Tag Archives: cancer

What Is On My Mind Today? Turning 59 and a Maraschino Cherry Birthday Cake

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Hiking in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, June 2017

This two-time cancer survivor turns 59 today.  Wow!

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I removed my cap for this birthday photo to prove I have hair and some of it is grey. 

To celebrate, I am going to make a layered maraschino cherry cake with cream cheese frosting.  My only issue is that the cake uses four egg whites and I have this thing about wasting food when so many others in this world go hungry.  So I will have to make more of my grandmother’s spritz cookies to use up those yolks.

Folks, there will be extra spritz cookies on the cookie trays this Christmas!

My birthday wish is that this day be filled with kindness, love and peace.

God bless all of you!

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Maraschino Cherry Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two eight-inch round cake pans.

Ingredients:

16 ounce jar of Maraschino cherries, well-drained, save cherry juice.  Finely chop the cherries. The chopped cherries should be blotted dry with a paper towel and very lightly coated with flour.  This will help ensure that the cherries are evenly distributed through out the cake and not all sunk to the bottom.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cup sugar
2-1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Maraschino cherry juice (reserved from cherry jar) combined with water to make 1 cup.
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium-sized metal or glass mixing bowl, with an electric hand-mixer, beat egg whites until stiff.  Add vanilla. Combine and set aside.

In small mixing bowl combine dry ingredients: flour, salt and baking powder.  Stir to combine

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar.  Add flour alternatively with the cherry juice.  Beat until well combined.  Gently fold in beaten egg whites.  Fold until no white streaks remain.  Fold in cherries and gently mix until just evenly distributed.

Evenly divide the batter into the two round cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup  butter, softened
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened 
1 teaspoon vanilla

3  cups powdered sugar, plus more as needed

In a large mixing bowl with a hand-mixer cream together butter and cream cheese.  Turn mixer speed down to low and slowly add powdered sugar.  Once powdered sugar is combined, turn up mixer speed to high and beat until smooth, fluffy and creamy.  Add vanilla and mix until completely combined.

If the frosting is not thick enough add small amounts of powdered sugar until desired consistency is achieved.  If the frosting gets too thick, add a teaspoon of milk or cream to loosen it back up.

This pink and white cake also makes a lovely Christmas dessert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Is On My Mind Today? Fear, Hurricanes, Fires, Earthquakes and God

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As a two-time cancer survivor I know a thing or two about fear.  One thing that I have learned is that fear can be addictive. The adrenaline rush of fear acts on the body much like an opiate.  Your heart and breathing rates increase as your fight and flight reflexes engage.

Sometimes,  fear feels good. Like the thrill you get when going on a carnival ride, riding a horse at a full gallop, or are jumping out of an airplane.  At other times fear can be overwhelming, such as when you get a cancer diagnosis or see your country ravaged by natural disasters or war.

Living in constant fear is awful, because fear is the worst of thieves.  It steals precious treasures…happiness, peace of mind and time.  What is worse, fear is contagious and has been weaponized.    Governments, religions and individuals often use fear to increase power, control people and receive attention.

Calamity begets fear. When disaster strikes, people, even unbelievers, feel the immediate need to put the fear of God in hearts and minds by communicating that the crisis is God’s fault, divine punishment for sinful living, or that the end of the world is coming and coming fast.

Whenever I hear that something is a sign of the end times, I find peace by turning to the Bible and re-reading the comforting words of Christ Jesus when he clearly states that no man will know when the end will be.  Only God knows, not Jesus, not any human.

Jesus further reassures us by instructing,  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matthew 24: 4-7.  

There have been many, many wars, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes since Christ spoke those words almost two thousand years ago and humans are still here.   Are these the end times? I don’t know, nobody does.  What is important, is to believe that Jesus Christ is your personal savior, then, there is no reason to fear the end times. What is there to fear? Going to heaven and experiencing perfect love?

Can natural disasters be signs from God?  Absolutel!  The Bible tell us so.  The question is what is the message that God is sending?

