Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sweet Smelling Germy Gifts

John came back to my room this morning and announced, "Hey, mom.  You know that lady who always comes to the door looking for you every couple of months?  Well, she's back and is waiting outside for you".

Grrr....


Santa's Little Helper?  That's up for debate...



So, I went to the door and saw that she had a friend with her today.  They were smiling and waiting and so eager to talk.  Until they saw and heard my hacking cough.  The one that Just. Won't. Stop.


I opened the door mid-cough, and the main lady very quickly handed over the magazine and just wanted to know if I realized the Bible talks about Jesus being concerned with world events.


Me:  "Yes (cough), I did (cough) know that (cough)".


Ladies:  (slowly backing away from the front door) "Well, we just wanted to leave this for you and hope you enjoy reading it".


Me:  "Wait. I have (cough) something to give you (cough), too".  And I go back in to get the last two bars of ZUM soap that I have been giving out this year as Christmas goodies.  I hand them over to each lady and wish them a merry Christmas.


The spearmint version--smells so very yummy



Me (again):  "The scent is frankencense and myrrh, like the Wise Men brought Jesus because he was the Savior King". (hacking cough, cough, cough)


For some reason, their smiles faded quite a bit.  I am not sure if it was because their beliefs don't see Jesus that way, or if they were afraid of my germs.



I bet it was the germs.


Either way, I'm sure they'll have a story to tell when someone asks them, "Well, honey, how was YOUR day today?".


Sunday, October 14, 2012

"How does that make you feel?"

For quite a while now, I have been licensed by my state to provide therapy to people who would be willing to pay me, either with insurance or out of pocket.  I have an advanced degree and attend continuing education programs to keep this privilege legal and current.  I know a lot of 'stuff', and have a lot of insight into why people act the way the do, as well as some strategies that could possibly help them.  My degree gives me the chance to work in all kinds of settings, with therapy being just one of them.

However, the older I get, it becomes more and more apparent why I probably would not make a very good personal therapist.  And I have finally found the perfect video that explains why.

Enjoy.



Click here to view video.  Seriously, just do it.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I Definitely Prefer the New Stash--AKA, the chemo bag

Tonight Harrison had an overnight event to attend.  He needed a small bag to carry his stuff in.  All of the regular bags for situations like this were MIA, so I grabbed the only bag I could find that wasn't plastic and didn't say Walmart or Target on it:  the chemo bag.

The chemo bag is a necessity to have when you have regularly scheduled or anticipated hospital stays.  We had been told early on in the treatment process that we would need to keep one stocked and handy, but I blew it off.  For the first hospitalization only.  After that, it lived behind the bathroom door between hospital visits.  It has been untouched for over 5 months.  Until tonight when I quickly dumped it out on my bed to make room for the current necessities like deodorant and a toothbrush (not the baby soft kind he needed during chemo/mouth sores).

This was the old stash--





--Regular strength Tylenol--for Harrison if the nurses didn't bring his pain meds quickly enough.  I got chewed out about this by his doctor early on, and didn't give it to him during hospitalizations again.  But I did keep it in there--just in case.

--All natural odor beads that eventually evaporate--to stave away the hospital funk.

--Organic hand soap, sanitizer and lotion--those frequent hand washings were rough on hands.

--a non-plastic spoon

--Prayer Barbie

--quarters

--little bottles of organic hand sanitizer that Harrison used--unscented.  We ended up with multiple bottles because it was very stressful for him when we ran out of it.

--lip balm -- his and mine

--toothbrush and toothpaste -- his and mine

--sticky notes -- multiple uses, but mainly to label our personal items in the family room fridge

--the chemo notebook -- where I took notes on every weight, time, and measurement for months

--Peroxyl -- a mouth sore rinse that didn't make him vomit

--the blue rubber glove that housed the soap that Darren used every morning for his showers (he pulled almost every night duty)

--three pens -- I kept losing them

--the cancer beads - this deserves it own post soon

--Melatonin -- to help us sleep occasionally

--a CD I meant to give to another family, but they were discharged and I haven't seen them since.

Absent, but not forgotten - a roll of Charmin toilet paper (as opposed to the John Wayne toilet paper that the hospital stocked), Puffs Plus kleenex - unscented, soft paper towels, a regular towel and wash cloth, a microwaveable bowl.



It is hard to believe in has been months since we used this stuff.  And I pray we never will again.

Some pictures from that time--



The first day of chemo


Right after getting his head shaved - Super Bowl Sunday


Love that serendipitous Dwight Schrute quote in the background


Yep--too much awesome


And recently--



The two of us at a painting class.  He is just a wee bit taller than I am.

Getting his hair and color back


Tubing at Dalewood, behind the same boat I grew up with


Navigating the sand unassisted and with a new femur



I hate cancer.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Today's Mini-Rant

One of my Facebook friends posted this status last night:

I hate cancer.  It takes away so much.  That is all.

Simple status.  One that seems so easy to agree with, whether you click that 'like' button or not. A no-brainer, so to speak.

But, apparently not for everyone.

Two of her friends (that I don't know) posted comments about how they disagree, and how cancer gives so much more than it takes, like an appreciation for life and the days you do have.

