life, love

Back to the Chapel of Love

My annual April 6 post, in case you haven’t read it yet…

“Hey Julie,” he yelled from his balcony as I was hopping onto my bike, “Would you like to go to the Monet exhibit at the art museum today?  My friend has extra passes.”

“No thanks, I’m going to ride my bike today.” I was always riding my bike back then.

“My friend likes to ride bikes…”  His voice trailed off as I rode away.

A week or so went by:

“Hey Julie,” he yelled, as my daughter and I walked out our front door, “Would you like to go to the final day of the U.S. Open tomorrow?  My friend has invited us to his corporation’s hospitality tent.”

Thanks, but I’m going to church tomorrow.

“My friend likes church,” he said as we smiled and waved…

On it went all summer until one day I finally said, “Why don’t you invite him to something sometime.”

So he did.  The something was a dessert auction and the sometime was November. My job involved planning an annual fundraiser.   Every year my daughter would slip a flier for the event under our neighbor, Chris’s, door and every year he would attend.  Alone.  But that year he brought a friend.  Four friends actually.

He called as I was putting the finishing touches on my presentation and asked if I wanted to join him and his friends for dinner before the event.  “Can’t,”  I said, “I have to get there early.  I’m working.”

I met the hub through a serving window.  He came to introduce himself and I reached across the counter to shake his hand.  Me in the kitchen and him in the banquet hall.  As I shook his hand everything in the banquet hall faded away and I saw only him, a solitary figure with a warm smile extending a friendly hand.

Because Chris brought FOUR friends, I wasn’t sure at first which one he wanted me to meet.  But after the introduction and handshake through the window, I was pretty sure it was him. At the end of the evening I sat down at Chris’s table and chatted with all of them.  Pre-hub shone forth.  He told me about the time he road his bike down a mountain in Hawaii.  Bike rider, huh?  He must be the one.

In early December I invited Chris to a concert at my church.  He brought his warm-smiling, friendly-handshaking, biking-riding friend.  He asked me if I would like to meet them for breakfast beforehand.  I did.  We had breakfast together, went to church, then did a little Christmas shopping.  No one wanted the day to end.  I mentioned that I was about to paint my condo.  Pre-hub said, “I’ll help you paint if you help me put up my Christmas tree.”  Deal!

So hub and I became acquainted with our backs to one another – him painting one wall and me painting the opposite wall.  As we chatted I realized that we had stuff in common.  And he often would say exactly what I was thinking.  I am sufficiently in love with myself to appreciate a man who thinks like me.

“I like to cook,” he said.  “How about if you and your daughter help me put up my tree and then stay for dinner?” I LIKE TO COOK?  That racked him up some serious points.

Then the day came when the painting was done.  As he was putting on his boots to leave I thought, This is it.  It’s now or never.  Turned out to be now.  As he was heading for the door he turned and asked me out on an official date.  I told you about that date when I told you about scarf from heaven.

We had been dating for about a month when he said, “I can’t believe no one has snatched you up.”  “I didn’t want to be snatched up,” I replied.  “Well,” he declared, “I am going to try.”   I was surprised by the smile that spread across my heart.  I didn’t think I would react that way.  But who can resist a man with a plan?

I wanted to make sure he loved the real me and not the me of his imagination.  So I asked him in an e-mail what he liked about me.

Here’s what he wrote:

When I look at you, I see:
the tender, unquestioning love of a mother;
God’s grace– a warm, compassionate, giving heart;
a heart in search of a true soul mate;
a gifted writer, speaker and leader;
a friend;
someone who likes me for being me;
an inspiration;
that little girl smile, the woman in your eyes that always gets to me;
passion;
home;
someone I want to know all about.

Okay, so he liked more than my looks, even so, I had been a single mom for 9 years.  My plan had been to delay dating and remarriage until my daughter went off to college.  But God was changing my mind about that and here I was with an eleven year old, considering marriage to someone I had only known for four months.  It was risky business.

