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.

 

 

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#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?

The Final Shark Hunt Begins!

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The final shark hunt begins!  Beginning next Friday and continuing every 3 weeks or so for 18-24 weeks, I will spend the day with the nice folks at the St. Luke’s Cancer Institute while they fill my body up with shark-killer chemicals!  It may seem a little bit wacky to be excited to begin chemotherapy, but after all the post-surgery drama and difficulty, I am really eager to begin this last leg of the journey.  Because it IS the last.  In 18-24 weeks, I can start looking at all of this in the rearview mirror, and that sounds very good to me.  Herman has been swimming in circles around me for far too long!

Some interesting things I have observed:

  • There continue to be door prizes – tote bags, pillows, stacks of pamphlets and information, samples of special shampoo, lotion…
  • If you make a joke about your condition or treatment, the nursing staff tends to look at you kind of funny and go look up the number for the staff psychologist.
  • Valet parking is the greatest public service. If you have ever tried to make an appointment on time at St. Luke’s on the Plaza, you know what I mean.
  • It is possible, if absolutely necessary, to drive from 135th and Roe to St. Luke’s Medical Plaza, hand your keys to the valet and get upstairs for an appointment in less than 25 minutes. I think a bumper sticker that says “God is my copilot and the Holy Spirit is my radar detector” might be appropriate.  Or maybe not.
  • Wigs are not the hair helmets I expected them to be.
  • I have the best, most generous, kind, and supportive friends and family in the world. There are no better people.  I’ve got them all.  If you are nice, I might share them with you.
  • Preparing for a wedding is a great distraction.  Even better than reruns of Downton Abbey!

So, this is what I’ll be doing for the next few months.  I may be kind of tired, and not terribly social as I will have to be very careful about germs and crowds and things.  That doesn’t mean I don’t love hearing from you, or that I don’t need and treasure your prayers.  If you want to read about THAT, check out Resurrection’s Prayer Blog this week:  prayer.blogs.cor.org.

So, off we go, spear gun in hand, ready to eliminate Herman for once and for all.  I am SO ready!  I’ll let you know over the weekend how I did with my first session.  I plan on channeling granddaughter Anna…”I’m very brave….I’m very brave….I’m very brave…I get a popsicle…..I’m very brave….”

Friend Making Monday/Tuesday

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I need to get with the blogging.  To tell the truth, I’m bored and frustrated with  the Herman recovery and just sort of crawled in my hole.  But, there’s a great big world out there that has nothing to do with cancer, recovery, or any of that, and I think the healthiest thing I could do would be spend some time thinking about it, writing about it, and enjoying life!

So, my friend Amanda posts these things called Friend Making Mondays on her blog:

http://completelyrandomsally.wordpress.com

Now, I realize it is actually Tuesday, but I didn’t see this until late last night, and thought I would chime in anyway, and invite any and all who read this to join in, too.  Here’s how it works:  please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments sectionhere so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links as well so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for the topic!

What is your favorite meal to prepare at home?  I would say soup, all kinds of homemade soup.  I love it because you can just clean out the fridge and the pantry and come up with something yummy and comforting.  I have one of my favorite add-as-you-go soup recipes on the Favorite Recipes page here.

Do you like to experiment in the kitchen, or do you prefer to stick to the basics?  I love to experiment, which is why I hate to bake – too exact!  When I get a new recipe, I try to make it exactly the way it’s written ONCE, and then start messing with it.

Do you have any tricks to share that help you reach your fruits and veggies goal for the day?  I like to sneak them into things – like the soup, but also into things like meat loaf or casseroles.  Since I try to eat low carb, I substitute cauliflower and zucchini and green beans for a lot of rice and pasta, which helps.

What’s the most interesting thing you made last week? Well, I confess I haven’t been cooking as much as usual, but we tried making low carb cream cheese pancakes last weekend, and they were pretty good!

How often do you watch cooking shows on TV  All the time.  I love them, and do pick up good ideas or tricks.

When you’re hungry, where are you most likely to look first? The refrigerator, or the pantry?  Probably the fridge for cheese, or sugar-free jello, or a bite of leftovers.

