Saturday, July 31, 2010

Emotions Can't Always Be Trusted....

(Our backyard. Texas has never had such green grass but the rain has been a blessing in many ways.)

A few days ago we were swamped with a rain front and I simply couldn't help myself. While all the fuzzy dogs cowered inside, I stood outside in the rain and closed my eyes to let the cool water washed over meas the billions of drops fell in sheets at a time. My heartbeat slowed and my breathing fell into soft rhythm. It was a welcomed relief to the storms raging in my heart.
I doubt I will be able to adequately convey here the fronts that have been brewing inside me but I promise to be open and as painfully transparent as possible.

While I know that I am not alone: God is ever with me, friends and family back home are praying for me, and I have seen time and again that God creates encounters of prayer and encouragement whenever I go; the feeling of being alone can still feel extremely magnified at times.

Yes there is family here but it isn't the same. Most are busy with living and too scared to look at Daddy's declining health so they don't come over at all. One that does come maybe once a week does so with "baggage" and "borrowing needs". Then as I get a hug goodbye I am given a pat on the cheek and with one single breath proclaims, "You are so easy to read. I see you have something on your mind and I sure would love to know what it is. Well have a good week." And the door closes.
It is okay. It is all the reach out that person can do.

A couple of others have encouraged me for months to learn the layout of the road system (which I must say is the dumbest most confusing road layout I have ever driven. There is no logic or pattern to get all) but then as I have successfully learned how to navigate the basics they have been hurt and offended that I can be self sufficient. They feel un-needed and there is an underlying unspoken panic that says I am replacing them.
It is okay. Being providers is how they are able to deal with their levels of cope and grief.

Daddy is a quiet enabler. For example, I have learned that when we are 30 minutes late in being picked up for a doctor appointment he doesn't say anything. He smiles and makes small talk and then creates excuses at the check in counter about the imaginary traffic we encountered along the way. I asked him recently why he doesn't address the issue. His reply was that he didn't want anyone to feel bad or think that they are not important anymore. While I could reason and talk my way around that type of thinking pretty easily, the bottom line is that it is his choice and he doesn't want to create pain for anyone.

So I will respect that and do nothing. These patterns were set into play long before I arrived and it is not for me to create tension. (And I'd like to acknowledge here that I am not condemning or putting anyone down. I am simply trying to explain the technicalities of living in a place not of my own. )

It has taken me a while to come to this conclusion though. As with most things, it takes me a while to muddle through and figure out the direction God wants me to point in. That is partly because the spinning static in my mind makes too much noise for me to remember to stop and hear and partly also because I dig my heels in the ground and want to argue.

As the lives of my growing children are changing and adapting to me not being at home, as daily things happen to my husband, family, and friends that I can never have as a personal memory; I have wanted to stomp my feet and shake my finger in protest at what I have considered to be the injustice here. "Can you even consider what I have put on hold and given up to be here and help? Do you not see and understand even a portion of the sacrifice?"

And then God reminded me that somewhere along the way I switched my dependence to those around me for my security, my well being and my identity instead of focusing on Him to be my all sufficiency. Having my family and friends around as encouragement in daily living is a fringe benefit but He is supposed to be my all in all.

Yes I miss the beauty and comforts of home. I miss the corny jokes of my girls and their friends that remind me to look beyond the obvious and take joy in the simplest of things. I miss seeing that look in my husband's eyes that says I am beautiful. I miss my church home. Every week that I go to my sister's church I purpose to reach out and introduce myself to people even though my information cards have never been answered in all the time I have been here and it reminds me acutely how special my church at home is to strive to make sure no one feels alone. I miss my dog. Some would say that is ridiculous, especially when I am surrounded by 5 here, but God put that lil' guy in my life to answer a need and heal something in my heart that I thought could never be healed. In so doing, I am irrevocably attached to him and want nothing more than to curl up on the floor with him and not let go. I miss being able to be in the same room with my mom and laugh so hard over the simplest thing that I can't breathe.

But God has put me here for now for a reason and that has to remain my focus. When I close my eyes I can see His angels of encouragement holding up my arms and He is right next to me whispering in my ear that I am not alone.

So, those are the main things that I have been trying to come to terms with. I have sat down so many times to try and write it out but ended up shaking my head futilely to a blank screen. I realized that I was even not wanting to talk on the phone with calls from home because I couldn't explain and I felt empty. Now I am pulling out of it and I am so grateful.

I should update you on other things as well.

* Daddy started chemo on Wednesday. For this round we chose to do the IV drip only and dose it at 50%. This form of chemo builds in his system and hangs on for a long time. Now that it is day 4 he is beginning to feel the effects. The hot zone on the inside of his mouth has returned and he is quite fatigued but that is all. While we would love for there to be no symptoms at all, we are grateful that these are easy to manage and pray that the other effects stay away.

