My Mother-in-law and how she shows me unconditional love…

One of the best things that happened to me a few days ago, on my birthday, was receiving a birthday card from my Mother-in-law.  Most years she forgets to send out cards so I’m ALWAYS honored when I go to the mailbox and see her handwriting on the outside of an envelope.  I’ve got to give her credit though because she’s a whole lot better about remembering than I am!  I’m ashamed to admit that I truly suck at making a day special for my loved ones.  The people living in my house reap the rewards but those that don’t live here rarely get remembered.

The point of the post isn’t to talk about remembering though.  It’s to tell you how I’ve been SO blessed by my husband’s family.  You all know by now, what MY family is like.  I don’t know what it’s like to have a close family or what it’s like to truly be loved by a family.  I know what it’s like to be “judged” and “used” by my family.  It was a shock when I was shown unconditional love by a family who didn’t have to show me love.

First of all, I want to tell you what the card said from my Mother-in-law…

“Any woman can be a daughter-in-law.

But it takes a certain spirit,

an openness,and generosity of heart

to make the “in-law” part

drop away,

leaving that comfortable word

“daughter”.

You’re a caring person…

loving wife…

giving mother…

and your presence

in the life of our family

is simply a gift.  “

Dang!  That made me cry.  I don’t even know how to accept love or compliments!  I guess it hit me so hard because my own mother doesn’t feel the same way AND I know that Katherine (Mother-in-law) really feels this way.

She didn’t have to accept me the way she did.  Ben’s family had gone through the horror of his 3 other marriages before I arrived.  They’d “accepted” every one of these former wives, even when they knew they’d never last.  Ben had a definite “history” when it came to women, that’s for sure.  But that’s a post for another day!  I’ll save THAT for when he makes me mad 😉  lol  I need to tell you that these people are Christian’s of the Southern Baptist type.  They scared me and that’s NO joke!  I’m Catholic and it’s no secret that Baptists don’t like Catholics.  These people actually READ the bible and LIKE the bible.  Except for religion class in Catholic school (a million years ago), I’d never read even part of the bible.  Ben’s family doesn’t just go to church on Sunday morning but Sunday night and Wednesday nights.  Their recreational activities revolve around church.  Mine never have.  They’re also very “Southern” people who didn’t really know or trust “Yankee’s” such as they think I am!  lol  They’re the type of people who say “Well, bless her heart”, in the sweetest most loving way.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that Southern people say this only when they think you’ve done something really stupid and they’re too kind to call you out on it.

When I tell you about Ben’s Christian family, you might imagine people who don’t live what they preach.  Christians get a bad rap for being hypocrites but not THESE people and most especially NOT his mother!  She lives what she preaches and believes.  Only she doesn’t preach at all.  She leads by example.  She very quietly sits and reads her bible and only talks about it if you ask her about it.  She’ll mention something in passing but doesn’t shove it down your throat.  She’s so kind and loving that you can actually FEEL her love as soon as you get out of the car to hug her.  I’ve never been around anyone like this.  She believes in being a submissive wife.  It’s no secret that I DO NOT believe that I should EVER be submissive to ANYONE, but most especially my husband, her son.  I could go on and on.

Okay, you can imagine the amount of adjustment my new Texas family had to go through and that I had to go through for a few years.  Although, they never let me see that they were having to adjust to me.  I’m loud and bossy and sarcastic.  I say words like “God” when I get mad (that’s a very bad word to them) and I call people “dumb asses”.  They probably dropped to their knees at night in prayer over the things I’ve said and did!  They only showed the world how proud they were of me though.  I have ONLY ever been shown love by my mother-in-law.  She’s cried with me and laughed with me.  She’s felt my losses as if they were her own and she’s shared her thoughts and feelings with me.

Most of all, she’s treated my children as if they were her own grandchildren.  I wasn’t expecting that and neither were my kids.  We knew they’d TREAT my children with love and respect but we just weren’t prepared for them to actually LOVE them.  My girls feel closer to Katherine than they do their own biological grandparents.

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(Here’s one of my daughters snuggling in Memaw’s bed with “Ming-Shoe” the doll that Katherine made for her.  Julia feels safe and comfy in Memaw’s bed and I love that!)