List a few healthy staples that can always be found in your kitchen.  Frozen chicken, usually some deli chicken, too.  Canned tuna and salmon. Bag salad. Eggs.  Protein shakes.

Are you motivated to cook at home even when you’re eating alone?  Sometimes.  Sometimes I do weird makeovers with the leftovers when I’m home alone – add new ingredients or mix stuff together.

How often do you try new recipes?  At least once or twice a month during normal times, a little bit less right now.

Well, that was fun.  Add your comments!

Working from Home and Other Adventures

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Quick update on the Herman Situation.  I had a bilateral mastectomy on March 15.  I planned on 1 week recovery.  My body (and everyone else) planned on at least 2 weeks.  My body (and everyone else) won.  I have been recuperating at home.  The pathology reports were good. The surgeon sounds pretty confident that he did a good job of removing all traces of Herman.  I have a little more post-surgery healing to do, and then I’ll do some follow up chemotherapy beginning in about 4 weeks and continuing for about 6-8 months.  Meanwhile, I’ve been back to work a little bit and the rest of the time have been working from home.

Some things I’ve discovered about working at home:

  • The wardrobe is quiet comfortable, but you have to be careful that a well meaning friend, neighbor or co-worker doesn’t drop by and discover you in your pajamas at 3 pm, or answering emails while wearing old beat-up sweat pants and a t-shirt with the hem out.
  • The lunch selections are better, especially if you have been the recipient of amazing gifts of leftover producing meals from some really great cooks.  Boy, can my friends and neighbors cook.
  • The cat does not make a very good co-worker.  He drinks out of my water glass, knocks papers off my “desk,” and likes to sit on the computer keyboard.  He also refuses to answer the phone and he picks fights with the other coworkers (the dogs).  However, he’s cute and fluffy and soothing when he purrs.
  • The dogs act as Office Security.  No one will bother me with those two furry doorkeepers barking and growling.  They are hilarious.
  • It is not a bad thing to have nap space.  Offices everywhere should have nap space.
  • Daytime television is no substitute for my smart, funny, and engaged coworkers.  Not even the cute kittens on animal planet.

Hopefully, I will be back on a more regular work schedule very soon.  Home is nice, but I miss everyone at Resurrection and need to quit watching the Cute Kittens and HGTV and put on my Big Girl clothes!

 

 

Getting ready….

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So, the Big Day is almost here.  M-Day?  Whatever. Details:  I check in at St. Luke’s on the Plaza at 10:30 Thursday morning. Surgery (double mastectomy and insertion of the port for the chemo) at 12:30.  Should take 3-4 hours.  A night or two in the hospital then home for about 10 days.

I sort of feel like I’m preparing for an expedition on the Amazon, or maybe a climb up Everest.  I’ve been spending hours at work trying to write down everything I do in a day, and how to do it, and where to find things, and clean out my messy drawers, and my messy desk, and my messy bookcases, so the temp doesn’t have to live in chaos. I keep making lists of things I might need (most of which, I don’t), might want (new underwear for the hospital, my mother would like that) and things like movies I’ve been wanting to watch, music that makes me happy, books to read, etc.  I keep going through my clothes trying to figure out what I’m going to wear during the healing period and not look too weird.

Of course, I have my brackets filled out for March Madness.

Even with my brackets completed, and new underwear, and music loaded, I don’t feel very ready.  Can you really get ready for something like this?  Maybe, but I don’t think the answer is in the packing, or the bracketing, or the music uploads. Mostly, these things are just ways to try and not think about it. I am anxious, even afraid sometimes.

Annie Lamott says that if you make friends with fear, it can’t rule you.  I don’t know how friendly I am feeling toward my fear, or toward Herman, but she also said that “courage is fear that has said its prayers.”  That, I can do.  I can also remember this:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
And the waves shall not overcome you.
Do not fear because I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name and you are mine.
Isaiah 43

I am blessed to be known and loved by the God who created me and knows all about what is going on inside, who has called me by name and claimed me,  and listens to my prayers so that I can find that courage.  I am surrounded by loving family and friends who are praying for me, and good doctors and nurses who are going to take care of me.  Herman, having none of these things, is in serious trouble and will be belly up soon enough.