Friday, January 29, 2010

Left Alone On the Tarmac

We flew into Dallas-Fort Worth today on our way home from visiting family on Maui. I like the window seat for the plain fact that on a clear day you can see forever. Wait! Isn't that a song? Today wasn't clear, but I still enjoyed watching out the window as we came in for our landing, enjoying the overhead view of miniature buildings, trees, highways, cars as the plane eased lower and lower until touchdown.

We had to wait for the previous flight to exit the gate. That took maybe ten minutes. Then it was our turn. Our plane taxied up to the gate and as we moved into our spot, I looked out the window and saw this lone suitcase sitting out on the tarmac. (I don't suppose they still call it that but I like that word. Tarmac. Good word.)

See that luggage truck? He cruised up to the suitcase, stopped for a moment, then decided this was not his concern...or something to that effect. He left without even getting out of his truck. Two or three other luggage carriers cruised right on by without stopping.

We were in row 21. That means twenty rows (approx 120 passengers) had to rescue their bags from the overhead bins and stumble their way out of the plane before it was our turn to exit. As we left our seats to exit the plane I looked out the window one last time. The bag was still there...looking mighty lonesome...out there on the runway.

I wondered where that bag was headed? London? Chicago? New York?

I wonder what it contained? Business suit? Fancy dress? Necessary Shoes? Or perhaps, less interestingly, simply dirty laundry waiting to get home to be washed.

If you know someone who lost their suitcase today flying American Airlines, tell them to check the tarmac at Dallas-Fort Worth.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Getting the ZZZs in Less Time Than Usual

I'm wondering...does chemo cause a permanent change in sleep patterns?

Certainly sleep can be a problem during the series of treatments but I finished my last chemo seven months ago. I'm finding I need less sleep than I used to need.

I consistently go to bed around midnight or later and awaken at 5:30, ready to get up and about. That's difficult because Hubby is still asleep and I do not want to disturb his sleep by banging around in the kitchen. (You have no idea how how much noise you make at 5:30 am by setting a coffee cup down on the counter.)

Lately, I've been doing that...getting up the moment my eyes fly open. And I feel fresh for the day, even at 5:30 in the morning.

That's not even six hours of sleep. Some days I'll take a short nap. But still, the daily hours of sleep are less than 7 hours.

It's weird. I'm blaming my short sleep hours either on cancer or age. Take your choice. Either way I kinda like it.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Word for Today - VOG

Vog. Maui has Vog. It can be described by Maui residents as "thick as a brick".

Still no clue? How about "I was standing in Kihei, and I could not see the West Maui Mountains." That was a comment in today's The Maui News in reference to the thick layer of vog over Central Maui valley this past weekend.

We're from Iowa. And sometime past, from California. And we were thinking "fog". But, no, vog is not fog. "Vog" is a term used to describe the hazy conditions caused by volcanic emissions. Vog is the result of volcanic gasses being emitted into the air, mixing with water vapor and very small particles, primarily sulphur compounds and sulphur dioxide. That's all according to a pamphlet "Emissions from Kilauea Volcano" put out by the County of Hawaii, State of Hawaii.

Even though there are no active volcanoes on Maui the winds can carry the vog from island to island.

What's a little fog? Well, this isn't fog. It's vog. And it's not very nice to your lungs. The same pamphlet gives suggestions for protecting your lungs with the sulpher dioxide levels are high. It even mentions five levels of "alert", ranging from green (trace) to purple (extreme).

Recommendations during layers of vog include avoiding outdoor exertion, remaining indoors, using air conditioning, etc.

Currently Maui is experiencing some vog. But, no, we are not remaining indoors. For the most part we are in areas where the breezes keep the air clean. I think.

That smoke you see flaring from our nostrils is just the dragon fire of the wasabi from last night's meal.

I need a cuppa coffee.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Freckles That Glow in the Dark

Freckles that glow in the dark. That's what my daughter wished for after she first viewed the movie Avatar. That was the week of my PET scan.

Just prior to the scan the technician injected a dose of radioactive substance into my arm. Interestingly, the substance came in what appeared to be a lead cartridge. Lead shields from radiation!
According to the literature given me at the time, the radioactivity would dissipate in 6 hours or so. But I figure during that time I had freckles that glowed. I am my own avatar.

Last night Hubby and I went to see the movie. And as is everyone else who views the movie, we were fascinated by the special effects. We were flying along with the Na'vi, swooping through the air on our trusty steeds, loving the people, viewing the 3-D effects with fascination.

But you know! I found 2 or 3 parts of the movie really, really irritating.

Numero Uno! Why was Sigourney Weaver's character so caught up with ciggiebutts! I mean...what part does tobacco play in a futuristic science fiction movie? Couldn't the character emit an aura of female toughness without grabbing for a stupid ciggiebutt? Couldn't she "act" the part without a nicotine prop? What's with all that, anyway? My own private opinion is that some tobacco company contributed $$$ to the movie...but perhaps that's my cynical attitude working overtime.

Dos! The character played by Stephen Lang was just a little too pat. Too unidealistically harsh. It was as if the writer was making much of an "anti-military statement". Too predictable. Too robotic.