Human’s cannot surprise God, he has seen it all before. I am pretty sure that:

  • God has been aware of humanity’s sinful ways since Adam and Eve disobeyed him in the Garden of Eden and then to make matters worse a jealous Cain put Abel under with a rock upside the head.
  • There have been hurricanes hitting coastal areas for as long as there has been oceans.
  • Forest fires have existed since lightening hit its first tree and man learned how to make fire.
  • Earthquakes in Mexico, or anywhere else, are never a punishment from God due to United States presidential election results, no matter what a Hollywood actress may believe.

This “disaster is a punishment from God” philosophy reminded me of when I was battling my cancer. I remember someone asking me what I thought I had done that God was punishing me so harshly.

After this empathy challenged person, who felt greatly blessed with good health and substantial wealth when compared to myself, a fifty year old woman stuck in a body cast, trapped in pain and a hospital bed in her living room, full of cancer and without a lot of good options, had finished suggesting that self-reflection and repentance on my part was necessary to appease an angry God, I responded.

My response then, would be the same as today, to those who suggest that disease and disaster are signs of an angry God.  I agree.  God gets angry.  He may use illness and other trials to test people, but, maybe, just maybe, he does not punish or test the sick, traumatized and devastated. Maybe he is testing the response of those around them.

Why do I believe this? Because, Jesus clearly tells me so in Matthew 25: 31-46

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

I am a strong believer in the power of prayer.  God can and does do miracles through prayer.  However, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”   James 2: 14-17

God promises to never leave or forsake us. He always keeps his promises. Christians need not live in constant fear of the end times, physical or natural disaster.  It is during those times that we should look to our Heavenly Father and take stock of our blessings. Call on him for faith, strength, courage and to grant us the peace that passes all understanding. Then, it is time to bravely roll up our sleeves and get to work helping those who need assistance.

I will always have a healthy fear of God, but I have no interest in being a “Chicken Little, The Sky is Falling!” christian. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said it best, “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” 

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Prayer is a powerful. Please pray for those affected by the hurricanes, wild fires and other natural disasters.  Then, volunteer, give blood, or donate at:  

The Salvation Army Disaster Relief   https://disaster.salvationarmyusa.org/

Red Cross Disaster Relief: https://www.redcross.org/donate/disaster-relief?scode=RSG00000E017&gclid=CjwKCAjwos7NBRAWEiwAypNCe1F5-3X-x10xxZ_UJsDexvntU8pdxkfDJIPYaFVxOIE98y5BQb92uRoCK3EQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CIGEldnxmNYCFRU5Twod-6cAMQ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recipes: Lawns, Laughter, Cancer and Carrot Cake.

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My husband and I have lived in the same house for over thirty years and have had the same neighbors, to the south of us, for that entire time.

Throughout the many years that we have lived on this earth side by side, our neighborhood has celebrated, cared and cried for each other.  We have watched our children grow; play; squabble; graduate elementary school, middle school, high school and college.  Then, move away and begin families of their own making us proud grandparents. In many ways, I am closer to my neighbors than I am my own siblings.   No one on this earth could have asked for better neighbors.

My neighbor’s wife has always been our neighborhood adult.  A finer person, I have yet to meet.  My neighbor, on the other hand, is a combination of wise sage, smart-ass, and political guru.  When that man was young, I swear, he could mow the lawn with a beer in each hand and still have the straightest lawnmower lines on the block. Outstanding talent!

There are two things that I can count on from my neighbor.  He always tells it like it is and he makes me laugh.  During my thirty-year career in politics, my neighbor would share his political opinions, whether I liked them or not. Then, he would tell me who was going to win the election and he was always right. He has an uncanny ability to read the electorate and pick the winners.

Then, too, no matter how bad things get, he makes me laugh.  During my cancer battle, when I was crippled up in pain with multiple spinal fractures, I was stuck in a gosh awful body cast for over eighteen months.  Now for those of you who have never seen this contraption of uncomfortableness and torture, I will describe it. It is a hard piece of plastic from chin to hip with the chest cut out so that you can breathe….a little. I could not be out of bed without the body cast on.

One day, when I had no make-up on, hair uncombed, and was wearing that cast while hunched over my walker making a herculean effort to push it a few feet further down our street than I had before, my neighbor comes by to say hello.  He takes one look and me, points at the cast and exclaims with a broad smile, “That thing is kinda sexy.”   Laughter hurt, but it was a good hurt.

