Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rare, and Precious

Rare Disease Day
Today is Rare Disease Day. February 29 is on our calendar only once every four years. Rare diseases strike much more often, considerably more often that you might think.

The US defines a rare disease as a disease that affects less than 200,000 people at any given time. The average Facebook user has 130-150 friends (depending on source). To put this in terms you might understand, every one of your FB friends represents about 1350 people with just one rare disease. There are about 7,000 diseases categorized as rare by the USCDC. Half of those affected by rare diseases are children.

Lots of money and awareness are raised for heart disease and breast cancer. But what about funding for all those rare diseases that claim the lives of thousands of people every year? Those diseases that, when mentioned, produce a vague nod and raised eyebrow in conversation. Pulmonary Hypertension is one of those diseases. Over 15,000 people die from PH and its effects each year. 66% of those with PH are over age 65. Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension is extremely rare. I am all-too familiar with this one, very rare disease.

Pulmonary Hypertension Association
Pulmonary Hypertension is high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs that lead to heart failure. My son, Jacob, was diagnosed with Primary Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension in November 2007, when he was 23 months old. In the few months leading up to the diagnosis, he grew more and more tired and lethargic. He coughed frequently and occasionally threw up when he was coughing. During an x-ray to see if he had pneumonia, Jacob's heart was discovered to be quite enlarged. We were sent to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital for more tests, including an echocardiogram. The technician spent a long time looking at Jacob's heart. A few minutes after the tech left the echo room, two doctors came in. They spent a long time looking at Jacob's heart, and then left. A few minutes later, one of those doctors came back in and escorted us to a room. He told me that Jacob had a very severe case of pulmonary hypertension. He also said that he wanted to admit Jacob into the pediatric intensive care unit right then. I was quickly becoming an expert on a disease about which, just hours earlier, I knew nothing.

Jacob, after he got his IV port. Lots of stuff
for such a little boy to carry around by himself.
Dr. Moore and Mary Beth, Jacob's PH team, were great. They provided information and support, tissues and lunch, and patiently answered our many questions. Jacob was completely comfortable with them and soon won over the ICU, and later, the cardiac unit nursing staff with his cheerfulness, wit, and charm. Jacob stayed in the PICU for six days and was released on his little brother's, Sammy's, first birthday. We returned to the hospital bright and early the following Monday morning to have the port inserted for continuous IV therapy. Jacob did well during the surgery and was admitted for recovery (and our training in the disease) for five more days. He suddenly had a healthy pink glow and had more energy than he had had in months. His medicine was working!

For the next two and a half years, we experienced many bumps and several really scary moments. We made many trips to Nashville for appointments and made far too many trips to Nashville in the backs of ambulances. Jacob was life flighted on Thanksgiving Day. He had a break in his line a few days before and had developed an infection. Scary does not begin to describe some of the emergencies. Terrifying would be a more accurate description.

Jacob, Easter Sunday 2010
Always wearing his backpack.
On May 25, 2010, we took Jacob in for his "routine" heart catheterization. He had trouble with the anesthesia and went into cardiac arrest. CPR was performed for 45 minutes to save Jacob's life. His heart was not responding, so he was hooked up to an ECMO machine and admitted to the pediatric critical care unit. That was on a Tuesday. His body began to shut down and he began experiencing a lot of pain. He did not wake back up. On Saturday, he died. He was four years old. I held my baby as his heart stopped beating. It was the most terrible and most precious moment of my life.

Jacob was an amazing little boy. Truly. He was an avid reader. He loved music, puzzles, Thomas the Train, Woody, and The Wiggles. His favorite color was red. He loved desserts, his guitar, and his little brother. He was cheerful even when he was sick. He had bright blue eyes, a sweet voice, and an infectious laugh. He found joy in every situation, strutted down the center hallway at church, and charmed the nurses out of their equipment in the hospital. I could write for days and not communicate everything Jacob was. Jacob. My sweet and wonderful and beautiful first-born son. Gone.

Support research and the search for better treatments. Pray for a cure. Help take the imminent death of a child out of the equation for even one family. Fight Pulmonary Hypertension. Jacob fought it for two and a half years. Don't let his fight be in vain.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Notes to Self

Do you ever have those moments when you think, I really should remember to do (or not do) this in the future? I do and invariably those self admonitions have to do with my own or someone else's blatant stupidity or carelessness. Rarely do I think, Wow! That was awesome! I need to remember to do that again! Well, in the kitchen I have those kind of a-ha moments, but in life? No. Not so much. In fact, no so ever.

