Sunday, May 31, 2009

Still reflecting...(revised)

I woke up this morning feeling emotionally depleted. I've noticed on more than one occasion that when the adrenalin is pumping, I'm fine. It's after an "event" that I feel the impact. I feel like I want to go to bed and cry, yet everything is okay.

I wrote this post this morning when I was feeling very blue. Now that I'm feeling better, I decided to remove some of my comments. In case you didn't read the original version, you didn't miss anything important. I was just feeling sorry for myself and then began feeling like an idiot once the depression lifted. So I removed those "reflections."

I think sometimes stress accumulates in our bodies and catches up with us. I've had a lot of emotional stress in the past few weeks. There's the sadness of serious illness in our family, wrestling with my emotions concerning relational losses, endlessly reflecting on past events as I try to turn a manuscript into a finished book -- to name a few. And now John's hospitalization. I'm just a bit wiepd out.

I've realized you can't be done with something (or someone) just because you decide to be, or you want to be. At least I can't. John says he can. I find myself wondering at times what it would be like to have that kind of control of my emotions and thoughts. I'm not put together that way.

I began writing my book from a sincere desire to help others heal and be understood. I really didn't think I needed to write it as a from of self-therapy. But I was wrong. There is still a lot inside me that needs to be healed.

On a much happier note, today is the sixth anniversary of the Howertons' first date! So much has happened in the last six years. I can't imagine how different my life would be had I never met my John. I certainly don't have to look far to see God's love and mercy in my life. We all have pain, struggle and disappointments. They are part of life. But in the midst of it all, God is always there and I am always mindful of how blessed I am.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


This is funny. I just learned that I spelled stent correctly the first time. But when my friend (who has had one) spelled it "stint" in her email, I went back and edited my post, changing the spelling. Since I hate to misspell words on my blog, I decided a minute ago to check the spelling online. And I had it right the first time. So now I have to go back and fix it again. LOL. Of course, I guess I don't have to. Only an extremely anal person would think of doing that. Right? Perhaps no one actually cares if I misspell stent. ; )

John is doing well. His only discomfort now is from the stEnt. Unfortunately, it has to stay until June 8.

Saturday morning...

John is doing well. They will take the catheter out today at some point and he can't wait. I have never had one. It does not look comfortable, to say the least.

I needed to correct two things this morning. I learned that I had spelled stint wrong. So I fixed that in my previous post. LOL. The other is my understanding of the "narrowing" Dr. Cleveland showed and explained to me. It is not at the opening of his kidney. It's in the tube that goes from the kidney to the bladder. But this tube forms as the kidneys develop in the womb. The narrowing has probably always been there, but was made worse by the stone. It was stuck. I asked about it because John reminded me that the scan had shown the stone in the tube, not in the kidney. So I told Dr. Cleveland I guess I hadn't fully grasped what he had explained to me. He drew me a nice picture and now it all makes sense.

I don't know why I'm this way, but I need to understand everything and want all the details. I know that not everyone is "in the details" the way I am and for those people, I realize I give too much information. So feel free to skim. : ) My feeling is that you might learn something reading this that will benefit you in a future experience; either your own or a loved one's.

I so appreciate your prayers and concern for us. John's kidney is functioning better, but it's not where it needs to be to go home. So he will definitely be spending one more night. But he's been sitting up in a chair ever since I got here at 8:00 AM.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Reflections from a hospital room...

I am sitting in John's hospital room. He's sleeping. And I hope he sleeps a lot because he's been in so much pain the past few days. And he doesn't exactly sleep well even when he's not sick.

This kidney stone journey began Wednesday night. He mentioned having pain in his back. John does not like to complain when he doesn't feel good. He says very little and usually downplays everything. So when he told me it really hurt, I knew it did. The next morning he told me that it had gotten worse and he had thrown up. I never heard a thing. He doesn't wake me up to announce he's sick. He goes in the other room so he won't disturb me.

The pain continued to come and go yesterday. He'd be fine and then it would return. It would get intense, he'd throw up and then it would get a little better. But he knew something was wrong. So I went to the doctor with him to get checked out. Mike was sure it was a kidney stone, but assumed he would pass it. Mike gave him an anti-inflammatory/pain shot and an antibiotic and we went home.

This morning it got really bad after he was at the dealership. So he went to see Mike for another pain shot. It was obvious he was much worse, so Mike sent him for a scan and then John came home and laid down. At this point, I was under the impression that all kidney stones had to pass. So it hadn't crossed my mind that Mike might send him to see another doctor. I was riding the exercise bike when John poked his head in to tell me that Mike had gotten the results. There was a stone. His kidney was blocked and Mike wanted him to see a urologist just to be on the safe side because John only has one kidney.

Had I known this was going to happen, I would have been dressed and ready to go -- not working out on the bike. But John said he needed to go right then and would call me. I felt like the world's worst wife that he was going on his own! I immediately got in the shower and got ready, just in case he got worse and I needed to meet him there.