My neighbor has also bailed me out of several near disasters. Like when he patiently sat by his backyard fire and scraped all of the melted Tupperware, which looked like melted marshmallow, off of all of my oven racks.  I look inside my oven now, before I turn it on…most of the time.

Then, there was the time he got a fine for helping me burn my trees that had been knocked down by a tornado.  When he saw the police office on a mission marching across his backyard towards us, he whispered, “Patricia, have you ever been arrested?” I sadly shook my head no and quickly informed him that I had never even had a parking ticket, but did once have a late library book. He grinned at me, said that is what he thought, and went over to greet the cop.  It was only this past spring, many years later, that he told me he got actually got fined.

My neighbor has always been very complimentary of my baking, which is high praise as he is a very accomplished cook.  Last winter, he actually helped me and another neighbor learn to make our own cheese.  After successfully completing the project, looking at all of the dirty dishes and messy kitchen, us two women decided that while the fresh cheese tasted outstanding we’d stick to purchasing our cheese.

No matter how awful, bald or sick I looked, during my cancer battle my neighbor would tell me I was looking good, cheer me on and would often shout, “Hurry up and get well so you can get back in the kitchen!”

I have returned to my kitchen and can again bake most of my favorite recipes.  In June, just about two weeks before I was to leave on my long planned cancer victory trip to Montana to hike in the mountains, I noticed that both my husband and my neighbor were up early mowing lawn.  I had some blueberries and decided to make the boys some blueberry coffee cake.

When I walked a piece of warm cake over to my neighbor, he was all smiles.  He said he just had poured himself a cup of coffee and the cake would be perfect.  I responded, “See you’d have missed me if I had croaked!”  He responded that yes he would have missed me and my baking a lot.  We both laughed and agreed that it was so very nice that our neighborhood was somewhat back to normal.

The very next week, my dear neighbor developed stroke like symptoms.  He was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  The worst kind. A very aggressive Glioblastoma. His prognosis is challenging.

It isn’t supposed to be this way, he is exactly my age.  Oh, I always figured that my neighbor would die young.  That I accepted long ago, but I always figured he’d go out in a blaze of glory by getting struck by lightening on the golf course, or by electrocuting himself by severing another power line with his digging spade, or falling off yet another ladder, or going bird shooting with Dick Cheney.  Not like this, never like this! Not, MY neighbor!

When my neighbor’s wife told me the news, I immediately offered to cancel my trip to the mountains, but neither of them would hear of it.  I was told to go, enjoy myself and not to give them a thought.  Well, I went, I enjoyed myself, but I certainly prayed and thought about both of them and their only child often.

True to form, my neighbor took on his cancer battle with a stellar positive attitude.  He would do no less. However, despite the amazing care provided by his wife, that poor man has had nothing, but one horrible side effect after another during his cancer treatment.  While I cannot do much about any of his other side effects, there is one side effect that I can do something about…he has developed an insatiable sweet tooth.

So, while I have been neglecting my blog this summer, I have been in my kitchen baking for my neighbor, his wife, son and his sweet tooth.  My friend’s favorites…pie, cheesecake, chocolate-zucchini cake, orange chiffon cake, caramel and sweet rolls, lemon zucchini bread and a variety of cookies are frequently delivered to his home.

This week I had planned to make his favorite cake, carrot cake, as a special treat to celebrate his last week of radiation.  However, yesterday, my buddy, took a terrible turn for the worse and is back in the hospital.  Regardless, I have have decided that I am going to go ahead and bake his cake.  That way, it will be here when he comes home.  However, if you could, would you all pray for my dear neighbor who right now is so very sick, anxious and pain ridden, and for his dear wife and son.

Thank you and God Bless!

The World’s Best Carrot Cake  from the kitchen of Kathy Warrick

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small mixing bowl stir together:
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl combine:
1 cup of oil
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3 whole eggs

Add flour mixture to the egg mixture and combine completely.

Stir in:
1 cup crushed pineapple, well drained
2 cups carrots, finely grated
1 cup coconut, shredded
1 cup of raisins

Optional:  1 cup walnuts, finely chopped

When batter is completely mixed, pour into greased 9 X 13 pan or into two greased and floured eight-inch layer cake pans.   Bake the 9 X 13 cake for about 45 minutes and the layer cakes for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and cool completely.  If you are making a layer cake, let the cake cool for 15 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely. When cooled, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

In a small mixing bowl whip together with an electric mixer:
1-8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
3 cups of powdered sugar

Add and mix until completely combined:
2 teaspoons of vanilla.

