out and helped us even when we didn’t know them.

Thank you for Revelations, Science, and Technology.

Thank you for men and women who work tirelessly every day to save one more life.

Thank you for friends who have been there for everything.

Thank you for the thoughtful ones. Who think of my needs before I know them.

Thank you for the compassionate ones, who never tire of listening. The ones who are always patient with my responses.

Thank you for the prayer warriors, who will drop everything and pray when someone hurts.

Thank you for the trench mates, who aren’t going through it, but are willing to jump into the mix with me.

Thank you for the doers, who just do things behind the scenes, without needing to announce it. They’ve helped me so much.

Thank you for the giving ones, who have kept our worries at bay.

Thank you for the strangers who open their hearts.

Thank you for the fellow warriors who are working hard to make a difference somehow. Anyhow.

I would be lost without these. I am lost anyway.

But somehow, little miracles exist.

And lamps have arrived when I needed them.

Please continue your presence in my life, to comfort me, guide me, and show me in a way that I cannot miss, and cannot doubt. But as gently as possible, please.

I don’t understand a lot about Life right now. I can’t see where I’m going beyond the next step. But thanks for providing some handrails and flowers along the way.

Life is a Blessing.

And I’m grateful.

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Pie Heals All…


aka I Deserve Pie. I Made It. It’s Mine.

I can’t say this has been the best of weeks. Both of the kids have been sick with fever in the last 10 days. And we’re trying to keep John safe from any infection. (My instructions are to take him to the emergency room if he gets a fever over 100.4°.)

I bought fabric disinfectant spray and we’ve been spraying down the living room every night this week. It’s the main room John spends time. And hopefully either this prevents him from catching anything from the kids, or he’s already immune to it.

I’ve been fighting it too. And it doesn’t help that I’m not sleeping as much as I should.  Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks that often help my gimpy immune system. Colostrum supplements is one. Tinctures is another. Zicam in all its forms is useful, but especially the nasal spray. Wellness Formulae, probiotics – I’ve been slamming it all, trying to make sure I do not come down sick.

What is it about this time of year? It’s almost a guarantee that you will fight some kind of infection if you interact with people at all. I can go all summer just fine, but the instant school starts, HERE – IN CENTRAL TEXAS WHERE WE BARELY HAVE WINTER, suddenly everyone’s getting sick. And the closer we get to Christmas, the bigger that snowball becomes. I smell a conspiracy.

Anyway, with relatives fighting colds and now John’s not feeling well, I frankly don’t know if we can get together with family as we planned tomorrow.

To make things worse, frustrations for everyone have been high. And I’m living flashbacks to March, when we found out that John didn’t have a sinus infection or a stroke – he had brain cancer. The pressure in the head, the headache, the aphasia and impatience.

sigh… Next week is MRI week, so it might as well all be torture right now. And to make things worse, because John didn’t feel well, and because it’s Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we forgot his blood work that was supposed to get done today.

The year is almost over. And I’m so far behind.

We’ve spent Thanksgiving alone before. I don’t like it. It’s not fun.

But either way, I decided to make pumpkin pie tonight. It’s my favorite.

Correction: MY pumpkin pie is my favorite. Or Grandma Leona’s. Or even Lone Star Bakery’s pumpkin pie. Most others I can’t stand. They don’t use enough spices and they use too much white sugar.

And so after a worrisome day, with a bit of let down in there too, here I am trying to write my NaBloPoMo post for the day.

Everyone’s upstairs and my house smells heavenly. And the peaceful quiet and aroma is nice.

I want pie. I’ve worked hard and done good deeds.

I was going to save it for tomorrow’s breakfast with coffee.

But perhaps just one piece tonight won’t matter.

I’ll sit here in the dim quiet, savor it slowly, and reflect on the day.

 

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Love Your Life To The Fullest…


This is a variation of a piece I first penned in 2009.
I find renewed meaning in it, and a good reminder for today.

Love your Life to the Fullest.

Love Your Life To The Fullest

For to truly Live,
you must Love.

For Love is in every Act
and in every Breath
and in every Thought
and Word.

Love is both Passive
and Active.
Love is in the state
of ‘Simply Be.’

