Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Salt and Pepper

Ever since Jacob was big enough to stand on a step stool he has cooked with his dad. I remember a time I was keeping him and was told he'd like macaroni and cheese for lunch and that he would like to help make it. He was between two and three years old. The others have come along behind him, each taking their turns in the kitchen, helping buy groceries, choosing vegetables at the Farmers' Market. Now, it's time for Marty to start the same with Christopher who is two and a half. I can think of all kinds of good reasons to teach your children to cook with you: the parent learns to exercise patience, the child beams with a sense of accomplishment and it's one more thing you can do together. I love knowing that my children are spending time in the kitchen with their children--and I love the outcomes.

Recently, I called Marty, asked what she was doing and she said she was eating a blueberry muffin with salt. That seemed a strange combination until she told me that it had been Christopher's job to add the salt. He went a bit overboard. But, she, being the good mother she is, was eating those muffins and enjoying every bite. Monday night we had a hamburger supper with Tommy and family and Meredith had helped him stir up the baked beans. They were really hot. You guessed it. She added the pepper and was so proud of herself for how she had helped. Tonight Sarah, age 10, made the berry cobblers for supper at the church. Not a spoonful was left in either pan so I know they were good. I'm a proud grandmama and a proud mama. I'm proud of my children for teaching their children to cook; I'm proud of my children for exercising good parenting skills; I'm happy to witness the bonds that are being strengthened with every stir.

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wrapping up the weekend . . .

The weekend was busy, yet quiet. Friday was a Corinth day and a visit with the oncologist; Tommy, Liz and family left for Family Camp; Saturday was too hot to do much of anything; and today we worshiped at Humboldt.

Ever since the TIA episodes in June and seeing the oncologist right after their occurrence we have felt as if our feet were stuck in concrete. It wasn't good news to hear that the medicine that was supposedly helping so much would have to be eliminated, even for the time being. The good doctor said that we would have to wait and see what happened in the next few weeks. Friday was the day we were to "see." Thankfully, my blood pressure has come down, so now the plan is to discuss medication possibilities with the primary care doctor that will assist the pressure to stay down. Elevated blood pressure is a possible side effect of the Avastin and an effect that was much more than a possibility in my case. We are all hopeful that medication will help and that I can get back on the Avastin ASAP. Again, Dr. Reed spoke of the scans taken in June, emphasizing that there was no advancement of disease. He even smiled some, making me feel much better! Hopefully, the red cell boosting shot I got will help chase away the constant fatigue. Tom and I celebrated at our favorite Corinth restaurant, the Dinner Bell, a typical down home, Southern eating place.

As we were getting back to Jackson, Tommy and his family were loading vans for Family Camp. The children had been talking about it for weeks--couldn't wait to go. I suspect the parents didn't share their enthusiasm. It takes a lot of effort to get everyone ready, pack the right equipment, sleep with seven in a room, then wade through all the dirty wet clothes upon coming home. The heat continues to be stiflling! Fortunately, there is a cold mountain stream running through the campsite that helps some with the heat. We didn't even consider going this year because of the heat and the walking involved. You might say that we're feeling our age these days. Saturday was too quiet. Just knowing that no one around the corner was home created a real feeling of emptiness.

I missed my Saturday early morning trip to the Farmers' Market--lack of energy and heat kept me home. Now it will be Tuesday before the tomato lady is there again and "Yes, we have no tomatoes." In the summer, that's just plain criminal!

This morning I had the opportunity to participate in the installation of the new pastor at 1st Presbyterian, Humboldt. What an uplifting service! The congregation has been so welcoming to the pastor and it was obvious that in the few short weeks she has been there that they have endeared themselves to each other. In many ways it was a homecoming experience for Tom and me as we literally soaked up the smiles and hugs that came our way. I look forward to seeing what God will do in Humboldt.

I look forward to seeing what God will do in our lives. How will He use me next? How will I use my gifts to glorify God? When God is in charge life is never dull. It is exciting and full of promise. I can't wait to see what comes next.

Pastor Margaret

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reminder to Self . . .

In blogs past I have written of a friend Marty's age who was diagnosed with inflamatory breast cancer in 2007, just months after her second little boy was born. Not only is she a wife and mother, she also has an impressive career as a nuclear physicist with NASA (I think I have that right), is a wonderful friend and family person and has campaigned tirelessly for awareness of her particular kind of cancer and advocated for mothers with cancer. She is quite a young woman! She has been in remission until a few months ago and a second cancer was found, necessitating more treatment. Her comments about the fatigue and its effects on her life have caused me to think about my own and the ways I've tried to manage it. They also made me wonder just how she does all she does and what an inspiration she is!

Do you remember the story about the three billy goats gruff? I didn't until just now as I was visualizing what the fatigue is like. It could be likened to the troll(s) who lived under the bridge the goats had to cross. They knew they had to go over the bridge to get from one place to another and that there was the looming possibility that the troll was there waiting for them. It was a monster determined to attack as they crossed. Anticipating crossing the bridge caused apprehension. There was fear while crossing and finally they reached the other side--or not.