He called to tell me that he HAD gotten worse in the doctor's office and they wanted him to have surgery to remove the stone immediately. He said that since he only has one kidney and it was totally blocked, the doctor said it could be dangerous to wait. So he needed me to come asap because they were drugging him up and sending him to the hospital to be admitted. That was all I knew when I posted my initial messages asking friends to pray. I had no idea what the surgery entailed or how serious his condition was. I was just worried sick that his one kidney might be in jeopardy. I had no idea what that would mean for him.

I left several phone messages on my way to the doctor's office and I know I sounded scared to death; because I was.

They were hurrying us to get to the hospital, which worried me even more. I still didn't know what kind of surgery it was or what dangers they were trying to avoid. But when I finally talked to Mark, he explained what the surgical procedure was to me and told me that John would be fine. He would probably even go home tonight because this is normally a same day surgery. So I relaxed a bit.

It's too late to make a long story short. And I know you're only reading if you're interested in the details, so I will continue.

We got him admitted, had his blood drawn and went to the "holding area" to wait. We conversed with the surgical nurse, the surgeon and the anesthesiologist. There were some blood levels that concerned the doctor and he told me that John would probably not go home today because he wanted to make sure his kidney was fully functional before letting him go. The surgery took longer than expected. And when he came out, he explained to us that John had done fine and there was no reason to expect any problems. But the opening in his kidney (going into the bladder) was so narrow, it was hard to get the stone out. And John never would have been able to pass it. He explained that when we are forming in the womb, the kidneys start out as a unit, then divide. A lot of things have to happen perfectly in the process. He wasn't surprised to find a slight abnormality in John's one kidney, since the other one did not even develop. And the abnormality was that extremely narrow opening, which we would never be aware of unless a surgical procedure was done. It won't cause any problems under normal circumstances, but it needed a stent to make sure it stayed open while John heals. He had mentioned prior to surgery that he might have to put one in and leave it for three or four days. But he wound up telling me that he needs to leave it until June 8.

Dr. Cleveland showed me a picture of the stone and the narrow opening. No wonder those stones are so painful. They are jagged with very sharp edges jutting out. I can't even imagine one of those trying to go through a tiny little tube or opening. As it attempts to pass through, it is making little cuts and doing damage. That's what causes blood in the urine and severe pain. I pictured smooth little stones. Huh-uh. (I never knew any of this stuff and find it so fascinating.) One of the things that can happen after this surgery is blood infection. If the infection forms and gets into the blood, you will get very sick and can go into sepsis. So we had initially been told that after going home, if John began to develop any symptoms of illness, he needed to call the doctor asap. Well, after surgery, the doctor just decided that considering the one kidney, the stent, another chronic health issue John has, and the possibility of infection or abnormal kidney function, he just wanted to keep him here for the weekend. But he assured me that he expected John's kidney to be functioning fine tomorrow and there is no reason to worry that he won't be okay.

I asked so many questions prior to the surgery about specific blood counts and potential complications, Dr. Cleveland thought I might have a medical background. He asked, "What do you do?" I told him I am just a homebody and a good care giver. And after John was diagnosed with CLL two years ago, I have invested a lot of time in educating myself so that I can be the best possible patient advocate.

I have never talked about John's CLL on my blog. When he was first diagnosed, he wanted to keep it private. He does not like to draw attention to himself or worry people he loves. And he didn't want to have to talk about it. I think he still probably prefers not to talk about it that much. He just wants to live his life. But he has gotten less private about it the longer he's had it and he's told quite a few people himself. Of course, his family, my family and our closest friends have known for a while. But I asked him today if he really cared anymore who knew and he said he didn't. I asked if it would bother him if I mentioned it on my blog, and he said no. So that's the only reason I am mentioning it now.

About this time two years ago, we found out that John had CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia). We went to Mayo to have all of his prognostic markers tested. This form of leukemia varies greatly from one individual to the next. Some people have a very benign form of it and others, more aggressive. Some people never need treatment. Others need treatment right away. Everyone responds differently to treatment, etc. Treating it is an art rather than an exact science because it is so heterogeneous. It is incurable, but treatable. It is chronic, not acute. Of all the cancers he could have, I'm thankful he has one that does not threaten his life any time soon. But initially the diagnosis was still extremely difficult for me emotionally.

In fact, I can still get quite emotional if I allow myself to project into the uncertainty of the future. But I had to make a conscious effort to stop doing that and live in the present. Diagnosis or no diagnosis, I came to realize, none of us have the promise of old age. I don't know that I will be here tomorrow. I could be diagnosed with something aggressive and John might outlive me by ten years. I had to stop going to that dark place in my mind of possibly losing him. It was more than I could bear. I wound up with reflux and a mild case of shingles as a result of the stress that summer.

