Category Archives: Friends and Family

Voice Of Hope…


It was 20 years ago that I nearly lost my unborn son.

It was in the middle of the night.  Four and a half months into my second pregnancy, I woke up in a pool of blood.  And it became quickly obvious that I was miscarrying.  A call to my doctor confirmed my fears.  It was about 3am, so I was told I might as well rest a couple hours before coming in, and that I had a long day ahead of me.

Amidst the various bits of information over the phone, my husband and I were made aware that at this stage of pregnancy, there’s not much that can be done to save an unborn child.  That the main concern at this point was my own life and the rate of my bleeding.  I was told that I needed to go to the emergency room if my bleeding increased to filling a menstrual pad every two hours.  There was blood all over my bed, and I had no idea exactly how much I’d lost.  But an hour and a half later, my fresh pad was full.  I had no fear for my own life.  I didn’t feel weakened by the blood loss yet, but I knew I was going to lose my baby.  That I would experience what my own mother and grandmother had gone through before me.

I’m no stranger to trauma, so I did what came naturally to me.  I braced for the blow that I knew would come.  No fear about it really, just systematically getting ready to get through one more traumatic event that would shape my life as I knew it.

There was no doubt what was happening and there was no reason in my mind to see things any differently.  I was going to lose a baby.  Women have born this pain for ages.  I was not unique in this and there was no reason or time to whine.  It was just time to face it and get through.  I could fall apart later.

I had accepted that I was indeed losing a child.  And for many really good reasons.  My mother and grandmother and sister all had before me.  And I was readying myself for it.  But I had much more reason than most to so simply accept this fate.

Once upon a time, I couldn’t have children.  It was absolutely impossible.  I was baren. Until I had a full open surgery for endometriosis.  In fact, it wasn’t until after the surgery that I even found out.  Up until that point, I’d already had to embrace the understanding that women with endometriosis as bad as mine simply have a lot of trouble bringing pregnancies to term.  But I was only 23, with the scar tissue damage of someone more than twice my age.  It had begun to affect my other organs.  I was getting sicker and sicker and something had to be done.  Surgery was part of the answer.

However, it wasn’t until they went in that my surgeon discovered that my tubes were completely closed.  That meant something quite profound: it was impossible at that point for me to ever conceive.

And so he fixed me.

After the surgery, my surgeon told me that without having me open on the table, there was no way with just a scope they could have seen that my tubes were closed.

I would have tried my entire life to have kids, never knowing why I couldn’t.

That said, the surgery wasn’t 100% successful.  I still had problems with endometriosis.  But, I lived a much more normal life than before.

So as you can see, I wasn’t surprised to be losing a child.

And as I felt life flow from me, I lay there in the dark preparing myself for the emotional pain ahead, getting my head and heart ready – knowing that after so much already, I was strong enough to endure even this.

And then one of the most powerful things happened and broke me down. 

It still makes me bawl to remember it to this day.  In fact, my face is a soaking wet mess now as I type.

The experience was that powerful. 

Nothing fancy. It was simply this…
I heard a voice.  Clear as day.
And it said,
“Mommy, don’t give up on me.”

That’s all the voice said.

And it was then that I knew that my son was alive.

I don’t care what you think.  I really don’t.  Whether you believe my story, or think I’m lying or you think my mind created the experience because I couldn’t accept my reality or whatever.

Because I know better.  I know exactly where my head was.  And I didn’t even try to hope.

I spent that first day going through all the things they do in a situation like mine.  Doctors everywhere consoling me about what I was about to go through.

My bleeding slowed and days would pass.  My doctors would continue to check the heartbeat and have me come in to see them every day.  They would send me for ultrasounds to evaluate the new hole in my uterus that caused the whole situation.  Doctors continued to tell me that I needed to face the reality that I would lose my child.  That I was too calm and not processing the situation as I should.  This child was not destined to live. That I needed to get a grip and prepare myself for this impending loss.

But I wasn’t phased.  I knew.

It would be 9 weeks before we knew for certain that our son was going to make it. Nine weeks of doctors telling us that we should not hope too much because the odds were so far against us.  Until finally, they said one day, well… maybe he’ll be OK after all.

I continued to bleed throughout the rest of my pregnancy, though just a trickle.  And a month early gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

So there you are, little one.  Thank you for making mommy believe in you. 

For years it seemed we had an unexplainable connection.  Every time I woke up, he was soon awake.  Not crying, not upset or fussy, just awake and ready to be with mommy.  It was so prevalent that sometimes I’d wake up and lie there quietly and think to him, no-no-no honey please do not wake up.  Stay asleep.  But he usually woke up anyway.  Other times I’d wake up, and sneak a peek at him while he slept, only to find him awake and looking at me.  And I’d think to myself, You little stinker! Are you deliberately waking me up?  Or are you just being there for mommy?  It wasn’t every night, but this unexplainable connection continued well into his school years.

He is 20 now. And 19 months ago we found out he had a very rare form of kidney cancer unheard of in anyone under the age of 20, just 5 months after the death of his father.

I faced the mortality of losing my baby that night, more than 20 years ago. And an unexplainable voice gave me hope. Gave me faith.

I think about that miraculous experience from so long ago and wonder if I might hear it again.

Will a voice in the dark give me hope? Comfort my soul?

And then, my son comes home from his late-night college class.

And while I am working away on yet another project,

he hugs me and whispers,

“I love you, Mom.”


11-5-2019
Copyright © 2019 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

Motherhood

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Filed under Friends and Family, Grief, Inspiration, New Term Tuesday, Writing

Education From “The Funny Papers…”


When I was a kid, my grandfather had an expression he frequently used to refer to people with no sense in their heads. People who “get their education from the funny papers.”

I used to think it was such an odd expression. An odd phrase. I loved reading the “funny papers.” I think it even helped improve my reading skills.

“Blondie” was one of my favorites. Along with “Beetle Bailey” and others. I recently mentioned to my son when he made himself a giant sandwich that he’d created a nice looking Dagwood Sandwich. He froze and stared at me, then asked me what on earth was a Dagwood sandwich. It never occurred to me that he might not know.

I spent the day today working and then attended a local veteran’s festival event that supports vets and their families. Met some good people and organizations, which I’ll share about later.