Garnish cake with 1 cup of shredded coconut.

Blogger Update:  I just learned that he has had a better day today.

 

 

What Is On My Mind Today? I Have Climbed the Mountain…The Trip to Montana

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Yellowstone Mountains

I remember the call from my oncologist so very clearly.  After months of battling brittle bones and being injected daily with bone hardening drugs into my stomach, just as I thought I had begun to make progress, he called me to tell me that my bone marrow biopsy was positive for multiple myeloma…a bone marrow cancer.

My first thought was thank God they finally know what’s slowly killing me.  My second thought was like the words of the song says, “Lord, this time you gave me a mountain. A mountain that I may never climb.  It isn’t a hill any longer. You gave me a mountain this time.”

It isn’t surprising that my first thoughts were of God and mountains. Throughout the four years that I battled multiple myeloma, at first just to survive, then to get mobility back, I would often mentally picture walking in the mountains of Montana.  Mountains have always been where I have felt closest to God and found peace.

Multiple myeloma, a bone marrow cancer, destroyed my bones.  They became so brittle that all of my thoracic and lumbar vertebra sustained compression fractures.  I once had six new fractures in my back at one time. I also endured several cracked ribs.

I would break my back doing the simplest of tasks including flossing my teeth, lifting a toilet lid and trying to pick a shirt up off of the floor.  For over 18 months I was imprisoned in a chin to hip hard body cast.  I spent over two and a half years confined to a hospital bed in my living room staring out of my living room window at a small oak tree in my front yard.  I was unable to stand or walk without using a walker for over three years. So, being able to hike in the mountains of Montana was a pretty far-fetched goal.

If in reality I couldn’t get to mountains, I could in my mind. I dreamed, I was in those mountains, often.  I was there when I was encased in that body cast. I spent time in them when imprisoned in the hospital bed in my living room. I was climbing those mountains the day they put the Hickman chemo port into my chest.  I visited those snow covered peaks each time they bored holes into my bones using only local anesthesia before they used a massive syringe to suck out bone marrow samples.

Those mountains were in my nursing home, rehab and hospital rooms. They were there the day I watched, “the nuclear bomb” of chemo for my stem cell plant slowly enter my body.

There were times during those years of battling cancer, fear, depression, chemo therapy and stem cell transplant side effects, mobility loss, and pain when my only contact with the great outdoors, for this outside farm girl, was dreaming of mountains and their meadows.

To beat my cancer I did everything the doctors asked me to do, except for one thing. I refused to use a wheelchair.  I had no intention of being trapped in one of those. For, I had decided, like Winston Churchill stated in his greatest and shortest speech to  “Never, never, never give up.”  In fact, I bought a silver dog tag engraved with those words to always wear around my neck on a necklace that included my cross, a silver family tree given to me by my grandson on a Mother’s Day long ago and the first ring my husband ever gave me.

After making the decision to fight on, no matter how sick I was, whenever someone helped me out of bed, I would push my walker around my kitchen island until I was too tired to go any further. First one, then five, 10, 20 and eventually a 100 laps a day.  I wore a trail into my hardwood floors.

During the long months that stretched into years when I was too sick and weak to leave my home, occupational and physical therapists would come to bathe me, and help me relearn the simplest of tasks.  First, I had to learn how to get out of bed without breaking more bones.  As I would sit up I could feel my weak spine bend sideways just like a willow branch and would pray that it would not snap and paralyze me.  It didn’t.

Eventually, I re-learned how to do stairs. Then, after months of being totally house bound, with two therapists, one on each side, I was allowed to go outside and push my walker to the end of my driveway and back.

There were many trips to the end of my driveway.   I can still remember the sheer terror of trying to step down from the driveway to the street for the first time without jarring my spine.  I did it, though, and my world began to grow. First just to the edge of our property line, next came the end of our street and eventually laps around the block pushing a walker with tennis balls on the bottom.  As I grew stronger, I mastered using a walker with wheels, next came two canes and eventually just one cane.

