Archeology

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I picked up a magazine at the grocery store not too long ago called, “Where Women Create.” It is an evil fantasy publication, designed to cause unrest and redecorating. It is totally fascinating.  It contains, between advertisements for cardboard boxes costing $40 and up, photos of incredibly beautiful “creative spaces” that supposedly belong to women to write, make jewelry, design the interiors of zillion-dollar houses and paint masterpieces using laundry soap and sharpie markers. And apparently, they never make a mess while doing it because they have all those $40 cardboard boxes to hide the clutter.

The reason I know the pictures in this magazine are probably photoshopped within an inch of their creative limits, or complete inventions of overly organized minds is that some of these pictures feature pets. On the pristine white counter top next to the carefully stacked papers of the “successful editor and feature writer” sits a cat. And the papers are still in a stack.  Fake picture.  In another, a beautiful golden retriever is taking a nap on a rug that probably cost more than my car in a room full of lovely pillows. None of them have chewed edges or stuffing trailing along the floor. Again, an obvious fake.

I’m supposed to be cleaning up my “office.”  It’s a really nice room, painted a beautiful and soothing shade of blue by Oldest Son with a shelf that surrounds it on 3 sides, which is, of course, covered with books, as is the bookshelf  on the opposite wall, a comfortable chair I found at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and waaayyyy to many boxes of junk and they are, sadly, not the color coordinated paisly $40 variety. Most of them used to hold beer. Or toilet paper.

At some point last year, when our large dog and her cohort, Oldest Son’s even larger dog, needed space to call their own, I, in a fit of dementia brought on by tripping over a dog bed in the family room for the 100th time, said something like “I could share the room with the dogs, let’s corral them in the office.”  I didn’t have to say it twice, and just like that, I lost my private space, my writing space, and a little piece of my fragile sanity.  My nice little room became a nice little dog kennel and I began writing in corners and coffee shops. But today it is snowing and it is about 14 degrees. I don’t want to go to a coffee shop, and because of the aforementioned winter weather, there are no quiet corners in this house because everyone who lives in it or once lived in it, or got bored with the snow is hanging out.

So, I’ve decided on this snow day, to TAKE BACK THE OFFICE!”  How hard could that be, just because it hasn’t been dusted in longer than I’m ever going to admit  in writing, the floor is covered in dog beds, dog toys and chewed up remains of what I greatly fear are some of the books that used to be on the bottom shelf?

It’s kind of like an archeological expedition, or one of those treasure hunts in the remains of an ancient civilization.  In the midst of dust and dog hair and cobwebs, I’ve found:

  • At least a half dozen books that I need to read Immediately. I have already started reading two of them – while conducting this expedition.
  • A stack of wonderful and hilarious cards sent to me by friends during my adventure with breast cancer.  Some favorites offered pearls like these:
    • “Well of course they’re fake – the real ones tried to kill me!
    • A panorama of what at first appears to be intricately painted Easter Eggs. On closer examination, however, you realize that what you are actually viewing is a lot of intricately painted bald heads.  I can’t tell you how close I came to going to church that Easter with my head painted.  Should have done it.
    • The world is full of people who will go their Whole lives and not actually LIve one day.  She did not intend on being one of them.”
  • Enough yarn to knit a blanket for every child I will ever know.
  • A carefully hidden collection of dog toys, which I do not believe actual belong to this household. Yes, it is quite possible that my dogs have been out in the neighborhood stealing dog toys. Or extorting them over the fence.  Or maybe strangers bring them toys to keep them quiet when we are not home. I have no idea.
  • SIX computer mice.  It seems that we never throw anything away in this house.  As far as I can tell, none of these function as actual peripheral computer tools. They might work as paperweights. Or maybe we can glue wheels to them and convince the grandkids that they are toy race cars.  Note that throwing them away is not listed as an option.
  • An entire bag of scrunchy hair bands.  I have not had enough hair to scrunch since the breast cancer adventure, I have no idea why they are here.
  • An envelope full of clippings about disappearances and unidentified bodies, collected during a Mystery Writing Workshop.  If anyone nearby comes up missing or unidentified, I’m probably going to the Big House.  I know how this works.  I watch Castle.

Well, obviously, I’m not making extraordinary progress, and now it is time for the Jayhawks to play basketball, and I know they need me.  But I will keep excavating and report any finds that are important to the understanding of civilization as we know it.