However, one day as I was praying and crying, I felt God impress these words on my heart: "You're grieving a loss that hasn't happened. I haven't taken John. He's not only alive, he's healthy and you have a wonderful marriage. Someday, you may have to grieve. But today is not the day." I took those words to heart. At this point, we are going on with our lives and living, as they say, our "new normal." I don't think about CLL all the time like I did in the beginning. But his CLL was definitely a factor in my initial panic as I headed for the hospital today. I didn't know what this might mean for his overall survival, if his kidney suffered damage. I was really, really scared.

I have made it my personal mission to protect that one kidney from too many scans. I remind the doctor every time a scan is necessary to order "no contrast" because it is hard on the kidneys. I don't leave it to the doctor to remember John only has one. I constantly remind him. So today, when I thought that kidney was in jeopardy and I couldn't protect it, I felt a slight panic.

In January of 2008, John's mom was also diagnosed with CLL. This form of leukemia often runs in families (though not always). I gently persuaded her to put herself in the care of Dr. Flinn, John's specialist. She lives in Evansville, but it's only a three hour drive and if/when she needs future treatment, I will want to take her and look after her. So it made sense to me for her to establish a relationship here. And she agreed. She comes down every three months and we go visit Dr. Flinn as a family. I sit in with each of them in succession, telling Dr. Flinn, "I will see you in the next room." They laugh and call me Dr. Shari.

Anyway, this post has become VERY long (even for me). But sitting here in this hospital room as John continues to sleep quietly, I have been feeling especially reflective. So thank you for reading (if you still are). I have wanted to talk about some of these things on my blog for a long time, but I wanted to respect John's privacy more. I am not a private person. I want to lean on my friends. So I was thankful when he said he didn't care who knew anymore this afternoon. Hopefully it wasn't just the drugs talking and he will remember saying that. : )

For one thing, one can never have too many prayers. Thanks again for praying.

Pray for John

Please pray for John. We are taking him to the hospital for immediate surgery. He only has one kidney and it is obstructed by a stone. He's been in terrible pain and this is a dangerous situation for someone with only one kidney. I really do appreciate your prayers.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fair Warning: This is a rant from a frustrated family member

I talk to my mother in law every day to find out how Lillian's doing. But there isn't a lot of change from one day to the next at this point. It looks like Lillian will be in the hospital through the weekend at least. Her surgery was one week ago today.

In order to do her surgery (which was extensive), they had to break her jaw in two places. That alone is causing considerable pain. Add to that a very large incision that begins in the middle of her lower lip, travels down her neck, over her shoulder and up to her ear lobe. Marian says she has had a lot of swelling and redness. She ran a fever of almost 103, which indicated infection. The surgeon had to insert another drainage tube yesterday and wrap her whole head like a mummy. Today he removed the tube and again wrapped her head. None of this is comfortable, of course. And I think they have now taken her off of morphine and given her something else, which is probably not quite as potent. Marian said she has quite a bit of pain and this is really a tough recovery. It just breaks my heart.

If you're reading this and you're a smoker, PLEASE STOP!!! Why is it that people never think these things will happen to THEM?

I guess I just can't understand. I never had any interest in cigarettes, even as a teenager. I just never understood why smoking appealed to anyone. I wasn't interested in trying it. I didn't think it made any of my friends look cool. I remember in seventh grade when some friends tried to talk me into taking a puff. I was as susceptible to peer pressure as any other 13 year old, but not when it came to that. I just wasn't interested. So I'm sure I can't imagine what it's like to suffer from this addiction.

Marian said three significant people in Lillian's life were smoking last night, in spite of seeing her in this horrible condition. Please know that I don't say any of this as judgment. I realize I don't understand the power of this addiction. But I would think seeing someone suffering so horrifically would be a strong motivator. I can't stand to think of this happening again to someone I love or someone Lillian loves. I'm sure Lillian never expected this to happen to her. Please don't think it can't happen to you!

When you're young, you think you're invincible. You think 50 is SO far in the distant future. It's hard to imagine ever being there. When I was in sixth grade, I remember talking in class one day about the year 2000. I remember thinking I would be so OLD when the century changed. I would be FORTY! Do you know how old and far away that seemed to me at 12? But the turn of the century came and went in what seems like the blink of an eye and here I am 50 years old. One of the things I am most thankful for today is that I have been taking care of my health and exercising regularly for almost twenty years now. My initial motivation for working out was simply so I could eat what I wanted. But it was an investment in my overall health and so far I am not suffering from a lot of age related health issues that so many other people my age are bumping up against. I have no guarantees that I won't receive an unwanted diagnosis tomorrow. But I'm not going to increase my chances willingly.

Life happens. Sometimes you do everything right and you still get cancer or suffer from chronic health problems. But when you know that certain habits take years off of most people's lives or result in terrible illnesses and suffering, why indulge in those unhealthy choices?