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(she just sits, ready to give love to all her little one’s no matter their age)

Most of the time I spend in Texas, Katherine allows me to run her house the way I do everywhere I go.  You know the Mother-in-law on the sit com “Everybody Loves Raymond” right?  That’s how I expect mother-in-laws to be but not Katherine.  She’s happy to sit and read a book while I destroy her kitchen.  And TRUST me, I DO know how to destroy a kitchen.  She’s so gracious and never imposes her will on me.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I impose my will on her.  She’s not used to a whole lot of commotion and when I’m there, I bring my chaotic life crashing into her’s.  I’ll never forget the time she asked me if she could “help” in the kitchen.  Of course, I thought I was being considerate and polite when I told of “of COURSE you CAN’T help in the kitchen”.  I just wanted her to sit there and rest.  I felt like I didn’t want her to go through any trouble when my family was there.  For YEARS I did this.  Finally, a few years ago, she so softly, and kindly explained to me that sometimes a mother wants to feel wanted and needed.  We live over 10 hours away from her and she never gets to be a “mom”.  Sometimes she likes to show US how much she loves us.  Wow!  She didn’t want me to be ashamed because she’d NEVER want anyone to feel shame BUT I was SO ashamed.  I learned to step out of the way and allow her to be the mom when she wants to be the mom.

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(here’s me not only taking over her kitchen but taking over her kitchen AND even wearing her apron!  lol)

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(Another picture of the mess I make in her kitchen but THIS time I had some help from my little niece Selah!)

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(here I am even taking over her Christmas tree…  Geeze, I’m just so BOSSY!  lol)

Like I’ve already said, my Mother-in-law teaches by example.  She rarely needs words.  She’s watched, through the years, as I’ve ignorantly allowed my children to get themselves into trouble.  I was a LOT more lenient than she would have been but I had more faith in my girls than I should have.  I allowed one of my daughters to spend WAY too much time with some boys she met and became friends with in Texas.  They were friends of the family’s so I felt like it would be okay.  It got to the point where she was never home for dinner and she would only come in once a day to say hello to Memaw and GG (Katherine’s mother).  I didn’t want to be too strict with my daughter and I wanted her to have fun too so I allowed her to spend the night camping with these friends and family.  I could tell that it was bothering Katherine (mine and my daughter’s actions were not only improper but just down right rude) so I began to make my daughter stay home more often.  After all, we were only there for a week or two.  Later, we found out that my daughter was doing things that I won’t mention here.  Point being that Katherine knew she was in trouble and instead of imposing her opinions or judgments  on me, she quietly let me know that I was being too lenient by her actions.  She prayed for my daughter and cried when she learned that my daughter was hurt and was going down the wrong road.  She cried real tears like she would do for her own biological granddaughter.  I still can’t get over that.

Over last summer, when I was hospitalized in ICU, my husband called his family and I guess told them that I wasn’t going to make it.  They’ve been in this rodeo more than once with me and have never made the drive to St. Louis to come to the hospital.  I didn’t expect them to this time either because Katherine is responsible for taking care of her 93 year old mother.  Besides the fact that her OWN health isn’t great.  The trip is very hard on them and impossible now for GG.  My sister-in-law told me that Katherine prayed about it and felt like God was telling her to “go now”.  They immediately packed the family up and made the hard drive with 2 small children and 3 adults JUST to see me one more time.  I don’t think they expected me to be conscious but when they walked into my hospital room, I was awake and able to speak.  I believe I was hanging on because my husband told me that I needed to hang on just a little while longer to see “Mom”.  I remember feeling SO much love radiating from Katherine when she walked through that door!  It made me WANT to get better for her.  I promised her that it wasn’t my time yet and that God was good and I was sure I was going to live.  Actually, I was more worried about her making that trip and then turning around and needing to go home the very next day.  SHE wasn’t though.  She was there for me, to hug me and to hold my hand and pray, in person, over me.  The way a REAL mother would.

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(Katherine lovingly does her mother’s hair for church so that GG can feel beautiful too.)

