Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bucket List #13.1

Several years ago I had an 'Ah, ha' moment. It was at the end of the first episode of one of The Biggest Loser's early seasons. The new group of recruits had shown up at the ranch--overweight, out of shape, and in pain. They had to walk a 5K that first day, and were told that there would be an eventual marathon in their futures--if they lasted long enough. After watching their first week condensed into a couple of hours, and seeing their struggles and triumphs, I decided that I was going to walk a half marathon. If they could do it, then so could I. No excuses. I had just received a flyer from a local cancer charity about an info session they were sponsoring later that week that involved training for a marathon in conjunction with their fundraising efforts, and I was going to do it. I even went walking around my apartment complex as soon as that episode was over, to get a jump start on my training, which was saying a lot for me, since it was at 9:00 PM on a very cold January night. I hate being out in the cold.

I went to that info meeting, registered as a walker, and was all set to walk in a marathon that next April. I went to the weekly training walks, and was about a month away from the marathon when I stepped wrong at the end of one of my twelve mile walks. I did not fall, but I did end up with a swollen knee for a couple of weeks, which was not anything major, but it was enough to keep me out of that particular race. It was a little discouraging, but another marathon would come along.

Marathon training - version 1.0

Fast forward several months later--

Once again I began training to walk another half marathon--this one in my hometown. No excuses. I was back on track with my Saturday walks. One particular Saturday in November, I had walked six miles as part of my training schedule, and later that afternoon I was on the way to pick up some items for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, just a couple of miles from our apartment, when I was involved in a car accident that broke both of my knees and tore all of the surrounding tendons and ligaments. I was stuck in the car for quite a while before emergency personnel could figure out how to open the crushed driver's side door and get me into the ambulance, which gave my husband enough time to get the call from the other side of town that he needed to head back my way. The first thing I said to him when he finally arrived was, "I don't think I'm going to be able to walk that marathon in January". (The next thing was, "Call my mom and tell her that I am going to need her a lot for a while").  The emergency personnel kind of exchanged "is she kidding, she's not walking ANYWHERE" looks with each other--not really getting my different sense of humor.

I did not walk for a while. My rehab was a very long ordeal, and it eventually became clear that my knee function was going to be permanently impaired. Four years later, I still cannot get up and down off of the floor because my knees do not bend all the way, and there is always pain involved with flexion and extension. Walking that half marathon became something missed but no longer attainable.  Plenty of legitimate excuses.

Or so I thought.

This past summer, I saw a knee specialist because of increasing knee pain. One of the many things that I had learned in researching Harrison's diagnosis is that osteosarcoma is much more likely to show up after a bone fracture, and I did not want to be stupid and just assume that the pain was 'normal' for someone with injuries like mine. This doctor assured me that while knee replacements are almost certainly guaranteed in my future, walking at slow speeds would not increase the rate of breakdown, and that walking that half marathon was not out of the question, as long as I worked up to it. So, guess what?

 I started walking one mile at a local nature trail. After several weeks, I added another mile, as well as a walking partner. At this point I had serious doubts if I would be able to walk a 5K, but she encouraged me and we did a 5K together. We were absolute last, but we finished. When she suggested walking a half-marathon (it was on her bucket list, too), I agreed to give it a shot, figuring I would quit when it became too much.

But my doctor was right. The constant knee pain did make training more of a challenge, but knowing that I was not doing further damage kept me going. That, and knowing that if I did happen to fall on one of my training walks, I would have a partner to help pull me up off the ground! I did not tell anyone I was training, other than a couple of family members. Whereas before I had posted regular updates on my progress, this one was all for me.

And in October, we did it. We walked a half marathon. We were the last two to cross the finish line--seconds away from having the clock shut off at the four hour deadline for walkers. But we did it. We walked a half marathon--two middle aged ladies with crazy schedules, kids at home, health issues, pain, and busted knees.

I LOVE this shot--everyone has gone home, except for our own personal cheering section of folks that matter the most.

And if we can do it, so can you. No excuses.

I finally have my very own sticker--sweet!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cancer update and new blog...

For those of you who have been following our cancer story--

This week's scans came back clear. (Cue the Hallelujah Chorus).

Harrison will have follow up scans in January. For now we just live big for the next three months.

I realized when I posted the Rocks blog the other day that I had not posted here for a while. One large part of that is that in June I discovered something called essential oils and have spending just about every spare minute researching and applying them with Harrison's follow-up treatment. I even started a new blog devoted to what we are learning and using called Hokey Pokey Oil Change. Feel free to go check it out.

I will be posting here as well. I think the next post will be an open letter to new cancer moms. Kind of like Sinead O'Connor's letter to Miley Cyrus, but without the tweets and the twerks.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rocks (AKA--Rock Bottom)

Next week Harrison goes back in for his follow up scans.  He is currently NED (no evidence of disease) after two bouts with cancer, but we never know when or if that will change. He is now 17 and trying to enjoy his Senior year of high school.

Last week we were on vacation at the beach, and his dad and I took a little time to sit with him by the seashore and share some of our thoughts with him. With Harrison's permission, we thought we would share them with everyone else here. My words are in black, and Darren's are in blue.


I am sitting here on the balcony of the condo, watching John play big at the edge of the ocean. Your dad is not too far from the edge of the shore, sitting in one of those little chairs that are impossible for me to get out of anymore. It makes me smile to see them, and I cannot help but think of 'our' beach times.  YOU are the one to wave jump with me on red flag days. YOU get my own excitement about being able to navigate ocean waters after having leg/balance issues.

You are painting with Grandma and Travis. I cannot wait to see your tree. It will be cool and creative, and unique--just like you. Will you incorporate Grandpa in there somewhere? I would not be surprised if you did. You are just kind of neat that way.