Homer Simpson, "D'oh!"
Note to Self: Shut up. My Mom knew what she was talking about when she admonished me, like, a gajillion times, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." I really and truly should keep my mouth shut more often. And my figurative mouth in electronic conversations. I just have this horrible, but so much better than it used to be, habit of saying things that I really should not say. And 99.99% of the time, I realize my mistake immediately. But once those words are out, I can't reach out and grab them and shove them back into my throat. Thankfully, there is a delete button for Facebook, but that does not always guarantee that comment will be gone before anyone can read it (darn cell phone alerts!). There have been numerous, like way too many to count, times when the picture of Homer Simpson's famous "D'oh!" comes to mind, starring me as Homer. I really and truly should consider a vow of silence. My husband would probably be on board with that one.

A double funeral procession
Note to Self: Quit yer complainin'. Just when I start to get all self-righteous and think that my world is falling apart, I see or hear of someone who has it worse than me. I am learning that even when horrible things happen, there is always, always, someone who is suffering more than I am. When I think about my perception of the worst thing that can happen, I think of losing Jacob. Holding my four-year-old son while his tiny, precious heart stopped beating was the worst, most horrible thing that has ever happened to me. And also the sweetest, most tender event of my life. A parent should never have to do that, but I know people who have lost more than one child, or even all their children. There are those whose children were abducted and brutalized before they were murdered. Parents have experienced more grief than I have. And my heart breaks for them. There will always be someone who is worse off than me. I just need to look for her and find a way to reach out to her and show her love. I need to learn to recognize and embrace the blessings in my life.


There were so many outfits I could have chosen for
this. I went with the celebrities who wore outfits
knowing they would be photographed.
And they were ok with that? Yikes!
Note to Self: Look in the mirror before leaving the house. There are some outfits that should not be worn outside the house. Shoot, there are some outfits than should not be worn inside the house. If you ever see me in an outfit that should not ever be worn again, ever, please pull me aside and tell me privately. Do not post my picture all over the internet or Facebook or People of Walmart. When I go clothes shopping, I look in the tri-mirror most of the time, but outfits do slip past the sensors. Ya know, those outfits that in the dimly-lit-with-soft-pink-bulbs-dressing-room-with-carnival-skinny-stretch-mirrors look absolutely fabulous and oh-so-slimming from every conceivable angle? Yeah, those horrible, train wreck outfits that burn the retinas and earn an infamous spot on some well-dressed size 6 Facebook wall. Well, I don't know about you, but I suddenly need to buy some new clothes. And look in the mirror multiple times, from all angles, in bright lighting, with my contacts in before leaving my house.

Crazy Lady
Note to Self: Go to bed at a decent hour. When I was in college (the first time) there were many nights when I never did go to sleep. Now-a-days, if I'm not asleep by 10:30, when Sammy wakes up at 6:30 the next morning, I can barely function. I must, must, must have eight hours of sleep every night. If I get less than eight hours of shut eye for several nights in a row, I get physically sick and become a rather ill-tempered and emotional woman. Sleep is not just necessary for life, it is necessary for sanity. Mine and everyone's around me! A sleep-deprived Dana is just not a happy, joyful, polite, intelligent, tactful, patient, loving Dana. I struggle enough with all that stuff with sleep. Without sleep, I don't struggle with it at all. Because I don't care if I'm acting horribly! I have to be disciplined and diligent in ensuring that I get enough sleep.


So the next time you do something stupid or careless, really and truly make a mental note of it. Or jot it down. Or set up a daily reminder in Outlook so that you will never, ever repeat it again. Or just come over here so I can take a picture of you and post it online for all the world to look at and think, Well, at least I'm not as clueless as her!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Swamped with Studying and Some Original Recipes

Missed me? You may not have missed me (probably not), but I have missed blogging. I've just been swamped with school work lately and have had little time to blog. Beginning graduate work 18+ years after completing a BA means LONG hours studying. Not sure if it's the subject matter (a change in academic discipline), the graduate level aspect, or my age (no!), but whatever it is, I have to study. A lot. And I have never studied in my life. I'm doing well, thanks for asking, but it is requiring work. Blogging has taken a back-back seat. Like third row back seat.

So anyway, just to let you know I'm still here, I thought I'd post a couple of my original recipes. I'll post pictures as I make these.


This recipe came about on a day when we had a bunch of errands to run and so I put some stuff in the slow cooker and expected a nice, attractive chicken dish topped with a black bean salsa. Instead, when I went to take it out of the slow cooker, the chicken just fell apart. So I went with it and ended up having a family favorite and the most-requested recipe I have ever made. A happy accident, to say the least.