I feel unworthy to call Katherine “Mom”.  I know she wants me to and she certainly deserves the title…  but something inside me won’t let me most days.  I feel like to be her “daughter” , I should be a whole lot more deserving or full of grace.  I’m getting better about it but I’ve been in the family for 12 years.  Today, instead of feeling unworthy, I just want to take a second to thank God for this woman who has shown my family and I so much love.  I’m smart enough to recognize that’s it’s not very often that a wife can brag about the fact that they actually LIKE their mother-in-law.  I don’t just LOVE her, I respect her and actually LIKE her.  Thank you God for this woman.  Because of her, I know the love of a real mother and I am blessed.

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(she loves us all like we were her very own)

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Transplant news… the final decision…

So much has been happening with my family lately and I really haven’t had the time to write or pay much attention to my blog, or my LIFE for that matter.  I’ve also had some pretty serious decisions about my own health that I’ve had to come to terms with.  I’ve talked, pretty much, about my need for a complete intestine transplant and the expiration date that the good doctors have labeled me with.  Well…  on my birthday a few days ago, a FINAL decision was made.

For those of you who don’t know what’s going on, I’ll try to explain briefly.  I have a rare bleeding ulcer disease.  There’s no name for it because there’s nobody known living with this exact condition.  Basically, I have ulcers that eat through my intestine and stomach tissue that causes excessive bleeding.  The best way I can explain it is to tell you that it’s similar to a cancer but it doesn’t spread beyond my digestive tissue.  Although there are no tumors.  Just disease.  I’ve had more surgeries than I can remember the number.  They’ve had to take out my entire stomach to stop the bleeding and they’ve had to reroute my entire digestive system.  If you saw a picture of what I look like on the inside, you wouldn’t recognize it as a human digestive system.  I’ll bet you didn’t know you can live without a stomach, did you?  I didn’t.

I’ve gone through years of hospitalization, coma, death (my surgeon has literally brought me back to life on more that one occasion), blood transfusions (again, too many to count).  The last major event occurred last July.  I was within weeks of being able to consider myself no longer “terminal”.  They gave me the label “terminal” because every time they do surgery to get rid of the ulcers, more ulcers would grow at the incision site.  It was like my body was eating itself and NOBODY, NO specialist could figure out a way to stop this from happening.  Naturally, when your body eats itself, it is NOT compatible with life. They told me that if I could live a year without hospitalization, blood transfusions or surgery, they would lift the term “terminal” as they would have reason to believe that my body was in the process of healing itself (as human bodies CAN do).  Well, last summer, if I could have made it to August, I would have been considered in good enough health, or recovering.  I didn’t make it to August.

In July, while home alone, I passed out in the bathroom.  The weird thing is that I don’t have warning, or much warning.  I just felt like I was having trouble breathing and I passed out with dizziness.  I know that this seems like warning enough for most people but when you’re so used to being sick all the time, you just begin to feel like these little signs are “normal”.  I’ve passed out before and have received concussions from hitting my head on sharp objects.  THIS time, I didn’t get a concussion but I was able to wake up and crawl to the phone to call 911.

By the time I arrived at the hospital, I needed over 8 units of blood to stabilize me.  I’d passed out due to loss of blood.  I was immediately placed in intensive care where they proceeded to call all my family and tell them that this was “the end”.  Nobody felt I’d ever recover because my organs had begun shutting down.  I don’t remember much of my stay in the hospital but my family sure does and they STILL don’t like talking about it and won’t let me know exactly what happened.

However, I DID recover.  I attribute this to God and SO MUCH PRAYER.  Prayer vigils were held by family and people I don’t even know.  Nobody expected me to leave the hospital alive.  I’d lost so much weight and could barely walk.  My muscles had begun to atrophy.  The important thing is that I DID walk out of the hospital.  VERY slowly.  Here’s a picture of me taken 1 week after I was released.

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I don’t like looking back on these pictures because I look so bad.  I was too weak to walk on my own and I had to hold on to a wheel chair just to hold me up.  Most of the time, my husband had to push me in a wheel chair so that I could go places and pretend to be normal.  You can see here that I’m “hunched over” because of the intense pain and on the right hand side of my chest, you can see the port o cath.  I’d lost so much weight that it looks like a bone sticking out of my chest.  This is where they administer medications and where they give me blood transfusions because I have no healthy veins anymore to place an IV.

