Saturday, April 30, 2011

Distractions

I have been trying to stay focused on my new "job" of writing for a website. It's really convenient to be able to work from home. But you have to watch out for distractions. There are the obvious, of course ... Facebook and Email and the phone. But some are connected to the job.

The website I'm writing for is a property management and condo rental service for privately owned condos in Panama City Beach, Florida. The current site (http://www.visitpcb.com/) is already in my links. But the website we're currently working on will be a different and all new replacement for this one. We're getting closer and closer to having it go live. But there is just so much content for a site like this, as well as bugs to be worked out and pictures to be loaded, etc.

I have been writing articles for resorts, attractions, events, restaurants (my favorite ones to write, of course). Which brings me to my distraction of the day. This morning I started to research and write about Schooners Annual LobsterFest, which takes place in the month of September. I could hardly stop reading about it and looking at pictures in order to write my own article. I may want to write a book about it after I have actually attended the event!

So now I'm bugging John for a trip to Panama City Beach in September and I'm craving lobster. And it's really hard to move on to other event articles such as Thunder Beach, Softball Tournaments and Boat Races.

Surprise! Surprise! I notice a distinct increase in my enthusiasm for this job whenever the event involves food! I would also love to just keep looking at Schooners' live webcam of the beach. One nice perk about this job is going to be the work-related traveling and eating I will HAVE to do!

Better get my head out of the plate of lobster I'm envisioning and back to work for now, though.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

12 Cycles of CAL-101 and John's CLL is Still Under Control

John had his regular two month office visit and lab work today. He has completed twelve 28-day cycles of CAL-101 (50 mg. twice a day) and he's doing great. At this point, he begins the rollover phase of the drug study. As long as the drug is working, he will continue taking it.

John's lymph nodes were dramatically reduced early on in this treatment. This week's scans show that they are all stable. And his blood counts are all within normal range too (except for MCV and MCH, which are always a little high -- but nobody seems concerned with those numbers).

Today's bloodwork showed these numbers:
WBC: 5.9
ALC: 3.1
Neut: 2.5
RBC: 4.34
HGB: 14.0
HCT: 42.4
PLT:  187

So far, John has had no side effects from treatment with CAL-101. And he is getting these great results from the lowest dose given. Dr. Flinn only has one other CLL patient who is responding to the 50 mg. dose. I think 100-150 mg. are the dosages that work best for most patients. However, there are patients taking higher doses as well. All patients' liver enzymes are monitored closely for toxicity. If toxicity develops, the patient's dosage is either reduced or they discontinue the drug.

CAL-101 has been a miracle drug for John's CLL. If you've followed my blog long, you know that he failed FCR completely. His lymph nodes (which have always been where his CLL proliferates) were somewhat reduced by chemo, but he did not get even a short-term complete response. The lymph nodes started coming back within weeks of his last dose of chemo. We knew within two months that FCR had not worked. And it seemed like the only option on the table was stem cell transplant. However, in order to have a successful transplant, the patient has to achieve a remission first. And since John did not respond to FCR (the gold standard treatment for CLL), I was pretty worried about his potential response to other therapies.

It was a discouraging and a scary time. Like I've said before, I tried not to show how frightened I was. But my insides felt like they were crumbling. Not all patients get good results from SCT. There are sometimes very serious side effects of SCT. And not all patients even survive SCT. At best, it is a very difficult ordeal. There are wonderful success stories, but most CLL patients I've become acquainted with over the last four years still consider it a last resort and try to avoid it.

While we were trying to come to terms with the situation and beginning to contemplate the possibility of transplant becoming a medical necessity, I was continuing to research all of our options. I had developed a friendship with another CLL patient who was in a clinical trial with CAL-101 as single agent (not in combination with any other drugs). He wrote to me in recommendation of John trying to get into a CAL-101 trial before seriously considering the transplant option. He had been preparing for transplant himself and wound up getting such great results from CAL-101 that he withdrew from the transplant program. I wasn't sure Dr. Flinn was involved in the single agent CAL-101 trial, so I contacted OSU and Dr. Byrd and got the ball rolling for John to consult with him. I told John that this was one decision we would not be making based on convenience. Then, at our next visit, I asked Dr. Flinn about the possibility of John getting into this clinical trial. As it turned out, Dr. Flinn was involved in the same clinical trial that was being offered at OSU and he said he would try to get John enrolled in it. We then waited a few weeks to find out whether or not he was accepted. And, of course, he was. (I think he wound up being the last CLL patient to be enrolled in that particular trial before it was closed to new patients. And then combination therapy trials were subsequently opened.)

Since the end of May 2010, John has taken one capsule in the morning and another at night. And those annoyingly large -- often painful -- lymph nodes have disappeared and not come back.  It is still utterly amazing to me that this little pill was able to do what harsh chemotherapy could not do in John's case. I am so thankful this drug exists and that it is working for my husband.

I asked Dr. Flinn today if most of his patients were getting the same results John and his mom have gotten. He said, "Not everyone, but a lot of patients are also getting good results."

CLL is so individual. It's almost like every patient has a different disease. One third of CLL patients will never need treatment. One third will need treatment at some point. And one third will need treatment immediately upon diagnosis. There are very benign cases of CLL and there are very aggressive cases. There are patients who live 25+ years with it and die of something else. There have been patients who lost their battle within the first year or two. And on top of that, not every patient responds to the same treatments. Some patients get years of Complete Remission from the same chemo that did nothing for John. Some CLL progresses in the blood and marrow. Other cases progress in the lymph nodes (more like a lymphoma).

The most universal symptom of CLL (benign and aggressive) is fatigue. Some patients have fatigue so severe that they cannot work or even get out of bed some days. John does battle fatigue (even on CAL-101). But it has never been so severe that he couldn't function normally or go to work. The only days he has missed have been during chemo. And even then he only took a long weekend to recover.

I have noticed that my "patient" gets better rest when we go away for some R & R. Being a business owner, he can't seem to get away from his stress mentally unless we get completely away physically. So I remind him of that now and then. But he has gotten better at making his health and well-being a priority. I guess that is one of the good things to come from his health issues.

I am so grateful John is enjoying good health. His medical stability over the past year has relieved a lot of mental and emotional stress (for me). I hope and pray his success on CAL-101 continues indefinitely. And I am very thankful to all of you who have prayed for that as well!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Old Friends

This was a special week for me. A childhood friend of mine came to spend the day with me Wednesday. We stay in touch on Facebook, but we hadn't seen each other in years. And when I say that we go way back, I mean that we were babies together ... teenagers together... newly marrieds together, etc. (And now we've shared hot flashes together, which seems so very appropriate!)

We share common roots, experiences, memories and relationships. Our parents were good friends when we were young (and all through our lives). My first cousins are also her first cousins. So it almost seems as if we should be related. I do not have a sister by blood, but Kathy is someone I consider a sister of my heart.

That is not to say we haven't gone through some difficult places in our friendship. We have. But there has always been genuine love, acceptance and forgiveness of wrongs. I am very grateful for that.