Tres! As seems usual lately, it seems Hollywood is making a "statement" rather than a movie. That's not all bad...but from the first moments of the film the statement was terribly predictable. There remained no suspense except that of anticipation of seeing more of the Na'vi and their world.

The "world" of Pandora is portrayed as a fascinating place...wouldn't it have been a much more interesting movie if we had seen a little more indepth into the life of the people with the glow-in-the-dark freckles?

It seemed to me that the makers of this movie would advocate the destruction of humankind itself for it seemed to me they insinuate that humanity is the "source of all evil".

Wait! Maybe that is true! Evil IS in our hearts. Romans 3:23 says it clearly. We are all sinners...all of us are broken and intent upon doing our own thing, sinners who choose self over "the other". But there is a solution...and it is not something we can attain to in and of ourselves. We need the work of God in our hearts.

My recommend on the movie? See it for its technical beauty. Take in that part of the story about man's destruction of man as being true. But do remember to factor in the promise that is not shown in the movie...that for each one of us there is the promise that we need not remain in sin. That through faith God works in us, both to will and to do His good work. That this is His will for our lives... that we love Him and we love one another. And that someday there will be no more sin. No more crying, no more pain, no more death. That's a promise. And God keeps His promises. Revelation 21:4.

I'm betting the new heaven and the new earth of Revelation 21:1 will be far more beautiful than can ever be portrayed in any movie. Even a movie in 3-Dimension.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Simple Enough for a Child

Sometimes they make it so complex. But it's not, you know. It's simple enough for a child to understand.

I'm talking about what happens in the heart when God first engages us...when He first causes us to believe.

Today my heart was blessed by a post over at While We Sojourn. Writer John Bird quoted Robert Murray M’Cheyne, minister of St Peter's Church Dundee in Scotland from 1836-1843.

I'm going to copy and paste the quote here (and thank you to John Bird for bringing it to my attention) and then I will explain why this strikes home to me. So here's the quote...

“I do not feel that there is anything more in coming to Jesus, than just believing what God says about his Son to be true. I believe that many people keep themselves in darkness by expecting something more than this. Some of you will ask, ‘Is there no appropriating of Christ? no putting out the hand of faith? no touching the hem of his garment?’ I quite grant, beloved, there is such a thing, but I do think it is inseparable from believing the record. If the Lord persuades you of the glory and power of Immanuel, I feel persuaded that you cannot but choose him. It is like opening the shutters of a dark room; the sun that moment shines in. So, the eye that is opened to the testimony of God, receives Christ that moment.” ...Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Several years ago I looked back on my own faith in God. I looked back to when I first believed.

It was 1949 and Dad had moved our family to a small hilly farm in western Iowa. We had no running water and no electricity. We lived a considerable distance from town on a gravel road that turned to mud every time it rained. I don't know how my mother managed with four kids and one more on the way.

That summer two neighbor women drove down our long driveway every day for a week (maybe two) and took my two older brothers to town for Vacation Bible School. I don't remember going myself...perhaps they didn't have class for four-year-olds.

Some days later, early in the morning, one of my brothers and I were out playing underneath the clothesline. It was one of those hazy summer mornings. In my mind's eye I can still see the mist rising from the grass. My brother was dancing, barefoot in the grass, and singing this song, "Jesus Loves Me."

That seems like a simple, quaint song today and you might not be impressed much with that little song. But you see, this was the late 1940s. We had no television. Our radio operated with a large battery. Batteries were expensive when you have little cash. So we turned the radio on only for the farm report and weather. You may think I was quite deprived when I tell you that I knew only one song at that time.

But I did. I knew but one song. And when I watched my brother dancing on the grass, singing "Jesus Loves Me", I was quite impressed that he knew a song. Any song! You might be amused that it took so little to impress me. But there I was. Not yet five years old. I was hearing this little song, hearing that Jesus loved me.

I figured if this Jesus loved me, then I wanted to know who this Jesus was. And I believed. And I've never stopped believing.

That's the Gospel simplified. God loves us. That's how God works. He reaches out and touches us, placing light and life into our hearts and making us alive. And when He does that, we believe. And it is our belief that is proof already that we belong to Him.

Jesus said in John 5:24 "He who hears my word and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life." Our eternal life begins the moment we believe. And we believe because God has initiated the process by causing us to hear and to see. He is the causal agent. We are the recipients of His work. It is not something we do that gives us salvation. It is something God does. It is His work in us.

God works in us to give us "life". And we believe. It's as simple as that.

(This post in no way negates important Christian doctrine. That is another and more indepth topic. Nor does it negate God's call for us to be obedient in our daily lives as Christians. This post pertains only to that moment that God makes us spiritually alive...that moment when we become born anew."

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Someone Help Me Find My Brains!

Brains! You Don't Want to Lose Them!. Read on, Dear Reader, for more about Brains!

We're spending time with two Maui-born granddaughters whom we have not seen for three years. The younger is seven so she barely remembers our last visit. The girls twitter around us like two little shore birds, little bits of laughter escaping their lips, making quick jumps to new things, asking funny little questions.