Hmmm---

I suppose on a philosophical, existential level, they might be right.  But the here-and-now part of me wanted to JUST. GO. OFF.  And I am not the going off kind of person.

I wonder if those folks are dealing with cancer.  Or have had to sign a consent form agreeing to have any future grandbabies obliterated.  Or had to stand beside their person's graveside.

Maybe they have.  Maybe they are at a higher place than I am.  I don't know.

I do know this--I hate cancer.  It takes away so much.

That is all.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Our Life in Plates

Today is the first day of school.  Last year I wrote about our back-to-school traditions, and the same things hold true this year.  One big change is that I usually shop all through the summer and squirrel away items that I find on sale.  This year, I hit Target at 8:36 pm and did a mad dash through the store before it closed at 9:00pm.  Probably not the best strategy.

Each year they get a stash of stuff, kind of like a mini-Christmas morning.  Workbooks and school supplies no longer raise their excitement levels, so I have to get a little more creative.

Before they woke up--






After they woke up--




Each year they also decorate a plate with their age, the year, their grade, and something they like at that particular time.  Here is a composite of their years.

John's plates

Travis - 2004-2007

Travis - 2008-2011

Harrison - 2004 - 2007


Harrison - 2008 - 2011

They are still working on this year's plates.  I'll post when I get around to actually mailing them in.  One time I forgot until the next year, and gave two plates as Christmas presents.

Gotta keep them from becoming too rigid, right?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The View from Up There

Yesterday, Harrison had a follow-up appointment with his surgeon.  More than any other of the many, many appointments he has had this year, this particular one was pretty straightforward, with no invasive tests or surprises.  He had x-rays, showed the doctor how he can walk and stand on one leg, and got a prescription for outpatient therapy.  All great things, but in the midst of showing many outward signs of feeling 'better', I was a little thrown off by the fact that I had forgotten to bring the pink vomit bucket.

With paper towel on bottom to prevent splashing


Ah, the little pink vomit bucket--one of the enduring symbols of this whole cancer journey.

For months, we had one in every single room of the house (two in his bedroom), and one in each car.  We still have a couple laying around.  Just in case.  Thankfully, he hasn't needed one for a while, so it is easy (for me, anyway) to forget how one whiff of the hospital can bring every bit of that nausea back.  And that is exactly what happened.  He didn't get sick yesterday, but it would not have take very much to push him right over the edge.  Scientists say that the sense of smell is the strongest memory trigger, and I doubt he will ever be able to walk into that hospital again without bringing it all back into focus--the pain, the nausea, the weakness--all kinds of yucky stuff.

Things haven't been all bad, though.  We have had a little time now to process the past few months, and are reminded every day of the amazing generosity of so many people, some we don't even know.  We have been given food, gift cards, cards, money, hugs, emails, Facebook messages, toys for the younger boys, stuff, advice and special hugs from other parents who have 'been there', new friends, rides, blood, freezers, comments from bloggy friends--and so much more--that have blessed our family beyond belief.

Harrison has had a core group of friends that have stayed around and treated him like he was still normal.  In a time of visiting restrictions and fatigue and Germ-X, they have been an unbelievable blessing not just to him, but also to this momma's heart.  He is coming to terms with having friend that appear to be deserters--for whatever reason--and is learning many life lessons from it all.  The value of true friendship is just one of those lessons.

I am experiencing survivor's guilt; the kind that comes from having had a couple of clear scans, when so, so many of our new friends never get/got this amazing gift.  It is also coupled with the knowledge that this could change on a dime with the next scan--the ones he will have every 3 months for a few years.  As my wise friend, Melanie, told me not too long ago, there are worse things than living life in 3 month increments.  It definitely makes us more intentional with our time and actions.

And another sign that things are becoming a little more normal:



It may not look like much at first, but I walked in last night and Harrison was up in his loft bed.  He had to stop using the ladder several weeks before his diagnosis because it hurt too much to climb, and had been sleeping on the floor.  Then some generous soul that we don't know (a friend of a friend on Facebook) gave us a twin bed that we stuffed into his room and that he has used for 8 months.  I went in to tell him good night, and walked out before I even realized the momentousness of that simple act.  Then I hurried back in to do a double take.

What cancer does--it teaches everyone it touches not to take even the slightest good thing for granted.

Totally serendipitous Dwight Schrute quote in background

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Scanxiety update

Just a quick update for folks who may only know me on here-- Last week Harrison had his most recent set of scans to see if his cancer had spread. All results showed he is all clear right now. We will have repeat scans in a few months. No more chemo for now. Yay! Yay! Yay!


Friday, July 20, 2012

Scanxiety




Today I had my official phone interview with the Medicaid lady--6 months after filing the initial paperwork.  In my state, a child with a diagnosis of cancer is automatically approved for the health insurance portion of Medicaid.  If automatic means over half a year later, that is.

Part of the process involved going over every doctor and hospital visit Harrison has had since his diagnosis last December.  So, I pulled out my trusty calendar that I keep in my purse, and began to go down the list.  A very long and detailed list.  Not a single one of those appointment days or times was chosen by me, but we showed up whenever and where ever they told us to.  'They' being that medical machine in place to help keep my child alive and walking.

I have been exhausted for the rest of the day just thinking about it.

