Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful For Time ...

Before I get started on an emotional post, I'll put in a plug for my new favorite wine. It is called simply, Red. It is a perfect blend of Cab Sav, Merlot, and something else, I can't remember, but it is lovely. Smooth, dry, and spicy. Look for it - it has a black label and a splash of red, as though someone has slung paint at the label. There are several variations of splashes, collect them all! *smile*

Ok, here goes:

I lost my dad three years ago. I was driving home to Texas from having spent Christmas with him, my mom, my sister, and my nephew the day after Christmas when I got the phone call. Dad wasn't gone yet, but he would never come out of the coma he'd fallen into just hours after I'd left and he would die before the New Year could ring in.

Holidays are not as tough for me as one might think, but this year has been a little tougher than the last two were. Memories of my father stream in and out of my conciousness every day over the last two weeks. I feel like he is here with me and it worries me. It is almost as if he's come back to wait for someone. Will I lose my mother? Will there be complications in my own recovery from a recent surgery? Is Dad just visiting?

Whatever the reason, I have to say that, although I have indeed spent some time bawling like a baby the last few days because of it, my memories of my father mostly make me thankful. Thankful for all the years I had him. He was 73 when he died and had experienced a lifetime of medical ailments that included several brain surgeries beginning when he was only fifteen years old. I was always amazed at how intelligent my father was, even more so because I knew that 1/3 of his brain was gone. Permanently destroyed as a result of the many invasions over the years.

This month I am teaching a Sunday School class that my father would have felt at home in. This week I opened my lesson talking about my dad. Here's what I said:
I lost my dad three years ago over the holidays. About two years before he died, I was sitting at his table eating breakfast (my dad was the best breakfast cook - he couldn't cook much else, but his breakfast was IT!), and he said "Elaine, I think of all of my children, you know me best. I want you to write something to be read at my funeral." Of course, I was taken aback, but the day he went into the hospital, after I had turned my car around and driven through smoke-filled skies (Oklahoma was on fire that night, literally), and blurry eyes from the tears, I began to formulate what would become the words to be read at my wonderful father's funeral. I'm going to share the first paragraph with you. "Someone once compared my dad to a “broken vessel in the marketplace.” Dad always liked that comparison, seeing himself as a quiet, humble person, largely unnoticed by the masses. I never believed the comparison fit him. While Dad surely was as humble and unassuming as a broken vessel, he did not spend his life unnoticed, nor did he go through his life without touching the lives of those around him." Perspectives - that's what this class is about today.

I could go on and on about all the things my dad taught me over the years, but I won't bore you. What I will say is this - this season, I am most thankful for time. The time I had with my dad. The time I've had with my mom, my sisters, my brother. The precious time I've had with my children. The time I've had to truly live.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's Not Good Enough

I'm in a rocking chair in a darkened room. The only light comes from a small flourescent over the sink and the red and green lights on the pump that is connected to my son via a line that goes into his chest. The line is not new - he has had it for several months. It serves many purposes. Tonight it feeds him antibiotics to fight the bacterial infection that has developed in his blood. I can feel the vibration of his grinding teeth in the bend of my elbow where his bald head lay. His body is curled up as tight as possible in my lap. The heat radiating from his fevered body causes my own to sweat but there is no way I'm letting him go. I think he sleeps but still his face holds a tormented look as he battles unseen harm. I am alone except for my boy. On this night I have been told I may lose him. If he makes it to daylight he will have a better chance. I look at his face and gently begin rocking the chair. This is the only position in which he can sleep. I will not sleep tonight. Prayers have been said. There are no more begging requests I can issue. I am a helpless eyewitness to the struggle my baby is facing. I begin to hum Amazing Grace.

This is a piece of the experiences I had in 2002 with my son, Nathan, who was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma shortly after his first birthday. He survived that night and every night since then. He now lives with no real memories of that year, only vague emotions when we go near a big white building (hospital) or smells popcorn (which the ladies in the oncology office popped every time he came in for chemotherapy). But I remember.

34 children will be diagnosed with cancer today. Of those children, one in five will not survive. If you read those statistics (78% survival rate) and think "that's good enough", what would you tell the parents of the 22% who don't survive? If my son had not made it, that would mean a zero percent survival rate. That's not good enough.

