Category Archives: NaBloPoMo

Dark Side Of The Moon…


For me the storm is not over.

Merely changing its color.

Noise still deafens.

Wind still rages.

My head still tucked,

Bracing against the force and hanging on.

Bleeding wounds still unattended,

My furious storm shifts gears.

Black Hole devoured my Trees,

Swallowed my Sun

And gave black ice.

Dark, blinding, cold.

Vacant spot beside.

I am no longer a shield.

I am solitaire.

Written 11-30-2017, 01:30am
Copyright © 2017 by Julia Meek Chambers, all rights reserved.

Alone in the Dark Side of the Storm

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Filed under Glioblastoma, NaBloPoMo, Poetry, Writing

Silence Is Broken…


I finally dreamed about John 3 nights ago.

I was at an old drive in movie place, but instead of parking for cars, there was a collection of remodeled vans, cargo trucks and buses in the movie lot – tiny house style.

Where the guts of the original vehicle are removed and the inside is remodeled like an apartment.

Only these were basically just rooms to hang out in.

All the wheels had been removed from the vehicles and they just sat on the ground.

I walk up to the back of a long, converted cargo van and open the doors.

All the seats and stuff inside had been cleared out of it, save a single white bench seat/couch positioned in the middle, facing the back doors where I stood.

A custom couch made to look like it belongs in an old car, but obviously way more comfortable.

The van definitely seems bigger to me on the inside.

And there was John sitting on the couch, in his jeans, t-shirt and ball cap.

He tells me, hey baby – why don’t you come in and spend some time with me?

I look around, noting the absence of anything else inside this van.

And I quip, “Well now… I guess you did clean everything up quite a bit!”

Cocking my head, I smile coyly and start to close the door and come sit with him.

And then I freeze, staring at him – suddenly realizing, dear god I’m dreaming about him.

Nine weeks since he died and I’m finally seeing him.

But as soon as I realized he was there, the vision broke and I woke up. 😦

I tried to go back to sleep and revisit that dream, but it didn’t work.

Still, it’s remarkably comforting.

After weeks of complete vacuum, without a good or even a bad dream about John or our fight again GBM, I finally saw my love.

I just hope I see him more.

dream-van

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Filed under Glioblastoma, NaBloPoMo, Random Thoughts

Anarchy In Writing…


NaBloPoMo is the blogger’s answer to NanoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It stands for National Blog Posting Month. I refer to it sometimes as November NaBloPoMo, because after NaBloPoMo was taken over by BlogHer, it became used there as a monthly exercise throughout the year too. Bloggers could participate in a NaBloPoMo challenge any month, with a different theme to boot. However, the main traditional November Challenge was still supported and observed. And by far, it’s remained the most active time of the year for blogging challenges.

I mentioned to you yesterday that I would try to catch you up on the unofficial nature of official November NaBloPoMo this year. I don’t know much, but here’s what I do know.

It unfortunately appears that BlogHer.com may have forgotten or simply abandoned the annual project. My guess is this is related to their acquisition by SheKnows.com in 2014. No one from either identity is responding to inquiries about NaBloPoMo, which is disappointing. And a little confusing. I can find no official announcements about it one way or another either. The last couple years of “official” November NaBloPoMo coordination since the acquisition have seemed odd. Rumors of lots of changes at BlogHer were murmured. And last year November NaBloPoMo was definitely put together at the last minute.

However, this year, the entire site, login and everything is different. You can still find archives from previous years of NaBloPoMo, but there’s nothing new. You can find posts from bloggers asking about the challenge, and no responses. No responses on Twitter either. In fact, no real interaction at all. And the entire site has been redone and restructured. I even have a brand new writer’s page at SheKnows now, along with an invitation to be a social influencer. With no details.

I’m not sure what to make of it yet, but one thing is clear – they have not invested time or attention into NaBloPoMo this year. Which makes me yearn for days of yore when we were just a bunch of creative bloggers who wanted to make writing more approachable and fun. And we did it by teaming up in November to blog our hearts out, cheer each other on, and even donate drawings prizes for those who completed the challenge.