Yesterday we wandered down to the small beach in front of Mama's Fish House where they had a good swim in the little cove. While in the water and later on the sandy beach they picked up little "treasures", broken bits of shells and funny looking rocks and broken coral tossed up by the ocean, and placed them carefully into plastic ziplock bags.

The Little One found two round pieces of coral that had been shaped and sanded by countless tossings of the waves. Little One called them "brains" and it was obvious she had found similar ones before. She placed these in her baggie, too.

It startled me several times when I heard her exclaim something akin to "Where are my brains?" after she had mislaid her bag of "treasures".

Again later, "Who took my brains?"

It seemed a dangerous situation that Little One could not find her brains!

Then we took a little walk up a small set of stone stairs and wandered through a small residential area behind Mama's. We were surprised to find this cemetery and surprised that some of the graves were enclosed by fence and seemed to be tended while others outside the fenced area were right adjacent to the path. Apart from some faded silk Christmas flowers, these seemed totally neglected. We saw an upright stone cross surrounded by waist high grass several feet away from the other "outside" grave sites. I didn't know if the cross were a gravestone or perhaps placed there to mark this as a Christian burial ground. Little One found a single silk flower on the ground and we encouraged her to lay it on one of the stones...that it had been brought to the cemetery as a remembrance by some family member and we should leave it there out of respect.

Later we washed the sand from our feet at the outdoor shower and then came up to our room where we made a smoothie of fresh orange juice combined with fresh frozen papaya and banana. It was quite tasty, tart and sweet.

The girls stayed overnight and this morning, after another trip to the beach (a 30-second walk from our door) they left with their father to go to a little friend's birthday party.

Funny thing. Little One left her brains on the balcony table. They're still the plastic plain sight! She forgot them!

I wonder if she or her friends will notice.

(small giggle here)


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Curly Hope...Lots of Curly Hope!

I noticed her right away. Her head scarf. It was tied close at the nape of the neck and I could see no hint of wisps of hair. I knew she was bald. As in "chemo bald".

I'm not one to casually walk up to strangers but I did that today. I touched her lightly on the shoulder and said, "You know, six months ago I had a hairdo like that."

Her eyes went instantly to my curly mop of a hairdo and I knew she was looking for reassurance that she, too, would return to the land of hair.

She wasn't quite certain I wasn't wearing a wig so she asked if it were real.

"Oh, yes, it's real. And, no, my hair is not naturally curly."

Then she reached up to touch my fluffy curls and told her sis, who was with her, to do the same. My hair is really soft and bouncy and I laughed as they touched and patted. I knew she was wondering how long before she had hair again. Her chemo concludes in July.

"Two months," I said. "Two months after your last chemo, you'll begin to grow 'puppy fur'."

"Eyelashes, too?" she asked.

"Yes, eyelashes and brows."

I know she was excited to "see" where she will be in a few months time. Right now, in the midst of her treatments, in the midst of her baldness, it is difficult for her to see the end of the chemo and its effects and the beginning of the time "after". Seeing my head of bouncy curls gave her hope.

We hugged as I uttered into her ear, "God bless you. God bless you."


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

History, Veggies and Trinkets

The Queen Ka'ahumanu Center is located in Kahului and is a major shopping center on Maui. We enjoyed a good walk there this morning...yes, it's lovely weather outside, why are we walking inside? The answer to that question is that we really haven't found any good walking trail for two decrepit old fogeys like ourselves. Not that they aren't there...we just haven't found then!

We were pleasantly surprised to find local farmers in the center court of the mall today. Buying local vegetables is a treat!

One of the tables featured gorgeous orchid plants and she seemed to have a steady stream of customers.

If you look to the right in the first photo you will see the corner of the next table over. What is she selling? Banana bread! It's big over here. Probably because bananas grow like crazy. And they have different banana varieties, with each variety having its own faint original flavor. We brought home some "apple" bananas.

There were numerous tables. The veggies and other goodies looked so pretty. And fresh. We brought home some bananas, papaya, egg plant, baby garlic, and oyster mushrooms.

Queen Ka'ahumanu is highly regarded in the history of Hawaii and especially of the Island of Maui. You can read about her by clicking here. A statue of the Queen stands in the center of the mall. A fresh lei is placed in her hand daily and visitors toss coins into the fountain at her feet.

After we walked the mall we walked up to the food court on the second level where we ate fish tacos. Pretty yummy! The mall is "open-air" being covered only by a large tent-like roof so it is not surprising that a couple sparrows and what appeared to be tiny turtle doves hopped around at the feet of diners, picking up crumbs here and there.

I walked around the upper level and saw this gold cross in the window of a jewelry store. It seemed a bit ostentatious, a bit dazzling, so I didn't bother to buy it. I think it measures a bit more than "trinket", don't you think? I suppose if you were trying to get someone's attention, this would do it but I've never been one to try to draw attention to myself. No, this is definitely not my style. It stayed in the window, waiting for a buyer.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Thank you, Mr. Adam, for that Awful Legacy

I was reading a column in The Maui News this morning. The columnist, Lynne Horner, was commenting about how confusing it is to know that "in the same instant things can be so right in one place, and so wrong in another...". She was referring to Haiti, of course.