Assuming this expedition is successful and all artifacts are labeled and stored away somewhere with the Ark of the Covenant and Indiana Jones’ hat, that will leave the challenge of sharing my most personal space with a Labrador Retriever and a Beagle/Heeler.  And a Maine Coon, who thinks every inch of this house actually belongs to him.  I wonder how it will all look in a magazine spread?

Grandmother Blogs

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OK…so I’ve noticed that Mom Blogs are a thing.  There must be millions of them. My daughter has one, and it’s pretty funny.  Check it out: http://www.talesfrommommyhood.blogspot.com/.  There is even an official Mom Bloggers group here in Kansas City.

As far as I can tell, Mom Blogs seem to fall into — categories

  • The Tales from the Trenches. This is what Sara’s blog is.  A way to share and keep your sense of humor when your children insist upon acting like children. These are generally delightful and for moms to let each other know they are not alone. And for grandmothers to laugh at.
  • The Frequent Christmas Letter. These are updates for friends and family, usually complete with adorable pictures of adorable chidren doing adorable things. They do resemble those letters that come with Christmas cards, but for people who don’t get to see each other or talk often enough, they seem like a good way to stay caught up, and I’m told they give the family a record of the child’s life as they grow up. I’m not sure I’m in favor of this.  It doesn’t seem to allow for judicious editing.
  • The Soapbox. These are written by Moms who seem posessed by a burning need to see everyone live exactly like they do, eat what they eat, sleep the way they sleep, educate the children the way they educate theirs, and if at all possible, only wear the color yellow.  They spend a lot of time trying to make their fellow mothers feel as terrible as possible about their choices and decisions, but in the kindest way possible of course.
  • The Fantasy Life Blog. On these blogs, moms seem to create elaborate fantasy lives in which they clean their houses from top to bottom using only white vinegar and recycled t-shirts, while baking delicious gluten-free bread, canning their own vegetables, teaching their children to sign and speak French, maintaining a rigorous workout schedule and running their successful jewelry design business.  When I was a Mom we just read Danielle Steele for that kind of fantasy.

So, where are the Grandmother Blogs?  I can’t be the only blogging grandmother. I’m sure all Grandmother Blogs will not be alike, but I think I can promise a few differences from Mom blogs:

  • Grandmother blogs will have a great appreciation for the Universe and the Law of What Goes Around Comes Around.  For instance, when the Mom Blogs write about the woes of Children Who Fight Bed Time, and Children Who Try to Negotiate Everything, the Grandmothers will probably write blog posts with titles like:  Apples Do Not Fall from Oak Trees.  After we quit laughing, of course.
  • In General there will be less angst.  We’ve done angst.  Now we are more likely to put on our party hats and let everyone have cookies for lunch.  We are no longer in charge of the upbringing of the next generation, and overall, we’re pretty proud of the job we did on the Moms, so time to spoil, spoil, spoil!
  • Topics such as housework, yardwork, and making things out of pallets will not be common on Grandmother blogs.  We are done talking about the first two, and the Grandfathers generally won’t let us do the last one, no matter how good it looks on Pinterest.
  • I can just about guarantee there will be fewer recipes using quinoa as an ingredient.

So, Grandmothers Unite.  We can’t let the Moms have all the fun.  Take the Blogosphere!  I see that the Kansas City Blogger Moms have get-togethers.  We could do that – and we wouldn’t even have to get home to the babysitters!!

Baseball and Other Good Things

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I almost gave up on baseball.

Baseball was my first exposure to sports.  My great-grandmother, Iva, sat me in her lap when I was probably 3 or 4 and started teaching me about baseball.  We watched the Dodgers and the Cardinals on a black and white TV screen, and I learned some important things: (1) do not, under any circumstances, cheer for the New York Yankees; (2) nothing is more fun to watch than a successfully stolen base; and (3) you should never “boo” the players, but it’s o.k. to “boo” the umpires. By the time I was in grade school, I would walk to her house after school and catch the last few innings of the televised day game with her, while we drank Coke from real glass bottles and looked at the names of the cities embossed on the bottom to see whose bottle came from the farthest away.