Love is in
the Abundance
and Clarification
of your Cause
for this Lifetime.

You must both
Love Yourself
as well as
Love your Life.

Without condition.

For the Two are Eternally Twined.

Originally written 01-28-2009.
Copyright © 2009 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

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Penny-Wise Porterhouse Steak…


Chambers Fireless Stove - circa 1920

Image credit: Wiki Commons (public domain)

I really enjoy going through old patterns and old recipes. Every time I stop by a yard sale or such, I’m usually looking for old stuff people don’t value any more, like their grandmother’s recipe box, dusty old books, or pile of crochet magazines and doilies. Or handmade bedspreads that no one wants, because they acquired holes over the decades of memories and use.

To me, looking through these things is like walking back in time. I like to think about the people who held and used these things. What their stories might be. What life might have been like for them.

I probably got this trait from my Grandma Dot, who also hung onto little unsung treasures from generations of our own family. When family passed away, while it seemed other relatives were always interested in whatever furniture and such, my grandma was the one who couldn’t bear to toss out the letters, recipes and patterns. And I totally get that.

Last year my uncle passed on to me a couple of boxes of loose recipes that were in Grandma Dot’s possession. Inside is a mix of recipes that were hers, but also recipes from other members of the family. My great-grandmother, my Aunt Hazel, and so many others. We’re not entirely sure where they are all from. I recognize my grandmother’s handwriting, but no one else’s.

There were also several recipes saved from pamphlets, advertisements, product wrappers and books.

One such interesting piece was a simple typed up sheet of recipes from the local gas company’s “Home Service Department,” circa 1930-40s. Likely a little thank you to the “lady of the house.” It also contained a little promo for the Chambers Stove and the gas-powered Electrolux refrigerator.

Ten recipes were crammed onto the front/back page, but the one that stood out to me most was the “Penny-Wise Porterhouse Steak.” (You can read the whole recipe here.)

Reading over the recipe, which mixes 3 parts ground beef with 1 part ground pork + egg, grated onion, salt/pepper and cracker crumbs – it sounds very much like a meat loaf recipe! So I’m thinking, where’s the “steak” in all this.

Until I read this, after the instructions to combine everything: “Shape to resemble steak about 1½” thick.”

And then the instructions essentially have you broil said fake-steak (aka meatloaf) in the oven until it’s good and browned. “Serves 5.”

No wonder my dad’s idea of steak was shoe leather well-done.

It’s interesting though. Grandma Dot (and both my grandpas) survived The Great Depression. Both my grandfather’s served in WWII and Korea. Their generation understood tough times and shortages. And they figured out ways to get by.

“Penny-Wise” recipes were just part of that life.

But I guess the thing that really struck me was… today it’s just meatloaf. But back then, they played it up as “steak.” Giving the dish some dignity, even if in name only.

My gut instinct is a deep aversion to putting lipstick on a zombie. Call it my Gen-X rebellious sensibilities.

But today, with all our family is going through, I think I see that perhaps they weren’t just trying to make something worthless look appealing.  Maybe they were trying to preserve their memories and experiences during an incredibly painful and scary time.

A time when I know my grandparents weren’t sure what their future would look like. What the US would look like. Here they were, newly wed and all hell broke loose in the world. I can’t imagine.

So while everyone had to adjust, it makes sense to me, from that perspective, that it wasn’t just about making a simple food seem higher class than it was.

But about keeping their chin up, their spirits healthy and still gathering around the table as a family to be thankful.

Even if it was just for broiled, “steak” shaped meatloaf.

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Delegating…


Helping handFor 6.5 of 8.5 months, there was nothing but crisis and emergency in my life with John’s diagnosis of glioblastoma. Brain surgeries, stroke, seizures, radiation, chemo(s).

It’s not generally how it goes for most. Many John’s age find out when the tumor is smaller and surgery recovery is not as bad. Or they respond better to the initial treatments. Or they have the opposite and simply don’t make it.

It’s a crazy battle to be forced to embrace. Though truthfully, we didn’t pick the easy route.

With John finally responding to a treatment, we’ve finally had a bit of a chance to catch our breath. Mostly in the last month. But only in the medical sense. Only in that we see doctors every two weeks instead of every day now.  As long as he has no fever and as long as he has no seizures.

