Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat!

A few years ago my nephew, Cooper, and my niece, Avery, called and told me they had sent something to me in the mail.

They were all giggly and excited and wouldn't tell me what it was about. And I'm not ashamed to say it worked... the two little instigators totally got me excited with anticipation. They wouldn't tell me what it was about, where it was from or what it was for.

Then the mail came. And I laughed really hard. And then I put the item to use. And I about peed myself laughing. So, without further ado, I show you the end result of their great shopping excursion:

IMG_0535 "Lassie... I am your father..." 

He chewed up the headpiece within a matter of seconds, but he's remarkably patient about the costume. So, on behalf of Riley...

   Happy Halloween!!! 

Thursday, October 30, 2008

All About the Comma

This is one of the canvases I made to auction off at Relay for Life this year, and it's the phrase that stuck in my head all day yesterday as we watched together to see how little Stellan was going to do after he was born.

The thing is, if Stellan's family would have taken the news from the doctors 23 weeks into the pregnancy and put a period at the end of that sentence, he might not be here today. They could have heard, "Your son's death is imminent." Instead, they put a comma at the end of that statement and heard, "Your son's death is imminent, so now what do we try?" And they tried, and they hoped. They didn't believe foolishly that all would turn out as they wanted and be easy just because they had faith. They believed that whatever was in God's will would be ok, but they wouldn't stop trying until He made His will known.

It's all about the comma.

I've had to remind myself of that from time to time. Ok, not from time to time. All the time. In reality, the odds of something great happening to improve my health are very slim. The odds are I'll keep getting worse. There have been new medications that can improve my quality of life, but my body has rejected them all. I've gotten to the point where I don't just react to wool and flowers anymore, I react to the air. To someone's lotion. To additives. To picc lines. To everything.

There are new drugs on the horizon that hold promise... but the moment I get excited about them a voice creeps in, "Those won't work for you, remember? Your body will reject them." And then I have to balance accepting my reality, with a comma.

Odds are that new medications won't help me, but there's always hope. Stellan's odds were against him, but they held onto hope. My friend Kelly is always changing the "ifs" in our conversations to "when." She's always reminding me that until something is done, it contains hope.

Stellan has me thinking about that today... 

So I wanted to remind all of you to keep the commas in your lives, too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Let's Move a Mountain


Click here to see PHOTOS OF STELLAN :)

From her Twitter (a little before 3pm):

Prince Charming and I JUST got back from seeing was my first time to see and hold my baby!! Pure bliss.

This is directly pulled from her website:

Big Mac, MckNugget and Small Fry joyfully announce that they now have another brother!!

Our long-awaited little MckMuffin has finally arrived...

entered the world this sunny fall morning
at 10:19 am, CST
weighing 6 pounds, 10 ounces
and measuring 19 inches long

As you can imagine, there is a lot going on here at the hospital. Please thank God with us that little Stlellan is here and be in prayer for these first hours of his precious life. 

The NICU attended the birth--which went very smoothly--and Stellan is with the NICU team now. MckMama is recovering and, in spite of a pretty low blood pressure, is feeling well. She has seen Stellan only briefly, but Prince Charming has been back and forth between her and baby Stellan. When she is stable, she'll be wheeled on her bed down to see their new baby.

Details on exactly how Stellan is doing as well as photos of the sweet baby will be forthcoming. But, let's just say that Stellan got a 9 and a 9 on his APGARS and the NICU team has yet to find a single thing wrong with him...

Happy birthday, sweet Stellan. You are God's miracle to us and you are finally here!!!!


My original post today:

I love the story about the guy who worked hard all of his life but was tired of being poor. So he prayed diligently every day for years and years that he would win the lottery, and every time the weekly lottery was announced he was sorely disappointed. Finally one night in prayer he cried out, "God, I have been so faithful and worked so hard... why can't you just do this one thing for me?" Finally God spoke to him and said, "I'd love to help you out, but first you have to buy the ticket."

I think life is a delicate balance of trusting in our faith and belief, and taking action to help ourselves. One can't exist without the other, but each must be done with careful prayer and consideration. As another saying goes, "God said we could move mountains. But He never said we wouldn't need a shovel."

I have come to know a woman who embodies that balance. I told you all about her when I listed my seven favorite blogs last week and MckMama's was one of them:

MckMama: My Charming Kids
     Even though we've emailed back and forth I just now realized I only know her by MckMama. On her blog she gave the family McDonald-esque names, so she has a 3-year-old named Big Mac, a 2-year-old named MckNugget, and a 1-year-old named Small Fry. The newest edition to the family will be born next week and we know his real name... Stellan. He has health conditions they have been concerned about, early on saying he wouldn't make it to birth - but here he is. She is faithful, insightful, a great photographer and really ridiculously funny.

Stellan (soon to be known as MckMuffin) is going to be born this morning at 9:30am and I would consider it a personal favor if you could all stop at some point in the day and pray for him and his mom. Throughout the pregnancy Stellan has been diagnosed with multiple problems. At 23 weeks they were told that Stellan's death was imminent. But he's been stronger than they thought. MckMama has done everything medically possible to help her boy, at times taking medications for his heart that puts her own health in danger. She has taken her shovel and done everything in her power to move the mountain that has been put before her family, and has trusted God every step of the way to give her the strength to lift each mound of dirt.


So today, Stellan will be born. As soon as he is, he will go through many tests to determine what will be done for his enlarged heart and MckMama has all the faith in the world that things will go as they are supposed to. And I think it would be great if we could all put our faith behind her, too. Today we can send her all our prayers and strength and help her move a mountain.

Thanks for doing this for me, people. It's lovely to have such a great group of friends to go to when it counts. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm a Twit


My new friend Tam, who I met through this blog world, has been pestering me in her not-so-subtle-ways that I should join Twitter. I've resisted... partly because it's fun to be a little ornery and partly because I've already pretty much committed my day to being obsessed with reading blogs. And one obsession at a time is enough, right?

Apparently not. Because on Sunday she broke down the last of my defenses and I signed up for an account. And it took me all of three seconds to love it. Here's why:

It takes no brainpower. It takes none of my energy. It gives me something to do that I can actually accomplish without making me physically feel worse. Win-win-win.

Twitter is a weird phenomenon where you write random thoughts or things about your day, but each "tweet" (yep, that's what an entry is called) can only be 140 characters long. Then you sign up to follow your friends and they follow you, and before you know it there's a bunch of random snippets about people. Everyone can reply to each other and you end up with a day-long conversation about nothing.

Seinfeld would love it.

I like it because when I need a distraction I can look and see what people are up to, reply if I want or don't if I'm not in the mood. It's not like email where you feel guilty if you don't reply and it's not time consuming because your words are limited.

Unless you're bored and interested in what everyone in the real world is doing... because then it can be very time consuming. Trust me. So, for a girl who loves hearing stories about the day my friends have had and living vicariously through their crazy busy lives, this has turned out to be quite entertaining.

And thanks to Tam, I'm officially a twit. Which isn't a flattering term. But I still don't think it's as bad as the fact that my sister Laura used to live on Nimrod Street. I'm just sayin'.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Got Churched

People, I'm so relieved. Because it would have really sucked to write this post if I wouldn't have liked Matthew's book. Lucky for me, it lived up to all the hype. :)


First things first: I love his writing style. There's not a moment of lag during the entire tale, and you see where his active imagination as a child pays off. Without even trying you are in his childhood kitchen as he tries so diligently to avoid the sin of dillydallying, or sitting on the bus as he turns people away from sitting in the seat he saved for Jesus. Matthew is a storyteller through and through. And he manages to find humor in the things most of us wouldn't.