January - 2 surgeries, 1 round of chemo, 15 appointments, and one derby race.


Looking over the past six months in black and white was just a tangible reminder of how crazy and strung out our whole family has been.  Not to mention that in the midst of chemo and scans and surgeries, the other two boys have continued to have their own activities.  The normal ones like co-ops and scouts and church--the ones we have tried so hard to keep on the books.

 March--2 rounds of chemo and one ER visit


The past couple of months since surgery and no chemo have brought about some sense of normalcy.  A new normal, but one I will take nonetheless.  Harrison can get around on his own and doesn't have to carry a pink vomit bucket with him everywhere he goes.  He drives.  Today he got home from summer camp and now he is watching The Dark Knight.  He was not very happy that he couldn't wear his full costume to the theater thanks to that crazy guy in Colorado.  Just normal, teenagery stuff.

This afternoon I took full advantage of giving his bedroom a good cleaning out before he got off of that charter bus.  He has spent the bulk of house time this year in that room, in the bed we had to borrow when he became non-weightbearing, because he could no longer climb the ladder to his loft bed.  I found all kinds of things from BEFORE.  Stuff like:

--rubber band packages for his braces--the ones we had to get removed earlier than scheduled because he wouldn't be able to tolerate them once chemo started.

--Christmas cards, and a Santa Homer Simpson figure

--the new prayer journal for 2012.  There are no entries.

--a spiritual gifts inventory that he took at church sometime last year.  It turns out that he is definitely not a giver, but loves to teach and get people together in groups.  And if costumes are involved, then all the better. (OK, the costume part wasn't officially on the inventory, but I do know my boy).

--the last book he was reading for school - The Scarlet Letter

Normal stuff.  Next week he goes back in for his next round of scans.  If anything shows up, then we start all over with the crazy schedule again.  I don't even want to think about having to do that, but we will face whatever happens and do whatever we need to get him better.

But, for what it's worth, I sure hope we don't have to do this again.  Never.  Ever.




I hate cancer.


Only 3 appointment so far for August.  I can live with that.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking











Quick--think back to high school--the academic part of it.


What is the most important thing you learned there?  The dates of the Revolutionary War?  Probably not.  What about Algebra or Calculus?  Definitely not (sorry, higher level math teachers, but I still don't think I needed it).


For me, the skill that I have no doubt used over and over was one that originated in Mrs. Wright's 6th period class in the 10th grade.  Typing.  And I pretty much hated every minute of learning it.  Mrs. Wright was a stickler for all things typing related--centering, margins, only 3 corrected mistakes using those new correction strips that would 'type' a white letter over the wrong thing I had just typed.  I felt lucky that we had this, because she refused to accept any paper that had even a drop of White-Out on it.


My best friend and I got on her bad side the very first week of class, when we were supposed to be typing our first lines of letters that we had just learned, as quickly as possible.  She said go, and all the girls around us sounded like professional secretaries, with clicks happening at lightning speed.  My friend and I looked at each other, kind of smiled, and just began randomly typing, so that Mrs. Wright would not give us 'the look' for going so slowly.  As it turned out, not only were the other girls actually typing what was on the books beside them, it was also our first surprise timed test.


We failed it.





After that, we remained slower than the rest of the class, but we eventually caught up and got halfway decent at the whole thing.  I was thrilled when I got to college and my roommate had one of those new fangled contraptions--the portable word processor.  No Wite-Out required, and you could automatically set those margins before the first word was even typed.  It was also at this point that I reached my peak of 
technological expertise.


Regardless of how much I did not like that typing class, I have no doubt that it prepared my for every job I have had since then, and every post I have written.  I can even pretend I am watching something on the video game my kid is playing and continue typing quickly without looking at the keyboard.  You know, important life skills.  It is also a skill I realized early on that my boys need to learn, and the younger, the better.


So, true to form, I bought computer CDs with Goofy and Mario and skateboards that promised to teach keyboarding (it was no longer simply 'typing') skills to my kids.  They didn't work.  I know, I know, lazy parenting/teaching, but I was willing to give it a shot.  My teenager learned to type adequately enough, in that one fingered, fast hunt and peck method that works so well for kids these days.  My other two tried the CDs, but nothing stuck in terms of actual typing.


Elementary Version





And then came Keyboarding for the Christian School, in a regular and elementary version.  I have been using the pdf version with each of the boys, with varying but positive results.  The 8 and 12 year olds have been following the lessons in the elementary edition.  It is designed for grades K - 5th, but has been working fine for the 7th grader.  The format seems to be much like I learned in high school.  They are learning the basics from the beginning--a,s,d,f--j,k,l,;--while looking at a sheet of paper beside the computer, as opposed to looking at the screen.  I found the use of their colored keyboard example to be VERY helpful in helping both of them understand where their fingers needed to go.  Whereas I learned the top level of keys by moving up from the center row, these lessons simply had them 'rest' their fingers on the top row and use them as the keyboard base when it came time to learn these letters (I hope that makes sense).  That seemed to make it stick more for them both.


The lessons focus on just learning 2 letters at a time, repeating them and gaining confidence with each added letter.  By lesson 6, simple words were added. There are 32 lessons in this edition, with various timed tests throughout.  We have not gotten this far yet, but the latter lessons include Bible verses.  I did notice that some of them require the use of letters that they have not officially learned yet though.  There is also simple lessons in centering and making a list.