It is strange. I mentioned that in my last post...that while I am in one place that particular place is my "reality". And when I move from home to vacation home, the new place becomes more "real" in my mind than the home I left last week.

Because Haiti is "there" and not "here" most of us simply cannot comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy. Not even with a long stream of photos of the daily happenings since. And lest we dismiss it lightly from our minds, simply because it is "so far away", let us remind ourselves that these are people and families and homes and children and grandparents and loved ones. Let us sorrow deeply on their behalf.

The world is like that, you know. It is feast or famine. Feast in many areas of the world. Famine in so many others. Death and destruction are all around us and it behooves us to know that we (you and I) are not exempt from tragedy. It is the way of this fallen world.

When Adam deliberately and willingly disobeyed God in the Garden, he brought death and destruction into the world. He brought it not only upon his own head, he brought it to his entire family. That's you and me, Folks! Every last one of his descendants lives in a world of death and destruction. It is all around us. We forget that. Sometimes our forgetfulness is due to naivity. Sometimes it is a wishful forgetfulness. Sometimes we just get caught up in the "day-to-day" stuff of ordinary living. The "here and now" takes up our senses and deceives us into seeing only what is in front of us.

But it remains. Adam's legacy. It remains. It is ours. The older one gets, the more one realizes and sees the clarity of all that.

It behooves us to recognize that we (a collective we, all of us) are not in control. We need to bow down to the Creator God and our Lord and Savior in recognition of His divine right to our worship and obedience.

And we need to remember to pray for mercy, both for ourselves in our life of relative ease as well as for those for whom tragedy is "reality".


Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's funny how you can be at home one day and the next day you can be 6000 miles away. While you are at home, "reality" consists of "home". And then the moment you land "there", home fades into the background and your new location becomes "reality".

Last Thursday we flew from Omaha to Dallas, looking down over snow-covered Kansas farmland. (You can click the photos for closer views.) Then we flew a second leg of the journey from Dallas to Maui.
And now here we "there"...and it doesn't seem strange at all to be walking about in 70-degree weather instead of having to deal with Iowa's cold and snowy winter. Today "reality" is palm trees, ocean breezes, and fresh papaya for breakfast.
As our plane approached the Kahului Airport I took several photos. Have you ever heard of crop circles? You know, those mysterious circular formations in the middle of a field that look as if they've been created by creatures from some extra-terrestrial saucer! Look at this one just under the tip of our wing as our plane approached the Kahului Airport. (Actually the circular design is made by irrigation units.)

One of our favorite places on Maui is Mama's Fish House Restaurant and Inn. We became acquainted with Mama's many years ago because our daughter-in-law works there. And this year it is a happy experience to be staying in one of Mama's beach units.

Hubby made reservations for a studio unit. When we arrived we found that Mama's had upgraded our reservation from a studio unit to a lovely 2 bedroom apartment with a balcony view of the ocean. We were surprised to say the least. (To put it more accurately, we were Startled! Surprised! Delighted!)

We can hear the surf outside our window. We eat breakfast out on the balcony. The beach is right at our feet down a cozy little path that is surrounded by tropical foliage.

Today we spent a fun day with our son, our daughter-in-law, and our two granddaughters. They're a fun pair, those two girls. They love swimming in a little swim area and combing the beach for "treasure" in the form of small seashells. They play a mean game of Yahtzee and love jigsaw puzzles and crafts.

This is a quiet diversion from cancer. In February we'll be going to Mayo Clinic for an in-depth review as to what we will be doing next in regards to my cancer. But that is there and then. For now, reality is here and now. Quietly tropical. And pleasant indeed.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Post Entitled "The Furnace!"

My mother is a hardy soul. For those of you who have not been following along, her furnace gave a great sigh of despair and quit working...right in the middle of a long intense cold spell.

As a refresher here, the word "cold" is defined as 23 degrees below zero. That's cold, my friends!

Mom lives in a tidy little two bedroom home. She had it winterized a few years back with extra insulation in the attic, etc., which makes it economical to heat or cool. That extra insulation came in handy this past week when she had to heat with three stand-alone radiant in the kitchen, one in the living room, one in a bedroom.

It was worrisome to me. This house is not new. That means the wiring is not new. Heating the house through that old wiring was worrisome to me. So I asked her if she wanted to come over to our house and stay until the furnace was fixed. No, she preferred staying at home. The heaters were keeping the house "almost" as warm as the furnace had done.

Last Thursday, on the third try, the correct part finally arrived. Mom was happy. I was happy. The repair guy was happy. I checked with her today and she says "all is well". Except that she's now a bit nervous...every time she senses the room cooling even slightly before the thermostat kicks in, she begins to wonder!

Stay warm, Mom!


Friday, January 15, 2010

Year One Done. Year Two Coming Up.

A year ago today I awoke from gall bladder surgery. It takes awhile to come out from under anesthesia and I lay there in a white fog, watching a clock on the wall in front of me, glancing at it often enough to realize time was passing. I sensed rather than saw nurses moving about the room. I may or may not have been the only patient in the room, but I don't know that for certain for my eyes seemed to focus mainly on the clock. It was right in my range of view and I kept looking up at it, knowing that it would take time for my addled brain to fully come awake. Everything else was just a white haze.