Wednesday was a day filled with love and laughter and the joy of a lasting friendship. I could hardly stand to see her and her daughters leave because I knew it might be years again before I got to spend another day like that with her. I can honestly say that there is nobody like Kathy to me. I realized just how deep the bond is between us. I'm so thankful our friendship has survived and endured.

Because of leaving the group I was raised in and probably even more as a result of my outspokenness on the subject, I have lost a lot of friends I used to believe were lifelong friends. So the ones I still have are even more precious to me. Some are openly my friends. Some let me know privately that they are still my friends (and I understand why they don't feel comfortable to be my friend openly). And oddly enough, some of my closest past friends feel so negatively toward me today that they have me blocked on Facebook. Apparently, they don't want to even see a comment I make or have me see theirs. I try not to let that bother me. But I would be lying if I said it doesn't. I can accept their feelings (I have to). But if you had ever told me that their dislike for me would one day become that intense, I would not have been able to believe it.

God has multiplied friendship into my life exponentially and I have more close friends today than I ever dreamed of having. So I can't complain or feel sorry for myself. I realize there are friends for specific seasons of our lives whom, for one reason or another, we have to let go of in order to move forward with our lives. But I wish every friend could be the kind you get to hold for a lifetime. I really do. And I deeply cherish those that are.

I have made many of those deep and lasting friendships in the last few years. I feel like I know the people who will be there for me in the future. In August I will have been in Murfreesboro for eight years. And it feels good to have a shared history here with John. When we were first together, I remember looking forward to the time when we would say to each other, "Remember when...?"  And we do that all the time these days. Those words are usually accompanied by, "Gosh, that seems like a long time ago." I really love that. It feels as if we've always been together and the past is someone else's life. Except for days like Wednesday.

When I was with Kathy Wednesday, it was as if time had stood still -- except for the fact that I am so much happier than I ever was in past years. It was as if the good times of the past merged with the good times of today in our reunion.

I am a very social person, but I can also be a little hermit crab in that I love to stay home by myself and could spend endless days content to do nothing but read and write and be on the computer. So although I always enjoy company, I never feel a void when anyone leaves. But I did Wednesday when Kathy left. I started missing her as she was driving away. I had such a longing to live close to her again. And not just because she has the ability to make me laugh nonstop and feel like I'm twenty again (although she does). It's because we are as much alike in some ways as we are distinctive in others. And I always feel so loved, valued and accepted by her. Being in agreement on everything doesn't even factor into the equation. We accept each other exactly as we are. And I think we are even able to appreciate some of our differences and differing perspectives -- even when it comes to the past.

I have tears in my eyes (okay, on my cheeks too) as I write this. I would blame it on being menopausal, but the truth is that I just feel things so deeply and always have in every stage of my life. I really hope Kathy knows how much she means to me and how much I value our lifelong friendship. I always will.

After she left, I told John that I felt sad. Yesterday morning the house seemed too quiet. (I never feel that way!) The truth is, her presence so filled my house and heart Wednesday that she left a void. And although I had been so very excited about her visit, I never anticipated the let down I would feel when she had to go. But although I'm going to miss her intensely for a while (till I see her again), it's a comfort to know that our bond is still so strong. I know in my heart that ours is a friendship that will never fall by the wayside. There is no difference of opinion that could ever separate us. And she has long ago proven that there is no offense that could ever make her stop loving me.

For that I will always be grateful, Kathy. I love you very much.
(And I was so happy for you to meet John ~ and for John to meet you!)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

To Love or be Liked?

Here is the blog that provoked my thoughts on this subject:
To Love or be Liked?

The question asked was: "What will your funeral look like?" The question was intended to reveal values, "with the end in mind." I love this type of introspection. And I enjoy sharing my deepest thoughts, as well as having the privilege of reading and considering the reflections of others. If this provokes a response in you, please leave a comment. Lately, the majority of my blog comments wind up on my Facebook page (under the link). Which is perfectly fine with me. However, not everyone who reads my blog is a Facebook friend.

In case you are not going to the link to read Miller's blog, he explains that he and his friends were all in agreement that they wanted people at their funerals "to know we loved them, to say we were kind and gracious and our lives were about helping them." But he found something interesting, that they wanted different numbers of people to be at their funerals. And that opened up the "why" question, which led to the "to love or be liked?" question. At the end of his post, he asked...

"What about you, a big funeral or a small funeral? And why?"

Miller confessed that although some people are wired to love a greater number of people, he is only capable of loving and giving his life to about 20-25 (including family members) over the long haul. He explained that although there is nothing wrong with wanting to be liked by a larger community, "...what I began to wonder was whether or not my desire to be liked was compromising the time and effort involved in loving and being loved. It was a terrific question that I believe will inspire some change in how I live my life."

I've heard a lot of people say that we really only have space in our lives for a handful of close friends. My husband feels this way. I guess I am one of those people who are wired differently. I refuse to put that limitation on myself. I want to BE a friend -- a true friend -- to as many people as I possibly can. I know I am capable of being that kind of friend to more than a handful. And I could not limit myself to 25 if I included family members. Relationships are a high priority in my life. I value relationships. That doesn't mean I can become a close friend, giving my life to every acquaintance I make. But I care deeply about people -- even those I don't feel as drawn to by similar personality traits or common interests. There is always this desire in my heart -- deeply felt -- to connect with and enhance the lives of those around me. I don't always succeed in this, of course. There can be all kinds of obstacles. But I am incapable of discarding someone from my life -- even when they hurt me deeply. If someone who has wounded me (even repeatedly) demonstrates a sincere interest in reconciliation and a restored relationship/friendship, I'm in. That's all there is to it. I do not live a guarded life. I even open myself up fully to more pain if there is any chance to move in a positive direction toward another person.

I cannot put a number on how many people I am capable of loving well or giving part of my life to. I know that I can only give myself fully to God, to John, and my kids/grandkids. (I do recognize that limitation.) But I will try my best to give something of myself to every person who needs me. I might fail. But I will try.

So, with regard to the end of my life and how many people will be at my funeral, I don't really have a preference of how big or how small. I feel confident that the majority of people who show up at my funeral will be there because they knew I loved them, because they also loved me, and because I touched their life in some positive way. I believe most of the people who attend my funeral will miss me when I'm gone. And I hope they will have good memories to fill that empty spot.

In Laura Bush's memoir, Spoken From the Heart, she said that she collects memories, not things. I so identified with her on that. I think that's why I enjoy taking so many pictures of special AND ordinary moments in my life. Each one preserves a memory. And I am all about making memories for myself and others. I have a trip planned this summer with my teenage nieces. I absolutely cannot wait for the memories we will make. When I told John how important it is to me to make these special memories with them, I mentioned "after I'm gone..." I told him that I want my nephews and nieces to carry the memory of being special to their Aunt Shari with them for the rest of their lives, even long after I'm no longer here to make them feel special. He said, "You want a legacy." And I said, "No. It's not about me having a legacy. It's about them having memories of our times together, knowing how much I loved them. It's really not about how much they love me (although I know they do)."