So he quoted a Brooks & Dunn song:

“I know forever is a long, long time for a girl to put her heart on the line.  Trust is a tightrope that we all have to walk; but don’t be afraid.  I won’t let you fall.  With a little faith, mountains move.  I feel that you and me, we can’t lose.”

And then he laid it out for me:

The bottom line is….

1. Do you trust me to guard and protect our love and our relationship?
2. Do you trust me to guard and protect my family?
3. Do you think I will serve God with you?  … fix my eyes on the Lord?
4. Do you think I will provide a safe, secure and responsible home and
finances for us?
5. Do you believe that I will remain devoted to you?  to God?
6. Do you love me?
7. Do you believe that I love you?

#7 was the tricky one – hadn’t had a whole lot of experience with that one.

Even so, he bought a shiny diamond, got on his knee and made a stellar proposal.

We were married in a tiny chapel on a Friday morning.  April 6, 2001. There were 15 people in attendance – my daughter, two of my six sisters and a small assortment of co-workers and friends.  My dad had a balcony seat – watching and smiling from heaven.  My mom was on a cruise in the Seychelles.  The hub’s parents had health problems that made it too difficult for them to make the drive.  (On May 20 we had a “blessing ceremony” in his boyhood church so our entire families could celebrate with us.)

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My daughter served as an official witness. Days before the wedding she said, “Mom, you have to realize that it is going to be hard for me to share you after having your undivided attention for so long.”  I realized it.  And it all worked out. We still had plenty of mom and daughter time, and all these years later we still have our annual mother/daughter road trip.

After the tiny chapel ceremony we had a luncheon at hub’s house/by then OUR house.

Me, the Hub, the Best Man/Best Neighbor Chris

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Sneaking a kiss when no one was looking.  No one but the photographer, and now you.

The dress?  My friend bought it at an estate sale for $5.  She thought her daughter – who was my daughter’s age (11) – might be able to wear it some day.  It fit well enough and I liked it so it was a done deal.  Hub proposed at the end of March and we were married two weeks later – not a lot of time for dress shopping.  Plus I loved the whole old, new borrowed vibe of it.  AND I was way more interested in the marriage than I was in the wedding.  The pearls were a wedding gift from the hub.

It has been 14 years and I am happy to report that the hub has done a really good job of numbers 1 through 5.

As for #7?  We had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants the other night to celebrate.  I told him about the file I found with all the lovey things he had written back then.  He said, “It was all true then and it is all true now.”

And right then, with a delicious spoonful of chocolate pot de creme swirling in my mouth I realized that after 14 years of marriage I can finally answer #7 with a confident “YES!”

What has he gotten out of the deal?  Well, in his words I am “a good little cook.”  And when the nurse said he needed more fiber in his diet as he was coming out from under the colonoscopy anesthesia, I took it to heart and immediately planted two raspberry bushes.  Because raspberries have a lot of fiber.  I’m looking out for his colon and he appreciates it.

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Plus, as he says, I “tickle” him (make him laugh for those who are unfamiliar with the expression).  And I take really good care of our friends.  All in all it’s been a pretty good deal for both of us.  But I got the better deal.

(Originally posted 4/6/2015)

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family, life

McDonald’s has its pink slime, I have purple.

I was just awakening from sleep when I heard a whisper.

“Follow the diet and exercise and you will beat cancer.”

I didn’t have cancer, my sister did.

Aware that I had no control over my sister’s diet and exercise, and aware that God often whispers things well in advance, I made a pot of my nutritious, delicious chicken, kale, carrot, onion and white bean soup – garnished with really good parmigiano reggianno – and took it over to her.

I suggested we walk the two or three blocks from her beautiful house into her darling down town.

Just in case.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile you know that my sister did not beat cancer.

Actually, she did, because she didn’t let it wreck her life.

