“Art Enables Us to Find Ourselves and Lose Ourselves at the Same Time”

….that’s what Thomas Merton, writer of more than 70 books on spirituality, told us. And it has been my experience too!

I do not consider myself an artist in the traditional sense of the word – I’m not a skilled painter and I certainly cannot draw to save my life.  But I absolutely consider myself an artist in a non-traditional sense.  My favorite art medium is food.  I love playing with food and presenting food in new and beautiful ways.  And I love taking photographs.  And, even though I’m not a skilled painter, I love working with watercolors and I enjoy my attempts at drawing (even if I’m not always satisfied with the outcome).  For me, art is about the journey….not the destination.

Why am I writing about this today?  Because I’ve been blessed with a unique opportunity to lead a session at a women’s retreat this Saturday – the topic – Praying in Color (Bible Journaling/Art Worship/Active Prayer).  I am not an expert on the subject, but I have a passion for it and I love introducing people to new ways of developing their relationship with God. And today I’m making my final preparations.  I’m packing my supplies and notes and examples (such as they are) and all the while I’m talking with God – asking for His guidance, His wisdom, His agenda.

And in packing my things I’ve realized there just isn’t enough time to cover the subject and there are only so many handouts I can give people before they get overwhelmed.  So I thought I’d use the blog as a place to link to some tools I think are important not only for praying in color, but for spending time with God in general.  This is not an exhaustive list of links, but a jumping off point.

FEELINGS WHEEL

One tool I’ve learned to rely on for prayer is The Feelings Wheel, which was developed by Dr. Gloria Wilcox.  Some of you out there are very in touch with your feelings, and for you this tool may seem unnecessary.  But others of us have learned to ignore our feelings and have spent so many years doing so that the idea of identifying a feeling is as difficult as learning to speak a foreign language.  Often we are asked how we feel about something and we respond with what we THINK about it rather than how we FEEL about it because owning or expressing our feelings to others (and sometimes to ourselves) can be scary.

The feelings wheel can help us get more specific about vague feelings, can help us trace the root of our feelings and can help us look at opposites on the wheel and realize that perhaps we’re mad because we’re feeling powerless, etc.

I would urge you to research The Feelings Wheel and use it when you’re trying to identify your emotions.

SCRIPTURE DIAGRAMMING WORKSHEET

I’m a vvvvveeeeerrrrryyyyy literal person and sometimes I need help to discern what a particular scripture is about and or what God is speaking to me through a scripture.  A tool that helps me distill the meaning of what I’m reading when I read my Bible is the Scripture Diagramming Worksheet.  Once I am able to get to the heart of a scripture, I have an easier time visualizing how I want to journal about it.  Visit Pink Paper Peppermints for more information!

HEARING THE VOIDE OF GOD

I wish I kenw to whom to attribute this work, however I received this one page worksheet in a class I took and there is no information on its origin.  But, even without the appropriate attribution I think it’s important to include this helpful information.  Because many of us are not confident in our ability to discern the voice of God, we can dismiss important messages from Him.  Over the hears, this worksheet has helped remind me how to discipher the messages that I hear.

Hearing the Voice of God

BIBLE JOURNALING WEBSITES

Again, this is not an exhaustive list, but rather some of my favorite sources of inspiration.

Dots & Dust.  Angeline’s site includes a Bible Journaling section, great examples, monthly freebies, links to free facebook live classes, great techniques and more.

Illustrated Faith.  Shanna Noel is a name widely recognized in the Bible Journaling world.  Her site is chock full of ideas, examples, techniques, tools, freebies, information and inspiration.

PitterAndGlink.  Bethany’s site has a whole section about Bible Journaling – including lovely examples, free printables, reviews of supplies, and much more!

OTHER

Lifeway.  I’d encourage you to visit Lifeway either online or in person (there’s a store in Harrisburg) for all kinds of Christian resources including, but not limited to Bible Journaling supplies.  However, they do have a lovely selection of journaling Bibles, coloring Bibles, bible journaling devotionals, etc.

Pinterest, Instagram and Other Social Media Visit lots of different sites for inspiration.  You’ll find styles and ideas and techniques you never imagined!

Lyrics.com – I love using song lyrics in my illustrations, but I like to make sure I have them right – there’s nothing more embarrassing than singing (or illustrating) the wrong words to a song!  No Patty, the lyrics to Deep Purple’s famous 70s song are not “Slow Cousin Walter,” but rather “Smoke on the Water!”

Biblestudytools.com is one of many tools out there to help you find scriptures in multiple translations and commentaries on scriptures as well. Often I need to read more than one version of a scripture to fully comprehend the meaning of it.  And just as often, I like to read a scholar’s take on the scripture too to help me see things I might otherwise have missed.

Blue Letter Bible is another tool I like to help study scriptures.  Blue Letter Bible “was established in the mid1990’s, at the beginning of the technological revolution.” The “blue letter” in the title refers to web links you click to learn more information!

There are many more tools and resources available, but these are just a few that I use when illustrating scriptures, praying in color, worshiping through art, journaling the bible and/or actively praying!

I’d encourage you to PLAY with different techniques when you spend time with God.  Sometimes moving your hands while creating art (or other parts of your body while hiking or running, etc.)  stills your mind in a way that sitting still and listening intently cannot.  If you’re anything like me, when you sit still your mind races a million miles a minute and you have trouble focusing on anything.   So get out your crayons, sit with God and color outside the lines!