However, it was emotional for me. I stood there, surrounded by soldiers and vets, in uniform and out. And I burst into tears. Ugh. I tried to keep it together, but really couldn’t quite. Still, it was a good event and I had some pleasant conversation by the time I left and everyone was taking down.

The afternoon of overwhelming emotion left me stripped though. And instead of getting right back to work, which I needed to do, I wanted nothing more than to run away, find a movie theater or binge watch Doctor Who or Good Omens on auto-replay. And I can’t.

So, I did the next best thing. My son and I sat down to eat dinner in front of cartoons tonight. And when my daughter came home from her classes, she joined in with us too.

We started with Phineas and Ferb and ended with Ducktales. Cartoons we used to watch together with John at one time or another.

And it was interesting how helpful it was. I mean, I almost never watch TV on my own. I watched TV with John. And since his death, I don’t watch much of it at all. (In fact, John bought “me” our first TV when we were dating. “Look honey, I have a surprise for you,” as I recall it went.) So it’s been weeks since I sat down to watch anything. And here it was just cartoons that I turned to for relief. Even the ridiculous commercials for kids between cartoon breaks were oddly comforting.

What really struck me though, especially as an entrepreneur, was the Ducktales episode. At the beginning of the episode, Louie approaches Scrooge for money to fund a new hair-brained business venture. And Scrooge tells him that if he wants to be in business, he needs to find a problem that needs solving and then provide a solution. That this was his key to success.

And I was struck by how awesome it was that this cartoon was teaching principles of business to kids. And how Scrooge, who had plenty of money to hand out (and was even at one point willing to give Louie a small loan, but not a huge one), offered advice instead. He encouraged Louie to be enterprising.

It was refreshing, as I try to grow my social media and writing business, now that I’m supporting my family all on my own. Refreshing to hear a solid business principle come out of a cartoon character’s mouth.

Huh, an education from today’s modern “funny papers.”

I wonder how many kids who watched this cartoon when it first aired way back when are now business owners today.

In the next scenes, Louie brainstorms with his siblings to find problems to solve and needs to fill.

He asks them – what does everyone need? And his sister pipes up and says “Crochet hand grenade holders!”

And with that, I just want to make one.

It sinched the deal because I was already thinking earlier this week that I need a Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch. And that the Maker in me very much wants to make one for prominent display inside my family TARDIS.

And she’s right. I’m going to need a holder for it.

Amazon Affiliate Link - Crochet Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch

(affiliate link)

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Filed under crochet, Crochet Ruminations, Friends and Family, NaBloPoMo, Random Thoughts, Writing

‘Tis A Silly Place


TARDIS - Halloween 2019 - Aberrant Crochet setup

“It’s like you’re a Doctor Who evangelist.”

That paused me.

I measured my gaze.

“What do you mean?” I asked, looking over.

“Every group of kids who come to the door! You’re like, ‘Do you like my TARDIS? Do you know what a TARDIS is? It’s from Doctor Who! You should look that up on YouTube.”

My daughter’s wry smirk looks just like her father’s.

I smile.

She’s not wrong.

Halloween is a geek’s and cosplayer’s dream holiday.

Only for me, I haven’t been costuming up that much the last few years.

This year, I grabbed my handknit Doctor Who scarf, a brown “Indiana Jones” hat and one of my wool coats and called it good.

But what I really look forward to each year is dressing up my yard.

Right square in front of our door is a lifesize TARDIS that’s my pride and joy.

You have to walk through the TARDIS to enter my home. Literally.

I bought it in a charity auction 4 years ago, the October before John was diagnosed with brain cancer.

October is our birthday month and I knew this TARDIS was perfectly my birthday gift. I also found a killer deal on a BlendTec the same month, so I was doubly happy.

Little did I know how important that BlendTec would be for John in the coming months.

The TARDIS matched our house under the overhang, beautifully. And the kids and I crafted a garden of hand mines that year to go with it.

It was glorious.

And only the knowing had any idea what they were looking at.

We were only lacking in Weeping Angels at the time. A fact I rectified last year. There are now at least 13 in my yard, hidden everywhere.

I’m sure some delivery people believe we must be very Catholic. Or simply very into angels.

What they don’t know just might steal their future though!

And then there’s our annual spider infestation.

I was so pleased when I first heard that the newly introduced season of the 13th Doctor had an episode with mutant spiders in it. Though in truth, I was disappointed with how they concluded the episode. I’m a fan of spiders and that ending was frankly illogically cruel.

But from a yard decor point of view, my spider invasion combined with the TARDIS and Weeping Angels makes my yard a pretty authentic fan fiction of its own.

Finally, after all these years they wrote an episode just for me.

We’ve lost 3 trees since John died, but we still managed to put up a good infestation of spiders this year. I couldn’t find all my crochet spider webs that I’ve made over the years. Not sure where they got put, but the giant one went up and giant momma spider, the 10-foot spider we have, was hung on the web with care.

And the effect paid off as always, demonstrated by the audible gasps when people rounded our 200-300-year-old live oaks to step onto our front walk.

You have to have big old trees to display a 10-foot spider in the air.

“There are some fun decorations in the neighborhood,” one kid told me. “But nothing compares to this! Your house is the coolest. I was here last year!”

You can believe that boosted my ego.

Though in truth, the TARDIS and angels stay up year-round.

I only take down the spiders outside. And mostly inside.

But the eclectic inside of our family TARDIS is a story for another time.

“This house has chocolate! Omg, we can have more than one piece??? You are the nicest!”

I love the smiles on the kids’ faces. Even the dubiously older ones.

Here, take another KitKat.

John always believed in handing out only the good stuff for Halloween.

None of that generic crap. The kids get plenty of that from everyone else.

Chocolate. Every year we give out chocolate.

I heard of a family that gave out king-size Snickers bars to kids one year.

I think that’s cool, but I’ve never gone that big. I stick with fistfuls of smaller bits.

I used to have a bucket of shiny pennies that every child under the age of 6 could stick their hand in and grab a handful to take home.

I liked the idea of fostering a healthy experience with a money blessing.

To give little kids that magical feeling of receiving generosity, without measure, only that they must reach out, seize it and receive it.

Besides, there’s something so pretty about shiny copper.

I need to get back to doing that again. Giving change to little kids is not very expensive at all. Especially when you consider the cost of candy.

Halloween is an odd holiday for sure.