In truth, Matthew and I couldn't have had more different religious upbringings. As a member of the Independent Bible Baptist Church, Matthew's family would have been praying for the souls of my Catholic family in hopes we'd become Christians. While we both went to private Christian schools, my textbooks contained information on evolution and his explained that dinosaurs are extinct because Noah couldn't fit them on the ark.

You know, little differences like that.

I think the biggest difference is that, while I knew that hell and the devil were real, they were the side note during the lessons about how much Jesus loves us, forgives us and wants us to choose right because we love him, too.

As Matthew explained, hell was the major component of the belief system he was raised on. That came through brilliantly in his retelling of the boxing matches between his pastor and the devil in red leggings on the altar of the church... or when the Sunday school teacher pulled out a Barbie and lit her on fire to show them how hot and scary hell would be if they ever sinned or smoked. The fact that he managed to tell those stories in a way that didn't belittle anyone and had me laughing out loud means that Matthew has a gift.

What struck me most is that while we lived such different lives, there were so many ways I could still relate. As kids we all have big imaginations and questions. I had my own rules I was nervous about: like the Sunday morning shortly after I had made my first communion and I came to my mom in tears because there was only 45 minutes until church and I had just eaten cereal... breaking the rule of not eating an hour before communion. I was just lucky to have a mom that helped me figure out that communion was a good half hour into the Mass so I had still met the deadline.

There were times in the book when I was laughing out loud on every page, times when I wanted to reach back in time and put my arm around the kid who was scared something horrible would happen to his mother as punishment for forgetting to read his bible passages that morning, and times I could relate to the confusion of a kid that wanted to do right even when he wasn't sure what right was.

Matthew opened my eyes to a world I have never experienced, and did it in a way that allowed me to relate to him... his transparency and sincerity made this a book that taught me something new, took me back to old memories and reminded me that at the end of the day we all want to do our best... some just go about it much differently than others.

Mostly, it made me grateful that I've gotten the chance to find Matthew's blog, appreciate his family and read his book. And I think you should all do the same. :)

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Wee Bit Giddy

Remember how I posted yesterday about the cool people I've met in the blog world and directed you to some of their sites?

I feel the need to clarify that I wrote that post BEFORE what I'm about to tell you happened. Because what I'm about to tell you is really cool and crazy fun and ridiculously kind. I'm still a little giddy. And I want to clarify that it didn't sway my post yesterday in any way, shape or form. At all.


See that photo above? All the cool things on my counter? They came in a box. In the mail. Like a care package for NO REASON WHATSOEVER. Just because.

Did I mention the giddy part?

So, I've been following Jessica's and Matthew's blogs for quite a few months. Jessica I talked about in yesterday's post and Matthew is her husband... an amazing writer who just released a new book called Churched, and the tag line of the book pretty much says it all, "One kid's journey toward God despite a holy mess." See... it's even funny before you get to the first page.

Anyway, I go to the mailbox and Jessica has sent me a care package full of fun stuff that is so me. I told her if she would have thrown in a candy bar she would have covered all my basic life needs. :) There is scrapbook paper, chipboard letters, canvases, embellishments... anything a girl could need for creative endeavors.

Then Matthew threw in three of his books... with a signed copy of his new one for me to read. (I'm not going to lie, I feel cool about that.) There you have my intellectual needs.

Both of these lovely people are friends with Pastor Pete, whose blog I frequent, so he threw in some cd's of his sermons to listen to at my leisure. I love that he gives his messages in a series so you can focus on one main topic for a few weeks and really delve into it. Thanks, Pete, for covering the spiritual need part of the care package.

Do you see where the whole overwhelmed and giddy thing is coming from? Here's the thing... I did nothing to deserve this. Jessica just did it because she is that kind of nice. You know, the kind whose mission in life is to make you happy for no reason.

And I don't know how to say thank you big enough. And it came on a week when the weather's been icky and my body's been less than fun ... and while everything around me is cloudy I feel like I've had sunshine on my face for days.

I might be the most spoiled human on the planet. I am specifying human because of the dog snoozing on my lap who whimpers every time I put my hands on the keyboard. But as far as humans go... no contest.

Check back Monday and I'll give you a review of Matthew's new book (you know, the one I have a signed copy of because I'm cool)... and I'll let you all know if he's really as funny as I think he is. Hopefully I'll get it read between listening to Pete's cds and playing around with Jessica's scrap supplies.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Honest Weblog...

When I first started blogging I had these dire warnings from people wary of the Internet...

"Don't put too much information about yourself; people are crazy out there."
"Don't talk too much about your faith, people judge so harshly."
"You're seriously emailing people back? You don't know who they are... they could be pretending to be anybody."

I'm so glad I didn't listen. Here's what I've discovered about the blogging world: it's very similar to the real world outside your door. Who you surround yourself with is going to affect who you continue to become.

I am so fortunate I've found people to be as wonderful in the blog world as I've found in every other stage of my life. People who think like me, people who don't think like me, people who make me laugh and others who challenge me.

Recently Tam, one of those wonderful people, put me in a post where she acknowledged other bloggers who she always enjoys, without fail. Tam's blog (InProgress) is one I go to every day because she
quantifies "all of the above." She challenges me, makes me laugh, incites conversation and welcomes so kindly.

Here are the rules of the "Honest Weblog" prize:

“When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back.

Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or more) that you find brilliant in their content or design. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing them they were prized with ‘Honest Weblog’.

List [if you can and/or dare] at least ten honest things about yourself. And then, pass it on.”

So here are seven people (besides Tam) who I visit every day and have come to admire...

Angie: Bring the Rain
     Angie is an incredibly faithful, funny, kind-hearted and honest woman. She began blogging when she was pregnant with her fourth daughter, Audrey, who died shortly after birth, and has encouraged an amazing number of people simply by being herself. Basically, I want to be like Angie when I grow up.  
Pete: Without Wax
     Pete is pastor at Cross Point church in Nashville, and I've talked about his sermons in other posts. He is a soulful and mindful person who challenges my thoughts every day on his blog.
Brandi: Brandi & Boys 
     And Brandi is Pete's lovely wife who totally keeps it real. They have three of the cutest boys you've ever seen (which is saying a lot when you consider how cute I find my nephews), and her honest, caring and fun nature comes through so effortlessly on her blog.
Anita: Mud and Coffee
     Anita commented on my blog one day and now she can't get rid of me. She's funny and sarcastic and kind and very prayerful. She's a lovely friend.
Liz: Mabel's House
     I think Liz and I might be sisters but were separated at birth. And she's talented enough that she could write a story about that. She and her husband live in a quaint little home with their dog Mabel, who might be as spoiled as Riley... and she has written a wonderful young adult book that you can download for free here: The Secret of Cold Springs
MckMama: My Charming Kids 
     Even though we've emailed back and forth I just now realized I only know her by MckMama. On her blog she gave the family McDonald-esque names, so she has a 3-year-old named Big Mac, a 2-year-old named MckNugget, and a 1-year-old named Small Fry. The newest edition to the family will be born next week and we know his real name... Stellan. He has health conditions they have been concerned about, early on saying he wouldn't make it to birth - but here he is. She is faithful, insightful, a great photographer and really ridiculously funny.
Jessica: The Life, Faith & Creativity of Jessica Turner
     I love Jessica. I love her husband Matthew. They are kind, fun, creative, talented and faithful people. And while I could gush over the both of them endlessly, you should look at her blog if for no other reason than to lay eyes on her little boy, Elias. I don't know if it's ok to describe children in edible terms, but I look at him and think, "delicious."