Then Bebe was diagnosed with cancer in October and I thought maybe the whisper was for her.  I could control her diet and exercise so I took her for long walks, cooked balanced meals and carefully administered Chinese herb blends and supplements.

She died, as you know, in January.

So we adopted Dixie.

And almost immediately upon her adoption she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Unusual in dogs.

So now I’m cooking like her little life depends on it.

Because it just might.

She had her first chemo treatment yesterday – an injection of Carboplatin.

She seemed to handle it just fine until nausea kept interrupting her sleep and mine.

When she turned her nose up at her usual breakfast this morning, I made her some healthy snacks.

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I love the color combo.

1 cup organic wild blueberries
2 tsp. turmeric
2 Tbsp. dried basil – 4 Tbs. fresh basil is better but I’m out
2 Tbsp. coconut flour

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all whirled together

Add a pound of organic ground turkey.

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McDonald’s has its pink slime, I have purple.

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Plop the purple slime on a cookie sheet.

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Flatten it with a fork.

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Bake for 25 minutes at 350.

Normally she’ll gobble down as many of these as I’m willing to give her. Today she stopped at 2.

So I gave the food processor a quick wipe and made a batch of her other favorite.

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Whirl together a can of sardines,  1/2 tsp. turmeric, 1 egg, 3 Tbsp. almond flour and 3 Tbsp. hemp protein powder and plop it on the same cookie sheet. Why dirty another one?

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Flatten them with a fork and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Oh, yes, she was interested in these – ate 3 of them, I think.

Next up I made meatloaf: 2 pounds ground turkey, 6 Tbsp. ground hemp seeds, 4 oz. can of sardines, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 2 eggs, 2 ounces beef liver, 2 ounces fresh broccoli, 2 ounces fresh baby spinach, 2 ounces fresh red bell pepper.

Whirl it all together, spread it in a 13×9 pan and bake at 325 for an hour.

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The juices soak back in as it cools.

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Portioned out for dinner – Dixie gets 6 ounces, Maxy gets 12.

She gobbled a good bit of the meatloaf down.

I hope Dixie is the one who beats cancer.

But of course the whisper could have been for me.

This week I had two more pre-cancerous lesions removed from my legs – from my shins, which were flung over the edge of an inner tube exposed to the hot sun all day as I floated down the Verde River in Arizona while visiting my cousins in my youth. Sans sunscreen.

I don’t think they even had sunscreen way back then. Just tanning oils – shudder to think.

I remember putting cool washcloths on my badly burnt flesh that night. And I remember the steam rising from my legs as I did.

So if the whisper was for my future, what diet?

I trust I’ll know when the time comes.

Corrie ten Boom’s father didn’t give her the ticket until the train pulled into the station.

That’s probably when my Father will give me mine.

#symptom

P.S. No one wants to see a photo of a pile of dishes, but after all that cooking this morning, I’ve got a big one. Plus a million other things to do.

Serving God one beagle at a time.

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life

Stuck in the Kitchen Again…

We just returned home from Dixie’s check up with the surgeon.

The good news is her incision is healing well and the sutures in her rectum are still intact.

One more week and she can ditch the cone.

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I don’t like it when people call it the “cone of shame.” There’s nothing shameful about recovering from surgery.  There’s something bad-you-know-what about it. It’s an “I’m a tough little cookie” cone of honor.

We went to see the surgeon today because, as you know, she has been having so much trouble going and we were concerned. He did a rectal exam and said the diameter of the portion that he sutured together is only half the diameter of the rest of her bowel, so she is straining (really hard) to push a large stool through a much smaller opening. He put her on a stool softener which seems strange because what little has been coming out has been plenty soft. But the stool on the other side of the sutures isn’t soft at all.

So we are relieved to know that she is healing and her ability to go should improve. I’ve been so worried.

The sad news is that the biopsy report confirms adenocarcinoma.