I am not trying to create a need in them for me (which would be all about me). I'm not trying to earn a pedastal place in their lives. I just want them to always remember how much I loved them. And I want us to make memories of loving times together so that sense of having been loved and cherished lingers after I'm gone. If that's a legacy, then okay ... I want that. But I don't define legacy as being about someone else. I think of a legacy as something someone wants for themselves. And that's not what I'm seeking.

I've thought about my funeral on many occasions. I don't visualize it as a room full of overwhelming grief and people crying their eyes out. Here is what I picture in my mind. First, I visualize "In Christ Alone" being sung loudly, boldly and confidently by someone who understands what that means. I want "Hallelujah! What a Savior!" and "Blessed Be Your Name!" (Newsboys version) to be songs sung at my funeral. I want the gospel to be "front and center."

When it comes to the "me" part, I picture people sharing memories -- lots of funny ones. I picture more smiles and laughs than tears. I think the people who are in my life today will be rejoicing over my deliverance and my secure eternity. I hope (and believe) they will be saying that I made them feel very loved and valued -- even when we didn't see eye to eye; they knew how much I cared about them. I hope by the time I die, my friends will be able to say that I listened as well as I talked. (It's a goal.) That mental picture brings joy filled tears to my eyes.

At one time in my life, I didn't feel like I was a very sweet person and I so wanted to be. I can honestly say that I worked at becoming sweet and asked God to help me. At some point, I must have made some big strides (or it was a miracle of the Holy Spirit) because a lot of my friends today tell me I'm sweet. What they don't realize is that every time someone uses that word to describe me, it means more to me than it probably does to the average person. I recognize it as an evidence of transformation in my life. And I'm thankful. There was a time in my life when I didn't imagine anyone ever describing me that way.

I am not really an accomplished person. In most areas of my life, I am far more laid back than driven. I have never been ambitious. I never aspired to having a career or wealth. But I have always wanted to excel in my relationships with others. So much so that certain people -- people with whom I have never been able to achieve the relationship I longed for -- became idols in my life. I had to learn (by hearing the gospel) that I could elevate something or even a relationship with someone too highly. When we make a good thing an ultimate thing in our lives, that is idolatry. Something that seems good (even wanting a relationship) becomes a bad thing when you perceive it or them as something you cannot live without (or cannot be content without). Learning that helped me to identify idols in my life.

I don't do that anymore. I give the people I love -- and the people I feel I may have lost -- to God. I love them to the best of my ability (and in some cases, to the degree they will let me into their lives). And I have stopped investing a lot of emotional energy in worrying about the success or failure of my efforts. Those relationships are in God's hands now. I'm not trying to be liked or loved anymore. For one thing, my reservoir is so full these days. I am no longer needing everyone to like, love and approve of me. I owe that to God first and foremost. Believing the gospel has been so transformational. But I am also overflowing with love and acceptance because of the people God has added to my life in the last eight years. I believe the biggest way He gets His love to us is through us. That's how I want to be remembered in the end. I want people to be able to say that I loved well and I loved many. Nothing wrong with admitting you only have the capacity for 20-25. But I want God to increase my capacity in the areas where I feel my human limitations.

There is one other strong emotion I have when I think about my funeral. I think about who I don't really want to be there. I'm not sure this is a good thing. But I'm going to confess it anyway. The thought of someone showing up at my funeral who has not "shown up" in my life sickens me. I do not want anyone to be at my funeral for appearances or to make a show of love for me after death that they were unwilling to make known while I was still alive. I'm sure that emotion comes from a still-wounded place in my heart. But I don't want anyone who has shown primarily contempt and disdain for me to come to my funeral and shake the hand of my husband or son and tell THEM how much they loved me. I don't like pretending. I don't like facades. I detest doing anything strictly for "appearances." And I don't want that at my funeral. The thought of it upsets me. But then again, I'm not even going to be there. So why should I care? I hope to overcome these strong feelings one day.

What I think all of this says about my personal growth is that I'm making progress and yet there is still progress to be made. In a lot of areas, my life is certainly not all about me. But in that last paragraph, I concede those feelings ARE all about me. Those emotions come from that wounded, rejected Shari that I am striving to shed completely. I am a work in process. I have made changes in the way I live my life based on this kind of reflection (even before Donald Miller posed the questions). The biggest change in me is that I no longer chase and pursue people anymore who don't give me any indication they even want a relationship with me. And it's something I do consciously and with focused intent (because my nature is to never stop pursuing, even when it becomes unhealthy). God has really helped me in that area. And I'm thankful. I recognize that I am taking away from my healthy relationships when I spend too much emotional energy on the ones I can't have.

So, maybe the growth question for me would sound more like "Does it really matter who comes to my funeral and why they are there?" I have to remember that perhaps even the person who comes for the wrong reason will have their heart touched in some way, enabling them to hear and receive the gospel. And I can say in truthfulness, that is really more important than me.

I am blessed to enjoy being loved and liked in abundance these days. It does feel good. But I'm not chasing either anymore. And that feels even better.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Do you ever think about your funeral?

I do.

In this blog post, Donald Miller and a group of friends contemplate how many people they would like to have attend their funeral ... Many? Or a few? And why?

Donald Miller: To love or be liked?

I have a lot of thoughts running through my head as a result of reading this, but no time to write on my blog this morning. I've been offered an opportunity to try my hand at some web writing (other than my blog) and I have my first meeting with the owners of the business (also my friends) to learn the website basics. Last night I did some tutorial reading. And I'm very excited about this opportunity. So my answers to Don Miller's question will have to wait. But I wanted to post the link for now and come back to the question when I actually have time to write thoughtfully. I have some very specific feelings on this subject, which I have thought about many times. I want to write about them, but I want to do it carefully.

It took me a long time to read "Blue Like Jazz." When I first left the religious environment I was raised in, I was so in fear of spiritual deception (because I recognized how deceived I had been my whole life) that I didn't want any part of the whole "recreating Christianity" conversation. I believe the group I was part of recreated Christianity and I was on a real search for truth; solid truth, not just a bunch of new questions. I lumped Donald Miller into the emergent group without really knowing if he claimed that association. I pretty much dismissed him as having anything to say that would interest me. I was wrong. I finally read "Blue Like Jazz" and found that I could identify with Miller's convictions much more than I would have imagined. Although the book is not intended as theology, there was nothing glaring in the book that I found objectionable theologically.

I remember when a friend tried to get me to read it and I just dismissed it. I regret taking such a hard stance now that I have read it. But I think that friend understood why I was so apprehensive about authors (of which there are many these days) who depart from the central tenets of Christianity. I assumed because of the title that he was one of those authors. But I was wrong. And now I really enjoy reading what he writes. I think I can open myself up a little more now because I know what I believe and why I believe it today. Several years ago, I was still very confused on major beliefs and I was searching for answers, not more questions. I know a lot of people really love Rob Bell. He holds no appeal for me whatsoever. I think I understand why he does for some. But I find him boring and almost annoying at times (his videos). I think it's because the way he talks and the sound of his voice reminds me of my past. So I feel repelled instead of drawn to his conversation.

Well, I need to be getting out the door. So I will put a wrap on this one. But I am really looking forward to sharing my thoughts on Donald Miller's question.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I feel like I have won the lottery...

