Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bits and Pieces

It's closing in on spring.  Sixty degrees today. Tulip time.  I see so many people across the continent still shoveling their way out of winter.  Grateful.

So my church had a six week course on community and community building.  I had  a problem with it, mainly because the guy on the video was the teensiest bit dogmatic and demanding.  I wasn't the only one with abrasions and contusions over  him.  Those of us who had left the church—for decades because of leaders like that—felt it viscerally.  Some of us slid away from that.   (Here's an aside:  my sweet, accepting Methodist church is traditional but open; thoughtful and brilliant.  Those kinds of demands are never made.)

About 450 of us stayed however.  And here's what happened.  We broke into small groups and each group was directed to come up with a community service project.  Some of them could be inside the church, but we were supposed to help people on the outside of our church as well.  My group, with two other groups, wanted to throw a housewarming party for the family moving into a Habitat for Humanity house, our church helped frame last spring.  One group wants to do a kitchen shower, the other group wants to provide the tools for keeping the house in good shape.  Love that. Another group wanted to host a bingo party at the VA.  Another is raising money to buy Bibles for the 3rd graders at the Wilder church, some of them in Spanish.  There are others, equally brilliant,  motivated by love for  the peeps in our community.   That feels wonderful.  Hope we do a project like this next year too.

So, some of my readers come from the Ukraine.  Praying for everybody's safety and the ability for that country to find a leader who understands freedom and governmental structures that are reasonable for those populations.

Update on Gail:  End of the second week.  She's had big doses of chemo and radiation.  Already her mouth is sore and there is that bone tired exhaustion.  None of that is a surprise.  Incredibly difficult, just the same.  Thinking about her around the clock.

Spring seems to be the time for big changes.  I'm praying that those are good for everybody.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Update on Gail's Week

I got to talk to Gail yesterday. She was looking for a ride home.

Scheduling.  It was the bain of our existence for awhile.  I remembered when Julie was so sick, one of my worst afternoons was waiting and waiting and waiting.  I'd had a biopsy myself when I was in my twenties, so I expected . . .  about half an hour.  This one took four and a half hours.  I was frantic.

It seemed like all of those first time experiences were all day ordeals.  I think that's what was happening with Gail.

If there is something you need to know, it's this.  Always ask how long the procedure will take, so you know, more or less, what to expect.  It's the difference between a relatively peaceful wait and gobsmacked craziness.

The timing was off, however, so Gail wound up driving herself.

This week she's had a hard time with nausea.  Boy, howdy.  It was better later in the week, enough that she could drive.

So, I'm reloading my  knitting needles, getting ready to do the chemo hat Gail will need.  Here's what I learned about that.  You need to make a hat in colors that are colors your sick one would wear normally.  No screaming yellow or titanium pink for Gail.  Nor power red or Greek azure.  Not her.  I'm going for a soft green, because Marty gave me a lovely alpaca in that color, so I'm using that.  A double gift.  Must be blessed if two of us are in on the gift.  Also, you don't want anything scratchy.  Like sheep's wool, particularly.

 Alpaca is wonderfully soft  and warm for those sweet bald heads.  I found them to be immensely endearing.  An evidence of courage.

And, this week, I'm going to do a chicken noodle soup worthy of it's name.  Here's the recipe:

5-6 Chicken thighs.
Salt and pepper.

Roast those in the oven, 350 degrees, skin on, for about 45 - 50 minutes.  Let them cool.  Remove the skin and debone the thighs.  Cut the meat in bit sized pieces.  Set aside.  The roasting process keeps the meat moist and intact.  And the fat levels are lower too.  If there is a lot of ooey-gooey chicken goodness in the bottom of the pan, you can skim off the fat and put that into the soup when you add the stock.

Brown 1 chopped onion, 2 cloves of  sliced garlic, in about a tablespoon of oil.  When it is just translucent, add 2-3 peeled and sliced carrots, 2-3 stalks of celery that are sliced.  Slice up a small box of mushrooms, wash them quickly and add them to the vegie mixture.  Let them settle about 10 minutes.

Add 2 boxes of a decent-quality, lower-salt chicken stock.  Let the vegies cook away for about half an hour.  The body will need a little salt.  It can help quiet a queasy tummy, but go easy on adding more.

Add one frozen package of noodles.  (Don't thaw those out before you put them in the broth.  You'll have an awful mess.)  Add the chicken.  Cook all of that together at a simmer, for another 15 minutes.

The other flat, ruffly noodles are fine too, but I like the noodles that look like they are homemade.

You can add half a cup of chopped parsley or 3-4 tablespoons of the dried, and a little pepper.

You can put it in a quart mason job, so it can be transported easily, then warmed up in the microwave and used over the week.

Anything that's left over, you get to eat.

Sweet healing, my friends.  Week one is over and out.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


On her 60th birthday in December, my friend Gail announced that "I haven't had many challenges in my life."

I thought, "Good Lord, Gail, don't say that."  My head was in my hands.  That's thumping the bull on the nose.  That's tempting the fates.

It's not that she's hasn't had challenges.  She's had some dandies.  But she's so capable that they barely registered.  This one will register.