Matthew 18:1-4
“About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”  Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them.  Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Being “plinked at” by the enemy

Today started out like most other days….although I am grateful to open my eyes each morning and thank God for all of my blessings every morning, I am not one to hop out of bed “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.”  I hit the snooze [often more than once], metaphorically stomp my feet like a toddler in the midst of a Phase 5 Fit, and begrudgingly slither out of bed.

After I’m up, I’m usually fine and by the time I leave for work I’m usually smiling and ready to take on the day.  Today was no exception.  I only worked for a few hours today, I had a nice lunch with two lovely ladies before leaving the shop, and then ran a few errands.  I had no negative interactions with anyone, but somehow by the time I got home I was in a funk….the devil was plinking at me.  At first I didn’t even notice – he is so wily.  It started out as a negative thought here, a self-criticism there…plink, plink, plink.  By 4:00 pm I was sad and discouraged and lonely.  I watched some t.v. [because that always helps…..please read the last line as it was intended – dripping with sarcasm] and finally I remembered to tell the devil something I recently heard on a podcast while I was taking a walk, “Get behind me, devil.  I am not your business.  I belong to God.”

I gathered up my art supplies, opened my Bible and began reading and doodling.  While I was looking at different hand-lettering fonts on Pinterest, I came across a pin that I had previously saved to the “wrong” board.  [I love God’s ‘coincidences!’]  It is a page from Priscilla Shirer’s ‘The Armor of God‘ Bible study.  As I do not have her permission to reproduce it, I will link you to Lifeway’s website so that you can purchase it if you’d like and I’ll just give you the highlights…..

Now that I’ve done some more research, I’ve found that the information is from Page 33 of the study guide.  It is entitled ‘The Enemy’s Strategies’ and illuminates 10 strategies the devil uses to undermine women [and possibly men].  I will only give you the strategy titles below, but I encourage you to do what I am going to do….buy the study and find a friend who will journey with me through ALL the pages.  It is so important to understand how the enemy will attack so that we can devise defenses against this sneaky, cunning, relentless predator.

How the enemy attacks:

Strategy #1 – Against Your Passion
Strategy #2 – Against Your Focus

Strategy #3 – Against Your Identity
Strategy #4 – Against Your Family
Strategy #5 – Against Your Confidence
Strategy #6 – Against Your Calling
Strategy #7 – Against Your Purity
Strategy #8 – Against Your Rest
Strategy #9 – Against Your Heart
Strategy #10 – Against Your Relationships

I nearly succumbed to the devil’s ‘plinking’ this afternoon – I was exposed, unprepared and vulnerable.  But, I am happy to say that reminding him that I was none of his business led me to my Bible and to this excerpt from Priscilla Shirer’s study – two resources I definitely needed.  I temporarily misplaced my armor but I can now confidently [until the next time he tries to attack] report that it’s all in place.

Ephesians 6:10-18

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all the strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rules and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

 

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil.  Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.  Stand your ground, putting on the  belt of truth and body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

Put on your armor every day….and remember to “be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says, “Oh crap. She’s up!””

What I’ve Been Doing Lately…

Oh my goodness…..the last several weeks have been a whirlwind!  I’ve wanted to post so many times; however each time I wanted to write, it was about the surprise party I was planning for Jeff. And, of course, writing about it on the blog sort of ruins the element of surprise!

This year was a big birthday for Jeff – in fact, it was the Big Five-Oh! As in OhmygoodnesshowcanIbeturning50!?!  Although this birthday didn’t seem to hit him as hard as his 30th, he was still a bit mopey…throwing out phrases like, “this is my last shower (cup of coffee, work day, etc.) in my 40’s.”

As hard as this birthday was for him, it was hard on me too!  Just about every single sentence I spoke to him from January 15th through March 4th was a lie!  While that may sound easy [and to some it IS easy], it was pretty difficult for me.  I don’t know which was harder – thinking of the lies or remembering the lies!

And in the midst of the planning were Valentine’s Day (which isn’t that big a deal to us, but has to be acknowledged nonetheless), his actual birthday, class prep, a party for a friend, cooking for a bridal shower my niece Ashley was throwing for a friend [which happened to be the same day of the party], my regular schedule, and – oh yeah, just for fun – another kidney stone!!!  Additionally, I was trying to throw this party with 40 guests without raising suspicion that I was spending money – not easy to pull off when Jeff enters all the financial transactions into the computer!  If nothing else, I thrive on stress….

I’d like to say I took tons of pictures of the food; but that would be a lie.  I took pics of the party set up but by the time the party got underway, I was too involved in trying to surprise Jeff and hostessing.  Incidentally, the surprise part was a bit of a flop; but the party itself was a lot of fun!

Jeff’s good friend, Craig (you might remember him from my Something’s Brewing post) brewed two commemorative beers for the occasion and put together a killer playlist (which he and Jeff refer to as a mix-tape – those of you in my age bracket will giggle at this terminology)!  Having Craig take charge of beer and music was a huge help. That allowed me to focus on food and decorations.  So, I thought about what kind of food (1) goes well with beer; (2) can be prepared ahead and secretly transported to another location; (3) feeds a crowd and (4) is on Jeff’s list of favorite foods (or at least near the favorites list).

Chili bar was the obvious choice.  I decided to make my Chilly Weather Sirloin Chili (with ground beef instead of sirloin cubes as a time saver). After choosing the main food, the rest pretty much fell into place.  Rice, Fritos, Ranch Oyster Crackers (thanks, Ron), toppings (such as cheddar, pepper-jack, scallions, sour cream, and cilantro), a big salad [and not just any salad – MIMI’s SALAD], buttermilk cornbread with Honey-Cinnamon-Cayenne Butter, and for dessert – Jeff’s favorite – his mom’s chocolate cake with peanut butter icing and some s’mores bark for good measure.  Obviously, I needed to add some other beverages – wine for the non-beer drinkers, “middle of the road” beer for the less adventurous beer drinkers, bottled water and soda rounded out the beverage options.