After what seemed like 45 minutes or so I saw the face of my surgeon hovering over me in a halo of white, bending low over me as he told me he had successfully removed the gall bladder. Then he added this. "I discovered cancer during the surgery."

My response? "That is NOT good news."

Debulking surgery. Chemo. Six sessions. Then several months of quiet time, feeling good.

One year down. Beginning year two. A PET scan last week indicated areas of activity, meaning the scan detected areas where cancer cells seem to be once again growing. The areas are small. But they are there. I suppose it is not surprising that I feel quite well. Who would know! Ovarian is such a silent disease. I'm just thankful my doc suggested the PET. Previous CT scans showed nothing unusual.

We'll be making a trip first of the month to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for a second opinion in regards to future treatment. I'm actually quite looking forward to this as I'd like to get this show on the road, In spite of the potential side-effects, I am ready to do battle. I did this once and I can do it again. And in regards to side-effects, it is most likely that I will be on a different regimen this time, so perhaps they will not be as bad. Perhaps I will not lose my hair this time. Mostly, I just hope I can once again avoid nausea. Pain I can deal with. Nausea I dread.

But I won't fret about that. I'll wait and see what the Mayo docs recommend. And then we'll slug it out again.

In the meantime I continue to trust God in all of this. It's hard, you know. Your mind focuses on "here and now" and not on "the eternal". I have to drag my mind off of all the current "what ifs" and move on over to "no matter whats". For it is in the "no matter what" that I bend to God's will for my life. I choose to trust Him no matter what.

As Peter said, "Lord, where else can we go?" John 6:68-69


Salt in the Snow

The store at the edge of town usually has a large supply of bagged softener salt.

I stopped by the store for a couple items and thought this photo shows what kind of drifting we've had.

Fortunately, we don't need any softener salt at the moment.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Potimarron Pudding -- WhoooYahhh!

Remember last fall when I was extolling our harvest of these lovely potimarron squash! Aren't they just the prettiest squash you've ever seen?

We've been enjoying them as simple baked squash. I cut them in two, scrape out the seed cluster, place in a roaster pan, cover with a lid and bake at 350 a little over an hour. Then I remove the baked squash, mash it, add some butter, salt and pepper and a bit of maple syrup. Yum.

But this week I went one step further. If you are a fan of pumpkin pie you will love these babies baked into a squash pudding.

First, bake the squash as described above. The lid tends to hold in the moisture and the squash will sometimes hold a bit of "juice". I use a small ladle and remove that water for it will not be needed. You want the squash to be baked to a tender stage, but you do not want it sogged by the extra liquid. I suppose taking the lid off during the last 20 minutes might prevent this buildup of juice so I may try that next time. Let Cool before handling!
  • Scrape the baked squash from the skins. Be careful as the skin itself is quite tender from the baking.
  • Beat two eggs in a mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of mashed cooked squash and mix together.
  • Mix the following together and add to the pumpkin mixture, stirring it until well blended:
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (use white or brown, I used white)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp powdered cloves
  • Add 1-1/2 cup evaporated milk and stir till all is smooth.
Pour the mixture into a crock bowl or a Pyrex glass casserole and bake 30 to 45 minutes at 350.
Test for doneness by dipping a knife into the center. If it comes out clean, the pudding is done.

You can see that I had three bowls of pudding. That's because one very large squash made enough for two recipes. I experimented with two types of bowls. The Pyrex bowls I placed in a roasting pan and put hot water around them. The crock bowl just went straight to the oven shelf. Both were done about the same time. Both turned out delicious. (Remember that you can click on photos for a close-up.)

Add a bit of whipped cream on top and WhooYahhh!

The next time I think I will make a Squash Pie, using a whole wheat crust. Oh, My, I can hardly wait.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

In Which I Confess That I Erred and Present a New Topic

I must change the topic! And I will, just as soon as I mention that I erred yesterday. The forecasters predicted overnight lows of minus 25. But the overnight temps were rather mellow and never got below a minus 5. I erred in suggesting that Mr. Gore move to Iowa. And I take it all back. Today we will have a balmy 9 degrees above zero. No wind. It will feel like spring.

Bear with me. I will change topics at the end of this post. I promise. But before then I want to post a few photos. Here is the mailman delivering mail yesterday with winds gusting 20-25 mph and the temp hovering at zero. Brave man, that Postman.

This morning I watched out the window as the little girl next door took her dog out in the backyard for his morning walk. It was still below zero and they did not stay outdoors very long.

Also this morning a friend helped Hubby create a pathway to the garage out back. A friend in need is a friend indeed! Thanks, Friend!
Out our front window you can see that the drifts near the house are very deep.

And here at last! A new topic! Blueberries! Don't they look wonderful! Hubby brought them home from the big store in the City. I can't eat them today because I am getting a PET scan later today. I'm restricted to water. Water. Water. Water. No coffee, no nothing from here until my appointment time. I will survive, of course, but I sure would love a handful of blueberries right now.

Stay warm, you Local Yokels. And the rest of you, too, if you live in this huge area of record cold temps.

Remember that God is in charge of all things, including the weather. He will bring spring to us just as he has every year since I can remember. All is as it should be.

