Friday, May 28, 2010

Fried Okra....

Time is going by way too fast. This time last week I was making dinner for my group of "adopted" teens while visiting with my sweet sister-in-law and Angel-girl. Next week at this time Hubby will be crossing the California/Oregon border in a moving van towards home and the girls will be flying into Portland International. We have all been working at making visiting and sight-seeing mesh together in the best way possible. Our heads hit the pillows late at night and we try to spring right up in the morning to take advantage of every moment in between errands and such.

See, there is always room for a smile.
Here is Puddin' donning a real Texas style hat
while helping me run errands at the local everything store.

Downtown Culture

A couple of evenings ago, we loaded up the girls and headed downtown for dinner at my favorite locale...Mi Tierra. I love Mexican food! Not only do they do it authentic at this restaurant but the celebration of culture and life in decoration is never tiring to view. Lights, banners, bright colors and pinatas meet the eye everywhere you look as mariachi bands walk around tables offering their musical talents.

The wall Puddin' and Pippin are standing in front of is
a huge banquet hall sized mural at Mi Tierra.
It is filled with portraits of people both famous and un-sung who have
been an influence in San Antonio and Texas at large.

Afterwards we headed over for a stroll along the River Walk (click link for website photos). The combination of warm air, music and lights mixed with the sounds of lapping water as the gondolas drove by. Fragrant flowers and grilled food sat in the air and gave everything such a feeling of "stop and savor this moment". I could have pulled up a chair and sat all night just watching and listening. But we headed home anticipating a restful sleep so we could hit Sea World the next day.

Doctors and Fried Okra

That didn't happen though; I mean the Sea World part. Hubby's shoulder had been bothering him more and more as each day passed and it was getting quite unbearable for him. Because of that, we opted to hold off on Sea World and get Hubby's shoulder looked at. X-rays and a doctor's exam showed he has been having a problem for a while with bone spurs and kept thinking it was arthritis. He was given medicine and strict orders to follow up once back home.

I am learning my way with driving around town now for the most part and realized we would be passing a Cracker Barrel on the way home. Hmmm....Hubby needed food to take his medicine and I didn't have anything prepared at home. Do you see my smile? That is where the fried okra comes into play. I LOVE fried okra but with it being very much a southern style food, I can't get it in the NW. I have never even noticed okra in the produce at home. Shucks, food always tastes better when someone else makes it anyway right? Hubby did a turkey dinner platter and I enjoyed a sandwich with my perfectly seasoned fried okra. If only you could hear my sigh of contentment.


Today Hubby and girls went with my cousin and niece to experience the awesomeness of Schlitterbahn. In my opinion it is the most amazing water park in north America. If you have opportunity to be even remotely close to it in your travels MUST take a day to play at this park. I just know they will be full of stories and laughs tonight.

While they left to splash, Daddy and I headed the opposite direction for a general appointment with his new chemo doctor. His first chemo doc retired, the second was shipped to Iraq and now he was able to meet with this third one today. We discussed the current game plan and made adjustments. He made sure we were well informed and I very much appreciated his attentiveness to our personal thoughts and opinions.

Daddy is doing well with all of the treatment rounds but he is starting to show some signs of wear. He is looking more pale these days instead of resilient. The leaking of his tear ducts is a side affect from one of the chemo meds and the burns on his palms and soles are showing that his body isn't processing quite all of the other chemo medication he is being given. Because of that, it is recommended we hold off a week before starting another regiment. Daddy isn't shying away from the treatments at all but I think he is grateful to hold it at bay just a little too. Maybe it will give him opportunity to store up more energy.

His taste buds are mostly gone and that frustrates him. The tumor in his throat is now small enough for him to swallow food but he can't taste and enjoy most things. All the same, we stopped for a sandwich on the way home just for the experience.

For now I should go but I will write again when opportunity presents itself.
Thank you so much for your support and prayers.
God bless your day with destiny and purpose.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Here in San Antonio....

(Backing Up Note)

When I last wrote, we had taken a break from all our demands to go hiking for the day on Mt Hood. Picturing that still makes me smile. Once we came back down into civilization things went into high gear and the memorial for my husband's uncle pretty much consumed our week.
Between meeting with our pastor, scheduling a time for him to meet the family, and doing the food shopping for the memorial luncheon; Wednesday came all too quickly.