And while it does occur during The Day Of The Dead celebrations that we have here in Texas (which culminate on November 2nd), I’m not really speaking to that part today. Though there’s certainly an influence and a magic in that part, which I do obviously appreciate.

It’s something else about Halloween. I share my perspective as someone raised without the holiday, who later came into the participation of it, thoughtfully, as a mother.

No one thinks about it being a holiday of generosity.

Its American celebration may have started out with the goal of curtailing mischief, but today, it’s evolved into an opportunity to exercise our imagination, to dress up and play as adults, to face our fears, and to bless strangers.

How interesting is that.

STRANGERS.

Of all things.

Without guilt.

Without shoulds.

Without major expectations.

Without commandment.

I mean it’s simple. It’s candy.

And fun.

And we tell each other how cool our costumes are and find out our favorite superheroes, movies, legends, and puns.

Don’t forget the puns.

No family fights over obligations.

No tantrums for not getting the latest iPhone.

And it’s OK to buy yourself something, just because you thought it would be fun.

Or thought it would make someone laugh.

Not because it was practical or necessary or expected.

It’s an interesting holiday, with something to teach.

If we let it.

Hope yours was great.

Giant spider - Halloween 2019 - Aberrant Crochet

 

 

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Filed under Friends and Family, Halloween, NaBloPoMo, Random Thoughts, Writing

Compliment…


My son asked me to please be there for a friend of his tonight.

Of course, I agreed.

Afterward, I thanked him for asking and trusting me to help his friends.

And he paid me the highest unexpected compliment I could ask for.

“You’re literally the wisest person on the planet I know Mom, how could I not?”

[tears]

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Filed under Friends and Family, Random Thoughts, Writing

Bearing Witness…


In the last couple of weeks, two more of John’s and my friends from college have passed away from cancer, both leaving behind orphans and grieving spouses. That’s something like 11 people now that John and I went to college with, who have passed away from cancer in the last 3 years. All in their 40’s. All from a theology college of less than 2000 students. A college that closed its doors 3 years after I left and no longer exists, except in memory.

Our alumni community as a whole is shocked and grieving, as two of our best fought hard and died. And as my worries since John’s death have multiplied and as our wedding anniversary approaches just before Christmas, I would be lying if I said I am not struggling to survive every day. John and I would have celebrated 23 years together on the 23rd before Christmas. We got married on Christmas weekend to make it easier on our friends around the country to be able to attend. I struggle with a lack of luster and motivation now that I never knew possible, even during John’s fight. A lack of motivation that only comes from loss caused by death. I think perhaps my lack is more significant than expected in part because of how long and hard the fight was. If he’d passed away suddenly, there wouldn’t have been time to hope. He wouldn’t have worked his butt off, hoping doctors would learn as much as possible from him, only to feel like it meant nothing. At least during the fight we had hope. But in the end, I could not save John’s life. And either neither could, or would, God. Now, there is no hope in the physical life. There’s only hope in death. When you’ve lived a life of service and it’s all you know, such terrible losses and traumas are extremely hard to justify, or recover from. If what I do here on this plane does not make a difference, then where is the motivation in this life.

Megan Divine is an expert in extreme grief and loss. You can find her website at https://www.refugeingrief.com. She created a helpful video titled, How Do You Help A Grieving Friend?, which I’ve shared below.

In my struggle to find words, I’ve voiced much of what this video points out. It’s all true. Witnessing is the most powerful thing in the enduring and bearing of grief. Opportunity to speak and experiences to be heard are invaluable.

When half of you dies and life speeds on and everyone else goes back to living, we feel trapped in a madness no one else sees. Because it *is* a madness no one else knows without having experienced it. And the only way out is to give it voice with witnesses.

My experience with the trauma of glioblastoma and John’s death has made me think about my philosophies on parenthood even deeper. When my kids fell and got hurt, I didn’t interpret their pain for them (that must really hurt) nor did I deny it’s existence (aw, you’re not hurt) either. I held them as they cried, let them tell me about it while taking care of anything I knew needed attention and then figured out how to guide them in their emotions based on how they were processing them. I realized that there were times that my children felt trapped, waiting for someone to notice that something was wrong. For someone to stop them and give them the chance to speak. Part of my job was being a detective too and not just expecting that my kids knew they could talk to me, but proving it. They needed to process and they needed to feel safe with me to do it in a healthy and useful way. They needed a chance to evolve carefully emotionally. I didn’t need to tell them how they felt, they needed to voice it out and share with me and sort it verbally. I wanted my kids to know their own voice, so they could find it when they need it most. And I wanted them to know I would listen, in everything, little or big. As a result, my relationship with my kids is stronger, when they and I need it most. I listened to everything, so they’d never doubt if I could be trusted when the big things came up.

Grief is much the same way, just a large-scale experiment. It’s a two-way street, but when the grieved feel their hands being truly held, vs. slapped, denied or even a vacuum of no hand to find at all (silence is the worst), it makes a difference. Witnessing helps most of all. Tell me your story, the real one, not the pretend one. Hasn’t genuine friendship always been about that? Don’t real people, good people do that for each other?

Some really traumatic and horrible things happened that no one wants to acknowledge, not even I want it to be real. And yet if they’re never acknowledged, healing will never truly take place. It helps me when my friends will bring up and speak John’s name, when they acknowledge his fight and that it was hard, not easy, when they ask questions and are willing to hear the truth. It helps when friends let me be genuine and don’t expect me to put on a “good face.” It helps when my friends don’t seem to disappear into a black hole too, when they don’t avoid me so as to not experience my agony. It helps to know my friends are not afraid of me.

Thank you to those who will take the opportunity to learn with me and who will bear to witness.

As many of us come together as a community to support a variety of trials and losses and hard experiences, some very recent and painful in the loss of our alumni friends, and all the cancer fights in our circles, this is the introspection I have today.


This video is hosted on YouTube and is copyright Megan Devine and Refuge in Grief. It is shared here with permission. You can learn more about Megan and her work at https://www.refugeingrief.com.

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Filed under Friends and Family, Glioblastoma, Grief

HBD…


Today is tough.

