March 27th, 2017 – Updates

Mom had a test today.

The cancer has progressed. Obviously we had hoped that the chemo would have worked better than that. I wouldn’t say it’s a shock. But yet I feel like it’s shocked me.

Health is so incongruous. I spent part of the weekend over at my folks. Mom was feeling better than she had appeared to be for months. Still does. Yet…

~

Funny how a few seconds of tears and a few moments of struggling with a frozen computer clear your head. Those first few lines read so disjointed. Like I wasn’t quite processing, maybe. I process while I write a lot, but it tends to be much more wordy.

Does this news change much? I don’t know. My Mom still has stage 4 cancer, that’s not new. It’s still a terrible and precipitous fight for her. For us all. And we were certainly wanting some ground to be gained. But this doesn’t mean the fight is over. It just means we didn’t win the battles when we wanted. It’s a reminder of exactly how scary this all is and how modern medicine isn’t a super power cure-all like it’s easy to imagine it to be.

I don’t have a good close for this. I don’t like unwrapped up ideas. But that’s what this news feels like to me. Like I was ready for some closure but everything was just ripped fresh open again.

Book Preferences (Tagged In a Rapid Fire Post)

My dearest Amy over at Fernwehs Call has tagged me in a rapid fire Q and A about my reading preferences. As I always love to talk books, I thought I would rise to the challenge and answer the call.

ebooks or physical books?

Physical books are always my preference. I like owning them and being able to display them. I like the way it’s easier for me to get lost into the story for some reason. That being said, I have read a lot of books on my phones ereader (even back before I had a smart phone and my screen was literally maybe 2″ square) and love always having a book at my fingertips to read while waiting in line or for a few minutes here and there.

Paperback or hardback?

Hardback, mainly because they hold up so much better.

Online or in-store shopping?

If I know exactly what book I want, online. If I’m not sure, in-store. Especially used book stores.

Trilogy or series?

Trilogy. I like to get caught up in an expansive story, but I also like a finishing point. There are some really good series that keep me captivated for the longer read, but they’re harder to revisit because of the time involved.

Heroes or Villains?

Both. Any well crafted character intrigues me.

A book you want everyone to read.

Ooh. There’s books I love, but that’s not always the same thing, is it? I think I would suggest a book of short stories, not even a specific one. I think short stories are sadly underrated, and would like to see them rise in popularity.

Recommend an underrated book.

As someone who reads obscurer classics, there are so many. It’s really unfortunate so few people have read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. That book is comedy gold, and so well written.

The last book you finished.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers

Weirdest thing you used as a bookmark?

Nothing to weird. Scraps of paper, dollar bills…

Used books, yes or no?

Always and forever. Used books are a great way to try something new without much investment, to build up your collection, and can usually be found in pretty decent shape.

Top three favorite genres?

Classics. Mystery. Young Adult.

Characters or Plot?

Characters. I’ll forgive a lot of issues in a book if I simply have well written, lovable characters.

Short or long book?

Long, if it’s well written.

Long or short chapters?

Short. I like natural stopping places where I can ready a little here and there and not stop mid-action.

Name the first three books you think of.

Endurance – Alfred Lansing (I was talking with a coworker about great non-fiction just yesterday, and this book rightly came up.)

With Fire and Sword – Henryk Sienkiewicz (I once started learning Polish because of this novel. An all time favorite.)

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Profit, Spy – Eric Metaxas (Currently what I am listening to on Audible. Fantastic story about a fantastic man)

Books that make you laugh or cry?

Laugh

Our world or fictional worlds?

Our world, though a fictional one is always welcome too

Do you ever judge a book by it’s cover?

Don’t we all?

Book to movie or book to tv adaptation?

Both! I love seeing favorite stories brought to life.

Series or stand alone?

Stand alone. Or series. Or whatever book is good and awesome. I welcome them all.

In Which I Visit an Animal Crematorium (for Funsies)

Does it need a caption?


Oh, how did I get to that point? Well, I suppose because I have a curious group of friends, in both meanings of the phrase (And in the best possible ways). It was perhaps two weeks ago when Kayla, Hannah, and I had a conversation about how adults should be able to go on field trips and by such learn fun things about our communities around us. It was a smidge over a week ago when a group of us were introduced to a man named Aaron, who worked at a pet crematorium. Now, once the topic had been brought up, he politely tried to keep details from us. We had none of it, and after a half hour discussion filled with our questions and a heavy dose of dark humor, the question was broached if he ever gave tours.