Before we leave this amazing gift of a vacation, your dad and I wanted to do something just for you and with you. Cancer has already stolen two of your years, and with scans coming up soon, we do not know if it will take even more. Regardless of the results, there are a few things we want you to know--things we want to say before the reality of life outside of these amazing condo walls comes back to us tomorrow.

I totally agree with all your mom has said.  She is so gifted with writing and I am hard pressed to add much more.  Yet I do have some things to add.

Why rocks?  Because they are solid; permanent--here before us and here after us. The words on these rocks are like that. You didn't invent them and you will not have to last ideas about them. But you are a part of the meaning of each of these for us all.


This one is easy--I hope you never have cancer again. I hope you grow to be old and healthy and happy.  I need you around to help take care of me when I am old, because I am not so sure that John will, and Travis has already told me he will help some but not all the time.

I hope you get married and have babies (in that order!). I hope you make it to the Prom and that you have a blast. I do not know if your body is going to allow those things to happen, but I hope and pray that they do.

You bring hope to so many people. The way you fight this stuff instills hope in all that know you.


Peace in the midst of cancer seems impossible, and it is easy for me to throw out phrases like 'the Lord provides peace' when it is not my body fighting against itself. I am sorry that your is. But I do have peace knowing that God cares. He may or may not intervene the way I pray for, but I do know that He cares.

I wish that peace for you.

You amaze me at the way you have shown so much peace in all of this. Of course, I knew you would, because you have always live life bigger than just you.


Oh, this one is easy. I cherish every single moment with you. Seriously, even before your diagnosis I knew time was not a given and life can change on a dime. Because you have always been so good, and funny, and easy going, you make it easy to cherish your Harrison-ness.

I hope cancer has not or does not take away your ability to cherish each moment you are given, even the ones spend doing menial or boring things. Even if you live for 80 more years, I hope you never take for granted the gift of each moment.

I love being your dad--always have. You have amazed me and shown me so much. I cherish all the time we spend together and I cherish all that we will.


So many people think putting their heads in the sand and saying 'I believe I am healed or will never get cancer again' will make it so.  I believe God can heal like that, but I KNOW reality does not always work out that way.  So, what do I believe?  I believe that:

     --God is love.
     --Cancer stinks like mayonnaise.
     --Life with you here is better than life without you here.
     --There is a place better than this one, and if you get there before I do, I will count the days until I meet you there at that heavenly lake house--the one with no snakes or gnats, but with unlimited wi-fi and black-eyed pea dip.

What we believe matters. Your mom and I spent many hours talking about that when we were dating.  We just don't get people who don't know what they believe or just don't care. Pursue right beliefs.  Here's what I believe--that God has you here for something so much bigger than just you. You will change the world. I believe that fully.


Wow. The biggest rock, and my biggest wish for you.

I hope you live--for a very, very long time. Methuselah old.

In the meantime, between now and whenever, I hope you live to the best of your abilities, and not let the threat or reality of cancer suck your energy for living, even if you have to fight this monster many more times.

This one is easy. It has been my most prayed prayer since you were diagnosed with cancer--

That we would live in such a way that we glorify God.

So live to the full for His kingdom. Be ready at all times to give God the glory. In the ups and the downs.


Live big.
Laugh long and loud (but not after I go to bed at night).
Love true.
Trust your heart.

Be dangerous.

We love you and are so proud of you.

Oh, and you--without a doubt--most certainly ROCK!


And because both my husband and my son are boys, they could not resist changing the rocks to look like this...

Yes, yes they do look like little booty rocks.

Cancer can take away all kinds of things, but for now the silliness remains.

Now go. Live big.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I have not posted much lately--been busy with life in general and cancer in particular. I am hoping to gear back up pretty soon, though.

The next few posts will probably be product reviews, but those are winding up quickly.  I have begun to notice a pattern with my review seasons. It is either feast or famine, and now it is time for another break. One of the reviews, though, includes a $60 baking kit giveaway, so definitely be on the lookout for that.

In the meantime, I will be pondering more meaty posts about using (new to me) essential oils (Have you heard of these?  They are amazing!) to assist with chemo side effects; the civil rights movement/institutional racism; and how can God be good and loving when kids die of cancer--or anything else--even though people pray and totally believe God can heal.  You know, fluffy topics like that.

Thanks for following along with me.

"Buying a Mature Woman's Bathing Suit"

This is an article my dad showed me a couple of years ago. I laughed at it then, and am still laughing about it now.  It was published in the September 2011 issue of Gulf Coast MotorSports Magazine,  and I am posting it here with permission from the editor. No author is listed. If you ever find out who it is, thank them for me (and I will totally give them the credit they deserve).

When I was a child in the 1950s, the bathing suit for the mature figure was boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered. They were built to hold back and uplift, and they did a good job.

Today's stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a figure carved from a potato chip.

The mature woman has a choice. She can either go up front to the maternity department and try on a floral suit with a skirt, coming away looking like a hippopotamus that escaped from Disney's Fantasia, or she can wander around every run-of-the-mill department store trying to make a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent rubber bands.

What choice did I have? I wandered around, made my sensible choice and entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room. The first thing I noticed was the extraordinary tensile strength of the stretch material. The Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to launch small rockets from a slingshot, which gives the added bonus that if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you would be protected from shark attacks. Any shark taking a swipe at your passing midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.

I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder strap in place I gasped in horror.  My chest* had disappeared! Eventually, I found one side cowering under my left armpit. It took a while to find the other. At last I located it flattened beside my seventh rib. The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups. The mature woman is meant to wear her chest spread across her front like a speed bump. I realigned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a full view assessment.