Then came the theme – since it was a chili bar, I found some great printables on Pinterest and took it from there.  I designed the invitation and then created a burlap table banner to “match” the invite.  I also borrowed a previously used table banner reading ‘Aged to Perfection,’ which loosely related to the beer theme.  I wrapped “silverware” in brown bags and tied it with bakery twine, made some 50-related signs that I displayed in beer bottles and copied old photos of Jeff onto velum and wrapped clear candle holders with the velum for fun table decorations.  I used six-pack carriers as Frito “bowls” around the room, I put chalkboard stickers on wine and beer cups so people could personalize them and got paper plates and napkins to match the theme.  Throw in some bandanas and a Chili Bar sign and voila – a party.

Deciding where to have it was another challenge – it’s quite a complex undertaking to throw a surprise party for 40 people where the guest of honor lives!!!  I didn’t even try that.  A few places came to mind, but the clubhouse in my parent’s neighborhood was a great landing-place from a surprise perspective.  The challenge; however, was getting everything there without Jeff knowing.  For several weeks before the party I carted things from our house to my parent’s house – and I mean lots of things.  My parent’s living room was gradually getting smaller due to the pile of ‘party stuff’ I was making.

The day before the party, I prepped the food for the surprise and most of the food for the bridal shower (see above) – with help from a friend, thanks Tammy!  The day of, I had to get up early and head to my mom’s house to finalize the shower food and meet my niece for the food hand-off.  After that, Mimi and I set up the room and prepped the remaining food for Jeff’s party.  In the afternoon I raced home to get ready (there was barely time for a shower and some primping) and then met my sister to start carrying the pile from my parent’s living room to the party venue – thanks Laura!

We met up with Craig (my beer & music hero) and Chris (his lovely wife who was such a big help throughout the party). Then Laura and I raced back to my parent’s house to change our clothes in the living room – laughing and somewhat out of breath.  Then Laura went back to the party venue to greet guests while I waited for Jeff to arrive for our “night out to celebrate his birthday.”  On the way out the door, my mom asked if we could help her by delivering her food to a block party (yes, this was part of the lie to get Jeff to the party).  Jeff [carrying some the of food for his own party] and I walked through the door of the clubhouse and were about 5 feet from the door to the room in which the party was being held when he looked over at me and asked, “do you want me to ACT surprised?”

In that split second I thought about the ramifications of murdering him, but decided that 40 witnesses were too many so I did my best not to strangle him and proceeded to enjoy time with our friends and family.  Although the surprise was not a success, the party was.

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And, as it turns out, so was the bridal shower Ashley hosted.  For that I made Cornmeal Cheddar Scones (my friend Tammy’s recipe), Caramel Macchiato Scones, individual omelets in ham cups and fruit skewers with orange vinaigrette.

As I mentioned, in the midst of all this craziness I was also preparing for some classes. The first class – Perfectly Provencal.  The foods and wines were a yummy tribute to the Provencal region of France.  The menu:

  • Double-Baked Cheese Soufflé w/ Parmesan Cream
  • Grated Baby Beet Salad
  • Seared Halibut w/ Spicy Mussel Aioli
  • Luxe French Potatoes w/ Lavender
  • Tian Provencal
  • Blood Orange Sponge Cake

The second class – Bring a Friend to Spain.  The foods for this were from all different regions of Spain. The menu:

  • Coca (Pizza) w/ Candied Red Peppers
  • Festive Frisee w/ Pears & Honeyed Lardon
  • Comforting Chicken in Almond & Saffron Sauce
  • Smokey Spiced Spanish Potatoes
  • Asparagus w/ Tangerine Vinaigrette & Pistachio Dust
  • Quesada Pasiega (Spanish Catabrian Cheesecake)

Perhaps my favorite event of recent weeks was the Doljanchi for our twin great-niece and great-nephew.  The doljanchi is the elaborate Korean first birthday celebration with a very interesting ritual – the doljabi.  In addition to the doljabi were tables and tables of delicious Korean foods and unmatched hospitality from Justin’s family.  We had a wonderful time and best of all I didn’t have to make anything, carry anything or keep anything a secret!!!!  I was able to be a guest and enjoy a beautiful celebration of two very cool little people who have stolen my heart!

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I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t somewhat tired from the flurry of activity over the last several weeks.  However, reviewing it all has reminded me how truly lucky I am.  I have a great husband (who is older than me), family and friends who are quick to ask “what can I do” when I say I’m throwing a party (AND THEY MEAN IT), three beautiful littles who bring joy and hope for the future to our family, and so many people with whom Jeff and I can enjoy life…one bite at a time!

Friendship, Food & Farmers’ Markets

One of my first posts was about how food connects and over the last few weeks I’ve had evidence of it!

Last week I received a text message from my friend Tracee which got me thinking about writing this post.   Her text began, “Holy early good morning!!  Sorry to message you so early but…”  OK, let’s stop here and analyze the beginning of her message – she completely understands that for me 7:48 am (her time) and/or 9:48 am my time is early!!!  She was off to a great start!  The message continued, “I am at this awesome produce market in Ft Worth Texas and I thought of you…”  Now some friends would think of you when they hear your favorite song, or watch your favorite t.v. show, or see you favorite flower; but a good friend knows – and understands that – you have a passion for produce markets and thinks of you when she’s looking at fresh fruits and veggies!  She went on to write, “…need anything you can not find in pa?”  A seriously great, true friend would travel from Texas to Pennsylvania with produce in tow if you asked!!!!