Funding has been cut for childhood cancer research. If my son had died that night, it would not have been the cancer that killed him, but the treatment. If we do not continue research into better treatments and possible cures, children will continue to die and leave devastated families behind.

Please take a moment to visit and find out ways you can help in the fight. Write your congressmen and urge them to pass the Conquer Childhood Cancer Act. Do this for the cancer kids. Do this for your kid.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I started off this blog saying I was going to use it as a place to reflect on various aspects of my life. So far I haven't done a very good job. Today I might do a little better . . .

I've put a new picture up on this blog. It is of my youngest son, Nathan, and myself. I took this a couple days ago on my new Moto Q. I was just trying out the camera, and I know it came out a little overexposed on Nathan, but something about the light radiating from his face makes me love this picture.

Those of you who know me know how special Nathan is. For those of you who don't, I'll tell you. In January, 2002, shortly after his first birthday, Nathan was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a very aggressive and very rare form of cancer. I can remember coming home from the hospital after that first stay and the feeling of surreality that surrounded that home that had once been "normal" and which now housed a baby who had an oncologist. I can remember sitting in a chair alone that evening after the kids were in bed, mouthing and saying the word . . . oncologist. The words Nathan and oncologist in the same sentence seemed so foreign and so wrong.

I'll not go into the details of the year of radiation and chemotherapy that followed. As a single mom, with two other young children, it was a life-changing experience. Today, Nathan is a happy and healthy 7-year-old boy. He is an extremely intelligent child, a delight, and my joy.

Why have I bothered to put this in my blog? I have to come to grips with the fact that this is and will always be such a large part of who I am. I suppose the people who encounter me frequently may get tired of hearing about Nathan. I think that I have a need to share some of his story as a way to keep it fresh in my mind, lest I begin to forget how precious Nathan, and life itself, is.

We all go through our lives so busy and so immersed in the things that we think make us happy. Don't forget to spend the best of your lives with the people who are actually capable of composing your happiness.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reflections On My Afternoon Off and May Wine Pick

So my last post let you know that my building had been evacuated. Turned out that a building across the street which housed hazardous chemicals had some kind of a leak and so they evacuated five buildings surrounding it. They ended up telling us that it would be hours before they could clear the buildings and let us back in, so we got to go home. Woot!

With my extra time, I decided to stop at the post office to buy stamps for the postcards I need to get mailed out for my high school reunion, but the nice lady at the post office said they were all sold out. Now I have to figure out another way . . .

Then I stopped at the store to buy some stuff and came out with three bottles of wine - go figure. One of the wines I will make my wine pick for May - Robert Mondavi Private Selection Vinetta. It is a red wine blend, very smooth, and priced right!

So then I came home, got some things done in SL(tm) and have been sitting in my room, hearing the noises coming from the rest of my house and I started thinking - uh oh - blog post time!

I'll try to keep this short (wait, I've already gone on a little too long). Oh well. The short of it is that, listening to the sounds of my five kids in various rooms throughout our small house, two daughters with phones attached to their heads (boyfriends on the other side), three boys each watching TV or playing on another computer, I feel blessed. I have great kids. I have a great husband who is a great father to my great kids. I love my life. If I die from inhaling hazardous chemicals today, I will die a happy person!

Go forth, be happy, and drink more vino!

Fun, fun

Well, I'm standing at a public computer writing this blog post. The building I work in was just evacuated because another building across the street has a hazardous chemical leak. *sigh* It's odd how quickly after hearing about a chemical leak my throat hurts and my head is aching . . . hmmmm

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Is Peace Possible?

What if you answered a knock on your door and found a person standing there who told you that their ancestors used to own the land you are on and they are taking it back because it is rightfully theirs? What if you and your own family had lived on and worked that land for many years? How would you feel?

This is how the talk opened up on Sunday night when I went to see Rev. Mel Bishara speak about the history of unrest in Israel. Reverend Bishara has a unique perspective -- he grew up in Israel as a Palestinian Christian. I have to say, at first I was a little uncomfortable. Once I realized Mel was able to give us an account of the unrest in Israel from a Palestinian perspective, I was forced to come to grips with some truths I had not previously understood.