Mexi-Crock
I know, the name is lacking. If you can think of something better, feel free to suggest.
4 Frozen Chicken Breasts
1 Envelope Taco Seasoning
1 Tbs Chicken Bullion
1 Can Black Beans, Rinsed and Drained
1 Can Corn, Rinsed and Drained
1 Can Rotel
1 Can Chopped Green Chilis
1 Can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 Cup Sour Cream
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar

Spray large crock pot with Pam. Layer in order ingredients, ending with the chopped chilis. Cook covered, on High for 4 hours. Shred chicken. Stir in soup. Cook for another 30 minutes. Just before serving, stir in sour cream and shredded cheddar. Serve with tortilla chips or over rice. Or rolled up in tortillas or on tostada shells. Or just out of a bowl without anything.


This recipe was inspired by a friend who loved corn casserole and loved Mexican food. He suggested that I combine the two, so I did. And man-oh-man, is it good!

MexiCorn Casserole
1 Med Onion, Chopped
2 Tbs EVOO
2 Cloves Garlic, Pressed
Pickled Jalapeno Slices, Chopped (I use about a ¼ Cup)
2 4 oz Cans Chopped Chilies, NOT drained
1 Tsp Cumin
1-2 Tbs Butter
1 14 oz Can Corn, Drained
1 Cup Butter, Melted
2 Cups Sour Cream
2 Tbs Sugar or Splenda
6 Eggs
2 14 oz Cans Creamed Corn
2 Pkgs Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (You could just use self-rising cornmeal, about 4 cups)

Preheat oven to 375.

Gently saute onion, salt, and pepper in EVOO until onion is soft. Add pressed garlic, chopped jalapenos, chilies, and cumin. Cook until onion is completely cooked. Add 1-2 Tbs butter and the whole kernel corn. Crank up the heat to lightly brown the corn. While corn is tanning, mix together remaining ingredients. Stir in onion and corn mixture. Pour into greased baking dish and bake for about an hour, or until golden.

To lighten it up, use half the butter and add 1/4 cup of milk to the liquid mixture. I used about a half cup of jalapeno slices before chopping.


And here's my pancake recipe. It is not your average pancake. They are much healthier, higher protein, lower sugar, and these will stick with you till lunchtime. I only use low-sugar or sugar-free syrup to further avoid insulin fluctuations.

Dana’s Power Pancakes
1 Cup Self-Rising Flour (feel free to use whole wheat)
½ Cup Quick Cooking Oats
¼ Cup Wheat Germ
¼ Cup Flax Seed Meal
¼ Cup Powdered Milk
2 Tbs Brown Sugar
3 Eggs
½ Cup Sour Cream
1 Tbs Vanilla
1 Tbs Maple Flavoring
2 Cups Buttermilk, more or less depending on how thick you like your batter
Pam cooking spray
Butter, Softened
Warm Syrup

Preheat pancake griddle over medium to medium-low heat. Spray with cooking spray before each pancake. Pour desired amount of batter onto hot griddle. Let sit until edges are dry-looking and bottom is golden brown. Flip. Cook until golden brown. Place on plate and spread with softened butter. Serve immediately with warm syrup.


And here's a sinfully delicious dessert. I adapted it from several brownie recipes. This one will spike your insulin, but I'd say it'd be worth it every once in a while. ;)

Triple Chocolate Brownies
½ C Butter, melted
1 C Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs
2 Tbs Hersey’s Chocolate Syrup, Caramel Topping, OR Nutella
½ C All-Purpose Flour
1/3 C Cocoa Powder
¼ Tsp Baking Powder
¼ Tsp Salt
½ C Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8x8” pan with Pam.

Whisk together butter, sugar, and vanilla. Whisk in eggs and chocolate syrup. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips. Spoon into greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-28 minutes, until edges are set.


So, there ya go. A few of my very own, original recipes. Keep me in your prayers through all this insane studying I am doing. I'd like a 4.0 on graduate work. I won't tell you what my GPA was when I did my BA. Let's just say that I majored in English with a concentration in socializing.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Play and Let Play

Kids like to play. Little kids, medium kids, big kids, really big kids: all of them play. The very definition of kid includes the word play

kid  noun  \'kid\  a young human who is required to actively and loudly play, indoors or out, at all hours of the day and night

See? Kids play. It is an intrinsic value of the human child, aka kid. And when kids are playing, they feel good enough to play. Be thankful if your children run around like wild things. Parents all over the world would give anything for their children to be able to run around and play. Let your kids play. Not all kids can.

video

And since kids like to play, and in fact must play, I feel the strong desire to play with them. At times, it is imperative that I squelch that urge and act like an adult. Like when we're not at our house or when we're at church or in a restaurant. And I want Sammy to know that there is a time and a place to play and be loud. But honestly, when my five year old son is happily squealing and running through the house, my first tendency is to give chase and play with him. Granted, I have created a relatively kid-friendly house and have purchased sturdy furniture. Cushions can be easily moved around. I chose our coffee table and end table fully expecting them to become stages. And they have. Many times. 

