Friday, September 19, 2014



I was contacted recently (actually, while on vacation!!) by Cameron Von St. James.  He asked if I would write a post about Mesothelioma . . .at first, I figured his email was some sort of SPAM (I get a lot of that from my blog!!!!).  I asked my daughter-in-law to read the email and she said it seemed legit.  I googled "Heather Von St. James" and found out that she is evidently a real person.  Here she is with her husband and daughter.  She is a mesothelioma survivor.  You can read about her here.

Did you know that September 26 is Mesothelioma Awareness day?  I didn't either.  I know all about Breast Cancer Awareness in October and how everything is pink - even buildings - and we all run/walk in Race for a Cure . . .and I know that September is the time to bring awareness to all of us about cancer in Children . . .(which is so horrible - I can't imagine losing my child!!) but Mesothelioma?  nope . . .didn't know they even had a day.  BUT THEY DO!

According to Heather's page, every year 3,000 people are diagnosed with Mesothelioma - a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.  They are given an average of 10 months to live . . .that is 300 days . . .7200 hours.

My daddy died when I was 25 years old . . .according to my oldest sister, he died of Mesothelioma.  To be honest, I was in that "self-absorbed" stage of life.  I remember sitting in the hospital waiting room with other families . . .I remember his oxygen tank.  I remember how he "rested" on the sofa under a giant photo of Bear Bryant (yes, he was a die hard Alabama fan!).  I remember the day he died as if were yesterday.  I actually remember driving home from work after receiving the call.  I am 56 years old and I still miss him.  It was not a pretty disease - no disease is pretty - but this was just downright mean.

I was shocked to read some of the statistics.  Did you know?
On average, 30 million pounds of asbestos are still being used in the United States today. The substance can still be found in many homes, schools, and commercial or industrial buildings. Even 30 years after the peak of its use, asbestos still remains as the number one cause of occupational cancer in the United States!

Of course, I've heard all about asbestos abatement (or however they say it!).  A good many years ago, we had to have work done on our church and there was asbestos.  They had to seal off that part of the building and people in moon suits did the work of removing the asbestos.  I know that the removal of asbestos adds a tremendous amount to the cost of a project.

IT KILLS PEOPLE, TOO.  I remember the doctor comparing Mesothelioma to a pearl . . .starts off as an irritant and grows into not a pearl but a cancer.

Daddy was already sick when this picture was snapped.  I'm on the right - look at those smokey eyes! Becky is on his left.

We have no idea why daddy had mesothelioma . . .he was in the navy - could have been exposed then.  Heather's page has this fact:  Navy Veterans are at the greatest risk to develop mesothelioma as asbestos was widely used in Naval ships and shipyards.
He worked in construction for many years - definitely could have been exposed then.  He was an engineer for the railroad - there is no telling what he hauled on his trains over the years.  We lived in a small town with several factories belching out their waste every day.  I've been told that at times, ash like substance would cover the cars, etc.

I remember Daddy begging the doctor to "just remove my lung" . . .and the doctor's reply . . .not possible. I do know that the long term survivors usually have surgery.  Daddy was at UAB in Birmingham, Alabama and received cutting edge treatment.  He received radiation treatments but refused chemo.  You have to understand that he had watched my momma go through chemo about ten years prior.  All of the treatments back then were experimental.  There were no anti-nausea drugs.  Let me tell you . . .I know that chemo is poison now . . .but oh my goodness, it was poison back then, too.  I've never seen anyone as sick as my momma was after her treatments.  I still freak out when someone vomits - even after all these years.

So . . .what can you do?  spread the word!  We need to find a cure!

I miss my daddy.  You would have liked him.  He was a great man.  He died way too young!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Bill's birthday celebration

No matter how old you are . . .birthdays should be celebrated.  Whether you are 1 or 100, birthdays should be celebrated with cake and candles and ice cream and cards.  We celebrate a lot of birthdays in the summer with our family.  Let's see . . .Bob and I have birthdays in June; Susie and Paul and Grandmother all have birthdays in July; and Mark, George, and Bill all have birthdays in August.  Grandmother still bakes everyone their dessert of choice and Bill's choice was . . . . drumroll, please . . . .homemade caramel cake with pecans.  (I grew up in a very blue collar community and we called this icing - burnt (not burned but burnt) sugar icing and my mother made this icing in an iron skillet . . . I'll never forget the first time that I was served caramel cake at my mother-in-law's house . . .and I said, "OH MY GOODNESS . . .my momma used to make this cake but we called it by a different name!!)  It is kind of funny because we all have our favorite kinds of cakes.  