Throughout the course of the year, I kept losing weight and eventually got to the point where no fluids would even stay down.  It became apparent that I wasn’t going to live.  I was told that I was in the process of starving to death.  That’s when they considered a complete transplant.

I wanted a feeding tube but I still wanted to be able to eat because I LOVE food.  Even during all this I couldn’t let go of my love affair with food.  Alas, they’re not going to give me a feeding tube because it would kill me.  My tissues are brittle and where they’re NOT brittle, the tissues are like gum and pull apart.  I’ve perferated (intestines ruptured and infection spread throughout my body… once again causing me to literally temporarily die) before and they feel like I would again if they even do a simple feeding tube.  My doctors have been in conference with the transplant doctors since January.

Here’s a picture of me after I began to actually GAIN weight.  I was around 110 pounds here (WAY too thin for a woman who’s 5’7).  By the way, I’m about 15 pounds lighter in this picture than I was in the picture with the wheel chair.  Ironically, I’m contemplating how much food I can scarf down.  This was just February.

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So… back to now.  The decision is that I’m NOT a good candidate for a transplant.  The reason is that even if I could live through this major surgery, I’d have to fear rejection.  They’d only be able to do this one time and if I rejected the organs, as happens frequently, I would almost definitely not live through another one to replace the donor organs I rejected.  Remember, my tissues aren’t healthy and there’s nothing good to connect my new organs to.  The only solution now is that if I continue to lose weight, they’ll hospitalize me for a week or maybe even two weeks so that I can receive TPN (nutrition) through my port.  That’s the only thing they can do.

This doesn’t sound like good news, does it?  Well, I know it sounds bleak but I’m relieved they won’t do the transplant.  That just felt like death to me.  Besides that, I’ve gained 10 pounds and am now up to 120 pounds on my own!  The doctors are thrilled that my body, once again, seems to be repairing itself!  God is good to me and miracles DO happen.  I am a walking, living, breathing miracle even by modern medicine’s point of view.  It’s a miracle in itself when a doctor of Western medicine will actually say to me that I am a “medical miracle”!

I am blessed!  I asked the doctors to do what they can to give me another 4 years so that I can finish raising my daughter.  The doctors CAN’T give me 4 years but God CAN and today, I am blessed!  I told the doctor he can expect me to outlive Him.  He says he think I can do it 🙂

The Shack by Wm Paul Young (Julia’s reading project boo review)

The Shack

By:  Wm Paul Young

Published by:  Windblown Media

Remember the reading project I’m doing with my teenage munchkin?  We’re kind of getting behind…  with Springtime busyness.  Let’s face it, I’m not the most disciplined person in the world so why should my daughter be, right?  lol  FINALLY, after a few weeks, Munchkin finished her last book!  This one’s costing me 5 bucks and it’s 5 bucks I’m happy to pay because she LOVED it!

Here’s the description from the back cover:

“Mackenzie Allen Phillips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness.  Four years later, in the midst of his “Great Sadness” , Mack received a suspicious not apparently fro God, inviting him back to that shack for the weekend.

Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare.  What he finds there will change Mack’s life forever.

In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant, The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world  so filled with unspeakable pain?”  The answer Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him.  You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!”

What was Julia’s take on this AMAZING story?  It made her THINK & FEEL.  She asked me if this was a true story.  I’d heard conflicting reports about the “truthfulness” of this story.  In the end, we “Googled” the question.  We found the authors site and read straight from the horses mouth that The Shack was indeed fiction based on an event in the authors life.  He says that he wrote the book for his own children and he’s leaving it up to the reader whether or not the “conversations” took place.  He leads us to believe they did actually happen and that he (the author) really IS Mack, the lead character in the book.

There are so many questions we, as adults, have about God.  Is He/She a disciplinary God or is He/She a loving God or maybe both?  Why does God let bad things happen to good people?  Naturally, a teenager has maybe even more questions than an adult has.  My daughter has faith that God exists and she really IS more spiritual than the average teenager, I think.  However, this book answered most of the questions she has.  The Shack just made sense out of God’s love for her.