Jacob on the stage, performing for Sammy and invisible friends. 
Our kitchen chairs have been arranged to accommodate a myriad of stuffed animals and friends for impromptu performances of Veggie Tales or The Wiggles. Our couch is leather and is amply able to handle the occasional kid-friendly and oh-so-safe game of Wipeout. The furniture is arranged not just for conversation, but just far enough apart to make bouncing exciting. My mom would have (and did!) have a fit when I jumped on the furniture when I was four, five, and six years old. And lots of my friends say I shouldn't allow bouncing and running inside the house, but I do. Why? Because this is our home.

I want our home, whether we're in the South or in South Korea, to be full of fun, happy memories. I want meals to be happy and full of good conversation. I want bedtime to be full of loving and cuddling. I want Sammy, when he's 37 years old, to remember home and childhood as a safe, loving, fun environment where children, marriage, and friendships were highly valued, and where discipline was administered calmly and with a distinct purpose. I want his childhood to be remembered fondly so that someday he can offer the same kind of childhood to my grandchildren. 

Sammy is the Bubble Monster!
I want Sammy to know how to have fun and love and respect others for who they are, not for who he thinks they should be. And I will continue to strive to make Sammy's childhood be a happy childhood. I want him to play in a bubble bath for as long as he wants to sit there, and I will happily add a little more warm water so he can get good and pruned up. There are more than enough things for him to get into trouble about without me adding "running in the house" or "jumping on the furniture" or "splashing water" to the list. And I am infinitely thankful that I played with Jacob and let him play and jump and bounce in the house and on the furniture. He needed to play and I needed to play with him. And I wouldn't trade a second of all that mischief I shared with him.

Kids need to play. And as parents, we need to let them play. And learn to play with them. It's fun. Trust me. Play. And let your kids play, too. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Let This Blest Assurance Control"

Several years ago, I adopted a verse from the Bible as my own. Since then, that verse has given me peace, strength, and hope to get through the many valleys I have navigated, and am navigating, in this crazy thing called life. I also adopted a song as my own. I sing, cry, and whisper the song in my head or to the top of my voice, depending on the circumstance. The verse and the song are forever entwined in my heart and their message is so very similar. Whether the shepherd king David or Horatio Spafford knew those words would mean so much to me, I cannot dare to imagine. God, however, guided me to the message of Psalm 46:1 and It Is Well With My Soul with unerring accuracy.

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble." Psalm 46:1


There are many names for God and each has a unique meaning. God. Almighty, Bread of Life, the Consolation of Israel. Deliverer, Everlasting Father, and Friend of Sinners. The Good Shepherd, the High Priest, the Mediator. Mighty God, Great Physician, and Redeemer. Rock, Saviour, Teacher. The Way. The Truth. The Life. He. Is. God!

He is my refuge. My safe place. He is my shelter, my protection, and my sanctuary. He gives me strength. He sustains me, He encourages me, and He is the source of my courage. He is very present. He is always here, right where I need Him. When I need Him. How I need Him. He never, ever leaves me. He is my help. He provides for my needs and He satisfies my longings. He gives me support and comes to my aid. And He saves me when I am in the midst of my darkest hours. He holds me in His arms and loves me through whatever I am facing. With Him, I am never alone. He is mine and I am His. I love Him because He first loved me. He is now, has always been, and will forever be--God.

I deserve none of His love and mercy and grace. And still, He loves me. He knows my every thought and knows every word and picture that flashes through my brain, and He still loves me. He knows me, inside and out, and still loves me. Amazing doesn't even begin to describe it. And if I had been the only person that had ever lived, He would have given up His Son, Jesus Christ, to make the perfect and willing sacrifice to cover my sin. Because of Jesus Christ, He who was all man and who is all God, I am found guiltless. Jesus is the lens through which God sees me. Because of that, all my filth and ugliness and meanness are covered over and washed away as if none of that had ever been there in the first place. And my soul is made well.

No matter what happens in life, I know that God will hold me and keep me. He does not promise that nothing bad will happen to me. He promises to hold me when it does (1 Peter 4:12-13). To be my rock and my fortress (Psalm 62:2).  And He promises to restore my soul (Psalm 23). Even when my son died in my arms, He did not leave me. He is loving me through my grief and is healing my heart.

Horatio Spafford wrote a great song, It Is Well With My Soul, in the midst of suffering the loss of all four of his daughters. Read the story behind the song and lyrics that swelled from the heart of Mr. Spafford. The song has been my favorite of all hymns for years, well before Jacob was even born. I cannot sing it now without tears just streaming down my face, but it is still my favorite song. The message rings even truer since Jacob passed away.


I love the way the Ruppe Sisters sing this song.
Sibling harmony is the best harmony.