Keyboarding for the Christian School





The regular version is the one my 16 year old has been using.  It has been helpful in getting him to be more functional and proficient, with less hunting and pecking.  He is progressing well.  The first 32 lessons are almost identical in format as the elementary edition, but with a smaller font and longer words once the letters are learned.  The Bible passages are also longer.


It is the latter lessons (43 total) that were most impressive to me.  There are very simple and informative lessons in computer formatting for typing multi-colored graphs, research papers, and personal/business letters, among other things.  An added plus is that computer screen shots are included with the written instructions, which is perfect for people like me who get bogged down when specific technical jargon comes into play.  It turns out that my son is already way past needing to learn some of this information (how in the world he learned it is beyond me), but other parts will definitely come in handy as a resource guide.


Both editions are excellent resources that are working for us.  You can get more information about the products and ordering information here.  The elementary version sells for $12.95  and the regular edition is $15.95.  Until August 29, 2012, you can also get 20% off any order using the code SUMMER2012.  You can also view some sample lessons to get more of an idea of how the lessons are structured.


You can read other reviews of both editions by the TOS Crew here.


Photobucket







Disclaimer:  I received a pdf copy of both books for review purposes as a member of the TOS Crew.  No other compensation was received.














Teach Your Children Well

A couple of weeks ago I took this picture in my kitchen and posted it on Facebook.  I got lots of comments from understanding mommas.  It looks like they have also have family members that would much rather spend time doing intricate balancing acts than just going ahead and changing out the garbage bags.






Yesterday, I found myself doing the same thing, just with clean dishes instead of garbage.  I guess the apples don't fall too far from the tree.


Hey!  There's Perry!




Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Mii Just Got Chubbier--a New Way to Visualize Pain and Suffering?


I have 3 boys, and they love their video games.  They have accumulated various gaming systems, but my favorite is the Wii--the games tend to be much more appropriate and non-cringe worthy.  Unless you count their Spongebob game, but I have learned to tune it out just like I do the TV version.


We got the Wii Fit system soon after it was released several years ago.  It really was a neat concept, and was the first gaming system to incorporate fitness elements and accessories.  The nice folks in the game kept track of all manner of information, such as weight and BMI and balance statistics.  We were all good and healthy and balanced, and had a good time seeing how we stacked up with other family members.  Well, everyone but my youngest son liked it.  He has never liked not being the best at something, and it was evident even then in his 4 year old self.

Like all good exercise equipment, it eventually fell out of use, started gathering dust in the corner, and was eventually moved to a closet.  A couple of months ago, Harrison's Home Health therapist casually mentioned that it would be helpful for him to incorporate as part of his therapy regime.  So, we found the box, changed out the batteries, and brought it back into the light of the living room.

Wii Fit has been a great way for him to gauge his status and progress.  It shows his exact percentage of left/right weight distribution, which is important to know when you are trying to relearn how to walk after having your femur removed.  So, out of curiosity, yesterday I decided to get back on it and do a fitness test. In the immortal words of  Vivian on Pretty Woman, "Big mistake.  Huge".

Before I even did any of the basic measurements, the sweet drill sergeant  fitness guide reminded me that it had been 965 days since my last use of Wii Fit.  Which sounds about right, since my knee-breaking car wreck was 963 days ago. ( I had walked 6 miles that morning, because I was training to walk a half marathon a couple of months later).  I was then informed that I am now considered overweight because I have gained 26.3 pounds since then, and that I may want to consider altering my fitness goals to include weight loss into my regimen.  And by the way, had I noticed that my balance and endurance levels had decreased significantly?

Gee, ya think?  Maybe that would explain why elastic waistbands are my go-to fashion accessory of choice nowadays.

OK, so the official Wii Fit numbers weren't any big shock.  They were just an accurate representation of my new reality.  I rarely ever eat, so it isn't a calorie thing, but my movements are more of the 80 - 90 year old variety.  The numbers didn't set off any pity parties, but were a reminder that I can not live in 'what used to be' land.  It is what it is, and I have to make decisions and choices based on my new reality.  My life didn't end 963 days ago (as it easily could have), but it was altered.  Learning to be OK with that is just part of the journey.

It is a journey that doesn't include a 13.1 sticker on the back of my car...

Yet.

One day?

Monday, June 25, 2012

If You Like to Talk to Tomatoes...




I really like music.

I like lots of different genres of music.  Some get on my nerves, like the mess my oldest son likes to crank up in his room.  I know, I know--just another sign I am getting old.  My husband and I can belt out a song lyric for just about every situation.  Songs take me back and make me happy and help me to transcend to messiness of the moment.

I like that.


When I started college, I was introduced to a new form of music--Christian Rock.  I loved it. I had countless popular music songs in my mental library, both country and pop/rock, and am impressive knowledge of hymns, which was the only music my church knew, other than the occasional children's musical ("Germs, Germs, My invisible dog") and upbeat song chosen by the teenagers on those special 5th Sunday night singings (Pass It On, or Do You Really Care?).  Christian Rock took it to a new level for me, and I especially liked the cheese factor present in some of those early works (i.e.--Carmen).