I joined BlogHer because of NaBloPoMo. But never really participated in any of the other challenges other than the November one. Old enthusiasm for a good thing dies hard. November is where it’s at.

I’m not alone. Seeing they didn’t start the annual event in the first place, people are self-organizing for this year’s challenge. Which is to write and publish a blog post every day for the month of November (no writing ahead or banking posts more than 24 hours ahead). At least, if you follow the original rules.  To learn more about NaBloPoMo, you can refer to my previous post on it here.

So… that’s the news. No one seems to be officially organizing NaBloPoMo for 2017. And who knows what kind of legalities surround any official organization, since BlogHer took over NaBloPoMo in 2011 when it became too big for the founder to run by herself.

Personally, I find this year’s abandonment sad, because the point is to help inspire writers (especially new writers) to take a dive and write. Or blog as it were. And find their sea legs in the exercise of crushing it with a daily deadline. Not to mention to help foster community. To me, it’s one of those worthy can’t-help-but-make-the-world-better exercises.

Does anyone legally own NaBloPoMo? Um, actually yes, a paper trail exists.

However, in exercise and concept, no one can prevent bloggers from keeping the November daily blogging tradition alive. Even if the free world ended and they took our internet away, I’m sure we could find a way to keep it going. Like some sort of cult. If we wanted. We could secretly meet every November at a retreat to share each other’s scripts. Maybe create some rights and rituals to make it really rebellious. Add chips, salsa and margaritas and I’m there.

So I suppose for now, there’s a little bit of NaBloPoMo anarchy about. Though two online entities I know of are sponsoring November blogging link up parties where you can share your posts. And I have joined them both for now.

NanoPoblano November 2017The group known as Nano Poblano is one that’s been around a little while. If you want to join their ranks as a Cheer Pepper and share November posts, that’s done in their Facebook Group. While I’ve been aware of their existence for awhile, I only just joined them this year.
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Blissfullemon NaBloPoMo Link Up PartyFor the 2017 challenge, Blissful Lemon has also offered a way to not only register your blog in one public place, but also share your November posts with fellow participants. After all, reading posts from others and supporting each other in the challenge is also part of the tradition.

Above are the respective badges for each group.

I’m glad these entities are providing a community for NaBloPoMo orphans around the world. And I did join them both this year.

But I’m feeling a little anarchist about it all. Like a sudden urge to find something to graffiti. My little tantrum over the NoMoNoBlo (No More November Blogging) that seems to have replaced such a nice community exercise.

As the world of internet blogging becomes more and more sleek, corporate and “official” and less individual and organic, I suppose it’s bound to happen.

If I had the bandwidth, I’d provide a rogue gathering spot myself. Though I’d be a poor leader for it this year with everything John and I just went through.

Still, creative rebel that I am, I couldn’t resist feeling like a message should be splattered somewhere. A little freedom of speech exercise. Mainly because no one has responded to queries. Like really, who does that? Or doesn’t do that, as it were. There’s so little interaction, it’s like the new site is run by robots.

Maybe “official” entities don’t care about NaBloPoMo anymore, or fail to see its value. Or maybe they tried to turn it into something else and failed to inform the masses who side with an annual November tradition.

But there’s a core of us out here who do care about a November Blogging Challenge and see its value. And we still love the creative individuality that was inherent in the original organic evolution of it. Maybe it’s a sign of the times and we’ll find ourselves having to move on.

But we were cool once.

NaBloPoMo #NoMoNoBlo 2017 Anarchy Badge - designed by Aberrant Crochet

And way back when, in the days of yore, many of us created and shared a variety of NaBloPoMo badges for people to pick from.

So I decided to get creative with a little rebel Aberrant protest of my own.

My expression of angst in a sea of other emotions I dine on these days.

Here’s the badge I created for this year.

#NoMoNoBlo anarchy begins.