The bathing suit fitted all right, but unfortunately it only fitted those bits of me willing to stay inside it. The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides. I looked like a lump of Playdoh wearing undersized cling wrap.

As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from the prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtain, "Oh, there you are," she said, admiring the bathing suit.

I replied that I wasn't so sure and asked what else she had to show me. I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of masking tape, and a floral two-piece that gave the appearance of an oversized napkin in a serving ring. I struggled into a pair of leopard-skin bathers with ragged frills and came out looking like Tarzan's Jane, pregnant with triplets and having a rough day. I tried on a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in mourning. I tried on a bright pink pair with such a high cut leg I thought I would have to wax my eyebrows to wear them.

Finally, I found a suit that fit. It was a two-piece affair with a shorts-style bottom and a loose blouse-type top. It was cheap, comfortable, and bulge-friendly, so I bought it. My ridiculous search had a successful outcome, I figured. When I got it home, I found a label that read, "Material might become transparent in water".

So, if you happen to be on the beach or near any other body of water this year and I'm there, too, I'll be the one in cut-off jeans and a T-shirt!

From the cover of one of my really fun books called Women of Substance, by Revilo

*I substituted the word 'chest' for another word in the original article. That word started with a 'b', but I didn't want my post to get blocked by certain software programs. That, and I really hate that 'b' word.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cancer Update

I just realized it has been awhile since I have updated on Harrison's cancer status. I think the latest info was that his cancer was back, and had traveled on to his lungs. So, in a nutshell...

--he had lung surgery to remove two of the spots on the left lobe--easy recovery with no problems.

--he had two courses of chemo (weeklong inpatient hospital stays) with two new for drugs that are new for him.  These particular drugs make him very tired, but not nauseated or sick feeling.

--complete set of scans last week showed no new growth anywhere. This is good. It does not mean that the drugs are working, but if there had been anything new, the drugs would be discontinued and no other treatment options are recommended at that point.

--new scans in a couple of months.

--he was admitted to the hospital yesterday to begin round three of chemo, which will officially begin in a few hours.

Getting ready for chemo

Quick trip last week to New Orleans/Cafe Maspero

And of course, Cafe Du Monde.

He posted this on Facebook yesterday, and I thought I would share it here. He really is such a neat kid.

Okay guys, I'm going to get kinda personal for a minute. So later today I'm going into the hospital for another round of chemo. (oh joy) And while it is not really as bad as it could be, it is still really stressful on me and my family, and because of that I usually get little to no sleep the night before. (I got about 3 last night, so there's that.) So I go into the clinic already fatigued and annoyed at the doctors. But what's the hardest for me isn't actually the chemo itself; its coming back home and adjusting back to normal life. Sure, the first few days I'm gonna be feeling bad, but after that I really feel fine, except for feeling extra tired. But the drugs I'm on make me have little to no immune system, so I can't go anywhere or be around people, and that's at a time when I need it the most. And because of the annoying but real side effects, my wanting to just ignore them and do things anyway, and my parents possession of actual common sense, they have to be super protective of me and what I can/ can't do. But that really makes me feel like I'm being babied, which only causes more anger within me. I also don't like to admit it, but seeing as this is a very real thing with very real side effects, I will have my moments when the stress is just too much, and I get really emotional. Why am I sharing this? Because this is my second round of this, and I learned last time that keeping things to myself helps nobody, and only makes things worse in the long run. Also, I believe in the power of prayer, and that these are real issues that can really be helped.

And I'm not just asking this to get attention. Trust me, I'm the exact opposite. Honestly, I really hate talking about this stuff and asking for help, because one of my biggest fears is people looking at me as "the guy with cancer," because if I let it define me, then in a way its won. But I'm learning that just because I ask for help, doesn't mean I'm weak, it just means that I'm human and need the help of others sometimes.

So thanks for listening. And I'm so sorry for spamming your news feed. I know I'm not NEARLY as exciting as those pictures of babies and/or kittens, but I just felt like I needed to share some of this, and maybe it would help me in the long run. And maybe, just maybe, it could encourage someone today if they are going through any rough times. Love you guys, and I'll see you later.

Coming soon-ish--a post that has been brewing in my mind for a while--where is God in all of this cancer stuff? Every time I post a good update on Facebook or Caring Bridge, I get comments like "God is so good!", and "God answers prayers!". And yes, both of these are so true. But what about when the bad news comes, or prayers are not answered in a way that makes sense to us, and for that matter, why cancer in the first place?  When cancer/loss/disappointment/grief/abandonment/etc. hit, does that mean God is not there, or just does not care?  Well, no. So what does it mean?  More on this to come...

Now, go. Have a thankful day. And thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Crazy, crazy schedule lately. I just came across this quote and wanted to share it, though.

Whence comes this idea that if what we are doing is fun, it can't be God's will?  The God who made giraffes, a baby's fingernails, a puppy's tail, a crooknecked squash, the bobwhite's call, and a young girl's giggle, has a sense of humor.  Make no mistake about that.

                                                                                                   ---Catherine Marshall

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


When we first met, she was about the age that I am now. It has been a while.

I remember going to her house. She always lived on country roads that seemed to take forever to get to. We knew to be sure and use the bathroom at the last gas station as we left the interstate, because otherwise we were likely to get red bug bites in unfortunate places if we had to stop on the side of the road.

They would always be waiting on the porch, she and Elmer, and would be at the car before we could even get the doors open--smiling and hugging us and oh, so happy we were there.

She would always want us to eat--sandwiches or chicken. Cornbread or cake. Whatever it was she had at the time, which usually was not very much. And, to be honest, if she cooked it, it usually was not very good.  She seemed to know how to cook on two temperatures--off, or full blast. But you had better believe that we ate it. In her house, food was ALWAYS seen as a provision and a blessing, and many times obtained as an answer to their prayers. It was a lesson I learned early and often at her house.