I walked and walked. I walked with shuffling feet, bent over, with a broken back.  I walked sick and exhausted from chemo. I walked bald.  I walked masked.  I walked on flat streets, inclines and hills.  I wore out many tennis balls.  I have worn out many rubber stoppers on the bottom of my canes. I climbed stairs many times a day just to strengthen my bones and leg muscles. Each step I took was me telling my cancer to go to blazes.

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Pushing my walker on a hiking trail at William O’Brien State Park

After such a hard and long cancer battle, you cannot imagine the joy of traveling out of state for the first time in almost six years; being in Great Falls, Montana, to visit and hug my dear Aunt Margaret who faithfully called me weekly throughout all of those years to lead me in Bible study; and to at last stand on a hiking trail in Montana and see a horizon filled with snow and wild flower covered mountains.

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Uncle Klynn and Aunt Margie

As I stood beneath a snow-capped footstool of God, the bible verse that I clung to throughout my cancer battle was again prayed.

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

It did not matter whether I could only lift my eyes to the top of a small oak tree in my front yard, or the summit of a great mountain, my help always came from the Lord….who never left me or forsook me.

With baby steps, a bit a grit and by the grace of God, I climbed the mountain!!!

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I hope you enjoy these vacation pictures!


Lots of Wild Horses at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

 

Beautiful Wild Flowers

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Animals galore! Bear, wolf, elk and antelope too! 

 

Geyser basins.

Waterfalls 

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Mountains!

Doug!

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Me!

It was a great trip. We hiked from sun up to sundown and I never even got sore muscles….Bully!!!!!

What Is On My Mind Today: My painting was awarded a cash prize at the Gallery 96 Art Center Spring Show!

I have two paintings exhibited in the Gallery 96 Art Center Spring show at the Shoreview Library.  The show lasts until June 17.

The big news is that my painting, “Anger” won a cash prize.

Wind in the pasture
“Anger”

Desert Blooms is the other painting of mine on display.

Blooming Cactus
“Dessert Blooms”

The sister painting to “Anger” which is not on display is “Peace”.   My cancer battle inspired both of these paintings.

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“Peace”

What Is On My Mind Today? Ukrainian Easter Eggs and Doilies

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I have always loved looking at Ukrainian Easter Eggs.  I know precisely where I saw an Ukrainian egg for the first time.  It was at my Great Aunt Doris’s farm home.

Someone had given her two Ukrainian eggs.  After she showed them to me, she often caught me looking at them.  I was mesmerized by the colors, perfect geometry, fine workmanship and artistry.

It wasn’t too many years after Uncle Ing died before Aunt Doris sold her farm and moved into town.  Those eggs went with her.  There behind the glass of her china cupboard in her dining room those eggs remained prominently on display.

During the winter of my freshman year in college, due to circumstances beyond my control, I lived with my Aunt Doris.  Many times she caught me admiring those eggs.   Well, Aunt Doris had no idea how to make Ukrainian eggs, so she decided that I should learn how to crochet lace doilies instead.  Both were symmetrical, required skill and a certain amount of artistry.   However, where those eggs beat doily making hands down, was in the department of color.

Not to be deterred, Aunt Doris produced a skein of bright gold crochet floss and said, “Here you go!.”  As she handed me a pattern book, string and crochet hook, I immediately forgot farm rule number one, panic never helps, and exclaimed that she must be dreaming if she thought I could make one of those complicated things. We had a good laugh and then she responded, “Nonsense, just focus on one stitch at a time and before you know it, your doily will be done.”

Sure enough, that is exactly how it went.  Never again was I ever intimated by a lace doily pattern.  Over the years I have probably made over a hundred doilies. Many of which were quite complicated.

I bet the one stitch at a time rule of Aunt Doris, could be translated to one stroke of paint at a time in Ukrainian egg making.  I do know that whenever I have had a major project or challenge in life, Aunt Doris’s doily management skills have often come to the rescue.

Whether it was getting legislation passed at the Capitol; project managing Minnesota’s World War II Memorial Dedication; formatting a four-hundred plus page statutory legislative manual; working on voter outreach; being a press secretary; being bedridden for years with Multiple Myeloma and a broken spine; or any number of other situations that have been thrust upon me in this life, staying focused on the present and not becoming overwhelmed by the future made all the difference between success or failure, and happiness or or distress.