I replied to her, “Happy Friday!  You know me well….I love a good produce market!  I’m good [meaning I don’t need you to bring anything back] but send some pics!”

Her reply? “OK will do.  Great stuff!  I knew you appreciate interesting ingredients.”  She then proceeded to send me 14 pics – with captions!  You gotta love a friend like that!

The following is a slide show of Tracee’s pics (some with captions) with her permission to share!

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This text exchange also got me to thinking of a recent trip I took with a different friend (no, I’m not bragging / yes, I am blessed) to Roots Country Market & Auction.  I’ve written about my friend Tammy in previous posts (in fact, one of her delicious recipes made one of my “Best Thing I’ve Eaten All Week” posts).  Tammy is another friend that falls into both the “friend that gets me” and “true friend” categories.  She’s a gem.  In my mind, I equate Tammy with Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor) [the glamorous Hungarian wife of Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert)] who is dragged unwillingly from an upscale Manhattan penthouse apartment and the city life she adores to a ramshackle farm.  You see, Tammy is a beautiful, put-together woman who at first glance seems like she might not be tough enough for life on a farm; but if you think that of her, you’d be underestimating her strength – both physical and mental.  In fact, she now lives on a farmette and raises chickens.  Anyway….as usual, I digress.

Tammy and I travel well together and enjoy the same kinds of experiences.  So when she suggested a trip to Roots Market on our most recent day together, I was fully on board.  And I was armed with a restaurant to introduce her to.  We left around 8:30 (early for me and late for Tammy) and started at Roots Market.  I’m so glad Tammy drove and knew exactly how to get to Roots.  You see, she and her hubby frequent the auction to purchase produce for “the girls.”

We zig-zagged our way through the market looking at fresh produce, baked goods, fresh meats, etc.  We plotted our purchases and had to backtrack to a few stands once we’d made our way through the whole market.  But, we’re not just about produce markets.

When we left Roots we headed for downtown Lancaster and shopped at some cute boutiques, home stores, and an olive oil tasting room. We looked at shoes, clothes, jewelry, home items, soaps, lotions, hats (lots of cute hats), coffee, tea, etc.  In doing so, we worked up an appetite.

Being married to Jeff has prepared me well to have a restaurant in my hip pocket for nearly every occasion!  On this day the restaurant was Hunger-N-Thirst Craft Beer and Provisions. I made a quick stop in the bottle shop to see if I could get any HopSlam for Jeff (alas, I could not), we made a pit stop and then made our way to the dining room.  We each ordered a glass of wine (red for Tammy  / white for me), we shared the shrimp cocktail appetizer and ordered our entrees.  For Tammy, the BLT Panino.  For me, Veggie Panino.  The shrimp cocktail was not your mama’s shrimp cocktail!    It is described on the menu as “Chilled Horseradish Dusted Shrimp / Herb Puree / Pickled Vegetables / Crostini / Tomato Jam” and it was D’lish!  I didn’t taste Tammy’s panino, but mine was an odd choice for me.  I typically would not order a veggie sandwich at a restaurant.  I would eat one at home, but would typically find many other things on a restaurant menu that appealed to me.  In this case, however, the combination of “Sweet Potato / Kale / Red Onion / Smoked Provolone / Maple-Sage Aioli” was too interesting to resist.  And it was quite yummy!!!

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We were too full for dessert and Tammy had to hit the road to make it home in time for a class so we got back on the road after lunch.  But the day of adventuring was wonderful.  A time to REconnect, REfuel and RElax!

So next time you’re thinking about a friend, head to a farmers market and send them some pics or, even better, take them along!

And a special thanks to all my friends who “GET” me!

And because they’re so darn cute – here a pic of TyDy connecting over food earlier today!!!

tydy

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Sucking on Nickels & Other Summer Fun

Since fall is almost here, I thought I’d update you on my summer and some of why I haven’t been writing!

I am so grateful for the wonderful trip Jeff and I had with Nate in July.  There were lots of fun moments, many laughs, and much to look back on with a smile.  I am especially grateful because the memories of Maine have sustained me through the last few difficult weeks.

To get an accurate picture of what’s been going on, we must first go back a bit.  I’ve been having pain in my back for several months.  Of course, I’m 48 so dealing with aches and pains is the new normal!  I was also dealing with a cough that began with a cold in February and hung on through mid-June.  During the time I was living with the cough, my ENT performed transnasall esophagoscopy multiple times and prescribed several rounds of antibiotics, steroids and other drugs to combat the cough – unfortunately, the large doses of meds led to a case of oral thrush.  I never really thought much about thrush until I had it….I thought it was something babies got, not adults.

Needless to say, with all of the meds and appointments and poking and prodding of my sinuses I had my fill (more than my fill) of being sick, feeling run down and seeing docs (not that I have anything personal against my docs – they are fine people, but I like them better when I don’t have to see them as a patient!!!).

So when the sporadic backache began, I filed it under the “suck it up, cupcake, you’re getting older” column.  As it continued sporadically and then more regularly, I filed it under the “we need a new mattress” column.  But just before we left for Maine I stared having pain in my lower left abdomen.  Again, I filed that pain under the heading of “getting older” and movedon.org.  But the pain in my abdomen continued to get worse during vacation, so on the last day I called my OB/Gyn and made an appointment for the day after we arrived home.

My regular OB doc was on vacation so I saw another doc in the practice who did some tests and then sent me for an ultrasound that ultimately revealed nothing.  Because the tests showed nothing OB/G related, the doc thought the next best course of action was to see a gastroenterologist.