Today’s my birthday and John’s birthday is in 6 days. The weekend between our birthdays was always our standing annual date weekend. We’ve almost never thrown birthday parties for ourselves. Instead we focused on our own personal celebration. And my motto has always been to set aside October as our birthday month to do something memorable each year. It’s so easy for the monotony of work, duty and stress to just blend all your memories together into one mushy pile. But for our birthday month, I would try to do something memorable – something unique just to feed the soul – and set things apart. A deposit into that bank account of fun, positive experiences in life.

For John and I, regardless of how busy or crazy the year was, we had this standing date with each other that we looked forward to. Our October weekend birthday date. Our fun date. We tried never to break it. Of course we always tried to do something nice for our anniversary on December 23rd, but our birthday date weekend was something fun and a creation all ours I guess.

Our date this year would have fallen tonight. And then this week would have been our special week. We would have tried to at least make dinner creative most nights this week. Both John and I love to cook. Sometimes for our date, he’d make some amazing creative dish. His venison round steak with spicy Magic Bourbon Sauce was out of this world and probably my favorite of his creations. John’s skill with food often left us disappointed if we went out, so eating in was not uncommon.

His absence is punctuated right now. And it really hurts.

So I’m hanging with my two favorite people in the world.

Our kids. And soaking it in.

Love you honey. Wish you were here.

#CureGlioblastoma

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Filed under Friends and Family, Glioblastoma, Random Thoughts

El Dorado…


It’s been a difficult few days.

Actually, a difficult few weeks and months.

Actually… 18 months of crisis fighting tooth and nail to be exact.
Difficult challenges around every corner.

Culminating up to a pinnacle, a colossus.

I suppose befitting the force of nature that I fiercely love. Who showers me and our children with his fierce love in return. Our love that was not simply stumbled upon in luck, but worked, created, earned and crafted between us over 22 years. #SeizeTheRide

John’s chariot came. He was stolen away this weekend, far too soon.

Neither he nor I did anything to deserve the pain and trials received through this journey, but we strove to create something better through them anyway. We chose to transmute and live consciously and as gracefully as possible. And do every damned thing we could to help others, every chance possible.

I’d like to think our lives were richer and more meaningful for it.

The love and support of others helped in every way.

To everyone who has followed and simply made a point of reaching out and holding our hands in this most terrible of storms – our utmost gratitude.

– ♡♡ –

#RaiseAwareness  #Glioblastoma #CureGBM #PrayersContinued

Here’s what I wrote for John’s FB page.  I don’t think I can write it again: https://www.facebook.com/303426583411423/photos/a.303554250065323.1073741831.303426583411423/368767613543986/?type=3&theater

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Filed under Friends and Family, Glioblastoma

Glioblastoma Updates…


May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month

Go Grey In May - graphic by Aberrant Crochet

I just want to say that I am truly grateful for everyone who checks in on John and I.

Things have not been so great lately. And I’ve been really struggling this week. Some of you drop in virtually and I appreciate the nudges. They help steady me when I feel so dizzy sometimes. And because it’s been so chaotic and emotional, I haven’t been able to wrap my head around writing very much.

John’s glioblastoma has been on the move. The first signs appeared with the New Year. And his GBM never fully disappeared in the first place. He went through a flurry of uncontrollable seizure activity and blood pressure issues in February and March. I actually think it was the uncontrollable blood pressure that was causing the seizure events. Then his liver enzymes started getting too high in February, so they were discussing pulling him from the Lomustine (CCNU) because they wanted to give his liver a break. However, MRIs in early March confirmed that the GBM had become resistant to the Lomustine. So that cinched it. It’s no longer a viable treatment.

John’s NO team decided that the best course would be to do 4 more weeks of radiation to the brain, and continue with Avastin, so that his liver could take a break and then regroup after for a new chemo. Avastin has been shown to offer protection to healthy brain tissue (but not cancer) during radiation. You can’t fight active GBM successfully without a multi-pronged attack. So it definitely seemed like the wisest route. That way his liver could recover and we could see how another chemo would do after that. It was worrisome though. Radiation combined with Temodar did not hold back John’s GBM last time. Wasn’t sure Avastin combined with radiation would this time either.

Unlike last time though, John had nausea and vomiting during this recent round of radiation treatment. He lost his strength and even started to lose feeling in his right hand, arm and foot. And he experienced more uncontrollable blood pressure and seizure events. So while he was receiving the radiation, they also changed up his blood pressure and anti-seizure medicine. And they added meds for the nausea. It took about a month, but it seemed like the new blood pressure and anti-seizure meds were a great improvement and his tremor and other seizures stabilized.

As predicted, John’s liver enzymes started to decline. While the radiation symptoms were pretty awful, it seemed like his liver was recovering as hoped. In talking to other wives of GBM patients who receive a 2nd round of radation, I learned that for most of their husbands, if they lost use of one of their hands, it came back generally within 3 months. John finished the radiation about a month ago. There has been some improvement in the feeling in his hand. It’s not back yet, but we hope this is a good sign.

A week after he completed radiation, John’s liver enzymes shot up, nearly quadrupled, for no explainable reason. He hadn’t had a dose of chemo in 2 months, and the enzymes had been coming down. But suddenly overnight the enzymes skyrocketed. They ran every test they could think of and he was negative for everything. It didn’t make any sense.

So next came CT and MRI. They found what appear to be 2 small tumors, at 1 and .7 cm in size, on his liver. And because of that, he’s been pulled off of all brain cancer treatment, waiting for a biopsy to be done and for those results to come in. Of course, everyone’s worried that the spots are cancer. There was a mention in the MRI notes that there were some unusual blood vessel formations. I hold out hope that maybe these 2 spots are more weird knots of blood vessels. And that they figure out what’s distressing his liver. Nothing about the liver distress makes sense.

The biopsy is this week. And it will take 3-5 business days to get those results back. Meaning John will not even receive Avastin before the end of next week. Avastin is not like typical chemo, as it’s an anti-angiogenic. It helps starve the GBM, reduces brain swelling better than steroids and overall improves quality of life. But he will have gone a month without any protection from GBM by then. And the swelling caused by the radiation is no small thing either.

GBM can double in size every 2-4 weeks. And John’s last ABTI/MRI showed multiple seeding areas of his left brain, possibly trying to move to his right brain.

Regardless of whether he has liver cancer too, which is so super incredibly rare in GBM cases!! the glioblastoma is faster. But there are 1% of GBM cases where it becomes gliosarcoma. Needless to say, it’s worse than regular glioblastoma.