Fatigue during chemo and/or radiation is unavoidable. (I have not had to have radiation so I'm only writing what I've heard about it.) The drugs do lower your blood counts, though every cancer patient responds differently. The lower your counts, the more tired you become; the more chemo you take, the more difficult it is for your bone marrow to produce new cells. Those things are givens. I will be tired, but I have a choice in how I manage. I can either focus on how tired I am and do nothing or I can live with it the very best that I can.

A few words come to mind:
*PACE yourself. Alternate tasts that require a lot of energy with those that don't.
*ACCEPT help that is offered and thank God for His provision.
*REALIZE that you are not Super Woman (or Man). You will not be evaluated or judged by how much you can and cannot do.
*RELY on the strength Paul writes about in Philippians (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me) and the grace he writes about in II Corinthians (My grace is sufficient for you).

Practically speaking, LEARN to use your time wisely; LEARN to do things sitting down; and LEARN to tell it like it is. You know your body; you know when the fatigue hits and when you are at your lowest. Plan your errands for the time when your body is recuperating and the energy is rising. Don't stand to do a chore in the kitchen that you could you as easily do sitting down. If you are visiting with someone and you tire of standing, ask if they mind if you sit. Ask your doctor to fill out the paper work to get you a temporary handicap parking permit.

It is amazing how God uses people in our lives. I have known Susan, the young woman about whom I wrote, for more than twenty years--ever since she and Marty were in junior high. I listened to them giggle, heard them whisper about boys and helped them dress to double date for their first dance. She was the scientific sort; Marty was the musician, but they were friends above all and have remained so all these years. I pray that God will completely heal her and that she will touch others as she has touched me.

Pastor Margaret

Friday, July 16, 2010

Doing what comes naturally . . .

If you follow me on facebook you know I described yesterday as a "great day" and it was. I was standing at the stove cooking hotcakes when a Humboldt friend ran in the back door to bring crowder peas and tomatoes. She brought both shelled and unshelled peas and I look forward to shelling them later today while we watch a baseball game on TV. For years that's what I did on Saturday afternoons after lunch in the summer. I'd set up a TV tray, spread it with peas or beans and settle down to watch the baseball game. It won't matter today that it's Friday and the peas came from a friend and not from Dad's garden. Missing will be Spook the cat who loved to steal peas off the tray for his own enjoyment.

Later in the day I peeled and chopped tomatoes to make a triple recipe of tomato sauce for the freezer. Some years ago I found a simple tomato sauce recipe in a pasta book and using it as a guide, have been making it ever since. When tomatoes are in season I use fresh ones--fresh herbs too when I have them--and in winter I use canned tomatoes. What a difference a good sauce makes! Our children took up the habit of making their own sauce too. In fact, Tommy freely gives out his recipes when asked, but he never passes on the information that the sauce is homemade and surely never shares how he makes the sauce.

This afternoon summer kitchen habits include making peach pie for the freezer and cobbler for eating now. We have an abundance of peaches since I went to the Farmers' Market Tuesday and someone brought us a bag full the same day. Maybe I'll make extra pie crusts and put them in the freezer to have when needed or maybe I'll put two peach pies in the freezer.

The highlight of yesterday was leading Tommy's noon Bible study. Health issues have kept us from attending and it was good to be with special friends and to open God's word together.

Yesterday was a stifling day--hard to breathe and certainly not a day to do any work outside. After a run to the post office to finally get our income tax packet off to our CPA, we went to the nursery to buy plants for the bed Jacob has been cleaning out for us. The choices were few to say the least. Who, in their right mind, would wait until the middle of July to plant summer flowers? We would! We bought a butterfly bush, two big lantanas and some shasta daisies, all for our enjoyment and to attract birds and butterflies. They don't know it's late in the season.
Today hasn't been quite as hot and we did get four holes dug and the plants in their new home. I also managed to get in a little weeding and trimming. I'd forgotten how much I like to work in the yard. Now I'm both chemo tired and yard tired--mostly a good feeling.

I love summertime and all the memories of summers past. I love being in the kitchen, taking care of summer produce, putting things in the freezer, enjoying vegetable plates with biscuits for Tom and cornbread for me. We are blessed with an abundance of good things to eat, family with whom to share, friends who share with us. "Our cup runneth over." And now, I'm signing off to take a power nap. Enjoy your summer and be thankful in all things.

Pastor Margaret

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Looking Back . . .

The week was full of doctor visits, family time and fresh produce. The doctors are necessary and we're grateful for the ones we have so I'm not complaining about going. Tom had a check up with his primary care who grinned from ear to ear when he saw Tom. He couldn't get over the amount of improvement he saw--weight gain and increased strength. Annual checkups with the opthamologist brought news that Tom's cataracts are ready and we'll go back in a couple of weeks to visit with the doctor who will actually do the surgery. Our doctor no longer operates. I had some macular changes and it is believed they are causing a little change in my vision. When the "problem" was discovered several years ago I was told it would deveop over time and eye vitamins would help. At that time we thought the cancer would take over and I'd not have to think about possible eye issues and I confess that I'm not good about taking vitamins, but think I will now. Friday was a trip to Corinth for the chemo drug, but not the Avastin. Often I am a bit nauseated and tired the day after, but haven't been either today so took advantage of feeling good and worked in the kitchen some.