Here’s what Julia says about The Shack:

“I believe Missy (Mack’s daughter) was murdered just so that Mack can see what God is really about.  Instead of God being his enemy, He became Mack’s closest confidant.  This was the BEST book I’ve ever read so far.  I took a lot of notes on pretty much everything that Papa (God) said.  My favorite quote was, “A part of you chooses not to see me.  You don’t need me at all to create your list of good and evil.  But you DO need me to stop such an insane lust for independence.”  It reminds me a lot of myself.  The Shack changed my perspective on God.  Now I see Him as a loving, caring and forgiving God, instead of only seeing God as a powerful, scary man who only exists to punish me for my sins.  Although I didn’t see Him as only mean, I just didn’t see Him capable or willing to be as nurturing of a God as the author portrayed in the book.

I wish the whole world would red this book!!!”

So you see, by Julia’s comments, she cared enough to not only READ the book, she also took notes!  Wow.  I didn’t know this until she gave me her book report.  This made me SO happy!  It’s a definite jackpot when she finishes a book, remembers what it talked about AND it sparks her imagination and makes her grow as an individual.  Now I have the hard job of trying to top this one for her!  lol

Proof of Heaven (A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife)… A Book Review

Proof of Heaven a Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterlife

By Eben Alexander

Simon & Schuster Paperbacks

Description from the back cover:

“Thousand’s of people have had near- death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible.  Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists.  A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that  NDEs  feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

Then Dr. ALexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness.  The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion – and in essence makes us human – shut down completely.  For seven days he lay in a coma.  Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped opened.  He had come back.

Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle.  But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere.  While his body lay in a coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super physical existence.  There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

Alexander’s story is not a fantasy.  Before he underwent his journey, he could not reconcile his knowledge of neuroscience with any belief in heaven, God, or the soul.  Today, Alexander is a doctor who believes that true health can be achieved only when we realize that God and the soul are real and that death is not the end of personal existence but only a transition.

This story would be remarkable no matter who it happened to.  That it happened to Dr. Alexander makes it revolutionary.  No scientist or person of faith will be able to ignore it.  Reading it will change your life.”

I really have no words to tell you how I felt about this book.  I can try though.  I loved it.  Even with all it’s medical references and scientific terms.  I’ve always believed in an afterlife though.  I didn’t need to be convinced.

Some of the time this neurosurgeon spent in “heaven” and some of what he was able to describe, I can picture perfectly.  Why?  I’ve had dreams for as long as I can remember living, of places like he’s described.  From the time I was VERY small (at least 5 years old), I’ve believed that I came from a place like this.  Like maybe it could have been a holding place until I was born?  I know, sounds crazy.  But they were reoccurring dreams and the theme always starred ME in this beautiful, comfortable place, for lack of better words.  When I began reading Eben Alexander’s story and learned of his description of that place… I got goose bumps.  I knew it was THAT place.  Besides the fact that I’ve actually had to be brought back to life at least 3 times on the operating table in more recent years.  Although, to be honest, I don’t have a memory of traveling to the afterlife during the times they’ve worked hard to bring me back.

I think, if you have any questions about an afterlife, you should read this.  It’s not all Christiany, just the opposite.  This is written from a clinical perspective.  It struck me that God is “unconditional love” and that we are always striving to get back to that place.  It also struck me that there are several other universes but God loves human beings the most.  The whole “freedom of choice” thing came into play several times.

If you are stuck on your Christian views, I wouldn’t suggest reading this.  I am a Christian but this didn’t offend me at all.  I think I may have more of an open mind than most, understanding that God appears in MANY forms and that He’a not limited to what our brain can comprehend.  He’s also not limited our human perception of Him.

I’ve read many books on the afterlife and NDEs.  This is right up there with the best.  I think I liked it so much because of his story.  Obviously he was a neurosurgeon but what impressed me was that he was the ONLY person alive to have lived through such a lengthy coma where his brain completely shut down.  Pretty much brain dead.  In the book, he explains why none of the scientific explanations of an NDE can apply to what happened to him.  It’s scientific but I think it needs to be as it is geared toward the unbeliever or the people in his scientific community.

BTW… I read this in 2 days.  I only have time to read while I’m in the bath tub so this is amazing! lol  It’s a quick read for sure and if I was able to read anywhere BUT the bathtub, I could have finished it in a couple of hours.

The Fairy Pools and Religious Hatred…

The Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye in Scottland

Shaun, this is the place I told you about.  Where is it in relationship to where you are?