Because I was blessed with so much help, the long day held many joys and sighs of relief. Puddin', Pippin, Rixxi, the ones that I affectionately have claimed as "my boys", and a friend from church all rolled up their sleeves to be my extended hands in preparing service and food for 60 people. There was always at least one of them right next to me ready to receive a commanding request before I could even think of all that needed to be done.

The family was blessed beyond belief and kept saying over and over how everything was better than they had possibly imagined. That in turn blessed me. My goal the whole time was to be able to give the family opportunity to focus on one another during such a difficult time without having to deal with details.

San Antonio Here We Come

Up until the last minute of leaving it seemed we were trying to get everything accomplished. Shopping, visiting with friends, laundry, packing.......haa haa packing. I can't even remember why now but I didn't pack until 1am and we had to be out the door at 7am. It made me laugh though as I tossed this that and the other into my suitcase. I just knew that opening my suitcase later would be something like the surprise of Christmas presents as discovered whatevers showed themselves at my final destination.

The flying was a bit more difficult for me this time. I needed a lot of concentration this time to ride out turbulence that wanted to rob both my stomach and my nerves of any sense of control. Hubby and girls enjoyed the ride and Hubby tried ever so greatly to be supportive and take my mind off the bouncing. But being a 20 year veteran fly-boy tickled his adventure bone a little more than his desire to comfort. I am laughing about it now. His proclamations of "Wow! Look out the window!" as the plane banked and bounced gave me a strong memory of ..............

There I was in a hospital bed at 20 years old preparing for the birth of our daughter. He hated the thought of me being in pain. It tore him up to see me like that and he paced the room desperately looking for something to take his attention. That was when his eyes fell to the contraction monitor and his mind started figuring out how to read it as he asked me questions about my pain threshold. Then he proclaimed with something of excitement mixed with awe, "Wow that is the highest peak this monitor has drawn yet. Can you feel it yet? Wow! I bet you can really feel that one."

See isn't that funny and cute. I love memories.

So here we are now in San Antonio. Everyone has been by to say their hellos and give out generous hugs. Daddy is finishing up another round of chemo and will have a week long break starting tomorrow. He has more energy than I expected but I can see tell-tale signs that it is affecting him. His hair is falling out now and his face is looking a bit drawn. The palms of his hands and feet are peeling and have a heightened sensitivity and his tear ducts are continually leaking. But he is still Daddy.

He is my Daddy and I am so grateful to be here. I sat with him for a while this afternoon in the sun room and I could tell he was physically a bit uncomfortable and emotionally troubled. I asked him if I could pray with him and he answered yes with hopeful and grateful eyes that hadn't yet looked directly at me since I arrived. We prayed for my step-brother serving in Iraq and I prayed strength, peace, and encouragement over Daddy. The resolve of hiding in the label of "strong daddy" was gone and unashamed he wept in my arms as I whispered in his ear that he is not alone and not ever forgotten.

I am so grateful to be here.


There is something else that I want to talk about here and don't really know how to do it except to be forthright.
My dear cherished friend, Kevin Wecker, lost his battle with cancer on Sunday and went to be with God. The cancer that came over his body was so consuming and violently quick. He left behind an amazing family, a wonderful wife, and 3 small children. Though I know he is so peaceful now with God, I grieve for his family and the memories never made.

I have so many smatterings of memories in my mind swirling around of Kevin.
We met in high school drama class and quickly became inseparable. I was all of a week and a half older than him and he never let me forget it. In high school he was my confidant, my protector, my friend. Everyone always predicted we would become an item and you would have thought with our hand holding and endless phone calls we would have. Once we even kissed in my parents driveway. I think we were both looking for the obvious next phase in our relationship. But the funny thing was when we both pulled away after the kiss and said, "Nah that was too weird. It was like kissing my brother." When college hit, we went our separate ways and supported one another from afar. College, work, families, life..........every few months one of us would call the other and we would catch up. A few birthday parties, a couple of comp ticket hockey games, emails of what God is doing in our lives. They are spinning through my mind and I am trying to store them under mental lock and key.