I know I still may have a year of fluctuating hormone levels to go. And I may yet have more severe symptoms. But my doctor's office just called to tell me that my bloodwork shows I am menopausal, not perimenopausal. And I couldn't be happier.

This is exciting news to me because I have been four weeks without any hormones in my body and I feel great! The only symptom I have had is mild hot flashes. And they have been very tolerable. For what I've experienced thus far, I wouldn't even think of taking HRT. I have had no mood swings, irritability or weeping. I've even lost weight since stopping the birth control pills. I feel more in control of my eating than I was before, which is exactly the opposite of what I was expecting. I have always feared that I would reach this stage of my life and just blow up like a balloon. (I've heard horror stories from a lot of women!) I feared I would start crying all the time and be impossible to live with. But none of my fears are happening.

I have friends who suffered with symptoms for ten years. So the fact that I am turning 52 in May and I am menopausal with a lack of emotional symptoms thus far (except when my stress level is really high) is cause for celebration in my book! My maternal grandmother told me she had no symptoms other than the obvious end of her cycles. And I always hoped I would take after her. But since I'm an emotional person by nature, I was concerned that I would not be like her (she was quite unemotional and stoic).

My hot flashes may get worse. But I am just amazed at how good I feel considering my new status. No matter what happens in the next couple of years, the years leading up to this point have been really uneventful. And for that I am so incredibly thankful. Because I know a lot of women have a very difficult time. I wanted to share my experience on the Internet because there is a lot of "here's what you can expect" that apparently isn't the case for everyone.

Now, the not so good news about my bloodwork is my cholesterol. I'm really going to have to get more serious about what I eat and not letting exercise cover up for my poor choices. My total cholesterol is 278. My LDL is 198. And my HDL is 64. My ratio is average (with the good HDL), but I want the numbers to be better. I have no other risk factors. My BP is always perfect. I don't smoke. I maintain a healthy weight. And I exercise religiously.

At this point in my life, I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that I started working out at 31 and never stopped. It's the best investment I've made in my health (besides never smoking). At this age, you really cannot take your health for granted. I've read that women who exercise have an easier time going through menopause and have milder hot flashes. I am proof of that. And I don't even want to think about what my cholesterol would be if I had not been working out for the last twenty years. Not to mention, I could not have controlled my weight without it.

My CBC is normal. My Vitamin D is a little low and I'm going to take prescription strength Vitamin D for eight weeks to raise it. But at the end of a month full of screenings, my only real challenge is to lower my cholesterol. I feel blessed. However, I do know that I cannot ignore my high cholesterol as I get older. And I don't want to take a statin. So I have to work on this! And this will be a challenge for someone who lives to eat, as I do!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Biopsy is Back: It's Benign!

Dr. Hollis just called to tell me that my biopsy results came back and there is no evidence of malignancy or even precancerous cells in the tissue he removed from my tongue last Monday. He told me the classification of the tumor in medical terminolgy, which I can't even remember right now. But he said the term basically meant scar tissue. So my dentist was correct. I have apparently bitten my tongue in the same spot repeatedly.

I am so relieved not to have to wonder about this until my follow up visit on Friday. I impulsively Googled "benign tongue tumors" last night. I did it to reassure myself of all the various growths that could be benign. But in every web page that addressed benign tumors, there were also warnings about cancerous tumors. And two things I read heightened my concern. The first was that growths on the side of the tongue tend to be cancer more often than growths on the top of the tongue. Mine was on the side. The other was that although it is unlikely for a nonsmoker/nondrinker to have oral cancer, in the cases where a nonsmoker/nondrinker does have it, it's often a more aggressive cancer. Those two things together brought anxiety right before going to bed.

I don't smoke and never have. I do drink alcohol occasionally, but mostly white wine or an occasional margarita or sweet drink. And never to excess. But I knew I could be one of those "rare cases."

I asked my Facebook friends to say a prayer for me last night that I would be able to sleep. Anxiety in the middle of the night is always magnified. And I was very anxious when I went to bed. But I knew somebody was praying right after I posted the request because I laid down and could not keep my eyes open for even ten minutes. I slept like a baby.

Of course, I hoped that oral cancer was not in God's plan for my life, but I told Him before I went to sleep that my life was in His hands and I knew He could give me peace no matter what His plan for me turned out to be. I meant it with all my heart. Nevertheless, I am thankful, happy and relieved for the good news.
A BIG thanks to all of you who prayed for me this past week!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Boz Scaggs at The Ryman ... Still Rockin' at almost 67

John took me to see Boz Scaggs for the second time last night. Boz and his band put on a great show. His voice is as good as ever. His band is incredible. And there's nothing like being at The Ryman.

Our seats were inches from the stage (front row). We've sat in those seats several times. (John is the master at getting the good seats.) But I can't be in that venue and not pause to think about the history of the building and that stage. And no matter how many times I've been in the front rows at concerts now (going on eight years with John), it is never ho-hum for me. I don't get used to it or take it for granted. I sit there like a love-struck teenager with my guitar-playing boyfriend, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. I didn't get to see any of these musicians perform back in the day (when I was young). And it blows me away that I'm getting to do it now on a fairly regular basis. Not to mention the fact that I'm always sitting in seats I never would have imagined sitting in.

I've been blogging for years now and I know I must say some of the same things over and over. But I write what I'm feeling and thinking on any given day and many times there are overlapping sentiments and reflections. As you know, if you've read my blog or my book, I grew up in a very restrictive environment and home. There were so many things I was not allowed to do. It would be easier to list what I could do than what I couldn't. But, as I was telling a friend yesterday, I don't consider my childhood tragic by any means. Comparing my childhood to a lot of other people's childhoods, mine would look ideal and to be envied. I don't harbor resentment for the things I missed out on. I know I was protected from many experiences that would have been tragedies in my life.

This is another subject entirely, but one of the things I am very conscious of -- and thankful for -- today is what a good job my dad did of protecting me from ever being vulnerable to an abuser. At the time, I had no idea that was what he was intentional about doing. I just thought he was way too strict and didn't want me to have any fun. There were very few houses I was allowed to spend the night at, even within our church. And one of the friends I was able to spend the night with didn't have a man in the house. She lived with her mom and an aunt. I was so young and naive, I never thought a thing about that being the reason. But now, in hindsight, I do. Especially since I never fell into the hands of a predator.

But while I don't feel like the things I missed out on as a young person are "tragic" or that anyone should feel sorry for me; the reality is still that I didn't get to do a lot of normal things as a teenager and young adult. Even after I was on my own (married), I complied with the rules of my church and did not go to places that were forbidden for most of my life. I never went to a single concert until after I moved to Tennessee. My first concerts were country music performers at Opryland (the Geo Theater). And I loved those. But I can't remember ever going to a "rock 'n roll" concert until I met John. And on our second date, he took me to see the Eagles, which was absolutely magical (partly because in addition to taking me, he also invited Chris and Cheryl to go with us).