It’s just all so crazy.

And I’m struggling. I want to be positive. But it’s scary and it hurts. Deeply through my soul, piercing lifetimes of my heart.

John had 68 different appointments with oncology teams between February – April  alone, 52 of which (plus an ER visit) in Feb/Mar. Every bit in effort to save his life, and unlock the key to GBM. It’s what it takes with this cancer. If you want to live, you don’t relax. You don’t pick the easiest path. You get your ass on the road and you go. You ask every question and figure out how to meet your doctors half-way. Because they can’t do everything. You gotta be interactive or it won’t work.

And there’s so much more than just that to do. I can’t seem to keep up. Our kids help, I barely sleep and it’s still not enough hours it seems.

And all I want to do is be with my love. Not chase papers and run errands. Capture every moment. Go out to lunch and see a movie.

But crowds and sounds cause him pain right now. He’s so tired and his headaches are getting worse. He can’t help me right now.

Dear God, I love him so much.

It’s been 14 months and I still cannot believe that this is happening to us. Or that it’s been more than 3-4 months.

There are some bright spots of hope though.

John’s recovering from the stroke. It’s taken time, but the quality of his communication (with the apraxia and aphasia) is improving. Except when he’s at his most tired. Which is a lot lately. But still, the quality of his conversation is markedly different today than it was 6 months ago.

Also, our family attended the bi-annual Together in Hope Brain Tumor Conference that MD Anderson puts on for patients and their families. It was an amazing gathering of information and people within the brain tumor community. And we met other families and survivors there. The trip was difficult for John, he really didn’t feel well. But it was so good for our family.

And, John’s NO team is trying to get Optune for him. I don’t know if insurance will cover it or not. Or if he’ll receive it fast enough. But hopefully we’ll know something about that by end of next week. Optune is promising, but I have no idea if the biopsy this week could change even that. But we met a 4.5 year survivor a the conference, who’s on Optune.

So there are things to hold onto in this upside down twist of events.

I hope and I pray that somehow, this crazy set of circumstances is a divine plan to get John the treatment he needs. And that the Optune works and allows him to live a normal life. Allows him to recover. The brain is amazing. Given enough time and proper therapy and exercise, it can recover nearly every skill it’s lost. If we can get ahead of the GBM.

I finally put together a Facebook page for John and our fight against glioblastoma. It helps to tell our story a bit better in bites than I can on my blog here. If you would like to follow along, you can find that page here.

Thanks for listening. Lots of hugs. And stay safe out there y’all.

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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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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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It’s always someone else. Until it’s not.


The surgeon from the ER is straight and practical about telling us what we face.

John wasn’t having a stroke.

I learn new words. Glioblastoma multiform, grade 4.

His brain cancer surgery is scheduled for this Friday morning.

It hurts so bad right now.

I tried to sleep some. But can’t sleep long.

I’ve had about 5.5 hours of sleep in 3 days.

One of our retired law-enforcement friends says it’s the adrenaline. And that it will run out.

And I know this.

I’m not trying to stay awake.  I’m just stuck there.

I’m still in shock.

I still want to wake up.

Now. Please.

John’s my rock.  And he’s in grave danger.

With everything I believe about energy and faith. I don’t know how to be right now.

I have to balance between being positive and being ready.

And there’s no peace in any of it.

There’s so much work to do.  So many legal and financial things.

Things I have no idea how to begin.

Why do we do this? Why do we make the system so painful?

It’s been almost 10 years since John came home from his last overseas deployment.

It was just in time, because I was falling apart.

I was afraid to be alone, because of my emotional state.

The gaping hole that simply his absence created in me.

I was not afraid for his life. He’s the most capable man I know.

It was the whole feeling of him being disconnected from me.

Not being able to pick up the phone.  Not knowing where he was.

Always waiting for a call in the middle of the night.  Maybe.

And I carried a gaping, oozing wound with me everywhere.

No matter how ok I was, I wasn’t. Because my life was constantly seeping from me.

My other half was gone, and the hole in my side would not close.

People were sometimes bewildered as to why I was so deeply affected in that way.

So was I.  It was so horrible. Long deployments are not kind.

And until that time, I had no idea how tied together John and I are.

Tough, down to earth people. We’ve faced so much hardship together.

Things most people never face. And never will.

All my greatest fears of losing this wonderful family of mine were faced back then.

I thought.

And then John went through it with me 2.5 years ago when I developed a blood clot from my ankle surgery.

And he fell apart having to face his fear of me dying.  Because his adopted sister died of a blood clot.

And now, I wonder if it was all to help prepare me/us instead. Like did God plan this all along.

And I don’t want that to take hold in me, because I don’t want to somehow manifest something I don’t wish.

I have poured out my soul in this.

I put a general announcement out to the worlds we’ve been a part of.  College, the Texas Guard, my spiritual groups, my crochet friends.

John’s name has been added to many prayer lists at churches around the world, thanks to connections we’ve gathered over time.

And I hope for many more.

Hundreds of people are praying and sending Reiki and doing energy work on him right now.  On us.

I know I’m alive because of prayer and positive will from communities and friends.

I know I’ve experienced many miracles.

But the only thing so dark as this that I’ve ever experienced before was nearly losing my son in the womb.

Those 8-9 weeks we didn’t know if our son would live or die.

The night I hemorrhaged, and prepared myself to lose my baby, I suddenly heard a voice that guided me then.

“Mommy, don’t give up on me.” 

It was clear as day, out of nowhere.

One of the most profoundly spiritual things I’ve ever experienced.

From that point on, no matter how much doctors told me that I wasn’t facing reality and needed to prepare….

I knew my unborn son was alive.

It carried me through the face of so much medical disbelief.

I so desperately want to hear a voice right now.

 

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The Cutest Things I Saw Tonight…


Tonight was homecoming for our little geeky school of overachievers.  This year the homecoming game was dodge ball.  My son played and their team was 2nd in the finals.

Before the tournament officially began though, they announced the homecoming “court” for every grade in highschool.  Basically a king and queen for each high school grade.  Which of course is interesting for a small K-12 school that maxes out at around 375 kids.

Well, dear son was voted homecoming king for his junior class.  And it was obvious that he was surprised! But that wasn’t the cutest thing.

The cutest thing was the grin on his face as he stood between pretty girls while they took photos of the whole “court” of homecoming winners for each grade in high school.