I have a Pinterest board entitled “places I want to go one day”.  It’s kind of a “bucket list” destination or dream board.  I LOVE to travel.  It’s probably my favorite thing to do and I’ve always dreamed of going places abroad but have never been out of my country!  Well, besides Mexico.

Yesterday, I Skyped with a friend in Scotland.  It was amazing to me to be sitting on my back deck in the middle of America, listening to my birds and knowing that I was able to bring Scotland SO close to me.  My girls were laughing because of Shaun’s accent, they thought he spoke a different language!  lol  It’s strange to me that we both speak English, the King’s language, yet the dialect makes it so hard to understand.  It didn’t take me long to understand him though.  I was also impressed with how different the UK is from the USA.  The differences in religion and the extreme hatred that goes on in Western Scotland and I’m guessing in Ireland between the Catholic’s and the Protestants.  They actually KILL each other over there in the name of Religion.  THEY say in the name of God but I’m QUITE certain that God’s going to “smite” them down for killing each other in His name! For shame.  I’m Catholic, by birth, and I’m ASHAMED of the Catholic’s who would kill a Protestant in the name of our religion.

Over here, in the USA, one of the our constitutional rights is “Freedom of Religion”.  For the most part, we respect each other. Oh there’s a lot of talking behind each other’s backs.  That’s about it though.  The worst I’ve ever experienced is when I went to my husband’s family’s church in Texas.  I went to Sunday School and I was alone.  It’s a Southern Baptist Church.  The Sunday School teacher began talking about the Pope and how he’s going to go to hell and how ALL Catholic’s are probably going to go to hell.  WTF???  Don’t they know that this is the EXACT reason that people aren’t attracted to Christians?  Out of respect for my husband’s family, I didn’t create the scene I’d wanted to create.  I sat there and seethed.  Later, my husband’s family heard ALL about it.  You can trust and believe that.  Not that I was blaming them, just that I wanted them to know how wrong I felt it was for their leader to say something like he did… not to mention the “Amen’s” I heard from the rest of the Sunday school class.  “Amen’s” coming from some people I truly loved and respected.  My family told me I should have pulled the Sunday School teacher aside and tell him that I’m Catholic and didn’t appreciate what he was saying.  I SHOULD have but I knew me, and I knew that I probably would have NOT been eloquent in my speech.  I would have ripped him up, chewed him up and spit him out.  THAT wouldn’t have honored my husband’s family.  So I let it go and forgave.  Something that was difficult.

My point being that we ALL live in this world.  We’re all united in that we’re HUMAN.  It doesn’t matter what color of skin we have, if we’re male or female, it doesn’t matter what religion we are.  God made us all.  Not ONE of us is better than the other.

Now, can’t we all just get along?  Much love to all of you and have a VERY Happy Friday!

Oven Baked Parmesan Meatballs with ALL the Fixen’s! (plus a little brag thrown in for good measure)

Today marks the end of my lil teenaged Munchkin’s self imposed “fast”!  I can’t TELL you how excited she’s been to eat real people food!  lol  For those of you who don’t know, she made a commitment to sacrifice or “fast” for 2 weeks.  It was something she felt she needed to do to show Jesus how much she appreciates his dying on the cross so that we can go to heaven.  She’s also been praying for His grace and guidance.  Fasting for Julia means that she eats only healthy food and mostly just raw vegetables, boiled eggs and lot’s of fish.  The best thing she’s had in the past few weeks was on Sunday, when I made chicken and rice soup!  Poor baby.

So today, she wants meat!  Lots and lots of meat!  hahaha  I let her choose what she wanted me to make. She chose meatballs and french fries.  NOT the most gourmet of meals but something I can do quickly, before she and her friend Hannah go to church tonight.  I need to stop here and tell you how EXTREMELY proud that she still looks at church as a fun, social activity.  ESPECIALLY when I’m just learning that another one of her bff’s (also 14) might be PREGNANT!  Once again, reminding me that it can ALWAYS be worse!  Wow.