Fortunately the margins were clean and it wasn’t in her spleen but it has spread to her lymph nodes and omentum. Which means it’s in her bloodstream.

I’ll be meeting with the oncologist next week to discuss chemo, etc.

We didn’t use the same hospital that we used for Bebe, so this will be a different oncologist. Depending on what he says, I might try chemo this time. We’ll see.

The surgeon said her prognosis, based on limited data, is 8 months.

So that’s where we are – sad but also aware that God can do anything.

Once she recovers completely and can get back to her routine we will feed her really delicious, nutritious food, build up her immune system so she can fight this devil off, take her for lots of walks and have lots of fun – even go to the beach when it gets warmer.

And try chemo if it doesn’t put a damper on her quality of life.

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Would love it if you would keep this sweet little heart in your prayers.

In the meantime, we’ll be hanging out in the kitchen again today.

I’ll be ruminating on all the heartbreak cancer has brought to my life these last two years.

Dixie will be ruminating gastric acid.

#ruminate

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the friends

Is this my new calling? ‘Cuz I’m gonna’ need superhuman strength.

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

One day you’re living in Hintzville, going for a warm, sunny walk and a week later you’re under the knife.

Last post I told you what I know about Dixie’s history. What I didn’t tell you is that she has had varying amounts of blood in her stool since the day we adopted her. Every stool, every day.

Finally, after multiple trips to the vet and two rounds of blood and stool tests to rule out parasites and infections, we were referred to a specialist for an ultrasound.

The ultrasound revealed a mass in her colon. And an enlarged lymph node. And a small spot on her spleen.

So at 8:00 this morning I dropped her off at the hospital for a colonoscopy – to give the internal medicine specialist and the surgeon a look at what they’re dealing with from the inside.

While she’s still under anesthesia she’ll go directly into surgery.  To remove the mass and resection her bowel.   And, if she hasn’t been under too long at that point, the surgeon will remove the lymph node and her spleen, too.

Just got a call from the hospital. They are about to begin.  It will be about two hours. The surgeon will call when he’s finished.

I hung up the phone, got on my knees and asked God to fill the operating room. I asked Him to give the specialist and the surgeon insight and knowledge and skill beyond what they have. I asked Him to give the surgeon creativity in approaching the mass – since it is partially behind her pubis and difficult to access.  I’m praying he’ll get clean margins without having to split her pelvis.

I’m praying the mass is not malignant.  I’m praying it isn’t any kind of cancer at all.  It’s possible that it’s a stricture. I sure hope so.

I’m praying for no complications.

I’m praying that the resection will not come apart one day and dump feces into her abdomen.

I’m praying she will heal quickly and live another happy, healthy five years.  At least.

If it is a malignant cancer, the surgeon said worst case scenario she’ll have  3-4 months, best case she’ll have 1-2 years.

I’m praying it isn’t cancer.

I’m praying I don’t have to muster the strength, beg God for the strength, to walk another friend down this road again so soon.

I’ve already fallen in love with Dixie.

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And I’m still missing Bebe.

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And Lucy.

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I told you last week that Dixie had been bounced around a lot this last year after her “mom” moved into a nursing home.  And that made it really heartbreaking to leave her this morning.

So I’m asking God to hold her close, to whisper in her soft, floppy little beagle ear that she hasn’t been abandoned.  That she is deeply loved and she will be going home to Hintzville.

Just got a call from the surgeon.  The colonoscopy showed that it is a mass, not a stricture.

Dixie’s being prepped for surgery and he’s heading into the OR.

Praying he gets it all.

Praying it’s benign.

Praying she heals well.

Praying, praying, praying.

And feeling sick.

 

 

 

 

 

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the friends

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

One minute you’re sitting in a cafe with your mom basking in a glorious sunny, 61 degree day in February in Michigan and the next minute you’ve got mascara all down your tear-streaked face.

Because that gloriously warm February day reminds you of a similar unseasonably warm February day when you were basking in the excitement of a new relationship.