That takes us to August 5th.  A day mostly like any other.  I wrote a post, did some laundry and some work on upcoming classes and then turned my attention to getting ready for a short trip to NYC that was to start on 8/7.  When Jeff arrived home I was putting a second coat of polish on my toenails and thinking about what to pack so he said three of my favorite words – “I’ll make dinner.”  After dinner we sat town to watch an episode of Homeland.

About three-quarters of the way through the show I asked him to pause – I was VERY suddenly feeling ill.  I was dizzy and nauseated and feeling simultaneously cold and clammy.  I ran into the bathroom – sure I was going to be sick – and arrived just in time to look in the mirror and watch all the color drain from my face.  It was such a strange experience – like a reverse blush.  I composed myself and went to lie down only to have the pain in my back and abdomen rip through me like a boning knife.  I had no idea what was going on, but I knew I needed a trip to the ER.

And so it began.

I could not sit up at the ER and one of the last things I remember clearly is the person checking me in saying that they had nowhere for me to lie down.  I remember thinking, “isn’t this a hospital?” and then finally just saying that I’d just lie on the floor – that’s how bad the pain was.  They found a two-seater chair for me to lie on and Jeff moved another chair near it so I could put my feet up.

I remember the ER doc coming in and talking to me but I couldn’t tell you anything substantive about the conversation.  I know he asked me some questions about my medical history and family history, but I have no recollection of the actual questions or my answers.  The next thing I remember was hanging on to Jeff’s arm as he guided me to a bed where I was finally given IV fluids and pain meds, which gave me a little relief.

The doc came back in to ask some more questions after which he told us he thought, based upon my symptoms, that I was either dealing with a kidney stone or diverticulitis.  He told me he was going to have me drink some contrast in preparation for a CT scan.  The nurse came back in and explained that I’d have 60 minutes to drink the contrast – that I should not try to drink it all at once, but to pace myself over the 60 minutes – and then I’d have to wait 60 minutes before they did the scan.

The first 15 – 20 minutes were ok.  I was able to drink the contrast without incident, but then the pain and nausea came back in full force.  I couldn’t lie still for more than a few seconds.  I drank as much of the remaining contrast as I could within the hour and tossed and turned – waiting for the test – until I couldn’t stand the pain any longer.  Just before the technician came to take me for the scan, Jeff went in search of the nurse, a pan in case I got sick and more pain meds.  I went for the scan and when I came back the nurse added some pain meds to my IV, which helped me relax a bit as we waited for the test results.

The CT scan revealed two kidney stones – one still in the kidney and one in the ureter, just at the opening of the bladder.  I was sent home with a prescription for pain meds, an order to drink as much water as I could stand, and a “hat and strainer.”  Oh they joys of straining your urine each time you pee – it’s kind of like panning for gold only you’re hoping to find that you’ve passed a kidney stone.

It was obvious that our trip to NYC was not to be so we cancelled our hotel and class reservations and waited for the storm stone to pass.  On Monday, I called the urologist as instructed and got an appointment for Wednesday.  I arrived at my appointment a few minutes early to fill out paperwork and give a urine sample.  The nurse took my vitals and then the doc came in and we discussed the situation.  Because of the length of time I’d been experiencing back then back/abdominal pain and because I’d been trying to pass the stone for approximately 5 days since it had been discovered and because I had an elevated temperature, an outpatient ureteroscopy was scheduled for the following afternoon.

On Thursday afternoon, I picked Jeff up from work and we headed to Harrisburg Hospital. I checked in with a wonderfully comforting woman named Nikki – she was so nice and calm and kind -and was taken to pre-op where we waited.  Unfortunately my doc had an emergency surgery to do so that pushed my surgery back; however I was grateful that I wasn’t the emergency surgery so I alternated between talking with Jeff and surfing the web on my phone  (oh, and complaining a bit about how hungry I was). Finally it was my turn…..I was whisked into the OR, my IV had to be moved from one hand to the other because it clotted while I was waiting, and the anesthesiologist came in to get started – little did I know, the anesthesia was already started and by the time the anesthesiologist came in to talk to me I already felt that familiar “2-large-glasses-of-wine warmth.”   The next thing I knew I was waking up in the OR and the nurse told me I was done and that the surgery had taken 10 minutes.  Yes, you read that right!  I spent a little time in recovery, reviewed my discharge instructions with the nurse and was released.  I was no longer as hungry as I had been so Jeff made a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home to get some ingredients to make me a nice soup.  When we got home I changed into my jammies, took some meds and crawled into bed.

Friday was as you would expect – I was recovering, watching television, reading, moving around a lot due to the discomfort from the stent and trying not to wear out Jeff’s hospitable mood with all my requests.

Saturday morning I woke up feeling fantastic – better than I’ve felt in months.  In fact, Jeff commented that my sassiness was back (I believe much to his chagrin).  Longing for a reason to get out of the house, we called my mom and dad and decided to go out for breakfast to celebrate my dad’s birthday.

After being out of the house for a few hours I began to feel wrung out – so we headed home and I climbed back into bed.  I napped with the t.v. on and got out of bed to drink water, get rid of the water I drank and to eat a little dinner, but I wasn’t really hungry.

Saturday night I tossed and turned and woke up several times to drink water.  When I got up to use the bathroom, I felt lightheaded so I leaned against the bed and waited for the dizziness to pass.  I made it down the hall to the powder room and got dizzy again.  After I used the bathroom and washed my hands I headed back to our room – but on the way I started to get that fuzzy, black-out feeling you get just before you pass out.  So I immediately sat down where I was and called for Jeff.