Oven Baked Parmesan and Herb Meatballs

(revised by me from Pinterest)

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup milk or half and half

1/2 cup grated Parmesan (fresh is ALWAYS better)

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (or regular but Panko is better)

1 small onion, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, mix all ingredients together using your hands.  Form into golf ball sized meatballs .  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil.  Bake in preheated oven, 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

*  I’m eating these right now and they’re SO freaking tasty!  I wish you could smell my house 🙂  Smells like home!  lol

Okay, next I made my easy oven baked asparagus.  This is pretty much the ONLY way we ever cook asparagus anymore.

Oven Baked Parmesan Asparagus

Ingredients:

1 bunch of medium to small stemmed asparagus (with woody ends cut on the diagonal)

About 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

About 1/4 to 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (eyeball it)

2 tsp salt

About 1 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

Toss asparagus with all other ingredients.  Make sure each piece of asparagus is covered with oil and seasoning.  Place asparagus onto a foil lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until bright green and cheese is melted.

Easy as THAT and I have 2 very happy munchkins and a husband that can’t wait to get home and eat it all up!  I’d tell you about the Ore Ida frozen french fries…. but I’m pretty sure you won’t be impressed with how I threw those babies in the oven for 30 minutes with season salt!  lmbo

Happy Eating to you 🙂

The Awakening By Sonny Carroll

I’ve said before, time and time again, there are no accidents.  One of my very best friends called this morning while I was struggling to write my story and purge my body of all these negative feelings and memories.  She wanted me to read “The Awakening” and really look at what it said.  It’s so very fitting and it amazes me that so many other people feel this way. I’m having this kind of awakening.  Right now.  Thank you Beth, for just knowing…

The Awakening
by Sonny Carroll

The Awakening
Sonny Carroll

There comes a time in your life when you finally get it … When in the midst of all your fears and insanity you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out “ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying or struggling to hold on.” And, like a child quieting down after a blind tantrum, your sobs begin to subside, you shudder once or twice, you blink back your tears and through a mantle of wet lashes you begin to look at the world from a new perspective.

……….This is your awakening.

You realize that it is time to stop hoping and waiting for something or someone to change, or for happiness safety and security to come galloping over the next horizon. You come to terms with the fact that there aren’t always fairytale endings (or beginnings for that matter) and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you. Then a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

So you begin making your way through the “reality of today” rather than holding out for the “promise of tomorrow.” You realize that much of who you are and the way you navigate through life is, in great part, a result of all the social conditioning you’ve received over the course of a lifetime. And you begin to sift through all the nonsense you were taught about :

– how you should look and how much you should weigh,
– what you should wear and where you should shop,
– where you should live or what type of car you should drive,
– who you should sleep with and how you should behave,
– who you should marry and why you should stay,
– the importance of bearing children or what you owe your family,

Slowly you begin to open up to new worlds and different points of view. And you begin re-assessing and re-defining who you are and what you really believe in. And you begin to discard the doctrines you have outgrown, or should never have practiced to begin with.

You accept the fact that you are not perfect ,and that not everyone will love appreciate or approve of who or what you are… and that’s OK… they are entitled to their own views and opinions. And, you come to terms with the fact that you will never be a size 5 or a “perfect 10″…. Or a perfect human being for that matter… and you stop trying to compete with the image inside your head or agonizing over how you compare. And, you take a long look at yourself in the mirror and you make a promise to give yourself the same unconditional love and support you give so freely to others. Then a sense of confidence is born of self-approval.

And, you stop maneuvering through life merely as a “consumer” hungry for your next fix, a new dress, another pair of shoes or looks of approval and admiration from family, friends or even strangers who pass by. Then you discover that it is truly in “giving” that we receive, and that the joy and abundance you seek grows out of the giving. And you recognize the importance of “creating” and “contributing” rather than “obtaining” and “accumulating.”

And you give thanks for the simple things you’ve been blessed with, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about – a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, the freedom of choice and the opportunity to pursue your own dreams.

And you begin to love and to care for yourself. You stop engaging in self-destructive behaviors, including participating in dysfunctional relationships. You begin eating a balanced diet, drinking more water and exercising. And because you’ve learned that fatigue drains the spirit and creates doubt and fear, you give yourself permission to rest. And just as food is fuel for the body, laughter is fuel for the spirit and so you make it a point to create time for play.