If you haven't already claimed a Bible verse as your own, I encourage you to do so. If you don't have a song that tells your heart's story, choose one or write one. When you are going through the darkest hours of your life, you'll remember the words and those words will be a balm to your spirit.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Cat's Out of the Bag

The next couple of posts will be about a very important someone who entered my life during those turbulent middle-school years. He was very brave, exceedingly loyal, and incredibly funny. He led one of the most exciting lives ever and his love warms my heart to this day. He was Bumpkin, the cat who lived each of his nine lives like it was his last.


My Daddy's mother, Mommy Ola, owned a small farm in rural, northeast Alabama. She had a bunch of dogs and cats and chickens and usually had a calf or a hog that she was fattening up for future meal-time yumminess. It was indeed a small farm by farming standards, but the garden produced more than enough produce for her and whomever else she chose to share the bounty. Anyway, I usually adopted an animal to call my own during my summer visits and told them goodbye every August. But the summer I was 12, I fell in love with a scrawny, ratty, runt of a black-as-soot kitten. I named him Bumpkin. He was different than any other kitten. He just seemed... special. If you ever had your very own pet as a child, you probably know exactly what I mean.

Mommy Ola and me, 1982-ish
I only visited my Mommy Ola a few weekends in the summer. I lived in Florida with my Mom and (step)Dad, and my Daddy lived in the Birmingham area with my stepmother and stepsister. I spent my summers with my Daddy and absolutely loved the times that he and I would drive the 90-minutes or so northeast, past Albertville, and way out into the country, at the end of Martling Road (Now, the corner of Burgess and Poplar Springs). We'd head out early in the morning and get to Mommy Ola's house while she was still out in the garden. Visits there involved a lunch of fried chicken, fried potatoes, garden-fresh tomatoes and cucumber, and oh-so-yummy homemade buttermilk biscuits. Mid-afternoon, I'd get to walk across the road to the little country store and get (I kid you not) an ice-cold RC cola in a glass bottle and a Moon Pie. Mommy Ola made the best ever fresh lemonade and we'd sit on her wide front porch in old rockers or metal gliders, sipping lemonade from mismatched glasses, and visit with the neighbors who stopped by. We'd enjoy the sweet breeze, the earthy scent of the abundant farmland, and the buzzing of bees that gorged on the unplanned, yet perfectly-placed flowers surrounding the house. At twilight I'd catch lightning bugs and walk out to her pump house to choose a few home-canned fruits, vegetables, and my favorite vegetable soup to take home. Time slowed down and took on a golden glow while I was at Mommy Ola's house. Every visit was a step back in time to a friendlier and gentler era. My heart aches with missing those summer days.

I loved Bumpkin so very much and decided to take him back home with me. To Florida. Which from northeast Alabama, is about a 14-16 hour drive via Panama City Beach. Which also meant I had to get my Daddy on board with it. And even more importantly, and far less likely, I had to get my Mom and (step)Dad on board with the kitten idea. My Daddy was easy. He was probably relishing the anticipated negative reaction from Florida. I'm sure he was disappointed, because my (step)Dad said yes, much to the astonishment and chagrin of my Mom. Instead of my usual (every year, four times a year, from age six through age 12) unaccompanied flight from Birmingham to Tampa, my Daddy and my Mom and Dad decided to meet half-way so that I could take that mangy, little kitten home to Florida with me. You'd think it would have been a simple task, but not so with adventuresome Bumpkin!

PCBeach
He did the first part of the trip just fine, stayed close to me, all that cute and cuddly kitten stuff. I introduced him to the beach at Panama City. He liked the people, especially the little kids. He liked the water, especially when it was moving away from him. He did a lot of sniffing at the beach; the wind, the sand, the grass, the seagulls, the water... which did not go so well. Pretty sure salt water up a cat's nose is equally as horrible as it is up a human's nose. And I am also pretty sure that a 6- or 8-week kitten looks rather like dinner to a flock of hungry seagulls. (Mine! Mine! Mine! -Finding Nemo) There were, however, no mishaps on the first part of the trip back to Florida, but the second part of the trip? 

Bumpkin was introduced to Tiki. Tiki was, well, a Maltese. He was more than a little put off by Bumpkin's overly excited greeting. Tiki acted like one of the guards at Buckingham Palace and Bumpkin like the typical, obnoxious American. The two would soon become friends, but only at Bumpkin's absolute and unending insistence. But we'll get to that part of the story later...