And this woman loved Jesus. Oh, my goodness how she loved Jesus. She knew Him, and knew the things He said, and sang songs to and about Him. It was through her and Elmer's life and example that I learned about what true faith looks like, and I was one that never missed a Sunday in my own church. I learned that loving God is no guarantee of an easy or prosperous life. Little House on the Prairie taught me that, too, but if it were not for them, I might have thought that was just a TV show and not necessarily how God works. I might have grown up thinking that living for God guarantees money or health or status. I might even wonder how God is truly loving if my son could be sick or possibly even die too early in a way I cannot control or stop. That definitely happened to her. Not once, but twice, yet her faith never wavered. Seriously, that is how she was.

Her birthday was the day after mine, and she would always call or send a card, saying she could always remember my birthday since it was so close to hers.

I will never forget when they met Harrison for the first time. It was the same house, with the same plastic pineapple jug of water in the fridge, and the same really cool lava lamp with Jesus in the middle and naked angels covered with duct tape for clothing. She would not throw anything Jesus-y away.

Not too long afterwards, Elmer got sick and needed more care than she could give him at home, so she moved into the nursing home with him. After he died, she stayed on in the nursing home, eventually needing more care herself. Her room was full of pictures and color and flowers (but no lava lamp). It was here she met Travis and John. It was from here that she would call me or where I would call her. Our calls were never very long (paying that long distance by the minute back then), but they were always happy and sweet.

After Elmer died, she was very specific about how she wanted her funeral to be. She said she was not too particular, but she wanted my husband to do the speaking "in front of the casket", without her being between him and her family. She also wanted me to sing 'Beulah Land'. So, my mom tracked down the cassette tape for me to have 'for one day'.

I tried to learn it. I really did. Then, I realized there would be no way I could ever get through that song at her funeral. I could not even get through it in my bathroom without crying, just imagining her not being here anymore. So, the next time I went to see her, I told her that I was so sorry, but I could not do it. She just smiled and patted my hand and said that was OK, but she would like to at least have that song played, and I told her I could make sure that happened.

Then I told her how incredibly special she was to me, and how I credit my faith to her influence. I explained how I am not a worrier about things I cannot control, and that I credit that to her example.  I thanked her for her countless prayers for me and my family, and have no doubt that she clocked in more hours for me to God than anyone else in my life ever has or will. I told her that I wanted her to hear those things from me on this side of Heaven--and I am so glad that she did.

Eventually, she lost much of her health, and much of her memory, and she no longer knew who I was.  I stopped getting calls, and she stopped knowing how to answer mine. However, she never lost her faith, or her smile, or her dignity. And today, she left to go meet that Jesus she loved so much face to face, along with Elmer. And James and Fred. And Chris and Candy and Sandy. And so many others that were just waiting to see her again.

One day, I'll see my grandmother again, just waiting on the porch for me to drive/fly up.

And just maybe, there will be some cornbread waiting for me again. I will not even mind if it is burnt.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Harrison's List

Early tomorrow morning, Harrison will be going in for surgery to remove two cancerous spots from his lungs.  It will be an extensive operation, and we are already so very tired.

However, we have not just been sitting around for the past couple of weeks since we found out that the cancer had returned feeling too distressed or overwhelmed.  Those pain free hours have just been too precious for all of us, and we have been trying to get some fun in along the way. 

Getting a family picture made with Harrison's #inthefight shirts.  You know, like we are fighting cancer.

 Today a group of high schoolers came over to watch the newest Veggie Tales DVD, which isn't available in stores until next week (but I have an advance review copy--review and giveaway next week).  I wish you could have heard the laughter coming out of that room, as about 15 of his friends watched memories of their childhoods, and I was so pleased to have them here, lifting his spirits.

I also fit in the 'answering of the questions' that I mentioned a few days ago.  The other two will get their list on here soon, but here are Harrison's answers--

My favorite music - Rock, Dubstep, Anything except country
 and books - Bible, Harry Potter, various fan fiction
 movies - Avengers, Dark Knight, Braveheart (with eyes covered during 'that' scene)
 days - Saturday and Sunday
 places - His room, The Venue (church), Dogwood, Kansas City
 sayings - Stupid is as stupid does.  If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving is not for you.
 verses - Phillipians 4:13, Ezekiel 23:20
 teams - KU Jayhawks, Team Jacob (lol), Wonderbots (?)
 colors - orange, black and red
 animals - dinosaurs, playtpus, thestrals, magic ponies

And then there were two pages called "The Future 'Me' I want to Be", with categories like:

Books I want to read - The big book from Time Warp Trio, more Harry Potter books
Places I want to go - Austrialia, Europe, the moon, Hollywood, cruises
Topics I want to investigate - how venus flytraps work, conspiracy theories
Things I want to do - go skydiving, skiing/tubing, be an actor, make people happy, fly (Hmm, all 3 boys separately said that one)
Talents I want to develop - bagpipes, animations, do impersonations, getting rid of chemo brain
People I want to meet - Froggy Fresh (formerly the rapper known as Krispy Kreme), Weird Al, Psych actors
Random acts of kindness I want to bestow - draw pictures for kid's at the hosptial, cheer people up when they are down
Adventures I want to have - go to a different dimension, or visit Middle Earth with none of the bad guys there, catch all 151 original Pokemon (?)
Things I want to learn - all the knowledge needed to win a big game show, why some people are just hateful all of the time and are never happy, how to understand women (HA!--good luck with that, son)

We'll be working on getting some of that second list worked in after he recuperates some.  Well, except with the understanding women part.  And the whole Middle Earth thing.

This is a video he made for his YouTube subscribers.  He would love it if you would watch, and then give him a like, or thumbs up, or whatever they do there.  It ups his street cred, or something like that.