* I talked with my mom a couple of nights ago and she is still having a time of it after her surgery. Her incision is still infected and refuses to close even though it has been a month. It turns out that her surgeon gave incorrect care instructions for healing and now they are going to have to re-open her incision to adequately get rid of the infection and promote healing. Goodness how many times I have shouted gratefulness in my heart that her longtime childhood friend is there visiting and helps her to laugh away the frustrations.

* In three weeks I will be flying out to our eldest daughter's wedding and then staying in Portland for 3 weeks. Yes I am very anxious.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement. Thank you for "listening" and understanding.
I pray for you to have a blessed and destiny filled week and that you realize just how important and cherished you are.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gumbo Recipe....

I've been asked to share a recipe for gumbo and had fun looking through my grandmother's old cookbooks for just the right thing. In an old family recipe book that she and her 3 sisters put together back in about 1970 I found just the thing. Grandmother had titled the recipe after her husband and that made me smile. As I looked through her book I found recipes filled with the character of times gone by; times that one seems to ever hear of anymore......Hominoly Pie, Meat Pie A La Lu, Jambalaya, Corn Pudding and even Squirrel Mulligan.

If you decide to be adventurous and try this dish I am sure you will have fun with it. I've looked it over and to the best of my abilities I think it is a complete recipe. giggle giggle.....I have found that Grandmother would sometimes do like I am guilty of doing and not write complete directions for dishes. It is not an effort to sabotage the new cook. It is just that some mental footnotes seem to be a given at the time of transcribing because it is an often made recipe.

Like I said before, gumbo can have anything in it and is not designed only for shrimp and chicken. Both my cousin and aunt say that the more meat as well as the more kinds of meat included in the pot makes for happy eating.

So without further stalling, here is our family recipe for gumbo as written by my grandmother....

Johnny's Favorite Chicken and Shrimp Gumbo
by Pearl Gibson Davis


1 large hen
1 cup flour
1 cup cooking oil
2 cups each of celery, bell pepper, and onion chopped
3-4 garlic cloves chopped
2 TBSP Worcestershire
1 TBSP Kitchen Bouquet
1 TBSP Accent
4 cans shrimp
hot pepper and salt to taste

Boil hen until very tender. Remove meat from the bones and cut into bite sized pieces; set aside. Remove some of the fat from the broth and cook the vegetables in this. Cook slowly for about 1 hour or until very tender, adding a small amount of broth if needed to keep from browning the vegetables.

Make a brown roux with the flour and oil in heavy iron skillet, cooking on low heat and stirring all the time with a metal egg turner. Add this to broth and cook until smooth. Add vegetables, kitchen bouquet, accent and hot pepper and cook slowly for about 20 minutes. Add the shrimp and chicken and cook for about 10 minutes longer. Add file' just before turning out the fire (about 2-3 heaping TBSP). Moisten file' with a little water to make it blend into the hot broth better.

Remove and discard excess oil that floats on top. A few green onion blades chopped fine and added during the last 15 minutes of cooking greatly improves the flavor.

Serve with rice.

And there you have it; a tasty pot of the old fashioned south that your taste buds will flip over.
If you give it a try I'd love to hear how things went for you.

God bless your week!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

File' Gumbo....

I've never actually stuck my feet in wet cement and tried to walk in it but I imagine it would feel something like the past few days. How is that for an opening statement?

Daddy is doing really well and bouncing back nicely from that chemo treatment he reacted to. It is actually everyone else that is having a hard time right now. It would be too exhausting and pointless to go into things here and serves no real purpose. Let's just summarize by acknowledging that everyone is raw with emotion and fatigue and has huge territory boundaries on the things they like to do with my dad and I crossed that line. The past few days have been filled with offenses, pretending, crying, apologizing and groveling. I want to throw my hands on my hips and beg the question....."really?......seriously?" But that serves no purpose. The truth is that feelings are valid and real just because they are and I must be more careful.

I was greatly encouraged on Saturday. It was a very hard day for me to push through and I felt quite alienated and misunderstood. God is his grace and mercy though had other ways to encourage me. I answered the doorbell to find 2 women from a local bible believing church just up the road. I told them I was attending my sister's church and they didn't push anything. Instead they offered to pray with me about anything on my heart. I didn't go into details except to say that I am not from around here. I am here taking care of my father who has terminal cancer. They both welled up with tears and circled around me with hugs and prayers and affirmations of love right there on the front porch. It is what I really needed at that moment and I felt God's hug.

So uncle and aunt came out for a visit this last weekend. That would be Daddy's brother. They are the last 2 of the 6 boy siblings. It was a wonderful visit for everyone. Living only 9 hours away has afforded everyone to be able to keep in close contact. I on the other hand had not seen them in about 17 years and it was a good time for us to re-connect.