John is a musician. He played with several rock bands in the seventies professionally. He has composed a lot of original music (played the progressive rock of his era). He is a good lead guitar player and singer. He can also play bass and drums and a little piano (though he wishes he would have pursued keyboards more). He just loves music. And in the seventies, he lived and breathed the music of his generation. He can tell you the names of every person in a given band plus their whole musical history (who they played with before and after they made it, etc.). And he loves guitars. Just listening to him talk about his passion (music and guitars), I have learned more than I ever dreamed of knowing about both. And he's taken me to so many great concerts since we've been together.

We sometimes see more current performers. But most of the shows we see are performers from our era. John is five years older than me, so he remembers music from the sixties. He remembers watching The Beatles on Ed Sullivan and being mesmerized. But we both listened to music of the seventies and eighties. And the majority of concerts we go to are blasts from the past, you might say, who are still performing their music. Later this month he's taking me to see Jeff Beck (one of his guitar heroes). This summer we will see Yes, Styx and Steely Dan (again). But he's taken me to see so many artists I never imagined I would see: Elton John, Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkel, Steely Dan, Chicago, Earth, Wind & Fire, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Sting, Prince, Moody Blues, Charlie Daniels, Faith Hill & Tim McGraw, Steven Curtis Chapman, Joe Satriani, The Cars, The Eagles, Todd Rundgren, Boz Scaggs ... to name a few.

So there I sat last night, little miss 51-year-old-love-struck teenager with the husband of her dreams, watching and hearing Boz Scaggs from the front row of the old Opry House. And I can't help but think what a fantasy life I'm living (especially considering my past and the very small and sheltered world I grew up in). I've had more fun in the last eight years (with John) than in the rest of my life put together. Who knew my forties and fifties were going to be so much fun??? I didn't get to do this when I was young, but who cares because I'm getting to do it now!

I told John (as I have so many times) how much fun he is to be married to and how much I enjoy going to concerts with him. And I know that it is so much more magical and special for two obvious reasons. First, because I'm going with him (and enjoying music more than I ever did before I was married to a musician). But secondly, it is precisely because I didn't get to do things like this earlier in my life. Think about it. If you have been deprived of something all your life, and then it's handed to you on a silver platter, how much more does it mean to you? I have this feeling about so many aspects of my life. I just don't seem to have the ability to take my life for granted. You would almost think I had a year to live the way I savor every little moment. But I think it has everything to do with my past. So if all those years gave me this heightened sense of appreciation for my life today, how could I want to change a single thing? That's how I feel.

I've got to add one more thing to the enjoyment of going to these concerts. I am not normally a people watcher. In a lot of instances, the world passes me by. Thus, the title of my blog. I really AM Miss Oblivious most of the time. But I love to watch the people at "oldies" concerts. Looking at some of them, I almost feel like a youngun. There's a lot of white hair and lined faces. But the music takes everyone back in time. I'm not reliving anything. I'm experiencing it all fresh. But I know I am surrounded by people who saw these acts in their prime (like John did). And you can see the former youthfulness in their faces. I always like to come home from a concert and pull up pictures of the artist in their prime to remind myself of what they used to look like "back in the day." I only heard their music on the radio. I didn't own their albums or go to their concerts or follow their careers. Sometimes a group will perform an old hit and I'll say, "I didn't know THEY did that song!" John cracks up. (I thought Steely Dan was singing "Hey" and found out by listening to John that they were actually singing "Peg").

I have been looking at You-Tube videos of Boz (past and present) this morning...

John has been up in the bonus room playing along with Boz on his guitar. And I guess it's about time for me to stop thinking about my fantasy life and get on with the reality of exercising. We are having friends over later this afternoon to grill steaks and lobster. So I need to get in a good pre-feast calorie burnoff!

I don't honestly know if God cares that I'm getting to do some of these things that are just purely fun or if He's the one who has orchestrated even these minute details. Even some of my material blessings seem ironic, if not divinely orchestrated. For instance, I was the only one in my family who was not given a diamond ring of my mother's after her death. At the time, I was devastated and wounded by being so overtly overlooked. But I dealt with it, got past it, and put it in its rightful perspective (realizing that my mom's hand-written recipe cards were more sentimental than a ring). And then John comes along and puts a big old diamond on my finger -- just because he wanted to.

Honestly, I never longed for a diamond of that size. But I did long for a husband who really loved and valued me. That's what I have and that's what I think about when I look at my wedding ring. And that's what I was thinking about throughout much of the concert last night. I'm blessed. I have a great life. But I'm most thankful for John and the wonderful life God has given us together ... fun included. God is so good.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Getting Older...

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and she asked what was new since she'd seen me last. I laughed and said, "If I tell you about my March and April, I will just sound like an old person." She looked puzzled. And I explained, "I've had my annual checkup, my mammogram, my colonoscopy and finally my blood was drawn this morning to check my cholesterol, my hormone levels, my vitamin D, and my white count." (CLL in my immediate family puts me at a slightly increased risk.) Oh yeah, and Monday I had a cyst surgically removed from my tongue. I'm waiting for my biopsy results on that.

But I feel great and I'm thrilled that the only menopausal symptom I've had so far are very mild and brief hot flashes. I call them warm flashes because they are nothing like what I've anticipated. And I am overjoyed that I have made it to this age without a lot of hormonal issues. (I have to give much credit for that to living with a man who is thoughtful, caring, and causes me absolutely no emotional stress.)

I've joked recently that one of the ways I realize I'm getting older is that I find myself feeling so excited about my lack of menopausal symptoms. I'm not through the experience yet, but I have to be getting close considering my age. And I am amazed at the absence of major symptoms. I will find out this week (after having my blood drawn yesterday) what my hormone levels actually are. I assumed the Yasmin I've been taking was the reason for my lack of symptoms, so I expected to feel a big difference when I stopped. But I don't feel a bit different emotionally or physically (other than the occasional warm flash). And I've dropped several pounds in the last two weeks. Maybe it's too soon to get excited, but I'm hopeful that I'm going to be one of the "lucky ones" who doesn't feel ravaged by the process.

Men may not totally relate to this, but I think a lot of women fear this age and the changes it may bring. I know I have feared it most of my adult life. I have wondered what would happen to me. Would I cry all the time? Would I have terrible hot flashes? Would I become depressed, more emotional and sensitive than I already am? Even worse, would I become awful to live with? Would I choose the risks of HRT as opposed to ten years of misery? I know a lot of women have a hard time. I have mostly heard the experiences of those who have really struggled through "the change." One friend told me that her mom is still taking hormones at 80 and insists that on the last day of her life, she will have taken her little pill.

On the other hand, I haven't heard many women talk about having an easy time. All the emphasis seems to be on how hard it is.

It's hard to believe that I have reached the dreaded "change of life" years. But I am turning 52 next month. And while I don't feel old by any stretch, it doesn't feel like I should be in my fifties already. I vividly remember sitting in my sixth grade classroom, counting the years and thinking, "Wow! I will be FORTY years old in the year 2000." Now the year 2000 with all its hoopla is more than a decade in the past. That is the bigger "Wow!" for me today.