Click here for video

And if you are a pray-er, we sure would appreciate any and all you might think to send up for us.  I'll update soonish.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Know, I Know. It was just a TV show.

Today I received the neatest books in the mail--3 different planners that I will be reviewing soon.  One was for me, and there were two different versions for the boys.  I am not a planner, or an organizer, so I was a little curious to see what all was included before I jump in with both feet (or at least one, anyway).

There are the standard pages for school work and chores, but the versions that the boys have had two pages called "All About Me", and there was space devoted to answering the following questions:

My best friends
My favorite music 
 and books

And then there were two pages called "The Future 'Me' I want to Be", with categories like:

Books I want to read
Places I want to go
Topics I want to investigate
Things I want to do
Talents I want to develop
People I want to meet
Random acts of kindness I want to bestow
Adventures I want to have
Things I want to learn

I LOVE this, and hope to get all three boys to tell me their answers to these questions soon.  However, I noticed that the planner for me did not have pages like this.  I guess the writers figured moms would be too busy or tired to think about these things, or maybe get depressed over the reality that most days/weeks/years seem to be an endless cycle of cleaning, cooking, teaching and basic survival.

I'm going to think about it, and just might come up with some answers of my own.

We shall see.

Right now, though, I am off to get the clothes out of the dryer before they get too wrinkled, and the dirty dishes cleaned so the roaches won't sneak in during the night to carry them away.  That whole 'talents I want to develop' question?  Being able to twitch my nose like Samantha on Bewitched and have everything just fall into place.  How her husband could not appreciate that is beyond me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Walking a Mile in Her (High Heel) Shoes

Last week I happened to be looking through my husband's Facebook feed.  He has about a gazillion friends from all over the place, and it is interesting to scroll through his list every now and then.  Well, I was just scrolling along and saw a series of photos and posts that one of his friends had made about his daughter's high school beauty pageant.  There were lots of comments and likes, saying that she would do wonderful and how beautiful she looked.  And my simple, hypocritical mind went into overdrive.

She didn't seem all that beautiful to me, not the beauty pageant kind, anyway.  I mean, her dress was pretty enough, but she was very puffy and pale, and her hair was just blah.  Even in the pictures she looked like she was hating every minute of it.  I started to wonder if her parents were making her do this pageant.  Couldn't they tell that she was miserable and would probably be laughed at or joked about later?  I mean, I don't even know her parents, but surely someone could have used a little more wisdom in this situation, right?  I have lots of parenting books that I could recommend.  Of course, I wasn't being critical or anything, just concerned for that poor girl's feelings.  Ri-i-i-i-ght....

So, out of curiosity, I clicked on the girl's name, and was able to scroll through some old posts and pictures. Long story short, she was a tiny little thing with gorgeous hair and a great smile about 3 or 4 years ago.  I could tell that from her cheerleading and class favorite pictures.  Then there were various hospital pictures, because after a while and through much pain, she received her diagnosis.  No, it wasn't cancer, but it is a very painful degenerative condition that is treated with steroids.  You know, those drugs that cause weight gain and hair loss and are tolerated as a last resort of trying to keep the pain away.

So much for my self righteous goodness masquerading as parental/societal concern.

I went back through those pageant pictures again, with a different set of eyes (and heart).  I saw a young lady that is a fighter, and who isn't going to let her pain and limitations dictate her choices and the things she enjoys.  She was her school's homecoming queen last year, and class favorite every year, so obviously her peers think she is special.  I saw parents who are unbelievably proud of their daughter's perseverance and spirit, and who are probably just happy she is still with them and functioning.  I saw the grandparents whose hearts probably break every time they think of what life has handed their granddaughter, but they put on their own cloaks of courage whenever they are face to face with her..

Their unbelievable beautiful granddaughter.

I don't know how she did in her pageant.  But she did it, and I think that is the point of it all.  And as a parent  of a boy whose life has taken him in a very different direction than any of us would have wanted or imagined, and one who will be judged by some because of his scars, or his limp, or his diagnosis, I should know better.  I really should.  I could come up with all manner of quotes or Bible verses about not judging, but my mind keeps coming back to a song I used to sing in Children's Choir, so very long ago:

He's still working on me,
To make me what I ought to be.
It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars,
The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be.
He's still working on me.

Thank goodness.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cancer--Part Deux

Hello, my sweet bloggy readers.  Just a quick note to let you know that Harrison's latest scans show 3 small spots on his lungs.  This isn't a big surprise, but it stinks all the same.

We will know a little more about what comes next after the doctors meet and confer next week.  There will definitely be surgery and chemo involved.

I am already exhausted just thinking about it.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.  Spend some time hugging on the people you love, OK?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"What's a Grit?"

Today is co-op day with my homeschool group, which means I get to drive up to a church, drop off my kids for someone else to teach for a couple of hours, and I get to drive away.  I have already gone to library and to buy some groceries, put some beans on for supper, and get to type and read emails uninterrupted for a little while.

Even before I loaded them all up after lunch, I knew that there was a possibility that it was going to be an extra good couple of hours, thanks to actually fixing the boys lunch today instead of letting them fend for themselves.  They each agreed on grits and peaches (in separate bowls, not mixed together).  There was a mini moment of panic until I located a box of grits on the top shelf that my husband had stashed them in when he had a couple of weeks off and was 'helping' me get organized.

Yay!  Found them!

I reached up to get them from the top shelf, and was greeted by the most amazing of sights---

Healthy, organic-ish 'M&Ms'!