My cousin here made a huge pot of gumbo for everyone to enjoy over the weekend. The funny thing was that my aunt decided to make gumbo and bring as a treat for everyone as well. So I guess we ended up with something of a cook off right? I have containers all over the refrigerator and freezer filled with the southern soupy mix.

Are you familiar with real Louisiana File' Gumbo?
Here, take a gander at this.

I've never made it but I understand that it is a rue based soup that is predominantly meat of every sort and served over rice with bread or crackers on the side. The name File' Gumbo is actually the seasoning that makes it stand out from regular soup. In the back woods you can find everything in a gumbo pot from chicken and opossum to fish and deer along with some celery and onion. This particular batch consists of chicken, ham, sausage and shrimp.

Update on Treatment

Our plan of attack now is that next week Daddy will do the drip infusion chemo treatment at 50% only and take nothing additional by mouth for that cycle. Then in the middle of August we will try the drip and pills at 50% to see how he reacts. Decisions are hard and as carefully as I can I have honestly told him that I understand and support whatever he wants to do. The truth is that his quality of life is 1000% better when he is not on treatment. He has never been one to give up on anything and he silently pushes through treatment as best as he can without complaining but I know it wears on him.

Well I had better get going for now.
Have a wonderfully blessed and destiny filled week.
Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 6....

Stopping Chemo

It has been a slow few days with things shifting and changing here. This is now day 6 of Daddy being back on the chemo regime at 75% and we are stopping it today per the nurse's orders. We called in this morning to say that the hot spot on the roof of his mouth was back, the hand & foot syndrome has started again with a vengeance and the sound of him losing his stomach behind closed doors has been severe. We have an appointment already on the calendar for this coming Friday so I imagine we will just keep that appointment as a means of following up and go back to baseline from here.

Mowing the Grass

There are 2 male family members here that have been taking care of the yard for us....but they have their own lives to deal with as well so sometimes our yard doesn't get checked off the list very quickly. Daddy told me not to mess with it and I listened....for 2 more days and then gave in to my restlessness. I figure it needed to be done and I am an able bodied person. Being an old military wife has made me adjust my concept of my capabilities. Though I can't say I would want to do it all the time with the humidity and heat outside, I did have fun doing this big yard in sections as I sang out loud and accomplished a worthwhile task.
Daddy however spent the evening very quiet. I kept telling myself it was the chemo causing him to be quiet but I knew it was more than that. Finally, after doing all of my bedtime chores I hugged him tight, blinked big old eyelashes at him and asked him not to be mad at me for doing the yard. He laughed and shook his head saying, "You are just so stubborn."

Yep that is me to a tee and to a fault.

Crying and Dealing

My niece came over for a surprise visit this morning and it was good to see her. I could tell right away that she needed to air out her thoughts so we sat in the sun room for a couple of hours. Her grandma on her dad's side of the family just passed yesterday and with the reality of my Daddy's health being so obvious, her 24 year old mind and heart is having a hard time coming to grips with mortality.

I let her speak whatever crossed her mind and let her know she was in safe company. At one point she confessed through tears that it is so much easier to find things to do and just not come by for visits. It hurts to visit because it is a constant reminder that things are changing.
I agreed with her. "You are right", I said. "If you don't visit then you don't have to think now and you don't have to hurt now. But if you don't visit now then you are robbing yourself later and it will hurt more." Poor sweetie. I am glad she recognizes it. Too many don't see what they are doing.


I told Daddy that I have been talking with Hubby and girls and after the wedding in August I will be coming back here to be with him again. Instantly his chin quivered and tears rolled down his cheeks. He said he knows I have responsibilities in Portland but he is so grateful for all the time I can give him.

I knew the idea of being alone had been weighing on him but I didn't realize it was quite that much. Yes there is family here: a cousin and her husband and grown son, a step-sister and her 2 grown daughters, a step-brother and his family; and some of them are able to come over to help and watch over Daddy. But no one has the freedom to be with him more than a couple of hours at a time.

The truth is that Daddy needs help to do most everything. On a good day he can let the dogs out but he can't bring them in. On a good day he can push his syringes of medicine into his j-tube if he leans against a wall using his body weight. He can't do chores or answer the door and rarely does he have the fine dexterity strength to push a straw into a juice box. There was a time when I first got here last month that I could open a can of formula and cover it with saran wrap for him to pour later but now it is too hard for him to open the pump bag.

Most's the feeling of being alone. Even if all I accomplish is sitting on the couch for hours at a time, at least when he opens his eyes he sees that he is not alone...that he is loved and not forgotten.

I hope to visit Portland for a week or two before coming back but I am not going to make any firm travel plans just yet with the chemo and symptoms not submitting to a schedule.

Well that is all for now. I think it will be a quiet week.
Thank you so much for your support and encouragements that you send and for understanding that when I don't respond back it is not because I don't care. I do care deeply and I am so grateful.