Genesis 8:22 reminds us that, "While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease."


Friday, January 8, 2010

I Think He Should Move to Iowa. And Write a New Book!

First order of the day? Breakfast. Second order? Shovel the driveway. Which my Hubby did with his snowblower. I dibbled at the edges with the snow shovel but he and his machine did the major work.

Several activities required me to be out and about.

First for a CA-125 blood test in regards to my cancer. CA-125 is a somewhat inaccurate and unpredictable (but widely used) tumor marker for ovarian cancer. The test is taken at several week intervals as a "first alarm" in regards to recurrence. It is not accurate but a "possible" indicator. Diana, my very favorite nurse, accessed through my Power Port. Some patients don't like the ports but I consider my port "my friend". (More info on my Power Port here.)

Then stops at the bank, post office, gas station, grocery store.

Also this morning I took a few groceries to my Mom's where I found her house to be toasty warm. Well, at least warm. It seemed toasty, coming indoors from below zero temps! But, no, her furnace is not yet fixed.

A couple days ago the required part arrived via the UPS truck. Alas! It did not fix the problem. So a different part (inducer) was ordered. This second part arrived later this afternoon. Mom called me. And said it was the wrong inducer...the person who took the order wrote down one number wrong. So now a THIRD part has been ordered. The repair guy is a good friend of ours and has known Mom for years. It was not he who ordered the parts so the blame is not his. But he felt terrible and apologized profusely.

In the meantime, in the Saga of Mom and Her Non-Working Furnace in the Midst of the Cold Snap of the Decade, her house is staying warm. I checked the radiant heater in the living room. The cord was cool to the touch. The heaters in the kitchen and side bedroom seemed okay as well. Mom seems to be quite satisfied that sooner or later the problem will be fixed.

Surely the right part will arrive on Monday! Surely!

In the meantime, we're staying warm in Iowa. The forecast for tonight? Do you dare ask? By 6 am we should experience temp down to or exceeding 23 below zero.

I think Al Gore should move to Iowa. And write a new book.

Just sayin'!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

You Will Shudder to Read This Book

For those of you living in warmer climes...if you want to experience our bitter cold the non-fiction book, The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin. It is a chilling (no pun intended) real-life tale of the blizzard of January 12, 1888, a monster storm that took the Dakotas, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa by complete surprise. It will cause you to get a clear look at the unexpected deadliness that winter can throw at you. I highly recommend this book for anyone living on the Great Plains. It will give you second thought as to your own ability to second-guess "winter". (It's been a long time since I read the "Little House on the Prairie" books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, but if I remember correctly, she writes of one such storm...perhaps the same one of 1888.)

Seems like I have gone mono-topic here lately. Bitter Cold. More Bitter Cold. Blizzard Cold. (That's all one topic.)

Snow yesterday. Temps zero and below. Today we have wind blowing through like a freight-train after howling all night. It will not abate until around midnight tonight. That means it is pointless right now to shovel driveways.

My Mom's furnace? Still waiting for the part. She is on the phone with the gas company this morning. Her home is cooler than its usual temp. The thermostat shows 70 degrees in the living room so the portable electric heaters are doing the trick. It helps that her home was "winterized" a couple years back with extra insulation, etc. She knows how to layer clothing and she does not want to come over to our house...which at the moment would be possible only if we find someone with a 4-wheel drive.

I can't blame the gas company. It seems furnaces quit only under two circumstances...either in the midst of the worst storm of the year OR while you are preparing Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. The gas company keeps a stock of portable heaters on hand for emergency use and they told her they had to go out and buy more this past week. Hers is not the only furnace to be on the fritz. In fact, the fellow doing our sheetrock work had his go out the same night. His was an old Lennox but he was able to find parts and have it working again within two days.

Today Mom is planning to take some frozen bread dough out and bake it. That will warm up the kitchen. And she plans to use her washer and dryer...they are on different circuits than the electric heaters so that should be no problem.

Tomorrow the high will be a minus 5. And overnight, into Saturday AM, the temp will dip once again to 20 below or lower with wind-chills down to -35 or -40 degrees. That's cold, Folks!

But even though I am focused on "here", I am also concerned about the possible freezes down in the southern states that may damage crops. Here's hoping you manage to stay up above freezing!


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Words! Words of Jest. Words of Life.

"You won't be sorry!" Those were the words I called to a young couple last night. It was dark and bitterly cold. I was exiting Lowe's where I had picked up primer, paint, brush, and roller for our bathroom.

This young couple were loading a good-sized snow blower into the back of their pickup. I figured they were anticipating the storm that's forecast for today and tomorrow.

"You won't be sorry!" I called. The wifey turned to look at me and laughed, "We bought it for insurance! We figured if we buy it the storm will go around us!"

I called back over my shoulder, "Well, I hope you live next door to me." Meaning if the "insurance" works, I want to live where they live. In the midst of "no snowstorm".

Then we parted and I drove to the jail. On Tuesday evenings I teach a women's Bible study there. My friend teaches Sundays. I teach Tuesdays. I missed last week because of the weather and I was glad to be back again.