Fact is, I’m slipping under the pressure and I know it. I’ve been holding everyone and every thing together.

It’s not like people haven’t offered to help. They have, but they don’t know how or what to do. Few people ever jump in. And there’s been so much that no one could take on.

After finding myself running to the grocery store for the 5th time in a week.  Because I forgot something I really needed, like toilet paper or an essential ingredient in John’s cancer smoothies.  Even though I had a list. But there’s so much data running through my head and so little sleep and so many tasks that fall to me. That I can’t remember it all. I forget things. I don’t notice things until they’re screaming at me. I run out of energy. I crash. And I can’t afford to get sick. For so many more than just one reason.

I’ve decided I need to hire some help. If I can find it within the right budget. There are some shopping services in Austin. Like InstaCart and Shipt. I’m going to check them out and Amazon what I can. And I’m going to try to get some house cleaning help.

Friends aren’t always a good choice. Friends all work. They’re busy and have their own families and then there’s the problem when help turns more into reassuring visitors and when they leave, I’m no closer to going to bed earlier.

I am going to also start a Lotsa Helping Hands circle too I think. I’m exploring options. One way or another, I need to find ways to delegate and streamline my day. I’m not sleeping enough. Some things only I can handle. But other things, maybe someone else can help. Even if I have to hire it out.

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Friends From Adversity…


wedding-vowsWe attended the wedding of our adopted nephew today. A case of family you choose, as we don’t share blood or legal ties. His mother helped me so much through early motherhood. She kept my kids a lot more than I got to keep hers. But she’ll always be an “aunt” to my kids.

I remember the 5 of our kids (hers and mine) crowded around our Little Tikes table. I was babysitting her kids that day and fed them Mac n’ Cheese with onions. It was how my mom made the dish when I was a kid. But the boys nearly barfed. It didn’t even dawn on me that they might not like onion in their Mac n’ Cheese. I can’t help but giggle thinking about their faces.  But I haven’t made it that way ever since.

Their mom helped me so much back when it seemed I was going to miscarry my son, by keeping my daughter so I could see the OB twice a week. And then again babysitting after my car accident when my husband was gone, and I had to go to doctors and PT all the time. Between her and fellow moms from school, I somehow managed a year’s worth of medical care during my husband’s 18 month deployment.

It’s weird to think about it. Thanks to sucky medical stuff, our kids had the opportunity to cement a deep friendship. (Same as with my kid’s friends from school. Because of other mothers helping me, they got to be good friends with others.)

A car accident that left me completely numb on my left side, requiring over a year of physical therapy to get strength and use of my arm back.  And nearly losing my unborn son halfway through my pregnancy. 9 weeks not knowing if he’d live or die and somewhere around 20 weeks of weekly and biweekly appointments to get him here safely.

Two awful experiences I never want to repeat, but thanks to the kindness of other mothers, they set up a lifetime of friendship especially important to my kids.

It’s hard to believe her son and new daughter-in-law are 24, the same age I was when John and I got married. They’re in that same spot of launching into their life together. I remember it well. Life is crazy.

 

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Favorite Thanksgiving Dishes…


cornucopia-thanksgivingThanksgiving’s around the corner.  Earlier today, some of the alumni from my college group were asking about everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Once upon a time, my alma mater represented 86 countries. It was always fascinating to hear from so many different cultural traditions, both in holidays and in food.

John and I both love to cook. While we’ve always had the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, dressing and gravy, we’ve also developed some of our own traditions for a special holiday dinner.

Part of the tradition for us is to trot out our grandmothers’ recipes. John makes his grandmother’s brown sugar pecan pie recipe – still recorded on a paper plate. And while we don’t have the original cornbread dressing recipe that was hers, John got her to teach him how to make it once. So he’s pretty much got that down.

There’s also his grandmother’s sweet potato casserole. Which does NOT have marshmallows in it and is NOT sickly sweet like so many sweet potato dishes. It has coconut in it and it’s to die for. If he/we don’t make it, then his mom or sister do. John’s grandmother also had a sherried carrots side dish recipe that usually his sister will make.