This birthday celebration was extra special because Susie, Ben, Bob and Thomas were here to celebrate with us!!  They came "down south" to move Thomas into the dorm at Alabama.

We had a big crowd for lunch that day!

Bill has Parkinson's disease - early onset.  As I have watched all the ice water challenges for ALS, I have thought about all the other diseases out there . . . so many diseases . . .so few cures.  I know that we can cure far more diseases now than we could 100 years ago . . .or probably even ten years ago . . .and I am very grateful that there has been more research done for Parkinson's since Michael J. Fox was diagnosed.  Bill is continuing to LIVE LIFE  - he is married and does most of the grocery shopping and cooking at his house. :-)  He goes to the Lakeshore Foundation every day to swim and exercise.  He likes to fish when Mark can take him to the farm.  He meets with a group of men weekly for Bible study.

We give thanks for Bill and the celebration of another birthday!!

p.s. if you suffer from early onset Parkinson's disease -- here is some info from the Parkinson association of Alabama website:
Young Onset Parkinson Disease
Support Group
For those diagnosed at 55 or younger.

Lakeshore Foundation
4000 Ridgeway Drive
Birmingham, Alabama
Meets every third Thursday at 6:00 PM

Contact: Laura Lieb

Karen Virciglio

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I LOVE this salad!!

I was just thinking that I could be writing about some important things -- the study we just finished on Tuesday nights (which was excellent) or the book I'm reading for staff retreat (we are all reading it) -- instead I'm going to tell you about my new favorite salad and it is really delicious -- of course, I have no pictures!!  I had something similar at a shower and so I searched until I found a recipe that I liked and I did a lot of tweaking.

BLT Chopped Salad with Corn, Black Beans, Feta and Avocado

8 cups romaine lettuce - washed, dried and chopped
1/2 pint - or you can use the whole pint - grape tomatoes - cut in half
1 package of pre-cooked bacon -- heated, cooled and crumbled
1 can sweet corn (I love shoe peg) - drain if needed
1 can black beans (drained)
chopped green onions - two . . .or the whole bunch - depending on how much you like onion
orange or yellow bell pepper - chopped
2 avocados chopped
8 ounces feta - crumbled

I washed and chopped the lettuce and had it in a big bag with the tomatoes (in the fridge).  I had the other ingredients all ready to go (also in the fridge so that I could add at the last moment -- except the avocados they were in the garage ripening until the last minute)- - I peeled and chopped the avocado and added right before serving.

For the salad dressing, I took a bottle of light ranch - Hidden Valley - salad dressing and poured it into a bowl.  I added the juice of one to two limes and a healthy dose of  Tastefully Simple Fiesta Party Dip Mix (you can order here)  They have no idea I'm promoting their product nor have they paid me any money.  I love this stuff - made into dip or salad dressing!!
Whisk together and put in a mason jar (or container) until ready to serve.

Place all ingredients into a bowl and add dressing - a little at a time - and toss - until well coated.  There is one problem with this salad - once it is tossed, you don't want the leftovers, they are a soggy mess -- so you might want to toss smaller amounts if you think it is not going to be all consumed in one meal.  You can also make a much smaller salad using the same ingredients - smaller quantities.  

THIS IS SOOOOO GOOD!  Hope you enjoy as much as we have!
If you wanted to make it a complete meal, you could add grilled chicken - to the salad or on the side.  Also great served with the mexican casserole we served in this post.

I served to our young adults a couple of weeks ago and they loved it.  I probably added more lettuce to that salad - that is the good thing about this recipe - you can adjust for the number of people you will be serving.

Gotta go get ready for church -- see you soon!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Will You Hold My Hand?