Then you learn about love and relationships – how to love, how much to give in love, when to stop giving, and when to walk away. And you allow only the hands of a lover who truly loves and respects you to glorify you with his touch. You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say, intentionally or unintentionally, and that not everyone will always come through… and interestingly enough, it’s not always about you. So, you stop lashing out and pointing fingers or looking to place blame for the things that were done to you or weren’t done for you. And you learn to keep your Ego in check and to acknowledge and redirect the destructive emotions it spawns – anger, jealousy and resentment.

You learn how to say “I was wrong” and to forgive people for their own human frailties. You learn to build bridges instead of walls and about the healing power of love as it is expressed through a kind word, a warm smile or a friendly gesture. And, at the same time, you eliminate any relationships that are hurtful or fail to uplift and edify you. You stop working so hard at smoothing things over and setting your needs aside. You learn that feelings of entitlement are perfectly OK and that it is your right to want or expect certain things. And you learn the importance of communicating your needs with confidence and grace. You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that eventually martyrs are burned at the stake. Then you learn to distinguish between guilt, and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to Say NO. You learn that you don’t know all the answers, it’s not your job to save the world and that sometimes you just need to Let Go.

Moreover, you learn to look at people as they really are and not as you would want them to be, and you are careful not to project your neediness or insecurities onto a relationship. You learn that you will not be more beautiful, more intelligent, more lovable or important because of the man on your arm or the child that bears your name. You learn that just as people grow and change, so it is with love and relationships, and that that not everyone can always love you the way you would want them to. So you stop appraising your worth by the measure of love you are given. And suddenly you realize that it’s wrong to demand that someone live their life or sacrifice their dreams just to serve your needs, ease your insecurities, or meet “your” standards and expectations. You learn that the only love worth giving and receiving is the love that is given freely without conditions or limitations. And you learn what it means to love. So you stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn that “alone” does not mean “lonely” and you begin to discover the joy of spending time “with yourself” and “on yourself.” Then you discover the greatest and most fulfilling love you will ever know – Self Love. And so it comes to pass that, through understanding, your heart heals; and now all new things are possible.

Moving along, you begin to avoid Toxic people and conversations. And you stop wasting time and energy rehashing your situation with family and friends. You learn that talk doesn’t change things and that unrequited wishes can only serve to keep you trapped in the past. So you stop lamenting over what could or should have been and you make a decision to leave the past behind. Then you begin to invest your time and energy to affect positive change. You take a personal inventory of all your strengths and weaknesses and the areas you need to improve in order to move ahead, you set your goals and map out a plan of action to see things through.

You learn that life isn’t always fair and you don’t always get what you think you deserve, and you stop personalizing every loss or disappointment. You learn to accept that sometimes bad things happen to good people and that these things are not an act of God… but merely a random act of fate.

And you stop looking for guarantees, because you’ve learned that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected and that whatever happens, you’ll learn to deal with it. And you learn that the only thing you must truly fear is the great robber baron of all time – FEAR itself.  So you learn to step right into and through your fears, because to give into fear is to give away the right to live life on your terms. You learn that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophesy and you learn to go after what you want and not to squander your life living under a cloud of indecision or feelings of impending doom.

Then, YOU LEARN ABOUT MONEY… the personal power and independence it brings and the options it creates. And you recognize the necessity to create your own personal wealth. Slowly, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never ever settle for less than your heart’s desire. And a sense of power is born of self-reliance. And you live with honor and integrity because you know that these principles are not the outdated ideals of a by-gone era but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build your life. And you make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting and to stay open to every wonderful opportunity and exciting possibility. Then you hang a wind chime outside your window to remind yourself what beauty there is in Simplicity.

Finally, with courage in your heart and with God by your side you take a stand, you TAKE a deep breath and you begin to design the life you want to live as best as you can.

A word about the Power of Prayer: In some of my darkest, most painful and frightening hours, I have prayed, not for the answers to my prayers or for material things, but for my “God” to help me find the strength, confidence and courage to persevere; to face each day and to do what I must do.

Remember this:- You are an expression of the almighty. The spirit of God resides within you and moves through you. Open your heart, speak to that spirit and it will heal and empower you.
My “God” has never failed me.

Copyright © 2001 Sonny Carroll. All Rights Reserved
Reprinted here with permission