Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ten sentences to carry you through a year.

These got me through the past year.  I'm sure I'll be pulling them out in the year to come.  Maybe they will help someone else, too.

1.  It will be OK.

2.  Paper towels are very absorbent.

3.  It's only water.

4.  It's not a life.

5.  I will choose to forgive.

6.  To live is Christ, to die is gain.  (Philippians 1:21)

7.  God is always with me; he promises never to leave me or forsake me.

8.  This is my Father's world.  (from the song)

9.  You can have the whole world; give me Jesus.   (from the song)

10.  Nothing is impossible for God.  (Luke 1:37)




Monday, December 16, 2013

Our Christmas letter

I finally got a Christmas letter written.
I never used to send cards to the people "in town"
-- cards were a way to keep up
with loved ones who were far away.
Since we've moved, then,
my address list just increased exponentially.
In my present condition,
I'm not quite up to getting it all sorted out.
So please accept these cyber-greetings
and know that we love you,
and we hope that your Christmas
is exactly as special as it should be.
 *************************************
-->
Merry Christmas from the Carpenters!

We live in Illinois now!  No disrespect to central New York, but we love the Midwest. Even though we’re a ways south of Minnesota (south being a very good direction to be from Minnesota), there is something comforting, familiar and appealing about the weather, the sky and the landscape.

How did we get here? Well, last January Shawn left his career of 19.5 years at Sonnet Software and took a position with Delcross Technologies in Champaign, IL.  

 Shawn, in his new Delcross logo shirt.

That same January, I resigned from my job of 6 months at Faith Heritage School, teaching secondary English.  Shawn set up an office in the basement, and I set about trying to get our house ready to sell.  


Delcross was kind enough to allow us to stay in Syracuse until the end of the school year, when David would graduate from Syracuse University and Jonathan would graduate from Liverpool High School.

Shannon’s life remained relatively stable this past year, as she continued forward in her PhD program in organic chemistry at Yale.   

She passed her orals and was granted a Master’s degree in May, shortly after the time David was playing his senior recital to cap off the music degree he earned in saxophone at Syracuse.



I was diagnosed with Lupus, which was actually a relief after not knowing what was wrong with me for so long.  They put me on a daily medication (an anti-malaria drug! ha!) which has helped tremendously with much of the pain I was experiencing.

Over the spring, David chose to go to Duke’s medical school.  I love everything about Duke except that their team is called the Blue Devils.

David and Jon’s graduations both went off nicely...

 David at his Syracuse University graduation.

 Jon, just after graduating from Liverpool High School

...and our house sold quickly, so then it was time to move.

Moving is not my favorite, but we survived and are thankful to be here now, basically unscathed.  On the heels of the move, David went off to Duke 
David in his white coat

and shortly thereafter, Jon began his first year of college, pursuing Biblical Studies at Grove City College...
 Saying goodbye to your youngest child is rough.

...along with Laura who is now in her senior year there, completing a dual degree in Elementary and Special Education.   


Shawn and I were left alone in a new place, all our kids “back east,” in states that border the Atlantic (CT, NC and PA).

In October, Laura became engaged to Matthew Mucha, and we praise God for this fine young Christian man who will marry our precious daughter in July 2014.
 The actual proposal...



 And a little later, so you can see what their faces look like.


I’ve had some health challenges and a couple of surgical procedures, but I can see the mercy of God’s timing in bringing these events while I was in a life season with no responsibilities and no children at home.

Last night as we went to bed, I told Shawn that I was sorry about how little “Christmas” I’ve been able to do.  He said, “Don’t worry.  You have all the Christmas you need, right in your heart!”  He may have been joking, but he was right.

 Here is a picture of our Christmas tree 
from last year, when we had a Christmas tree.
As I recall, that one went up late, too...
so there is still hope!

 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Kitchen design

We are not enamored of the kitchen in our new house.



We are trying to work on redesigning it.

I have looked at countless pictures of kitchen online, and I have come to one conclusion.  White and black kitchens are not my favorite.  They sometimes look pretty, but they do not look like kitchens that I would enjoy cooking and eating in.

Food is the purpose of a kitchen--creating food and consuming food.  Kitchens are the heart of a home, where family gathers and snacks and laughs.  White and black (and gray, which also seems popular) are not colors that I associate with warmth, happiness, food, family or comfort.

But brown.  Brown.  Now there is a color that makes one think of food.  Everything delicious is brown.  Chocolate, for starters.  Roast chicken.  Cinnamon rolls.  Gravy.  Coffee with cream.  Tea with (or without) cream.  Gingerbread men.  Roast beef.  The crust on a perfect loaf of homemade bread.  The crust on a perfect apple pie.  The crust on creme brulee.  Baked beans.  Pumpernickel.  Oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins.  Pancakes with maple syrup.  Toast.  Pecans.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Brownies.  Bacon.  All of the most delicious things to eat are in shades of brown.  I am not making this up.

So I will have a brown kitchen.  I hope.  If I do it right.  It will have accents of cream and pale butter-yellow, because butter is delicious, too, with pretty much everything.

I may be out of style.  I may have no fashion sense whatsoever.  Still, I know what I like and what I do not like.

I hate that aqua color, the one so many people love.  It's a personal thing, a mental association, a carry-over from early traumatization at swimming lessons and the color of public swimming pools.  I recoil whenever I see this color featured in someone's design project.  I recognize that it's just me, and I'm thankful that nobody can make me use that color in my house.

I really do not care for cold, stark looking white kitchens, and I really hate them when they have black granite counter tops and lots of stainless steel.  Black granite is not my favorite; the only reason I'd ever use it is if I needed to for resale on a home I was leaving.

I don't much care for green, either.  Often I think I like green.  Then I live in it for a month or two, and I'm ready to run away.  Actually, I love green, but I think it belongs on leaves, outside the windows.  A beautiful leafy view is my ideal.  So yes, I like green plants, trees, foliage.  I don't care for green paint, whether or not it matches the foliage.  Unlike aqua, though, green doesn't make me recoil.  I can think that I like it... it's just after I use it that I find out I don't.  But I am old now and have been tricked enough times that I don't think I'll make the green mistake again.

Red is my favorite color.  Like brown, it is the color of many delicious things to eat: cherries, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, barbecue sauce, marinara sauce...  However, I am not big on red in my kitchen design, unless it were a red brick kitchen fireplace.  Which it will not be.  I did see a red brick floor, but I couldn't feel it, and I'm not going to do it.  (I rarely wear red, either, but I enjoy things like red handbags, shoes and phones.)

Yes, we will have a brown kitchen, brown and tan and butterscotch and granola.

Boy, oh boy, do I hope I get it right.


