October 27, 2010


I read an article in this morning's "Dear Abby" about a woman who lost her battle with cancer. During her illness, she faced it head-on, fought it; but she also had enough reality to grasp that she wasn't going to win. So, she loved her family deeply, and she made sure they had memories of the good times...they made sure to celebrate all the holidays to the fullest - even if they weren't on the actual date of the holiday. She wanted one last time to celebrate - for herself and for them - with her loved ones.

It made me tear up. It also made me remember D. D was a loved one; someone with whom I had planned to build many a memory throughout my life. That was before the "C" word struck, and before that same word tore our well-laid plans to shreds.

I spent many an hour with D while he fought valiantly against the horrific illness that took over his body. Crawled up in bed with him while he received Chemo, sat holding his hand and communicating without words when the radiation burned his throat so badly that it was excruciating to talk, and told him how much I loved him - as a friend, as a person, as a man - while he was in a coma a few days before he slipped into eternity.

The thing about D was that, although he knew he wouldn't win this war - the cancer was too insidious - he made sure to LIVE those last few months. He was confined to a wheelchair; the cancer had eaten away at his spinal column, but man! Did he live that life to the fullest. He would pop "wheelies" in parking lots, tell wild stories of his youth, dyed his hair (before the Chemo took it) a different outrageous shade each week, and made sure to tell us loved ones (over, and over, and over) how much he loved us.

His last words to me were how much he loved me. How much he believed in me. How much bigger God's dreams were for me, and how I needed to chase after those dreams with everything in me...never giving up, continuing to put one foot in front of another - even in my exhaustion.

I'm pretty tired right now. Spent. October is a draining month for those of us in education. No breaks, and it's just...LONG. I think God brought me that article this morning just to remind me that life is still GOOD, and that although I'm exhausted, I need to keep putting one foot in front of another. To climb the next hill and to look for the joy in the midst of the pain. Because, there is joy. I just need to remember to find it.

October 20, 2010

My Favorite...

I love this mug. A lot (as evidenced by the fact that I used it this morning - see the coffee? The lipstick on the side? Yep.)

Two years ago, I bought this mug, and my cousin G bought a matching one. G lives in New Zealand; I live...well, not anywhere near NZ, and there's a lot of distance, physically, between us.

We had this brilliant idea the last time she was here, that if we had matching mugs, then when we had coffee (for me) or tea (for her) in the mug, then it would ALMOST be as if the other person was there.

I use this mug almost daily. It makes me remember our hours of talking, laughing, crying, drinking cup after cup after cup of tea...just sharing life together.

And that makes it my favorite.

October 7, 2010

The Hardest Assignment I Ever Had...

Dr. K was my English professor my first quarter of college. He was a tall and gentle man, always helpful, and always willing to listen. I liked that about him. His was also my first class of my college career.

Imagine the situation. I’m two months into my 18th year, and I’ve just, three days before, moved over 2000 miles away from anything familiar. I know no one at this school, heck, I know no one in this state! Yet, there I sat, scared, shy, wondering if this whole "being on your own/forging your own way in the world" thing was worth it.

Dr. K opened class with these words. “Every day, I want you to journal 25 things that you’re thankful for.” Huh??? This is an English class, not a “Sentimental Journey through Your Psyche” seminar. What the heck? But, obediently I pulled out my notebook, turned to a clean page, dated it, and started the list.

I got as far as number one. Just the number. I didn’t have anything to write. I was homesick, I was scared; I didn’t feel grateful. I felt like all I ever wanted in life was to be home with my parents and siblings, to be in my bed, surrounded by my grandmother’s quilt, and hugging my dog. Instead, I was in the basement classroom of a performing arts building, in Minnesota, trying to figure out if I was old enough to be a grown up.

So, I stared at that number one. Stared and stared and stared. I heard one of my classmates ask, “Is this a weekly assignment?”