Sooooo . . .first off - just in case you don't know this about me . . .I'm a little bit of a germ-a-phobe.  I don't drink after my husband and children.  I wash my hands off and use hand sanitizer (yes, I've read the studies.)  I also am just a little funny about "my space" - you know - that space around each individual that some people don't respect???  If I love you, you may invade my space . . .if not, back up please :-)  . . .said with lots of love!!

Now that I've admitted my weirdness (just SOME of my weirdness - I won't share all in one post!!), let me tell you about what happened yesterday.

In my job, I am expected to re-present not only our church (yes - I meant to hyphenate that), but also to re-present Christ to others.  (actually - we should all be doing that but if you are like me, you fail miserably most of the time -- as a matter of fact, I feel like I miss MANY opportunities every day . . .).

Yesterday, someone showed up in the office and asked if I would go and pray with them.  I said, "sure" . . .and told another employee where I would be (just to be on the safe side).

This person and I went down to our chapel and we "chatted" as we went down the back steps.  When we entered the chapel, I lit the candles on the altar and I asked if he was able to kneel.  

He said "yes" so we knelt there in front of the cross. 

 I asked him what he wished to pray about and he shared with me . . .and then he said it.  Yes, he said it to ME, the germ-a-phobe . . . "will you hold my hand?"  Such simple words . . ."will you hold my hand?"

Those of you who know me well will be surprised - I immediately answered in the affirmative.  I think I even said something like "certainly."  While I prayed, I never thought about the fact that we were holding hands.  Of course, as soon as I finished praying, I disengaged myself.  We chatted a few more minutes and talked about hope and how praying gives us hope sometimes when nothing else will.

I started back up the steps and when I came out on our floor, I immediately walked into the bathroom and washed my hands . . . (sorry!) . . .but as I was doing so, I thought to myself, "I think I just held the hand of Jesus."  Maybe I did . . . Maybe I held the hand of Jesus . . .maybe . . .

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  (addition according to Lisa -- When did you ask me to pray with you?  When did you say, "Will you hold my hand?")
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 


Thursday, August 21, 2014

God is Awesome

I snapped these sunrise pictures from our front porch(es) last week . . .this morning, when I went out to walk at 5:00 a.m., the stars were twinkling brightly - I could see the big dipper along with other formations.  When I looked up and saw those stars, I immediately started humming the old praise song, "Our God is an awesome God, he reigns with heaven above . . ."

Our God is indeed awesome - see his creation?  No words necessary.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Fourth of July . . .and six months

I married into a large extended family - and I love it.  It can be overwhelming at times but I still love it.  We've been celebrating the Fourth of July holiday together with some of Mark's first cousins and their families for as long as I can remember - since our kids were small.  Mark's cousin, Mollie, and her husband Roger have a place on Lake Mitchell and they graciously invite us to invade their space for the day.  We've dragged all sorts of folks with us - from friends of the kids to my nephew to a children's intern at Trinity - what was her name??  Mollie always graciously welcomes us all.

This year was different.  This was our first year without Nancy.  We still had fun being together but we were all keenly aware of her absence.  Goodness gracious, we miss her.  This grieving business is hard work.  Mollie and Roger have not been spending much time at the lake so imagine her surprise when she opened a cabinet and there on top of the paper plates . . .as if it had been gently placed there . . . was an appointment card written in Nancy's own handwriting.  It was like a tiny piece of Nancy - letting us all know that she was indeed with us.  I thought there would be lots of tears but I was amazed.  We laughed a lot.  Nancy would have loved that.

I cannot tell you how many hours Nancy and I sat in chairs down by the water - sunbathing and watching the kids . . .and also in the water . . .floating around on noodles . . .just fyi - we talked about everything.  Sometimes I felt like surely we were going to solve all the problems of the world in our chats.

We were unable to go to Mollie's last year.  The house and property had sustained some major damage in one of the tornadoes.  This picture was taken two years ago.  We also have always spent much time in this little glassed in room - collapsing in a chair in the air conditioned space after getting too much sun or after eating too much homemade ice cream.

So . . .the six month part of the title . . .it has been six months this week since Nancy left us.  Oh my goodness.  I've watched the girls - some from afar and some from up close.  Nancy would be so very proud.  They all have her strong will.  They are all standing upright.  They are all smiling.  They are all successful.  She would be so very proud.  Yes, she would be so very proud.  We miss her so much.  Just finding the pictures for the blog and sitting here typing has made that wave of "I miss you" wash over me.