Last night we read in the Gospel of John. This book is John's eye-witness account of the teachings of Jesus as well as the miracles Jesus performed. John's testimony, as well as that of the other apostles, was handed down, generation after generation, to us today.

In John 10:17-18 Jesus declares that He has the power over life/death, that He (would at the cross) lay down His life of His own volition and His own authority. He forcefully points out that "I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again." He points out that His death is no mere happenstance, but that it is premeditated and purposeful and that He will accomplish what He purposes.

Soon after these words Jesus dramatically demonstrates His power over death. His friend Lazarus died and was in the grave four days before Jesus arrived on the scene. Lazarus' sister points out in John 11:39, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days." Lazarus is dead. Stinkingly dead. This is no "near-death experience" where someone is declared "dead" but who still maintains some minuscule brain wave pattern undetected by machines but still there. No, indeed. This Lazarus is past any "near-death experience". He's DEAD. In caps!

Jesus, after praying to the Father, commands with a loud voice (John 11:43), "Lazarus, come forth!" The loudness of His voice was not for Lazarus' benefit, for He could have whispered and dead Lazarus would have been raised. No, the loud voice was for the benefit of those standing around Him. Loud enough for all to hear so that they might believe.

And while we were not among those standing that day, we are among those who have the written eye-witness account of John. John mentions in John 20:31 that these words were written so that we might believe and have eternal life in Christ.

After the resurrection of Christ and after His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9-11), the disciples, including John, shared their witness with those around them. The church was first established in Jerusalem, and then spread throughout the surrounding continents and then on into all the world. Ten of the disciples died martyr's deaths. Only John lived to old age before dying. He, too, spent time in prison for his spreading of the Good News. None of these men lived lives of ease, none of them ever heard of the "health, wealth and prosperity 'so-called' gospel". (Nor did they ever teach that false idea.) They were imprisoned, they were whipped, chained, in exile. They died for what they believed. And they continued to witness unto death so that we might believe as well.

P.S. Mom's furnace is still awaiting the arrival of the UPS man with the needed part for repair. Today. We hope. She's cool, but not cold. I'll keep you posted.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Extremes Here and There

Bill up in Wasilla says it was 31 degrees above zero when he posted today's entry on his blog.

At our house it got down to 17 below this morning. If you compute the difference, that means Wasilla, Alaska was 48 degrees warmer today than our little corner of Iowa.

We like to keep our house at 72 degrees daytime. That means our furnace has to heat this home 89 degrees this morning to bring the temp up to a comfy level. (Never fear...we are somewhat green and turn the thermostat down at night.)

Due to the snows and the snowy streets my Mom was stranded at her house Christmas Day. And again New Year's Day. Telephone calls just aren't the same as being with family! And last night, about 10 PM, she called and said her furnace was not running. The repairman came right away (bless his heart!) but has to order a part. He brought her an electric heater and she has an electric blanket. I tried to get her to spend the night here but she said she wanted to stay home to watch over things. She has read too many stories about electric heaters! Mom is having an "extreme winter"!

This morning she says the fellow will be stopping by again but now I'm wondering how long it will take to get the part. This furnace is only a couple years old. Surely it can't be that difficult to find a part?

This has been the coldest cold snap we've had in many years and this last snowstorm was a record snowfall for the month in our state capital. If global warming is "real", it did not happen here last summer (we had a record cool July and August) and it is not happening here now. If it is unusually warm somewhere else it is unusually cold here.

Let's try to average things out a bit better, can we?

(According to geologists the last ice age we had here in Iowa ended some 13,000 years ago - plus or minus a few hundred years
. I am not interested in another one happening soon.)

I have to add this postscript...the Des Moines Register reports that the temp in our little town early Monday morning actually dipped to 30 below zero. I don't know where the official weather station is for our town/county but I do know that there is a small river valley about 15 miles east of here that consistently runs lower temps in the winter than we do. The cold air comes sliding down the hills and settles into that low valley. It is my understanding that only descendants of hardy Norwegian and Danish immigrants live there. Everyone else has moved to higher (warmer) ground. Decades ago!

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Eyes Play a Trick On Me And It Wasn't Funny!

Why would anyone want to remodel their bathroom in the dead of winter?

Don't ask me. I don't know. But we're doing just that. The contractor laid another coat of mud atop the sheet rock today. Tomorrow will be more of the same. Then a bit of sanding. Then installation of the vanity and sink. Then me. I'd do some preliminary painting before the vanity and mirror go back up on the wall just to avoid having to paint carefully at the edges but I haven't picked out the paint yet. And I need to put up primer first anyway.

Early this morning, about 2 am, I got up and looked at the thermometer. It read 15 below. An hour later I checked again and my eyes were playing a trick on me. It looked like 77 below. I rubbed my eyes and looked again and it read 17, not 77. Just about scared the pajamas right off me! The temp continued to drop until about sunrise when it dipped to 23 below. Fortunately, there is no wind or the wind chill would be deadly!

Stay Warm!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Premeditated Pancake Mix

I try to impress upon our grandchildren that I make the best pancakes in the State of Iowa. Sometimes I say "in the entire country" but that may be stretching it a bit. I tell them this everytime I serve them pancakes. They have yet to complain! (I'm thinkin' I have them convinced!)