He came out of the bedroom, asked me what was wrong and called the surgeon who sent us back to the ER.  As it turned out, I had an infection and required more large doses of IV antibiotics, which they gave me while I dozed and poor Jeff tortured his back in the uncomfortable chair in my room.  After filling me up with antibiotics and fluids the doctor discharged me with a prescription for more antibiotics and a snarky statement.  She said (and not in a helpful tone), “Good luck getting that stent out.  I’ve never had it done but I hear it’s painful.”  Really?  REALLY?  Did she think she was being helpful – because let me tell you when you’ve already been through the pain of kidney stones (which I’m told is worse than giving birth – since I’ve never given birth I cannot make the comparison), been poked and prodded with your most personal bits on display for all the OR staff to see, and had a stent in your ureter, I can assure you that you do not need or want snarky comments from anyone, let alone the doctor “caring” for you.

On the way home from the ER we picked up the new prescription.  When we got home, I added the new pill bottle to all the others and was completely overwhelmed by the amount of meds on the kitchen counter.  I wanted to just swipe them all into the trash and hide under the covers.

Looking back, I wish I had – because all the antibiotics led to another case of thrush.  I don’t know if any of you have ever had a case of thrush, but to me it was awful.  I felt generally run down and my mouth tingled – as if I’d been sucking on nickels for days.  My tongue was swollen with a white-ish coating.  Nothing tasted like it should and it made my desire to consume water nearly non-existent….which was not great considering I was supposed to keep drinking large quantities of water.

I made it through Sunday, Monday & Tuesday with a metallic taste in my mouth, periodic twinges from the stent and continued back pain.  On Tuesday I nervously went to the surgeon’s office to have the stent removed.  My blood pressure was sky-high because I was so nervous about the removal thanks to the ER doc’s kind words.   Again, I was feeling vulnerable with my personal bits on display, but the doc began asking me questions about work and before I knew it he said, “OK” and was done.  I didn’t feel a thing, which was a relief but made me want to go back to the ER and punch that snarky doc in the face!

I was hopeful that the stent removal would be the end of the pain, but it was not.  I still – weeks later – have a significant amount of pain in my back and still have the twinges in my lower left abdominal area.  I’ve been back to the urologist, back to my OB-GYN, and am now waiting for an appointment with a back doc.

Needless to say, it’s been a long summer.  I’ve had down days, but they’ve been very few and far between – somehow I’ve managed to keep my sense of humor through it all.  I appreciate the support of my loving husband and some wonderful friends.  They’ve kept me mostly smiling and optimistic!!!!  A special thanks to Tammy and Brittany who bought me a wonderful recovery gift – chocolate kidneys!  Yes, that’s right – on a trip to the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia they stopped at Mueller Chocolate Company and bought me this:

img_4800-2

So, if I have to write the proverbial “what did you do on your summer vacation” essay….I’d say I had all kinds of summer fun….travelling to Maine, kayaking the Casco Bay, spending time with Nate and Jeff, straining my pee, eating a kidney, making dietary changes and sucking on nickels – what more could a girl ask for?

My Sweet Spot

Many years ago I read a book entitled “Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot” by Max Lucado.  I didn’t know it at the time I read it, but there were big changes coming down the pike in my life!!! Fast forward to today and I’ve found that – somewhat unknowingly – have I put into practice what I learned in the book.

Lucado offers “the big idea” at the beginning of the book when he writes:

“Use your uniqueness (what you do)

to make a big deal out of God (why you do it)

every day of your life (where you do it).

At the convergence of all three, you’ll find the cure for the common life: your sweet spot.”

He illustrates “the big idea” with this diagram:

Sweet Spot Diagram

So why am I writing about this?  Because today I received the gift of one of those rare glimpses of what it means to live in your sweet spot!  I love teaching cooking classes and I enjoy every class I teach, but today was different from many of the other classes in that it really felt like everything came together at just the right time, in just the right way, with just the right people.

Does that mean that today was perfect?  Nope!  There is no such thing as a perfect day.  But it came pretty close and even those minor glitches in the day caused me no alarm or unease.

So how do you find your sweet spot?  Well, Lucado suggests studying your S.T.O.R.Y.  And, based on my experiences over the last many years, I happen to agree.  So what does S.T.O.R.Y. stand for?

  1. What are your STRENGTHS?  In my case, I believe my strength is in teaching – being able to take a concept and explain (either verbally or in writing (which also made me a pretty good technical writer)) it in a way that is understandable to people. Although there will be a few of you out there who share teaching as a strength, I suspect for most of you your strength will be something else.
  2. What is your TOPIC?  My topic is food.  I enjoy working with it, eating it, experimenting with it, etc.  Again, your topic will likely be different.
  3. What are your OPTIMAL CONDITIONS? For each of us, this will be different – some will like a more structured, predictable situation and others a more loose, variable situation.  I like the variety of coming up with different food combinations and playing with my food!
  4. What about RELATIONSHIPS? Do you function best alone or surrounded by other people?  Do you work best as part of a team or as an individual contributor.  I love the interplay between me and my students and I greatly appreciate the support of the team of people it takes to deliver a great class.  It is never simply about the instructor!
  5. What makes you say, “YES!”  It is when your strengths, topic, optimal conditions and relationships intersect that you find your YES!

Today, I was given the gift of my YES!  So here’s a shout out to all the people who came to the class and worked the class.  Without you I doubt my Yes! would have been possible!!!!!