It took a few years for the whole 'praise music' thing to hit churches, but my then-new husband and I loved it.  Not quite Christian Rock, but it did use choruses and guitars and drums in church.  Kind of like being at youth camp.  Lots of artists came on board, and tried to jump on the worship music bandwagon.  That was all well and good, as it meant more music options for me, but over time they just began to all sound the same.  And they began to get on my nerves.  Kind of like fingernails on chalkboard.

Then, Veggie Tales replaced worship tapes in my car, and radio stations got better, and people started making better music that wasn't necessarily cookie cutter.  I stopped working and stopped purchasing music, and still haven't embraced the whole music being downloaded onto something portable thing.  I'm still too old school, I guess.


Anyway, I got the opportunity to review a new worship album produced by Vineyard Music, called My Foundation (Live), which was performed at a Cultivation Generation student conference.  I halfway wondered if it would get on my nerves and end up as a cursory review, but it definitely wasn't.  There were 13 songs on the album, and each one had its own 'sound' and feel to it.  All were performed live (which sometimes gets on my nerves, regardless of who the artist is), but it didn't come across as a bad thing.  Each song had a different style--Worthy made me think of Alison Krauss/Kathy Mattea; Walls Come Down was like Russ Taff/somebody from 1986/87 that I can't remember; and Enthroned on High reminded me of an early, contemplative Bonnie Raitt.  My favorite song was God Don't Never Change, which incorporated a strong guitar sound and very early rap--and I mean that in a good way.


I think one of the reasons I liked this album so much is that the lyrics weren't all fluff.  It wasn't a repetitive chorus of "Jesus, you are worthy.  You are so worthy, Jesus.  I love how Jesus is worthy".  True, Jesus is worthy.  I have no doubt about that.  Sometimes I wonder if He wishes we felt He was worthy of better musical offerings, though...

These songs seemed to indicate an understanding that sometimes life is difficult.  Sometimes it is VERY difficult, and platitudes don't really help, even if they are offered with the best of intentions.  These songs help to bring a different layer of feel good lyrics, because as great as they are, sometimes a person needs more meat to their music than 'Word Up' or 'YMCA' or 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' can offer.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Didn't Even GO to College with Faith Hill


I found this list in an old notebook, with a sticky note that said "Important!  List for article.  Do not lose".  

Well, I didn't lose it--just misplaced it for about 5 years.  I have absolutely NO IDEA what this list was for, and can't even figure out what the theme for it would be.  I bet it would have been awesome, though.  LOL

Here's the list, exactly as it was written in my notebook.

--80s Soap Opera couples - Bo/Hope, Luke/Laura, Phillip/Beth, Lily/Holden
--Jackson Free Press
--Captivating
--Claim to Fame - college class with Faith Hill
--Dobson
--Jon Stewart, David Sedaris
--to play softball
--need a friend like Lorelai?
--Napoleon Dynamite - Seventh Heaven
--Mississippi Burning
--Recycler - Silk Soy Milk
--Have you killed someone yet?
--email vs snail mail
--weenie men - watch TV
--homeschool - never considered it until I took an aerobics class with school teachers
--invitation to Pampered Chef
--Beth Moore!!!
--prayer - Bye, Bye God
--80s contest
--TV show - Pageant rewind
--Pretty in Pink - Andi should've wound up with Duckie
--VIP magazine, Lemuria
--sent her a sub to Free Press
--mayor in Jackson - crazy, no good for crime
--USM, Brett Favre

And that is it.  What in the world kind of article could that have been for?  Or is this just more evidence that I was losing my mind even then?  :)


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Goodbye, Randy -- Revisited


This was another of my old Facebook notes, from 2009.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I had wondered where he had been. I hadn’t seen his truck for several weeks. So, when I came over that last hill on my way to church this morning, I was happy to see his truck in its same old place. Then I noticed one of those big flower arrangements you only see at cemeteries. It had a big banner on it that simply said “Randy”. And I started to cry.

I’m not really sure why, either. I have only known Randy as ‘the Peanut Guy’ for a couple of years. I had seen his truck parked in the same place for years—on the side of Highway 25 in Rankin County, right before you get to 471. We started stopping by every other Sunday (after payday, when I was most likely to still have a little money on hand) to buy our lunch for that day – a large bag of boiled peanuts. It was a drive around type of thing, so we weren’t ever there very long, just long enough to say what size bag we wanted and to pay our $5.

But, I never failed to drive away feeling a little lighter somehow. In that minute or two, Randy found a way to smile, make eye contact, speak, remember trivial details, and otherwise make us feel special. As we drove off, he always said, “Hey, you have a good day now, you hear?”. There were many Sundays that I had more of a real connection with Randy than I had at church that day. Not to mention that his peanuts were hands down consistently the best boiled peanuts I ever had.

That was really all I knew about Randy, until today. It turns out that two of his brothers were the ones who had brought his old red pickup truck out one last time. By the time I saw it, several people had brought flowers and people were steadily stopping by to pay their respects. I pulled in with my boys, and was greeted by one of Randy’s brothers. He was giving everyone who stopped by one last bag of peanuts that they had boiled for Randy’s customers. He asked if we had a couple of minutes to look at a photo display that they had put together of Randy. We absolutely did.