Bumpkin, in later years
Bumpkin began to have tummy troubles and we had to stop several times for potty breaks. Maybe because of his tummy rumblings, or maybe because it was his second day in a vehicle, but he kept hiding from me in my Mom's full-sized van. I could easily coax him back out with my shoelace though, for what feline can resist a slithering shoelace? Then, the worst 30 minutes or so of my life (up to that point): We suspected Bumpkin had been thrown out with the lunch trash. We stopped at McDonald's for lunch and ate on the road. My Dad had a bad habit back then of just throwing trash out the window along the highway. (Please tell me he wasn't the only parent who did that!) Well, the McDonald's trash was all gathered up into the bag and Dad tossed it out the window. While going about 70 miles an hour. A few minutes later, I began to look for Bumpkin. He was nowhere to be found. I couldn't find him. Now, keep in mind, we were on the highway and there weren't many places he could hide. But I couldn't find him. Dad said something along the lines of, "Sh*t. You don't think he could have been in that McDonald's bag, do you?" 

I'm pretty sure I went from casually looking for sweet Bumpkin to hysterically, tearfully, frantically searching for that tiny, black, ball of fur. Dad, sweet and kind-hearted as he can sometimes (often) be, decided to turn around and go back to where he thought he tossed the trash. Several miles later and north again, with me still moving luggage and stuff around and searching under and in and through everything, Dad found the spot where the trash was and pulled over. He jumped out and ran over to the trash and picked it up. And I heard a sweet and plaintive meow. From just behind me in the van. There stood Bumpkin, yawning and stretching from an obviously very cozy nap somewhere in that van. And all that was in that bag of trash, was trash. Which Mom made Dad put back in the van to put in a trash can at our next stop.

Ahhh... Bumpkin. Never a dull moment with that cat.

To be continued...

I know this is different from my normal writing, but I was reminded of Bumpkin this week by my favorite morning radio show, The Wally Show. They asked on the FB page, "What is the worst excuse you ever used for being late?" and I was reminded of Bumpkin. But we'll get to that particular story later. :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Husbands and Other Anomalies

Do you know what my husband is doing right now? The dishes. That's right, those things we eat off of at mealtimes, as well as the various bowls, pots, pans, and utensils used to prepare the dinner meal. And he does them every night. And I am so thankful that he does. I won't go so far as to say he cleans the kitchen, as counters and stove top are evidently invisible at this time of day, but the dirty dishes will be properly (read completely) loaded into the dishwasher, detergent will be in the dispenser, and the dishwasher will be turned on even as I type this. Even the stoneware pan and my good knife will be hand washed and put away. Did I mention I am thankful? (Yes, he reads this. 1,000,000 points for me!)

I did not grow up in a home where the husband did the dishes. My Daddy would help in the kitchen and could seriously cook, and my (step)Dad would eat and is beast with breakfast, but sending my Mom to relax for a bit while he did the dishes? Nothing doing. Not happening. And my Granddaddy would always pray over the meal and truly and verbally enjoy the meals, but dishes? I don't ever remember him doing the dishes. And my Granddaddy is the best, most perfect, non-Jesus man who ever lived!

I have a husband who is willing to do the dishes. Why? In his words, "I like to eat your food and you will only cook in a clean kitchen." Win-Win! It helps that I absolutely abhor washing dishes, loading the dishwasher, or unloading the dishwasher and he really doesn't mind doing that. (Who is thankful? This girl!) Cleaning and disinfecting the counters and stove and microwave and sink--I have no problem with. I like it totally clean and germ-free and don't mind ensuring that everything is up to snuff.

My husband also helps with laundry and regularly runs the vacuum cleaner. Again, thankful. Very thankful. Garbage is, according to my good friend Julie, a blue chore. That chore is one my husband just is not good about doing. Cleaning bathrooms? The only way I can tell he attempted to clean them is because everything has a weird, cloudy film. Dusting furniture falls along the lines of cleaning the kitchen counters. Windows? I don't know that he knows how to do that. And oddly, those are the chores I don't hate (I know, not a nice word. My son got in trouble for saying that at church a few weeks ago. I really should stop saying hate.) strongly dislike. Well, except taking out the garbage. I stand by the blue chore thing on that one.

Isn't that weird? It's like we were made for each other or something. :) He doesn't mind doing the chores I detest!

Grampie and Sammy
And, as much as I love my Dad, he complains about almost everything my Mom cooks. He starts griping as soon as he finishes his third helping! And my Mom is a great cook. Dad has complained about my cooking once. I told him if he ever complained again, I'd never cook for him again. Since then, he sings my praises. You don't know this, but when I was 16 and driving our family's full-sized van, he was hollering at me from the middle seat about going too fast or too slow or something and I pulled over in the left turn lane on a major 6-lane street (4th St and about 80ish Ave N) in St. Petersburg, Florida, and told him to get out and walk the 20 or so blocks home. He actually got out and I drove the van home, my Mom laughing the whole way while telling me I shouldn't have done that and to go back and get him. When we got home I took the keys with me and hid them from my Mom. Dad had to walk home. True story. The fact that he actually got out of the van and walked home is truly astonishing. See? Look at him there with the deer-child. Love ya, Dad!