So, there you go... the seven people I'm giving the honest weblog prize/shout out to. Now here are 10 honest things about me:

  1. I have had naturally straight hair in my life, and naturally curly hair in my life. Which makes me an enigma wrapped in a riddle.
  2. I rarely defend myself, but would fight like crazy for any of my friends.
  3. It takes a lot to offend me or make me angry.
  4. I spent most of the 90's trying to eat as little as possible and now because of steroids I'm pretty sure I've consumed all the food I missed out on back then.
  5. Pretty much everything I'm good at I've stumbled upon by accident.
  6. I miss singing and dancing more than just about anything.
  7. If I was well tomorrow the first thing I'd do is hop in a car and travel to see all my nieces and nephews so they'd know how important they are.
  8. My dog keeps me sane.
  9. When I was little I wanted to be a nun with 9 kids.
  10. I eventually learned the rules, and now I am neither a nun, nor do I have kids. Go figure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ask the Answer

I used to love watching Touched By An Angel. That doesn't shock you, does it? But when you grow up in a house that didn't allow Three's Company because two girls were living with a guy, it was that or Little House on the Prairie.

Who am I kidding? I loved Little House, too. My sisters and I used to walk around with baby blankets on our heads to mimic their long hair. The only drawback was that, as the youngest, I always had to play the role of Carrie. Let's face it, she was the dull Ingalls sister and they certainly never had an episode revolve around her antics.

Anyway... back to Touched By An Angel. There was an episode where Roma Downey's character was in some sort of trouble (for an angel she was a bit on the scatterbrained side) and, as always, Della Reese's character stepped in to give her guidance. But it was always some sort of riddle with her... she'd want to help Roma's character without coming right out and telling her what to do.

I don't remember what the issue was, but the riddle that Della gave has always stuck with me. She said that when confronting a problem, you should always ask the answer.

I spent the episode as befuddled as Roma's character. Did she mean ask someone what the answer was? Did she mean to start with an answer and see if it fit the question? Hmm? What? Huh?

In the end it turned out she was saying that God is the answer to anything and everything, if we just remember to ask Him the questions. Ask Him into our lives. Ask Him to guide us in the right direction. Ask Him... because He not only has the answers, He is the answer.

Funny how a simple television show with bad acting can make such a difference, but that phrase pops into my head a lot. There are many times I feel like I'm groping around in the dark trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing and how I'm supposed to be making a difference with the life I'm given. But I have found that when I'm stumbling around it's usually because I've forgotten to keep it simple.

Instead of simplicity, I find myself stuck in a merry-go-round of thoughts in my head... leaving me not knowing what to pray for or even where to start. And it's usually in those moments when I remember to ask the Answer.

I keep it so simple that my prayer is just, "God, help me to know what it is you want me to say. What you need me to want. Help me to know how to do this." It's good for me to remember that even when life is so crazy and you're not sure what to ask for, all you need to do is tell God you're at a loss. Ask the Answer and then leave it in His hands.

Sometimes it takes awhile, but sooner or later I always find the words I need or a direction to follow. So if you're ever feeling stuck, just remember to ask the Answer. It'll always come to you.

And for the record, I did eventually get to watch Three's Company. There's something to say for being the youngest and having older siblings to loosen up the parents a bit. I guess playing Carrie is the price I had to pay for good television later on...


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Last Minute Lunch Date...

A couple weekends ago on a Sunday morning, my phone rang sometime around 9am. I'm not going to lie to you... I heard it. I just didn't care. This habit my body has created of not falling asleep until three or four in the morning is starting to make me feel like a baby that has its days and nights mixed up.

So anyway, I heard the phone somewhere in the deep and distant recesses of my mind, and then spent the next two hours dreaming about answering phones, dreaming about phone messages and dreaming about throwing phones out the window. (Medications give me very vivid dreams...)

When I finally dragged my butt out of bed and remembered to check the voice mail, I discovered my brother Jerry was calling to say he and Anna were on their way to my town for a soccer game. They had the towns mixed up and realized that morning they were heading in my direction.

Now THAT is a call that would have been worth waking up for. When I talked to him they had already started the first game ... but the soccer field is only about five minutes from my house, so they came for lunch during the hour or so between games. And when I say they came for lunch, what I mean is that he picked up Panera and we ate it at my house. I just didn't want you all to suddenly think I'm domesticated or something.

I have to say it kind of killed me to have Anna playing five minutes away and not be able to go outside to cheer her on and brag to everyone on the sidelines that I'm her aunt. Even as I'm typing this I know how much I probably would have embarrassed her by screaming at the top of my lungs and taking credit for every goal she made... telling everyone I taught her everything she knows. :) It would be like when she was little and her mom would make up cheers to yell during her games.

But let's be honest... embarrassing children is one of the perks of being an adult. It's like a rite of passage or something.

Which is why I had so much fun getting to sit across the table from the girl and ask all sorts of embarrassing questions about boys and school and stuff. She had her friend Emily with her, which only added to the possibility of extracting information. (Not that they offered much... Jerry even offered Emily $20 for some good dish and she still didn't spill. Heck, I was willing to make stuff up for the $20 but that didn't fly either.) I did, however, get to hear stories about her brothers that can only be told from the perspective of an older sister. Man, I miss those little stinkers.

But mostly, it made me realize that while I'm grateful Skype has given me the ability to see her when she got her braces off and chat with her and the other kids when they are home at Mom and Dad's for holidays or random weekends, there's no replacement for getting to hug her and my brother in person.

And there's one more aspect that Skype didn't account for...

In the year or so since I've seen her in person, Anna suddenly grew tall enough to be able to look down at me. Which means the next time she comes, her Aunt Sara will be wearing heels.

Monday, October 20, 2008

So, So Much?

Have you noticed that four-year-olds seem to have bigger personalities than their years alive would indicate?

I was chatting with Susie the other day (in case you haven't noticed by now, that's a frequent occurrence) and she told me that when she was dropping Tyler off at preschool he had to go potty... so she accompanied him to the restroom and waited with him while he took care of business. The thing about Tyler is that no matter what the circumstances, he always has something to say, is always chatty and always animated.

So they're chatting away in the bathroom and, as he often does, he declared he loved her, "So, so, so, so, so MUCH!"

She, of course, returned the sentiment.

But then he looked at her ominously, his entire demeanor changing on a dime, and told her, "You know, last night I was really mad at you. And when you tucked me in I only told you I love you so, so much. And I was so mad at you that I almost only said one 'so'."

Susie, wide-eyed and somehow refraining from laughing, said, "Wow. Only one 'so'? Whew. That's pretty serious."

"Yeah," he said, "But I was really mad."

I honestly hurt myself from laughing so hard when she told me about it. He is such a little stinker, that godson of mine. But I have to say, I love his approach. Instead of disliking his mom because he was angry, he just dropped a "so" or two (or three) until he cooled off. Sometimes I wonder if it would serve us all well to simply monitor our use of "so."

I've noticed in this political season that no one is emailing to tell me who they like or express a positive opinion. Instead, I have people either telling me that one is an incompetent terrorist or the other is a hothead serving as the mouthpiece of George Bush. The constant negativity wears me out... I see it hurting friendships and dividing people. Today, it's the election. Next month it may be religion, or your choice of public vs. private school, or whether you say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.

I'm just wondering during the last stretch of this election ... and beyond it to other issues that will inevitably cause varied opinions in our daily lives ... if it's possible to stay focused on what we have in common rather than that which divides us.

Because I think fundamentally we all want the best for each other, ourselves and the world at large... we just may believe in going about it in different ways. Call me Pollyanna, but wouldn't it be great if we could follow Tyler's lead? Instead of putting people down and saying how much we hate someone else's beliefs we could leave the hate behind and just say we only agree with each other "so much" instead of "so, so, so, so, so much"? My opinion: there's always a way to find a place of common purpose in the midst of the insanity. 

When I played Anne Frank in the play, The Diary of Anne Frank, the last line I had to say was, "Despite everything, I believe people are really good at heart."

I couldn't agree with her more.