 

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Filed under Editorial, NaBloPoMo, Writing

NaBloPoMo Roll Call…


It’s that time of year. If you can’t tell already, I’m participating in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) again. Anyone else? If I’ve calculated correctly, it’ll be my 10th year. As I recall, my first NaBlo was the first year I did Maker Faire Austin in 2007.

There is some question as to whether NaBloPoMo is going to continue officially. I’ll fill you in on that story in a separate post. Regardless, in the mean time, I’m going to get on with it for my own benefit.

Writing is something I love, but also something that helps me filter through adversity. The annual challenge is one of the few difficult creative things I really enjoy. And I’ve only lost the challenge once, due to lack of internet access one Thanksgiving.

John didn’t want me skipping out on the challenge just because of him. Not last year, not this year. He’s been urging me to write my books for the last few years. And we were working on some ideas together. (He’s a writer too.)

OK, so… I’m doing NaBloPoMo this year. This time will be by far the hardest yet. This week in particular. Only 4 days in and it’s definitely a worthy challenge already, because everything’s raw and my motivation isn’t really there. John’s not here to collaborate with like usual. But… I’m going to try. A tag-a-long of the efforts John and I took together – to transmute the negative into a different experience.

Writing isn’t a bad way to work on that. I know it’ll be a worthy exercise in writing practice regardless. It always is. And if I can use some of what we’ve learned from glioblastoma to help others, well… that’s a win too and part of what John wanted. Though by far, I cannot bring myself to write about brain cancer too often. And this blog is not the place for all of that. Like last year, I’ve registered my brain cancer blog as well. But I’ve already missed some days writing for that one. So I’ll just do what I can there and focus on my writing home here for the challenge. No matter how many blogs I end up managing or writing for, this is always the home I return to. My “me” place I guess.

This week is the hardest to make NaBloPoMo work, with John’s funeral approaching, but thankfully I sketched some thoughts ahead. And one thing the last 18 months taught me to do, since digital advertising is my “day job,” is to trust the process, stay disciplined about time, write and edit quickly and get back to the grind. My goal this year is simpler – just keep going and don’t quit. Even if I do miss a day.

So, now your turn. Are you participating in the NaBloPoMo challenge?

If you are, please be sure to post your blog in the comments below so I can follow you and share support!

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I don’t have to agree with you to find value in what you have to say


You know, a common (perhaps even fear based) block occurred to me this morning.

It’s a prevalent misnomer to think we have to embrace or commit to another point of view in order to gain from it or find value in it – we don’t.

Listening, learning, considering other points of view does not somehow lock us down.

It does not place chains on us. If anything, it makes us free.

The value is in the exchange, testing and even the voicing of ideas.

The keeping of ideas is not as laudable as reasoning and consideration.

We don’t have to agree in order to both be right.

And when you are fearless enough to accept that truth, the value that cracks open from that geode is breathtaking really.

We are amazing, intelligent and creative creatures.

Even when we don’t agree.

 

 

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Filed under NaBloPoMo, Random Thoughts, Writing

Sweater of Shame…


Todd in the Sweater of Shame

Meet Todd.

He’s the baby.

Even though he’s not the youngest kitty baby in the house anymore.

He’s always had a most expressive face.

And he’s in trouble for squatting over in the corner by the window, and taking a whiz.

He hopes the kittens get the message that the window is his and he doesn’t want them near it.

He might have gotten away with it, except he did it right in front of us.

Todd is a happy pee-er. And a jealous pee-er. It’s not always a problem, but when he’s in the mood, he’ll pee on something just because he’s so happy, or because he’s so competitive.

That’s when out trots the Sweater of Shame. This isn’t the original sweater, but it’s just as effective.

For whatever reason, Todd is always thoroughly embarrassed by the Sweater.

None of my other cats ever cared enough. But the punishment is perfect for Todd.

Instead of showing off his tail, he slinks around with the sweater on as if to say, don’t look at me!

He won’t run or jump or misbehave if the sweater is on.

And he won’t pee on anything.

But he will sit and search your face for pity.

 

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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.

graph-bw

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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.

They make you earn their respect.

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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