I guess you can tell I feel frustrated. I HATE knowing my sister in law is suffering this kind of pain and has so many more painful adjustments ahead of her. Her life is never going to be the same. I can't imagine what she is going through right now. And knowing that someone reading this may be a smoker (as well as someone I love) just makes me want to scream sense into your head. Even though I know you probably won't listen to me.

I'm sorry for the rant. I'm just feeling so torn up about this. :*(

Oh, and if you're still reading, would you please say a little prayer for John? The doctor thinks he has a kidney stone. The pain comes on strong. He becomes nauseous, throws up, and then it subsides for a little while. This could drag out or it could pass quickly. It hit him in the car today and he almost couldn't get home fast enough. I could tell by his eyes that the pain had been severe. And he admitted it was pretty bad. He never complains or draws attention to himself (unlike wimpy me who needs sympathy for the slightest discomfort). So when HE says it's bad, I know it's bad. (And I've heard plenty of stories about kidney stones.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

She still has her sense of humor!

I talked to my mother-in-law yesterday and got another update on Lillian. She definitely has retained her sense of humor through this. You'd have to know her. She is very colorful. She is a born entertainer and used to sing professionally. John has told me that when she walked on a stage, she had such "presence," she just took command of an audience. That doesn't surprise me.

Anyway, Marian said that Lillian's daughter, Phoebe, arrived. The two of them are staying at Lillian's apartment. And yesterday morning, Phoebe called the room to see if Lillian needed anything that she could pick up on her way to the hospital. Lillian cannot speak yet and has to communicate in writing. But the nurse was there and answered the phone. When she asked Lillian what Phoebe could bring her, she wrote, "Old Crow, cigarettes and men." LOL.

That's my sister-in-law. I have never heard of Old Crow and I didn't know what she was talking about. I asked John, "Have you ever heard of Old Crow Cigarettes? What are they?" He informed me that Old Crow is whiskey. That was when I realized there was a comma between Old Crow and cigarettes.

Of course, Lillian is never going to smoke another cigarette. I know she was just being funny. And I felt encouraged that she was making jokes. But I also know that she has a rough road in front of her and there will be some days when her sense of humor will fail her. The doctor advised that there would be depression as she adjusts to the changes resulting from such extensive surgery.

I plan to wait and go see her in July. The doctor said she cannot even think about working for at least three months and probably only part time even then. So I am thinking that she is going to need company later on; perhaps even more than she does right now.

I have been praying that I can be an encouragement to her when I see her. I want her to know how much Jesus loves her and that a relationship with Him is both necessary for salvation and also the greatest opportunity available to us in this life. I have not witnessed a lot. I'm not experienced. I feel so inadequate and I don't think I do it well. In the group I was raised in, I didn't really want to tell anyone what we believed. In my opinion, it wasn't good news. And since I have been gone from there, I have grown in the Gospel and learned about grace. But all of my friends are Christians and I don't encounter unsaved people in my daily life. I just feel really, really lame. So I'm praying that God will equip me for His service and give me effective words to share the gift of salvation with others who need to hear about and feel their need of our Savior.

I began this morning to reread Beth Moore's study "Breaking Free." I did the study years ago when I was about to leave my former church. It's interesting to read what I wrote in the blanks back then. I was beginning to recognize how much my faith had been in certain people instead of God. I'm so thankful I am no longer finding my identity in other people or a group. I have found a real relationship with Jesus Christ. My identity is found in Him and Him alone. I truly believe I am a miracle.

I know I say this over and over again, but I am so thankful for the Gospel. I am being set free daily.

I remember hearing Dr. George and Miss Betty talk about praying to God that they would not waste their lives and the days God had given them; that they would make a difference for the Kingdom of God. I have the tendency to piddle away a lot of time on unimportant things. I prayed this morning that God will help me change and that my life will become more effective in touching and pointing others to Him.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Feeling these lyrics today...Who am I?

Who Am I (Casting Crowns)

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who Am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love, and watch me rise again
Who Am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

I am Yours
I am Yours
Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear
'Cause I am Yours
I am Yours


Danny asked me the other day how it feels to not be writing every day, since I've finished the book. I have devoted so much time to writing since mid-January. I took very few days completely off. And there were many days that I sat and wrote in my pj's until John got home from work. One very amusing story (now, but not then) is how I developed my first ever UTI as a result of sitting at the keyboard all day not drinking any water. Many days I didn't eat all day long because I was so immersed in my writing. Prior to our trip, I had lost five pounds from this. (But I gained it all back in Barbados.)

It does feel different not to be so completely engaged with a project. I have always enjoyed writing, but after working with such focus and diligence on an actual goal, it feels strange to have this break. When I first finished, I felt a real sense of relief and accomplishment. Now I am feeling like I need to get back to writing. So here I am.