What we saw was an amazing insight into a man I barely knew. I still don’t know his last name, but I did learn some new things:
--Randy served in the military (Vietnam?) and was an absolute cutie in uniform.
--His gorgeous sister died less than a year ago.
--His brother’s voice is almost identical to his.
--He was a big time music promoter and one picture showed him at an outdoor venue with over 100,000 attendees, where he was introducing Van Halen, and later Aerosmith. There were numerous pictures of him with Rock legends.
--He was asked to move to New York in the early 80’s to become a main player in a new experiment called ‘music television’, but was convinced that it would be the downfall of music as he knew it. Since he had more money than he would ever need, he quit the business and never looked back.
--He had been selling peanuts out of the back of his truck in the same place for 11 years. I don’t know why – it obviously wasn’t for the money. Apparently he just wanted to brighten people’s day.
--His life blessed many people. This was evidenced by the many tokens that people left today, and by the comments we heard in the few minutes were visited with his family - people from different walks/places/backgrounds – all somehow touched by this unassuming man.

Well, I drove home and poured my last bag of peanuts into a bowl and settled down on the couch to begin watching the Saints whup up on the Giants. And you know what? These peanuts, so generously boiled and given out by Randy’s family, were OK, but they in no way matched what Randy used to make every week. And, somehow, this just seemed fitting.

Goodbye, Randy. I’ll miss you (and your peanuts).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

16 (+3) Random Things




Back when I first started using Facebook, there was a 5 minute fad going around called '16 Random Things'.  The idea was that everyone would make a list on a Facebook Note (remember those?) of 16 random facts about themselves without putting a lot of thought or analysis into it.  I read back over my list several days ago, and it made me smile--some out of the simpleness of the things I listed, and some out of my naivete.  I know I liked the things I learned from other folks' lists back then, and figured I would copy my old list on here now (with updated commentary in purple).




1. My favorite flowers in the world are the little white garlic flowers that grow everywhere in Mississippi in the spring. Many uninformed consider them to be weeds, but they are wrong. I hate spider lilies and any flower that has been spray painted blue.

2. I was a vegan for 7 years. I am still a vegetarian and do not eat white flour or white sugar. It is a health thing, not a hippie thing. Now we eat organic/free range meat and eggs.
3. Speaking of hippies, I generally feel much more welcome at Rainbow (organic grocery) than I do at church. Hmm...
4. I can pinpoint many 80's songs to the month they hit the top 40. However, I can't remember my kids names half the time. Make that the majority of the time now.  They are just all called by my dog's name or my little brother's name now.
5. I'm not a fan of the prosperity gospel or it "prophets". If it were true, my grandparents would not have been financially poor all of their lives. I'm just sayin'.  The prosperity gospel is the idea that God wants everyone to be rich and healthy, and if you just have enough faith (or give enough money), then you will have these things.  My grandparents taught me the meaning of faith, more than any of the 'name it and claim it' folks on TV.
6. I'm becoming a fan of adult alternative music. I have no idea what categorizes a song as such, but I like when that channel is on.
7. I have lived in 6 different places in 3 years. Have lived in 3 more places since then.
8. I am one of the least judgmental people I know in regards to past mistakes.
9. I think racism is horrible, and images or reports of it make me cry every time I see them. Every. Single. Time.
10. I love being around water (the nature kind), and see God everywhere around it. I want to go swimming at Dalewood in pre-hurricane force winds. I want a mini Viking funeral at Dalewood, too.  Dalewood is the lake/community I grew up in.  I did the hurricane swim last summer.  AWESOME.
11. I miss Allyce. My cousin, who was killed in a car wreck when we were both in college.  If I had a girl, her middle name would have been Allyce.
12. Gilmore Girls is my favorite all time TV show.  Still
13. I have been an adjunct college professor for 10 years. I love it and it keeps me sane. Well, theoretically anyway.  I have not been able to teach since my car wreck.  I no longer have the endurance or mental 'with it ness' to do it.  I was pretty darn good at it, though.
14. I never answer my phone and am very slow about returning calls or emails, if ever. I'm a pretty poor excuse of a friend/family member. At least I am aware of that fact, though. It's nothing personal.  Still
15. My favorite colors are red and yellow, and my favorite foods are cheese pizza and tater tots. I hate cooking now.
16. My lifelong dream has been to go on a Mediterranian cruise, with extended time in Greece.  Still





And for good measure, I have added a few more.

17.  I was in a car wreck almost 3 years ago.  I broke both of my knees and a bone in my hand.  I will never have full function of my knees, and can only bend them halfway.  I thought this would be a defining life moment.  Until...

18.  My oldest son was diagnosed with cancer 6 months ago.  Now we are all very, very tired.

19.  I never thought I would embrace electronic books, but it is just becoming way too convenient to just do it.

I think that is about all.  For now, anyway.




Saturday, June 9, 2012

What Can $5 Do Today?

It is amazing the people that are dropped into your path when you are on a sick and twisted and unfamiliar trail.  Ever since Harrison was diagnosed with cancer, I have become much more aware of other families who are going through similar circumstances.  Of course they have always been there--if not them specifically, then others like them--but frankly, I have just never taken out the time to care very much about them.  Until I became one of them....