God bless your week immensely!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Things That Make Me Smile....

Time passes slowly and quickly all at the same time but it has been a good week for us. It is all sort of fuzzy in my head right now so please bear with me while I try to organize my thoughts. Let me share a couple of pictures I snapped with my phone in effort to give you a 'being a mouse in my pocket' kind of feeling.

4th of July

It was a quiet day for us. Well maybe quiet isn't the right word since there were colorful evening displays all over the neighborhood. How about laid back instead. Daddy was pretty sleepy and slow over the weekend so I decided to try and tempt him with a delectable stroll down memory lane. I prepared some favorites for dinner that I hoped would make him smile. I made a small ham (which thank you Mom: baked in coca-cola is very tender) and a small batch of mashed sweet potatoes. Then I did up the jello creation that you see above. He ate about 5 TBSP all together but it made him smile so my goal was accomplished.


This cute lil' guy is the yorkie that will be going home with me to become a permanent playmate for Kekoa. (Sigh! Gosh I miss Kekoa!) Conguito is a sweetie and he is attached to me wherever I go. He sits at the kitchen gate and stares at my bedroom door until I come out in the mornings.

In this picture I had just finished giving him a bath because he had been digging at the fence and dirt trying to get at some cats that were just out of reach. He is a silly little wimpy pushover that cowers easily to my command......but when it comes to cats he somehow flips a mental switch in his head and becomes the likeness of Bugs Bunny's Tasmanian Devil. I don't remember the day exactly, but sometime over the weekend he did succeed in grabbing a cat that got too close and it was horrible. I tried to move quick but I wasn't fast enough. Ok that is not a smiling thought so let's move on.


I had to stop and take a picture of this yesterday when I was running errands. It is a Daiquiri Lounge....with a drive thru! See the window on the right with the arrow that says Drive Thru? Boy is that a million dollar idea or what? (sarcasm intended) I had to laugh simply because at times the oddest thing can be a tension breaker. I don't see how that place can be legal. Not only does the idea of a drive thru obscure the law of no open containers in the car but isn't the purpose of a lounge to....lounge? I sent this picture to a friend and he responded back with laughter pointing out that the cones must be there so patrons don't run into the front of the building.


Daddy started chemo two days ago (at 75% of the dosage) and he is doing absolutely perfect so far. No pulmonary flash edema, no side effects yet and his energy has all of a sudden perked up. He has been awake and talkative, had me drive him a couple of places, made some jokes and has been looking around the kitchen for food. Goodness this is all so unpredictable. I was talking with my aunt yesterday about that very fact. She was caregiver to her husband through his battle with cancer and totally remembers that every time you get comfortable with a routine...the body changes things up and keeps you on your toes.

Daddy is not so hesitant to get in the car now that I have shown him how to use a pillow. I learned last year after my surgery (thank you Alice) that a pillow between body and seat belt keeps everything from jarring around inside. That one simple bed pillow is making such a difference in his countenance and pain thresh hold when it takes us 30 minutes each way to get to his hospital visits on this bumpy Texas roads.

We make conscious effort to find the good in things and tell each other so every day. It is like a game we play. Daddy decided to try and eat a burger with me yesterday. He couldn't taste it and enjoy the teriyaki sauce on it but he could feel that it was a different consistency from the other things he had tried to eat. And he kept the food down so that was a major positive.
Then while sleeping last night he knocked out his attachment for his feeding tube and the pump kept flowing everywhere in his sleep. But the positive is that we have been taking such good care of his j-tube that it didn't hurt and wake him in pain when it pulled out.


I miss home so much but my family does special things to help me stay a part of it all. My special little niece is growing and changing on a daily basis. My brother and sister-in-law published some videos so we could see her and all the new things she is learning. She is 11 months old now and taking steps on her own. Here is a short video of Angel-girl doing on of her favorite past-times....singing.

Another Thing I Am Grateful For

My mom had surgery a couple of days ago and everything went wonderfully well. It was a planned surgery that had been put on hold when she had that small heart attack in May. It is the first time that I haven't been there to help her and watch over her and that feels very strange. But I know this is where I need to be right now. Her sister is there watching over her and being a wonderful encourager and giving me updates and I am grateful. And there are friends. A friend of Mom's came in from out of town to help around the house and then another friend from Hawaii is flying in on Monday. Yes Mom is well taken care of and she is going to feel so much better with this surgery behind her.


For now I must go. I am on an adventure to find a medical supply store today. We have supplies delivered to us once a month but I am needing to acquire some new things that Walmart and Walgreens don't carry. So yeah! Adventures are fun! How lost can I get?

You are so wonderful. Thank you for your faithful encouragement and prayers. Have a completely blessed and destiny filled week and know beyond a doubt that you are loved and have purpose.