After all the years of early school strife for him as a dysgraphic kid who couldn’t really see well, and who struggled in sports, because no one realized he couldn’t really see well…. Yeah.  It did this momma’s heart good!

After the tournament, dear hubby and I took off to enjoy some snacks and drinks at a new favorite restaurant in Round Rock called Verde.  Our kids are spending the night with friends, which left us some time together for a quick date.  I’ll have to tell you more about it another time, but rest assured – Verde is tasty!

After our drinks and lite “meal” we headed over to Barnes ‘N Noble.  We’ve had a tradition for years that when we do go out, we often like to head to a book store after dinner.  It’s a great top off to a pleasant evening for us.  In fact, most of our early dates (geeze we’re at 20 years ago) were to used bookstores.  But then, we realized it was getting kind of expensive to keep up with – because we are both book geeks and neither of us can say no to each others’ book purchases!

Anyway, so though we don’t go all the time these days, when we do get to go out, we often still enjoy stopping by the book store.  I usually grab a coffee and peruse what’s new.

Tonight, I stopped by the information desk to check out the 3-D printer they had sitting there.  Last weekend was the (inter?)national Barnes ‘N Noble Mini Maker Faire, but we missed it thanks to our weather.

While I was looking over the 3D printer, though, I suddenly became aware of a request from little curly-headed boy approaching the information desk.

“Hey there! What can I do for you?” said a tattooed information specialist as he greeted the approaching boy.

“Um, yeah…” the boy (about 10?) responded.  “Where can I find a book about how to get a date?”

I watched the cool, confident, tattooed guy go from confident to quite unsure in an instant.

“Um, what do you mean?” the specialist asked?

“Well,” the boy went on. “I’m pretty popular in school and everyone knows me. So how do I get a date?”

I about lost it right there.  I gotta hand it to the information specialist, because while he was obviously stumped about how to respond to this request for information, he remained professional and even carefully respectful as he responded to the request.  “Well, I honestly don’t know what I could find for you that would be in your age group…” he started.  I chuckled and moved on, before I could get caught rolling on the floor busting a gut.  That was darling!  What a hoot!

Toddler Christmas Elf Hat - By Aberrant Crochet - Photo by Caroline Gukian and model child Smith

Photo taken by my friend Caroline Gukian and willing test model is daughter of my friend Laura Smith.

The third cute thing tonight was getting to try my Christmas Elf Hat design out on a real live little kid.  Because, you know – I don’t have little ones at home anymore, nor do I generally have easy access to anyone else’s.  I’ve been aiming for a size 18 months to 2 year old toddler range.  But the sizing seems to be coming out more preschool age.

Still, I’m pleased with how the shaping is working out and the ability to pose the hat.  It sure looks cute on her.  Don’t ya think?

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Today You Get Kittehs: The Todd Chronicles…


Repairs were being done on the house awhile back.  We were having some flooring replaced.  And a section ended up needing repair, some bracing for some studs, and everything that goes with that.  All this was taking place upstairs right next to my office.

I currently use a dining table as a desk in my office.  No kidding!  Gives me a plenty big surface to work on.

What can I say?  After all those years with just my kitchen dining table as my only available work-space, I don’t know how to condense to a tiny desk surface anymore.  I like to spread my work out.

Meet Todd the Wonder Cat - Aberrant Crochet's baby

Meet Todd the Wonder Cat

So with my table/desk butted up to the window, there’s a nice pocket my furry baby enjoys.  Along with the chin rest.

This is Todd, and out of the 5 cats I have (3 of whom are geriatric), Todd is my baby.  He’s a Bengal mix and he has quite the personality. But then again, don’t all cats?

I guess when I think about it, we’ve had Todd about 6 years. Some renters moved out down the road from us at the old place, and left him behind.  For awhile he visited John while he worked out outside.  Or visit the kids and I outside, teetering across window ledges and whatever tiny strip he thought he could balance walk, while playfully pawing for attention.

In a way, I think he was interviewing us.

Then one cold night after Halloween, he just up and walked into our house.  Without batting an eye at our other cats.  Who, by the way, FREAKED out that some strange cat had just barged right on into their home all calm and cool like.

He found a spot, fell asleep and claimed us all.

And that’s where his stories begin.

As you know, Halloween is quite popular at our house.

And spiders are kind of a thing for me.

And while he doesn’t enjoy the guests, Todd loves the new gear each year.

Truthfully, these are all over our house. I have to explain to every new visitor that it's not a real infestation.

Todd’s favorite.

Truthfully, these Halloween spiders are all over our house.

And one day, someone installing a new oven is probably going to have a heart attack when a bunch of these tumble out in the removal process.

I have to explain to every new visitor that it’s just a prop, not a real infestation.

When people are coming over, I generally try to take a quick scour of the house and toss the plastic critters into corners under the pianos, so they won’t be in the middle of the floor, staring people down.  But that’s really all I bother with.

I suppose I should care more, but… I don’t usually.  And I still haven’t taken down the magnetic ones (that I made last year) off all my doors.  In fact, my yard is still full of crochet spider webs and spiders.  We have not taken them down.  And there is still a TARDIS in front of my front door too.  So truly, the inside and the outside are reflections of one another.  Signs of spiders and The Doctor are everywhere.

Eh, most people know us by now.  My neighbors leave their Christmas lights up.  I leave my spiders up.  It evens out.

And then there’s Todd, usually dragging one of the little plastic buggers out of the corner for someone to see.  My perfect pranking companion.

Floor Repairs

I don’t know if it’s because of his beautiful lines, or what, but Todd has the most expressive face.

So on this particular morning, while I was drinking coffee and debating on webmastering solutions, he was enjoying his drowsy perch.

Todd2-05132015

Working hard with mom.

Over all, as long as he can have his spot somewhere, he doesn’t care about visitors showing up at our house. People can go about doing whatever, as long as he gets his mommy time at some point in the day.

But then the Skil saw came out.

Wha...?

Wha…?

I don't understand....

I don’t understand….

OK, I'm not dreaming.

That’s not nice, I was napping.

This is your fault.

This is your fault.

I gotta hand it to Todd, he didn’t panic. But he wasn’t too happy!

Still, what can I say? It was worth all the work and noise and I love the new floor.  No more carpet in the hall!  Easy to mop and clean, bare floor.  It’s been wonderful.