And I think Tyler would agree with her, too. Even if he's only feeling one "so" from time to time, this little gesture from Ty to his mom shows that the love in his equation will always remain:

IMG_1448 bw

As long as we all keep love in the equation I think we'll be fine, too.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Stepping Stones

For someone who enjoys words and writing (and let's be honest... talking) so much, I am an extremely visual person. If you ask me what 5 + 4 equals my brain is going to visualize two dice, one with five dots and one with four dots, and then I'll be able to tell you the answer is 9. But I never just think nine without the visual.

And that paragraph pretty much sums up why the mere mention of the words "timed test" gives me a panic attack.

I think that's why I like praying the rosary so much. It's easier for me to get into the repetition and flow of the words, and then visualize those I'm praying for and what I am asking. Even if it's just to see them at peace and feeling loved. That is a more sincere and intentional way for me to pray so I'm not distracted by trying to find the right words and getting lost in the "supposed to's" of prayer.

I have the same tendency while writing. Often while typing I have no idea what words are going to come onto the screen until after they are there. I don't think of the words in my head and form the sentences. Instead I am usually thinking of the memory or visualizing my meaning, and from that picture in my head comes the words. Weird, I know... but that's how I work. Oftentimes I sit down to write a post and just ramble on until it's finished, and when I go back to read it and proof it I'm thinking to myself, "Wow. I wonder where that came from."

That happened the other day when I was typing a comment on another blog. There was an ongoing discussion in the comment section and I wrote, "No moment from my God is a rock of burden, it's just a rock waiting to be broken apart into stepping stones."


After I typed it I sat with the idea for awhile and realized that is the exact visual I get when something is weighing on me, but I had just never put it into words before. Whether we are facing a financial burden, a health issue, an employment decision or a personal loss... these are all things that we have to walk through, conquer or accept. They can look like boulders and feel like burdens that weigh so heavy on our shoulders we don't know how we can possibly keep moving or recover.

Now picture that burden, that rock that is so large and heavy, and break it up into pieces. It's not so difficult to carry when you take a piece at a time... what can be done now, what needs to be thought about, and what will come in the future (the unknown of every equation). When that rock is in manageable pieces you are able to stop carrying them and instead lay them out into a path you can travel down.

Are you selling your business? That is a stepping stone to your next job or venture. Are you moving? Maybe this is your opportunity to meet someone significant; maybe it's just a stepping stone to your next opportunity or destination. Did you not get the job you wanted? Maybe God has a plan for a better job a month from now. Are you grieving? Your tears are a step in a process that will take you to a peaceful heart. Those rocks only weigh us down if we are standing still and trying to hold them up on our own.

Set the rock down. Break it apart. Pray for trust and start taking steps on the stones that God lays out before you. The terrain may be rough, but the destination is worth every step of the journey.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Warning to All Acquaintances:


You know, I had seen this cartoon years ago (back when I was living at home with my parents and still got the paper), but since I've taken up blogging it's taken on a whole new significance.

Case in point: earlier this week I was cutting up an apple to use as a means to an end for consuming my favorite dip. Now, my hand strength isn't what it used to be and slicing the apple takes a bit of "oomph" that sometimes my arm and shoulder don't have. Put those two things together and you get the apple slipping out of my hand while trying to put a lot of effort into cutting. That combination resulted in this:


This photo leaves us with two questions:

1. How is it that I only made one downward slice and managed to cut my finger twice, in perfectly parallel cuts?

2. Why was my first instinct, after saying a word I shouldn't type here, to grab my camera rather than clean the cut?

Because I'm a blogger now, people. And my view of life has gone from thoughts like, "Ow, I cut my finger." to "Ow. Yea! Something just happened that's out of the ordinary... now I have something to blog about tomorrow." This type of transformation happened once before when I started scrapbooking. Suddenly I was no longer randomly taking photographs, but instead taking photos at family gatherings in a manner that lent itself to the scrapbook layout in my head.

In other words, people... if you are in my life you are either seen as an element in a future scrapbook layout or fodder for a future blog post. Consider yourself warned.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Moments of Surrender

I was going through a bunch of emails last night that had gotten pushed further down on the list and deleting ones that I had already read or responded to (I'm a little anal about trying to keep things organized). I came across this question from one of you blog-folk: Vicky wrote, "Can I ask you... was there a "moment" of surrender for you or were there "moments?"

I kind of liked the idea of getting to write about things you all want to talk about. So here's an idea: whenever you have a specific question you want to ask or a topic you'd like to talk about, click that "Email Me" link off to the right and type "Blog Question" in the subject line. It can be something nosy, something serious, or something ridiculous -- as long as it doesn't involve Math I'll probably try to take a stab at it. You know, within reason. Now that we're getting to know each other a little better it's nice to have your input, too.

As for Vicky's question, I think it's a daily process. I have to say I think I have the advantage of growing up in a home that encouraged my faith. There was never a moment when I first learned about God... He was just always a part of my world, always a part of a discussion, always a part of the routine. When I was little, Mom would wake us up by coming in the room and singing, "Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory..." We prayed at mealtime, before going to bed, observed the rules during Lent and prayed during Advent while lighting the candles on the Advent wreath that Dad made on our fireplace mantel. No one was beating on a bible. It was just a part of our everyday life.

But I think when you're a kid, believing and trusting go hand-in-hand more easily. As I got older, believing was never a problem. Trusting was a whole other story. I knew God could do anything, but as I started to be able to question and rationalize, the question of why He would spend time on little old me was perplexing. The idea that my seemingly huge junior high problems of mean girls could be fixed by someone who wasn't in the room when they were spreading rumors seemed ludicrous.

But then I got older still and started realizing that God could fix all those things. But He doesn't fix them by sealing shut the mouth of the girl spreading lies. He fixes the problem when I ask Him to fix ME. I believe He can do anything. I think He can physically heal me, I think He can stop a tornado and halt a flood. But I think what is most powerful is when He lets natural things happen and lets people use their free will, and at the same time fixes my heart and spirit to handle them.

That's kind of what my Peace post was all about. Over the course of the last 15 years I have had progressive stages of getting sicker and developing more pain. And I had many moments of surrender to walk through them. Just when I thought I had a handle on things something else would happen and I would start learning to accept it all over again. Only each time, I didn't start over... I had a little more head start from the time before. Each time it took less time to get to the point where I could take a deep breath and say, "Ok. There is nothing that You and I together cannot handle."

Charles Caleb Colton said, "It is good to act as if. It is even better to grow to the point where it is no longer an act." That is how I feel this process has been for me. I acted as God wanted me to even when I didn't want to. There would be times when I would lay down and think... when do I get to have my nervous breakdown? When do I get to just lose it? But I knew deep down that if I trusted Him to handle it, even when I didn't feel like He was handling it, that it would be ok. And so step by step I acted as I knew I should... and now it's not an act or an effort.

When I have moments of frustration, be it with my health, with another person, with a situation... I remember that junior high lesson and stop asking God to change the other person, change the situation, change my health. I ask Him to change my heart and steady my soul... to see what He needs me to see and be who He needs me to be. Those are my moments of surrender, and I think as long as I'm breathing I'll have to keep repeating that process.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mascots Have Birthdays, Too

Oh, it's a big day here on the Gitzen Girl blog, people. As you can see from the smattering of photos throughout the page, this blog has a mascot. And that mascot has a birthday. TODAY. So as a way of acknowledging that I have completely lost touch with reality and am totally over-invested in my dog, everyone say...


That's right. Mr. Riley Joseph turns five years old today.

Get ready for the "Awww Factor" people, because you've never seen cute like this before. This is Riley at 9 weeks old, on the first day he came home. He was 2.5 pounds and snuggled perfectly in my hand. He was so little, in fact, that I had to buy him the smallest cat collar I could find. He didn't really need a collar since I had no intention of putting him on a leash (it was December when I got him... he would have frozen outside). The sole purpose of the collar was because he was very small and quiet, and there were moments I couldn't find the little stinker. He'd be under the couch, under the bed, in a shoe in the closet... the dog needed a bell. And cat collars just happen to have them. It was so darn cute hearing that bell jingle through the room.