I remember giving my dad a fiftieth birthday party in 1986. His cake said "Fifty isn't old ... if you're a tree." But fifty looks so different once you get there and then especially as you pass it by. I've learned that every age looks younger from your rearview mirror. And my mother-in-law assures me that my fifties will seem very young to me when I'm in my seventies.

I actually like being this age. I've never been happier or more at peace. I've never felt more loved and valued. I am comfortable with who I am flaws and all ... FINALLY! I have accepted that not all of my significant relationships have the potential to be "ideal." But, on the other hand, many of them truly are. And that is something to cherish and be thankful for. I have more friends than I ever dreamed of having. Not just casual friends and acquaintances, but dear friends whom I consider close and precious. I am so blessed.

This is such a good time in my life. I'm convinced these are the best years of my life in so many ways. Almost every night when we go to bed, I contemplate this beautiful life God has given me and what a gift each and every day is. I think this all the time, and almost daily I express this to John: "I still can't believe I'm married to you. I can't believe this is my life."

I also find myself thinking more about the shortness of life. I feel my mortality. I wonder what kind of elderly person I will become (if I live to be elderly). It's not morbid. It's just my reality. I'm getting older. I sometimes wish it could, but time doesn't stand still for anyone. I've had my turn at being young. I'm having my turn at "middle age." And if I don't die prematurely, I will have my turn at being old. I am trying to embrace the idea, although there are aspects of it that I certainly don't look forward to.

More than anything, I hope I will continue to grow as a person right up to my last day on earth. I want to enrich and enhance the lives of those around me in some way no matter how old I am. I think about these things on a regular basis.

I find myself thinking about heaven more than I used to. (I actually believe I'm going there now.) Several of the books I have read recently have made heaven almost tangible to me. The most recent was a chapter in "True Spirituality" by Francis Schaeffer. I want my faith to be so strong that I lose all fear of death -- and all fear of growing old.

I've read several books in the last year that address the evidence supporting the historical accuracy of the Bible. I've always accepted it as God's Word by faith. And so I am amazed at how little faith is required to recognize it as historically true (if you take the time to examine the evidence that exists). Because of the things I was taught most of my life, it's always been hard for me to believe I would ever really go to heaven. But I read the Bible so differently now. And I realize that if I believe the Bible is truly the Word of God, then I believe His promises are true -- not simply that it is an historically accurate book.

I struggle with the tendency to constantly evaluate my spiritual condition based on performance rather than relationship. I think that has been an obstacle in my prayer life. So many people these days talk about personal relationship with Him and I was evaluating my relationship based on how much I talk to Him. I know there are lots of people who talk to Him more than I do. And this makes me feel like I don't measure up. Actually, it's in the area of asking Him for things that I don't talk to Him as much as I "should." And I was kind of beating up on myself a little bit, feeling like a failure in my "relationship." In the middle of these thoughts, God so lovingly brought to my attention that there is deep relationship involved in honoring Him with my gratitude. He reminded me of how often I thank Him, not only for my blessings but for the hard things He's allowed me to go through. (Because I know it's the challenges and struggles that have shaped my character.) I needed the reassurance in that moment that I was truly in a personal relationship with Him as opposed to having a knowledge of Him, and He gave it in such a sweet and reassuring way. I have a lot of deep insecurities, but God's desire for me is that I will know I am secure in Him. The older I get, the more I get that.

Once again, I can't really tell you how I got from Point A to Point B in my thoughts. I had no idea where this post was going when I began writing. I just felt like writing today. The older I get, the more thankful I am for what God's brought me through and what He's brought me to. I am so thankful that I have to express it...regularly! And my blog gives me regular opportunities to do that.

Somehow, I picture myself writing on this blog no matter how old I get. At some point, I will just stop updating the pictures. : )

Friday, April 8, 2011

One More Picture

I promise this will be the last post about my tongue (other than the biopsy results).

After my surgery I did more exploring online and found some very disturbing pictures of tongue cancers. Oh, man. I regretted looking at them. Even though I do not think my little bump biopsy will come back malignant, the pictures I saw did cause me a bit of anxiety just before bed one night. Looking at them wasn't the smartest thing to do. Ever since, I have been hoping my oral surgeon took plenty of surrounding tissue out with the cyst.

I can't seem to help myself when it comes to sharing...

I took this picture of my quickly healing tongue this morning. Now that the swelling has gone down, you can more clearly see where the incision is/was. (A cross in my tongue -- I like that.) It already looks like a scar and has healed so well. There has been a lot of tenderness the last three days, following just one evening of aching (following the surgery). But I only had enough pain/discomfort the first night to justify taking the pain pills.

This morning my tongue feels very close to normal again.

Yesterday it was still sore. I slightly bit down on it while talking and that hurt! But no damage. All week I have noticed that my speech has been affected. It has been harder to form the words I'm trying to say. Especially any words with an "s" in them. So I've avoided talking as much as possible. But I went to have my hair cut and colored yesterday and I talked to Kim and another client the whole time. I wondered if I sounded funny to them because I sure sounded funny to myself. But today there is a big improvement over yesterday. It's hard to believe the contrast in so few days.

If you ever notice a bump on your tongue, my advice is: don't delay having the oral surgery to remove it. I imagined it to be more painful than it was. I'm not the bravest person when it comes to pain. And since my dentist thought it was nothing, I chose to avoid my fear of the unknown. If it turns out to be benign, no harm done. And I will still be glad I had it removed. If it doesn't come back benign, I will regret ignoring it for a year. One more week until I know which. But either way, I am so glad I had the surgery!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Recovering Nicely

***I added image links to the books I've been reading at the bottom of this post. I am always
looking for new books to read and love it when friends tell me about a book they loved.
So I'm offering my recommendations and attaching the Amazon links.
But sometimes I forget I have this new tool until after I publish the blog post. ***

I failed to say in my last blog post that I won't have my biopsy results until Friday, April 15th. That's when my follow-up appointment is scheduled. And you can expect a blog post with the results that evening. My appointment is in the afternoon.

Based on the opinion of both my dentist and my oral surgeon, I don't think it's cancer. So I'm not worrying about it. However, I have read quite a bit about the various kinds of tongue cancer and it seems to me that, even if it is cancer, it would most likely be the squamous cell oral tongue cancer that is the most easily treated (by surgical removal). Probably the worst thing that would happen is I might have to go back for more cutting to make sure enough surrounding tissue was removed. And while I don't love the idea of a repeat performance, it's minor surgery.

I really do think it was just a benign fibroma, though. Tongue cancers are not that common and the risk factors are smoking and drinking. I was a little more worried before I had it removed. But I feel good about it being gone now. If I had it to do over again, I would have had the oral surgery right away (even if it was unnecessary). Because it was not as bad as I expected. And if it is cancer, I will wish I had removed it sooner. Seems kind of silly now that I waited. But my dentist was never concerned about it and I had him look at it every time for any changes. Only when it looked slightly different did he recommend strongly that I see the oral surgeon.