So anyway, my husband (who says I am blah-ing) does the dishes, vacuums, and helps with the laundry. I don't think that is normal, but I am so thankful for him. We have other struggles and issues in our marriage, but housework is not one of them. And on those evenings when guests are coming to dinner or the night before friends come over for a Bible study, I am so very, incredibly, completely thankful for my husband and his willingness to take an active part in our home. Now if I could just get him to give me a foot rub... ;)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"I don't like mac 'n cheese. It's very yuck-able."


My oh-so-picky eater Sammy proclaimed, out of the blue, "I don't like mac 'n cheese. It's very yuck-able." We had just finished a lunch that did NOT include macaroni and cheese. We chose the much more nutritionally sound popcorn, string cheese, and apple sauce. :)

Not Sammy, but this kid is obviously not impressed with the veggies.
My husband and I both enjoy a very adventurous palate and offer a large variety of foods at most meals. But Sammy refuses to even allow most foods onto his plate, let alone into his mouth. Jacob would eat anything, and did, and could be easily coerced into trying a couple of bites of a new food, even if he didn't want to. Not so with The Sam.

Now, don't give me all that talk about "he'll eat when he's hungry" and "he won't starve himself" and the like. He ate NOTHING for two days once because I would fix only foods that he had not and would not try like; mac&cheese, hamburgers, grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn. You know, incredibly exotic foods like that. I gave in half-way through day three when he sat sullenly refusing to even look at his plate. I realized that I simply canNOT force the child to eat. I already knew that children cannot be forced to potty or sleep, so I just added eat to that list, as well.

Sammy has a will of iron. He will not follow along with other children unless he wants to do so. He will not simply agree with adults if they try to trick him into believing something. If he believes something to be true, or false, be prepared to offer overwhelming evidence IN WRITING to try to change his point of view. And no, that does not work with food. I've tried it. I wrote a list of foods that he was to eat. He just crossed off the foods he does not like and told me, "Now the list is correct." If Sammy doesn't like something, he proclaims it to be "too yuck," and it then becomes "yuck-able." If he does like a food, it is proclaimed, "yummy," or, if he REALLY likes it, it is "too yumm."

Sammy and me
You see what I'm dealing with here? And the strange thing is, this all seems so very familiar... Oh yeah, I know why. I see myself in Sammy. He struggles with the same issues and sins over and over and over again. And you know what? I struggle with the same issues and sins over and over and over again. I get frustrated with Sammy about the same stuff all the time, and God must feel the same way about me. I have to force myself to remember that even though Sammy keeps getting in trouble for the same things, it is my job to gently guide him to do right, over and over and over again. Just like God gently guides me to do right, over and over and over again. My "yuck-able" behavior must be turned into "too yumm." It is my job to hug Sammy and love him and guide him to keep turning toward God, and never away from God, and to help Sammy develop a relationship with God that is definitely "too yumm."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

October Baby

There is a movie coming out in March that you will want to see, October Baby. The subject matter? Abortion.

A young woman discovers that she is the result of a failed abortion and sets out to find her birth mother. Along the way, she discovers forgiveness, God's idea of beauty, and love. Women who have seen it, who also had an abortion, said the movie was a healing experience. If you click on October Baby Stories: Shari's Story, you will find the actor has a very emotional and personal tie with the movie.

My friend, Cecil, is one of the writers and producers. He owns Tentmakers Entertainment and probably had a hand in some of the TV shows or commercials you have seen. Cecil is a prayer warrior and really and honestly prays for a long list of people every, single day. I am honored to call him my friend.

Anyway... October Baby. The idea and message behind the movie deeply resonates with me. I have several friends who opted for an abortion for varied reasons. Some have since realized that abortion is eliminating the life of a child. They grieve for the children they lost, but no one really grieves with them. Mostly because very few people know of the abortion, but also perhaps because so few people view that as the loss of a child. It is. Losing a baby through abortion or miscarriage is losing a BABY. A human being who is living and breathing and growing. Most abortions happen in the first trimester. This is a picture of an 8-week gestation baby.
His body is still very small, but he is obviously a human begin.

Now, I'm not here to preach about the evils of abortion, but just so we're clear, human life begins at conception. A human sperm and a human egg will combine to form nothing less than another human.

What I'm writing about today is love. And forgiveness. And the fact that almighty God views every human life as beautiful and precious. If you have had an abortion and grieve for that child that was lost, God loves you. He hasn't left you. He forgives you. That child is destined for heaven and you will one day see that sweet baby again. You are beautiful and precious and loved. God loves you so thoroughly, completely, and consumingly (is that even a word?) that he gave the life of his own son to guarantee that your place in eternity could be by his side.