Friday, December 13, 2013

One of the worst sermons I ever heard

Yesterday my daughter Laura walked away from a car wreck with her life intact.

I'd been thinking about her that morning and even lifting her in my prayers, but not her safety.  I was praying about her upcoming wedding.  The phone rang, and it was her, and I expected her to be calling about something wedding related, or maybe to check up on me and see how I was doing after my surgery.  As I listened to her slightly shaky voice on the other end of the line, it took me a minute to comprehend that she was telling me she had just escaped death.

She is alive, and I am so, so very thankful.  She was riding in a car, and the driver lost control on a slushy patch of road.  They were in fairly heavy traffic, but the hand of God miraculously guided them across the road without making contact with any other cars.  The back of the car on the driver's side smashed into a tree and ricocheted into a house, bruising some siding.  There was no blood, and there were no broken bones.  The mother of one of their friends from college drove past and stopped to help, praying with them, offering them her car to rest in while they waited for the police, eventually delivering them back to school.

The thing I keep coming back to is this:  I had no idea what was happening, and yet, God preserved her.  God preserved my daughter's life.

Which reminds me of one of the worst sermons I've ever heard.

It was at a church we used to attend, at a conference that had been rather widely publicized.  The preacher was a guest speaker, a flashy character with lots of accolades and a long biography of achievements.  I will not name names because it is not my purpose to slander anyone, but it is my purpose to point out that a person's fame and the number of websites on which his name appears do not guarantee that he will teach you the truth.  So watch out.

I sat in the crowd next to my husband, the room abuzz with excitement in the anticipation of hearing from such a renowned preacher.  He stepped up onto the podium and began to growl with stylistic oratorial panache into the microphone.  He said, "God does NOTHING  except in RESPONSE to PRAYER."

"That's not right!" I whispered to my husband.  He said, "Shhhh."

The preacher repeated, louder, "God does NOTHING!!!  Except in response to prayer."

I started to squirm in my seat.  My husband held me down.  I writhed and protested, and my husband hushed me.  The preacher went on, and on, and on.  His sermon was about how it is up to us to pray and make things happen, and if people are not coming to the Lord, then it is our fault for not doing enough, and particularly for not praying enough because, as he interjected every 3-4 minutes (think, "I have a dream..."):  "God does NOTHING!!!!! Except in RESPONSE to PRAYER."  He grew hoarse, and foamy saliva flew from the corners of his mouth as he shouted, and the people sat, apparently drinking it up, while my husband held me down.

Seriously.  Seriously.  It pains me to type such blasphemy, even when I am quoting it and attributing it to this man.

I wanted to say, "Whose prayers do you think God was responding to when He created the heavens and the earth?"

This is what the Lord says--your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb;
I am the Lord.
who has made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself.
Isaiah 44:24 (NIV)

I wanted to say, "Have you ever read the end of Job, where God spoke out of the whirlwind?"

Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me if you understand.
Job 38:2-4 (NIV)

Whose prayers was God responding to when He raised Jesus from the dead?  As far as I can tell, all Jesus' followers had given up in despair.  Some had even returned to their former vocations.  All of them were tremendously surprised at the resurrection, and it took some of them awhile to come around to believing that it had actually happened.  They were not on their knees asking the Lord to bring Jesus back from the dead.  God just did it.

If God did not create the universe in response to prayer, and if He did not raise Jesus from the dead in response to prayer, why on earth would we doubt that He could do anything else except in response to prayer?  This statement is utterly unscriptural.  Good oratory, maybe.  Flashy and guilt-inducing.  But certainly not Biblical.

God said things like this:

I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient time what is still to come.
I say: my purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.
Isaiah 46:10 (NIV)

I have no need of a bull from your stall
    or of goats from your pens,
for every animal of the forest is mine,
    and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the creatures in the fields are mine. 
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
    for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
Psalm 50:9-12 (NIV)  

That certainly does not sound to me like a God who is limited in what He can do because of what I pray for or fail to pray for. 

Now, if you want to preach a sermon on the fact that God answers prayer, then by all means do so.  God clearly answers prayer, and there is much scriptural proof to back it up.

But just because you can build a solid case for the fact that God answers prayer, it does not logically follow that God would limit Himself to ONLY answering prayers and would refuse to take action if someone failed to pray about something.  THIS IS NOT LOGICAL!  And it is not right.

In fact, I would call it defamation of the character of God.

Suppose my daughter had died in that accident yesterday, and one day I got to heaven and asked God about it.  Do you think He would say, "It's really too bad.  I would have liked to save your daughter that day, but unfortunately, you didn't pray and ask me to, so my hands were tied."

BAH!  I am so glad I do not serve a mamby-pamby god like that.

So that was one of the worst sermons I ever heard in my life.  It is similar to another bad sermon topic that I have heard, even more often.  It goes along the lines of this:

 "You need to tell your friends and family about Jesus.  Because if you don't, they will go to hell and it will be your fault.  How are you going to feel on that last day, when God judges the world, and you see all those unsaved friends and acquaintances of yours filing off to hell?  The Lord will be standing there to welcome you into heaven, and you and He will look over together at those miserable hell-bound souls, and then He will look at you with tears in His eyes and you will realize how much more you should have done."

That's nothing more than unbiblical manipulation.

When I read my Bible, it says that when I get to heaven, God's going to be happy, and I'm going to be thrilled, and there will be great rejoicing and singing and worshiping.  In fact, if there are any tears on my face, He's going to wipe them off (Revelation 21:4).  He's not going to throw me onto one last, eternal guilt trip.  There is no guilt in heaven!

I am not saying this to absolve myself of responsibility to be obedient to the Lord.  Certainly we must live holy and obedient lives, as the Bible tells us to.  Ephesians 2:10 tells us that He created us to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do, and I'm sure that many of those good works have much to do with bringing people who were previously lost into the Kingdom of God.  We are not free to cloister ourselves away from the lost and sit at home watching Billy Graham on TV.  Our lives must be a fragrant, holy offering that helps people see the beauty of the Lord... not a harsh, condemning force that drives them away from Him.

At the same time, it is God who chooses and calls and draws His people to Himself.
Ephesians 1:4-5 -- He chooses
Romans 8:29-30 -- He calls
John 6:44 -- He draws

God does it all.  All of it.  It is all because of Him.  I would venture to say that we may not even be able to pray unless He, by His Holy Spirit, moves us to pray in the first place.  GOD DOES EVERYTHING.

How in the world could that preacher man have dared to say, "God does NOTHING!!! Except in response to prayer."  How could he have dared?

Well.  Finally got that off my chest, about seven years later.
 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I did write today...

I wrote today, 
but I thought it belonged over on 
so that's where I put it.

Here's a link if you're interested.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hamartia

Hamartia is the tragic or fatal flaw in a hero that leads to his downfall.