My secret? You can read about my secret ingredient (kamut) AND my secret recipe here. And since you can read it there, it is no longer a secret!

Today I will not talk about how cold it got last night for the temp dropped only to a mere 5 degrees F. below zero.

No, today I will reminisce bit about Christmas at our house...the Christmas of the Big Snow...the Christmas of getting up Four Mornings In A Row to shovel snow.

The second morning of shoveling three of us worked outdoors (we had only 3 shovels) and one of us, my daughter, worked in the house preparing a warm breakfast for us.

My grandson likes to sleep late...he's a growing boy...he will be fourteen this spring and last year he grew 4.5 inches. He's skinny...everything he eats goes to height and not to width. He normally would be sleeping late at our house but when I woke him, suggesting we needed to re-scoop what we scooped the day before, he jumped out of bed and dressed for the cold. So there we were, Papa, Grandson and Myself. Outdoors, shoveling snow early in the morning.

This is the point where the Premeditated Pancake Mix comes into the story.

I like to make several batches of my Super Secret Pancake Recipe, combining the dry ingredients only, and storing it in individual plastic bags in the freezer with the instructions for remaining ingredients printed on a slip of paper inside the bag..

A couple of months ago I had made a double-double batch (four times the usual amounts) in a large baggie and had placed it with instructions in the freezer. Hubby planned to "make breakfast" for the group of guys he meets with at the church on Thursday mornings. Only he never got around to it. And twice I stole a cup of dry ingredients from the baggie for pancakes at home. So now the bag contained enough for two batches and still included instructions for four.

My daughter, who is a better cook than I, grabbed that baggie and added the "quad" ingredients and came up with a very thin batter...too thin even for crepes. So she opened the door and called out to me, asking, "Is this really pancake mix? I followed your instructions and it's Really Thin!"

I had to laugh...when I stole from the bag I had an intuitive feeling that this would cause a future problem. And now the problem was here! So I told her what I had done and to simply add some extra flour and baking soda to the mix. Which she did.

When we came into the house she had a scrumptuous breakfast ready for us. The kitchen smelled yummy! A large pile of perfect pancakes and a side dish of sausage sat ready for our plates. Syrup was on the table. We were ready to eat.

Forget my earlier bragging about myself and myself's pancakes. My daughter makes the best pancakes in Iowa.



Saturday, January 2, 2010

Saturday Evening Blog Post Special!

Elizabeth Esther is hosting a special Saturday Evening Blog Post, asking for our best posts of the year. Come read what other have shared and leave a link of your own so we can visit you too! (I have linked to a post from last fall. You can find my post here but please also click on Sat Evening Post above and read what others have written this past year.)


On Why I Hate the Dead Cold of Winter!

Today I'm talking "COLD"! This morning at 5:20 AM the indoor-outdoor thermometer read Twenty-Three Degrees Below Zero (Fahrenheit)! That's COLD, folks! Deadly Cold!

I am reminded how our very survival as a species requires that we be able to survive Cold! And I am reminded of how cold/hot works in regards to conduction of heat from one piece of matter to another.

You can read the scientific explanation of heat transfer here. I'll try to give you my layman's explanation (by which you will surely know I am no scientist!).

I used to think (decades ago!) that cold other words, that cold traveled from cold items to warm items, i.e., from the cold wind to my warm body.

Then I learned that cold is not a "thing" that can travel. It is just the opposite. Heat travels. And it travels from its current place to a cooler place. It travels from a hot coffee cup to my cooler hand. It travels from my warm body to the cold air. The warmth in the air of the living room travels to the cold window pane. And what we experience as "cold" is actually an experiencing of "warmth leaving".

Matter that is warm is warm because its atoms/molecules are vibrating or moving. If those warm vibrating molecules come up against colder molecules which are vibrating in a lesser manner, the vibration of the warmer molecules will affect the colder molecules, causing them to vibrate faster. The warm molecules will begin to vibrate more slowly as the vibration moves from the warm to the cold molecules. This will continue until both molecules are of the same vibration, or the same "temperature". This transfer of heat (conduction) occurs at different rates for different matter. Metal conducts heat pretty fast. Certain other materials conduct heat more slowly. It is pretty clear that we don't use metal for insulating material, neither in a house nor in a winter coat.

I want to restate in regards to conduction, that if I place my warm hand on a cold window pane, the cold is not leaving the window and penetrating my body. Instead, it is the heat that is leaving my body and penetrates the glass. As heat leaves my body, my body tells my brain that I am losing heat faster than my body is producing it.

In other words, and probably not scientifically spoken, the cold sucks the very life out of us!

Maybe that's why I dislike cold weather...I instinctively sense that cold can be deadly...that if I were unprotected by warm house or warm clothing the cold can kill! (Duh!!!)

So to sum up, when I feel cold it is not that "cold is coming to my body" but instead, that "warmth is leaving my body". Yes, my body is getting colder, but it is getting colder only because warmth is leaving faster than my body can generate it.

I am grateful today that we have warm homes and efficient heating systems and warm wool sweaters and good insulation and power plants that enable us to keep our homes warm.

I hope you are blessed with warmth today.