Coming from Oklahoma, the Land of Football, you would think I would be a Sooner-born-and-Sooner-bred football fan, and it is true that when I was a child I thought “Boomer Sooner” was a Thanksgiving song, like “We Gather Together.” But football will never hold my heart like baseball.  Baseball is poetry. Bart Giamatti, former Commissioner of Baseball, wrote a beautiful essay once called The Green Fields of the Mind. One of my favorite quotes is part of this essay,

“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

It’s been a sad few years to be a baseball fan in Kansas City. I will spare one and all my favorite rant about how my hometown team was hi-jacked by a bunch of discount store merchants from Arkansas.  Let’s just say, it’s been tough, and I confess I had pretty much given up.  Even went shopping for a new team.  Didn’t find it. So, this year, I decided to give it one more chance.  Word was, the Royals had made a lot of changes, that there might be hope – not Pennant and World Series Hope, but just hope that it wouldn’t be painful and embarrassing to watch.  And lo and behold, an actual baseball team took the field.  Not perfect, but in baseball perfect is rare. .300 is a very good batting average, and there have only been 23 perfect games pitched in the history of major league baseball, since 1880. No real baseball fan is looking for perfect.  We are just looking for baseball, played as well as possible for as long as possible, on sunny afternoons and under lights with the bugs buzzing about. So I welcome the 2013 Kansas City Royals back to the Major Leagues with my whole heart and a blue hat on my head.

I love baseball movies, too.  I will never get tired of watching Field of Dreams, and A League of Their Own.  I love Bull Durham, even thought I don’t love some of the language, and I even love the totally sappy For the Love of the Game. The end of The Natural gives me chills, and I cry watching The Pride of the Yankees.  Last week I saw the best baseball movie ever.  If you have not seen 42, go – now. Right now. And take your children, and your grandchildren, and the neighbor children. It is moving and magical, and a great portrayal of two men of faith, Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, who bravely did what they knew was right and changed not only baseball but America.

And, if you want a great baseball book, Joe Posnaski’s The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neill’s America will be one of the best books you’ve read in a long time.  Buck O’Neill was a national treasure, and the fact that he was shut out of the Hall of Fame is one more illustration of the fact that baseball is not perfect.  I’ll save you that rant, too. Joe P’s great stories about Buck’s many years in the Negro Leagues, as the first black coach in the majors, and in an extremely joyfully lived life can’t help but make you smile.

The world, especially lately, is full of hard things.  We have to face them, we have to deal with them, and pray about them, and try to make it better.  I sincerely believe baseball is one of those gifts God gave us human beings, like trees and flowers, and rivers, and the laughter of children, and puppies, and chocolate, and thunderstorms, and great music, to raise our spirits and give us strength and rest to make us ready for the real work of caring for the world.

I guess I’m back to being a baseball fan!

DONE!

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I had my last chemo treatment today!  From this point on, I can concentrate on being well instead of being sick. Well, to be realistic there will be a little period of being sick following today’s infusion of cancer-killing poisons into my system, but this time I won’t be waiting to feel better so I can get knocked down again.  So I’m feeling pretty good about it.

I have been blessed -with wonderful family, good friends, prayers, meals, phone calls, emails and more love and support than I could have imagined.  I was blessed from the beginning with a doctor who nagged me to go and get my mammogram.  We found this thing early and were able to attack it and send Herman on his way! As these things go, this was a good one.  Not exactly a journey I would wish on anyone, and we’ve had some bumps in the road, but this has been much better than it could have been if I had waited even six more months to find out what was lurking in my body.  Please girls, get those mammograms.  And guys, encourage the women in your life to get that done.

When my treatment was over, I got to take part in a tradition at the infusion center at St. Luke’s.  When you finish chemo, the nurses and staff gather around and you get to ring a bell, and everyone claps and celebrates with you.  I’m not really big on public displays like that, but this was special.  I got a little certificate, signed by all the nurses.  They were all so great.  I have had great care from the doctors, nurses, and all the staff at the St. Luke’s Cancer Center.  Those folks are rock stars!

Now, I get to concentrate on getting well.  The doc said today it will take 4-8 weeks for all the chemo drugs to clear my system, and up to a year to get all my energy back, but I will now be getting better every day instead of sicker, and I really like that dynamic.  There are lots of things I can do – healthy eating, adding more activity after the chemo is really out of my system, even if I’m tired, sunshine, getting back into a social life. Cleaning my house.  Cooking again.  Hugging the grandkids whether they have a runny nose or not.  Hopefully being able to read and write for longer than a few minutes.  Getting out of town.  I can’t wait to get started.