I learned this last year when I was trying to teach English to 7th, 9th and 10th graders.  I also learned about Gilgamesh, which I had never read before, having been an English major with classes only in British and American literature, and one class of Russian literature.  I mostly took creative writing workshops, as many as possible. 

I was a terrible English teacher.  It was a good experience; it put to rest forever my regrets over not having completed a degree in education.  There was a time when I would visit my kids' schools on back-to-school night and walk through the halls thinking, "This feels so good.  So familiar.  This is where I belong."  But when I became a teacher all I could remember is how I was the mother who cried on the first day of school, every year, and I was the mother who stomped her feet and complained every day for the last two weeks of school in June, saying, "When is this going to be over already?  When can we get on to summer vacation?"  I lived for summer vacation, for days with no alarm clocks, no buses to catch and no homework projects to complete.  How could I ever have thought I would like being a teacher?

I am rambling.

Hamartia has probably come to mind because I am recuperating from surgery, an intensely boring endeavor, and I have nothing to do but lie in bed, staring out the uncovered arch at the top of my bedroom window at the clear blue winter sky, smelling the stench of my healing body which is alternately too hot or too cold under the rumpled sheets and blankets on my bed.  I read a little and get tired.  I poke at my phone, but it is quiet because the rest of the world is busy with Christmas and year-end budgets and finals.  I feel like the only person in the world with nothing to do except force liquids and remember my pain pills.  It is a real high point when I take a shower.  I save this triumph for afternoon.

It's so strange to have no Christmas concerts to go to, no Christmas party invitations, no choir cantatas or church Christmas pageants to work on, no kids digging through the costume box in the basement for the Santa hat.  I miss everything.  But I suppose, really, it was an ideal year to have this surgery.  When you think about it.

With so much time on my hands--or maybe I should say on my back, as that is how I lie, carefully symmetrical, hoping that everything will fall into its proper new location as the healing goes forward--with so much time, I tend to think.  I am sorry, but there really is not much else to do.  Thinking too much can be a dangerous occupation, or perhaps it is beneficial.

I've been thinking about my flaws.  Hence, hamartia; not that I am a hero, or even a heroine.  And I hope and pray that by the grace of God my flaws will not lead to my eventual downfall, that He will save me as He promises in Jude 24-25.

One of my flaws is in method of communication, especially in the role of mother. 

Being a mother is such a huge, overwhelming responsibility.  These people come into your life, and you are responsible for them, their bodies, their minds and their souls.  More than anything, you want them to know Jesus, and to go to heaven, and to avoid sin and its dire consequences.  But you also want them to be healthy and happy and free from trials and troubles, well fed and well clothed, things that sometimes don't mesh perfectly with your goals for them to be holy and God-focused.  Imperfect as a mother is, she wants the best for her children, ferociously sometimes.  If something is wrong in one of her children's lives, she lies awake all night beseeching God to intervene, and she spends her daylight hours trying do something, anything, racking her brain, combing the internet, making phone calls, whatever she can do.

In the crucible of excessive caring, a mother can go too far.  My own mother, not so many years ago, stood in front of us in her kitchen, a tiny woman with stooped shoulders and perfect back-combed hair.  She said to my sister and me, "I was so hard on you kids. Too hard, I know.  But you have to understand.  I wanted so badly for you to be good people." Her eyes were blurry.  We are not an emotional family.  We do not cry or hug much.  I wanted to tell her, "I know.  I didn't understand then, but I know now.  I have kids of my own.  It's ok.  I know."  But it seemed kinder to smile and joke a little, to offer some levity, to say, "And look at how great we turned out!" while deftly changing the subject.

My problem is in serving up truth too harshly.  You would think that by now, with the youngest 18, I would have figured out that truth can't be received if you present it badly.  It's like vegetables.  Straight up, they can gag you, but if you get the right cheese sauce and crouton topping, everybody loves them.  One of my children, the one who likes vegetables plain and disdains nutritionally deficient sauces, has inherited my trait of blasting people over the head with truth without regard for their feelings.  "It's the truth after all.  You should be thankful for the truth; you  need to know the truth.  I wouldn't be bothering to tell you the truth if I didn't love you."  This may seem sensible to the speaker of the truth, but the person receiving it is almost always too traumatized to swallow.  I have some of those kinds of kids, too.

Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love.  There is not one, prescripted, correct way to do this. We should make every effort to be gentle and kind (something I cannot claim to have mastered).  Still, sometimes the truth hurts, and there will be no way to avoid pain altogether, but because of love, something must be said.  Sometimes you can be soft, and sometimes you need to be tough.  There is such a thing as tough love.  It all requires so much wisdom, and many of us are out there flailing around, erring on one side or the other. 

My hang up is: what do you do if you speak the truth harshly, and damage your child?  As the mother, the parent, the responsible one, what do you do?  How do you apologize for your delivery without deconstructing the truth along with it?

I remember more than once going to my children and saying, "I am so sorry I lost my temper like that.  I was mean, and scary, and I should not have yelled so angrily.  But I do need you to know that what you did was wrong.  Even though I responded in a bad way, you still need to learn not to do that thing I got so upset about."  I would say this, and they would look at me, and nod with teary eyes, and I never knew if we were getting anywhere at all.  Did they just hear it as "I'm sorry, but...?"  Was it, indeed, a fatal flaw?

The trouble with life is that you don't get a practice run.  You just get plopped down in the middle of reality, and you have to make your best go of it.

That is what makes the grace of God so precious.  Fatal means deathly; a fatal flaw is a flaw that leads to death.  But Jesus came to give us life and grace.  I cannot count the times, as a younger mother, I ran to my bedroom and threw myself face-first on my bed, weeping, asking Jesus to cover over my tragic errors in child rearing with His perfect grace.

"...as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  ~Romans 5:21 (ESV)

There is no hamartia where there is hope.  And there is always hope in Jesus.



Monday, December 9, 2013

More about forgiveness

I keep coming back to write on forgiveness.

This is not because I am good at forgiveness, accomplished at it.  On the contrary, it is because forgiveness is hard, and I find myself struggling to master it again and again.

I wrote old posts on forgiveness here and here.  I've also touched on it in other places, like here.  You see, I keep having to go back.

An article showed up in my sidebar which was about confession and forgiveness.  You can read it by following this link.  I read it and thought about it.  Please read it and tell me if you agree with what I thought.

I think it is easy to forgive when a person confesses and apologizes the way this article describes a good confession.  If someone comes to me with that kind of humility and sorrow and desire to make things right, it is practically impossible not to forgive.