Becoming very passionate when he pointed out that from Palestinian perspective, every loved one who has been killed, every house that has been leveled, has been a result of a tank or missle or some form of destruction that says "Made in U.S.A." on it. He was quick to point out that he doesn't in any way condone what Palestinian terrorists do, but he was able to see their perspective on it.

I was totally unaware of the civil disregard Palestinians face on a daily basis - having special license plates on their cars so everyone knows they are Palestinian, facing severe travel and work restrictions, being forbidden to go certain places - I realized I was listening to something even bigger than our own civil rights issues before the civil rights movement.

I don't know what the answer is. I found myself after the talk thinking that now I know more about what's going on, but definitely know less about what the solution is. While Mel brought up the original statement I opened my blog with to showcase how Palestinians felt when they lost their land, I couldn't help but see that the same story would be told by Israelis if the Palestinians were returned their homeland now. It seems to be a no-win situation.

The glimmer of hope Mel pointed out was that in schools and hospitals in the country, people of all faiths and races are working together for good. If only everyone would realize that God wants us all to live peacefully together, no matter what our faith, and quit trying to say that only one type of person should live in Israel, peace could be achieved.

In the end, I'm left with prayer being my only solution. I'll pray diligently for the peoples of Israel and the Palestinians and hope for peace in the future.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Back from Easter

This morning, as I was dropping off my kids at school, I watched a teacher walk in. She had that look on her face that I knew meant - oh God, I have to teach again. It was at that moment that I realized how much I don't miss that part of teaching. Although I no longer have the nice spring break, summer, etc., I am glad that I work at a "regular" job now. For me, I think the emotional roller coaster of work, no work, work, no work was just too hard. I had way too good of a life at home and being torn from it at the end of summer, end of winter holiday, end of spring break, was really hard. My thoughts are with the teachers today!

David and I spent our three-day weekend staying at cool places, sort of a getaway without really getting away. To back up a bit, last weekend we drove my three kids to Kansas to stay with their Dad. On the way home, we stayed at a four-star hotel, The Waterford, in Oklahoma City. It was a really nice and historic hotel. We walked to Bellini's Italian Restaurant which was truly exceptional.

So, this weekend, we took a couple days to get back to Kansas to pick up the kids. Thursday night we stayed at a fabulous B & B called the Victorian Garden Inn in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Although a Victorian style home, we had all the creature comforts, including a nice big jacuzzi in our room! The hostess had all the details planned out - cookies and chocolates in our room - she'd even bought our favorite soft drinks to stock the in-room fridge! It was a great stay and we'll definitely go back again.

Friday night, we stayed at a hotel I'd wanted to stay in since way back when I lived in Kansas, The Hotel at Old Town in Wichita. A converted warehouse, the hotel was also a sort of museum, housing artifacts from the company who had built the warehouse, Simmons Hardware, who made and distributed Keen Kutter tools. It was cool walking through all the floors, looking at the old tools, appliances, and photographs. Friday night, we drove to a really nice Italian restaurant called Bella Donna, which had a fabulous red wine flight and terrific food. Then we went to a movie and back to the hotel to sit at the piano bar and listen to some good music.

All in all, I'm very well-rested after my little weekend excursion. It was just what I needed!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

January is Already Gone!

Okay, so I missed January altogether. What can I say? I'm a busy person (and nobody is reading this, anyway, so it's all good!)

I made a major change in January, changing jobs! I am no longer a classroom teacher, and I probably never will be one again. You can read my blog for new teachers called "Cruel Shoes" to find out why. I'm now working at Southern Methodist University and it looks like I'm really going to like it!

I'm also in rehearsals for a murder mystery dinner called "Mayhem in Mayville", which will be performed on February 15 at FUMC Hurst. It's my acting debut, and I'm having a lot of fun with it, but I will be glad when it's over and I can get my life back!

Since I missed January, I'll go ahead and give you two "wines of the month":

First up, a new varietal (for me) called Carmenere. It is a French grape from the Bordeaux region and it makes a really nice red. My favorite so far is Castillo de Molina. It is a very dark red, almost purple, and very smooth!

Next, I'll choose another Shiraz. This time, it is Frei Brothers Syrah from California. This bottle of wine will cost you a little more, but you'll find that drinking it is like pouring silk down your throat. Very smooth, with a slight hint of spice, this wine is good to see, smell, taste, and experience!