Now, I couldn't tell if it was an empty bag or not, but I wasn't about to bring it down for the boys to find and devour.  So, I waited until after drop off, got the bag down, and found this---

YES!  Not too, too many, but enough to satisfy a chocolate craving.  And they are mine.  All mine.  Or, rather, they WERE mine, and they were mighty yummy.  And the best thing is that there is no wheat in them, unless carnauba wax contains wheat, and I am not about to google it to find out.  I guess my thumb will tell me soon enough.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Good Jelly Can Cover a Multitude of Yucky

It turns out that not eating wheat is more difficult than I had thought.

No, not the bagel and donuts and cookie kind of wheat.  It is the hidden wheat that is getting me.  A friend showed up out of the blue last week with an hour to spare and a huge pot of potato/corn chowder to share.  It was unexpected, and it was great--both bowls worth.  I have never made that recipe before, but the creamy white yummy goodness that surrounded those pieces of corn and potato should have been a clue.  It turns out that the recipe had 5 teaspoons of flour, and I had about 1-2 teaspoons worth alone.

I felt it the next morning.  The ear fluid and the thumb pain that I had thought were improving somewhat came back with a vengeance when I woke up.  GRRRR!

The same thing happened this past weekend when I cooked some tater tots for the boys and ate about 10 of them--much, much less than I usually eat.  Tater tots are my favorite.  The next morning--more pain.  It is finally subsiding a bit, but a quick look at the ingredient list of the bag showed wheat as one of the ingredients at the end.

I have been stalking the Wheat Belly Facebook page, and people have all kinds of good stories of weight lost and pain gone.  Another biggie is mood/depression/anger issues are improved after removing wheat from the diet--even schizophrenia.

One of the things that is VERY important is having other food options available at a moment's notice.  I am not so good with that, but I am trying.  I don't grab the first thing available, but I tend to just not eat, which isn't good for the metabolism, either.  Finding good substitutes can be difficult and expensive, so I wanted to pass on some of the things I have found and a few recipes I have tried from The Wheat Belly Cookbook.

First, I found a box with a mix to make a loaf of gluten free bread in the oven.  It used a few strange ingredients (like apple cider vinegar), but I was able to find them in my local grocery store.  This is the box--notice how nice and normal the bread looks?

This is how my loaf looked.  It was pretty enough for the first couple of minutes, but was SO HEAVY that top of the bread crushed into the lower part.  I promise, it felt like it weighed about 10 pounds.  Plus, it didn't taste good to us.  At all.

Next, I tried a pizza crust recipe from the cookbook.  It contained almond flour and garbanzo bean flour, which I found at Kroger, but they are mighty proud of it.  I ended up dividing the dough into 6 parts and having each person create their own pizza.  We couldn't really pick it up like regular pizza (it was too thin and crumbly), but it was eaten with a fork, and tasted quite good.

They look like flatbread, but actually had a little thickness.

The finished product--with deer sausage, bell peppers and feta cheese.

I also made 'basic biscuits', which unfortunately is nothing like my momma's biscuits.  They worked well enough, though.  These were made of almond flour and flaxseed flour (Kroger again).  They did not look like biscuits.  They were brown and bumpy, but actually had SOME flavor.  That might be because the recipe called for 4 eggs, and I only had two so I had to substitute some applesauce.  Mango applesauce.  It worked, and slathering them with honey or jelly helped tremendously.

Not very biscuity looking, huh?

Tonight I tried the Cinnamon-Cranberry scones, because I happened to have all of the ingredients already.  This one had almond, coconut, and flaxseed flours.  This has been the most successful recipe yet.  They cooked up well and were not too crumbly.  They were not very sweet, but apparently scones are really supposed to be sweet, and I haven't really figured out how to cook with stevia yet instead of sugar.  It'll come, I guess.

In the meantime, I'll just have to rely on my jelly.

A slightly better view of the details.

Still no weight loss, but if this helps with the vertigo and arthritis, I am all in.

For now, anyway.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Hidden Cost of $1.99 Onion Rings

OK, so I wrote about Wheat Belly several weeks ago.  Good book, but I think I have found an even better one with the Wheat Belly Cookbook.  It is put out by the same person, and has basically the same information as the original book, but with many more recipes.  I have been wheat free/gluten free before, but these recipes seemed more do-able and user friendly than ones that I have used in the past.  If you are venturing into the idea of going wheat-less for a while, this would be a good resource to have.

One of the big draws of losing the wheat is that is supposed to translate into losing the weight.  I have not eaten any wheat products in almost a month (until a couple of days ago--more about that in a minute), but I don't think I have lost any weight.  I am not surprised by this, because I was only eating wheat products sporadically before--maybe a couple of times a week.  Probably a good deal of the weight loss that many people initially experience comes from not eating donuts and rolls and crackers and Little Debbies.  I guess most folks literally live off of these kinds of foods.  I don't--not anymore, anyway.  I haven't eaten refined sugar in over 15 years.  Not for any martyr reasons, but because after I totally eliminated it from my diet for several months, I discovered that even one bite of a bad sugar containing food would cause a nagging headache above my right eye about 20 minutes after eating it and last until I went to sleep, and then 3 days later I would develop hemorrhoids that would last for 2 days.  I know, TMI.  But, it was enough of a responses to make me weigh out the risks/benefits of a sugar binge, and I nipped it right in the bud.  It is interesting that I did not experience those same symptoms when I ate junk food every single day, and they only showed up when I had been off of the stuff for a while.  Anyway...

One of the more intriguing aspects of Wheat Belly for me was the multiple physical problems that can theoretically be reduced or eliminated when wheat is taken out of the equation.  Two issues in particular that I have been dealing with for the past few months are inner ear fluid/pain, and increasing swelling and pain in one of my thumbs, which I have suspected to be arthritis.  Isn't arthritis just supposed to be for old people?  GRRR!  So, I thought I would try this whole wheat thing for those two reasons alone, as a sort of experiment.