But.  Most people don't say they are sorry that way.  Most people do what he talks about in #2 of the Seven A's of Confession.  They say, "I'm sorry but..."  This "but" can water down or wipe out the apology in a myriad of ways.  It can justify the thing they did: "I'm sorry, but you just didn't understand my motivation, and I'm sure if you did, you would agree that I really don't need to apologize the way you think I do."  It can even throw the origin of the incident onto the shoulders of the hurt one:  "I'm sorry, but I would not have done it if you were not such a bad person, pushing me into it in the first place."

Most apologies are imperfect and incomplete.  Some of them are imaginary, the ones where someone claims to have said he was sorry when he didn't (and he does not offer to say it again, because it was your responsibility to notice it the first time, buried though it was in words other than "I'm sorry," and surrounded by accusation and anger).

In the article, the writer says a profound thing.  He says, "Full confessions enable full reconciliation."

This is so true.  When a person confesses as described in the Seven A's of Confessions, when he avoids qualifying his apology, bravely admits specifically what he did wrong, when he exhibits compassion and concern for your feelings and acknowledges that he understands how he hurt you, and when he proceeds to demonstrate a change of heart through a change of behavior, full reconciliation can easily flow forth.

It is sad to me that so many people would rather grasp threads of something that they think preserves their pride instead of seeking to reach reconciliation.  Sometimes I think people get the idea that, "If I don't admit I did it, then I didn't really do it, and I am not such a bad person then."  The opposite is true, of course.  Everyone knows that the hurt is there, and it is only when the hurt is acknowledged and confessed that it can truly fade away.  In every other case it remains a shadow, sometimes a soft shadow, sometimes a harsh one, but a shadow over the relationship that can only fully disappear in the light of a full confession.

So how does one forgive in the meantime?  Because one must forgive, or be eaten away by the weight of unforgiveness.

One forgives and one hopes.  One works consciously to avoid bearing a grudge, despite the shadow that exists.  One purposes to behave well, graciously, despite the shadows.  And one prays for the full restoration that will come if ever a true confession is offered.  One smiles when one does not feel like smiling, and one gives when one does not feel like giving.  One remembers one's own failings and is humble-hearted towards the offender.

We must recognize that we cannot control the restoration part of forgiveness.  Even God does not restore His relationship with fallen man without fallen man's confession of sin.

Restoration comes after confession.  Forgiveness is the hope that restoration will happen and the constant, unconditional willingness to respond to a confession with grace, with thanks, with love, if ever the confession is offered.

This is how God forgives us, and it is how we must forgive one another.  It is not easy, but it is good.

[note: I use the singular pronoun "he" in my writing not to allude to any specific person, but because I was raised on good old-fashioned grammar and cannot bring myself to substitute "they" where a singular pronoun is indicated.  I could have alternated "he" with "she" to be politically correct, but I find that distracting and cumbersome.]

Saturday, December 7, 2013

a little surgery for Christmas.

It seems that everyone is writing about Christmas, how they do Christmas, what their special traditions are, what makes their Christmases special.

I am so bad at Christmas that my third child's favorite holiday is the Fourth of July.

This year, on December 5, when everyone else was putting the final sparkly touches on their Christmas trees and printing up their Christmas letters, I went to the hospital and had my womb cut out.

The doctor told me, "The Christmas tree and the decorations and all that... you just let somebody else take care of all that this year."  Except.  There isn't anybody else.  I mean, there's Shawn, and I love him, but he can't do Christmas by himself while holding down a job and taking care of me.  Seriously.  I am one pain of a patient.  I whine like a three-year-old.  "I don't want to eat.  I'm not comfortable.  I don't know if I took my pain medicine or not.  I don't like this... it's not my favorite."  Poor Shawn.

And there really is not anybody else.  We don't belong to the community yet, and our children have all moved away.  I think I know where the boxes of decorations are since the move, but I don't know what to do about it.

Shawn went to an abbreviated portion of his company Christmas party tonight, and then to the store to procure necessities, while I stayed home in bed and watched the sky get dark. There are points in life when a person feels very alone.

BUT.  Shannon says she's going to come home and make Christmas cookies, so the pastries will be excellent.

I thought I might get a chance to do some good writing while I rested and healed, but I'm finding my attitude very lacking. 

Nevertheless, we will have a tree and cookies by December 25.  And we might even leave the tree up until almost the end of January.  That's usually how I do it, anyway.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Word etymology

So the other day, my husband asks me, "What do you think is the connection between the words hysteria and hysterectomy?"

Do not even ask why he was thinking about such a thing.  Just pray for me.  And for him.  Yes, pray for both of us.  Please.

I told him, "Look it up on the computer.  Look under the word etymology, and you will be able to find out."

I've been curious myself, since then, but it was not until today that I finally remembered to follow up on it.  I used Dictionary.com (this is my credit to them... not up to MLA standards, but I am not trying to steal any information from anybody).

HYSTERECTOMY is from the Greek word "hystera" which means womb, and the Greek word "ektome" which means a cutting out.

Then I looked up HYSTERIA, which gave me no information.  However, it pointed me to the entry for HYSTERICAL where I found that HYSTERICAL comes from the Latin word, "hystericus," which comes from the Greek word "hysterikos" which means of the womb, suffering in the womb, from "hystera," the Greek for wombOriginally, the word HYSTERICAL was defined as a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus.  The usage of the word HYSTERICAL to mean very funny began around 1939 and comes from the notion of uncontrollable (read: mentally unstable) fits of laughter.

I am not sure whether to take umbrage at this, or whether to accept serenely that unstable emotions and womanly complaints have been associated and connected for hundreds of years.

Monday, November 11, 2013

On Beauty (or, finally, the final "Good-bye girls" post)

While shopping in my local Walgreens the other day, I walked past a display of beauty products based on Disney villainesses.  What?  Because mean beauty is the most powerful beauty?

It reminded me of a slogan I saw pasted on Facebook a few weeks ago:  "Today, dress like you're going to meet your worst enemy!"  The idea, of course, is that you need to look your best when you enter social combat.

This makes me profoundly sad.  I do not believe that God made beauty so that it could be used as a tool to frighten, dominate or intimidate others.

What is true beauty, and how should we seek to achieve beauty in our own, personal appearance?

The Bible says, "Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." (1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV).  That's nice, and certainly true, albeit a bit difficult to apply directly to one's morning routine.

I have been thinking on this topic for a long time, ever since I began the "Good-bye girls" series over two years ago.  Because I am not what you'd call a beautiful woman, and I am certainly not stylish, it has taken me this long actually to broach the subject.  Of course I am unqualified, but I will try to share three principles of beauty that I think are important.


(1)  
You should strive to bring glory to God through your appearance, because the Bible tells us that whatever we do, we should do it all to the glory of God. 
(1 Corinthians 10:31)

This has numerous applications, but the most obvious ones are...