P.S.  The menu for today included:

  • Creamy Bacon Pasta with Coffee Rubbed Scallops
  • Caramelized Onion & Butternut Squash Soup w/ Chipotle Coffee Cream
  • Fennel & Prosciutto Salad with Honey -Coffee Vinaigrette
  • Coffee Crusted Filet of Beef
  • Braised Cabbage with Coffee, Molasses & Bacon
  • Cappuccino Cheesecake

The following is a snap of the soup – it looked too pretty not to photograph!!!!

Processed with Rookie Cam

A Fun Nite – Paint Nite

If you’re looking for something fun to do in the afternoon (1:00 pm) of Saturday, July 11th – how about a fun time of painting, sipping cocktails, making new friends AND supporting a good cause!!??!!

The proceeds from this Paint “Nite,” which is being held at the Bonny Brook Riding Club, will benefit the PA Breast Cancer Coalition.

For more details, please click here.

“You cannot do a kindness to soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Contemplation

This post is not about food for the body; rather it is about food for the soul…

This morning I attended a wonderful retreat.  The topic was CONTEMPLATION. I feel so at peace after a morning well spent that I want to share my experience with you.

Contemplation

After a time of fellowship and some opening remarks about contemplation, some “instruction” about the handouts we were given to lead us in our quiet time if we so chose, and some information about breath prayer and visio divina, we scattered to find a spot for our quiet time.

I walked into the wooded part of the property near the creek, but not facing the water.  As I was walking to ‘my spot’ I was struck by the beauty of the sea of blue flowers that awaited me in the “woods” and I was overcome by the urge to snap some photos.  Now normally I would have my camera in the car; I rarely travel without it.  But today I didn’t have it with me so I improvised with my cell phone.

My Contemplation SpotI wanted to capture the beauty of my surroundings – almost as if capturing it on film would allow me to carry with me the feelings of calm, peace and serenity the environment evoked.  So I snapped some pics and then found a comfortable spot to sit.  I began my time of contemplation with my journal.  I asked myself three questions that I ask when I am trying to slow my brain down and connect with God.  The questions and my answers are as follows:

What do I hear?  (I close my eyes and try to identify every sound I hear)

  • Birds – many different birds. It sounds like they’re interacting, having a conversation with one another or perhaps they’re singing harmony.
  • Cars and trucks passing on Rt. 81 and/or Rt. 114.  It’s like an ebb and flow – they start out quiet, but as they get closer the sound grows.  Then there is a crescendo and the sound fades as they grow distant.  I can hear the trucks downshifting.
  • A bee buzzing nearby
  • An airplane overhead
  • The intermittent tat-tat-tat of a woodpecker

What do I see that is from God?

  • Blue flowers all around me
  • Sunshine highlighting different things near me
  • The roughness of tree bark
  • The softness of newly growing moss
  • Something I’m pretending is not poison ivy
  • The sun glinting on the thin threads of a spider’s web
  • Lots of green
  • New growth and dry, dead leaves – contradictions
  • Wild chives
  • Walnut shells
  • A bright red bug

What do I feel?

  • The warmth of the sun on my skin
  • The feel of the breeze on my neck and my arms
  • Peace, calm

Asking these questions and focusing on the answers seems to quiet my brain and connect me with God.

Next, I opened my packet and read this quote by Henry David Thoreau:

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Ok, if I’m being honest (and I am), I’ll admit that for a brief moment my mind flashed away from contemplation and to television because I recently heard this quote on an episode of Criminal Minds….oh, how easily the culture lures us from the presence of God.  But fortunately after a split second, I was easily able to return to contemplation. (Sadly, this is not always the case).

Looking Up in Contemplation

I picked up my pen and my journal and began writing.  What follows here is an excerpt of what I wrote in my time with God.

“God, thank you for the ability to see beauty around me.  Not just when I’m in a lovely setting like this one; but when I’m in the ordinary or even in dark places.  Thank you for the gift of appreciation – for the desire to look beyond the obvious and to see things from unusual perspectives…I love it when I walk outside and feel a deep gratitude for what I see –  the sunlight or blue skies with puffy clouds or colorful leaves or pretty ferns or interesting buildings…

 

As I sit in one spot, there is so much to look at and I find it interesting that the longer I sit here the more I see things that I missed when I first got here.

 

When I first sat down I saw “the big picture” – the cut logs in a row, the chair, the bright blue flowers with bright green leaves and stems, the blue sky, the trees with chartreuse leaves.

 

But as I narrow my focus and allow myself to be immersed in my surroundings, my attention to detail becomes more clear – I see the small, the partially hidden – things like walnut shells tucked into the crevices between the tree trunks, the moss beneath the leaves and low growing plants, the dried leaves, the wild chives that blended in with the greenery at first, a tiny red bug hard at work, the rough texture of the tree bark vs. the smoothness of the cut surfaces of the logs near me, the tiny fairy plants, wild berry branches, the bark that has come loose from a tree and now looks like a bridge on the ground, the highlights and shadows that almost magnify the roughness of the tree bark.

 

And this shift in focus or narrowing of focus that happens the longer I sit here makes me wonder how much I miss every day because I’m so busy moving from one thing to the next – because I don’t take enough time in any one place to CONTEMPLATE all that is around me, to see the small.

 

What is this busyness causing me to miss?  What am I sacrificing?  What is the cost?  Am I missing moments with You, God? Or moments of real presence with those around me?

 

Why do I try so hard to fill my time – my self – with busyness?  Am I avoiding something?  Am I avoiding you?  Avoiding me? And if I am constantly trying to fill my time, myself with things/activities/tasks, then why do I sometimes resent them?”