This picture of Nancy was taken in 2012.  A few of us gathered together at Edgar's at the Colonnade to celebrate her birthday.  She looked especially beautiful that day, didn't she?

This picture was taken not even a year ago - in September - at her surprise party.  Oh Suzan Brandt - you were such a wise woman and I am so thankful that you planned this party for your sunday school class to celebrate Nancy (and that you invited us to celebrate, too).

Nancy - we miss you lots!  Give Jesus a hug from all of us.  Thank God that we will meet again some day!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Do you have a mother-in-love?

I have a friend who calls her mother-in-law by the name of "mother-in-love" and I think that is such a neat name.  Those of us who have good mother-in-laws know how true that title can be.  I've certainly heard my share of many "demon" mother-in-laws . . .and "not so good" mother-in-laws (there are more than two categories that I could list but I decided that you could fill in the blanks from really, really bad . .. to just sort of bad).  I was blessed with a good one and she is getting older and I know we need to enjoy every moment with her (of course, I'm the one who skipped out on lunch yesterday).  Speaking of lunch, she still cooks lunch for the family EVERY SINGLE Sunday.  She is in ____ years old.  I can't tell you because she would kill me if I posted it on the internet.  She got mad at Mark and George when they were little boys and they told everyone in the neighborhood that she was 30 so I can't even imagine how mad she would be at me if I told everyone in the world just how old she is.  I also can't tell you because I don't know FOR SURE.  I think I know but I'm not sure.  Hope  you are chuckling by this point.  Let me just tell you that it is amazing that she is cooking lunch for us every week at this point.  Most people are sitting back giving orders to someone else . . .waiting on someone else to take care of them . . .at this point in life.  Not my mother-in-love.

So, it was a honor to cook lunch for her for her birthday in July.  She loves flowers so I used roses for the centerpiece.  We gave all our vases to the Salvation Army when we moved but Hunter (one of our Tuesday night guys) brought flowers to me on the first Tuesday night in our new house!!  So . ..I had his colorful mason jar and was thankful to have it!!  I'm not a flower arranger but I kept cutting stems (under water just like my mother-in-love taught me to do) and I think I made a nice centerpiece.  

We had birthday balloons for the birthday girl and "happy birthday" napkins.  Everyone - no matter their age - should feel special on their birthday!

My MIL is also one of the best cake bakers around.  Anytime there is a bake sale at the church, her cakes are pre-sold long before they arrive at the church.  The problem with that is that none of us feel up to the challenge of attempting to bake a cake for her.  Thank God (and I mean that!) for the ladies from other parts of Alabama who make caramel cakes and sell them at the Piggly Wiggly (local grocery store -- fondly called "the Pig" . . .as in, "I'm going to the Pig to pick up a loaf of bread).  She loves caramel cake and I bought THE VERY LAST ONE at my Pig.  I keep pecans in the freezer (doesn't every southern woman? we can't cook without them!!) so I decorated the top and sides with big pretty pecan halves (she also LOVES pecans).

I have no idea whether or not I still own a cake stand . . .it may be at the Salvation Army also (at the end of packing . . . a lot of things went to Salvation Army . . .we couldn't get everything on one truck and it had to stay overnight and both cars were fully packed . . .soooooo a few things went bye bye and I know I'll have to replace them . . .BUT there are also things still in "the unit" (Mark calls the storage unit - "the unit").  For all I know, that cake stand may reappear.  This cake is perched gingerly on the top of a Steuben glass compote dish (which we found when we were packing - we evidently inherited it from Aunt Nelle and it has been packed away for 20 years!!).  Susie (no . . .I never call her Susie to her face - Grandmother, perhaps . . .but never Susie!) started to tilt the cake to blow out the candles and you can see that hand shooting out from one of the guys to steady it!  That would have been bad.  Bad daughter-in-law!!

I think she looks quite pleased, don't you?  We tried hard to make her day special.  We served shrimp and grits and feta slaw and some other veggies along with caramel cake and butter pecan ice cream.
She deserves to feel special - she works hard to make all of us feel special!!