If you have a friend or a sister who had an abortion, accept her as a grieving mother and treat her as such. Show her love and compassion and forgiveness and grace. Keep her confidences, but let her talk about her experience without sitting in judgment. And allow her to grieve.

I am going to see October Baby in the theater, and I encourage you to do the same.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tornado in January?


It's late. Almost 11:00 pm on a Sunday night. Why am I up? Mostly because I was finishing a class assignment (Writing the purpose of my Literature Review, Research Questions, Theoretical Background, and Background Interest. I know, super stimulating.), but partly because there is a tornado watch and tornado warnings are just north of us. In January. The temperature is rising, storms are coming, and the weathermen are fairly dizzy with excitement.

We can do nothing, really, to forestall looming disaster, except prepare. Have your emergency kit packed and ready to go. (Mine is nonexistent.) Have your safe room clean and well appointed for emergencies. (Mine is a wreck.) Have on clean underwear. (Ummm, okay...)
(Kit recommended by The Kentucky Department for Public Health)

Isn't it weird how things happen in life when we aren't
planning them and aren't expecting them? A text message would be nice. "Hey! Look out! Life is about to suck!" But disasters are unexpected. Traumatic. And part of life in this world. Like a tornado in January Or like the death of a child. Unexpected and devastating. We can do nothing, really, to forestall looming disaster, except prepare. But how on God's green earth can we be prepared for that kind of trauma? All I can say is, be ready. Be in communion with God. Read the Bible. Pray. Go to church.

When we are prepared for disaster, it doesn't avert that disaster. Preparedness just makes getting through the devastation a little bit easier. Whether the death of a child, or a tornado in January, get your heart and your home ready. You never know when disaster will strike.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Student Opinions Welcome

I am taking an online class in Educational Research and Assessment at Liberty University. For the first week of class, we were asked to explain our opinions about the intersection of faith and research. Here are my thoughts and my responses to other students. Feel free to share your thoughts and responses in the comments section.

Educational research, and the ability to apply that research, are vital to figuring out the human psyche and empowering teachers to be better equipped to lead students in learning. Research is necessary for determining what works, and does not work, in any learning environment. Interpreting research through the eyes of faith in God imparts a bit of His wisdom to the learning environment. Wisdom comes from taking into account all findings from research and interpreting those findings with a heart turned towards God and His will. Without faith, the benefits of thorough educational research cannot be fully realized in either the teachers or the students.

Some say faith is blind. That may be true in some instances, but faith in Jesus Christ is most definitely not blind. Faith is not blindly following something or someone we know nothing about. I have faith in Jesus Christ because I have read His words and have seen His miraculous works both in history and the lives of people all around me. Proof of Jesus' divinity and God's sovereignty is all around us. I recognized sin in my life and knew, after listening to preaching and teaching by Godly men and women, that I was in desperate need of a Saviour. Faith is a deep, abiding knowledge in the absolute truth of God's word. The very earth testifies to the evidence of reality of God. Even people groups who have not heard the gospel recognize that there is a higher being and they seek to worship that higher authority, seeking favor from him/her/it. Those who make a conscious and willful decision to turn away from God are walking blindly by faith in something they cannot see or feel or comprehend. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). Our faith in God is a direct result of someone telling us the good news of Jesus Christ. It is not a blind faith, but an enduring and secure faith in the eternal rightness of belief in absolute truth. When the Bible says we have faith in the "evidence in things not seen," that is directly preceded by the statement that "faith is the substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). Substance here means evidence, meaning it can and has been proven. Faith is not blind. Faith is the accumulation of over 6,000 years of evidence of the existence of almighty God. In other words, faith in Jesus Christ is backed up by more research, data, review, and eye-witness accounts than anything else, ever.

Some say faith and research are incompatible and cannot coexist. Finding balance at the intersection of research and faith is a personal quest. The benefits of research cannot be fully realized without the benefit of faith in almighty God. Many researchers do indeed conduct thorough and resourceful research without benefit of a personal Christian faith. Many non-Christian educators, psychologists, and healthcare professionals are able to put that research into practice, and with good results. The benefit in the application of research through faith imparts wisdom in the manner in which that research is utilized. And that wisdom comes only through faith in almighty God.

Some say that because of their faith in Jesus Christ, they are intimidated by research conducted by non-Christians. There is definite benefit to humane research in varied fields. We will often find that research that is in opposition to faith in Jesus Christ will ultimately be revealed as fallacy. As such, I am not at all intimidated by research and see further research in many subjects to simply solidify the absolute truth of God’s Word. In accepting solid and valid research from sources that do not share our faith, we are given the opportunity to show others the love of Christ and lead those researchers to understanding of truth.

And as is often the case with academic writing, it can be a little dull. Feel free to comment, agree, or disagree. Your opinion is welcome!