If I added up all of the times I forced myself to focus on just one project, one event, one committee, one bill, one legislator, one candidate, one campaign, one press release, one voter, one constituent, one veteran, one child, one word, one sentence, one page, one chapter, one day, one step, one stair, one medical test, one round of chemo, one illness, and one pain, the sum total would be equivalent to a very strong person who has lived a remarkable life one stitch at a time.

Of course, there were moments when doily management skills were just not applicable. The horse was let out of the barn before you got there, kind of times. The Franken-Coleman Recount comes to mind. For those times I fell back on some good advice I once received from a young air force pilot who was trying his best to convince teenage Pat to accompany him on a ride in a jet.  He asked me if I was too scared to go with him? When I replied in the affirmative, he gave me the cutest grin and said, “What do you have to be afraid of?  All you have to do is hang on and remember to breathe.”

What Is On My Mind Today: Blindness, Blood and Blessings

Just over a week ago my husband and I finally made plans to go on vacation this summer. For the first time in years, we plan to hike in the mountains of Montana.

So, last week was an eventful week. It all began on Monday morning when my husband called me from work to say the he had made an emergency eye doctor appointment. Driving to work that morning he noticed his vision was distorted. When he closed one eye, then the other, it was immediately apparent that he had lost vision in his left eye.

He came home from his doctor appointment with a severe headache, a diagnoses of a macular hole and an announcement that he will need surgery.

This is what his vision looks like now out of that eye.
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Normal vision                                               Distorted vision

Learning that he would not be able to drive home after his appointment with the surgeon was a bit unsettling….for my husband.  You see, I have not driven on a freeway in over five years. I have not driven, because I could not turn my head.  However, after my trip into the oncologist the Friday past and the physical therapist breaking down the scar tissue that had grown onto my skull,  I could move my head quite well. I was good to go.

The night before our expedition, I had the weirdest dream, which is not uncommon on my Chemo.  This dream, however, repeated itself over and over again.  It was of me driving. As I shoot down the on ramp my car ends up right in front of a big blue semi truck.  I guess it must have been on my mind some after all.

When I woke up, I said a prayer for God to watch over my husband and myself, got dressed and we were out the door.

The surgeon’s office was in a neighboring city and was not the easiest place to find. Eventually we were successful. We both chuckled as it was right next door to the animal emergency hospital.  With multiple resources readily available, our situation was obviously well under control. The surgeon checked my husband out and scheduled his surgery for April 9.

After meeting with the surgeon, my husband explained the good news is the surgery will be outpatient.  The procedure can restore between 40 and 90 percent of his vision.  The initial recovery should be a couple of days, followed by several weeks or months of restrictions.  Honestly, all I heard was he was going to get an eye patch!  I have asked him for almost 40 years to dress up like a pirate.

As my owl-eyed, severely pupil dilated husband headed for the car, he again asked if he could drive.  I showed him, that I had my own keys.  At that point, he got into the passenger seat. It took me forever to adjust the driver’s seat in our car.  My husband is six feet, four inches tall.  On a good day, I might be five feet, three inches tall.  I adjusted all the mirrors, put on my seat belt and proceeded to drive out of the parking lot.

I never even made it out of the parking lot before my husband provided advice on safe car length distances. Which he is an expert on.  It has been noted that at times he uses the age-old and well-practiced rational that the distance you are behind a car can help motivate the driver of the car in front of you to increase their speed.  The optimal distance required to perform this motivational maneuver is easily discerned. It is when you can read the bumper stickers on the car in front of your without using the glasses to correct your severely near-sighted eyes required by your drivers license.

After safely exiting the parking lot, it was time for the big test….entering the freeway.  The entrance to this freeway is at the end of a circular blind ramp.  As I accelerated to merge, I looked over my shoulder, which I had only been able to do for three days, and there he was…that big blue semi truck!

As the truck did not move over, I had to drive on the shoulder for a short way until the lane was safe to enter. Thank goodness by the time this baptism by fire occurred, my husband’s driving coaching skills had been rendered impotent by widely dilated eyes and a blinding headache.

We arrived home safely and the rest of the week was uneventful until Friday.  I woke up feeling seasick that morning and spent the majority of the day taking care of myself.  I was so proud of our pup Oliver.  Normally, he is Mr. Energy, but he had spent the whole day just resting with me.  German Shepherd’s are like that, they are great caregivers.