My tongue is still sore. I feel the spot hitting my teeth when I talk and it affects my speech just a little bit. Eating is not as enjoyable right now because I have to be so careful not to bump my tongue with anything -- the food, the eating utensil, my teeth. And even swallowing requires use of your tongue muscle that you never notice when nothing is wrong. But right now I notice. The amount of healing from Monday night to Tuesday was dramatic. I had pain even with pain pills Monday night. And I had to take a pain pill in the middle of the night. (I think that was my fear of not being able to go back to sleep because it was hurting more than the severity of the pain.) But yesterday I took nothing.

Based on the rapid healing of the first twenty-four hours, I expected to feel nothing today. Or nearly nothing. But it's still pretty sore. So maybe it will be for several more days. But considering I'm pretty much a wimp when it comes to pain, you can believe me when I tell you it's no big deal.

There is one positive thing to come out of this. I had already lost several pounds in the last couple of weeks. But not being able to enjoy eating all that much is really helping me to maintain my weightloss effortlessly! And I've had a justifiable reason to stay home and read all day for two days in a row. I've finished "True Spirituality" and "Is The Bible True ... Really?" Both great books.













I'm still reading "Decision Points," which I'm also enjoying.
Maybe I will try not to start another book until I finish GWB's.
(HaHa ... There is very little chance of that.)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pain Pills & Ice Cream Tonight!

This has been an eventful day! I had no idea when I went to bed last night that I would be having oral surgery today!

For many months I have had a small growth on the left side of my tongue. The dentist looks at it every time I go for my six month cleaning and he's looked at it at least twice, maybe three times. So we're talking a good year or more since it was first noticed by the hygienist. I never knew it was there until she brought it to my attention. I couldn't feel it. It wasn't sore or tender. The dentist took a look and didn't think it was anything to be concerned about; probably scar tissue that had developed from biting my tongue in the same spot. But he said if it turned red or white, to let him know. And if I wanted to just have it removed so I wouldn't have to worry about it, that was also an option.

The idea of having my tongue cut on didn't particularly appeal to me. And I saw no reason for needless surgery to remove scar tissue. It's not like it ever bothered me (other than when I bit it). But I did start to look at it occasionally, just to make sure it wasn't changing.

Last week I bit it in my sleep again and it became redder for several days. Then this morning I looked at it and there was a white spot on it. This was a definite change and I remembered that white wasn't good. So I called the dentist's office this morning and asked how soon I could get in for my cleaning (which was about a month overdue) and have Dr. Bishop take a look at my tongue again. I told the receptionist that it now had a white spot and I was concerned. They got me in at 8:45.

After looking at it, Dr. Bishop recommended I see an oral surgeon as soon as possible; today, if I could get in. My regular hygienist, Joyce, called the oral surgeon's office and got me worked in at 1:20. I went to Dr. Spivey and Dr. Hollis' office. Dr. Hollis was the surgeon seeing "work-ins" this week. So he came in and took a look. He also recommended removing it and sending it for biopsy. I asked how soon he could do the procedure and he said "Right now unless you'd rather come back another day."

I liked the idea of getting it behind me asap. And I have plans that include food this coming weekend. (I could have a sore tongue for a week to ten days, but it should be a lot less sore by the weekend.)

Within minutes he was injecting my tongue with local pain killer. I'm glad I didn't have a lot of time to think about it ahead of time. Anticipation of the unknown is usually the worst part. I was just a little nervous as he began the procedure. I kept my eyes closed because I really didn't care to see the needle or the cutting tool. However, I did peek just a bit when I knew we were to the sewing up part. LOL. My new tongue----->

It was no big deal at all. I felt a little stinging during the injection phase. But I had been given some topical numbing prior to the needle, so the discomfort was minimal. More like a few twinges. Not even as painful as when I burn myself cooking. For just having been cut on, my tongue looks great. He said the tongue heals quickly. And the sutures will dissolve on their own.

He told me the numbing would last about two hours and advised that I pick up my prescription and take the Oxycodone with some Advil before I started to feel pain. He also advised me to keep some crushed ice pressed against the sutures as the numbing was wearing off. I can eat whatever doesn't cause discomfort, but he recommended liquid or soft foods for the first twenty-four hours. I hadn't eaten anything today prior to my appt. because I wasn't sure if having food in my stomach would disqualify me for having the surgery. And I really wanted to get it over with today if he had the time to do it.

I picked up my prescription along with some yogurt and ice cream. I ate a small yogurt so I wouldn't be taking the pain pills on an empty stomach. But later tonight I plan on having ice cream. A bowl of ice cream. I wanted something that would melt in my mouth (nothing to chew like nuts or chips). And I found the perfect flavor. It's actually one I haven't seen before. Denali Extreme Maximum Fudge Moosetracks! It's chocolate ice cream maxed out with Denali Moosetracks Fudge. Yum.

I started feeling the incision while at Kroger getting my prescription and ice cream. So I took it as soon as I got home (about an hour ago). Even with the pain pill and Advil, my tongue hurts a bit. But it's more like an ache. On a scale of one to ten, I'd say about a three. No big deal.

I'll get biopsy results at my follow-up visit on the 15th. But Dr. Hollis said he expects it to be benign. He said that the circular spot in the middle could have been caused by my biting it recently. But the ones that are cancer usually have a similar circular spot in them. That's why he didn't want to delay removing it. Then he reiterated, "But I do not want that to worry you because I DO NOT think this is cancer. It's just better to err on the side of caution." I agree completely. I feel better just knowing that it's gone, whatever it is. And I know it didn't have a white spot in it for more than a few days. The last time I checked, which was last week, it wasn't white.

My hygienist told me that they had one patient who chose to ignore something similar and it turned out to be a serious mistake. I didn't want to take any chances. Whatever it was, it's gone now. And hopefully the biopsy will come back negative. But I will let you know soon.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Things That Set Us Off

We all have different emotional triggers. Sometimes the contrast between what sets us off and what doesn't is pretty funny.

John is the most even-tempered person I have ever met. (And when you can say that about someone you've lived with for more than seven years, that's saying a lot.) His level, easygoing, steady-as-a-rock personality has been soothing and stabilizing for me more times than I can count. He's calm and collected in the midst of stress. He never gets angry at me or raises his voice. The only way I can ever tell that he is possibly not having the best day or he is feeling slightly irritated with me is when he ends a sentence with "Dear" in that certain tone that probably every wife has heard at some point in a marriage. But in almost eight years as a couple, no disagreement has ever escalated into a fight between us. He says he had a pretty bad temper when he was young, but you would never know that today. He's just mellow. And he is not easily provoked.

EXCEPT when driving or sports are involved. He gets so irritated and annoyed with other drivers that it just makes me laugh. The reason it's funny to me is that other drivers don't annoy me at all. If they are aggressive, I just move out of their way. If I mess up, I don't blame another driver or get angry because I'm really embarrassed (the way I have seen a lot of other drivers react). I'm very apologetic and mouth "I"M SO SORRY" to the other guy. If someone gets angry at me on the road unprovoked, I laugh. It doesn't bother me in the least. It's pretty much impossible for another person on the road to really upset me.