I know there will be more writing when I get suggestions back from my editor. But right now, I almost don't know what to do with myself as I wait. My manuscripts are out there. In addition to the editor, the person writing my foreward also has a copy and is reading. I can't wait to be designing a cover and printing.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend tagged me on Facebook in a "note" she wrote. It was entitled "Ten things I want to say to ten people (without naming names)." I loved hers. It was truly a window into her soul. I wanted to write one of my own, but I knew there would be a couple of difficult relationships in that list of ten I simply could not omit. I wanted to speak from my heart in complete honesty, but in gentleness and kindness. One of the people I wrote to has asked me never to tell him I love him again because he claims I don't love him; I just say that to feel better about myself. So I didn't tell him. But he's wrong. Telling him I love him doesn't make me feel better about myself. I don't lie to feel better about myself. I have a lot of faults, but insincerity has never been one of them.

In my list, I wrote collectively to my nieces and nephews. Words cannot express how much I love all of them and what it has meant to me to be their aunt. From the day each of them was born, I had such a burning desire to make them feel loved and special; to give them sweet memories of being adored by their Aunt Shari. I don't have a close relationship with all of them today. But the relationships I have, I deeply cherish. When I first wrote my note, I tagged three of them who I am close to because I wanted them to read the words I wrote to them. Then last night I untagged them because I was concerned that it might seem to someone that I was excluding anyone else. I wanted each niece and nephew to know that I was writing to ALL of my nieces and nephews; not just some.

For some reason, I am compelled to express what is inside me. I don't seem to have a need for a great deal of privacy. I actually like being an open book. But the problem with that is, this trait sometimes makes other people uncomfortable. That is never my goal. But as Popeye always said, "I Yam what I Yam."

I probably made someone uncomfortable yesterday. And that was what I was thinking about as I got into bed. But I can tell that I'm outgrowing my need for approval because that matters less to me today than it once did. Life is messy. Relationships are sometimes complicated. (Thank You, Lord, for the uncomplicated ones!!!) It's okay to admit that. I'm human. You're human. We're all dysfunctional in our own ways. The real tragedy is when people live in denial of that reality. I don't. I know I am flawed and dysfunctional. And I really don't mind confessing that to anybody. More than anything else, I just want to be real.

After all, who am I? I'm nobody. I'm a speck on a planet. A flower quickly fading. Here today and gone tomorrow.

I did not start out to write my book as therapy. I didn't think I even needed that therapy at this point. But it definitely was therapeutic and cathartic on so many levels. Of those who have read the entire manuscript, several have told me, "I saw a transformation in you as the book progressed. You were obviously stronger by the end and have shed some of your baggage." I believe that's true.

As I have written, I have looked for signs that God either wanted me to write the book or did not want me to write the book. I have had so many unexpected doors open and received so much encouragement, it has continually seemed to me that God was inspiring my effort for a purpose. Before I wrote a single word, I prayed and asked God to block me, block my writing, throw obstacles in my way if He didn't want my book to be published. That never happened. In fact, it's been quite the opposite.

I don't think I could have possibly written an entire book in less than four months without God's help and inspiration. However, I am also beginning to understand that God has given me the freedom in Christ to write about my journey and my life and bear my soul. It doesn't have to be a direct calling to write it. I am free to write about my own life and experiences. And because my goal is to glorify God and share the good news of the Gospel, He will take my efforts and use them for the healing of someone else. I believe that with all my heart.

If you are someone my writing causes discomfort for, I want you to know that your discomfort is never my desire. Nor will it ever be. I seem to have a knack for saying things people don't want to hear. But I don't do that because I want to hurt people or make people uncomfortable. What I really want is for everyone to feel good toward me. But I know that is not what God wants for me. He wants me to learn how to rest in Him and not be overly concerned with what you think about me. After all, who am I? It's not about me. It's because of Who He is and because of what He's done that I am free.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lillian Update

Marian called this afternoon. She sounded encouraged. She told John that Lillian looked better than she was expecting. She is already up walking. She is on morphine and still in pain. But she seems to be doing well for all she has been through. I will be sure to add updates as I have them. I'm very thankful for everyone's prayers and I know Lillian is, too.

Today was eventful for me. I had overnight company and when they left around 3:00, I knew I had barely enough time to get ready for church. We usually leave the house by 4:20 for the 5:00 service. I put a few dishes in the dishwasher and bundled up some trash to take outside (stuff I didn't want to put in the compactor). I always lock the deadbolt, but never the knob. And most of the time, when I run out to put something in the trash, I don't even close the laundry room door behind me for the few seconds it takes to throw something away. But today I did because I didn't want Dash to get out. And guess what? When I grabbed the doorknob to re-enter the house, it was locked. I was locked out. And I was not presentable enough to venture out of the garage. But I knew John would be home in about an hour. So I just sat in my vehicle and waited. However, this meant that I could not be ready to leave for church shortly after he arrived.

I was so frustrated. Someone else must have automatically locked the knob without even thinking about it. I am so used to it being unlocked, I didn't think to check it before closing the door behind me. The happiest moment of my day was when I finally heard the garage door go up and knew John was home! Unfortunately, I didn't make it to church.