I had been sick and just had surgery on my sinuses, so I wasn't going to be able to drive the few hours to pick him up. At the time my friend Susie's mom Linda (my grocery-getting angel) lived close to the breeder, so they met halfway and Linda picked up the pup. He spent the night at her house, where Susie's brother Steve was visiting for the weekend. Steve took off with Riley the next day and drove him here to Cedar Falls and delivered him with a bow right at my front door.

I was jumping through my skin I was so excited to get my hands on that puppy. I didn't have the money to get him myself so I had asked for a dog for Christmas the previous couple of years... but I think my parents were reluctant because of my physical situation and thinking it would be too much for me to take care of him. I knew, though, that it was just what I needed to not feel so alone. And man I was right. I don't even mind that I had to wait for my parents to get on board because I can't imagine another dog on earth that would have made me this happy.

Susie, Jenny, Kelly, Meg and their kids all came to see me at different points that day. (Don't you love people who get as excited about your life as you do?) Riley ate up the attention, but always came right back over to me and sat in my lap, or touched my leg or curled up by my hand. Just like now, from day one he had to be touching me to feel that all was ok with the world. And since that day I feel totally lost without that warm fluff of fur right next to me.

The only difference is that the pipsqueak that always wanted me to hold him went from this:

To this:

And I can guarantee you, his toy hotdog didn't shrink.

The 2.5 pound puppy that was supposed to max out at 6 pounds is now an enormous 11 pound dog with a 90 pound attitude. In dog years we're the same age now (35), and it's starting to make sense why he tries to be the boss of everything ... because in another year he's going to be the oldest member of this household.

And quite frankly, I'm doomed.

Monday, October 13, 2008

I Have No Filter

So... now what?

That was my exact thought as I sat down to write a blog tonight because I spent the week before last consumed with taking pictures. And I spent last week writing about them at length to show you people every detail of my daily existence.

So I'm just going to tell you a ridiculous story about myself to kick off the week. What could be better than you laughing at my idiocy???

When I went to college at UNI, my Aunt Janella worked at St. Stephen's, the Catholic Student Center on campus. My brother Hoody (Steve) also went to UNI and so I had family around, but also the freedom to make my own way. Having them there also made it very easy for me to feel like I belonged at church on Sundays since Janella was always there and Hoody went with me as well.

(Just as I'm writing this I'm wondering if Hoody always went to church before I came to college or if he did it for my sake... scratch that -- Mom, I'm sure Hoody always went to church.)

So anyway, it took all of three seconds for me to get involved at St. Stephen's. Over the years I was a cantor, I helped plan liturgies, a lector, a greeter, I participated and led retreats... basically they couldn't get rid of me. It was a new building that housed the chapel but also had a great lounge, classrooms, a kitchen and dining hall... really anything you can think of, which means even my friends on campus that didn't really care about church often hung out if for no other reason than it was a great place to study.

While I was in college the community was really growing and membership was up to the point where they decided to form a Discipleship Council. There were twelve student members who helped the staff in shaping the vision for the Center, as well as working on outreach and fundraising. It was a great way to not only give the students a voice, but also give us hands-on experience in preparing us for knowing what it would be like to be on parish councils or other such things when we were out of college and in the real world.

Never one to turn down the chance to be involved (can you tell I never liked having down time?) I was a member of the Discipleship Council and served on it for a few years. My last year as a member I was already in quite a bit of pain, trying to work and finish up classes to graduate. We were in the middle of a fundraising effort that included a raffle with some pretty great prizes. First prize was $5000, second was 2 airline tickets, and I have no recollection of third prize, but I'm sure it was spectacular.

The reason the first two stick out in my head is that I was supposed to draw for the second prize. There was a big dinner before the drawing and I was in a lot of pain so I went to lay down in the lounge during the dinner and was waiting to do my job at the raffle. My friend Tom came and got me when it was time, so we went into the main dining hall and stepped in front of everyone to kick it off.

Tom was at the microphone, drew for the $5000 winner, announced the name and everyone cheered. The person came to the front and got the big check and their photo taken... it was all quite exciting. So then I went up to the microphone... and remember I was really tired and in pain. Which means I kind of lose that filter from my brain to my mouth.

They spin the big cylinder of tickets and I reach in and take out a stub. I flip it over to reveal the winner and say,

"Holy Shit! I drew my own name!"

In the microphone. At church. In front of the whole congregation.

I am quite sure I have never turned more red in my life and louder laughter has never been heard in that hall. My first thought, I never win anything. Second thought, I didn't want anyone to think I cheated. Third thought, I really wanted those tickets. Finally my brain got to the point where I realized I SWORE IN THE MICROPHONE.

God bless Len, the deacon at the church. He took the mic from me and said, "It's ok, Sara, I've heard you say worse during Mass."

I guess there really is something to say for being loved and accepted for who you really are.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Week In The Life, Part 5

Yep, you know it. I was totally saving the best for last in this, my fifth and final installment, Living the Life of Riley:

IMG_1887 indie m Spoiled? Who, me? What?

If you look up the term on Wikipedia, it says, "Living the Life of Riley suggests an ideal life of prosperity and contentment, possibly living on someone else's money, time or work. Rather than a negative, freeloading or gold-digging aspect, it instead implies that someone is kept or advantaged."

Uhmm... yeah, that about sums it up. When I first got my pup he came with personality to spare and my nephew Cooper thought it was the most hilarious thing that I had named him Riley, since he gets all "riled" up. I had neither idea in mind when I named him, but he has definitely turned out to be one crazy, temperamental, riled-up, loyal, loving and spoiled fluff of fur.

And I am telling you, I couldn't live without him.


As you can see, he's had a very hard and difficult life. And the run of the house. He has his lovely wicker kennel that you see in the first picture, as well as his own corner dog bed in the hallway with my old bathrobe that he decided should be his. I am not kidding when I say that I took my bathrobe off one morning and let it lay on the floor while I was putting on make-up and he pulled it over, bunched it up where you see it in the photo and made himself a cozy little spot where he could rest, and still see me through the bathroom door.

We might be a little attached.

The one of him in my chair is because he and I were sitting in it one night when he hopped on the floor and was whining. I couldn't figure out what he wanted so I got up... and he immediately jumped into my spot on the chair and got cozy. The little, uhm, we'll say "stinker" wanted my chair! And obviously, he got it. He'll take over any pillow, loves the one I put by the arm of the couch because it's right next to my desk chair (so I can still pet him while otherwise occupied), and his favorite spot is to sit on that blue pillow at the small of my back while I'm typing.

But he's not spoiled. Just loved. :)


And like any good ruler, the king of this castle gets hungry. For the record, he does have dog food that he decides to eat from time to time, but he really does prefer snacks. And I prefer to make him happy. :) So he gets Cheerios for doing such amazing tricks as sitting or laying down (and learning how to pose for photos). I read somewhere that Shredded Wheat was good as a snack because it helps clean tartar off their back teeth... so that one he gets because, you know, it's good for him. And the Dental Breath Tabs he LOVES, but they're really more to my benefit because I love that he has minty fresh breath.

The middle photo... that's a Nutrident bone that he gets after he's been brushed in the evening. And as much as he hates being brushed he reminds me incessantly if it gets past 8:00 and he hasn't had his bone. He's nothing if not consistent. And the bottom photo are of his go-to snacks from the fridge. He would literally do anything for a baby carrot, thinks cheese was God's gift directly to him, and loves a little white rice sprinkled on the floor for entertainment.

Ok, the white rice might be something for me to keep him occupied while I'm making a sandwich, but it works either way.

I might like him a little.