Father God, I pray your peace over Kevin's family.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mirror Lake ...take 2

Saturday the kids and I decided
that it was way past time for a hike;
an excursion of enjoying the beauty that God made all around us.
All of the other "stuff" beckoning for our time would still be here
when we got back and there was no harm in stopping for a few hours.
So up we drove to mile marker 51 on Hwy 26.
It marked the beginning of a fun hike to Mirror Lake.
Hubby and I had done this hike a couple of years ago and I really wanted
to share the secret find with the girls.
Even Kekoa was ready for an adventure.

We had so much fun laughing and talking along the way
with the friends that we brought with us.
We stopped to take pictures at bridges and rocks and
thought it was funny to find a patch of snow on the ground in mid May.

When we found a larger patch, Kekoa thought it was way "cool".
I guess he had gotten himself over heated from all the
hiking and climbing in the 72 degree weather.
We were all grateful that we had summer type clothing on and
I think we secretly wished we could all slide and romp
in our own patch of snow to cool off.

Here is Pippin enjoying her lunch and giving me
her perfectly contented cheesy smile.

And a shot of Puddin' overlooking an old rock slide area that had been

cleared out for a hiking path.

When we finally reached our goal 3 miles later,
Mt. Hood did not disappoint us with it's spectacular view.
It was breath more ways than one.

It simply never occurred to me that we would be walking in snow
that was at times waist high as we circled the lake.
I know, you'd of thought I had more foresight in my planning and logic.
See the lake? It is slush filled.
In another month people will be swimming in it
and scooping crawdads out by the bucket load.

It was such a great day.
The kids had snow ball fights and laughed
until their sides hurt.
I am so grateful for the break, the breath, and the beauty.
God You are amazing!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Things That Matter......

I have much to wade through and share but before I begin sorting those thoughts out, I want to re-cap moments I jotted down to be sure and remember.

Prom Night

Below is a picture of Pippin and her friend, "Jerry", on prom night 2 weeks ago. Oh my goodness what a fun night it was. It was a right of passage for both girls. Both are first borns with always a unique sense of responsibility outweighing their own views of frivolous behavior. Both have labeled themselves over the years to being "tom-boys" to the bone and swore that things like make-up, hair styles, and dresses were nothing but a distracting waste of time. After all, how can one climb a tree or straddle a horse with a dress in the way.

But they let themselves embrace feeling like princesses. They were gentile and full of humble giggles and excitement all through the day.

Pippin on the left and Jerry on the right.

I must say, I think they have grown up into a couple of amazingly beautiful young women inside and out.

Say Yes To The Dress

My girls and their friends are always so wonderful to say thank you for things and give cheers my way for....the food, the party, the ride, the gift, the wisdom, the_____fill in the blank. But sometimes I know that it is more of a sense of being polite than genuine gratitude. Not that I am complaining. I think I am a spoiled and love lavished mom. But recently Puddin' made my day.

I was walking through the living room with a load of laundry and my attention was caught by a show that Puddin' and Rixxi were watching. It is called Say Yes To The Dress. It is filmed in New York at a super fancy wedding boutique that people from all over the continent go to because of it's style and finesse. As with any tv reality series, it wouldn't be a show unless someone was making a fuss worth filming. What caught my attention was the filming of a mother and daughter. The daughter had found the dress of her dreams that made her feel like a princess more grand that Disney could ever hope to conjure. It was stunningly beautiful and fit all of her simple elegant desires. The mother pushed the consultant out of the way to go sort through the dresses herself while spouting on and on about the idea that she didn't care what her daughter wanted. Having nothing less than top notch sparkle and bling would be a social disaster.

I shook my head and said, "Someone needs to shake some reality into that mother and remind her that it's her daughter's wedding. If money isn't an issue and obviously it isn't, then shouldn't the look in her daughter's eyes and the happiness in her heart be the only thing that matters here?"

Puddin' dropped her stuff and jumped off the couch to hug me. "Oh Mom you are so amazing! I always say you are the best mom ever and I really do mean it. But when I see moms like that, they make me so mad and...I REALLY do mean it. I love you!"

Yeah, I was pretty rosy cheeked and misty eyed over that for a while.

The Things That Matter....

Right before prom things changed for us. It has ever since been a time where people keep saying, "Oh my goodness! How do you do it? You are so calm and peaceful."