And guess who can’t get away with peeing on it now?

Gotcha kiddo!

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A Mother’s Surreal Moment #5847…


“Oh!  Mom! Mom!” my sophomore son says to me.

“I forgot to tell you! Today in PE, Coach was frustrated with the little kids, so we got to rip the squeakers out of their rubber chickens.”

I blink at him.  My kids attend a K-12 school and often help out with the lower grades.

But the phrase “rip the squeakers out” presents a picture of some rather strange carnage.  Maybe even some mayhem.

“PE? Rubber chickens? Why do the little kids have rubber chickens in PE class?”

“I don’t know, to wave around or something,” he says to me, clapping his hands and grinning mischievously from ear to ear.

“And look!  I got to keep some!”

He whips something from his pocket and holds up a fist full of white tubes.

“And guess what?!”

He declares more than asks.

“I figured out that they all make different notes. So I labeled them and…”

And while I’m still blinking at him, he holds the tubes together in his hand like some sort of modified pan flute and…

…begins to play Smoke On The Water.

With squeakers stripped from the necks of rubber chickens.

That, my friends, is metamorphosis.

And my musically talented son.

#ThisIsMySurrealLife

#AndILoveEveryMomentOfIt

Rubber chicken squeaker pan flute - graphic by Aberrant Crochet

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To Hold…


The birth of a child does funny things to a parent.

The instant they are part of your life, you can’t image life without them.

It’s like it always was

and was always going

to be.

Those first years are the time you get to know your child in a special way.

One that they will never remember and will never see the way you do.

As they grow up, gain confidence, mature, and remember this or that about their lives, those are the years and triumphs you will always secretly know better than anyone.

You will always hold their beginning.

– Julia M. Chambers
04/26/2015

Mothering, from the beginning.

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Hold Coffee Dear To Your Heart And It Will Prop You Up


Aberrant Crochet Coffee - Sunshine In A Cup

Once upon a time, I used to do the right and proper thing by coffee.

Putting it in a travel mug when I needed to drive the kids to school.

But not anymore.

Coffee has tamed me enough over the years, that we can now travel together in peace.

Clutched to my heart, I ride today with my favorite morning beverage in a mere mug.

I think it tastes better that way.

What a visage I must be, pulling up to the school.

Hunched over the steering wheel.  In my plaid pajamas and winter coat.

Mug clutched to breast bone.  Crochet hook pinned back in my hair.

Thankfully neither my kids nor their friends seem to mind.

Piling out of the car I call to them.  “Have a good day!”

“I will endeavor to try,” my daughter smiles and wryly returns.

“There is no try.  There is only do!” I say.

“Ugh! Go away Mom,” she giggles.  “I love you.”

And off she goes, books in hand, chopsticks in hair.

I love you too dear.

Coffee pressed to breast, I pull away smiling.

A little more alert and with a full heart.

I’m such a geek.

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Memories Of Terrible Tuesday – 35 Years Later


Tomorrow, April 10th, 2014 will mark the 35th anniversary of an event that changed my life forever.

When as many as 38 confirmed tornadoes danced the Red River Valley.  More destruction from the same weather cell would spill into the next day, affecting parts of Arkansas and Missouri for a total of 59 tornadoes confirmed.

Photograph of the Seymour, TX tornado of 10 April 1979.  (Wiki commons)

Photograph of the Seymour, TX tornado of 10 April 1979. (Wiki commons)

They later called it Terrible Tuesday.  Many remember that a mile wide path was carved through Wichita Falls, TX, killing 42 people.  But another tornado also came up through the edge of my hometown of Lawton, OK a few hours before.  And we lost 3 people too.

I remember it being called an F4 or F5 long ago, but it seems that time has downgraded it in the records to an F3.

They say that particular tornado split into two, possibly three tornadoes after it hit town.

I believe it happened at my house.

I always get emotional when I remember that day.  I was 7 and a half, and I remember the day like last week’s trauma.  The jewel green look of the sky when we were at the Safeway grocery store on Ft. Sill Blvd.  The way the air tasted, tingly like a weak 9 volt battery playing in the back of your mouth.  The way everyone ignored the weather in Oklahoma and went about their business.

You gotta understand.  Tornadoes were no unusual thing.  However, usually they were small.  Maybe they take out a barn or something.  Maybe they never touch the ground.  Maybe we get a little excitement, but rarely was it that big of a deal.

People ignored tornado “warnings” all the time back then.

I remember standing at the back glass door, staring at the heavy rain when we got home.  Watching the hail come down and get louder and larger.

My mother worked for the American Red Cross at the time.  She helped train folks in disaster preparedness.  I’d watched every film our local chapter had to offer at the time.  We knew well that the safest place in the home was as close to the center as you could get and away from windows.  And we had regular drills at school, filing into the hallways, crouching on our knees with our heads face-down towards the floor and wall, our open textbooks held to cover our necks and heads.

On Monday night before, there was a PTA meeting at Will Rogers Elementary School – the school I attended and lived across the street from.  Mom and her director gave a presentation to our school and parents about tornadoes, what to look for, where to go, what to expect. The biggest thing I remembered from that meeting was the Red Cross director talking about hail and rain.  He held strings of white beads in front of a poster to represent hail as he described the pattern progression of a storm.

He said, “It’s not the rain and hail you need to be afraid of. It’s when it suddenly stops.

It’s because a tornado sucks everything up.

I stood at our back door, watching the rain and hail get harder and larger.  Suddenly it was like a switch had been flicked and there was a stunning moment of silence against the jewel green sky.  My mom hung up the phone and yelled “Kids, hit the hallway!”

The hallway in our antique home, a house old enough that it still had some of the gas pipes for lighting in the walls, was a tiny 4-5 foot circle that our bedrooms opened to before spilling into the living room.  I grabbed my cat Taffy and my little brother’s hand and we sat down low.  There was just enough room for us and mom.  She managed to flip the breaker before the first crash.

They say a tornado sounds like a freight train….

But I never heard it.

I heard my swing set crash through my bedroom window.  Nearly every window in the house broke.  The sound of glass and boards flying through our home filled my ears.  As did the sounds of my little 5 year old brother screaming as he writhed in my hand and tried to get away to run.

“Hang on to him!”