Unlike weight, which can be measured, these two things are a little more subjective.  I could tell that my ear had less fluid and that my thumb seemed a little more flexible and less swollen, but maybe it was just going to be doing that anyway.  Until I went through the drive-thru at Burger King.

It was innocent enough.  John and I had a little time to kill while waiting for Harrison to finish up with a therapy appointment, and we were hungry.  I drove up and ordered two large orders of onion rings.  We parked outside Harrison's building and started to eat.  I was a little over halfway through my container when it hit me that the crispy, oh so yummy coating on those onions was probably full of wheat (and all kind of other tasty chemicals).  So I stopped eating them.  (After I ate about 5 more very quickly, and then I reluctantly became rational again).  I mean, those suckers were good!

Several hours later, I had rumbly tummy issues.  These ended up lasting about 24 hours and involved extra time in the bathroom.  Enough said.  The next morning when I woke up, I had pretty bad thumb stiffness and pain, as well as an ear that sloshed every time I moved my head.  These two things have only decreased slightly in almost 48 hours.  So, I will return to my wheat free diligence and see what happens.  Anything that decreases pain without meds is worth a shot, even if it takes a while.

When I first started typing this, I had planned on posting a few recipes/pictures of some adapted recipes--some good, and some not so good.  Instead, it turned into this post.  That post will come soon.

Has anyone else reduced wheat intake?  What responses have you had?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Must See TV

Yesterday, our TV service was disconnected.  We have just passed the one year promo rate with DISH (which I highly recommend never, ever using if you don't have to--their service and customer service are severely lacking).  You know the rate that was supposed to be only $29/month, but for some reason is actually $99/month if you want more than 4 channels?  The one that has 3 months of free premium movie channels that you told them you didn't want in the first place, but has never been turned off after multiple attempts to do so?  Not to mention that we were supposed to have one year of Blockbuster game rentals but the system never booted, so we got nothing.  So, when the new bill came in showing that now the rate is $134/month, that did it.  No more DISH, even though it means having to pay to break our contract.  Grr...

It is kind of a weird feeling.  I'm not sure why, because none of us watch regular TV very often, and we have figured out that the shows we do watch are readily available online or through Netflix, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal.  I hope not, anyway.  But the whole process has gotten me thinking about what shows I really like and want to continue investing in.  Most of them were discovered through Netflix during the hours and hours of mind numbing chemo duty at the hospital (pediatric patients all have chemo inpatient, often for a week at a time, so we had a lot of 'free' time to kill), and aren't shows I would watch with the kids in the room, or allow them to watch themselves.   In some strange way, though, they ministered to me and helped me cope with all of the craziness going on at the time.

So, in no particular order, here are some of my currently running favorite shows--

Parenthood--This is a show I didn't watch when it first came on, but became intrigued by after seeing some of the Facebook statuses that would pop up every Tuesday night when the show was on.  Stuff like, "Oh, my goodness!  Still crying!" and "They nailed how I feel again!".  So. I went back to the beginning, and was hooked.  Yes, they nail it almost every week, and I usually cry at some point in each episode.  The show centers around an extended family of 4 siblings, their spouses and kids.  What got me hooked was the way they dealt with one of the brothers finding out his elementary aged son had Asperger's.  Brilliantly handled.  This season has been blowing me away.  One of the characters has breast cancer, and it has been spot on at each stage of the game.  The episode where she got an infection after chemo and almost died because her immune system had been destroyed?  Yep, that happens.  AND, one of the main characters is Lauren Graham, who was one half of the Gilmore Girls, which is my favorite show ever, so that is a nice touch.

The Middle--This show just makes me laugh.  It is about an average family that has 3 quirky kids.  Both parents work at low paying jobs, all of their stuff is worn out and tacky, and they aren't Over Achieving Parents.  But, they do the best they can with what they have, and it is so representative of folks I know.  Funny, funny, funny.

Downton Abbey--OK, this one was a surprise for me, and I only started watching after reading another blogger I don't even know who recommended checking it out.  I don't really know how to describe it, other than to say you would either really like it from the get go, or you would not like it at all and wonder what the hype is all about.  It is set in England about 100 years ago, and focuses on a wealthy family and their large ensemble of servants in a large manor/castle.  That is really about it, but the acting and dialogue are excellent, and Maggie Smith (aka Harry Potter's Professor McGonagall) is a scene stealer with great one liners.  So snarky.

Doctor Who--This one surprised me even more than Downton Abbey.  I remember Doctor Who from the 70s.  Not because I ever watched it, but because he seemed like a weirdo, and the only folks I knew who watched it were quirky kids, and strange adults that probably also watched Nova when they could have been watching cool stuff like TJ Hooker and The Dukes of Hazzard.  My boys are surrounded by friends who LOVE this show, and they had been watching it themselves in spurts.  So, out of curiosity and because I had time to kill, I watched.  And liked.  I suppose it is all full of sciencey stuff and inside jokes that original Who watchers get and blog about, but I like it anyway, and I'm not really sure why.  I think it is because it seems to be built more on an idea than any actor or actress (the character of The Doctor can regenerate and come back to life with a new body when he is 'killed'--or when the actor playing him wants to leave the show.  I know, I know, beanhead stuff, but entertaining for me anyway).  I've learned a lot of history stuff, and the Tardis was our family ornament this year.  Guess I am just a strange adult who is a quirky kid at heart.

USA Network shows--I would list these separately, but this post has already taken over 3 days to write, and I feel like being done with it.  I love the character development and stories, which aren't cookie cutter.  However, several of them have quite a bit of gratuitous cussing, which is disappointing.  I have to watch them before giving the boys a heads-up that they can watch them.  Sadly, all of these series are gearing up to begin new seasons in the next few weeks, and are ones I will miss the most being able to DVR.