After I enjoyed a pedicure this morning I went to the Farmers' Market, mainly for tomatoes. I went, telling myself that I would buy just what I could put up or cook today and stuck to it. so this afternoon I made blueberry pie and froze two packages of corn. Can't wait to eat blueberry pie in a little while!

Monday afternoon we had planned to grill hamburgers etc., sit on the porch and watch the children play. Tommy was involved in a project so we decided to order pizza instead and still get our visit in. Jacob was inside playing the piano and came outside to get Sarah and Drew to play a game of matching tones. After a few minutes of that he came back and proudly proclaimed that Drew matched every tone! I looked at Liz and said, "Could anyone else tell that this is a family of musicians?" His Mimi & Pop (Liz's parents) and his Aunt Marty would be equally proud since they are musicians of note. The rest of us all have musical backgrounds as well.

What might be called "the thought for the day" in a link to Our Daily Bread said this today: If we obey God's calling, He will provide the needed strength. A few particular people came to mind as I read that statement. We all have issues; we all have frustrations; we all have areas where we just have to be in charge. Some continue to search for God's direction--for a specific call; some believe they know what God wants of them, but are frustrated with the process. The quote for the day affirms what we already know. God demands our obedience whether the issue is what we should do or where we should go. Even in retirement we are to remain obedient. The second part of the statement is another 24/7 thing to remember: He will provide the needed strength. Today I will remember to be "anxious for nothing;" I can depend on God to provide the strength I need.

Pastor Margaret

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Postscript to yesterday . . .

What irony! Sometimes on Saturday we turn to AMC to watch old westerns. Yesterday we disccovered that John Wayne was being featured, westerns and WWII movies. After I had written the post a new movie came on that was about the war between the states--with a Union focus. (Those are hard for me because I am so Southern that I feel that my loyalties are being tested. Crazy, I know, but I digress.) The movie opened with Union officers discussing strategy that would enable them to block the Confederates from using the Mississippi River between about Memphis and New Orleans. The river was the South's lifeline and as long as they controlled access, the North could be defeated. The ironic part was that the North did capture Vicksburg, MS, essential to the South, on the Fourth of July. The area was no longer free and until recent years the city of Vicksburg did not celebrate the Fourth. I had forgotten. What price freedom! Thinking of that war brings me to a point of sadness I cannot express. Thank God we are One Nation Under God--whether it is acknowled by all or not.

Reading the Sunday paper a little while ago, I came across a column entitled, "July 4 Celebration Spiced with Gratitude." It piqued my interest because of yesterday's post. In it was a quote from an Erma Bombeck column on an earlier Fourth of July. She said: You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism. She had a way with words.

Let's hear it for patriotism however it manifests itself.

Blessings and Happy 4th,
Pastor Margaret

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Remember that freedom is not free!

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, a favorite holiday because it holds so many good memories of family. When I was little and lived with my aunt and uncle I couldn't wait for the family dinner on the Fourth of July. It was one of two family dinners held annually by my uncle's family. He was one of nine and though he was my uncle by marriage, I thought of them as my family too. Every family brought enough food for themselves and to share. What a spread! My favorite part of the day was the middle of the afternoon when the ice cream freezers appeared. They were the hand crank variety and as the saying goes, "the wheels of progress grind slowly." In other words, it seemed like the ice cream would never be ready! I can taste it now.

When our children were growing up, it was another holiday spent with grandparents: Mom and Dad and Honey, my mother. We decided from year to year what we would cook on the grill. After the sun went down we might take our lawn chairs to the driveway and watch the fireworks display at the country club a mile or so away. Holidays with family are the best!

We have no definite plans this year--just know we'll cook with Tommy, Liz and family. He thinks I should rest and let him do it all, but I convinced him I should do dessert. It won't be hand cranked, but the 21st century version of homemade ice cream made in a countertop machine.

This morning I was up early to go to the Farmers' Market before the night time help left. I came home with lady peas (already shelled, of course), butterbeans, tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, peaches and a coffee cake. My friends on the West Coast may not know about lady peas; I know they aren't familiar with good ole' Southern butterbeans. I surely missed pink-eye purple hull peas, butterbeans, lady peas and other Southern fare when we lived in California. Of course now we miss all the fresh citrus, strawberries and other produce that was so plentiful where we were.

Family, food, freedom: part of who we are as Americans. We remember especially at holidays the good times, the good food and the family with whom we've shared. Much of that family lives only in our memory. We enjoy because we are free. In the midst of all our celebrations, let's pause to give thanks for the greatest freedom we have--freedom in Jesus; for the second greatest freedom--to be citizens of the USA; and all the other freedoms that come to us beacause of the first two. God bless you as you celebrate and as you ponder the freedoms you enjoy.

Pastor Margaret