My other big moment today happened just a few minutes ago when we got home from dinner. I changed kitty litter for the first time in my life. I was not looking forward to it, but Rebecca was right; easier than changing a diaper.

Babysitting Dash

Dash is my grand-kitten. I know. The last thing any of my friends would expect is for me to agree to babysit a cat for a week or more. But Dash is not just any cat. He is family. He belongs to Joshua and Andrew. His home away from home is my laundry room, but I haven't made him stay in there very much. He seems to be enjoying the peace and quiet of not being chased around by two and three year old boys. Don't fall out of your chair, but I actually like him.

I am waiting on another update about Lillian. Marian called me on her layover to tell me that she had heard from Lillian's best friend that they were already getting her up to walk yesterday. She was still in ICU and unable to talk (having to write messages on a pad). But they expect her to be moved to a regular room soon. Thank you all for your prayers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My sister-in-law, Lillian

I thought I would add Lillian's picture (with her daughter, Phoebe) to this post.

I am feeling a bit stunned right now. I wanted to share what is happening in our family because I know those of you who read my blog will say a prayer for my sister-in-law.

John is one of five siblings. He is the middle child. There are four brothers and one sister, Lillian. She is also the oldest child. Marian had her first three; boom-boom-boom. I believe Harris is eleven months younger than Lillian and John is sixteen months younger than Harris. Lillian is just fifty-seven years old.

Earlier this month, Lillian was referred to a head and neck surgeon due to the growth in her neck she had been ignoring for a while. She has chronic sinus infections and throat irritation, so she was being treated for sinusitis. Meanwhile, the growth was enlarging and friends were beginning to ask what was wrong. She was aware of it, but wanted to believe it was just an enlarged node from the infection.

After doing an aspiration and biopsy, the surgeon advised that she had a malignant tumor and needed immediate surgery. Her surgery was today. In fact, we are still waiting for the call to let us know that she is out of surgery. It's been over six hours since she was taken in and the doctor expected it to take five and a half hours.

We did get a call about midway through the surgery to let us know that the cancer is on her throat, larynx, tongue, palate and several lymph nodes. They are removing a large part of her neck and having to transplant pectoral muscle as well as taking skin grafts and a new vein from her legs. The surgery will be somewhat disfiguring but the doctor is also a plastic surgeon and is trying to do as much reconstruction as possible. We aren't sure how much he is removing as far as all the affected areas are concerned. It just sounds bad. She is living in Reno and none of the family lives out there. So a close friend is sitting and waiting for the doctor to give updates, then calling to relay the information to us. She said that radiation will follow surgery.

This is one of those times when you feel utterly helpless. My mother-in-law has been here all week and I am so glad she was with us when she got this news. She took it pretty hard. She was already planning to fly out to Reno and be with Lillian tomorrow. I will wait and go later as I know this is going to be a difficult and drawn out recovery for Lillian. John's brother, Harris, is also going to fly out to be there on Tuesday. I was so relieved to hear that because I really think Marian will need him. As a mother, I just can't imagine how hard this will be for her.

I would greatly appreciate your prayers for my sister-in-law's recovery, my mother-in-law's strength, and for the whole extended family during this difficult time. Please also pray that Lillian's heart will be drawn to Jesus as she faces these challenges.

Monday, May 18, 2009

You know you're 50 when... no longer bothers you to be told you look good for your age.

I was telling John and Marian last night that when I was 40ish, I didn't know why people had to tack on those last three words. I didn't like it. And I wished people could simply say, "You look good" minus the reference to age. But now I'm just thankful someone is still paying me a compliment on my appearance. : )

We ran into a friend at a convenience store yesterday and we were talking about the trip. I told him the trip was to celebrate my fiftieth birthday and he said, "Really? You're 50? You look good for your age!" And then he immediately said, "For any age." LOL. I knew some aging woman in his life had probably pointed out to him that those last three words detracted from the compliment. But I realized in that moment that I no longer care about those words being included! I have reached the age where I no longer consider those words to detract from the compliment. How funny is that?

I AM getting older. I see it. I feel it. I know it because I have grandchildren! And when I was the age of my son, I thought middle age was 35! I now think 35-year-olds are still babies. And I realize that that thought in itself makes me old! (Okay, not OLD, but oldER.)

I'm just happy to be here. I'm grateful I still have my health. I'm thankful that my life is where it is at this age. I have so much to be thankful for. I'm thankful for family and friends. I'm thankful for my church family. I'm thankful for my kids and my grandkids. I'm thankful to have the most amazing husband on the planet!!! (He has MY vote, anyway!) And I'm most thankful of all that, because of Jesus, I may get older but the "me" inside this body will never die. I will go to be with HIM when life as I know it here ends. I am so thankful to finally KNOW that I have eternal life. I already have it through faith in Christ! (If you haven't read my blog previously, you may not understand what I just said but you will if you read my book when it's published.)