In the last ten days or so,  she's been through that whirlwind  round of tests and more tests. And then a few more.  Things from 30 years ago, now have to be attended to,  which is requiring a bucket of prescriptions, enough to protect her over the next two months.  She did that while she was working in a highly demanding job.  Her diagnosis:  Cancer.  Something went wrong in her colon, probably the result of HPV—human pappiloma virus.  My spelling is questionable here.  The diagnosis is not.  It's rare enough.

Gail is as healthy a soul as you can find.  She is not sick.  She has some out-of-whack cells that are smallish and well contained, but her weight is righteous, her vessels are clean, her bones are strong, her head is on straight—she's not using the words "battle" or "war" on her disease.  She is using "healing, wholeness, peace, attention, learning, compliance."

She is being cared for some people whom I idolize:  Dr. Zuckerman, the younger.  Dr. Kuhn,  Denise and Pat in the chemo unit, for starters, the people in the radiation unit, one of the pharmacists, Robbie, Sherry's handsome son.  All of her friends.  All of them, and there are many.

Gail thinks she is a pragmatic, practical introvert.  All of that is true.  She is also a visionary, an athlete,  and an artist.  She's made every home she's ever lived in . . . into a palace.  No matter how big, no matter how old.  Everything she works on turns out to be a thing of wonder, comfort, and beauty.

Gail is part of my Blackberry Tea Club, my girls, Marty, Sherry, and me. I wrote a book about us, soon to finish another.   We did a head run, straight into dismay.  Gail gave us 10 minutes of shock and awe, then told us to get over it—that those faces were not helpful to her.  She wanted her friends, her women to be "all hands on deck,"  directed and helpful, on point, strong.  As she is.

Sherry, who has had two bouts with cancer, asked for some time to grieve.  Marty, who is an ardent  practitioner of new healing modalities, wanted to offer everything.  I was quiet, stoic, but cancer has touched my family too.  It's amazing how fast a new diagnosis flips you back into that awful mind state that you have to fight your way out of.  I had my own moment this morning, woke up nauseated and high on the blind side of panic.  I had to talk my own way down from that one.  I'll have some more of those moments as we move through this, but I promise that I'll do it on my own time—and offer the most practical of helps along the way.  Soup and warm hats, at the moment.  E-mails that are encouraging, every day.

She also asked me to tell her stories on my blog.  Yes, yes, of course, yes.  She wants to remember the things she might not otherwise.  I think she wants to send people to the blog in order to keep everybody up to speed.  I'll do one blog a week, and then maybe two or three more, depending on how things go or if something new comes along.  So, with her blessing, here we go.

I also promised her prayer that moves the universe, that would be our task as well.  The Marty, Sherry, Barb part of us.  We've already proven our worth as prayers, in some really, really tough situations.

Dr. Todd, for whom Gail is a combination of beloved ex-partner, a powerful sister, a best, no-matter- what, friend, is her primary caregiver.  A thing that seems ever so necessary for her and the rest of us.

Both of Gail's doctors used the word cure, with her, promised that the whole ordeal would be over in about six weeks.  She's doing both chemo and radiation.   I believe them, they are the smartest, kindest folks on the planet, coming from Harvard and Yale, Johns Hopkins.  The best of the best.

They do not use that word thoughtlessly.

We're counting on that.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What Went Wrong

This week I took one of those rolling-through-the-cloud tests.  You know the type: What Big Bang Character are you?  (Sheldon, yow).  What kind of a cook are you?  (Generalized foodie.)  And what work are you most suited for?  Lots of people on my feed wound up in the writer category.  Me too.

This was my week.  Finished a 40-page chapter I've been working on for 8 years.  I didn't know what to write for that one—wrote it any way.  I finished a blog entry for a local publication.  Learned a lot about weight loss just doing the research.  I'm happy about that.  And I finished and sent off my first real, live magazine entry.  First one in a long time.  Turns out this kind of writing is a whole new deal. 

My writing career started in the early '90s, working for the esteemed Boise magazine, back in it's hay day.  John Rember, Bill Studebaker, Gino Sky, Judy Steele, Jeanette Germain, Colleen Maile, Ruth Wright, Chris Dempsy, Rick Ardinger, Mike Medberry.  You'll know those names too.  We've all moved on in one way or another.  But that was a heady experience,  I'm here to say.

I was writing on an ancient Apple, one of their first.  It was out of date by the time I bought it, and the printer had it's own set of issues.  Of course, it was incompatible with any other publishing system.  Of course, it was unreliable.  Of course, I was a newbie to both writing and computers.  I was finishing up a story on a Friday morning, set it to print, left it to make breakfast, take a bath, get ready for work. I kept wondering why it was printing and printing and printing.  My 1800 words should have taken  five minutes, max, even as old as it was.  We're moving closer to 35, 45, 55 minutes.  I went  in to check.

The dot matrix printer was working away, having filled my office with tear-off pages.  It filled my little study about half full.  The printer was lustily printing my work. . . one word on each line—about 60 pages.   Each page had about 30 words on it.  I was about half way through the article.

I stopped the printer,  figured out what command I'd given it, fixed it and started over.  I got it to the point where it actually "looked" like an article.  Exit laughing.

But I'm still here, pretty much doing the same thing:  One word at a time.   And my articles still look, pretty much, like articles.