God is good.  This hasn’t been easy, and getting well will be a challenge.  But God is good.  Like the song says, “I find you when I fall apart.”  It’s true.  Every time this has seemed undoable, when I’ve been discouraged, or tired, or sick, or all of the above, God has been there, and sent helpers, words of encouragement, hugs, understanding. No one has ever had so many stretcher bearers.  And, always, God’s precious own presence.  I have experienced it in such a very real way. There have been some dark nights, and then God as there, and it wasn’t so dark.

I’ve learned a lot about being open with God and honest about anger, disappointment, and fear. God can take it.

Thank you all for your prayers, and all the encouragement and support.  It’s a good day!

Following Dreams and Other Good Stuff

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A young woman who used to work on the staff at Resurrection has taken a big step recently and stepped out as a professional food blogger/freelance writer and food photographer and several other related things.  Anyone who has ever visited her blog, www.gimmesomeoven.com, won’t be surprised.  It’s one of the best food blogs I’ve ever read, and every recipe I’ve tried from her posts has been delicious and easy.

I really admire people who are willing and trusting enough of God’s provision in their lives to step out and follow their dreams, whatever they are.  It seems like I know a lot of young people who are in that category.  My own kids are all following what they feel is God’s call on their lives, both in their personal lives and professionally.  They amaze me every day and make me so proud (even though I’m not sure I actually have much to do with it). I work with a group of young pastors and other people who are doing the same, as are wonderful close friends of our family, who touch my heart by calling me Mama, or MomC.    A young woman named Amanda Dye has started orphanages in Africa.  You can read about her work and amazing stories of the children her organization is saving www.energyofhope.org.

I have never been very brave about following dreams, but one of the things that encountering “Herman” does is makes you take some serious looks at your life and think about what you want to do with it.  I am so blessed in that I love my job and feel like God gives me new gifts for it constantly, but I also want to do some other things – write more, spend more time creating on paper and also through artwork.  I want to learn more about new materials and techniques for sculpting, drawing, painting, creating.  I’ve always been too shy about my abilities to want to take classes or join a writer’s group, but between my age and fighting cancer, I’m kind of over that.  If I like it and it feeds my soul, then it’s good.  If someone else like’s it, especially if something I write feeds someone else’s soul too, that’s even better.  It’s not exactly up to par with saving orphans in Africa, but maybe I can find ways to support those kinds of thing through writing or art.  When my health improves, maybe I will step way out of my comfort zone and go help in Zambia!

Today I finished my third round of chemo, so I’m halfway done!  Feels good to be on the downhill run.  It went pretty well, but I’m pretty dopey, so this is probably not my best blog.  But I wanted to get it done because…..

On Gimme Some Oven, Ali is sponsoring a recipe exchange for the next 8 weeks, for recipes using tomatoes, a favorite food I consider to be one of God’s gifts to Summer.  This recipe exchange is actually being held in partnership with the International Justice Mission and their efforts this summer to provide education and resources about how to empower our nation’s tomato farmers. I was not aware until recently that the tomato farms in Florida, where 90% of our country’s offseason tomatoes are grown, used to be labeled as “ground zero” for modern-day slavery in the U.S., but thanks to IJM and some other great organizations, amazing strides have been made in advocating for healthy working conditions and fair wages for our tomato farmers.

You can enter this fun Recipe Exchange, too!  Come share in the tomato love at the Tomato Love Recipe Exchange, hosted by Gimme Some Oven & Bake Your Day, and sponsored this week by Kitchen Aid.  Also visit Recipe for Change to learn more about how to support tomato farmers.”

So, as my first offering in the Tomato Love Recipe Exchange, my version of one of my Mom’s 1950s party appetizer staples, Tomatoes Rockefeller:

2 10 oz packages frozen chopped spinach, cooked according to directions, drained and water squeezed out.

1 clove garlic, pressed or grated

1/2 sweet onion, chopped fine

2 sticks of butter

1 3/4 cups bread crumbs

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 cup shredded smoked mozarella or smoked swiss cheese

1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper or cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp thyme

1/ tsp black pepper

3 eggs, beaten

12 fresh tomatoes (small to medium sized), sliced 1/2 inch thick

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

After spinach is drained, add garlic, onion and butter to the hot spinach. Stir in bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and seasonings.  Cool, then add beaten eggs. While spinach mixture is cooling, slice tomatoes and put slices on paper towels to drain for a few minutes.  Grease a cookie sheet.  Arrange drained tomato slices on the cookie sheet.  Using a spoon heap spinach mixture on to of tomato slices and top with shredded smoked cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Let sit for a minute or two before serving as a hot appetizer or dinner plate garnish. Makes 36-48 slices, depending on tomato size.