Anyway, in the past few months, I have become more and more aware of very specific families with very specific needs, many of them I only know in the virtual world.  Sad, sad stories of families in various stages of watching their child being eaten away from the inside.  One of these children in a precious boy named Noah.  I don't know Noah, or his mother, Kate, or any of the other members of his family.  I have absolutely no idea how Noah even got onto my radar.  All I know is that I read all of his updates when ever his mom has the time or sanity to update her blog.  

Late last night Kate posted about how Medicaid is pulling coverage for Noah's Hospice benefits.  Yes, Noah is going to die, and he will die quickly and painfully.  Unfortunately, it is not quick enough for the state of South Carolina, so Noah will lose his hospital bed, customized wheel chair, nursing care that keeps him out of the hospital (somewhat), and many, many other things.  His mother is frantic.  Of course she is.  This is just part of what she posted last night--


I am very much a glass-half-full, empathetic, see-the-best-in-others kind of person.  Even I can not begin to see a silver lining in this.  Not even a glimmer. With almost every passing hour I realize more and more of what this means.  I didn't even think of the bed until a couple of hours ago, and I just finished telling a friend that this shouldn't affect Noah's supplies - - - until I started writing this and remembered about item after item after item that they provide.


I am holding desperately to the sure belief that God is in control and has not abandoned us.  This is not a strong or beautiful or commendable faith. It is a frantically clutching, "if I let go, I'll drown" faith.

I've been on the phone for hours today dealing with this.  There does not appear to be anything at all that can be done to stop it.  We are going to pursue any avenue that opens to us, and if at any time there seems to be something that you can do, we promise to let you know.  In the meantime, I don't have the emotional energy to deal with an avalanche of even well-intentioned suggestions.  Please understand this.

Please pray for us.  I don't know when I've ever been so disillusioned and overwhelmed.  There has to be a greater purpose in this.  There has to be a way to glorify God.  There has to be.  I just can't see it . . .

Kate

So, this is what I'm asking.  Please, click here and read her entire post.  If you are a pray-er, by all means, do that.  Leave her a note of encouragement.  And, if you have even a small amount of money to donate, PLEASE, PLEASE consider doing that now.  She even has a place on her blog that you can click to donate by credit card.  I promise you, even $5 will matter, especially if enough people give.  Copy this page and pass it on to your social media friends.  I would love to have you guys bless this family so much that they even forget they ever needed Medicaid.

How cool would it be for you to be part of the hands and feet of Jesus today?



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action

Welcome to any folks that may be dropping by for the online book club today.  For anyone else that might have stumbled on here for another reason, I am writing a guest post as part of a discussion of Jen Hatmaker's 7:  An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  You can read more about my take of this particular book here

This week one of the chapters is simply entitled Waste.  I volunteered for this chapter because I thought it would be the one that I had most experience with and the most material to contribute to a meaningful discussion.  I thought about it quite a lot, and found that I needed much more room than a single post to talk about my experiences with gardening, and recycling, and energy conservation, among other things.



The bottom line?  It seems like I talk a good game, but that I only do significant waste reduction things if it is easy or convenient for me.

Ouch.  That sure isn't what I was going for when I volunteered for this chapter.

When it became obvious that I had only platitudes to offer the discussion, I did what any good reviewer/researcher would do-- I threw it out for debate with my Facebook friends.  This one drew much less discussion that whether or not people think I am an introvert or an extrovert.  I think that is because this is an issue that people are really either into, or they really aren't.  These were the most of the comments I received:


We haven't really gone that green--but I do have to time my teenagers showers now! That does conserve water. I think it's important----but I guess I really don't do a lot!! I'll put a bottle in a recycle bin if its there--but throw it out if its not! 

I attempt to be as responsible as is practical for our community. Living in a rural locale, there are no recycling routes, though I use the recycling bins at work for trash generated there. I believe that it is our responsibility to be good stewards of that which God has granted us. I don't believe that man has the power to save or destroy God's creation, but I do believe we should care for it as was commanded.

My list is recycle the plastic bags at the grocery store, although I'm trying to get better about taking my own, we recycle metal waste from our construction company as well--I do usually use aluminum h20 bottles but still have plastic, too.

Living overseas has definitely helped me be more aware. The things I'm about to list are things EVERYONE does here. It's made very easy for us and is also expected. The paper is picked up every other week. The refuse is picked up every other week. This is done locally. We separate aluminum, plastic, paper, glass, and refuse. There are bins on base for all of that and another area for clothes, batteries, electronics, etc. I take my green bags to the commissary and my little German basket with me to the German grocery. I carry my own water bottle because there are fountains everywhere. It's a lifestyle in Europe. I know if I were in the states I wouldn't be doing it because they make it so inconvenient to do.