Speaking of my book, it's finished. I actually printed a complete manuscript this weekend (after endlessly editing and revising). I put it in a three ring binder and hand-delivered it to the person who is going to write the foreward. Next step is a professional edit to get it ready for print. After that, I will get legal advice. And then I will start designing the cover. I have no idea how many people will actually be interested in reading my book, but I feel such a tremendous sense of accomplishment just having recorded my whole testimony. This is something I am so glad I have done, no matter what comes of it (or what doesn't). When there is an actual book in print, I will probably create an independent website for it. I wish I could have it in print tomorrow. I'm so eager to share it with friends. But it feels great just to have a complete manuscript. I only began writing in mid-January. I wrote the entire book in less than four months. But I did approach it like a full time job. I put in many 40-hour weeks. And just before we left for Barbados, I actually put in one fifteen-hour day doing final revisions!

I'll keep you updated on my progress. But there will definitely be a book in print and I hope it will be before the end of the year. My working title, by the way, is "Breaking the Chains."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Cliff in Barbados

What a way to spend our last night in Barbados! The Cliff is the most spectacular restaurant I have ever been to. It was so much more than a meal. It was an experience of a lifetime! And the food was amazing. I'll let the pictures tell the story. Believe it or not, this represents only about half the pictures we took. I had Caesar Salad, filet with roquefort sauce (indescribably delicious) and a chocolate lava cake type dessert. They called it soft chocolate pudding. John had panacotta with caramelized bananas. We both chose the same entree. But he had the smoked salmon appetizer instead of the salad. It has taken quite a while to upload these pictures and John wants to check his email, so I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Another great day in Barbados...

Last night's sunset from our balcony...

Today we toured a wildlife reserve and Harrison's Cave.

I'm so glad we came to Barbados. This is an incredible island. I wasn't thrilled with our first room, but I love the room they changed us to and the bed is much better, too. Our balcony and view are amazing. The food has been good. And it's been just the right balance of relaxing and sightseeing. We saw some of the areas where the rich and famous play today...very beautiful!

The only thing I'm getting a little burned out on is rum punch. They offer it everywhere...even at the wild life reserve!

Tonight we are dining on the beach. Every night they serve a gourmet meal to twenty couples right on the beach. They call it "Water's Edge." There are only two seatings of ten tables; the first at 6:30 and the second at 8:30. You have to make reservations, of course. And we did that the first day we arrived. We are in the second seating. We got to see tonight's menu a few minutes ago. I think John is having pork loin and grilled asparagus. I will be having breaded tiger prawns and roasted vegetable risotto.

We leave Friday, so tomorrow is our last full day. We are just going to hang out and relax; spend some time on the beach or by the pool. We haven't snorkeled yet and there is a ship wreck just off our beach that is supposed to be great for snorkeling. I'm not sure I can get John in the ocean, though. He doesn't seem too enthusiastic about the idea. And I'm not going without him.

For our last dinner in Barbados, we are going to a world renowned restaurant called The Cliff. It's rated number one in Barbados. A couple we met here at the resort said that a friend of theirs, who travels a lot and has eaten in fine restaurants all over the world, told them that The Cliff is the best restaurant he has ever eaten in. I'll let you know if I agree. Of course, I certainly have not traveled the world. But I have eaten in a lot of great restaurants!

This has been a very memorable fiftieth birthday celebration. I have the most amazing husband in the world. He is SO good to me (better than I deserve). The other night when we were at the Harbor Lights dinner show, he said nonchalantly, "Oh, I keep forgetting to tell you about the rest of your 50th birthday celebration." I said, "There's more?" And he said, "Yeah, we're going to see Elton John and Billy Joel Saturday night."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Miss Oblivious strikes again!

(I snagged the above photo from the Internet.)

We took a tour of the island today and saw some of the most beautiful places. I got my camera out to take the first picture of the day and realized I had not put my memory card back in my camera after downloading last night's pictures! Argh! (Feeling like a pirate after my rum tasting at the Mount Gay Rum Distillery.)

So, here are a couple of links to the gorgeous sites we saw today!

Sunbury Plantation and St. John's Parish Church Pictures

Bathsheba Pictures

We are sitting in the patio area near the pool right now and John is hand feeding nibbles of cake to the little finches. They serve Afternoon Tea at the resort every day. Lots of British tourists here in the British West Indies. We've met some really nice couples.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Day Two in Barbados...

We had no hot water in our room this morning so we got to move to another room. We asked for a second floor room with a balcony instead of being right on the beach. We're on the other end of the property and we like this room a lot better. Here's our new view...

Tonight at the Harbor Lights Dinner Show in Bridgetown...

We're having a great time. I have many more pictures from today and tonight (including a fire eater and men walking on stilts from the dinner show). I'll share them soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

First Day Pictures

Of course I brought my laptop...