(a)  You should care for your body respectfully as the temple of God.  Be clean, well-groomed and as healthy as possible.  Eat wisely, sleep wisely, exercise wisely.  Remember that your physical appearance is the first thing anybody ever sees, and if you belong to the Lord, then people's judgments about how you look will be related to their judgments about Christians in general.  Be a good testimony to the grace of God by presenting yourself well, but not in such as way as to draw undue attention.

(b)  Since, as we mentioned, your physical appearance is the first thing anybody ever sees, craft your appearance with care to help people be drawn to the Lord rather than pushed away from Him.  Paramount here is modesty.  Be careful to dress in a manner that does not tempt a man to think about sex.  You can look very pretty and pleasant without looking like a sexual object, and you should strive for that aim.   If in doubt, cover it up.

(2)  
You should be considerate of others when preparing your appearance.

We already touched on this with modesty.  You are being considerate of others' thought lives when you dress modestly.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told men that they are sinning, committing adultery in their hearts, if they look on a woman and lust after her.  You can be considerate of men by not tempting them to this sin by the way you dress.

You are also considerate of others when you dress in a way that makes them feel comfortable.  Don't try to outdress everyone when you go to a social event, but don't wear something distractingly casual, either.  Have a good idea of what the dress code is for various situations, and dress accordingly.  Wear rugged work clothes when you show up to help someone rake his yard, so he doesn't feel guilty for asking you to be hard on your good clothes.  Wear something neat, classy and professional when you make a presentation.  Wear bright clothing with fun patterns when you will be interacting with children.  Wear something special and attractive to honor someone's special occasion.

Keep in mind that how we prepare our physical appearance is a primary way that humans communicate with one another.  What you look like says a lot about you.  Think about how you look and evaluate what message your appearance conveys.

You can't change your face, but you can wash it and moisturize it!  Heavy make-up is often intimidating or offensive, but a light layer of base foundation over less-than-perfect skin can be soothing for people who look at you all day long.  Clean, nicely styled hair and well-fitting clothing also put people around you at ease.  Wearing expensive, cutting-edge styles may cause people to admire you, but it rarely helps them feel comfortable around you.  And if you go out with hair in your eyes, buttons that threaten to burst, or Lycra stretched to translucence, people will be on edge worrying about what will happen next.  Take sensible measures to make yourself neat and attractive, and stop there.

Since your appearance automatically communicates a message, use your appearance to communicate kindness, consideration and love.

(3)  
Do not allow others' opinions 
to dictate your style.

Although you should certainly dress in a way that is considerate of others, this does not mean that you dress to "please" others.

Once when I was a Bible study teacher, someone from my Bible study kindly sent me an anonymous gift, a beautiful Vera Bradley bag.  I rarely (well, probably never) would have splurged to buy such an item for myself, but I was happy and pleased to own something so stylish.  However, over time I began to notice that people treated me differently when I carried that bag.  I got many, many compliments.  Once a woman complimented me and I said, "Oh, it was a gift..."  She responded with astonishment, "A gift?  Do you know, that must have cost $75 or more?  That is some gift!"  Clerks in stores treated me with more respect and deference than I'd ever experienced before.  Nurses in doctors' offices asked me what I did for a living (ha!).  For a time I enjoyed the feeling, but after awhile it began to bother me that something as silly as a handbag could have such a huge effect on how people treated me.

I tell that story to encourage you not to try to be a people-pleaser, nor to follow all the latest trends and styles primarily for the respect and power it will gain you around others who may not be able to afford what you have chosen to purchase and display.

  • Don't buy something for the power it will give you.
  • Don't wear something to intimidate others or to show off.
  • Don't dress immodestly because you think it will make you more attractive to someone.
  • Don't follow a fad merely because of peer pressure.

As you prepare yourself each morning, getting ready to go out and face yet another day, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Does the way I look bring glory to God and bear an appropriate testimony to His grace in my life?
  2. Does my appearance demonstrate consideration for those who will be with me today?
  3. Am I presenting myself in a way that shows love for my family, friends and fellow humans on this earth?

And.  If all else fails, a nice fitting pair of khaki slacks, a navy blue cardigan, neatly brushed and tied back hair, a light coat of foundation and a flicker of mascara is appropriate for almost any situation.

Other posts in this series:
Good-bye, girls--part one,
Good-bye, girls--part two,
Good-bye, girls--part three,
Good-bye, girls--part four.
Good-bye, girls--part five
Good-bye, girls--part six 
Good-bye, girls--part seven

Friday, November 8, 2013

Pumpkin Muffins

Last year, I went on a quest to make pumpkin muffins.  I combed the internet and tried a bunch of recipes, none of which were any good at all.

This year, when I had a hankering for pumpkin muffins, I made a half recipe of my pumpkin streusel cake and baked it in cupcake cups.  They were delicious, but very sweet and not very healthy.

I had about a cup of pumpkin left over from that project, and today I got brave.  In order to use up my pumpkin, I experimented and made up my own pumpkin muffin recipe. 

They're great!  (Not gluten or sugar free, but very nice, and reasonably nutritious.)


(that's luscious melted butter on there... 
I was trying to get the photo while there was still part of a solid pat, but I was too slow)



Pumpkin Muffins

1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
~1 cup pumpkin (maybe a little more; it's not so fussy)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp clove (I just sprinkled some in)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup oats (I used quick oatmeal flakes)

Mix together and set aside.  Sift together:

1 cup flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients.  
Spoon into greased muffin tins.  
Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes.  Makes 12.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Unexpected

When we found out we would be moving, about 10 months ago, we made a list of what we would like in our next house.

The house we ended up with does not match our list.  At all.

1.  We wanted a ranch with a finished walk-out basement.  We got a two-story with an unfinished basement that does not have potential for finishing.  (There are doors out the basement to the backyard, but they can hardly count, as the whole point was that the basement be habitable.)  But.  At least we got a basement at all.

2.  We wanted a house in the country with, minimum, a half acre lot.  We got a house in a neighborhood with a quarter acre lot.

3.  We wanted a house with brick.  Most of the houses in the area have brick... this was not an extravagant desire, it seemed very attainable.  But we got a house with no brick, just faded gray vinyl siding.

4.  We wanted a gas stove.  We got an electric stove.

5.  After our first house, in North Syracuse, we swore we would never again buy a house with a corner lot.  We have a corner lot.

6.  We wanted a house with natural woodwork.  We got a house with white woodwork.

7.  We wanted a three car garage.  We got a two car garage.

8.  I really, really did not want a glass shower door.  I have a glass shower door.  And it is not in pristine condition.