Of course he was scared.  I tightened my grip on my brother’s wrist, and suddenly my cat bolted from my arms.

And somewhere, in the middle of all the crashing noises, there was a sudden pounding on our front door, just maybe 20 feet away.  Mom got to the door to let my friend Francis in, along with her brother and sister, from across the street.  We didn’t get to play real often, and she was a little younger than me, but Francis was one of my best friends.  Her father was in the army and her mother was at work, so the kids were home alone that afternoon.

I heard Francis’ sister say over and over, “The table fell on me.  The table fell on me!”

One of them was barefoot (or was it two?).  And somehow, they made it through the storm and across the street to our house before their home collapsed like a pile of cards.

And then, as they huddled into the tiny circle of our hallway with us, it was over.  And somehow, our home filled with debris, none of us were hurt.

“There is no tornado. There is no tornado.”

Mom had grabbed our radio.  An announcer emphatically urged the public not to panic, that reports of a tornado were false.  “There is no tornado. There is no tornado.”

Dad had seen the tornado from downtown where he worked, just a few miles away.  He raced home.  Mom said he kicked in the only undamaged door left in the house.  My grandma lived a block away.  She saw a board come at her through her hallway and managed to get into the hall closet in time.  It would be three days before I saw my cat again, thankfully alive.

Stepping out into the world after that was surreal.  Destruction and chaos surrounded our still standing home.  We lived on a corner diagonally across the street from my school.  Surveying the damage, half the school gym was peeled away and gone.  On one side across from our corner, a neighbor’s house was missing its entire roof.  Francis’ house on the other side across from our corner was a pile of rubble.  And the house across from us next to hers had completely vanished.

People used to steal our apples all the time. I guess they won’t anymore.

Trees, rubble and power-lines were everywhere.  The neighbor’s old tall tree beside us just missed crashing through my parents’ bedroom.  Our old sycamore tree looked shaved on one side.  The apple tree didn’t survive.

Bits of someone else’s swing set were in our yard.  Unbroken dishes that didn’t belong to us had miraculously shown up inside our house.  Even food had been blown around. For decades our neighbor had a saltine cracker framed that was put through their ceiling.  I heard that it finally fell out one year when her husband was fixing the roof.

The day took on an even deeper experience as it was also Passover night for our family.  We weren’t Jewish, but our church at the time kept Passover services after sundown on April 10th that year.  I forget why it was a day earlier than other Passover services.  Some sort of argument about the right way to figure the date.

Normally, children were not allowed at these solemn services.  But there would be no babysitter in our home that night.

We were late for the service, but I remember the deacons and other volunteers helping us in.  My brother went with my father and I with my mother for the foot washing ceremony.  I watched as a woman removed my mother’s shoes and washed away the mud and grass from her feet.  I watched as the symbolism impressed itself upon her.  Tears were in her eyes and suddenly everything felt raw to me.

More tornado sirens would go off that night. 

Some of our church members drove up from Texas for the service.  I heard that one of the families returned to Texas that night to find their home completely gone.  They thanked God they were at services instead.  Everyone murmured how we were all indeed “passed over.”

I remember sitting in a little diner that night, mom and dad talking, trying to figure out what to do.  We couldn’t go home to sleep and we didn’t really have the money to eat out or get a hotel, but there wasn’t any choice in the matter.  I remember hearing mom talk about how the mattresses would have to be replaced, that there’ve been cases of glass being embedded in mattresses by tornadoes.  The diner had those little juke boxes on the tables.  “Don’t Say Goodnight Tonight” was playing at a table nearby.  It was really popular back then, but to this day, that song feels like a haunting to me.

To my knowledge, our neighborhood and school district on the edge of town was the only part of town affected. I’ve often wondered how many people were saved thanks to mom and her director’s lecture at our school the night before.

A lot would change after that.

As the weeks would pass, our community would come together to help each other.  I remember the American Red Cross bringing relief bags with food and toiletries and the irony of it.  Grandpa came and helped my dad fix our roof.  The repairs seemed to go on forever.  And I remember how a year later, it still seemed like we’d never recover.

Our neighbor who lost his roof fixed up his house and moved away.  I can’t remember his name, but I remember that he had red hair and had been so kind.  I liked him and was angry that the tornado took him away from us.  The new neighbors never could compare.

Francis and her family also moved away and I never saw her again.  Never got an address; don’t even know her last name.  It felt like injustice and I’ve always wondered about her ever since.  I remember when the cranes came to clear away the rubble of her collapsed house.  I kept hoping she’d come back.  But it was like a curse had fallen on our neighborhood.  Her home’s lot remained empty for a long time.  And the empty lot left next to Francis’ home (where the whole house had disappeared) remained empty for the longest.

And for years, my brother and I cringed with every swirl of wind, every time the leaves blew into curls, every time a storm pounded our roof.  And for years it was hard on our parents too.  It took a long time to balance the trauma we all felt.  And the financial blow was no small thing.

I would later grow up and move on.  But every once in a while, there’s a look in the sky and a taste in the air that throws me back into the memories of a serious 7 year old child who would never forget.

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Filed under Friends and Family, Random Thoughts, Writing

Someone Needs Your Good Thoughts Tonight


I had planned on writing about something else, but changed my mind after a phone call from a friend today.  Her nephew is in great need of your kind regards and prayers right now.  Because today, this young 23 year old is considering the taking of his own life.

He’s suffers from depression and ADHD and is in therapy, but he’s struggling. And she’s very worried.

It’s one of those dark concerns we all have, but don’t really talk about, as it becomes more and more common to know someone touched by depression and suicide.  According to Save, suicide is the third leading cause of death for kids 15-24 years old.  It’s the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S. (homicide ranks behind at 15th), according to the CDC.  On top of that, WebMD reports that there may be a connection between ADHD and depression and suicide attempts.

Certainly, my friend’s story also strikes a personal chord for me, as I still carry childhood pain from a family member’s multiple talks and attempts of suicide. Not to mention my heart goes out as a mother of teens myself.

I don’t have more details about this young man, and I do not know him personally. I do know that his family is doing everything they can for him. And that everyone is hurting.

My friend asked if I would please pass the word and ask my friends to pray too. So I extend the request to you. Please keep this young man, my friend and their family in your thoughts tonight and through this trying time for him.

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Filed under Friends and Family, NaBloPoMo