These are just a couple of my dog's regular habits. The first one of him is at the closet door in the kitchen where his bones are kept. His favorite way of saying he deserves the privilege of a bone is to stand by the door and hit it with his wagging tail, over... and over... and over...

Not that I ever give in to that. Much.

The second photo is of the greatest invention ever made: dog litter. (Isn't that a funky photo?) Did you all know that cats aren't the only litter-trained animals? This little beauty has made it possible for me to have a dog because he's completely self-sufficient. If I'm not getting up in the morning and he needs to, he doesn't pester me or wake me... when it's -20 degrees in Iowa and my dog's gotta go, we aren't going outside. I love dog litter.

And the last photo is courtesy of my friend, Susie. She was standing at the bathroom sink and he was whining, and I walk in to see this. Her response, "He was thirsty." My response... thanks, cuz we do this a lot now. Every day. Whenever I run the water in the bathroom. Apparently it's a doggy water fountain and I just hadn't been made aware yet.

So, for the record, I'm not the only one who spoils him.


Now, when I was looking for a breed of dog to get, I had a certain criteria. It needed to be small enough to use a litter box, had to be hypoallergenic, I didn't want any hair shed in my house, and it couldn't smell like a dog. Not that I was particular or anything.

Maltese fit the bill on all counts, and I took care of the last one with the supplies in the first photo. Riley actually hasn't had a full-on bath in almost two years (crazy, I know). But number one, it's a lot of work for me, and number two he never gets dirty because we never go outside. But every night he gets sprayed down with the Fast Bath waterless spray, has a great baby-powder smelling conditioning spray and has his teeth cleaned with dental wipes. I'm just saying, he's most likely cleaner than your kids.

The second photo goes to show... like-owner-like-dog. Riley has his very own old lady pill case for his morning and nighttime anti-depressant medications. In case you're new to the blog, Riley has developed some anxiety problems as I have gotten sicker and got a little too protective of me for awhile. And because I really love it when he doesn't bite people that dare to sit too close to me, and I really love it when he doesn't mark in the house, he's on antidepressants. A really large dose. I actually think it would make a great title for my memoir someday: My Life's So Crazy My Dog Is On Antidepressants! Kinda catchy, don't you think? :)

And the third photo is a product I would volunteer to do an infomercial for: If you have a dog... get a Pedi-Paws. It takes two seconds to file their nails and they aren't sharp. Some things are just worth the money.

This is Riley while watching me blog:

#1: "I'm bored."
#2: "Seriously? I could have finished that entry an hour ago." 
#3: "I'm so not kidding. If I don't get a carrot in the next twenty seconds I'm going to tell the raccoons where to find you."

And these are the daily faces of Riley: 

#1: "Sigh. It's not easy being King."
#2: "Are you sure you don't have another bone for me?"
#3: Yeah, there are no words for this one. That's just the
       he-loves-me look.


And this last one sums up why I love my dog. Everywhere I stand he hops up on the arm of the furniture to be at my height so I can pet him. I have been down with migraines all this week and he has laid in the dark and not barked or whined or pestered. And now that the migraine is getting better he's suddenly coming to me with toys and playing hide-and-seek... this little white fluff of fur totally gets me. No week-in-the-life would be alright without him.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Week In The Life, Part 4

In the spirit of keeping it real, this is the post I have no idea how to write. I want to be honest, but I don't want to be a complainer. The whole point of this project was to give you all a glimpse into my real life, but even I don't like to think about my reality more than I have to... and if it's not fun for me to look at, it certainly won't be that much fun for you to read about.

So in anticipation of that, I'll just let you know that tomorrow's post will be all about Riley, and that should keep you smiling through this fourth installment, Dealing with Disease:


Might as well just kick it off with a bang. That top photo is of my daily medications. As I was sitting with friends at Panera a few years back and opened my purse to take my meds, my friend Nick cracked himself up joking that I should get one of those old lady pill keepers. Imagine his surprised when that's exactly what I pulled out of my purse! :) As you can see in the second photo I have my days-of-the-week pill cases (not to be confused with days-of-the-week underwear that I had in grade school), and they are separated into Breakfast, Lunch, Supper and Night. My niece was very impressed with the night dosage when she watched me take a handful of 11 pills in one swallow.

I'm a professional, people, don't try that at home.

The bottom photo is of my nebulizer, which has gotten a lot of use this summer the few times I've had to venture outside and I've reacted to the air.

My reality is that I have to take medications to help my body sleep, eat, breathe, go to the bathroom, move my joints and fight off pain. Nothing in my body can't be touched by inflammation, and while it seems like these meds aren't helping that much considering my current situation, when I've had to go off of them for periods of time I've realized just how much they do help. It's hard for people who see me to believe, but my pain could actually be much worse.

There are medications out there that can help the disease more than the ones I'm taking, but my body has developed reactions to all of them. Many have been allergic reactions where I can't breathe and my throat starts to swell shut. Others that I've tried caused migraines three to four days a week. So for now I'll stick with the myriad of drugs I take and hope that someday there will be one that my body hasn't figured out how to reject yet.


Next up are my "living aids" as they are referred to by the doctor. The top photo shows my cane and my handy-dandy crutches. The cane I can get by with on very few occasions around my house, but mostly I'm on the crutches. Those ergonomic crutches have been an absolute God-send, and they have spring-like shock absorbers built in so when I push down with my hands they have some give. It really does make a huge difference since my shoulders, neck and upper back are just as impacted as my hips and legs.

Even if some part of me is feeling a little better or I think I can get away with the cane, it's safer for me to stick with the crutches because any joint can flare at any time. I can suddenly not be able to move or put pressure on my ankle, or my hip and knee will flare with pain... and that could change again in 10 minutes. So sometimes the crutches are as much for stability and balance when the odd pain pops up as they are for easing the pressure on my hips.

The second photo is of my grabber to get things off the floor or high places... although Tyler enjoys using it to take Riley's toys and move them from one room to another. :) It only makes sense that in my house their favorite toys are the grabber and the old canes and crutches shown in the last photo. Needless to say the little ones are quite accustomed to my limitations.


Oh... here's my favorite! My super-duper handy walk-in tub. You can read more about how I got it by clicking on this link, but basically it's my own version of heaven in my home. I hadn't been able to get in and out of a tub in a long time so having the ease of the walk-in feature, as well as all of the safety bars, has been great. Add in the hot water heater I got for my birthday and you get one happy girl soaking. Between the heat and the buoyancy of the water, it's really when my body feels best.


Since the episode where my friend Jenny about had a heart attack over my little Lifeline malfunction, looking at this contraption cracks me up. I'm supposed to wear that little button on my wrist and if I ever need help I hit it and the Lifeline people speak through the box in the top photo and ask if I need help. I cannot imagine a situation that would be bad enough for me to actually hit the button and endure the inevitable "She's fallen and she can't get up!" jokes that would ensue, but it's nice to know I have it if I need it. (Actually nicer for my mother to have her mind at ease that I have it if I need it.) :)


Here is the little exercise corner of my house. Across the room is the TV that shows my episodes of Alias to keep my mind diverted while I try to do different stretches and exercises on the therapy ball, as well as the elliptical machine. The elliptical, I'm convinced, is the only reason I'm still walking at all. It has a bit of rebound to the step so it helps my body do the motion, and keeps my hips mobile. I used to actually work out on the machine, but now it's less about exercise and more about short little bursts of keeping my hips and knees moving. I had saved up some money a few years back to buy a much cheaper model at Walmart. My friends Meg and Kelly came with a van to help me get it, and had with them extra money to take me to Scheel's and get this one instead. I still have no idea who all pitched in for it... they knew I would fight them on it and wanted me to take it without guilt. (My friends know me well.) So, if you are reading this and had something to do with it, know I say a little prayer for you every time I get on it... even when I'm swearing about having to do it. :)

When I was at the rheumatologist's office last time he asked me if I do any stretching, and I told him the things I do on the therapy ball. He seemed surprised and said, "Oh, you're able to try that?" I assume he thought the pain would be too much. After we left I told mom that if I knew he didn't think I could do it I would have stopped a long time ago! I know it's not optional, though, so I do the best I can.