Same with sports. Oh, I am disappointed when my team plays poorly or loses a game they should have won. We go to a lot of Titans games and I have become a serious Titans fan. I want to win. And I would love to go to a Super Bowl. But my day is never blown by a loss. I don't feel much emotion over it. I'm more like, "Oh well..." But those are two things that John will react to with great emotion. You should have heard him yelling at those Kentucky players last night. He was mad at them. He was mad at Calipari. At one point, he had to leave the room. And you should hear him playing Wii golf in the bonus room. It cracks me up.

And last night I really cracked him up.

I am an emotional person. I remember reading a quiz to a friend once and asking her what one word best described me as a person. She said "passionate." Lots of things bring tears to my eyes, both good and bad. But I very rarely get angry. That's just not the way I react. Even things that greatly upset me don't usually make me mad. Off the top of my head I can think of only two things I react to with anger. One is apathy toward the suffering of others. I get very angry with people who are apathetic and dismiss or overlook injustice that isn't done to them personally (especially when those same people feel outraged over perceived injustices done to themselves). I can get very worked up and heated up over that.

Being provoked to anger by apathy and injustice could be considered a good thing; righteous indignation even. But the other thing that really makes me mad is pathetic and embarrassing. And you probably won't be surprised (if you haven't already guessed).

Food disappointments. I can turn into a you know what (starts with a b) when food is involved. My reaction is out of proportion to the situation. And I recognize that almost immediately. But usually not until after I have vented some of the frustration.

Illustration:

Last night we went to the five o'clock service at church. We had decided ahead of time to pick up a Jet's Pizza (South Rutherford location) on the way home and watch the UK/UConn game. John got the number and put it in his phone so we could order it as we were leaving the church parking lot and it would be ready about the time we got there. We stopped, he went in and got the pizza, and we drove the rest of the way  home. We never opened the box until we set it down on the kitchen counter. We had ordered and paid for sausage, mushroom and onion. Guess what was in the box? Pepperoni pizza.

I was instantly mad. John does not like pepperoni pizza. And although I knew he would have just eaten it (he takes food disappointments in stride like I take other drivers in stride), that was an unacceptable option to me. I knew I was going to drive back to Jet's and get the pizza we wanted. But I was extremely annoyed that I was going to have to drive "all the way" (about ten minutes each way) back to their store for the pizza I should have gotten in the first place. Do you think I called and sweetly told the manager about the mistake? No. Although I wasn't ugly or hateful with him, I wanted him to know I was being inconvenienced. And when he said, "We'll be happy to make you a new one," I thought to myself, Really? That's all you're going to offer to do?

I shot back, "Don't you think you should do something to compensate me for having to drive all the way back to your store?" (This is really funny to me now.) He offered to throw in some cheese bread. And I accepted. That diffused my anger a little bit. But the funny thing is that I really didn't even want cheese bread or I would have ordered it. I just felt like he needed to do something to appease me for getting my pizza wrong and the inconvenience of my having to return to the store. And I was indignant about it. However, at this point, the anger was already dissipating. The minute he agreed to offer something -- even bread I didn't want -- for my inconvenience, I started to feel like an idiot for making such a big deal out of it. I literally hung up the phone and said to John, "What is wrong with me?" I wondered if he would spit on my cheese bread. LOL.

So, I returned to Jet's expecting a FRESH pizza (only a little bit annoyed now). When the manager told me on the phone that he was making a new one, I asked if he would make the new one with the Turbo Crust instead of just the butter. I had seen on the take-out menu (on our first drive home) that they had a butter crust with garlic and romano cheese added. I hadn't known about the Turbo Crust option when I ordered butter crust. He said he would be happy to make it that way for me and added, "The Turbo Crust is my favorite." And I was thinking, Oh well, at least I'll get to try the Turbo Crust now.

It did cross my mind that they might try to give me the original pizza (if it hadn't already been given to the person who ordered the pepperoni pizza) after it had spent 20-30 minutes in the warmer. But I thought, No, he promised a fresh pizza with a different crust. He won't do that.

I arrived and handed the pepperoni pizza to the girl at the counter. As the manager went to get a freshly made cheese bread, the girl at the counter reached into the warmer for a box and asked the manager, "Is this the right pizza?" And he said it was. In that moment, I knew they had not made a fresh pizza as promised. But there was no way I could prove it and I didn't want to make a scene. I just asked the manager point blank, "Did you remake a FRESH pizza for me?" He looked me right in the eye and said emphatically, "Yes."

He lied. I brought it home and there was a noticeable difference (in taste and temperature) between the freshly made cheese bread and the not-so-fresh pizza. But what made it obvious that a new pizza wasn't made was the butter crust. There was a definite lack of garlic or romano cheese in it. And being lied to by the store manager after he promised to remake the pizza was insulting, not just disappointing. I wanted to call him and tell him, "I know and you know you lied to me." But I didn't. He'd already made it obvious that he didn't care about disappointing his customers. So I went online and wrote a complaint to corporate. And only then could I set the whole situation aside and enjoy the basketball game.

Later on, John and I were talking about my reaction and I was saying how I wish I didn't react that way. Of course, Allen had just talked in his sermon about losing your Christianity in the parking lot leaving church. That isn't my weakness. But getting the wrong pizza HAD made me act in a way unbecoming a Christ follower. I had an opportunity to be gracious and I was anything but that. When I behave this way, I feel disappointed in myself. I don't want to be this way. Even in little things.

John got this little grin on his face and I said, "Tell me what's amusing you." He said, "I could make a Saturday Night Live skit out of this, you know." And then he started to contrast my under-reaction to a woman driving into the side of my car this week with my over-reaction to being given the wrong pizza. He impersonated me, recreating the scene I had described to him of hugging the little old lady who had hit me (she decided to change lanes without looking and turned into me as I was driving along in my own lane). As we finished up with the police officer, I hugged her and told her, "These things happen." I never felt angry that she'd hit me or spoke any words of blame to her. I told the officer I thought maybe I was in her blind spot and she didn't see me. I felt sorry for her. Nobody wants to have a car wreck and especially be at fault.

And immediately following his impersonation of me being sweet and gracious to the lady who hit me, he impersonated me reacting to a food offense. "Oh, these things -- car accidents -- just happen ... BUT BY GOSH YOU BETTER GET MY PIZZA RIGHT OR I'LL HAVE YOUR HEAD!" I just died laughing. John said, "The only time you react that way is when FOOD is involved! You're so funny." And then he added, "I would have just eaten the wrong pizza." I said, "But you don't even like pepperoni. And we PAID for THREE toppings!" He said, "Whatever. I still would have just eaten it."

I hope to someday react differently. How awesome would it be if our natural reactions to things that annoy us could be sweet, kind, gracious and loving every time?!  I really do want my reaction to all offenses to be gracious and kind. But, as you can see, I'm a long way from where I want to be and where I should be.

I'm glad I can laugh at myself about it.
But even better will be when I can change it.
I am not content to stay the way I am.
However, I do console myself with, "At least I can see myself and confess my shortcomings."
God, I sincerely repent for not being able to turn the other cheek in such a trivial matter!
Food is way too important to me and this is the evidence.

Oh well, I gave John a good belly laugh and I hope I can give you a good chuckle, too.
Even if it is at my own expense.
The one thing I don't do is take myself way too seriously... ; )