 

 

#2 Is In the Rearview Mirror!

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So….Chemo #2 is done and done.  I’m now just sort of swimming through the mud of ridiculous exhaustion, which seems to be the main side effect of the drugs I get.  In that, I actually consider myself lucky.  There are worse side effects, believe me.  They give you lists.  And, I see some of them up close in other patients at the infusion center.  That is one of my main observations about this process itself.  If I open my eyes and look around me, I see a lot of opportunity and prompting to pray.  Everyone in that room needs prayers, for healing, for comfort, for strength and bravery.

Other observations from the Infusion Center:

  •  They have wonderful light and great windows.  They need to turn the chairs so that the patients can look out, instead of having their backs to said windows.  Sunshine and a view are good for you.
  • I am now taking all of my magazines straight there as soon as they are finished so they are still fresh, and I will NOT tear out recipes and the ends of articles.  What are people thinking?  That’s just mean.
  • Everyone has their own way of coping with this experience, but I am going to try very hard to not sit next to the lady whose coping mechanism is to call every single member of her large family and gossip about every single other member.  In detail.  Loudly.  Enough to penetrate Bose Noise-cancelling headphones.
  • The nurses and aids are amazing, attentive and understanding.  Nothing ruffles them. They absolutely radiate confidence and healing.

Other observations about this whole weird thing:

  •  I have a confession.  I kind of like running around without my hair.  I thought I would hate it, and I am still kind of picky about who actually sees me, but it’s really quite comfortable to be bald. Especially when you come in from the heat and can take your hair off.  Not bad at all.  I also kind of like the scarf thing, though I am half afraid someone will stop me and ask me to read their tea leaves or something. And, I can drive in the car with the windows down and my hair doesn’t blow in my face.
  • I do not care if I ever see another television show again as long as I live, with the possible exception of the new Downton Abbey when it comes and maybe Castle, or Masterpiece Theatre Sherlock.  Maybe.  Unfortunately, the chemo is affecting my eyesight a bit and I can’t read for long periods without it being blurry.  The font size choices on the Kindle help, so it’s getting a real workout.  I have reached televised overload, which for someone of my generation is somewhat unusual.  However, it makes my housemates happy as it just frees up the thing on the wall for more SportsCenter.
  • I know that my tiredness doesn’t always let me respond the way I want to or should, but the best thing in all of this, the thing that makes it bearable and doable, is the prayers and calls and notes of encouragement and love of my family and friends.  I am surrounded by the best and most loving people.  I am riding through on a wave of prayer.  I am being helped and cared for and supported physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I am blessed, and that’s the truth.

The Kindle/Book Battle

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Today I read an editorial from NPR that asks, “Will Your Children Inherit Your E-books?” You can read it here.

It is actually an interesting piece, a discussion of  things like gift inscriptions, notations in the margins, inheriting books from family, etc.  And then the author asks the question in the title.

I’ve said before that I just do not understand the either/or nature of the impassioned battle between “Booklovers” and “Kindle Lovers.”  I love nothing better than reading.  Why do I have to choose?  I will never quit buying books, or ever quit loving beautiful editions of especially beloved volumes.  I will give books as gifts to every child I know, and to my own family members, and quite possibly people on the street if I can.  Books are magic.  Books are transformative.  Books are just plain fun.  My children will inherit more books than they probably want.  My only request is that they pass the ones they don’t want on to someone who does.  If they throw them away or allow someone to glue the pages together for a craft project, I will come back to haunt them, mark my words.  However, I don’t think they will miss the need to dispose of the paperback mystery novels or low carb cookbooks that I now tend to put only on my Kindle.  They won’t have to deal with the cheap paperbacks I buy used so that I can have a “carrying copy” of books I own in a more attractive version, but only read at home or somewhere safe.  They won’t have to figure out what to do with the summertime “beach books,” or be horrified at the number of ridiculous chick-lit novels I may have read.

While I’m still here, I can carry a couple of hundred books around with me so I have a vast choice of reading material at any given moment.  To me this is close to heaven on earth, and I do not understand how anyone could think it would somehow lessen my love for paper bound in hard backs, books that someone was thoughtful enough to write an inscription in, or the few leather-bound vintage books I own or want to own. I will read them all.  I will love them all.  A book is still my favorite present, both to give and receive.

Why would I want to choose between the two?  Why should I?