9.  I did not care about a whirlpool bathtub, did not really want one.  Guess what?  I got one.

10.  I wanted a broom closet.  But there is no broom closet.  No pantry, either.  Yet.

11.  We did not put this on our list, but we had spent the past 18 years upgrading our old house, getting rid of pale beige "plush" carpet in favor of more attractive, more resilient flooring and replacing vinyl bathroom floors with ceramic tile.  Shortly before we sold that house, we had replaced everything except the carpet in the walk-in closet in our bedroom.  The house we bought took us back to ground zero: seven rooms and a hallway of pale beige "plush" carpet, two bathrooms with vinyl floors, and a master bathroom with a combination of vinyl and (oh please) pale beige carpet.  Yes, there is pale beige carpet in my master bathroom.  Heavy sigh.

12.  The kitchen in this house is about as far removed from my taste as a kitchen could possibly be.  I cannot think of any combination of finishes that would be further from my taste than this kitchen.   Some days I simply feel as though I am mucking about in somebody else's kitchen; most often I feel like I'm in a beach house rental.  The bizarre choice of pastel-ish colors contributes to this impression.  The counter-tops are a cloying pink-beige, somewhere between salmon and very light terra-cotta clay, perfectly flat laminate with absolutely no pattern or texture.  The cabinets are blond, sort of a light skin-color.  The floor is 8x8 square ceramic tiles in a peachy-beige, not as pink as the counters, but pinker than the cabinets.   And the wide grout lines are dark gray, so the pattern of squares jumps out violently.  The backsplash is done in 4x4 white tiles, like a bathroom, but blessedly inobtrusive.  The hardware on the cabinets is all shiny yellow brass, as is the kitchen sink faucet, which is corroding horribly.  The sink itself is yet another ghastly shade of pink-beige.  The walls are a soft, sea-foam green which would not be a bad color if it actually matched anything, and if I could ever get past my quirky personal revulsion for living long-term in the color green.  So you see, multiple shades of pinky beige, blond wood, sea-foam green walls, bright yellow handles... it's pastel and beachy.  Light and bright.  But.  The appliances are black, and so is the rubber base cove molding.  A huge black refrigerator juts into the middle of the kitchen, blocking traffic.  Sometimes it goes beyond feeling like somebody else's kitchen and makes me feel tired.  And sad.  I would never in a million years have picked this kitchen.

 (This was taken while we were trying to get moved in, but it is still messy, 
as there is nowhere in this kitchen for storing large items like, 
for instance, a blender or a food processor.)


(The kitchen I left behind)

So I could complain.  I could whine and moan and struggle against what I have been given.  But, the fact of the matter is that God hedged us in until we bought this place.  It was not our first choice, or our second or even our fifth.  Somehow, God stripped away all our other options and this house was the one that was left.  A house I never, ever would have picked on my own.

So I have to believe that this is where God wants us.  He directed our path, put His hand on the circumstances, and brought us to this house.  And if this is where God wants us to live, then He must have a reason for wanting us to live here.  He has a purpose.  He has a purpose.  He does not do things carelessly, and He does not make mistakes.  The fact that this house is so completely different from what we were looking for makes me think that God worked diligently to place us here.  It is so unexpected, so unnatural, so hard to explain, barring His active will at work.

We must be patient and wait, hoping expectantly that God will work all things for good, as He promises.  Someday, we may be blessed to understand why He brought us here, specifically.  I'm quite sure it has nothing to do with decorating or earthly comforts.

In the meantime, we can be thankful that our neighborhood borders on this beautiful park where we take lovely, long walks.  God willing, we can work on changing the kitchen and -- I hope! -- getting the carpet out of our bathroom!


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Losing history

I was fortunate to be able to visit my parents over the weekend.  It was my mother's 81st birthday.  These are precious days.

Shawn drove me.  I was planning to help drive.  It's an easy drive, no cities, mostly beautiful Wisconsin countryside.  The fall colors were still vibrant, and I felt the smile of God on me as the van chugged along the road and the dogs napped in their crate behind us.  I was planning to help drive, but I didn't feel good, so Shawn shouldered the burden and did it all.  Eight hours seems so minimal compared to the old eighteen.

I love the Midwest, everything about it.  I love the big blue sky and the spreading fields, the neat red barns and even the names, German and Swedish and solid.

In my parents' town, people know me.  Some of them I remember, although I remember faces more than names, and with the passing years, some of the faces look familiar but changed.  The eyes and the smiles are the same, but the colors are gone, replaced with white hair, pale skin and more wrinkles.  I want to know these people, and love them, and talk about old times with them.  They remember when I was a little girl with big brown eyes and shiny braids.  They are part of my history.

I am young when I am there.  I was barely more than a teenager when I left, and that is how they remember me.  Getting ready for church Sunday morning, I sat on the floor in my old bedroom and applied lotion to my legs.  I saw myself in the old, long mirror on the wall.  In dim light, lines in my face disappeared, along with gray hairs and spider veins.  I didn't look much different than I had looked at nineteen, when I was just getting to know Shawn, wondering how it would turn out, peering into the mirror as though it could answer questions about my future.  Now the future I wondered about is over and done: I married and raised four children.   Who would've thunk?

Back home in Illinois, I have no history, and this is where the loneliness stems from.  Nobody knows me here, what I was like as child or a teenager.  Nobody knows what I am good at, or what I am afraid of, or what makes me happy, or my allergies.  Renee Louise always used to make sure that there was fruit salad without kiwi in it for me, way back when.  Way back when.

I am almost willing simply to adopt someone's idea of me, and become that,  just to have something that I can be.  Any identity seems preferable to no identity.

How can one's identity be so bound up in one's history?  Who even am I?  For so long, I was primarily the mother of Shannon, David, Laura and Jon.

It's funny.  We changed churches when Jon was small.  I realized, in the new church, that I had lost my identity as the pregnant lady.  I'd been pregnant pretty much the whole time we'd been at the previous church.  I was the scattered, struggling, pregnant mom with too many kids.  And then, suddenly, I was not.  I was the mother of four school-aged children and nobody had known them when they were babies.  Nobody even knew that I was good with babies, or that I loved babies.  My youngest was six, and we did things like soccer, homework and piano lessons.

And now I've lost it all, even more.  Yesterday I went to the IGA to pick up some bratwurst for supper.  We live in the Midwest, and I just had a hankering for brats.  The lady ahead of me in line had a nice conversation with the check-out boy who, I gathered, was a drumline captain in the local marching band.  I wanted to say, "Hey!  Just last year, I was a marching band mom!  My son played trumpet!  Everybody loved him!"  But I didn't say anything.  The check-out boy politely greeted me and asked whether I'd found everything I was looking for.  "Yes, thank you," I told him, but I was talking about the bratwurst, not all the things I've lost that I will never find again.