I have wireless access in the lounge/patio area of the resort, but not in the room. This is probably a good thing. It will help me limit my time checking email and Facebook. : )

We arrived pretty late last night. These bargain packages don't give you the best choices of flights. We flew in a small jet from Nashville to Miami and then in a large one from Miami to Barbados. After we landed, we had a 40 minute ride to the resort. So by the time we checked in, there was no food being served anywhere and nothing happening. We had only eaten a slice of pizza during our layover, so we were hungry! (They gave us some fruit.) We were shown to our room and it was not quite what we anticipated. The resort is advertised as a four star all inclusive. I wouldn't call it that. It's nice; it just wasn't what either of us were expecting. I guess a Barbados four star is just not quite the same as a U.S. four star.

We are right on the beach. We have our own little patio and beach chairs just outside the door. But the bed was uncomfortable. I dreamed that I was on vacation with a girlfriend (Debbie Harney) and in the dream we were talking about how bad our backs hurt from sleeping in a bad bed. LOL. In my dream, we were trying to get more comfortable by laying pillows vertically on the bed and laying on top of them to cushion our backs. I was dreaming this because I was hurting through the night. I am 50, after all. ha ha. When we got up, I told John my dream and wondered if the pillow idea might actually work in reality as well as I thought it had in my dream. (Nope.)

First thing this morning, I was feeling like maybe this wasn't the greatest deal. But then we attended the orientation, booked all of our activities for the week and had the most delicious lunch overlooking the ocean. They also serve the most delicious frozen rum punch drinks (all included). I started to really perk up by lunch. Good food will do it every time for me. Breakfast and lunch were both a buffet. Breakfast was just okay. But lunch was very good. We will be having Bajan food at one of the resort restaurants tonight. It's the authentic island food. Tomorrow night we are going to a Harbor Lights dinner/show on the beach. It sounds very much like a Hawaiian Luau. We booked a couple of sightseeing tours and we have all of our dinner reservations made. The last night of our stay we are going to the number one rated restaurant on the island. They charge your credit card just to reserve a table because they are always totally booked.

After lunch, we took a long walk along the beach. It was so beautiful and relaxing. I'm thinking that I can put up with the bed. ; )

I will try to post some pictures while we're here. I think I am going to read by the pool for a while until time to get ready for dinner. Happy Mother's Day, everyone!

Friday, May 8, 2009

So far...

...50 is great. At some point, the party has to end. But I'm still celebrating.

I started the party on Thursday, April 30 with Robin. We had a long breakfast/lunch at Mimi's. She did all the driving and brought me a bottle of wine. Celebration #1

Saturday night we went to dinner with Mark and Anita at Bonefish. Celebration #2

Tuesday (my actual birthday) I spent the whole day with the kids and we had lunch at La Paz. Danny had an extra long lunch break that day and joined us. Celebration #3

I came home Tuesday evening to roses and two cards from John. One was funny; the other was probably the best card he has ever given me. And he has given me plenty of great cards. We spent a quiet evening at home, since we had tickets to TPAC the next night. Celebration #4

Wednesday night John took me to Ruth's Chris for dinner and we saw "Happy Days" (a Broadway Series Musical) at TPAC. Celebration #5

Tomorrow is the BIG celebration. We're going to Barbados for the week! Celebration #6

And when I get back, I have lunch plans to celebrate with Janette and Cheryl. Celebrations #7 and #8

I think I've set a record for birthday cards this year, too. Maybe turning 50 isn't so bad!!!

Danny and Rebecca got me a really nice lap desk for my laptop. I have used it every day since. But my most favorite gift of all was a little blue journal Danny gave me. And it's my favorite gift because of what he wrote inside. I love you, Danny!

I don't care how old I am. I think I just love having birthdays. Let's see...maybe I can drag this one out for the whole month of May.

What I need to do right now is go check my lasagna. A friend of ours is going to house sit while we're gone and he loves my lasagna. So I baked a huge pan for him to eat all week while he's here.

One other thing, if I could ask a favor. John's sister, Lillian, was just diagnosed with a malignant tumor in her neck and she is facing surgery. Please keep her in your prayers.

I haven't decided if I'm taking the laptop on the road with me yet, but if I do, I will probably be checking in with a few pictures...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Sweet Boys!

As you can see from these pictures, Grandma Shari had a great 50th birthday today!

Monday, May 4, 2009

A meaningful quote...

I read this quote and found it to be so comforting this morning. I wanted to share it on my blog.

"We all face relational loss, but relationships rooted in Christ don’t ever really get lost. They are eternal. No matter where we go, no matter how far apart life takes us from those relationships, there is always continuity, whether physical or spiritual, and therefore no permanent loss. The converse is also true. Relationships forged apart from Christ will inevitably end, either in this life or the next."
-Lydia Brownback

I believe God allowed me to read this today because it is so pertinent to where I am today in my spiritual journey. I have found more peace as God has taught me how to REST in His sovereignty and love.