For me, pumpkin pie was what my grandma Leona always made. She often added a dash of cloves, which I like to do too. But I prefer to use brown sugar in mine. And while I grew up with Cool Whip, the last 20 years or so I always make real whipped cream sweetened with a dab of honey.  To perfectly compliment our pies.

My grandmothers were also ones to make some type of seasonal candy. Grandma Dorothy made cinnamon candied pecans, while Grandma Leona usually made peanut brittle and sometimes coconut “Mounds” type chocolate covered candies. I want to pull those recipes out this year.

When it comes to the rest of the meal, we usually try to add variety. While my sister-in-law usually hosts, we all generally cook and bring stuff.

Some years I make cornbread, because we used to have it when I was a kid (and I love cornbread). In my version there’s less sugar. But recently, John’s mom designed a blue cornbread that is simply to die for. I love her recipe, and I think that will become one of our new traditions.

I also enjoy making decadent chocolate deserts, especially chocolate truffle pies. I used to make chocolate raspberry, chocolate mint and regular chocolate truffles pies. However, some of the flavorings I used to use aren’t available anymore. So when I make chocolate truffle pie, it’s usually straight up chocolate. I used to use Marie Callender’s chocolate pie crust for it. It was the best, but I haven’t seen it anywhere in years. So I switched to Oreo chocolate pie shells. But usually I can only find them at WalMart, only this time of year. They’re getting harder and harder to find anymore. Don’t know why.

And I often make a lime and cumin seasoned salad that is most definitely a Texas dish.

Some of my most favorite main courses at our Thanksgivings have been John’s handiwork. John’s smoked haunch of venison is amazing. And then there’s his creature feature we called deerdoveon. Think turducken, but it’s deer/dove/bacon. He’s king of the grill.

My sister-in-law is also an amazing kitchen magician. She’ll make savory vegetables, often she does the turkey (sometimes John smokes a turkey), cauli-taters and there’s never any telling what creative thing she’ll try next. Usually when it comes to sides, we all get a bit creative and try to think of something we’d like to try and bring for everyone to enjoy.

To me, Thanksgiving has always been about family coming together. We rarely watch football or do the other things that it seems so many families do. Instead, we come together for a bit to celebrate with our taste buds, and to commune. We go around the table and we talk about what we’re thankful for. Reminisce about the year. And in the end, usually we end the night with rounds of karaoke, from swing standards to rock and roll.

I’m looking forward to time together as a family. And lord knows, this year there’s so much to be thankful for.

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Letter to Bonnie…


the-deer-and-the-lightDear Bonnie,

I just learned of your passing earlier this week.

There’s a helplessness that we often feel when a loved one is dangerously sick.

Helpless to do anything about an unseen enemy.

Helpless to protect the people we love from the pain they are going through.

Helpless because we’re not the experts who can help.

But I’m not sure if it matches the helplessness we feel when we didn’t know someone we love is sick.

I know we didn’t live close by, but I wish I’d known that you were fighting leukemia.

I could have prayed for you. I could have sent you cards. I could have called if that made sense, or the kids and I could have sent you funny voicemails for you to hear on your own time. I could have sent you care packages. Crocheted you a prayer shawl filled with our love to hold you. In the colors that you love.

And now the helplessness is beyond repair, because you’re no longer here for me to even try.

You may have held back because of my husband’s fight against glioblastoma. You may have thought that I already had enough on my plate to worry about.

But if you did, you were wrong. I’m tired yes. But helping others helps me too. We’re stronger together, not alone. And who can’t pray?

The last show you and I did together, I remember that you were making sure that I got some food to eat. Once you even gave me the rest of your lunch, because you knew I hadn’t eaten. I was so busy trying to both work the show and help promote it.

I don’t know when I’ll be able to do our show again, but it won’t be the same without you.

Jess and I love you. We’ll reach out and stay in touch with your John.

All my love and prayers….

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When Things Are Not Always As They Reasonably Seem…


So here’s a bright spot of news from our household: we’re fostering a litter of kittens!

They were living under our shed and finally came out. The mother (a beautiful white and grey long-hair tabby) and father (red fluffy tabby) are both partially tame, like maybe they were owned once, but were abandoned. They aren’t skittish like most feral cats. And the kittens were much like them, not all too scared of us. They’d come within a couple feet and eat food from us, or watch us while grilling.