I sat silently for a while after madly scribbling my thoughts above. I took some time to breathe, to see, to contemplate.  I closed my eyes and listened to my own breathing and to the sounds around me.

Blue Flowers

Then I turned the page in my packet and was given (like a gift) the following from Henri Nouwen:

“As we look at the stars and let our minds wander into the many galaxies, we come to feel so small and insignificant that anything we do, or say, or think seems completely useless.  But if we look into our souls and let our minds wander into the endless galaxies of our interior lives, we become so tall and significant that everything we do, say or think appears of great importance.

 

We have to keep looking both ways to remain humble and confident, humorous and serious, playful and responsible.  Yes, the human person is very small and very tall.  It is the tension between the two that keeps us spiritually awake.”

It surprises me – although it shouldn’t – that when I take the time to quiet myself, to remove distractions and to sit with God He answers me.  Not in an audible way but like he did by giving me the Nouwen passage just when I needed it.  Now you may think this is hokey and it may not be your “thing.” But writing out my questions and then reading the passage was like having a conversation with God.  It was as if He was right there with me in real-time caring enough to speak to my concerns.

Bordered Contemplation

I continued to journal:

“I feel like this reading from Nouwen is God’s answer to the questions I asked about busyness, what I’m missing and why I can come to resent the things that keep me busy – even if they’re good things.

 

I think God’s answer is BALANCE.  “We have to keep looking both ways to remain humble and confident.”  I believe God is telling me that I have to continue to look at the big picture, the small details AND the middle ground.  And that the REPETITION (a word God has given me more than once this week) is important – that it’s not keeping my focus in one place for too long, but rather the continual shift of focus that will lead to balance.  Kind of like when we drive – we have to watch the road in front of us, but we also have to have a continual awareness of our rear view mirror and our side mirrors – we have to shift our focus from time to time to be effective drivers.”

And we also have to continually shift our focus from the external (the many galaxies) to the internal (our internal lives) and back again to be effective people.  We cannot think only about the “doing” (the busyness that can lead to our resentment or our feeling small) – we must also contemplate the “being” (that which brings us significance).  We need BALANCE between doing and being.  And if I’m honest with myself, I find a temporary feeling of significance when I “do” – when I can check things off a list and meet or exceed the expectations of others.  But it is a temporary feeling….

I could go on and on; but I won’t.  I’ll close by sharing the words God gave me this morning and with my response to Him.

  • REPETITION
  • CONTEMPLATION
  • PRESENCE
  • BALANCE

“Thank you…

…for this time to rest in You.

…for meeting me here.

…for beauty and nature and beauty in nature.

…for contradictions.

…for balance.

…for opportunities.

…for other women with whom to journey.

…for the breeze on my arms.

…for the sunshine on my skin.

…for my senses.

….for your stirrings.

…for your answers.

…for my questions.

…for the time to slow down and just “be.”

…for your promises (Matthew 11:28).

…for your love.”

A Chair in the Woods

I hope you can find some time this week for CONTEMPLATION.

Trick or Treat? DEFINITELY Treat!!!

This morning….early this morning……I became a great-aunt for the first time.  I cannot wait to meet the newest addition to our family, Kendall Elizabeth!  I find it utterly amazing that you can love someone you’ve never met; but it’s true….my heart is so full it’s spilling out my eyes in the form of tears.

Kendall Elizabeth

Born 10/30/13 @ 1:43 a.m.

7 lbs 15 oz.

21″ long

I know it’s a day before Halloween, but I’ve decided Kendall’s nickname should be Treat!!!!

Congratulations to Ashley and Jason.  I am so proud of Ashley it’s crazy.  She is so strong and beautiful and kind.  She’s going to be an amazing mom! I can’t wait to see her in action.  And I’m so proud of Jason too.  Although I haven’t known him his whole life like I have Ashley; I can tell he’s going to make one heck of a dad.  His calm personality will serve him well if Kendall is anything like her mom!

And I’m so excited for Ashley’s sister (my older niece), Vanessa….today she joined a very elite society…..The Aunt’s Club!  With it come a lot of benefits (in fact, the benefits are endless) and responsibilities.  Among other things, Vanessa will have to buy the “happy 7 week birthday” cake, do arts and crafts that are potentially harmful to her eyesight, have many sleepovers, remember to feed Kendall dinner when she babysits, and always carry gum!!!!

This morning when I got the announcement that Kendall had finally showed up to the party, I woke Jeff to let him know.  I told him she’d been born and groggily said something like, “We’re great somethings now” to which Jeff replied (even just seconds out of a deep sleep), “I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been great.”  Ugh…..see what I have to live with?

I look forward to the many adventures of Kendall.  I have been blessed WWWWWAAAAAYYYYY more richly than I deserve!!!

DOn’t quIT

For some reason I feel led to share this poem today.  I truly am not sure why; but by now I have learned to obey rather than question!!!

DOn’t quIT [emphasis mine]

 

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

 

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow – –

You may succeed with another blow.

 

Often the goal is nearer than,

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

How close he was to the golden crown.

 

Success is failure turned inside out – –

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

And you can never tell how close you are,

It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit!

 

Author Unknown

I may not know exactly who this is supposed to reach or what they are going through, but I know what it’s like to feel like quitting.  And I know what it’s like to persevere.  No trial is easy, but I can tell you that I would not trade any of the trials I have gone through – they have made me who I am today.  The trials have made me stronger (although I still have moments of weakness), smarter (although I still have my share of dopey moments), and more confident (although I still have my share of moments of doubt).

If you’re reading this and it’s not for you; please, please, please pass it along to someone else – you never know who is struggling!!!  Here’s to perseverance!!!!