It is not surprising to learn he had not done so in the past. But that would not keep him from giving us one in the future. And we all magically had the 20th off. Because holidays and also because we had plans to close the bars down on Sunday night. For funsies. Gosh I love the adventures my friends drag me into.

Sunday night was an adventure in and of itself, (and not really as crazy as you are imagining it. I had a single amaretto sour, which was very good, and laughed hysterically most of the night),and Monday we awoke a bit too early and after getting some obligatory coffee, Kayla, Lisa, Kathy, and I found ourselves entering the Pet Crematorium.

Aaron started our tour by role playing his job with us, asking about our now-deceased pet and our options for cremation. The fictional pet was named Ralph, he was a pot-smoking 20lb beta fish who died when rubbing alcohol was added to his bowl. Because why not. Aaron then walked us out past the dog park to the pond where ashes were sometimes scattered. It was a beautiful little spot, with a resident goose who was known as “The Undertaker.”

The Undertaker

 Then of course we saw the actual workings of a crematorium. We watched as Aaron took paw prints of the deceased dogs, we saw the giant freaking jet ovens and the aftermath of that oven, and the large grinders where the bones were later processed. It was all somewhat gross but in a fascinating way. And I was with a group of people who had to know everything, like what the heck the green residue on the bottom of the oven was (much googling says it’s just random minerals) which made it doubly awesome.

And then we got into a long pun filled discussion about it on Facebook, and let the whole world know just how weird we are. I wish I had more pics, but I don’t think I could have beat Kayla’s epic Snapchat story anyway.

10/10 would totally go on weird field trips again.

A Belated Happy Birthday to Me!

I’m 24! Oh my. A double dozen years have I now lived. I mean, that and almost two weeks. Because I was going to post about it and then I got a cold and then a massive work load of things which kept me from posting. But here I am now!

I had an epiphany for how I wanted to celebrate, for I had always wanted to do a chopped challenge. You know the TV show, Chopped? I’m a bit of a foodie and love the Food Network, and have certainly watched some Chopped. I always love thinking through what I would be doing with the ingredients. So I asked my Dad to create me an appetizer and entree basket. (Dessert was relegated to gingerbread cake with caramel gelato. I wasn’t going to risk that on a chance basket. Yum yum.) Dad got totally into into it. He in fact got a little sadistic with it. I think he had almost as much putting it together as I did carrying it out.

My first basket

For the app round he gave me bok choy, kiwis, onion potato chips, and scallops. He knew I’d never eaten scallops, let alone cooked scallops, let alone liked much seafood in general. Oh, he schemed. But I was happy for the challenge. I tried breading them in the potato chips, but the chips kinda fell off. Didn’t keep me from cooking them to a perfect condition though. Also they weren’t half bad. I put them on top of a seared bok choi wedge, added some red onions for taste, and then had the bright idea to blend the kiwis with some rice wine vinegar. The dressing was honestly one of the best things I made all evening. I’m going to try it on fruit salads, though I don’t think it would be amiss on a regular lettuce one either.

Plating is harder than it looks

I plated with time to spare. Yay! It needed some apple, or something to give it a bit more dimension, but overall wasn’t half bad. It’s not the prettiest thing on the plate, I have some serious work to do on my plating skills.

Seared bok choy salad with potato chip crusted scallops and a kiwi dressing.

Second basket!

Sirloin steak, blue cheese, dark espresso chocolate, and candied peanuts. Hmm.

Sweet potatoes with candied peanuts and chili powder.

Lots of sweets here. I chopped the peanuts and added them to a skillet with sliced sweet potatoes and some chili powder. My most favorite thing of the night! A little sweet, a little spicy, and sooo good. Especially the second batch, which I didn’t burn.

Blue cheese stuffed steak with chocolate wine sauce, served with candied peanut sweet potatoes

They let me run a little over on time, because I started late on the steak (lesson learned there) and faced with a raw meal or a cooked one, they let me fudge on the time. This turned out a fantastic dish. I’m lucky there was enough peanuts with my peanut gallery eating them while I cooked  (haha, pun intentional). It was a great evening with my folks and we all had a lot of fun! 10/10, will definitely be doing it again.