To trace back the events, I think it started with my brother-in-law. My husband had gotten an urgent and panicked call. "Please talk to your brother!" It was his brother's wife on the other end of the phone. We all have different levels of things that we think we can handle. Sometimes when that level gets too close for comfort the person can feel that shutting down is the only answer. That is what happened here. The wife, who has advancing MS, had thrown her cane across the kitchen floor and football tackled her husband to the ground. With that accomplished, she sat on him and called his brother on the phone to be a voice of reason. It was the only thing she could do to keep him form walking out the door and possibly ending his life. A couple of weeks in the local hospital learning new coping skills and goal assessments seems to have created a new man and we are so very grateful.

At that same time frame, Hubby had to leave town for a week with work. The boss had started up a new contract 8 hours away in Idaho and asked Hubby to to the evaluating and training for the area. It was an honor and we are so grateful for the favor shown on him. But it was different having him gone for the week. A plus though is that he was able to spend some time with the kids and grand kids.

Mother's Day weekend was a very different time. Friday afternoon my mom had a mild heart attack. How can the words "mild" and "heart attack" ever be used in the same reference? As I drove to the ER I told myself that her headache and tight chest symptoms were only because of her recent cold and the medications she was taking for congestion. But when I saw her face I knew and didn't need hours of blood draws and enzyme calculations to tell me what we had already been through 5 years before. She was admitted into the hospital for observation and later it was decided to do another angiogram.

Mother's Day morning I was at the hospital waiting to hear the results from the cath lab. The attending cardiologist, whom we have dealt with on a previous occasion, lazily talked to me with a smirk on his face and an 'I told you so' glint in his eye. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "nope I can't do anything else. There are no stints or prescriptions to help with this", and he proclaimed her heart to be 20 years older than it should be. I wanted to put my fist through his face.

As I sat there in her room watching her rest, I absently worked over word search puzzles and fought back an overwhelming fear at the notion I might lose both my parents in the same year. My heart felt the swirling blackness get more thick around me, I cried out to God for rescue and hope and He reminded me of a fiction story I read a while back. In this story, the forces of good and evil are played in tandem with regular lives. The characters walk around through much of the story unaware that good and evil are all around them vying for territory just like Ephesians 6:12 says they are. Specifically I saw in my mind a part of the story where the main character was gripped by overwhelming fear and felt like he couldn't move. Then the story spun to the parallel spiritual realm and showed that same man with a demon named crippling fear that had latched his talon claws deep into the man's shoulders and was weighing him down to the ground. I decided then and there that I had a choice to move and look up or let myself fall down and give up. I decided anew that for every day there is breath, there is reason to have hope, purpose, and destiny.

Mom is home now and doing well. We went to spend the day with her today and bless her with a helping hand. I brought 4 young adults with me and they worked all over the yard cleaning and planting flowers to give her the summer joys that she loves without the stress and labor that goes with it.

Daddy is doing well too. His last scan showed that there was marginal shrinkage in 2 of the 4 tumor masses and no new tumors. He excitedly started another round of therapy and is anxiously counting down the days to our pending visit.

Along with these events, there are other things too. A step-grandma passed this week and a niece is in ICU after a massive seizure. I received an email today from the wife of a dear old friend. He has been battling caner this last year and it is spreading at an alarmingly horrid rate. They have decided to begin Hospice. This hits me in a way I can't even begin to wrap my heart around just yet.

Last Tuesday, I received a call that my husband's uncle in Nevada passed after a sudden massive heart attack. It took everyone by surprise. None of the family live here in town and most everyone lives out of state. But they are all coming here so he can be buried at the national cemetery. We have been asked to organise a memorial service.

It is an event that we never think of having to deal with but I am so grateful to be able to help the family out in this way. The widow and children need to be able to focus on one another without having to worry about a building or food. I have definitely learned a lot along the way and have found the web to have some great resources. If you ever find yourself in a position of needing to make a memorial service program, this site has beautiful user friendly free downloads.

This next week will be busy with the funeral and with us leaving 2 days later for Texas....but I feel entirely peaceful in a way that I can't even describe. All of these things happening to people we know and love. I don't understand it all. I can't reason it all. But I know that God is still God.

Okay, I could write more and more, but it is almost midnight and I must get some sleep.

For now, have a blessed and destiny filled day!