Which you loved.

And lost.

And still grieve.

And there’s really nothing you can say to grief while it’s barreling through like a freight train.

But what if you could stop it in its tracks?  What if, instead of looking back at last year’s happiness and grieving what you’ve lost, you could look forward to next year’s happiness in anticipation of what you’ll gain?

Because where you are is not where you’ll stay.

Dixie would tell you that if she could talk.  She would tell you that life can turn on a dime.  She would tell you that one day you’re living in a garage in Ohio, flea rash all over your hind end, getting your face bit off by a mean dog and then, a couple of months later, you’re going for a walk on a glorious day in Michigan.

And you’re eating organic, grass-fed, home-cooked meals and getting belly rubs and snuggling on the sofa. And life is good.

Dixie and her sister were found on the side of the road in southern Ohio when they were 3 months old.  Life must have looked bleak for those two babies. But then they were taken into foster care and Dixie was immediately adopted by the foster mom’s mom – Betty.

Apparently Betty treated Dixie like a queen.  She even cooked for her.  They lived happily together for about 10 years.  And then Betty developed dementia and was moved into a nursing home. And died.

And Dixie, near as I can figure, was bounced around from relative to relative and then eventually ended up back home at Betty’s house – where Betty’s grandson and his wife are now living.

But one of their dogs kept attacking Dixie – she has the scars under her right eye to prove it.  So she had to live outside and in the garage until she was finally surrendered back into foster care for her own safety.

For six weeks she lived in a foster home here in Michigan where, according to the foster mom, Dixie was heartbroken.

I wonder if, while being shuffled around this past year, she grieved the memory of her life with Betty. I wonder if she despaired ever curling up on a sofa or getting a belly rub or enjoying a home-cooked meal again.

But beagles are optimistic so I prefer to think that instead of grieving what was behind her she dreamed of the love that lay ahead.

And now here she is in Hintzville, curled up next to me on the sofa, her days filled with fresh air and exercise, love and really good food. She even has a gentle new brother, Max, who is so gentle that he just stepped aside and made room for her when she started eating from his dish after polishing off her own. (Of course I intervened on his behalf and reminded her of her P’s and Q’s.)

No one is going to bite her face off here.

Today I stopped to say thank you to God for providing for Dixie.  For Betty’s sake. For Dixie’s sake. For my sake. For Love’s sake.

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#AllthatglittersisGod.

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the friends

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

One of the good foster moms told me that the only way she could cope with the heartbreak of saying goodbye to a child – especially when the child was leaving her to return to a barely stable birth parent – was to quickly welcome another child into her home.

Yesterday my family received two cards in the mail.

One was a sympathy card from our vet and the other was from the Michigan Animal Adoption Network notifying us that our vet had made a donation in Bebe’s honor.

So this morning, of course, I googled the Michigan Animal Adoption Network and read all about fostering dogs.

And now I want to foster one.

Then I clicked on the adoption link and read the profiles of several beagles in foster homes near me who are awaiting permanent families.

And now I want to foster a dog AND adopt Dixie.

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This is Dixie.  We haven’t met yet but I think I love her.

I sent a text to both the hub and my daughter… Haven’t heard back from the hub.

The only thing that gives me pause is Maxy.  He might prefer to live out his elderly life in peace and quiet.

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This is how Maxy prefers to spend his days.

But he does still love his walks.  And a new friend might make him feel young again…

I’m thinking the Maxers and I could at least go visit Dixie, see how they get along.

And now I’m thinking that donation might have had a threefold purpose:

  1. to honor Bebe
  2. to provide needed funds to a good organization – specifically to provide comfort to suffering dogs through their Animal Care Network.
  3. and to perhaps make the hub and me aware of the organization; to spur us on toward love and good deeds.

There is no remedy for love but to love more. – Thoreau

I’ll keep you posted.

#exposure

 

 

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