The next day saw me celebrating with some of my girl friends. We went out to Walkers Grill downtown, a place I’ve always heard great things about. It was fantastic. I had a Basil Haven drink (it had St. Germaine in it, one of my all time favorite alcohols) which I must recreate at home sometime, a chipotle flatbread, and some blueberry tart thing for dessert. Yummy Yum. We talked for hours and had a delightful time.

Photo credit to my beautiful Kayla Kay

23 years of age had a lot of hits and a lot of misses for me. But overall I loved my life adventures. The two days I celebrated my birthday on were certainly a cap to it all.

The Never Ending Merry-Go-Round

Well, it’s been a while since I gave an update on what’s been happening with Mom, and truth is that I’ve been avoiding it a bit. I’m terrible like that. No more, here I sit to catch you up and continue the look into the past and how we got where we are.

It has struck me rather forcefully that her cancer battle has been very cyclic. There was that first diagnoses and round of cancer, all so new and terrifying. and then there was this blessed reprieve afterwards when it was easy to forget that the terrible ordeal had even happened. Indeed, if you had asked me at the time, I would have talked about Mom having cancer in past tense. Not that that time was completely full of sunshine, not at the first, anyway. I don’t think I realized how much chemo had beat down my mom until after the long months of slowly gaining her strength back and realizing that Mom could bustle about with energy and laughter like I hadn’t seen her for almost a year.

Yet the reprieve didn’t last, and, spoiler warning, Mom’s cancer came back. I vividly remember the night we found out again, how I had been at a job interview when I was told we were having a family dinner at my sisters. “Yay!” I had thought. “Family pizza night!” Until my sister told me that Mom had had a doctor appointment that day, and instantly the worries set in. Worries that were confirmed when we were told another round of chemo was coming. And so we rode the now familiar and terrifying  wave of worry and chemo and long long days in the hospital getting infusions once again with another 12 round, 24 week dosage that took my Mom’s health and crumpled it in its goal of trying to remove the cancer.

And then another wait, but this time not as blissful and ignorant because you know, not just mentally, but deep in your gut where the strongest fears live that a doctor’s appointment could suddenly change that. The break was shorter, and the healing less, when she went through another round of chemo. I don’t even know how many chemo session’s she’s had now. I just know she’s in the midst of struggling through another one, a 3 month short burst because post Germany a terrible mystery health struggle knocked Mom’s strength way back. Lord Jesus, help my mom find the strength, to find your healing.

In the midst of this terrible beating down, Mom also seems to have terrible, terrible luck that’s also been cyclic (as if cancer wasn’t enough). Near the end of her first round of chemo, she had a gall bladder attack which resulted in surgery to get it removed. On returning from Germany this year, she was afflicted with a terrible pain in her guts that brought her more pain and weakness and struggle than I observed even in her lowest point of chemo. The doctors thought it was possibly a viral infection, but tests came back inconclusive, so she was forced to wade through months of trying to simply exist, when eating enough sustenance was considered an achievement for the day. She’s finally feeling mostly over it, though we still don’t know what the heck it was. And it beat down her immune system heavily. The immune system that she spent so much effort in Germany to build up. It allowed her cancer to progress and now she’s back on chemo.

It terrifies me to think of this round and round process. It terrifies me that she hasn’t even been as healthy as she was in that in between of rounds 1 and 2. It terrifies me how these struggles in my life have taken on a normalcy.

Mom is a fighter. She’s facing the chemo, she’s still on the regimens that she was proscribed in Germany. She’s living and not wallowing in the struggles. It’s inspiring. I’m so grateful God has given her the strength. But it breaks my heart. Oh gosh, does it break me.

What is this, 2017?

Bye, bye, 2016. You were a mixed box of amazing and yet scary things. You were fun and crazy good and generally crazy and scary. I think I’ll miss you.

I spent the last hours celebrating with old high school friends, playing mafia, catching up, pretended to be a highly dysfunctional Italian family where a murder had taken place (you know, the usual stuff). It was so fantastically amazing and the perfect end of my year. Love my peeps.

Resolutions always come up this time of year. Last year, one of mine was to be more adventurous. I tend to be hesitant to put myself out there, to be outspoken or to be the adventurous one. I wanted to change that. And looking back, I really think I did. I crashed a wedding reception. I went on a date with a man I didn’t know. I learned how to play drinking games. I put effort into making friendships. Germany was essentially an entire exercise in forging my own adventures. I’m really proud of all that I’ve accomplished this year.