I wonder how I would feel if I met someone who knows someone that I know, someone from Minnesota or New York.  I wonder if that would help?

The last time I moved, I created a new history for myself, over twenty-five years and pouring myself out into the lives of my four children.  I became a person with a new history.

But I wonder if I am too old to go through all that again.  Before we moved here, I dreaded starting all over trying to make a house a home, and wondered if I would die about the time I finished, if I finished.  But now I am beginning to see that it is not just a house.  The house is quite an external part of it.  It is my history.  I don't think I have it in me to create another history.  Again.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Results are in...

The results are in from my biopsy.

They are negative.  I am ok.

God is good.

Thank you.

Breast pain

If you are a man, you may not want to read this.  Just warning you.  I mean, you may have already figured it out from the title, but I want to make sure you are fully informed.  Some topics addressed in this post will be uncomfortable.  In fact, even if you are a woman, you may not want to continue reading.

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When I was an early teen, like all early teen females, I began to develop breasts, and this was excruciatingly embarrassing to me.  I had no desire to grow up, and would have happily stayed straight, skinny, platonic, asexual, genderless, and neutral forever.  I did not want to be a woman.  I most certainly did not want to be noticed for being a woman.

The solution was to hide in loose, floppy clothing as much as possible.  Since it was the late seventies, this was quite possible, peasant blouses being plentiful on the fashion scene.  I didn't know whether it was more mortifying to be seen with a curve on my chest or a bra strap showing through my shirt, so I compensated with layer upon layer of gathered calico.  Sometimes I didn't have enough layers to vary them throughout the week, so I wore the same things over and over, more willing to bear the humiliation of repeated outfits than the humiliation of exposing my development.  I hated breasts, despised, loathed and feared them.  And yet, there they were.

One spring day I was walking home from junior high, walking diagonally across Sorenson Park.  It was sunny, and my book bag hung heavy in my right hand.  As I walked, the book bag banging into my leg at each step, a pressure began to build in my right breast.  It was quite uncomfortable.  I wrapped the handle of the book bag more tightly around my hand and soldiered on, trying not to breathe too deeply, because something was catching in my breast with my deeper breaths.

At one point, the pressure increased suddenly and intense pain exploded in my right breast, reverberating and expanding.  Involuntarily, I leaned forward and cried out, pressing my left hand to my chest above my breast as though I were saying the pledge of allegiance, but the other-way-round.  Nobody was near me, but at a distance people populated the park.  Although I felt as if I might fall to the ground, I was determined not to call attention to my breast.   I did not look down to check whether blood was running out of my nipple as my senses suggested.  Pulling my right arm in as tight as possible to my side, using my left hand to rub my ribs where they joined my right shoulder, I continued moving forward, forcing myself to breathe, forcing myself to take steps.

By the time I arrived at home, the pain had subsided.  I never said anything to anyone about this experience.  I was too flushed with shame, and I didn't know how to explain it, anyway.

Since then, I've always felt lumpy, tender spots under my arms.  Under my arms.  Ha.

When my children were babies, I used to bathe them together.  Once as I was soaping one of them up, I said, "Let me wash your armpits," and the child said, "Mommy has big armpits!"  Another child (just as wet and soapy) replied in disdain, "Those aren't armpits.  Those are milks."  I never bothered to correct that terminology.  I liked to think of them as milks.  I felt it reflected their most noble purpose: nourishing infants. 

I always felt happy and surprised that my lumpy, tender milks were able to feed four babies.

"Do you do breast self-exams?" the doctor would always ask, and I would hem and haw, and not be responsible and talk about what I felt.  "They are tender," I would say.  "I have a fair amount of breast pain."

Then the doctor, an older gentleman with strong, warm fingers, competent, reassuringly clinical, would quickly check me himself, and it seemed like he was being thorough.  I always felt quite safe and relieved after the doctor's exam.  He never found anything.  Then they'd send me for a mammogram, and that never showed up anything, either.

But I knew that what I was feeling was up under my arm, in the part that never came under the rays of the mammography equipment.

Then my sister got breast cancer, and over the course of a number of conversations, I somehow learned that the doctor had found her cancer, her lump, and it was a tiny slippery thing that moved back and forth and was easy to miss.  Her mammogram had missed it.

On October 21, one day before I had a scheduled doctor's appointment, I was bathing and washing my armpits.  Once again, I thought I felt something.  This time, I somehow had more guts than usual.  I put a finger down firmly to trap it from one side and came at it from the other side.  I caught it.  It was there, a lump, a bump.  A specific thing.  After I almost fainted and then recovered myself, I decided it was good that I already had an appointment scheduled for the next day.

The doctor sent me for a diagnostic ultrasound, and from there they sent me for a core biopsy, which I had Thursday afternoon.

Core biopsy.  You go in, and they find the lump again with the ultrasound (actually, they were looking at two lumps), and they mark your skin with a pen to show where stuff is.  Then they get you all ready for the procedure.

You're already lying on your back with rolled towels propping you in such a way that your breast is at the top, the apex of your being.  They frame the breast with pieces of blue cloth, like a draping, but somehow different.  It lies there, a poor, crumpled pile of shriveled flesh five inches above your head.  A nurse swabs it with betadine, painting it orange which in this case is perfectly appropriate, as it is Halloween.  The betadine is cold and smells disinfecting, somewhat reassuring.  Nothing hurts.

"Now you will meet the doctor!" they tell you cheerfully, and in he comes to the sight of your orange breast lolling above your head in pitiful anticipation.  He has dark hair, slightly rumpled, and dark eyes, slightly owl-like.  You don't remember his name but that's ok because he surely doesn't remember yours.

They go to work on you, and you are glad that you cannot see their instruments.  Needles are the theme.  As I gather, there are needles to inject lidocaine to numb you, and then a hollow needle that goes in, with the ultrasound guiding it, to rest snug against the lump inside your breast.  When that needle is placed perfectly, they say, "Now you will hear a snap, but you should not feel anything uncomfortable." I don't know what they do then, but my impression is that they pull some sort of trigger that shoots some sort of sample-gathering needle down through the hollow needle and smack into the lump where it obtains the necessary cell sample.

During all the sticking and imaging and prodding, I closed my eyes and prayed and thought about God.  I recited Psalm 23, lingering on, "He restores my soul," and, "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil."

I quoted Joshua 1:9 to myself, "Be strong and of a good courage.  Be ye not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.  For the Lord thy God is with thee, withersoever thou goest."  I like it in King James.

I remembered 1 Peter 5:7, "Casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you."  I reminded myself of Psalm 145, and even though I couldn't remember the exact verse, I knew that it says God is good and full of lovingkindness and He has compassion on all He has made.  I thought about the caring, compassionate, faithful nature of God.  I couldn't think of any more specifically comforting verses, so I just started searching my memory banks for any random verses.