And these photos are representative of the people who help me function. The top photo is of the groceries that Linda gets and delivers for me every Wednesday [she declined to stand next to them in the photo :)]. The second photo is of Ron, my self-proclaimed drug dealer. He's been delivering my prescriptions to me for about two years, and it's just been in the last few months that Riley has finally stopped trying to bite him! The photo makes it look like Riley is still giving him the evil eye, but really he was just in between lunges of trying to lick Ron to death. And the third photo is of the cleaning supplies Dawn uses every other week to clean my condo for me.

I also have a home nursing option for when I get sick so I can stay in my home instead of going to the hospital, and I have neighbors that are always willing to lend a hand... whether it's to take Riley for a walk, pick up his meds or take out my garbage, I can email Candace or Laura and they've never once batted an eye at helping me. I was never one to accept help easily but I have learned that most people have purely generous hearts. And I am so grateful.


And lastly, these photos show the difference between how I want things to seem versus how they are. I noticed that discrepancy as I was taking pictures last week... it was supposed to be of LIFE, not life as you'd like it to look. The photo of my bed made prettily makes it seem like any room, but in reality the head and feet are usually inclined and I am propped on pillows to sleep in an almost sitting position. The anti-gravity chair looks lovely, but usually it's situated with pillows to prop me up and so my bones aren't touching anything firm. Not as cute but much more comfortable.

                              ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

So, real life? I've gone out to eat once this year, and paid for it in pain after. I can count on my hands the number of times I've stepped foot outside my house since January, and most of those times were to go to the doctor or have blood work done. I don't drive anymore. I haven't been able to travel home to see my family because the two hour drive is too painful and sets me back. The last time I tried to go out with friends I got out of the car and my joints had frozen up and I couldn't move so they took me straight back home. Let me tell you, being stuck on a sidewalk doubled in pain on Main Street can humble a girl. I can't be around my friends if they have the sniffles because I'll wind up with pneumonia. Migraines are a regular occurrence. I haven't sat in a movie theater or gone to church in three years. I used to sing... it was my thing. I wasn't the greatest thing ever, but it was my way of connecting with people. I can't do that anymore. Most every gift I had, every talent I possessed, every freedom you can think of, I no longer have.

Bottom line, people, I am filled with joy. I'm exhausted, I'm in pain, I'm just getting by. But I am so incredibly blessed. I have a lovely home, an adorable pup, family and friends who care and people who love me, not despite my disease but because of who I am. I am blessed because I take nothing for granted. I love what I have instead of yearning for what I lack. I choose to be happy, and I am. It really is that simple, people. Start every day by being thankful and celebrate your life instead of devaluing it. I am so very grateful for each of you who lift me up and celebrate my life with me, and you should know I am celebrating each one of you every day.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Week In The Life, Part 3

When I decided to do this project, one of the reasons I broke it up into sections instead of what I do each day is because nothing ever changes. I get the same groceries every week, eat the same thing at each time of the day and basically follow the routine of a person with OCD, except I totally don't have OCD. My dog might, but that's a whole other story.

When I was first diagnosed with Spondylitis I was put on a medication that is pretty hard on your stomach (although I didn't know that at the time). It made me really sick, I mean really sick, but I was new to the whole illness scene and figured if I was supposed to take it I would. I called my doctor at Mayo to tell him I was having problems and the nurse said it was a common side effect and it would go away. A couple weeks later I called again. The nurse called back and said the doctor wanted me to stick with it for a few more weeks. By the time I called back I was living on supplement drinks and saltines and discovered the doctor had been on sabbatical all month and the nurse was flying solo. Nice. After a few more years of trying every nsaid out there, my stomach has never been the same. I now take 4x the normal dose of Protonix, 4x the normal dose of Zantac, eat Rolaids like candy and keep anti-nausea meds on hand at all times, everyday. And I still have the most temperamental stomach on the planet.

I've moved beyond saltines and rice (woo hoo!!!) but it's made me tend to stick with foods I know I can handle and not experiment too much. I think if I had more energy and stamina I would be a person who actually enjoyed trying to cook, but since I have neither of those I stick to microwaves and sandwiches. My mother, on the other hand, is the McGyver of the kitchen. Give her some string, chewing gum and a match and she'll somehow make a casserole.

But since she's not here, this is how my day starts... I now give you the third installment, I'm Not a Chef:


First, Riley gets his medicine in a piece of cheese and a baby carrot... because God forbid I eat before my dog. And then I put on my tea kettle and make some apple/cinnamon oatmeal. Now, I have no idea why I've always wanted a tea kettle that whistles, but I have. My old one was perfectly fine and did not need replacing except that it was such a let down when I put water on to boil and there was no whistle. So I got the cute orange tea kettle that whistles for me every morning. It takes so very little to make me happy.

And here is my lunch every day:


A chicken salad sandwich that I put in my George Foreman grill and pretend that it's a panini press. Desperate times, desperate measures.

Now, these are my two favorite snacks:


You can't beat a peanut butter chocolate chip granola bar. Because you can tell yourself it's healthy and still consume sugar and chocolate. Really, it's a win-win situation. And my favorite snack in the world is my granny smith apple slices with my own special dressing/dip. Yes, I make it myself. Because there are only three ingredients and I can't mess it up. And it contains a lot of sugar, which makes me happy. If you too would like to be happy mix these three things together: 2 cups sugar, 1 cup milk, 1 cup miracle whip, and add celery salt to taste (I use a lot). Heaven, people, pure heaven. The apples are really just a means to an end.

Now, supper has a couple of choices:


I'll either have a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or if I'm feeling all Martha Stewart-y I'll stand at the stove and make ramen noodles. Because I'm a culinary genius with the ramen, people.


So, here's where we take a moment of silence for the sad part of my daily food story. Once upon a time, there was a girl. And she was having a long-term love affair with Diet Mt. Dew. They were soul mates. Diet Dew was always there for her, giving her a boost... making her smile. Until one day it all ended.

Yep, for some reason during my bout with pneumonia this past year, I could no longer tolerate my Diet Mt. Dew. And then I came to realize it wasn't just the pop... I could no longer eat or drink anything with artificial sweeteners. Nutrisweet started making me nauseous, and Splenda turned out to be the devil incarnate. One sip or taste and I was sick to my stomach, sometimes with an accompanying headache. So all of my low-fat foods are out of my life (my thighs have never forgiven me) and my only beverage is this:


It's ok. I survived.

And most importantly, due to the Great No-Junk Food Fiasco of 2008 that resulted in Hershey's syrup being squirted directly into my mouth, I keep these little delights on hand at all times:


And if all else fails, I have my microwave s'mores to keep me happy.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Week In The Life, Part 2

Ok, people, you all were so crazy nice yesterday. Who knew you'd think looking at pictures of stuff laying around my house would be interesting?

I, on the other hand, am nourished every day because I'm surround by stuff... stuff that was once someone else's before it was mine. I am the queen of hand-me-downs. I love being surrounded every day by things that hold the history of someone I love. I may be alone in my house every day with my pup, but I have little pieces of the spirit of others around me all the time.

And it just so happens to be in my good fortune that all their stuff matches. :)

So here is my second installment... Connections:


That yellow corduroy chair that Riley has now claimed as his favorite is in my bedroom, but was in my parents' home all the while I was growing up. It held up well through all six of us kids, don't you think? What I remember most about this chair is when my great-uncle Don would come to visit and smoke cigars while taking up residence on that throne. And then memories of my mother trying like the dickens to get the smell out of the house once he left. It is seriously the most comfortable chair on the planet... so much so that friends drag it from the bedroom to my red room when watching movies just to be comfy.