This year I have yet a harder resolution. I’ve always struggled with bottling up everything inside. Any frustration or pain or fear I ignore and hide from not only those who care about me but also myself. I avoid people when I should reach out to them, and sometimes outright brush them aside when they reach out to me. I’ve always somewhat just accepted this as a part of who I am. But recently I’ve realized just how unhealthy and hard on me that is, not only emotionally, but even physically. My roommate can attest to me going to bed at 7 some nights from a stress headache I can’t shake any other way but just going to bed.

The major reason I first started this blog was because I needed somewhere to allow myself to pour out those emotions. Of course, then I went traveling and people started reading it and I became hesitant to share again. But I’m going to try not to hesitate. Going to try being more real with the world and with myself this year. Hopefully when 2018 rolls around I’ll be able to point back and say “Look how far I’ve come.”

I Do So Love Quotes (Bonus Day!)

Upon stumbling across my book of favorite quotes, I knew a bonus day with quotes was warranted. So below is one last quote to finish off the challenge.

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest except precisely that point which the world and he devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven, and to be steady on all the battle fronts besides i mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.” ~Elizabeth Rundle Charles

I don’t remember where I found this. Probably tucked in some book or other that I read. But the point is one that I’ve never thought of but which I think is very important. We can’t shy away from the hard battles, using the excuse we are fighting easier things.

I Do So Love Quotes (Day 3!)

I wonder why this is only a three day challenge. Seriously, quotes are awesome and I love searching for the one that I want to share. In fact, I have a feeling you will see a day 4 posted tomorrow, though the challenge will technically be over. Especially as I just remembered I have a favorite quotes book that I haven’t even referenced for these posts yet.

For today, I have a rather random one. I was reading The Innocence and Wisdom of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton today, when I remembered my favorite quote by him.

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

Ah, Chesterton, how you see the world. This isn’t my favorite quote because it’s his best, or even perhaps the one I hold dearest by him. But every time my church’s bulletin has some deep and meaningful quote in the front by Chesterton, I always smile to myself and think, “Ah yes, but what about his thoughts on cheese?”

Perhaps I like it because in a world where so often you see only serious quotes from great Christian thinkers, Chesterton’s tend to be varied and interesting, and give a whole picture of a man who was, indeed, a deep and well versed thinker, but also a man with a sense of humor and fun.

So follows is a few of my absolute favorites of his, the ones that are deep or funny or just downright speak to me. Though I always will think of cheese first when I hear his name.

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

“Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.”

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

“We fear men so much, because we fear God so little. One fear cures another. When man’s terror scares you, turn your thoughts to the wrath of God.”

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

“The most incredible thing about miracles is that they happen.”

“The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic.”

And thus we see a man with a truly engaging knowledge and wonder of the world.

I Do So Love Quotes (Day 2)

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.”
Doctor Who, The Doctor, Season 5, Episode 10

I’ve already detailed on my blog how I’ve had some pretty great moments amidst pain and chaos. Life can be terrible and dark and horrifying, but there is beauty in it. The joy doesn’t erase the fact that there is pain, but the pain doesn’t erase the fact that there is joy. And thus life is a complicated tangle of emotions. It’s a good tangle though. And this Doctor Who quote, heck the whole episode, was a bittersweet reminder that life isn’t always smooth sailing and the seas will be filled with storms, but that makes it all the better when the sun will shine.

I Do So Love Quotes (Day 1)

“Maybe our favorite quotations say more about us than about the stories and people we’re quoting.” John Green.

I love quotes. People throughout history have fashioned words in such beautiful ways, ways that sum up so well the feelings or motives or life in general as I have often seen it. Thus when my dear Amy of fernwehscall.wordpress.com challenged me to a three days of blogging quotes challenge I was excited to jump on the bandwagon and post a few quotes over the next few days. Thank you, Amy!

Today I flipped through some of my favorite quotes on Goodreads, and found one by C.S. Lewis.

Friendship… is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…

I love this quote, not only because I have certainly said the words before, but because it encompasses the magic that is friendship. Sometimes friendship grows up slowly as commonalities are found (sometimes it grows up even without things in common, now that I think of it) and sometimes it is a spontaneous thing that bursts forth as two people realize that they love spending time together. I love that rush of conversation when you realize you have a shared passion. And I love this quote that reminds me of those moments.

(And you’ve totally noticed I sneaked a second favorite quote in the post introduction, but whatever. I loved that quote too much to leave it unposted.)