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Oliver

He was pretty excited to see my husband come home from work. It was so cute to see him standing at the gate with his tail wagging, tongue hanging out, just waiting for dad.  My husband stepped into the yard and threw Oliver a stick to catch. That is where it all went so very horribly wrong.

Oliver caught the stick at a strange angle, as he came down with it, the end of the stick went into the ground.  The other end of the stick impaled Oliver in his mouth and became lodged.  HE NEVER EVEN YIPPED!   Both, the pup and my husband were sitting together in the backyard looking positively stunned.

In the Bible it says that a child will not depart from the way it is raised and I was raised on a farm with animals.  Animals on a farm get injured, sick and sometimes die.  Now, when our animals needed help the old doc would come out.  Most farm veterinarians are laid back, but this guy could have sat and smoked his cigar in a tornado and not batted an eye. He also firmly believed that all veterinary procedures were performance art and a spectator sport.  Being a girl did not get you a pass from the old doc when there was neutering, wound draining, shot giving or dissecting to be done.

Oliver came into the house on his own.  It became quickly apparent that he was going into shock.  No sooner did I notice the changes in the pupils of his eyes, than Truman, our other German Shepherd, began to nudge the pup. Oliver came back.

By then, the bleeding had commenced in earnest.  The first thing I looked for was whether or not the blood had bubbles in it, was pinkish and foamy or was spurting.  Oliver passed that threshold, but there was just so very much blood. We could not see the injury.

If anyone has ever seen the mouth wound of a small child who has fallen, you know how how awful mouth wounds can look and much they can bleed. After the bleeding stops often there is just a small cut.  We waited for a few minutes to see if the bleeding would slow, but it did not. Soon, he was passing huge blood clots.

By God’s grace and my husband’s blind eye, we knew exactly where the closest animal hospital was.  Oliver went with us willingly and on his own steam.  Truman, our old white German Shepherd, for the first time in his life, fought with with my husband to stay with his puppy.  He was so shook up.

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Truman

By the time we got to the animal hospital, it looked like we had butchered a chicken in our car.  Blood everywhere. As Oliver pranced into the clinic like nothing was wrong, with blood dripping all over the floor, one tech took the dog and another one offered Doug and I scrubs, should we want to change out of our bloody clothes.

We quickly learned that Oliver wasn’t in danger from the blood loss, but would need emergency surgery.  Since he was stable there were several other pets in critical condition who would be taken in first.  By the time of his surgery, at about 1 a.m. Saturday morning, the bleeding had pretty much stopped on its own. The surgeon found that he had a “massive” puncture wound under his tongue.  He was sent home with two weeks of restrictions, antibiotics and other medication.

When we went to pick Oliver up the next morning, Truman howled the whole time we were gone.  My husband acknowledged, “There goes my new big screen TV” as he paid the bill. We got to meet the dog who had been attacked by a muskrat.  Then, we took a very groggy pup home.

As we were driving back, my husband made a comment about bad luck and things going wrong.  That man and I certainly have had some challenges. For so very many years he had to be the one who stayed positive and strong, it was my turn. So,  I told him that except for my cancer diagnoses and all of those years I was an invalid and sick, we really haven’t had that much go wrong. Besides what’s so bad? My cancer is in remission, the semi truck missed us, your eye will be fixed, the pup didn’t skewer himself in the windpipe, jugular or artery, by God’s grace we knew where to take him because of your faulty eye, we already own three T.V.’s and we are now officially the blind leading the lame.

Boy, did I get a look, and then, slowly a lopsided grin appeared.

My husband took Oliver right into the back yard when we got home. The first thing that pup did was pick up that very same bloodied stick and sit down to wait for it to be thrown. There is something admirable about getting right back on the horse…but, too soon, Oliver, too soon!

Moral of Story:  There will be many times when the only thing in life that you will be able to control is your attitude. Look for the blessings and count them instead of your troubles. And always remember that there is a fine line between bravery and foolishness.

WARNING FOR DOG OWNERS!!!!   It is not uncommon for veterinarians to see dogs come in with severe injuries from playing fetch with sticks.  DO NOT throw sticks for your dog!  They should never be used as a toy.  Oliver was lucky.