Dr. K answered, “No. Each day of class, you are to have 25 things on your list. And, not just the same thing repeated 25 times. You can do this, I know you can.” 25 things a day?! That’s 75 things per week (we had class 3 times a week). I didn’t think I could come up with 25 things for the year, let alone a day! “Oh, and I will be reading these,” Doc-the-crazy continued to say. Frustrated tears burned at the back of my eyes. “Can I have the same list, just repeat it each day?” I thought to myself. “I can even list the items in random order!” But, Dr. K had thought of that one, and cut me off at the pass.

“Do not come up with your top-25 list and then reorder it. I will catch on.” He smiled at us, as if he knew; he just KNEW that was what we were thinking. The evil, evil man. He continued, “As I previously stated, 25 different things each day. If you are truly thankful for something, then it can be repeated on different days. But, see how many other things you can come up with.” Man! I was thinking college would be tough because I had to wade through things like “existentialism,” not what I was grateful for! How many times could I write down “friends who love me (although they’re back home),” and “a roof over my head,” and “parent’s health” before he catches on?

I trudged through that first list. I wish I could say that I caught on pretty quickly, but it took me almost the whole quarter to get Dr. K’s message. Being thankful is a daily thing. It’s a choice. And, it’s about the little things. The big things we’re always thankful for. It’s the things like an alarm clock that miraculously goes off in time for your first day of work, even though you forgot to set it, a hot cup of coffee, an anonymous note of encouragement, warm socks, the sunrise, the way the lights play on the snow during Christmas. It’s a shoulder to cry on; it’s a phone call from an old friend; it’s spaghetti with mizthra cheese; it’s warm brownies and cold milk. It’s the tickle of whiskers and a warm body when you want to cry; it’s the smell of home.

I haven’t kept up with “Doc’s 25 Things” in the years after college. But, I remember his message almost daily. It’s a choice thing.

October 5, 2010

The Sweetest Time...

I love lunch. Not just because it's a break in the day, and I can have a few moments where I'm not screaming over a whole bunch of wild banshees, but because of the relationships that can develop.

For some reason, my room has become the haven for my boys. Not the rambunctious, crazy, hilariously over-hyped boys; those I send outside (although, I do love them with the depth and breadth of who I am...). But, the quiet ones, the ones who are a bit...odd, and who need a place to belong. I get those kids.

Today, I ate lunch on my couch, feet tucked up under me, as the guys ate their lunches and read comic books. MY comic books. The good ones: Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Garfield...those kinds.

Every few seconds, one of the boys would burst out laughing; and then he'd have to turn to me. "Ms. Doe! Check this out!!!"

Call me crazy, but I love those moments. Where I don't need to talk, don't need to teach; all I have to do is eat my sandwich and laugh with a kid and give him a place to belong.

It makes my heart happy.

October 1, 2010


Being gluten free and refined-sugar/corn-syrup free means that I get creative. Adapt recipes and hope for the best. This one turned out yummy...

G/F Agave-Sweetened Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins:

I was a dork and made these on the hottest day of the year (Monday night), but now I’m grateful I did. They were seriously worth the sweat and over-heating of the house…

1 ¾ cup gluten free flour mix (I like Pamela’s)

¼ cup unsweetened coconut

¼ tsp. Xanthan gum

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. Cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. vanilla

1/3 cup oil (I use Coconut oil)

¾ cup Agave nectar (I use the light kind)

1 egg

¾ cup milk

1 cup Grain Sweetened Chocolate Chips

In a saucepan, melt the coconut oil (or, if you’re like me and making these on the hottest day of the year, you can skip this step – it’s already melted!). You can also use vegetable oil; just skip this step.

While it’s melting, sift together the g/f flour, salt, Xanthan gum, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the coconut & mix together with a whisk.

When the coconut oil is melted, add the agave, milk, vanilla, and egg (the milk should cool the oil enough that the egg doesn’t cook). Whisk together.

Add the wet mixture to the dry; mix well. Fold in chocolate chips.

Fill muffin pans, bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes until done.

Cool completely (if you can wait!!).

They freeze well, too.