     --Psych--I love the 70s and 80s references that abound.
     --Burn Notice--good until this season, which has jumped the shark and left me disappointed.
     --Suits--great cast, but the writers seem to push the language envelope for no reason whatsoever
     --White Collar--I like this one a lot.  Mozzie makes me laugh, and it features one of the most functional married couples on TV right now.

OK, that is it for now.  What shows are on your list?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wheat Belly

I am in the process of reading a new book called Wheat Belly--not as a review or anything, but because I saw it at the bookstore and was intrigued.  It is currently on the New York Times Bestseller list, and is about losing weight.  Kind of.  It is really about how wheat is so altered from its original state (even if it is organic) that it is absolutely not meant for consumption.

The author, William Davis, explains in detail how eating wheat is one of the primary causes of weight gain in Americans, but that it also causes many other chronic problems, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease/high cholesterol and dementia.  He goes to great lengths to site studies that point to this, and even says that stopping wheat consumption will eliminate or drastically reduce these and other diseases.

I'm not sure what to think, but what he writes makes sense.  I'm willing to give it a shot.  I have had a steady weight gain in the past few years that can't be explained by calorie intake, although having my physical activity level come to a screeching halt does factor in to that as well.  I am mostly vegetarian (formerly vegan), NO refined sugar/soda/caffeine/white flour except for the occasional pizza in the past 15 years, kind of girl.  All snacks and desserts have been organic for that long as well, except for Lays potato chips.  I just can't seem to resist them, but I only eat them at parties or when I go visit my parents.  Davis says that even the gluten free options don't assist with weight loss, because they have about the same insulin producing reaction (which apparently has a lot to do with weight retention).  GF products don't cause the bad wheat problems, though, so they are a much, much better option for attacking all of the other body problems that wheat causes.

So, I am 5 days into this no wheat thing.  I don't think I have lost any weight, but I don't have a scale, so I can't be sure.  My clothes aren't fitting any differently, though.  I am just as anxious to see if this makes any difference in my pain levels in my knees and hand, which seem to be steadily getting worse and worse.  According to Davis, it should.  We shall see.

What about you all?  Have you heard of anything like this?  Have you had any success with no wheat diets?

You can read the first pages from Wheat Belly here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Post from my Son

Harrison posted this on Facebook last night.  Just thought I would share some of his awesomeness with you all---

Well, 2012 is over, and boy, what a year it was. The world didn't end, Honey Boo Boo got her own show, and Gangnam Style becomes the most viewed video of time. So it's definitely had its ups and downs. And while those were some really big/catastrophic events, they won't be what I really remember about this year. Nope, not even close.

A year ago to this day, I was at universal studios. It was a new year, everyone was excited, fireworks were everywhere, and many people partied WAY harder than what they should have. While this should have been an amazing trip for me and my family, we could not deny the real reason why we were there. While everyone else was there to party till they passed out, we were there for different reasons.

About a week before that, I had gone to the hospital. My leg had been hurting for months, and was only getting worse. It got to the point were I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming in pain, so that I was scared to go to sleep. So we thought maybe I had pulled something, or maybe it was growing pains. If only. So they took some x-rays, and a doctor came to speak to us. He didn't sugarcoat it. I either had a bone infection, or a tumor. A few days later, it was confirmed. I had cancer.

So after a quick trip to Orlando, to be able to do one last thing before the unavoidable happened, we came back to where we called home. And while I knew all the people here, I really didn't in a way. (For the most part) I wasn't treated, looked at, or spoken to the same way again. I had cancer. I was sick, I was wounded, and I was a pain to look at. Although people wanted to comfort me, looking at me just served as a reminder that I was not the young, lively person that I was before, and that (let's be honest) I might not make it through the year. For the first time in my life, I was truly scared that I might die.

And honestly, there were times that I wanted to. Now hear me out: I'm not saying that I don't love living, because I do. But are you really "living" when you're going through harsh chemotherapy, constantly sick, and too weak to even make it from one side of the house to the other without nearly passing out? At that point, It was a fight just to make it through each day. Not even each day, but really each hour. I won't go into great detail of everything they did, because I don't want to gross out the weak at heart, because it would take too long, and because that's not really the point of this post. (But if you ever do want to talk about it or hear more of what it was like, I'll be happy to talk to you in person. Just don't expect all the details to be perfect, or for me to not make the occasional joke to brighten the mood.)

Basically, after 12 weeks of chemo, they performed surgery on my leg. They removed my femur, and replaced it with a cadaver bone. So their plan was to give me a month to recover from surgery, and then put me back on chemo. But after some research, we found out that the chemo hadn't killed any of the cancer, and that it wasn't going to prevent it. So after much thought, prayer, and and basically begging multiple doctors, we were able to convince them to not make me do anymore chemo, but to give me plenty of periodic scans to make sure that it didn't return. Technically, if we had gone by their plans, I'd still be taking chemo, and MIGHT just be halfway done. Yeah, glad we didn't take that path.

So even though I am clear of cancer, I'm still living with the scars of survival. I have fear that it might come back, trouble trusting people and knowing if they really care about me as a person, or just feel bad for me having the disease, and depression that comes from realizing that I'll never really be able to reclaim what I once called "Normal", because let's face it, after something like this, there is no such thing as normal. But I'm also thankful for all the good that's come out of this year, all the good friends, me growing closer to some people, and really seeing the love of God shine through many people in ways I didn't know were possible. So yes, I'm glad this year is over, but I don't feel like it was wasted. If anything, I feel that it has helped me grow as a person, as a man, and as a warrior after Christ.

So Bring it on 2013, I'm ready!

That's my boy!