I thought of Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."  I thought of God as the Almighty Creator who cares for me, and, my eyes still shut, I smiled.  Then I realized that all these people could see my face, and I wondered how weird they must think me, smiling away silently with my eyes closed.  I decided I didn't care.

They got ready for the first snap.  "In just a moment, you will hear the first snap," they told me, pulling me out of my spiritual reverie.

Snap went the equipment.  I felt it.  My body convulsed involuntarily, and an explosion of pain spread all the way to the sternum side of my breast, then began to grow and expand.  I had not been prepared for such intense pain.  By the grace of God, I responded calmly.  "That hurt,"  I told them. "It hurts, actually, quite a lot."  I lay still and tried to breathe, but the memory of being 13 and walking across Sorenson Park in exploding breast pain came flooding back to me, too real and close.

They scrambled to stick me full of more lidocaine.  I did not complain.  The second snap, in the same lump, was much less painful, and the three snaps in the other lump were painless.

They injected metal markers into the lumps, cleaned me up and sent me for a baseline mammogram.

Since the lumps had never before appeared on a mammogram, it was interesting trying to get a mammogram to pick them up now with their shiny new markers.  The professionals had promised a gentle mammo, but I really had to contort in order for the technician to get the images she needed from my armpit.

Finally it was over, and they bandaged me up and sent me off with an ice-pack in my bra.

They have asked numerous times if I have questions.  What question is there to have before the results come in?  Percentages?  I figure the percentages are meaningless.  I am me, and either I am clean, or I am cancerous.  It makes no difference what happens to other people... I mean, what?  Would you expect them to say, "The chances are about 10% that you will have cancer.  We did 14 people today, and we already found 2, so you are probably good to go."  I just don't think that's the way it works.

I'm a little concerned about the pain.  I don't think that was "normal."  Also, my sister just had breast cancer, so there may be a genetic predisposition.  And I have lupus, and 30-33% of people with lupus develop cancer, so I could scare myself silly thinking about this.

On the other hand, this lump is very different from my sister's.  They never even biopsied hers; they did immediate surgery to take hers out because it was something they knew they needed to take out.   I am pretty sure that I've had mine for years and years, that it is not new, and that it has merely gone undetected for decades... undetected and not growing.  Also, a number of women have shared with me that they had similar biopsies done and that theirs turned out to be nothing.

It is in God's hands.  We will find out tomorrow.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Falling off the gluten-free wagon

So I have lupus, which results in inflammation.

And gluten is an inflammation trigger.

So I was told to go gluten free.

Mind you, I don't have celiac disease, or anything like that.  Gluten doesn't give me any immediate, catastrophic trouble.  But I worked on going gluten free.

We have no bread in our house.  Just ask my husband.  He misses toast.

I have not made any financial investment in eating gluten free.  I just try to avoid gluten, and really, it isn't that hard.

For breakfast I can have oatmeal.  Since I don't have celiac disease, I don't worry about whether my oats are milled in a gluten free factory.  I eat oatmeal, often with bananas, walnuts and maple syrup... or golden raisins, craisins and brown sugar.  I also eat eggs.  And smoothies.  I drink orange juice and tea with cream, or sometimes coffee.  This is no hardship.  If I want to get fancy, I cook up a tasty vegetable frittata with cheese.

Lunch is not my favorite, but then, it never has been.  I don't particularly like sandwiches.  When I lunch at home, I usually have a banana with almond butter (or sunbutter) and some yogurt.  Then I pick at apples and almonds and -- if I'm lucky and have them -- Beanitos chips.  If I go out, I get a salad with chicken on it, or a bowl of soup without noodles, like the harvest squash soup at Panera right now.

Dinner is actually very easy.  We eat meat, potatoes and vegetables.  Or we eat meat with rice and vegetables.  What is hard about that?  Dairy free, that would kill me.  But gluten free is not so bad.  I can even thicken gravy with cornstarch.

So I was trucking along, not eating gluten, generally just being really good, faithfully picking the croutons off my salads.

And then Tuesday.  Oh my.  I went to Bible study in the morning.  It's kind of an early morning for me, so I only had a smoothie for breakfast, along with my tea.  I left Bible study early for an 11:30 doctor appointment.

At the doctor appointment, it was decided that I should have a certain surgical procedure taken care of, and because of our insurance situation, they were kind enough to try to hurry the process along to be finished before year end.  They were terrifically good to me, and I am not complaining, but in the end I was there until 3:30 getting the details wrapped up.

At about 2:30, a kind nurse noticed that I was fading (and she probably heard the very loud rumbles of my very empty stomach), so she offered me crackers.

Crackers are not gluten free.

But.  There are certain times when you know that lack of food is going to hurt you far more than lack of gluten will help you.  I consumed 280 calories worth of crackers on the spot (that's two packages of grahams and two packages of saltines).  I had one more pack of saltines in hand, but I hit the end of my water bottle and stopped.

Since then, I've been simply packing away the gluten.  I went to lunch at Panera yesterday and got the squash soup (good for me!), and a whole grain bagel, toasted with butter (oooops).  I came home, and when Shawn returned from his Chicago business trip at 8 p.m., I cooked up a bunch of spaghetti (super pasta with whole grains, omega 3s and extra protein, but not gluten-free).

I don't feel particularly different.

I wonder if there is any point to all of this.

My Favorite Ugly Smoothie Recipe

(If you try making this, be prepared for ugly.  
Don't worry, it tastes much better than it looks.)

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup orange juice
1 banana
2 oz. (approximately, or 1/3 of a 5 oz. clamshell container) raw baby spinach
4 frozen strawberries

Blend together in blender until smooth.  Enjoy.  
If you want it to be truly decadently delicious, 
substitute sweetened vanilla yogurt for the Greek yogurt.  
But really, I find that it is plenty sweet and tasty as is.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Remembering cute...

My daughter sent me a link to the funniest pictures of babies with fat cheeks.  You can view it here.

Looking at the photos reminded me...

Back in the day, when Davy was a little three-year-old, one morning I was in my bathroom preparing for the day.  While I was thus occupied, Davy sat in front of my long, oval mirror in the bedroom, his attention sustained as only his attention can be sustained, turning first one way and then another.

I had no idea what he was doing, but being me, I guess I assumed he was making faces at himself.  Nope.  This was David.  David doesn't make faces (that's the rest of us).  David analyzes.  And at the tender age of three, he was analyzing his appearance.

When I emerged from my ablutions, Davy turned from the mirror and looked me in the eye.  "I'm cute," he explained, "because I have chubby cheeks."

That's the little Mister himself, on the left, chubby cheeks and all.