And that is it.  I actually have more than 4 friends, but these were the ones that actually had some thoughts about the whole waste issue.  However, I think it is very telling.  People seem to do what is convenient or expected.  But I think this is just why Jen Hatmaker chose to write her book, and include this chapter in it.  She had some amazing insights, and did some big things, and I couldn't help but be envious of the fact that she lives in an area where being green is expected and easier to accomplish (Austin, TX) than it is in so many other areas.  And that whole KP Project where an agency will supervise homeless people to come out and plant and maintain a garden on your personal property?  How amazing is that?  I would hands-down be the first to sign up for a program like that.  I even mentioned it to my husband, who said, "Yeah, that sounds great, but who is going to organize something like that around here?  Are you willing to do it?".

And the simple answer is no.  No, I'm not.  But I sure LOVE the idea of that program, though.  And having recycle bins as a normal part of a fast food restaurant (locally owned and one that serves grass fed beef, of course).  But then I see this comment on my Facebook feed by a friend that doesn't live all that far from me, meaning her resources are the same as mine are, and my excuses seem pretty flimsy:

Do you want our long list?? recycle glass, paper, plastic, etc-we do not get bags from grocery stores-we have our own, we have a compost out back-we have water saving toiletsts, water heater- we have put the denim insulation in the walls. we have water barrels. We are in the process of saving for some solar panels for the roof...when we first moved in to our house our electric bill in the summer was around 400....know its around 150. Our water bill is around 20 bucks a month. and our gas bill is around 30 in the winter time. That is all I can think of...OH! We do not buy water bottles...that is huge!!! 

And then there is my other thrifty friend, who goes way beyond things I have done:

I used cloth diapers and breastfed my four children. We compost, recycle and reuse items. We built a chicken coop out of mainly reclaimed wood and the chickens are helping with the composting.
When running errands we combine them to save on gas and set the thermostat higher than most in summer and cooler in winter.
We try to support the local farmer's market.

I think for many people it boils down to balancing what is good and needed and necessary with what is do-able and practical and cost efficient.  I LOVE the discussion on Day 22, where JH talks about her Sybil like personalities when it comes to waste and going green.  First, there is Sage Moonjava, who doesn't blink at spending $11.99/lb for bulk organic cashews, because they were harvested responsibly and not doused in partially hydrogenated oil".  Then there is Ryvre, who thinks "buying from corporate chains is paying The Man;  and would rather subsidize local vendors who retain creative ownership and feed back into the local economy".  Rounding them out is Freedom Shakra, who "understands that name brands and chic labels are the marketing brainchildren of The People Who Sell Us Stuff We Don't Need.  There is no good reason to buy designer water, over-priced spaghetti, or two springs of basil for $3.99".

I think this was a great representation, and represents where so many folks are.  I know I want to do better. I guess time will tell what I actually do.  I do know, however, that reading this book has definitely gotten the wheels a turnin', though.

I'm not the only one posting on this today.  You can also follow the discussion on waste with Katie and Amy Y.  Karrie and Lindsy W are also discussing the chapter on spending, which also touches on some really good stuff.

I hope you all have a really great day.









Waste Not, Want Not (Part 2)




Picking up on the theme of my last post---

Recycling - I absolutely love the idea of recycling garbage items--stuff like plastic and cardboard and glass.  But to be perfectly honest, I only do it when it is convenient for me.  There--I said it.  I know it is important and needed and good, but I have never gone out of my way to do it.  I was so excited when we moved to a new town when my oldest was a baby and they had large collection bins near the city walking track.  I saved my plastic bottles and newspapers up for about a week, drove them to the bins, and found that the bins were gone.  The city removed them due to lack of use and interest.  So, I took my recyclables back home and put them in the garbage.

Fast forward 10 years, when we moved to a suburb of Kansas City.  I was thrilled to find that the city had given everyone a recycle bin, and that pick up was the same time as the regular garbage pick up.  I was a recycling machine, and had about 5 times as much recycled material every week as regular garbage.  It was definitely a community wide thing, because even the heavy partiers down the street would put out their beer bottles and pizza boxes in the little green bin every Friday and Tuesday.

The next year we moved away from KC, and into another suburb with no recycle centers.  Well, there is one place in town that has three garbage cans labeled 'glass', 'paper', and 'plastic', but it is in a teeny, tiny back alley downtown that is frequented by old hippies that sit near the bins and pass around their joints and homemade cigarettes.  No, I am not kidding.  So, everything from our house just goes into the regular garbage can.  Apparently at one point in our neighborhood there was a company that would come out once a month to collect some types of items, but they charged $40 per month.  Nope, wasn't going to happen for us.  I asked my neighbor about it today, and she said the service had stopped a year ago due to lack of interest and use.

Since this service stopped, she hasn't recycled anymore, either.  I am a slacker, surrounded by other well meaning slackers.

Shopping thrift and second-hand - a great idea.  It really is, but is only do-able to the extent that places offer things that aren't complete junk.  I haven't found places like that yet.  I'm open to the idea, though.  I do go to consignment sales on occasion.  These seem much better for children's items.  In that case, it is hard to make the argument NOT to buy all baby items at a place like this.

Buying local - another great idea, which I do pretty well.  Kind of.  I like to buy food and gifts and books from local owned businesses and co-ops, but it is difficult to balance the increased cost that is oftentimes associated with going local.  I definitely see the importance of it, though, and do it as often as I can.  I sure do love Amazon, though.

That about wraps up the general overview of Jen Hatmaker's categories.  I'll sum it all up and add some closing thoughts on my next post.