So we knew we had to rescue them. There are too many cats in the neighborhood and we don’t need them living under our shed. We knew they’d have a good chance at being tamed and having a great home. 10 weeks is borderline in age as to how easily kittens can be tamed, but we felt it would be worth the effort to save these kiddos. I’ve owned cats all my life and fostered my share of litters before, as has my husband. So we felt pretty comfortable with the attempt. And as one of our 16 year old babies recently died, the timing is probably right too. (Though we can’t take them all.) 

We caught the litter at about 10 weeks I think. They are just losing front milk teeth now, which puts them at about 12 weeks according to the charts.

They were quite scared at first, but we’ve been making a point of handling them all every day. But there’s 5 of them! And 4 of us, not always home.

Three of the kittens have finally been coaxed enough to purr when we hold them.

Tonight, I’m sitting with little Red. She’s the only red kitten in the bunch. A couple of the others have some red marks, but she’s the only total red one. And she’s the sweetest in personality thus far.

I’ve finally been able to get her to sit with me in front of my computer, without freaking out or needing to be wrapped in a towel. and she’s been here purring.

But the cute little thing has been looking up at me, purring away, then laying her ears down and hissing at me. Then she’d hide her face and keep purring.

At first I chalked it up to, well, it takes time and we knew that it would. And I worried that maybe the bonding wasn’t going as well as I thought. Maybe Red wasn’t as comfortable as I thought. Maybe she was about to slap my face or something.

But then when she did it a few more times, I realized that she was seeking out eye contact, and when she hissed, she wasn’t actually quite meeting my gaze. And sometimes she’d turn her head all the way around to look at me upside down, but she wouldn’t hiss until she looked at me straight on.

Then it dawned on me. My glasses! I’m working on my computer and my glasses have the reduced glare coating, kinda looks purplish.

So I took them off. And do you know – that changed everything? She gazed into my eyes and purred, without flattening her ears and without a hiss.

Hello Red...Sometimes the things we assume are completely reasonable. They make sense and it seems we have all the facts to guess just what’s going on.

And sometimes, we don’t have all the pieces, or the same perspective, to know that there’s another reasonable reality. A reality that’s just as logical, and even more accurate and real.

As this little kitten sleeps peacefully in my arms, I’m reminded that no matter how much I know, it’s but a slice. And there’s always room to observe and deepen our understanding of things, of our relationships and of our experience of Life.

 

 

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There Once Was An Asp On My TARDIS…


Here’s something fun.

Asp or puss caterpillarAn asp (or puss) caterpillar, aka the most poisonous caterpillar in North America, decided to show up on my TARDIS (furry white thing on the spider).

I called my pest control guy to come out to remove it safely. I was expecting a bunch of kids and family for John’s birthday party. Definitely didn’t want to have to take anyone to the emergency room!

The pest control guy had never heard of it and asked me how to remove it! Whatever. I started Googling for a removal scenario and could only find instructions on how to remove the spines from your skin, not safely remove the caterpillar itself.

Finally got the caterpillar safely removed by scraping it into a jar and my pest guy took it back to the office.

Unfortunately, we had to toss our spider, as it probably has spines in the fur from removing the caterpillar.

It was one of our oldest props, so we were a bit sad.😦

 

 

 

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For all the octopi in my life, you are the best. :)


True friends are like octopi...

 

True friends are like octopi…

 

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In my estimation, we’re evolving…


earth_sun_nasa_imageI don’t believe in organized politics anymore than I believe in organized religion.

It’s become our new way to slander and crucify our fellow-man. The excuse we give to act less than we are. Our justification for ignoring what we should be paying attention to.

I suppose it’s born out of my rebellion against anyone trying to force me to conform to a specific label.

I  refuse to join a group, vote a party line, or violate my conscience to keep someone out of office.

More times than not, reasonable people assume I think exactly as they do, and therefore against anyone they don’t like.

This is only because I am open-minded and more studied than most. I don’t gravitate to media talk shows and labels to judge a situation or person. And I find reasoned discussion, disagreement, and even debate, to be edifying and essential to society.