The dresser you've seen before in my post about Grandma Flo. I am fortunate enough to have my grandparents' wedding suite of bedroom furniture. How amazing is it to know that this was the first thing they ever bought together as a married couple? I can only imagine the dreams they had for their future family and am sure they never imagined that it would keep their granddaughter thinking of them every time she walks by it.


Keeping with that same history are the chairs around my dining room table. The table is just a cheap Kmart find, but the chairs belong to a table that my mom still uses off her kitchen. My great-grandfather and his friends sat in these chairs while they played rousing games of poker. I can imagine the drinks, the stories, the money lost and won. I can imagine the family that sat in these chairs at Thanksgivings and Christmases where my history was made. They are a treasure.

And so is that chair in front of my piano. The piano that I have no idea how to play as I don't read a lick of music... but it was free and I plan on learning someday. It's a player piano that was built around 1900... you can see the pedals under the chair that make it work. Maybe if I get it fixed I'll just learn to pedal instead of read music. :) But the important part of this photo is the chair... it was given to me by my namesake and a friend of the family, Sarah Lallier. In truth she had nothing to do with my name, but when my parents brought me to see her she declared, "Oh, you gave me a namesake!" and no one wanted to burst her bubble. She didn't have a lot, but she left me a piece of her home in that chair so I carry her with me now.


These two lovelies are about my sister, Janette. That couch was one of her first big purchases for her apartment and later her home. When we moved her into her first home she wanted it in her basement... my brothers eyeballed it and said there was no way it would go down the stairs and put the kibosh on the idea. Then my dad saw Janette's disappointed face and made the couch fit down the stairs. Sometimes it takes so little to make us happy. :) She's now in a new house with no use for the couch and it sits happily in my living room, and I smile at the memory.

That painting is my favorite find ever when I was visiting Janette and we went shopping at this little second hand store in her town. I saw this on the wall and loved it ... and it was only $15!!! That was such a fun day and I was so excited. It will always have a place in my home.


These are hand-me-downs that have been God-sends for me. The bed is an adjustable bed that once belonged to my mom's best friend and my confirmation sponsor, Mary Burns. She has multiple sclerosis and used that bed for many years... as I started getting worse she remembered it was sitting in her garage getting no use and had mom and dad bring it to me. I honestly don't know what I would do if I didn't have it... I find now if I try to sleep without it adjusted and elevated I have more migraines and pain. I always seem to have what I need when I need it.

And that holds true for my anti-gravity chair. I had one that was a folding chair for my patio that turned out to be the most comfortable place for me to sit, so my sister Laura found me this one that looks a lot nicer in the house than a folding patio chair. It is used daily and feels like an embrace from a loved one every time I sit in it. I really am never alone.


Now this one is fate at it's best. I needed a couch for my red room where I spend all of my time and my Aunt Mary had this couch that she had replaced and wanted to get rid of, so my parents brought it to me one Christmas. Here's where the irony comes in: see that little valance above the couch on my window? I had that hanging there for about a year before the couch came. I'm telling you, people: fate.

And the plaid chair... well that one's a hand-me-down, but more than it was given it may have been a little bit more coerced. As in, mom didn't say, "Hey Sara, there's this chair in the basement I have no use for." as much as I said, "Hey Mom, wouldn't that chair in your basement look great in my house?" And you've got to admit... it really does. :)


And last, but not least, I have my pictures. The first one of the artist painting spots on a cow was my first Gary Kelly print (my favorite artist) given to me by Len and Gail Froyen. He's the deacon at my church and they gave it to me with the inscription on the back that reads, "To Sara: from two people who see God painting a picture of grace on the canvas of your heart." Yes, the man has a way with words. The second picture is a Gary Kelly print they gave me when I got my very first apartment after college. It was lovely to have people who were so proud of me.

The lower left picture is also a Gary Kelly, but I bought that one myself. It was commissioned for the 100th anniversary of St. Stephen the Witness Catholic Student Center, where I went to church and was very involved. It portrays a modern day St. Stephen being stoned and is really stunning. And of course, I have photos all over my home, including my fridge, of people I love and think of every day.

And if all of these beautiful gifts aren't enough to keep me company and connected to everyone I love, I have been known to resort to this:


Monday, October 6, 2008

Week In The Life, Part 1

This week I'm going to do something a little different here on the blog. Ali Edwards is a blogger and scrapbooking genius who I enjoy very much. She had a challenge on her blog last week to take photos and document a "Week in Your Life." Mine wasn't that interesting day-to-day since things don't vary all that much, so I put my photos into five categories and will feature one category each day on the blog this week to give you a peek into my life. You know, because I don't tell you all enough already. In detail. About everything.

Stop rolling your eyes.

Ok, so here's the first installment... Day-to-Day Life:


Let's face it, I couldn't start off talking about my day-to-day life without photos of a computer! Not only does it keep me connected to the world with news and blogs and email, but it is obviously my main tool for telling you all stories and random thoughts. You notice in the second photo that Riley likes to proofread everything before I publish it. :)

The elephant is a Webkinz that Susie and her boys gave me for Easter... I had no idea what the fuss was all about but when I told my nephew and niece, Cooper and Avery, that I had him I had a quick introduction to the crazy world. Now we like to get on Skype so we can see and talk to each other while playing against one another in Webkinz world. I've lost many a game of checkers and bowling to the two of them. And the last photo is of my desk, where I keep random odds and ends, write down ideas, sketch out sayings or just let junk pile up.

The other computer obsession of mine is digital scrapbooking, which I have fallen way behind on since I've started blogging. I only have so much energy in a day so I'm often choosing one or the other, but here are a couple examples of what I like to do:

sbook 3                                      (click to enlarge)

sbook 2

Now, here's a part of my day-to-day life that's not a daily thing, which has to be inconceivable for most of you with busy lives and children:


I find that when you're not out and about, things don't get dirty too often. I would say I do about two loads of laundry every other week (usually about the time I realize Dawn is coming to clean and I need to wash sheets so she can put on new bedding for me). And I run my dishwasher about once a week. Yep. I save a fortune on detergent.


I'm sure it comes as no shock to you that prayer is an important part of my life. I pray the rosary, read books that challenge my ideas and keep reminders of my faith, like my cross, in my home. I don't think I could get through day-to-day life if all this wasn't a part of it.


I also love to read and watch movies. My sister Janette often gives me movies as gifts, and I have a Blockbuster home delivery of 2 movies a month. I could probably watch two a week, but that would get a little expensive. :) And of course I have quite a few TV shows that I love, so I'm relieved the new fall season has finally started!

As far as books go... I'd read about anything but I really love any type of mystery or forensic thriller. Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson are two of my favorites to pass the time. I also got into the Harry Potter and Twilight series because of my nephew Thomas and niece Anna, and really enjoyed them all. Reading actually gets difficult for me to do sometimes, believe it or not. Holding the book a certain way or having to hold my neck in the position to read can cause a lot of pain, so like everything I try to do it in spurts. It's hard for me to discipline myself though, because I often get so involved I start and finish a book in a day. I get lost in stories pretty easily!


And finally, when I have some extra energy I like to paint on canvases. Not artwork or drawings... I just like the process of playing around and doing different scripting. (The first photo is of my "art closet"; my mom finds it funny how much junk I can fit into my small condo.) It's been a fun and different hobby and I'm sure my family and friends are about on overload for how many I give away...

So there you have it... my day-to-day hobbies in pictures. Those are the things I keep busy with when I'm not resting or snuggling on the couch with the pup. Check back tomorrow and I'll give you a few more sneak peeks into my little world.