I believe that as we evolve as a human race, our problems and their answers likewise evolve. It is the way of spiritual maturity.

I cannot agree completely with any one ideology.

And I hope I never do.

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The insurance situation is frustrating for everyone…


family-insuranceThere are some things I’m thankful for now that I have experience to provide perspective.

Under current laws, my husband who was struck suddenly with a terminal brain cancer (there is no cure) cannot be denied health coverage.

I have a lot of anger over this issue, because most likely, the cause is related to his military service, but it hasn’t been proven and all responsibility is denied. And let’s face it, his area of service was not highly covered in the news. Deployment was not easy on our family. It was a destructive time for us emotionally and financially. And now, it’s happening again, only worse.

Statistics say if my husband survives another year, he will be an outlier. Extreme cancers like this are horrifying for both patients and families. There is so much you’ll never understand about something like this, without going through it. And I would never wish for you to know what any of it is like. It’s not something you wish on any human, if you are human.

And when it’s your brain under attack, it’s not like you would imagine. it’s not predictable and it is not kind about how it destroys bits and pieces of your personality and life.

Cancers like this are also orphan diseases. Less than 52,200 case of brain cancer are diagnosed per year in the US, and glioblastoma is only about 15% of those cases. Out of billions of people. I think you might have a better chance of being struck by lightning.  Unlike other diseases, there is no known cause for glioblastoma, other than a handful of connections made to certain types of radiation exposure and agent orange. Not even a genetic cause has been identified.

John has been the poster child of health, good diet and fitness for a man in his mid-40s for years. And yet he was struck with a voracious, fast killing primary brain cancer caused by a series of DNA errors. (It’s been proven to not be connected to diet. This feels very much like being struck by lightning.)

I have hated being forced to pay for things that are not useful to me.  I have resented high costs of insurance that would not cover things I wanted to do, like see a chiropractor instead of have surgery. See an acupuncturist, instead of rely on pain meds (most of which I’m allergic to anyway). Etc.I have not wanted to be forced to pay for something that in my estimation is not in my best interest.  Overall, I believe insurance should be more for catastrophic situations and less for managed care.

However, I do believe that insurance *should* cover things like what is happening to my husband. Because no one understands why some of these things happen. They can’t be foreseen. They can’t be predicted. They’re not even understood at any level. There are no known causes. It literally could be you next. It really, literally could be you. There is no telling where the dice lands next.

Insurance is supposed to help hedge the impact of extreme situations, because illness (and accidents) like this damages communities. It doesn’t just take down a person, or even a family. It takes down an entire sector of what used to be a healthy, productive circle of society.  Car accidents happen, and no one wonders if these should be covered. But being struck with an extreme disease that has no known cause or cure? And we question it?

Everyone who ever depended on John is suffering. He was not a small fish who had little impact on the world. He led and saved so many men and women. Both in duty and on his own time. As recently as New Year’s week, when we were on our 20th wedding anniversary trip, he saved a woman and her dog from an elevator during a snow storm and blackout. We didn’t know it then, but his brain tumor was forming by then. And John, as always, did the right thing. He has always protected and served and with a laid-back spirit and wry smile.

If insurance was allowed to deny him coverage because he’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness, not only does it mean his death, likely in 3 months or less, it means an incredibly torturous death. No one can reasonably agree that this would be a right thing to do.

So I must admit, these are perspectives I never had before. As we all argue over required insurance, coverage laws and costs. All the money we overpaid in our lifetime pales in comparison to the fight we’re in now. As to Obamacare policies, I have learned that many deny treatment at some point. Even Medicaid and Medicare denies treatment past a point to many GBM patients. We’re paying for Cobra so John can continue with treatment from a genuine brain cancer center, not just a generalist who knows very little about his cancer.

There are problems everywhere with no perfect solution. But I thank God for insurance coverage right now.

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Disagreement Is Not A Weakness…


disagreementWhen we project the challenges we feel with our families – onto the world around us – we skew our perception of reality.

We lose our grounding and unfairly accuse others of actions they have not taken and beliefs they do not have.

Two people can disagree and still both be “right.”

Recognizing this is one of the levels of spiritual maturity we must all master.

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